Tomorrow Never Dies

Title: Tomorrow Never Dies

Year: 1997. Tomorrow Never Dies was a breakthrough artistic achievement that forever changed pop entertainment. It’s been called “a masterpiece,” the producer declared it could “never be recreated,” and one of the two writers said it’s like “the Dalai Lama chanting from a hilltop.” Wait a second, Oh man, I got confused. I’m talking about “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the last track on 1966’s Revolver that broadcast an end to the mop-topped Fab Four and established the Beatles as true innovators of music. My bad, Tomorrow Never Dies is actually the opposite of all that and is in fact a step backwards for the Bond franchise. Yah, sorry to get your hopes up but mine were pretty high for this film as well coming off the superb GoldenEye (1995). Tomorrow Never Dies is not as dreadful as its title (which is bad even by Bond title standards) but more like a stopgap film. Picture an odds and sods record put out to keep the fans quite and fulfill contractual obligations and you get the idea. All the things we want to see Bond doing are here, they’re just not done all that well. It’s almost as if everyone at EON took a great deep breath after proving Bond could be relevant in the 90’s with GoldenEye and decided to coast. As plugged in as he was in the last movie, here Bond is out of sync with the world around him. I’m reminded of another film about a man out of time that came out in 1997, and I only mention it because sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, because what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin about the Dude here. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, or maybe His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. The running gag of The Big Lebowski (1997) is that The Dude, while appearing completely oblivious to everything going on around him, is in fact 100% tuned in, thanks mostly to keeping his mind limber. He is not the 60’s culture casualty that can’t function in the 90’s as he first appears to be (That would be Walter) but he is, as The Stranger said, a guy who fits right in there. And that’s the geniuses of the film, The Dude is so much a part of what’s happing while, Zen like, not actively participating that any lines between the character and the LA of the film are invisible. Dude and his world are in fact one while everyone he encounters is out of sync in one way or another and therefore become a complicated strand on old Duder’s head. The opposite can be said of the Bond character in Tomorrow Never Dies. He is a 60’s product who never feels like he’s part of the modern world he inhabits. 007 simply moves from point A to point B as dictated by the script. The plot, as it is, exists as an engine to move Bond forward while he is simply a passenger on the train, watching it all go past his window. This is the difference between “character driven” and “plot driven.” Both can be effective means of story telling. Hitchcock characters for example do what the plot demands because it demands them to, but if you’re going to go plot driven, you better have a damn good story. Sadly, for Bond’s 18th adventure, as Jackie Treehorn once lamented, “standards have fallen.”

Lebowski, Jeff Lebowski

Film Length: 1 hour and 59 minutes

Bond Actor: Pierce Brosnan’s early life is like something straight out of Dickens. Born in Ireland, Pierce moved to England at a young age (hence his accent) to live with his grandparents after his father left and his mother could not afford to keep him. When Pierce was 6, his grandparents died and the young boy floated between relatives and boarding houses until at 10, his mother was finally able to take him back. While a teen in London he became interested in acting and eventually moved to New York with Broadway dreams. He got some smaller roles and met his future wife, actress Cassandra Harris, who was in For Your Eyes Only (1981) and introduced Pierce to Cubby Broccoli. He then landed the lead on “Remington Steele,” a role that would make him known while costing him his first shot at playing Bond in 1987. Tragedy continued visiting Brosnan when in 1991 he lost Cassandra to ovarian cancer. (He was remarried in 2001 to Keely Smith.) Brosnan is undoubtedly an incredibly handsome man but he is far more then a pretty face. When called upon to do so, he can play hurt and vulnerable in ways that suggest he’s pulling from his difficult life. You got ta pay you’re dues to sing da blues and Brosnan has done so in spades. Tomorrow Never Dies gives him exactly one opportunity to do some dramatic acting and he makes the most of it. Circumstances are such that one of Bond’s old flames is now married to the main baddie. Having laid his cards on the table at a party earlier in the evening, Bond now waits in his hotel room wondering who will show up, the girl or an assassin. Or will they be one in the same? 007 sits in chair, facing the door, drinking straight vodka from a glass he re-fills with a bottle that rests at his side. This is not martins at a glamorous dinner; this is a man drinking for answers. When the lady does show up the two cut right to the case and old wounds are reopened. Pierce plays the scene as a man who has been hurt and has drank just enough to wash away the filters of politeness. This is not a shouting drunk but a confrontational one. Brosnan plays it perfect and it gives us a peak behind the Bond curtain. I wish we had more moments like this and as it turns out, so dose Pierce. That said, he’s a mixed bag for the rest of movie. He has a few great moments where he gives what I call the “Indy Smirk.” One of the best things about the almost perfect Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is all those little, subtitle smiles Indy allows himself in his prouder moments. Recall the “Throw me the idol, I’ll throw you the whip” scene. After Indy misses the jump over the pit he is hanging on the ledged when he finds some roots sticking out the ground. He grabs them, begins to pull himself up, and smiles. With this smile he seems to be thinking “Wow, I’m going to get out of this after all.” Then, the roots get pulled loose, he beings to slip, and the smile instantly becomes concern and panic. Ahhh, when Harrison Ford used to act. Anyway, there are moments here, like when Bond “returns” his rental car by smashing it through the front window of the Avis shop, where Brosnan embraces the absurdity of the moment gives himself the “Indy Smile.” But then there are other points where it is clear the actor is simply hitting his marks. Peirce was accidently hit by a stuntman during production resulting in a knee injury and a scar on his top lip. Perhaps Peirce was “playing hurt” but I think his flat performance is thanks to more then an injury. There is something about the role of James Bond that beats actors down. You can see it on Brosnan’s face in his interviews on the DVD extras for this movie. All the enthusiasm from the last film is gone. He looks worn out and answers the questions like he’s giving the correct answers at a job interview. After only two films, the shine has worn off for Pierce. That all said, after we watched Tomorrow Never Dies the wife declared Pierce is her favorite 007 and a far better action hero then any previous Bond, so what the hell do I know? To quote my friend Brian Pappis, “It’s good if you like it.”

Director: Roger Spottiswoode. Who? Let’s look em up … Yikes. To glance at his IMDB director credits is to see a man hell bent on destroying A-List actors’ careers. He got his start as an editor for the late, great Sam Peckinpah and like John Glen before him Spottiswoode should have stuck with cutting. His directorial debut was the second rate John Carpenter rip-off Terror Train (1980) which even stared Carpenter’s “queen of scream” James Lee Curtis. Spottiswoode went on to firmly establish himself as a hack-for-hire and Carpenter sloppy second aficionado by directing Kurt Russell in Best of Times (1986). He helmed Turner & Hooch (1989) with a pre A League of Their Own (1992) Tom Hanks staring opposite a dog, the very definition of carrier suicide, the unwatchable Air America (1990) staring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr., and he put the final nail in Sly Stallone’s career coffin with Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992). What did EON see in this cat? Martin Campbell was asked back but turned the job down not wanting to do two Bond films in a row. I suspect Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson weren’t necessarily broken up about his decision to not return. Everything I’ve read and seen about Campbell says he’s an incredibly strong personality with a stronger vision and not easily controlled. With Cubby gone, his daughter and her husband were now running the biggest and most profitable show in town, and I think they felt the need to flex their muscle. Take this quote from Brosnan. “That was always the frustrating thing about the role. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson play it so safe. The pomposity and rigmarole that they put directors through is astounding…” Based on that and other things I’ve read, I’d imagine Broccoli and Wilson wanted someone they could push around and impose their own vision upon sitting in the director’s chair. All they needed was a guy who knew his way around a film set enough to not trip over the cables and deal with all that annoying “techie stuff.” Indeed, this is a Bond film with no vision at all except to promote “the 007 brand” and push products like BMW in the process. It a movie where the trailer plays better then the film. It hits all the marks but does so as an exercise in hitting the marks. OK, make sure Q makes the joke about getting the car back in one piece and perhaps we should make sure he says BMW again, just to make sure the audience gets it. I’m not sure how handcuffed Spottiswoode was but he’s managed to make a lower case “b” bond film. For a former editor its unreal how bad he is at creating a scene. Establishing shot is a dirty word to this man and pacing is non-existent. With few exceptions this is a film that gives the audience only what’s necessary, unless setting up a bad joke, and hurdlers gracelessly onto the next bit of business. I had no idea where I was or what was happening in the climatic boat battle. The set was black and everything is so dark that all sense of perspective is lost, a pity since everything is taking place on what is clearly a huge set. Stuff was just exploding everywhere, missiles were being shot into the deck of a boat, and yet not one leak was sprung. At other moments, in the middle of action, Spottiswoode would insert a slow-mo shot for no reason what-so-ever. I’m not taking about slowing the film down in an attempt to emphasize something; it was just random shots out of a sequence. This happens several times in the film with no continuity as to when or where it will happen. All I can think is the shots weren’t long enough to fill the hole so he simply extended them in edit. It’s like no one storyboarded this thing and if they did, they did so poorly or Spottiswoode didn’t stick to the game plan. The entire enterprise has a slapdash “lets fix it in post” feel, remarkable when you consider the budget. There are great moments in this movie and a few of the action set piece are quite well done but I can say without a doubt that this is the most poorly directed Bond film up to this point.

Reported Budget: $110,000,000 estimated. Wow, that would be nearly double the last film which was made just two years previous. This ridiculous jump, as far as I can figure out, was courtesy of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who had taken over MGM (for the third time) shortly after GoldenEye was released. Kerkorian’s dream was to get MGM listed on the NY Stock Exchange and he saw James Bond has one of his blue chip assets. In a move that could have been dreamt up by Elliot Carver, the billionaire media mogul baddie in this film, Kerkorian ordered that the new Bond film’s release coincide with his big IPO. Kerkorian threw money at the project to rush it along and with the 9 digit budget came immense pressure on Broccoli and Wilson to deliver on time. Shit, as they say, roles down hill and Spottiswoode was handed a compressed production schedule forcing him and his crew to work quicker then they would have like in order to meet the tight deadline. “Ars Gratia Artis” indeed.

Reported Box-office: $125,332,007 USA and $335,000,000 worldwide. I’m not so sure the investors were doing cartwheels over this one. To be fare, Tomorrow Never Dies happened to open on the same day as Titanic (1997) so that little movie sucked up a bunch of the box-office. Good enough for #10 in the US, Bond was also good enough to fight off other Bondesque entries like The Saint #28, The Jackal #33, and The Peacemaker #55. However, take away the Bond name and I feel this movie would be just as forgettable as those other offerings. This movie is about branding and product, which is fine I guess but if you keep adding water to the martini, people will eventually notice the lack of punch. 1997 also saw the release of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. A dud at the box-office (#36) the film gained a huge cult following on video and the rest, as they say, is history baby. Forget the two horrendous sequels for now, the first Austin Powers film is fantastic and a better made movie then Tomorrow Never Dies. That is to say, the Bond parody is better then the genuine article, providing the short and dirty answer for exactly where the Bond brand was in 1997.

Theme Song: “Tomorrow Never Dies” by Sheryl Crow. I feel for Sheryl Crow, I truly do. I’d imaging two days with Lance Armstrong would be the longest two months of your life. “Hi, I’m Texas born Lance Armstrong and your not. Let me first say I never did steroids. Indeed cancer ate away most of my lungs but I can still climb mountains and win Le Tour 37 times in a row. I, Lance Armstrong, am living proof you can beat cancer. If you want to help you can buy my armband to support cancer research and what? My girlfriend has cancer? Tell my press agent to tell Sheryl I’m dumping her. LIVE STRONG!” So yah, that’s terrible, truly sorry Sheryl. However, when it comes to Sheryl Crow as a performer I don’t particularly care for her brand of benign L.A. pop. I know she gets respect from everyone from Keith Richards on down but every time I hear her whine “All I want to do is have some fun…” I need to listen to Lou Reed’s “Berlin” just to cleanse my palette. So, with my personal taste in mind, this song sucks. Problem one is Crow who is doing her best torch singer impression and simply can’t pull it off. She also co-wrote the tune that I swear to God has the following lines “martinis, girls, and guns, it’s murder on our love affair. But you bet your life every night, while you chase in the morning light, you’re not the only spy out there.” It’s perfect in a way for this film; a checklist for dummies on what James Bond is all about. The end credit music manages somehow to be more embarrassing. It a remix of the classic Bond theme done by Moby which actually samples Connery saying “Do you expect me to talk?” and Goldfinger’s famous reply.

Opening Titles: Bond audience, meet CGI. Even the gun barrel looks all kinds of digital. The credits are kind of clever in that they embrace this new form of film making head on. The sequence starts with some binary code inside some circuitry that gives way to morphing women and black and white negative images. We get TV scan lines and x-ray images all layered one below the next implying we are going deeper, behind the tech, into the internet, pulling back the curtain to see what makes it all tick. Great idea but a false promise, the film that follows is all surface and gloss. Oh, and martinis, girls, and guns. Plenty of that.

Opening Action Sequence: Speaking of digital, the first DVD I ever saw happened to be this movie. My best friend growing up moved to Seattle and I went out to visit him. Let’s call him Tom. Tom had gotten a place in Capital Hill with another mutual friend who had been in Emerald City for a few years. Let’s call him Jonas. It was my first time in Seattle and it was one of those magical trips I’ll never forget. It had to have been 1999 because the Billy Bragg / Wlico record Mermaid Ave. had just been released and it became our non-stop soundtrack for the trip. Tom and I went out to The Comet and The Elysian my first night in town and proceed to limber our minds. When we returned to the apartment Jonas, who is one of the biggest movies guys I know, told me he had recently gotten a DVD player. Did I want to check it out? Hell and yah! He had a bunch of movies but said the best thing to watch to see the true superiority of DVD over VHS when it comes to both picture and sound was the latest James Bond. The opening alone he promised would blow my mind. The jump from VHS to DVD, and this was before HDTV, was truly life changing. When is the last time you’ve watched a VHS? The colors blur, blacks get crushed, any kind of background is non-existent, and the audio sounds like your listen to everything though a soup can string phone. As for the DVD, the shots of the missile screaming forward, the sound of the jet engine blowing over a jeep, the vivid red and orange explosions on the white snow covered mountain background; I couldn’t turn away. Needless to say the first two things I picked up when I returned to New York were a DVD player and Mermaid Ave. Thanks for the memories Tom and Jonas. As for that opening, Bond is spying on a “terrorist arms bizarre” which I picture would be something like “The Rockaway Flee Market” in North Jersey where as a kid I could buy anything from a butterfly knife to nun chucks to Chinese stars. M and her MI6 crew are watching the goings on from headquarters, which is nice because they can provide the commentary. Look, that’s the dude who was responsible for the Tokyo subway attack. And wow, that guy looks just like Ricky Jay, who according to MI6 “practically invented techno terror.” Henry Gupta is his name and he started as a radical at Berkeley in the 60’s now works for highest bidder which is perfect; he’s a sellout just like the rest of the baby boomer generation. Sorry Mom and Dad, you know its true; your generation ruined it all. I digress, turns out Gupta is spotted holding a missing American encoder which controls this new fangled GPS. Yes, there was time when GPS was a military tool and not a toy used to check into Starbucks on Four Square. Enter Admiral Roebuck, one of the most annoying characters in a Bond film since Sheriff J.W. Pepper. We will get to him a moment but for now he decided to blow up the flea market and take out half the worlds terrorist in one shot. M protests, he ignores her, and well after the missile is launched, Bond sends back photos of a Russian jet with nuclear warheads on it sitting right in the middle of the targeted zone. “Can’t your people keep anything locked up?” the Admiral asks a Russian who happens to be in the war room (But he’ll see the big board!!!) So, Bond must get in the plane and take off before the missile hits the sight. This involves him getting into the cockpit and destroying half the base before he even takes off. It’s exciting and well edited but it also never quite gets going because we are constantly cutting back to M and crew watching on the monitors like a room full of fans waiting to see if the game winning felid goal is good. Bond ends up playing chicken on the runway with another jet and the two take off, just missing each other, as the entire bizarre goes boom. It’s a good thing Bond knows how to pilot a Russian MIG because he instantly finds himself engaged in a dogfight having to not only deal with his enemy but also the surrounding mountains and Oh, that guy in the back of his plane who just woke up and is strangling Bond with some kind of lanyard. Making like Jack Nicholson’s least favorite waitress, Bond holds the yolk “between his knees” to keep flying while he fights the backseat dude. It’s around this time Bond remembers the “look at the birdie” scene from Top Gun (1986) and flies his plane directly under the second MIG. A quick hit of the eject seat and his passenger flies up into the other plane’s back seat and then the plane spins off and blows up. “Ask the Admiral where he’d like his bomb delivered.” If the writing here feels a little passionless and utilitarian that is by design, it’s what this sequences feels like as well. The open stands on its own rather well and works on an action level but it fails to bring us into Bond’s world. The GoldenEye open had amazing stunts but more importantly it transported us to the time and place where the action was happing. Here we feel like M, removed and just watching it all on the big screen. But damn does that DVD look good.

Bond’s Mission: We join the HMS Devonshire, a British frigate dealing with two MIG’s they believe to have hostel intent. Jesus, this is Top Gun. Anyway, the Chinese MIG’s insist the ship is in the South China Sea while the boat’s radar shows them to be in international waters. The Brits are mistaken but since they have a satellite fix telling them otherwise they continue to rattle the saber. See, if just one of these alleged “sailors” knew basic seamanship he could break out his sextant and put the whole matter to rest. Alas, standards have fallen in the Royal Fleet. Turns out Henry Gupta escaped the missile attack on the terrorist swap meet with his decoder (How? We have no idea) and is now helping an Aryan named Mr. Stamper screw with the GPS system on the Devonshire. Stamper and Gupta are not far off the bow of the Devonshire aboard a “stealth boat,” kind of a catamaran crossed with the Bat-plane. True, it’s the most astatically unpleasing mode of transport since the AMC Pacer but it allows the baddies to lurk about in the dark seas undetected. The stealth boat then launches a torpedo that looks more like one of those tunnel digging rigs with the several spinning rock cutters on the front and sinks the Devonshire. We are treated to all the Hollywood sinking boat shots that truly terrify me but amidst the exploding bulkheads and trapped crewmen drowning we get our first of the random slow-mo shots for no reason. Kind of sucked me right out, reminding me I was not on a sinking ship but sitting in my living room so I took another sip o Yuengling. Meanwhile these poor bastards are drowning and even worse they radio back the wrong position thanks to the tomfoolery with the GPS so any chance of being saved is erased. Not that it would matter; Mr. Stamper shoots and kills all the survivors with “Asian ammo,” whatever the hell that is, so that the Brits would think the Chinese sunk the ship and killed the sailors. Stamper works for a media mogul who set the Brits and Chinese against each other with the hopes of starting WWIII. Back at the Bat-cave, M has this all pretty much figured out, well at least the “who” bit, and here comes Admiral Roebuck. The first issue is the MI6 war room. So effective in the last film, here the space works against the M scenes. Throughout the movie Spottiswoode proves he has no clue how to shoot large spaces and since the MI6 room is very big and very dark the characters just kind of float in a limbo. The scene would be so much more effective if taking place in say M’s old office, with M behind the large desk giving the proper weight to what’s being disguised, mainly should they start WWIII. Instead the players look like four co-works standing outside a freight elevator taking a smoke break. So, England is on the brink of war and the PM has M, the head of MI6, and Admiral Roebuck, some kind of military muckety-muck, standing before him in this void of a space. M wants to investigate further and Admiral Roebuck wants to drop the bomb. We remember how well Roebuck’s “drop the bomb” strategy worked out at the terrorist bizarre five minutes ago but somehow no one in the film recalls the Admiral’s colossal blunder. No matter, the Admiral’s function in the film is to make the wrong decision every time. He is a useful idiot (useful as far as creating easy if unnecessary tension) who is one of the laziest of lazy plot devices. I became keenly aware of this character thanks to Siskel & Ebert’s review of Die Hard (1988). A split, Gene liked the film’s action well enough but Roger couldn’t get past the police chief played by Paul Gleason. Ebert’s point; how did this guy get to be in charge? All he does is make wrong choice after wrong choice putting everyone in further danger. He ignores Sgt. Al Powell, who’s been on the scene from the get go, and blindly plows ahead when all evidence suggests he ought to do the opposite. Now, it is true M can’t give up the name of the media mogul she suspects is behind everything because of his ties to the PM. I also like the idea of the military and MI6 chafing when it comes to dealing with an extremely volatile situation but none of those arguments are made here. Instead, we get chirping and snipping until the Admiral calls M out for not having “the balls for the job.” She and Bond just bailed you out ass hat! And besides, we got the M-doesn’t-have-balls-joke in the last film and that time it was, you know, funny. So now we have an exasperated PM delivering a line out of countless Dirty Harry rip-offs, “Tell your man he has 48 hours.” So, Bond has two days to prove M’s theory and stop WWIII. Giddy up.

Villain’s Name: Elliot Carver AKA The Emperor of the Air. The first time we see him is in an extreme close-up, only one of his eyes is visible. The other is hidden behind the reflection of a newspaper headline on his spectacles. Indeed, Elliot Carver is the kind of guy who doesn’t wear glasses. He wears spectacles. He is an all powerful media baron capable of “swinging an election with a single broadcast” and now he needs a big ongoing story for the launch of his new 24-hour news network. A war would do nicely. Much like Charles Foster Kane, Carver has the power to tell people what to think. Carver, like Kane, is said to be based on William Randolph Hearst who Carver even quotes at one point “You provide the pictures, I’ll provide the war.” Hearst said his famous line during the build up to the Spanish-America War, a war many feel was pushed along by Hearst and his main competitor Joseph Pulitzer in 1898. I remember when Tomorrow Never Dies came out one of the criticisms was a media CEO is not a diabolical enough villain for a Bond picture. I don’t think that’s the issue, I think the problem is Michael Wilson, to quote Admiral Roebuck, doesn’t have the balls for the job. To use a 100 year old war started by newspapers in the age of 24 hour news cycles is disingenuous at best when you consider the fact that a real life, living, breathing, Elliot Carver was controlling the media in the UK as the film was being made. Elliot Carver should be Rupert Murdoch. If anyone who was making this film was honest with themselves, Elliot Carver would be Rupert Murdoch. Indeed, in 1997 Murdoch’s FOX News had yet to sway the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election when candidate Bush’s first cousin, John Ellis, the “freelance political advisor” at FOX, called Florida, a state where his other cousin Jeb Bush was governor, a win for Bush when every other network had given it to candidate Gore or saw it was too close to call. Also true Murdoch had yet to be exposed for the vial phone tapping scandal that very well may have cost a kidnap victim her life. (The investigation is still on going as of this writing.) But in England, where Murdoch and his minions openly pulled the strings of members of British Parliament and had a standing invitation to 10 Downing Street, the head of News Corp. was known to be a villain, and a powerful one at that. Perhaps EON, like the PM standing before M in the war room, couldn’t take on Murdoch head-on. In fact, Michael Wilson casts himself in the film as one of Carver’s puppets (“consider him slimed sir”) making it almost too easy to see the producer as fearful of Murdoch’s wrath. This is a franchise that prides itself on up-to-the-minute ripper-from-the-headlines plot points (Bond was the first movie to ever show a laser!) yet here they go back to a war most people have never even heard of for their inspiration?

Fair & Balanced

Why go after someone that can really hurt you, much easier to pick on a guy who’s been dead for 75 years. The idea of Murdoch as a Bond villain is spot on, but Carver is no Murdoch and I can’t help but see the character as an opportunity missed. Taking it the next logical step, I can’t help but see the opportunity being missed because of a lack of courage … and balls.

Villain Actor: Jonathan Pryce. For me, Price will always be Sam Lowry lost and losing it in Brazil (1985). He’s a fantastic actor who does what he can with the role, like when he mocks an Asian woman’s kung fu, but ultimately he’s flat. I can’t pin it all on Price, the script doesn’t help and unfortunately for him, Carver is one of the less memorable Bond villains. Not because the idea of a media mogul is a bad one, but because the film refuses to pull the trigger and make him a compelling villain with true motives.

Villain’s Plot: Carver (like Murdock) is a newspaper man at heart. Even at his elevated position, Carver e is constantly writing and rewriting headlines. Now, he is launching himself into the 24-hour cable news world and that is given as his reason for starting the war. I don’t buy it. Yes, he wants eyeballs on his news network and indeed, ratings are nice. After all, the first Gulf War put CNN on the map in 1991. However, it’s not really about ratings for guys like Murdoch or Hearst or Carver, it’s about power. It’s not about delivering the news but shaping a worldview. I’m a Mets fan….done laughing? No really get it out, it’s cool. OK, so as a Mets fan I hop the 7 train to Citifield as often as I can. Like most ballparks there are a bunch of advertisements hanging all over the outfield. One of the ads is for FOX Business Network. The only other word on the billboard other then the name of the channel is POWER. Not information, not accuracy, not timeliness, but POWER, in huge letters right over Jason Bay’s head. Carver talks about ratings, saying he wants exclusive TV rights in China for the next 100 years so he can have one billion people watching and he stops there. This is 100% wrong. It’s the fact that those one billon people live in a closed society with a government controlled internet and will have no choice other then to believe everything Carver tells them. The China deal is about having a pipeline to control the country that controls the largest Army on earth. It’s about being a modern day Joseph Goebbels. It’s about having absolute power. The film only needed to go half a step further to say all of this. Shit, Bond films love to have the villain make grandiose speeches. All you would need is a little something like “Ratings Mr. Bond? Ohhh, I’m afraid you’re thinking too small. The problem with the press is we are given too much freedom. Freedom to say whatever we want! Freedom to control the message and to control the message is to control the people. Say, I want to cover up Golden Saks shady sales of toxic loans. Done and I get a little kickback for my trouble while the people do their business as usual. Or, say I want to suppress that nasty torture bit at Abu Ghraib, claim global warming is a hoax, or even declare evolution itself is a myth, all I need to do is say it enough times and people will accept it as fact. If I want people to think Kim Kardashian is happily married and doing charity work in Calcutta, so be it! I can make the sky green and the grass blue and everyone of those people out there will not only believe me, they act according to my whim whhahhahhha!” Done and done. With a little bit of dialog Carver is a king maker and a Kardashian defender; in other words a true threat to the free world.

Villain’s Lair: I have never seen a TV studio that looks like Carvers. He hold his opening party in space that is the most “set” looking set in a Bond film since Blofeld’s volcano in You Only Live Twice (1967). The place looks like a Euro-trash disco which is OK I guess, this is after all Hamburg, but later when everyone clears out Carver is in this space with absolutely no one. Have you ever seen a 24-hour news gathering operation? It makes those shots they show of traders on the floor of the NYSE in films look organized. In fact, no one works at Carver’s TV station, the paper, or anywhere in Carver’s empire, unless they are employed in security. It’s one more example of the film beginning lazy, not well thought out, and once again exposes our director as unable to handle the large sets that dominate Bond films. Take the other space where Carver spends his time, the stealth boat. The interior is again a dark, huge, soulless room but at least there are a few people turning knobs to give the appearance of a crew. By the by, we are told the boat can hit 48 knots which is 55.2 MPH. Not bad for a craft with no discernable propulsion system.

Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: I like his smugness. He not only assumes he is the smartest guy in the room; he disregards everyone, including his wife, unless he can use them for something. His arrogance is boundless “I will reach and influenced more people on this planet then anyone in history save God himself, and all he managed was a sermon on the mountain.” That’s good stuff and something that Carver no doubt believes. Indeed, his company is not only run as a dictatorship, it looks like one as well, what with his image everywhere, looking down on his kingdom like big brother. It’s a little odd, I can’t picture Les Moonves draping a 20 story banner of his face on Black Rock but then again, he is the boss of the extremely Bond villain sounding company Viacom so it might happen one day.

Badassness of Villain: Citizen Kane (1941) is essentially about a quest to find out why newspaper baron Charles Foster Kane did what he did. Kane is a villain who ruined many lives but he wasn’t a bad man as much as he was misguided and empty. Kane didn’t realize he was destroying everything around him to fill the large emotional void left by his father until it finally destroyed him. Carver on the other hand is the boy running around on his sled. He’s got a toy, this media empire, and man wouldn’t it been neat to start a war. He does it because he can. We over hear him delivering an amusing anecdote at his party where he denies spreading the rumors of mad cow disease to get back at a beef baron who stiffed him 100,000 pounds at a poker game. However, he didn’t dispute that he received 1,000,000 from a French cattleman to keep the stories going for another year. I guess he’s saying he’s for sale for the right price? I’m not sure. He displays such detachment I don’t know if he is so much badass as much as soulless. He orders 17 British sailors to be shot as you or I would order a ham sandwich. He barely blinks after having his own wife killed and is more concerned with writing her obit. The only moment we see a hint that perhaps this man is human is when Bond breaks into his safe to steal the American decoder. There, locked up with this most powerful tool, are baggies of dope, a few syringes and some porn. What does this man do when he’s alone?

Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: Someone like Carver needs a good #2, a buffer between him and his evil deeds. Murdoch, for example, has Roger Ailes. I know for a fact that when Ailes had his office on the second floor of the FOX News building in Manhattan it was encased in bomb proof glass and was as accessible as Ft. Knox even for his own employees. (He has since moved to higher floors in the same 6th Ave. building.) The man has several security men as well as members of the NYPD walk him to his car parked in the underground garage and he is never, ever seen in public, especial in New York City. He fears not only al-Qaeda but, and I’m not making this up, the homosexual plot against him. If that’s not a Bond villain then I don’t know what is. Mr. Stamper is no Roger Ailes. He functions in the Jaws role as a henchman; an enforcer who gets physical while the villain waxes philosophical. He’s fine but not all that memorable. The other two henchmen on the other hand are by far the best things about the movie. The underused Ricky Jay, who is hands down the most interesting man in Hollywood, plays Henry Gupta. His credits and accomplishments are so vast I will not get into it here but only to say that in the same year this film came out he also played the porn film cameraman in Boogie Nights (1997). His bitching about the integrity of his shot and lighting to Burt Reynolds “there are shadows in life babe” is movie magic. Please allow me once again give an example of Spottiswoode’s complete lack of understanding of what makes a good film. On the DVD extras there are some outtakes. One of them features Ricky Jay, as Gupta, doing his famous trick where he throws playing cars so hard they slice fruit and even become imbedded in hard surfaces. The scene is a visual nod to Oddjob’s hat trick. It also adds a human level to Gupta, despicable baby boomer that he is. It lasted all of 15 seconds. It was cut…for time. Thank God for Dr. Kaufman played by Brooklyn born character actor Vincent Schiavelli. In a film allergic to detail and nuance, Kaufman embraces both. Dressed in a suit two times too big, wearing a wispy mustache, and speaking in a cartoon evil German accent, he is a hit man of the highest order. He enters Bond’s hotel room and sits in a chair. A dead woman is on the bed next to Bond. Kaufman killed her and now plans on framing Bond after he kills him to make it look like a murder/suicide. “I am an outstanding marksman’s take my word, yah?” Bond points out the hit man is standing in the wrong spot, it will not look as if Bond killed himself due to the trajectory of the built. “Believe me Mr. Bond I could shot you from Stuttgrad un still create ze proper effect.” Just then the doctor gets a call on the radio. It turns out Stamper and his goons are having trouble breaking into Bond’s BMW which contains the decoder. “Did you call ze auto club? OK, ya I ask. This is very embarrassing, they want me to make you unlock ze car, I feel like an idiot. I don’t know what to say.” It’s fantastic, a professional being thrown off his game by incompetent accomplices. Of course this gives Bond an opportunity to turn the tables and in short order he is pointing the gun at the doctor. “Please, I’m only a professional doing a job.” “Me too” says Bond as he pulls the trigger. Kaufman is only on screen for about three minutes but he absolutely steals the show and goes down in the annals as one of the best Bond villains.

Bond has his tux, Dude has his robe

Bond Girl Actress: Michelle Yeoh. I instantly recognized her as Yu Shu Lien from the wonderful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), one of the best films of that year. Already a star in Asia, this was one of her first English roles and as many times as I write that for various Bond women, I never tire of it. Bond films catch a lot of flack, more often then not deservedly so, for being misogynist. Fare enough, but then they must also be praised and given credit for going out of the way to cast different nationalities and different forms of beauty in the Bond girl role. At least a dozen actresses have waltzed through Hollywood’s front door on a red carpet thanks to being cast as the Bond girl. The other lady in Bond’s life in this movie is Terri Hatcher who unlike Yeoh is right off Hollywood’s A-list.

Bond Girl’s Name: Colonel Wai Lin of the Chinese People’s External Security Force outranks Commander Bond of the Royal Navy. In the press materials for every Bond film someone, typically the director or leading lady, says something like “This time it’s not your typical Bond girl.” This maybe the first time they are correct. Yes, Triple-X was a Major in the Russian military and Dr. Goodhead was a CIA agent but they always kind of took a back seat to Bond when the bullets starting flying. Not Wai Lin. She has a hand-to-hand combat scene all to her own in which she kicks some serious baddie ass before Bond waltzes in at the very end. She also has her very own Q lab, a Saigon bicycle shop that with a few key strokes on her Chinese character keyboard (red of course) turns into a spy’s paradise complete with a fire breathing dragon statues that could double as Benihana lobby décor, a fan that sprays deadly darts and more guns guns guns then the parking lot at a Virginia NRA convention. Much like 007 and XXX in The Spy Who Loved Me(1977), Bond and Lin are forced to overcome the political divide between their two governments and work toward the greater good. In one of the few displays of wit in the movie, Bond and Wai Lin spend a good portion of the film literally glued together at the hip thanks to a pair of handcuffs. The central set piece of the film involves the two escaping Carver’s men on a motorcycle. They are cuffed left hand to right so in order to operate the bike Bond has one hand on one handle while she controls the other. “Pop the clutch.” The motorcycle chase thorough the market streets of Saigon starts out exciting enough but by the time it was halfway over I started thinking about video games. Now, I hate when someone says an action sequence or a movie is like a video game. Typically what they mean by the criticism is to say the movie is all action and no soul. This is very unfair to video games as anyone who has ever played Portal or Bioshock or Red Dead Redemption or Mass Effect or countless other video games will tell you.

Big Daddies and Little Sisters

At this point, technology is such that video games are able to create worlds and characters as rich as any found in film or literature. When I say I was reminded of video games during the chase I’m referring to the “structure” and “build” of the sequence. Form the days of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong until now, video games have worked best when they incorporate some kind of leveling up as the player progresses through the game. Complete level one and the level two may be faster, the enemies may be more powerful, the environment may throw you a few more curve balls, or maybe all three. The idea is that as you advance, things get harder. This is done to avoid repeating the same thing over and over and keep the player involved. This form of storytelling of courses goes back to the Greeks, with each increasingly difficult trial the hero proves his worth and gets closer to the goal. Films build to the final showdown between the protagonist and the antagonist so this is not new. But this leveling up typically walks hand in hand with another video game staple, which is the game will provide the solution to any problem, always. Otherwise, you couldn’t finish the game, which is designed to be played and eventually won. (That is unless you’re playing Dark Souls in which case all bets are off and you’re on your own.) So, if you need a gun, look around the board long enough and you will find a gun. Need to cross that river, sure as shit you will find something in the environment you can fashion into a bridge. Back to the motorcycle chase, the whole thing happens on city blocks that look like they were designed for Mario Cart. There are ramps and levels and pop up obstacles that exist only to make Bond and Wai Lin deal with increasing difficult driving conditions. But whenever they need to get up onto a roof, there is a board perfectly positioned to act as a way upward. They need to jump from one roof to the next and there is a ramp for their convenience. When they need to take cover to hide from a helicopter, there is hut they can drive right into. All of this of course builds up to what in video game speak is called a “boss battle.” Everything you do in many games is a warm up to prep you for the finally show down with the baddest of badass baddies. This will at first seem to be an unwinnable fight, until you find the bosses weakness. There is always one. So here the motorcycle chase all builds up to the point where Bond and Wai Lin are trapped in an ally with nowhere to go. The helicopter is at the other side of the street and the two face each other like gunfighters in the streets of Tombstone. The helicopter pitches forward and starts to move in on Bond and Wai Lin, the blades making minced meat of anything they come in contact with. “Trapped” says Wai Lin, “never” answers Bond as they look around the environment and find the exact thing they need to beat the boss, a clothesline. Our two heroes grab the line, gun the bike toward the helicopter, slides under the blades and once safely on the other side, toss the line into the blades. As the chopper spins and explodes the environment once again proves the ideal solution, a washbasin large enough to fit two people. Our heroes jump in and hide safely underwater as the chopper explodes in a fireball overhead. To top it all off, none of this was necessary. Now in the clear, Wai Lin picks the handcuff lock with her earring, and she’s off and running. Like Dorothy, she had the power to go home the whole time. Then there is Paris Carver, I can only assume the long suffering wife of Elliot. She and James have a past that is wisely kept opaque. We do get a sold hint that way back when she was quite a handful. “He will have a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred…” “…and the lady will have a shot of tequila.” “Mrs. Carver will have some champagne from Mr. Carver’s cellar.” Perhaps they met on spring break. As discussed earlier, Bond’s best bit in the film is his drunken bedroom meeting with Mrs. Carver. But like almost everything in this film, what starts as interesting ends in cliché as these two talented actors have to deliver dialog like “Did I get to close?” as the music swells.

Bond Girl Sluttiness: This is one of the stranger films when it comes to Jimmy B’s sex life. First off, he not only sleeps with Carver’s wife, it’s an encounter that means something to both of them. They make love as opposed to have sex, if you will. Bond has banged the baddies babe before but (alliteration rocks!) sleeping with a man’s wife is a little different. Particularly if you care for his wife and you know he’s going to find out and more then likely kill her. Take For Your Eyes Only (1981) where Bond sleep with the baddies mistress, Countess Lisl von Schaff who was played by Brosnen’s future wife Cassandra Harris. She is killed by Locque and when Bond finally gets his revenge, he kicks Locque over a cliff in one of the more memorable moments in Bond history. Here in Tomorrow Never Dies, the grim reality of what Bond did and the outcome, a dead woman, is never dealt with in a direct way. Why not? Because that would require some work on the filmmakers’ part, so like so many other things in the movie, it’s glossed over and then dropped entirely. As for Wai Lin, she is all business and in a rather refreshing fashion, spurns every advance by the spy from the corrupt capitalist nation. Bond in fact never sleeps with his leading lady, which if I’m not mistaken is a first.

Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: Bond to Paris Carver when they first come face to face “I always wondered how I would feel if I saw you again…” smack to the face. “Now I know.”

Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: Paris Carver to Bond shortly after the slap “Do you still sleep with a gun under the pillow?”

Number of Woman 007 Beds: 2. Since he doesn’t get to have the Bond girl I guess they needed to throw in a blond at the top. The first time we see James after the open he is “brushing up on a little Danish” with his language tutor Prof. Inga Bergstorm at his alma mater Cambridge. Then there is the Paris meeting in Hamburg, which leads to her death. That’s it. True, after the stealth boat is distorted Bond and Wai Lin share a kiss while floating on wreckage but there is no position in the Karma Sutra that Bond and his marshal arts expert partner could pull of without end up at the bottom of the sea.

Number of People 007 Kills: In the days of yore, Bond had his trusty Walther PPK and we could keep track of where his bullets landed. Now, Bond prefers picking up a machine gun from a downed baddie and going to town. This is surely much more effective for the agent but its hell on the body count department. We will, in the interest of accurate reporting, do our best. In the open Bond gets into a cockpit and lets loose with both bullets and missiles. Many trucks, planes and crates of weapons are destroyed and our spotter counted three terrorist killed. Once airborne, Bond’s little ejector seat trick takes out two more baddies. After getting Paris killed, all be it indirectly but I think 007 bears some responsibility, he puts a single bullet into Dr. Kaufman. Bond breaks into Carver’s TV station where he gets his hands on a machine gun and shoots down at least one guy while escaping. This maybe a good place to note that Carver’s men have the aim of drunken imperial storm troopers on ice skates. Watching them shoot at Bond I was reminded of the scene in The Dead Pool (1988) where Harry and his lady are in a glass elevator, literally fish in a barrel. Two baddies with machine guns open fire on the elevator and unleash 300 or so bullets, not hitting either of the people trapped in the glass box. Harry then fires off three bullets to kill both men. We counted four guys in the chopper that Bond downed with the clothesline leading us to the climatic battle. While running around under the stealth boat (it’s like a catamaran) he knifes one baddie and once inside he once again gets an automatic weapon and takes out five. Another aside if I may, I don’t know much about guns. The last time I pulled the trigger on one I was 10-years-old shooting a .22 at Boy Scout camp. I was not very good at it. Anyway, my understanding is guns, automatic weapons in particular, have what is called a kick, or recoil, in which the gun moves backward with some force as the bullet leaves the chamber. This is why, I’m told, guns have a shoulder stock, so the shooter can steady the gun and absorb the kick with his body. Right. While ripping apart the stealth boat with bullets Bond waves the gun about this way and that as if he were Gene Kelly twirling his umbrella in Singing in the Rain (1952). Would this not at the very least hamper his aim and more then likely rip his arm off? Please feel free to comment if you are in the know. Anyway, when it comes to what weapons can do we should really be discussing missiles. Bond gets behind a missile launcher on board the stealth boat and starts to fire missiles at baddies who are on the boat. This causes them to jump off the catwalks they were perched on while large red fire balls flair up but no holes are ripped in the hull, no water comes rushing in, and in fact, the boat suffers little. Now, I know this is a movie but it must be consistent. Earlier we saw the Devonshire go down thanks to one projectile hitting it. We saw water rushing in and sailors getting blasted around thanks to the force of incoming water. Here, a piece of piping falls with loud clank. Mr. Stamper is undone by a missile but not as you would imagine. Bond traps the henchman behind a missile that’s about to launch and when it does Stamper disappears in a great ball of fire. Goodness gracious.

Most Outrageous Death/s: I couldn’t decide so we’ve got a tie. Turns out Carver’s got a huge printing press, not far from his TV studio which I’m sure annoys the audio engineers to no end. Bond is above the whirling LOUD machinery as reams of paper fly by underneath. He is struggling with a baddie who … $5 dollars to the one who gets it first! Right, falls into the press. The only reason this press exists, in a location it never would, is so we can see paper turning red with a man’s blood and hear Bond say “They’ll print anything these days.” For the other outrageous death we get the worst head villain demise since Mr. Big got really big in Live and Let Die (1973). Carver is on the bridge of his sinking ship. Bond physically confronts him and the two are struggling when Bond hits a switch to starts the tunnel digging torpedo a-whirling and heading for them. Both men turn around to see the torpedo coming. Bond holds Carver and himself in front of the approaching blades. “You forgot the first rule of mass media Elliot! Give the people what they want.” Bond then jumps out of the way of the torpedo, which is still coming. Cut to the torpedo still coming. Cut to a close up on Carver’s face as he looks at the torpedo, still coming. If the close up shot had been an extreme close up showing only one eye and the reflection of the approaching torpedo in his spectacles that would have been something. Not only would it reference the first time we saw the villain creating a nice little bookend but it would also indicate that Carver is so accustom to watching things happen on a screen that he is unable to react to events that are actually happening to him. A simple shot choice would have gone miles, however, no one involved with the production was thinking in cinematic terms so no, we get none of that. What we do get is Carver screaming, then raising his hands in front of his face, then another cutaway to see the torpedo finally reach him and cutting him up. We are left wondering why he didn’t step to the side.

Miss. Moneypenny: I really don’t enjoy continuing this negative tangent but here again I must. Moneypenny and M both are robbed of any humanity and function only as the plot requires. It’s incredibly frustrating because we’ve spent so much time with these characters at this point we want more from them then just function. Add the fact we have in Moneypenny and M two incredible actresses who are new to the series and showed such promise in GoldenEye and it all the sadder. Here poor Samantha Bond is reduced to chiding Bond over the phone for his sexual exploits. When she hangs up Judy Dench is standing behind her. “Don’t ask” says Moneypenny “Don’t tell” responds Dench. I can only imagine both women returning to their trailers depressed after that exchange.

M: M has one scene outside of dealing with the pain the ass Admiral and it’s a rather enjoyable one. Since Bond has only 48 hours to get his mission accomplishes he receives his briefing on the way to the airport. Bond and M get a full police escort through the streets of London which is super crazy cool. The two sit in the back of the car and discuss how to proceed as they wiz through the city, M with drink in hand. Awesome.

Q: Tomorrow Never Dies, the one where Major Boothroyd becomes a walking, talking billboard. He approaches 007 at the Hamburg airport dressed in a red Avis jacket. The gag, which wears thin before it even starts, is Q is a car rental rep. “Would you be needing collision?” horn blast in the sound track. “Accidents do happen.” “Fire?” Another horn blast. “Defiantly.”  And so on. When they reach the garage Q becomes a used car salesman on Northern Blvd. “The BMW 750, the finest in automobile technology.” And if you put 20% down right now I can throw in the headlight stinger missiles free of charge. Some other stuff happened but I missed it, I was to busy wondering why a caged tiger was in the background of the shot.

Phones ringin' dude

List of Gadgets: Phish once sang “with the right device you can make a pattern grow, or you can tune up your car.” Or in the case of Bond’s new phone, drive your car. Way before Steve Jobs dreamt up the iPhone, a device that makes everyone James Bond, 007 had a mobile with a fingerprint scanner, a 20,000 volt security system and “this I’m particularly proud of, a touch pad remote control used to drive the car.” At least that’s what Q shows us, but say Bond needs to pick a lock? There’s an app for that. Bond also has a lighter that doubles as a detonator for a magnetic grenade, which is pretty cool.

Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: The BMW 750, the finest in automobile technology.

Other Property Destroyed: At one point Ricky Jay is walking through Carver’s media complex and for no reason at all points to a satellite sitting in what appears to be a lobby. “That’s a $300 million satellite so be careful. You break it you bought it.” The plot’s ludicrous, you can guess what happens next. Bond fixes the cable? In the open alone Bond destroys more military equipment then in any previous film including one truck which he blows over with a jet’s afterburner, which I thought was inspired. Carver has a room in his TV station set aside to beat people up in which is actually quite realistic. Bond trashes the room much to the delight of several Carver News associate producers. Half of a neighborhood in Saigon is wiped out during the motorcycle chase including one block lost to a fire works mishap and a shopping district chopped up by a falling helicopter. Bond and Wai Lin also rip a 20 story banner that must of cost a small fortune right down the middle. He also blows up the stealth boat. Something of an error on 007’s part considering the Chinese and British governments were both hip to Carver’s scheme and working in concert to get him. Also, I’m sure Q would have loved to get a look at the stealth boat to figure out the technology. But you know, the villain’s lair must be blown up and so it is. There is also an Avis rental shop and parking garage in Hamburg, which we needs to look at more closely.

Bond Cars: BMW 750. Before he picks up the baby blue beamer from Q we get a glimpse of the classic Aston Martin. But it’s really all about the BMW and the car chase in the Hamburg parking garage. After Bond kills Kaufman he enters the garage to see half a dozen goons milling about the car. Her breaks out the remote control phone, drives the car to him, jumps in the back seat and navigates through the multiple levels of the garage while being chased. The idea of a car chase that goes nowhere is a good one. So good, in fact, that one of the greatest films of all time is about just that, the classic The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006). I have never seen a frame of any of the other 27 Fast & Furious films and I hope I never will. That said, I could watch Tokyo Drift 100 times it still wouldn’t be enough. I’m not kidding, I adore that film. Anyway, back to the “Hamburg Slide,” a compromised second draft of the “Tokyo Drift.” The car chase is a microcosm of why this film is ultimately flat. It starts with a great premise; have Bond driving, from the backseat, getting chased in a parking garage. We see the gadgets that Q pointed out perform as we would expect, the missiles take out the baddies and the guns do the same. The spikes getting dropped out of the back, while not pointed out by Q, work in the grand tradition of the oil slick/smoke coming out of the back of the Aston Martin. But then when Bond ends up running over the spikes, his tires self inflate. Then, the baddies put a chain up in front of the car, which suddenly becomes a Swiss Army knife. Bond pushes a button and whala, the hood ornament pops up and a cable cutter is underneath. Back to the video game thing; throw an obstacle out there and the environment, in this case with no context, will provide the answer. What purpose other then cutting the cable would the devise serve? Did Q sit up late and night and consider what would happen if say a dead elephant was in Bond’s way? Just as likely a scenario. Everything in this film exists in the moment it is needed and has no context to the rest of the goings on. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to move Tokyo Drift to the top of my queue. After all, If You Ain’t Outta Control, You Ain’t In Control! Freaking geniuses.

Felix Leiter: Jack Wade is back and this brings a smile to my face. What started as a gag in the last film here becomes a running joke that I rather enjoy. That is, Wade just kind of appearing, unannounced, out of nowhere, ready to assist in anyway he can while at the same time taking pains to let Bond know he’s “not really here. The CIA has no involvement or official position in this matter what-so-ever.” It’s also cool that Wade’s wearing an even more obnoxious shirt then he had in the last film while Bond is in his dress blues. Wade and Bond quickly figure out the location of the sunken Devonshire, and since it’s in the South Sea of China, Bond has a little favor to ask Wade. In this situation Felix would have shook his head and said something like “ohhh no James, you remember what happened last time.” Wade on the other hand has our man suited up and jumping out of a plane in the very next scene. “He didn’t even say good-by.” I rather like Jack Wade.

Best One Liners/Quips: “I wonder if the CIA will be more upset that they lost it or that we found it.” M on discovering GPS decoder.

Bond Timepiece: Looks to be the same Omega model from GoldenEye which is handsomely displayed on the DVD cover.

Caucasian, shaken not stirred

Other Notable Bond Accessories: Nothing really of note but it’s cool to see Commander Bond in uniform on occasion.

Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: After his vodka martini at the party he hits a bottle of Smirnoff in his hotel room for some serious soul searching. By the time Paris shows up the bottle is half empty so whatever the math is on that, there you go.

Bond’s Gambling Winnings: Nope, and you can’t win lest you put your chips in.

List of Locations: In the open, the French Pyrenees stood in for the unavailable Afghani location. London plays London as well as the parts of Hamburg that were not shot in Hamburg, like the parking garage and the exterior of Carver’s media complex. One of the most interesting shots in the film shows the waterways of Saigon while Bond and Wai Lin fly overhead bound for Carver’s CGI created tower. Ho Chi Minh City fell through so producers used Bangkok as a stand in for the Vietnamese local. Indeed, we go to these places but it’s all perfunctory. None of the locations feel real or lived in. Instead, I feel like I’m on vacation with Clark Griswold. Kids, look. The Grand Canyon, OK let’s go.

Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: He can expertly pilot a MIG through the mountains while engaged in a dog fight and holding the stick between his knees. The fact that he can drive the BMW with the remote expertly on his first try is fine; the banter between he and Q while he does so is not. The motorcycle skills have been well covered by this point, which leaves the Halo Jump. Halo, or High Altitude Low Opening jump, is a way to get into a hostile location while avoiding radar. The jump is from 29 thousand feet, the top O Everest for those keeping score, and requires a 5 mile freefall during which the jumper reaches a speed of 200 MPH before opening his chute as close to the ground as possible. I don’t know if people do this for real but if so it’s very, very James Bond.

Final Thoughts: The finally credit on screen for Tomorrow Never Dies says the film was done “In loving memory of Albert Cubby Broccoli.” The old man deserves much better then this, one of the weaker entries in the Bond cannon. I found this film to be the most frustrating Bond film yet. All the pieces were in place, and yet it never worked. While writing the review I often thought back to an episode of “The Office.” In the episode, Andy Bernard was contemplating becoming a critic. “Perhaps I could be a food critic. These muffins are bad. Or an art critic, that painting is bad.” My intent was not to be negative for the sake of being negative, but to explore why this film didn’t work. The point of this blog from the get go was to look at Bond films, which more or less have the same ingredients, and figure out why sometimes they work and other times they fall flat. I think Tomorrow Never Dies is a failure with many architects. The movie is Bond paint by numbers, checking off the boxes listed in the song, “martinis, girls, and guns.” I often think about the people working on bad films, at what point do they realize they have a turkey on their hands? “I remember starting the first day on that film in an aircraft, flying a jet and it was 102 degrees, and I’m wearing a helmet and sweater, and then I’m being strangled over and over again, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this bloody character is going to kill me.’ The press tour for that film was 22 countries. When I did it I knew the movie wasn’t up to speed; it wasn’t as good as GoldenEye (1995) and you have to bang the drum loudly to get the attention.” I found that quote by Pierce Brosnan on IMDB. He had given it after he was more or less fired from the James Bond role so perhaps there are some sour grapes delivered along with the quote but I have a feeling he’s being 100% honest. I’m reminded of a story George Clooney tells about promoting his 1997 film, Batman & Robin. He was sitting backstage waiting to go on Letterman when he realized he had to go on TV and lie. He had to talk about how great the film was to promote a product he knew to be garbage. He decided he never wanted to have to stand behind a project he didn’t believe in again. Take a gander at his IMDb page post 1997 and while you may not love all those films, this is not the trajectory of someone making easy choices. This is someone doing what they want and what they believe in. However, when you’re the lead in something so much bigger then you, like Batman or James Bond, you’re at the mercy of a large machine that creates such an inertia that the show, as they say, must go on, regardless of quality. I believe even EON, like Brosnan, knew the movie was not up to snuff. Roger Spottiswoode is a one and done Bond director. The DVD extras, typically packed with great insight into the thinking and techniques that went into the making of the Bond film, are quite sparse for this outing. (But we do get a Moby music video, so we’ve got that going for us.) Maybe part of GoldenEye’s greatness can be attributed to the six years of prep time. This movie feels rushed and incomplete and perhaps the every other year schedule for Bond releases works against the creative process. Add the fact the studio brass was forcing the issue with an accelerated production schedule and the problem becomes compounded. The film simply doesn’t come together even on the most basic level. Bond had 48 hour to prevent a war, yet we saw many nights and days pass and more front page headlines; the Devonshire sinking incident, Paris’s obit, the “Empire Will Strike Back,” Bond’s obit, etc., then could ever be written in the given news cycle. Bond runs around at the climax trying to prevent what? The missiles have been launched and the British government and Chinese governments are working in concert to get Carver. Bonds job was done, yet he hangs around and almost gets Wai Lin killed in the process. Everything done in this film, with a hand full of exceptions, has been done better in previous Bond films. It’s one of the worst directed Bond films to date (that damn slow-mo!) and everything is backed by wall to wall, over the top, thumping music broken up by poorly written one liners.  I could go on and on but I already have. The movie has its moments here and there and is therefore not a total failure but to take a page out of Andy Barnard’s book, this film is bad.

Martini ratings:

GoldenEye

Title: GoldenEye

Year: 1995. GoldenEye finally saw the dark of the theater in November of 1995 putting an end to the longest hiatus between 007 celluloid adventures ever. This six year gap, like the longest previous gap of three plus years between The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), was due to legal issues. The CliffsNotes; in 1989 Danjaq, the Swiss parent company of EON sued MGM/UA over issues surrounding the licensing of Bond television rights. At the time ABC among others were still making big bucks airing Bond on primetime TV and EON/Danjaq wanted more of the pie. The upshot was a freeze on all further Bond films until the suit was settled in December of ’94 for a reported $13.5 million according to Variety. In the meantime, those jonesing for their 007 fix had to settle for a shot of 003 ½. I wish I were kidding. In 1991 Bond fans could turn on Saturday morning cartoons and catch the animated program “James Bond Jr.” Now, you may be thinking, “But Bond never had kids” and you would be right. I’ll let IMDb.com explain:

James Bond Jr. is the nephew of the famous international spy. Determined to follow in the footsteps of his famous uncle, James Jr. enrolls in Warfield, a prep school based on the grounds of an old counter intelligence training base in the UK. Along with his schoolmates IQ (grandson of Q) and Gordo Leiter (son of CIA agent Felix), James Jr. fights against SCUM (Saboteurs and Criminals United in Mayhem), an international cartel of terrorists and mad scientists.

Wikipedia has more:

James Bond Jr. is a fictional character described as the nephew of Ian Fleming’s master spy James Bond. The name “James Bond Junior” was first used in 1967 for an unsuccessful spinoff novel entitled 003½: The Adventures of James Bond Junior written under the pseudonym R. D. Mascott. The idea of Bond having a nephew was used again in 1991 as an American animated series for television in which the title character defeats threats to the safety of the free world. The series was mildly successful and spawned six episode novelizations by John Peel writing as John Vincent, a 12 issue comic book series by Marvel Comics published in 1992, as well as a video game developed by Eurocom in 1991.

Wow! So they didn’t just pull 003 ½ out of their anuses, he’s been around since the days of Fleming. Obviously all of this is absolutely absurd except the idea of SPECTRE being replaced by SCUM. That’s awesome. If only there was a song spelling out how James Bond Jr. has a job to do and he chases SCUM around the world. Let’s go to the videotape!

 

When a movie as disastrous as Licence To Kill (1989) is followed by a six-year gap only to be filled by 003 ½, well, that would be enough to kill a lesser franchise. Additionally, Bond had to contend with the events of November 9, 1989. On that day crowds of East Germans and West Germans took hammers to the most visible symbol of the “evil empire,” the Berlin Wall, and Germany once again became united as one country. The U.S.S.R., bankrupt thanks to over spending on military ventures in Afghanistan and the arms race with NATO, ceased to be. The cold war superpower once again became Russia and the satellite countries that made up the rest of the U.S.S.R. regained their independence and those living behind the iron curtain were now free to buy all the Levis their hearts desired. Elated to be free at last, free at last, Lord almighty, free at last, the former Soviet citizens took to the street of Berlin in a frenzied celebration cumulating in a concert given by David Hasselhoff. The Hoff, standing on the ruins of the wall while donning a jacket lined with Christmas lights, serenaded the crowd with “Looking for Freedom,” a song that became the unofficial anthem of the historic event. After the Hoff left the stage, many East Germans concluded that if this was freedom then they wanted no part of it. They begged for the wall to be re-erected and the strict media blackout to be once again imposed but to no avail; the wall stayed down and the ex-Soviets had to live with David Hasselhoff like the rest of the world. With the cold war officially over, unless some enterprising individual adopted a white cat and sat down in the long abandon #1 chair at SPECTRE headquarters, James Bond’s services were no longer required. But the redrawing of the world map wasn’t the only major change to pass Bond by, the world of film also shifted while he slept. Young Sherlock Holms(1985) featured a scene early in the film where a Mid-Evil knight etched in stained glass becomes alive, jumps off the pane, and walks down a church aisle. He was crudely animated, two-dimensional and only on screen for a few second but he was the first use of computer-generated imagery or CGI in a film.

That looks like a tasty burger...

Four years later James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989) gave us the first fully realized CGI character, a morphing worm-like alien, and the digital genie was not only out of the bottle, he made Robin William’s Aladdin (1992) character an antique. In the following years moviegoers got to witness robots walking through steel bars in T2: Judgment Day (1991), dinosaurs plucking lawyers off toilets in Jurassic Park (1993), and a legless Garry Sinise being a total asshole in Forrest Gump (1994). In some ways I’ve come to terms with my personal CGI demons but the technology still gives me the fits. CGI is one of many tools in a filmmaker’s toolbox and should be treated as such. But it’s a terrifyingly powerful tool and as we all learned from dear Uncle Ben Parker, with great power comes great responsibly. Some can handle it (Peter Jackson with the Lord of the Ring trilogy) but most can not (George Lucas with the Star Wars prequel trilogy). What would Bond producers, they of the over the top stunt, do with this new gadget? Hollywood movies had also shifted in a more fundamental, story-telling way since 1989. The hippest heroes of 90’s weren’t globe hopping action stars but hard-boiled tough guys who ate your tasty Kahuna burger before shooting you in the face. Add it all up and you could picture Bond turning in his double O license and retiring to the Florida Keys where he would pass his days fighting off drug lords and taking the occasional PI case for the local ladies a la Thomas Magnum. But then again Glen and Co. tried something like that with the last film and I would rather watch “James Bond Jr.” on YouTube then witness James suffer such an undignified fate. Thank the movie gods Bond has EON in his corner. The last time it looked like Bond would be put out to pasture, Broccoli and Co. blasted back with the stellar The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the strongest Bond film of the 70’s and 80’s. That’s a lot to ask for once, could EON and 007 actually pull it off twice?

Film Length: 2 hours 10 minutes

Bond Actor: Interior EON Production offices, London. May 1994. Buzzzzzzz “Mr. Broccoli, Mr. Dalton is here for his 10 O’clock.” “Good send him in. Hi yah, Timothy, good to see you, come on in. No, don’t bother to sit down this will just take a second. So, I think it’s fair to tell you that we are going a different direction for the next Bond picture. We just feel the audience should, you know, like James Bond. And our research backs this up. Across the board we found that when people think of Bond, they want to think of him as someone likable, someone who is pleasant to be around, someone they want to spend time with. I’m sure you understand. Anyway Timothy, it was a good run and thanks so much. Talk to the girl on your way out, she can validate your parking, and remember, don’t call us, we’ll call you, or not. OK, good?” Buzzzzzzz “Yes, security, please escort Mr. Dalton to his car and make sure he’s off the lot in 15 minutes. Good luck Timothy, I’m sure you’ll land on your feet. Helen! Can you get me Pierce on the line?” That is made up. This isn’t “I thought Pierce Brosnan was a good choice. I liked GoldenEye. Timothy Dalton never got a handle on the role. He took it seriously in the wrong way. The person who plays Bond has to be dangerous. If there isn’t a sense of threat, you can’t be cool” and “Timothy Dalton has Shakespearean training but he underestimated the role. The character has to be graceful and move well and have a certain measure of charm as well as be dangerous. Pierce Brosnan is a good actor – he added some new elements to it.” Both of those are Sean Connery quotes and who’s going to argue with the man who invented to role? As for my thoughts on Pierce Brosnan’s Bond before I started this project, I didn’t really have any. I refer to the mid to late 90’s as my pop culture blackout period. I was a junior in college when this film came out and at that time I did not read any periodicals, I did not own a TV, and I could not listen to commercial radio. (Nor could anyone truth be told. The bliss of Nirvana and Pavement actually getting airtime on Top 40 radio was replace by 24 hours of Hootie and the Blow Fish and the Dave Mathews Band interrupted only by the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes.” I’m not exaggerating one iota. Seriously, my private hell is FM radio in 1995.) As for other links to the outside world, my experience with that new thing called the World Wide Web at the time consisted of one room on campus. In that room were 12 computers with monitors displaying a green blinking cursor. The only function these terminals could perform was to send something called an “E-mail” which was “the future of communication” according to the sign on the door.

They may look different, but these two groups are the same band.

Yet, every time I walked past the room all I heard was typing and absolutely no one talking or you know, communicating. The irony was too rich for my 21-year-old mind so I swore I would avoid everything having to do with this “internet.” I guess what I’m saying is at this time in my life I was very focused on me and enjoying it. After spending every Friday night of my high school years at the record store and the local AMC 12 checking out the hot new releases, my head was now very much elsewhere/everywhere/nowhere. I took immense pride in the fact that I was willfully ignorant and cut-off from the rest of the world. “No, I’m sorry, I’ve never seen ‘Friends.’” (Still haven’t, not a single frame of a single episode.) I did still make my way to the cinema on occasion and I know I’ve seen all four Pierce films at some point. In fact, I think I caught GoldenEye in the theater over winter break, but Brosnan is by far the Bond I’m least familiar with/ have the weakest attachment to. So, it’s almost like I’m coming at the next four films blind (almost), which is super exciting. So, we’ve had a Scot, an Aussie, a proper Englishman and a Welshman. Now the Irish get their crack at it and after having the role snatched out from underneath him in 1987, Brosnan is beyond grateful for his second chance. On the DVD extras he is simply giddy when discussing the role. “My names Bond, James Bond! It’s a hoot.” His joy carries over to the film and shows in every frame. From the get go, this is a guy you want to hang out with. I never read any reviews of the Bond films until after I’ve written about them myself. It’s one of the ways I try to keep this as “pure” an experience as possible, but I do enjoy reading what other thought after I post. When I went back to read Roger Ebert’s review of The Living Daylights (1987) I was struck by his take on Dalton.  “He’s a strong actor, he holds the screen well, he’s good in the serious scenes, but he never quite seems to understand that it’s all a joke. The correct tone for the Bond films was established right at the start, with Sean Connery’s quizzical eyebrows and sardonic smile. He understood that the Bond character was so preposterous that only lightheartedness could save him. The moment Bond began to act like a real man in a real world, all was lost.” Brosnan not only has the quizzical eyebrows and sardonic smile but he flirts like Cary Grant, he’s as physical as Jason Statham, and he can wear a suit like George Clooney. In short, he is more then a breath of fresh air; he is a brilliant blast of helium. His joy is infectious and I found myself smiling like a fool at points in the film. Perhaps I’m over reacting slightly having just come out from under the wet blanket of gloom that was Dalton, but I don’t think so. I have hazy memories of invisible cars and Denise Richards in our near future so it’s quite possible the Brosnan era goes off the rails but for this film at least, Pierce Brosnan is Bond, James Bond, and it’s a hoot.

Director: Martin Campbell. The great purge continues behind the camera with a new director and for the first time ever, no Cubby Broccoli. Barbara Broccoli, Cubby’s daughter and her husband Michael Wilson, who has been increasingly involved since the mid 1970’s, are listed as the Executive Producers. They worked “under the supervision of Cubby” which I read to mean Cubby was present in name only. Indeed, GoldenEye would be Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’ last film as one of the men most reasonable for the Bond films passed away on June 27, 1996 at age of 87. Campbell, who was well known in the UK for his work on the BBC show “Edge of Darkness,” brought a modern sensibility to the Bond franchise. More importantly, unlike Glen, he is a capital “F” Filmmaker. On the DVD extras, the Kiwi director is painted as a precise craftsman and a tough love taskmaster. The cast and crew talk about how intense Campbell is on set and “There is lots of yelling…” is a familiar refrain but across the board everyone agrees he’s “sharp as a knife” and “keeps your head in it.” Pierce in particular talks about how Campbell pushes but keeps the energy up and can be trusted. Listening to this stuff reminds me of the classic baseball scenario where a “player’s manager” is sacked after losing 90 plus games to be replaced by a spitting-from-the-mouth-screamer who drops F bombs and throws the occasional chair. The players all snap to and in the end are a much better team for it. This is exactly what the lazy Bond franchise needed, a new guy to take over the clubhouse and kick some ass. The #1 best thing about this film, and this goes back to Campbell, is balance. The director seamlessly balances the classic Bond conventions we love with a new modern flare he brings to the picture. The humor and action play together like rhythm and melody in a well crafted pop tune. The use of the old school filmmaking, stunts, miniature models, and actual locations are mixed in effortlessly with minimal, tasteful CGI and quick cut modern editing. The film simultaneously plays out as a 50’s spy noir and updated post cold war thriller. The script even expands on James Bond character, dropping nuggets like the fact Bond was orphaned when both his parents died in a climbing accident. Most importantly the romance is back, and I’m not talking about Bonds relationship with women. I’m talking about the romance of going on an epic adventure with a spy who is out to save the world. From the get go, I couldn’t believe how much more juicy and enjoyable the action sequences were and how everything fit together organically, one moment rolling into the next with expert pacing and seamless ease. Add the numerous nods to James past and winks to long time fans and Campbell delivers everything you want in a Bond film and then some.

Reported Budget: $58,000,000 estimated. Shot in 110 days with a crew of over 500 almost all the money is, as they say, on the screen. At first glance, $58M is some big bucks. Not quite double the $34 million for Moonraker (1979), the most expensive Bond to date, but well over the $32 for Licence To Kill (1989). However, in the context of 1995 big budget films, the number is just about right. Other ‘95 films like Jumanji, Casper, Crimson Tide, Congo, Braveheart, Outbreak, and Nixon all had budgets in the $50 million range. Meanwhile, the big ticket items of the year were Money Train and Under Siege 2 ($60M estimated), Apollo 13 ($62M estimated), Judge Dredd ($70M estimated), Die Hard: With A Vengeance ($90M estimated), Batman Forever ($100M estimated) and one of the most notorious budget busting flops of all time which was also the most expensive film made at the time, Waterworld ($175M estimated). Now here’s the kicker; only two of the above films made more money then Bond.

Reported Box-office: $106,600,000 USA and $351,500,000 worldwide. Nothing will ever come close percentage wise to the 1960’s Bond heyday where seven digit budgets could turn into nine digit returns, but GoldenEye made more in terms of dollars than any previous Bond both in the US and abroad. (The record holder was Moonraker with $70,308,099 USA and $210,308,099 worldwide.) GoldenEye finished at #6 on the year in the U.S. beat by #2 Batman Forever ($184M) and #3 Apollo 13 ($172) while #10 Die Hard: With A Vengeance ($100M), #12 Waterworld ($88M), #52 Judge Dredd ($34M), and #100 Nixon ($13M) staring Anthony Hopkins who passed on playing a Bond villain to play someone much more sinister in Oliver Stone’s film, all fell short of the newly jump started Bond machine. Bond Forever, With A Vengeance.

Theme Song: “Goldeneye” performed by Tina Turner. I love Tina Turner. I could listen to her sing my grocery list. Her sultry, sex vocals work overtime here but the issue is the Bono and Edge penned tune. U2 was in the middle of their post-ironic Zooropa, Pop Mart, super hero costume period and I just don’t think it’s the right fit. Would something from the Joshua Tree or even Achtung Baby vintage have worked? Perhaps but Tina and the pounding, faux industrial lite “GoldenEye” work at crossed purposes. However, when the bridge threatens to collapse under the weight of the tune, Tina belts out “now I’ve got you in my siIIIIIIIIITTTTTTES with a golden EEEYEEEEEEEEEEEE!” to keep everything afloat. As for the clip, I think the stage setup speaks to just how huge a star Tina was at this point. Also, take note of the keyboard player who is clearly a hold-over from Tina’s previous big film soundtrack hit, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). Take it away Tina!

 

And for the record, an avant-garde noise infused take on the Bond theme can be fantastic as John Zorn proves on his 1989 album “Naked City.”

 

Opening Titles: And the hits keep coming. Reimagined yet grounded in tradition, these are the best titles we’ve had since the early 70’s. Right off the bat, the high symbolism that is inherent to the Bond titles tie directly to films theme. Juxtaposed to the shimmering soft bodies of the every present “Bond credit women” are cold, heavy stone statues of imperialistic Russian leaders. So we see oppressive busts of Stalin and Lenin float past inviting busts. Yes, thanks to vertical gun barrels and sickles bulls eyeing hammers there are phallic symbols aplenty but everything here seems to speak to one whole as opposed to just tossing five or six naked dancing women on the screen and calling it a day. All the images finally merge about ¾ through when the women take the hammers and break apart the statues in an obvious nod to the tearing down of the wall. Bond is not running away from the fall of the Soviet Union, he’s embracing it head on and in his signature style to boot. Additionally, everything is shot with a gold tint as if one were observing all of this thorough a golden eye. By the time we get sucked back into the gun barrel (after violently being cased out by a bullet at the top of the sequence) GoldenEye’s credits have upped the ante considerably. When you look at the actual credits themselves; Famke Janssen, Sean Bean, Alan Cumming, Robbie Coltrane, and Judi Dench as “M”, it would appear that Bond 17 has the cards to win back anything 007 lost in his six year absence.

Opening Action Sequence: James Bond is running. Fast. Hauling ass really. We have seen Bond run many times, but never like this. This is not “actor” running. This is a man who is moving with purpose and actually, really running. He’s in black, with a rope slung over his shoulder, trucking out onto a narrow walkway with reckless abandon. If you, I, or any mortal human were to walk five paces out onto this wall of concrete wedged between two cliffs we would be spinning with vertigo. But Bond is running to the center at top speed.  The dam, the film tells us, is the Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility, deep in the now defunct USSR. When Bond reaches the middle, he Carabiner clamps himself to the structure and in the first of many stunning shots in the film, he swan dives off the dam in one uninterrupted take. As his bungee cord brings him to near stop, he shots a grapple gun with a motorized winch to draw himself to the ground. Then he pops the hatch and into the enemy’s lair he goes. With the bungee jump, producers immediately demonstrate that this modern Bond is up to date on the latest trends. I recall a trip I took to Orlando in the mid-90’s and the skyline was dotted with crazy jackasses paying $50 a pop to bungee jump off construction cranes in what is now hopefully an illegal form of recreation. While jumping on this bungee trend (snicker), the film wisely avoid another, relying on CGI for everything, especially stunts. Following the proud Bond tradition of “doing it for real,” stuntman Wayne Michaels actually bungeed of the Verzasca Dam in Locarno, Switzerland. When we finally meet Bond up close he is still hanging upside down but not on the bungee. Like our T-Rex friend from Jurassic Park, he is about to take a man who is sitting on the toilet out. “Beg your pardon, I forgot to knock” is well delivered with just the right amount of smirking (upside down smirking for what it’s worth.) The kidding quickly become serious when out of the dark comes a gun, pointed right at James’ head. This establishes the humor/serious back and forth that will play out for the entire film and Brosnan handles the switch from comedy mask to drama mask effortlessly. And hey, good news! The man with the gun is just good old 006. “For England James?” “For England Alec.” As the two break into the main generator room it quickly become clear they have worked together before. Like a QB needs to be in complete sync with his star receiver in order to orchestrate a 2 minute drill, James and Alec work the room as tightly as a Swiss watch; that is until James peeks out to see Alec on his knees with a gun to his head and 50 or so Ruskie soldiers. “Come out with your hands up.” “How original.” It’s all pearls with this Brosnan fellow. Before 007 obeys the clichéd order he resets the timers on the explosives he and 006 planted from 6 minutes to 3. Make note of it, it becomes important later on. The man holding the gun to 006’s head by the by is wearing possibly the best police state military uniform since Ralph “don’t call me Ralph” Fiennes stomped around in Nazi boots in Schindler’s List (1993). He is General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov and his name says it all. Ourumov is a deliciously evil cartoon military tyrant who would fit seamless in with the cast of Dr. Strangelove (1964). Just to prove how nasty he is, he puts bullet in 006’s head when it didn’t quite seem necessary to do so. Make note of it, it becomes important later on. Like every room in warehouse looking structures in Bond films, this room is filled with vats of nasty chemicals and explosives but since this is a Chemical Weapons Facility I guess it’s understandable. Perhaps they ran out of room in the pantry and the just stacked the stuff on empty shelves, like the one above everyone to the left. A quick gun blast from Bond and the canister come pouring down upon all the soldiers’ heads. As the fire starts Bond blots out the door mowing down machine gun toting baddies like he’s a 15-year-old boy on Red Bull playing “Call of Duty.” As Ourumov and half the Soviet army chase him down, Bond jumps into a plane which is headed toward the edge of a cliff. At this point, we expect him to fly off into the night but the film, not for the last time, sweeps the carpet out from under our expectations. When Bond goes to toss the pilot out the door, the pilot grabs Bonds arms and pulls them both out onto the tarmac. Always a great improviser, Bond grabs a Russian motorcycle and jumps on to chase the pilotless plane that’s continuing down the runway to the cliffs edge. While Ourumov looks on with more admiration then disappoint at loosing his prisoner, Bond guns the motorcycle and like he did 18 years earlier on skies, jumps off the cliff into the void. Kicking the bike aside and turning himself into a missile, Bond, Superman like, flies through the air to catch up with the plane, makes his way into the cockpit, grabs a hold of the yolk, and pulls up before going head on into the mountain to cap off what is hands down the most exciting open since The Spy Who Love Me.

Bond’s Mission: After the credits we learn the events in the open happened 9 years earlier, and now we are in the present, 1995. We join James as he is engaged in some high-speed road flirting a al Chevy Chase and Christie Brinkley in National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983). The girl is still in a red Ferrari and the guy still needs to peer over a more conservative woman in his passenger seat to catch the red Ferrari girl’s eye however, this time the part of Clark W. Griswold is played by Bond, the green wood paneled family truckster is now the classic grey Aniston Martin DB5, and the flat highway of the American Midwest is replaced by a mountain road in the French Alps. The conservative woman in Bond’s passenger seat (on the left side of the car, though the girl in the red Ferrari is driving from the left. Europe is just crazy…) has been sent by the new M (who we have not met) to observe Bond in the field. She’s a one-dimensional prop who I immediately pegged as a misstep in the film. That was until Bond slams on the breaks to stop the car in the middle of the mountain road, produces a bottle of Bollinger (chilled), and gets an “Oh James…” all in 15 seconds. Ahhh, I get it now. This is silly and outrageous. With this 15 seconds all the ill will of the PC uptight Dalton Bond is erased and we are once again allowed to not take it all so seriously. Not for nothing is 007 in a grey Aston Martin; this is the return of the rakish hero we all know and love. The Bond who drives fast and chases skits is back and not a moment to soon. Need more proof? In the next few shots we see Bond in a tux, entering a casino, drinking a martini made to his liking, and playing baccarat with the girl in the red Ferrari, one Ms. Xenia Onatopp. “On a top?” The first 10 minutes of GoldenEye firmly puts us back into the proper Bond world of hyper-realty where the cars a little faster, the drinks a little stronger, the stakes at the table are a little higher and women …ahhh the women. If Bond’s your bag, you’re in clover. 007 movies generally work best as elaborate case films with twist and turns along the way. GoldenEye, like the classic From Russia With Love (1963), is essentially Bond and the baddies both trying to get their hands on the same technological dingus with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. The MacGuffin this go around is the French prototype stealth helicopter TIGER. Not only is it invisible to radar, it can still fly after a magnet pulse from a nuclear blast, an event that would render every other electronic device useless.  Not two seconds after we learn how kick-ass the TIGER is Onatopp and her accomplice, General Ourumov, committing Grand Theft Huey. But in a classic film noire twist, the MacGuffin is a red herring! The real MacGuffin, like the Lektor before, is much more sinister and dangerous. Ourumov and Onatopp (not to be confused with Bonnie and Clyde) stole the TIGER to be used as a getaway car in the theft of the Goldeneye. The dingus, named after Ian Flaming’s Jamaican home, is a space-based magnetic-pulse weapon that simulates the shutting-down-all-electrical-devises havoc of a nuclear blast without all the messy fallout. You now see why they needed the TIGER. All of this business is handled in an entertaining and efficient manner that’s on par with mid 90’s pacing but also in a way than demands the audience keep up to speed. In other words, it’s a smart film that treats you, the viewer, as an equal, unlike its predecessor, which fed us garbage and told us it was a gourmet meal. Anyway, now the baddies have the Goldeneye and Bond must get it.

Villain’s Name: Alec Trevelyan. AKA 006. Well, I certainty didn’t see that one coming. I recalled the dam dive from when I saw GoldenEye in the theater but I didn’t remember this twist at all so I nearly jumped off my couch in a genuine “Oh shit!” moment when Alec emerges from the shadows to revile himself at the leaded of the Janus Gang. The first time Alec came out of the dark was at the Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility where Bond was happy to see 006; this time James looks as if he’s seen a ghost and indeed, ghosts are all over this fantastic scene. It turns out, Alec Trevelyan was a sleeper double agent all along and he and Ourumov faked his death at Arkangel. Alec then went underground and after the fall of the Soviet Union rounded up Ourumov and Onatopp and a bunch of ex-Soviet loyalist not yet ready to wave the white flag and stole the Goldeneye. From a structural standpoint the Bond films are perfectly positioned to blindside audiences with this villain switch-a-roo (from Ourumov to Alec). After 17 Bond films we have been programmed as viewers to keep the opening sequences in its own box. Yes, the open can tie into the story or not, but we have come to accept that characters introduced in the open can stay there and not be referenced again, especially if we think that character was killed. Add the fact that nine yeas have passed since the events of the open and it nearly guarantees we’ve all forgotten good old 006 until like Lazarus he comes back to life. We have also become accustom to Bond shedding partners like Spinal Tap goes through drummers. Remember dear departed Sharky from Licence To Kill, Saunders from The Living Daylights, Sir Godfrey Tibbett from A View To A Kill (1985), Vijay from Octopussy (1983), and Luigi Ferrara from For Your Eyes Only (1981) just to name recent examples. Basically, if you team up with Bond and you’re not a woman or named Felix, chances are you’re the red shirted ensign on the away team. The unmasking of the true villain is also shocking thanks to the fact that General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov is so well written. The General could have just been placeholder keeping the chair warm until the big kahuna showed up but Ourumov is credible as the head baddie in both appearance and action. In the open, after he “shoots” 006 in the head, he orders his men to not shoot at Bond for risk of hitting the chemical drums. (Those damn chemical drums again.) Bond grabs a cart loaded with said drums and uses the combustible canisters as cover. The General cocks his head and smirks in wide-eyed amazement as Bond squeaks across the floor. He has a look on his face like a man who’s just flopped the nuts and simply can’t believe 3 players are betting into him. Later, when the tables have turned and Ourumov finds himself in the back of a car trying to outrun Bond, who happens to be chasing him in a tank, all the General can do is go between a nervous giggle and shear panic while pulling off a flask. It’s these little moments that I cherish because they are so simple yet go such a long way toward making movie characters real people. This shift in focus from one villain to the next, much like the shift from the TIGER to the Goldeneye, could have so mangled the plot as to destroy any of the pacing and flow. But in Campbell’s steady hands the shift from one focal point to the next is so expertly handled that it has the proper impact while remaining nearly invisiable.

Villain Actor: Sean Bean, a perfect choice to play Alec Trevelyan. As he proved playing Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) six years later, even when he is the good guy, he’s still got the coiled up intensity of a baddie. You just feel like he could jump over the line at any moment. I hear he’s also fantastic in “Game of Thrones” but I have yet to dive into the series. Hey back off, the wife is reading the books and wants to finish them first. Shesh. Gottfried John, who plays General Ourumov, was born in Berlin and after a quick glace at his IMDB page I think we can official name him the Samuel L. Jackson of Germany for his unwillingness to turn down any role offered to him. He is not pretty man but I just love his look. He looks like he would be at home in front of the local OTB picking up half smoked butts off the sidewalk and finishing them off. He would have no problem hanging out with those dudes who watch old boxing matches on the TV’s at Record Mart in the Times Square subway station. He has a face that just says Character. He’s seen it and you can tell just by looking at em.

Villain’s Plot: Alec Trevelyan planned this one out pretty well. As the head of the Russian space division, General Ourumov is above suspicion and therefore the perfect inside man to pull off the Goldeneye heist. Once he and Onatopp shoot almost everyone at the remote Siberian base that housed the Goldeneye, they use the super weapon to blow up the base and disable all the incoming MIG’s while they take off with the loot in the TIGER. A quick aside, to launch the Goldeneye weapon, two people must turn two separate keys simultaneously. This is a cold war film convention so common at the time as to be cliché, but I had completely forgotten about it. Seeing it again brought a nostalgic joy to my heart. But back to the grand plan, Ourumov, as the head of space division, heads up the investigation into his own theft which he pins on a band of separatist. Meanwhile Alec gets the prize and since he knows MI6 will send their best man after it, he gets revenge against Bond in the barging. It turns out that way back when, 006 didn’t not escape the Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility unscathed. Thanks to Bond resetting the timers on the explosives from six minutes to three, Alec didn’t clear out of the room in time and ended up scaring the right side of his face. His gang is named the Janus group after the double-faced Roman God but he could have taken inspiration for the modern mythology of Bob Kane. Like Batman’s foe Harvey Dent, Alec is the physical embodiment of two faced; a man who betrayed Bond and MI6 and has the scars to show for it. So revenge is the motivating factor here, revenge against not only Bond but all of England.  Trevelyan descended from Cossacks, a group of Russians that sided with the Nazis during WWII and surrendered to the Allies after Berlin fell believing they would join the Bits in fighting the communist. However, England sent them back to Stalin who had them all shot, including women and children. “Not exactly our finest hour.” Bond declares but I think one Lt. Aldo Raine would disagree.

You're going to take that uniform off, aren't ya? That’s what we thought...

Anywho, with his parents dead young Alec worked his way into becoming a deep mole in MI6 with the idea of avenging his families betrayal at the hands of the crown. In a related note, the 3 by 5 index card application that asked for name, race, gender and birthday in way of a background check for getting into MI6 has been abandon for a more thorough process in direct reaction to what is now referred to as “the 006 incident.” Now, Alec plans on using the Goldeneye to electro-nuke London. And since he knows all of MI6’s tactics, he very well could get a way with it. See, I told you he had this well thought out. It’s also a brilliant workaround as a plot device. Filmmakers solved the end of the cold war issue by just continuing it. Much like the Japanese on Lubang Island who continued to fight well after WWII had ended, the movie gives us isolated Siberian dead enders who are still ready to throw down with those capitalist pigs. These folks are more then happy to hitch their wagon to this very sinister and calculating baddie who is playing both sides against the middle. It all works quite well thank you but… but… but for some reason all of this is not enough for old Alec, or for that mater, the film. Before he blasts London back to Stone Aged level technology, Alec plans on hacking UK banking computers and making off with all the money right before the Goldeneye erases the records of said money. Truth be told, the film handles this development rather well and it almost avoids feeling like a tacked on thread but it’s also wholly unnecessary. I know it’s a quibble but the whole robbery bit kind of undercuts the Alec character. In fact, Bond himself points this out by calling Alec nothing more than a common thief at which point I expected 006 to get all Hans Grubber and scream “I’m an exceptional thief Mr. Bond!” Not that there is anything wrong with being a thief. As Clooney and crew prove in the Ocean’s films, it can be a noble occupation affording one the opportunity to romp around with your mates while correcting the injustices of the world through grand larceny. But back the impending destruction of London at the hands of old Alec. In Alec, we have a villain of Shakespearian scope, a man who literally has spent his entire life planning and scheming to visit tragedy upon many innocents all in the name of vengeance. What more motivation do you need? To add bank robber to Alec Trevelyan’s résumé cheapens it.

Villain’s Lair: When we meet up with Alec again, it’s in a junkyard full of broken imperialistic Soviet statues. The symbolism could be seen as a bit too on the noise but I think it works. Here we have a dead ender still fighting the cold war among the decaying symbols of that war, his face a battered and broken as those of the stone Lenin and Stalin. When not stomping around the junkyard Alec lives on an old train that was used during the cold war to store missiles. The idea was with the train always moving, the West could never track down the warheads. Alec uses this steal tank of a train to hide himself in similar fashion. He hangs out in an over appointed car with all the refinements of a 5 star hotel room while another car holds a helicopter in case he needs to get off the train quickly. (Spoiler alert: he does.) I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, any movie with a train is a success on some level. Finally, Alec and crew manage somehow to take over a Cuban base containing the most advanced deep space tech on the planet, good for, say, controlling the Goldeneye bombs. This base is essentially one huge parabolic dish built into the side of a mountain and hidden under a lake. This is similar to the trick Blofeld pulled with the volcano crater in You Only Live Twice (1967) but Bond is still slow to recognize it. When Bond finally does uncover the base and sets about to stop the Goldeneye, there is a nice bit of fun in 007 stymieing the entire deal by literally shoving a pipe into the gear works; an old fashion low tech solution to disable the most advanced weapon in the world.

Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: Like all the classic Bond villains, Alec has a physical deformity but his was caused by Bond. The scaring on the left side of his melon has come to define the two-faced villain and it’s something he’s quite pissed about. 006 feels as if his old partner betrayed him when he halved the time on the detonators from 6 minutes to 3. This is a bit of the kettle calling the pot black since Alec was a double agent setting up not just Bond but all of England. And, let’s not forget that Bond thought he was dead; a death he faked to betray Bond. So yah, get over it jerk.

Badassness of Villain: General Ourumov, head of the Russian space division, betrayed and killed the best and the brightest under his command. He marched into the bunker where the Goldeneye was hidden and asked the man in charge to fetch the device. “I’m timing you” he announces as the poor bastard scurries off, grabs the dingus, and hand delivers it to the thief. For his trouble, he and (almost) everyone who works at the base get mowed down in a spray of machine gun fire. And Ourumov is just the opening act. For the main event Alec has mastered the mind screw. Both Bond and he were orphaned and adopted by MI6, so Alec is able to call out Jimmy B as only a sibling who is out for blood can. (To continue the analogy, that would make M the dad, regardless of gender, Moneypenny the mom and Q the crazy, drunk uncle.) Yes, Alec knows how to turn off Q’s hidden detonators but it’s when he calls Bond out for using martinis and one night stands to wash away the guilt he feels for all the men he’s killed that he hits a nerve. He is, in fact, one of the few villains to actually rattle Bond and it’s a thrill to see the unflappable 007 become flapped. All Bond can do is raise an eyebrow, curl his lips knowingly, and look to the ground as if to say “well played.”

Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: Both henchmen are future X-men. This factoid has no doubt bridged the Bond/ Marvel universes in such a way that Daniel Craig’s 007 will report to Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury in The Avengers III: West Coast Avengers Assemble staring Ryan Goslings as Hawkeye, coming in the Summer of 2015 to a theater near you. Oddjob had his bowler, Jaws had his teeth, Necros had his walkman and Xenia Onatopp has her thighs. As Onatopp, Famke Janssen is deliciously campy and in full on femme fatale mode with the outfits and blood red lipstick to match. A black widow, Onatopp not only crushes her prey with her legs but appears to climax while doing so… unless she’s faking. In the wrong hands, err, legs, this could have been beyond silly and sucked us out of the film but here the gag is played with just the right tone as to be bizarre, a little hot, and in one scene, delightful fun. A dozen years before Viggo Mortensen’s rightly celebrated naked sauna brawl in Eastern Promises (2007), Brosnan and Janssen slammed each others heads off the title in a steamy Russian bath. Sadly, they are both wrapped in towels but it still registers as a violent and visceral scene, even if Pierce proves to be more of a gentleman then some of his predecessor and refuses to slap a lady around. Alan Cumming also goes balls out as the Russian computer nerd Boris Grishenko and while it works in some scenes, by the end he’s gone to 11 and it proves to be a bit much. That said Cumming is given an impossible role. With the invention of the internet thrillers have had to solve the problem of finding drama while characters type at a keyboard and stare into a monitor. See another film that came out in ’95, Sandra Bullock’s The Net (1995) for a master course in how difficult it is to make people working on computers exciting. Most directors solve the problem by having their characters scream at the screen like drunken football fans during the third quarter of the 4PM game. “Come on, down load GOD DAMN IT!!!!!” It seldom works. Cumming does all he can, spitting out “I spike dem, Slugheads” like a rabid weasel with Tourette’s and while it’s over the top, he is still entertaining at points, like when his jittery persona sets up a great gag involving his nervous clicking of a pen.

Bond Girl Actress: Izabella Scorupco. The Polish born actress immigrated to Sweden as a child and appeared in a few films before making her English language debut with GoldenEye. More beautiful then hot she is a throw back to the good old days of classic beauties playing Bond girls. The problem is she’s in the same film as Famke Janssen and well, when you’re up against Marvel Girl crushing men with her gams, you’re going to be runner up every time.

Bond Girl’s Name: Natalya Simonova, a handle even Bond has trouble getting his tongue around. The two at introduced in one of the better meet cutes Jimmy B has had. Bond has been knocked out and tied down inside the cockpit of the TIGER. He is awakened by Natalya, who is tied up in the seat behind him, screaming and kicking. “WAKE UP!” Again, we have seen Bond do so many amazing things we sometimes take the “smaller” moments for granted. So, picture, if you will, you’ve been knocked out and when you wake up your tied in the cockpit of a helicopter with a strange Russian woman behind you screaming and kicking your seat while the stinger missiles from the chopper launch, crisscross in a 180 degree turn, and are now haling ass right at you. Me personally? I would need at lest two cups of coffee before I could even consider my options. Not Jimmy B. He head butts the seat eject and that folks is why he gets the girl, every time and twice on Sundays. Well, not at first. Natalya gives him a swift kick in the shin the first chance she gets but she comes around, they all do. She is a computer programmer who survives Ourumov’s attack on the Goldeneye base and therefore knows the General and her co-worker Boris are with the Janus group. The scene is one more example of the film playing with the idea of technology failing. Surrounded by flames and exploding equipment, Natalya can’t get out of the collapsing base because the voice recognition lock is destroyed. She climbs the crippled satellite antenna, not unlike the survivors of the capsized Poseidon climbed the Christmas tree, to escape the base only to find herself standing alone, in only a blouse, in the Serbian night. She is saved by a decidedly low tech dog sled. As a skilled technician she is not the useless damsel in distress but she still falls into Alec’s clutches and needs to be rescued. However, this routine story point remains fresh thanks to the absolute creepiness of Alec. “You know James and I shared everything. Everything…” Gross.

Bond Girl Sluttiness: There is a scene on a Cuban beach that could have been something more. Natalya calls Bond out in a way no Bond girl ever has. He’s distant and she chastises him for not letting her in. Bond then feeds her a line about needing to keep his angst close and inside. “It keeps me on the edge, sharp, where I got to be.” Actually, that was Pacino in Heat (1995) which I’m sure was playing across the hall when I saw GoldenEye in the theater but you get the idea. And besides, Al says it better. Anyway, Natalya takes this macho posturing and throws it back in Bond’s face “No, it’s what keeps you alone.” This one exchange hits harder and is more “dark” then anything Dalton ever did with the character. Sadly, it’s also totally undercut by the fact that (a) Natalya enters the scene wearing a white bikini that (b) we see in a close up crotch shot. One of the few missteps in the film.

Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: “Now now, no more foreplay” says Bond while pointing a gun at Onatopp to end the Russian bath house fight. “Hummmfff” responds the disappointed and deflated lady.

Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: Natalya. “Do you destroy every vehicle you get into?”

Number of Woman 007 Beds: Two. We barely get settled into our seats and have yet to open our Milk Duds and Bond is boffing a babe in the middle of the road. (Cue the Beatles “No one will be watching us, why don’t we do it in the road?”) More notable on the location front, this make-out session is taking place in an Aston Martin. Now, I know Q has put some extra options on the car but dude, that’s a tight fit with an inconveniently placed stick shift. Bond and Natalya get off to a slow start, what with the exploding chopper and shin kicking and kidnapping and all but then after fleeing an exploding train Natalya proves that she knows Bond, perhaps even better than his late wife. She looks at 007 and asks “Do you destroy every vehicle you get into?” Bond turns and stares into her eyes as if to say “you understand me so well” and the two go at it for the first of three confirmed times. While in Cuba they engage in the Havana Mahna Mahna (Do do daaa do-do) at least twice. They try for a third before getting caught up in the proud tradition of getting caught. All the baddies are dead, all the bases have been destroyed, and Bond and Natalya are all alone in the jungle. Or at least that’s what Bond assures his lady until they are interrupted by the CIA and US Marines who insists the couple march off to be debriefed at the near by Guantanamo Bay Navy base. Wow, remember when Guantanamo Bay was nothing more than a place where Jack Nicolson was God Damn right he ordered the code red and not a living, breathing monument to our national shame? Ahhh, the 90’s what an innocent time.

Number of People 007 Kills: Classified. Or more accurately, the official Blog, James Blog spotter can’t confirm an accurate number. Such was the killing in GoldenEye that our official body count man not only lost track but curled up into the fetal position and begged for Ben & Jerry’s. Needless to say we wish him well and hope he recovers in time for Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). And with that, onto the carnage! In the open Bond gets his hands on a machine gun (you already see the spotters issue) and did in at least five Ruskies while running about with his finger firmly on the trigger. Then, after he jumps off the cliff to catch the plane to pull up and fly away the entire base explodes. We know Alec made it out with roughly 90% of his face intact but as for the others? Bond again gets a hold of an automatic weapon when fleeing a St. Petersburg jail and mows down at least ten more. He then manages to use the machine gun like a snipers rifle and shoot old Ourumov in the head while missing Natalya who the General was using as a human shield. He kills a helicopter pilot while someone is tied to said chopper (that someone to be revealed below!) and shoots at least three guards while escaping the Cuban dish base; a base that yes, gets blown up and unlike the Dr. No (1962) lair destruction, we don’t see any baddies running out before the big boom. So yah, countless folks met their end at James’ hand including one Alec Trevelyan. I’m happy to report that the final battle between 006 and 007 lives up to its billing as the title bout. The hand to hand feels tougher then some fights we’ve seen in Bond films which is to say when the punches land, they hurt. Yes, by the time the two combatants end up hanging on the end of the satellite antenna like Luke under Cloud City it’s a bit much and your right; Natalya showing up in the helicopter to scoop up James as Alec falls to his death is a huge cheat but since our official spotter had his face in a pint of Chunky Monkey by this point we missed it and just enjoyed the whole rig falling on Alec’s crippled body stuff. “For England James?” “No, for me.” Kick ass!

Most Outrageous Death/s: Bond actually opens his eyes twice to find himself in helicopter danger. The first time he is blasted into consciousness by Natalya kicking his chair. This time he wakes up to Onatopp kicking him in the face. She comes slipping down a zip line hooked to a helicopter that hovers overhead and proceeds to get all crushy with her python femurs. Bond gets out of this tight spot, which is to say between Onatopp’s legs, by getting a shot off. Not at Onatopp but at the chopper. Since his assailant is still tethered to the aircraft when it goes crashing down she goes flying up to be crushed between to huge tree branches. “She always did enjoy a good squeeze.” The other outrageous death involves the other henchman, Boris. Just as Natalya stood alone in the burning ruins of the Goldeneye base, Boris finds himself the soul survivor in the destroyed deep dish Cuban base. As he raises his hands in victory a bath of liquid nitrogen washes over him freezing him in his Rocky pose. Those damn chemical vats again. There are several circular and repeated themes that tie GoldenEye together and it just a delight to have someone behind the camera thinking about these things after the flat set up/action/switch location/repeat formula the Bond films took on for the 1980’s. After the Glen years I almost forget Bond films can be so well crafted.

Miss. Moneypenny: Samantha Bond. The latest Moneypenny has the correct look, demeanor, and yes, age. Caroline Bliss was a little too young and a little too hot. Samantha is a more sophisticated beauty and she has the wisdom to pull of the witty banter. “What would I do with you Moneypenny?” “As far as I can remember, you’ve never had me James.” That’s good stuff. Loyal readers know about Blog, James Blog’s soft spot for dear Moneypenny and while we think we will grow to like Samantha, she has too little screen time in her debut so the jury is still out. We hope to see more of her in the future. The other point of note here is MI6’s offices have been blasted out of the 60’s and landed squarely in 1995. Gone are the classic wooden desks and grand book shelves, replaced the sleek, sterile, teck look of Silicon Valley chic. While I will miss the warmth of the old office, this is 100% correct in keeping with the times. Bond has always been about technology when it comes to the gadgets and the British secret service office should be a buzzing war room full of the latest and greatest inelegance gathering gizmos. Thumbs up.

The first female head of MI5, Director-General Stella Rimington (1992 – 1996)

M: Dame Judi Dench. In a first when it comes to recasting in Bond films, Dench doesn’t seamlessly replace M. In the past when a new actor came in for James, Moneypenny, Felix and even M, that actor simply became that person. No one in the Bond world acknowledged the new face associated with the name. Felix was always just Felix. Dench does indeed come on board as M, the head of MI6, but she is not Sir Miles Messervy. Her M is Barbara Mawdsley and the characters in the film know she is not the same person who sat behind the desk in the past. Dench’s M proves to be the deepest and best established of the series in her very first film. In the past, hints of M as a person were given but basically he existed to (a) offer exposition and (b) harrumph and wring his hands when Bond Fed up. Dench’s M is a three dimensional real life boss and I have a feeling that Dench being cast in the role had a ton to do with the deeper direction of the character. She can act and carry the weight of anything she is handed and unlike past M’s, she has, in her words “the balls” to trade body blows with Bond. She kicks it all off with a wonderful entrance. While king douche Mr. Tanner is insulting her as the “evil queen of numbers” she appears behind him. The scene establishes her as a modern intelligence officer, one who analyzes the data and makes decisions based on research. She sees Bond as a “sexist,  misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the cold war.” Bond and M mistrust each other from the get go and even chafe on the most baseline issues. “Your predecessor kept some brandy in the cupboard” Bond offers as both a way of being polite and proving he knows the ins and outs of MI6. “I prefer bourbon” M shoots back. Touché. By the end of the exchange, M has verbally put Bond in his place and all he can do, like any good poker player, is fold, go out into the field, and hope to draw a better hand. This is a classic “Moneyball” conflict, new fangled smarts vs. old school gut reactions. I couldn’t be more thrilled. This is the kind of boss Bond should have, one who is just as smart and serves as a counterweight to his swashbuckling pirate. Goldeneye does so many things so well but this reimagining of M might be the masterstroke simply because it lays a foundation on which future films can build. Oh, and Dench, as always, is flawless. She even hits the humor with pitch perfect delivery. “Unlike the American government we prefer to not get our bad news from CNN.” If just for M alone, I’m beyond optimistic about the Brosnan era moving forward.

Q: When Pierce walks into Q’s lab it’s like Norm walking into Cheers after he’s been gone for two weeks. He looks around and exhales; even though he’s been gone everything is in place and as it should be. This is Desmond Llewelyn 15th Bond film and at 82 years old he is absolutely thrilled to be back after 6 years. Showing more energy then he has in years, Q jokes (“Sorry about the leg Q, skiing?” “Hunting”), makes like its 1964 and breaks out Goldfinger (1964) era lines (“I’m particularly proud of this, headlight singer missiles!”) and even turns his cranky character upside down. When Bond reaches out to touch a sandwich on a plate, Q scolds him as he would if Bond were about to touch an explosive device. “Don’t touch that!” He then picks up the sandwich adding “It’s my lunch.”

List of Gadgets: The winch/laser cutting gun at the top is not the sexiest gadget but it’s the unsung hero in making the extremely sexy bungee jump possible. Moments later 007 uses a keycard lock pick for a blink and you’ll miss it break in. After racing Onatopp down the mountain Bond takes her photo and with the push of button sends the image from his camera to Moneypenny at MI6 who faxes him Onatopp’s bio, a fax he receives on his car fax machine. This is another in a long list of Bond gadgets that were fantastic at the time but have becoming commonplace in the world of today. Q hands Bond a few goodies while he’s in the lab including a watch that can trigger a bomb and shoot lasers, a belt with a 75 foot repelling cord built into the buckle, (which gives us the opportunity to learn Bond has a 34” waist), and a pen that doubles class 4 grenade. Three clicks arms the four second fuse, another three clicks disarms it which plays beautifully into Boris’ nervous tic we mentioned above. Q also has a tea tray the doubles as a document scanner just incase you forgot this is after all England.

Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: Bond manages to get both cars, the Aston Martin and the Beamer back in one piece. However, the French owned multi-million dollar prototype TIGER does not make it back. This is huge lose when one considers the never previously, and never will again, develop a weapon.

Other Property Destroyed: Indeed, Natalya could have said “Do you destroy everything?” and left it at that. Yah, he drives a motorcycle off a cliff and blows up a base in the open but here is the larger question. To get to that base, he jumped off a dam. Now, I think it’s safe to say that when one explodes a chemical faculty attached to a dam said dam is not going to be in good shape. So, how much of the Russian country side ended up swimming around like Clooney and crew at the end of O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)? In addition to the TIGER, Bond downs the Onatopp chopper and while it’s technically Natalya and Boris that blow up the deep dish Cuban base, Bond wreaks enough havoc to keep a dozen insurance adjusters busy for years. Then there is the historic city of St. Petersburg. Located at the mouth of the Neva River, this port city was renamed Leningrad in 1924 and like the rest of Russia was shut off to the outside world for most of the cold war. Then, in ’91 after the fall of the wall, St. Petersburg retook its original moniker and opened up its doors reminding the world that Russia’s second largest city was home to some of the most stunning architecture in all of Europe. Four years after that James Bond tore it all down. Natalya is kidnapped by General Ourumov. They take off into the streets of St. Petersburg in a government car and Bond grabs the only set of wheels, err, treads available, those under a tank. The first shot where we see Bond come crashing through a brick wall is in 2D better 3D then anything any director not named Martin Scorsese has ever done. Perhaps inspired by 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis’ famously wrong headed photo op, Bond proceeds to drive the tank with his head pop out of the top while wearing a suit. And just like that photo destroyed Dukakis’ presidential run, Bond destroys all of St. Petersburg. He barrels the 12 foot wide tank down six foot wide allies, he crushes car after car and wall after wall, until finally, in what is played for humor more than blatant product placement (although it is also that) Bond splits a Pierre truck in two sending bottles of water flying everywhere. And for his parting bow, 007 rams the base of a bronze horse statue in such a way that the horse becomes perfectly balanced on top of his tank until it’s knocked off, a la the double-decker top in Live and Let Die (1973), by a low bridge. But Bond still has one more trick up his sleeve for the encore. Ourumov and Natalya join Alec and Onatopp on board Alec’s iron plated missile train. Like Alec did twice before, Bond appears from the shadows to surprise his former comrade, only this time the shadows are the mouth of a railroad tunnel the train is rushing toward and the gun is the barrel of a tank. James jumps clear before the unstoppable train hits the unmovable tank and while not as thrilling at the train derailment in The Fugitive (1993), it’s a hell of a wreck.

Felix Leiter: I guess that whole having his leg bitten off thing sidelined the CIA’s man of lukewarm mediocrity. In his stead the US chose to send their latest medical and scientific break through, Agent Jack Wade. Agent Wade is the first and to date only known successful patient to come out of the super double secrete program known as Operation Zombie or Oz for short. This experimental and highly controversial program involves collecting the deceased from government assassinations; in this case the body of international arms dealer and all around nut-ball Brad Whitaker who was killed by British agent 007 in Tangier in 1987, and reanimating these once dead enemies as a CIA agent. You figure with this technology the US could just grow another leg for Felix but truth be told, Wade is just more fun. The man wears Hawaiian shirts for crying out loud, you know he’s a blast. OK, that zombie stuff is all bullshit (or is it?) Truth is, EON probably felt bad about saddling Joe Don Baker with the worst villain in Bond history and decided they needed to make it up to him. The Jack Wade character is basically the rube American Sheriff J.W. Pepper updated for the 90’s minus the slapstick and racism. And you know what; I like him, especially when he calls Bond Jimbo. In everyway the anti Bond, Wade drives a piece of shit car, he looks like a goof wearing the big Russian hat, and he has a tattoo on his waistline that says “Muffy.” And of course, just when you start to think he’s as useless as Felix, he comes though in a pinch and keeps Bond on the right track. Bond also has a contact in the Russian underground and in a film chock full of great names like Xenia Onatopp and General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov, I must give the blue ribbon to Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky. As played by Robbie Coltrane the ex-KGB man lives up to his fabulous handle and before we even met him he’s a legend. When Wade tells Jimbo a man with a pronounced limp named Zukovski is his contact, Bond is none to happy. “You know him?” “I gave him the limp.” Bond visits the underground boss in his night club and introduces himself by … stepping out of the shadows and putting a gun to his head. (Man that happens a lot in this film.) Zukovski, without looking to see who is holding the gun, delivers a line for the ages. “Welter PPK. Only three men I know carry one and I believe I’ve killed two of them.” Ladies and gentlemen, if you ever find yourself in a spy film, you want that to be your first line. None to happy about the limp, Zukovski is even more reluctant to help Bond after 007 insults his mistress Irina’s singing. (Hey look! Irina is played by Minnie Driver!) I’ve touched on this in the past but anytime Bond hooks up with underground contacts I’m a happy guy, all the more so if there is a history. For a spy, Jimbo doesn’t do enough of this.

Best One Liners/Quips: Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky, mulling over why he should help Bond; “He stole a helicopter? I have 6.” “Three” Bond corrects him, “and none that fly.”

Bond Cars: Back again to this idea of balance. For every new update Bond gets in this movie Campbell wisely gives us a link to his past. Nowhere is this more pronounced then in Bond’s two cars. The first shot we see of Bond after the opening credits has him racing on a cliff side road in the classic grey Aston Martin DB5. My neighborhood of Astoria Queens is home to the largest population of Greeks in the world outside of Greece. Whenever the older Greek men and women walk past an Orthodox church they cross themselves in a sign of reverence and respect. I do the same thing when I see Bond driving a grey Aston Martin DB5. But this is also a 90’s Bond and along with that comes product placement. I remember when this film was in theaters much was made of the multi-picture contract BMW signed with EON. The blitz was huge and even featured Bond tie-ins to BMW ads in print and on TV. If I may for a moment, I watch a ton of sports. 85% of the ads during any giving sporting event are for alcohol products or cars. Now, when I’m watching the game and see an ad for say Jim Beam, I may say to myself, “Hummm, it’s been a while since I’ve had some bourbon. I think I’d like some now.” However, I can’t picture getting up for the seventh inning stretch and thinking “You know, maybe I will drop $45,000 for a two seated car that gets shit gas millage and can’t move more then two blocks if there is a flake of snow on the street.” I could be wrong about this, I haven’t owned a car in years and clearly companies wouldn’t be spending money on ads if they didn’t work but still, who the hell buys a car because they saw an ad for it on TV? Right, BMW Z3 Roadster, baby blue convertible with the Q adjustments that Bond never gets to use. Cool looking car. Maybe I should look into getting one…

Bond Timepiece: A handsome Omega Seamaster. What appears to be a black face is actually blue on this stainless steel cased chronographer with precision Swiss automatic movement and stainless steel interlacing band. It’s also got a laser.

Other Notable Bond Accessories: You mean other then his smile, his charm, and ability to turn every head in the room? Oh that Pierce is just dreamy…

Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: … and he can drink! He keeps a bottle of chilled Bollinger in the armrest of the Aston Martin. You know, just in case. Not two minutes after popping the cork on that baby he’s tableside in the casino ordering a martini, shaken not stirred. He has a bourbon on the rocks with M and though we don’t see it I’d bet dollars to doughnuts he has a glass of vodka with Zukovsky.

Bond’s Gambling Winnings: And we get some baccarat! Oh be still my heart. Martin Campbell once again proves he’s done his homework by giving us a similar set up to the baccarat scene in Dr. No where Bond is playing against a sultry woman who he is simultaneously trying woo and beat. She takes the first hand we see and proposes rising the stakes. An agreement from Bond and a nod from the pit boss and the next hand is double or nothing. Bond takes the pot down and Onnatop storms off. Bond catches up to her and wonders why she’s so sour. After all, “One rises to meet a challenge.”

List of Locations: Unable to sit around dormant for six years Pinewood went ahead and rented out the 007 studio for a variety of productions. Hey, we all gots to pay the bills. When EON finally came calling the soundstage the Bond built was booked. Long time Bond set designers Peter Lamont found an abandoned Rolls-Royce factory at the Leavesden Aerodrome in Hertordshire, England and converted it to create, say it with me, one of the largest soundstages in the world. I think working in this new location was key in helping Brosnan feel like he could make Bond his. Extremely conscious of the legacy of past Bond’s, Brosnan talks on the DVD extras about the “factory having a good feel because there are no ghosts of Sean or Roger.” (Funny, he never once mentioned Timothy.) Shooting inside Russia for the first time, St. Petersburg is the background to the biggest set piece, the tank case. That said, several St. Petersburg streets were recreated on a back lot so the tank could smash walls without smashing real walls. Cuba however was still a no go zone so Puerto Rico stood in for the island nation. The deep dish base is actually a real dish radio telescope located at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Also seen in Contact (1997), the 1000 feet wide dish with a 500 foot transmitter is used to look for signs of alien life and is the largest radio telescope in the world. The Principality of Monaco, a country so small it could fit inside Central Park, is home to the Casino de Monte Carlo where Bond first meets Onnatop. The opening bungee jump took place at the Verzasca Dam in Locarno, Switzerland where tourist can bungee jump from the same perch as Bond if they are so inclined. MI6’s new exterior is the actual Ministry of Intelligence building on the River Thames which is just so cool. Finally, the train and tunnel bit was shot on the same stretch of track as the Octopussy circus train sequence. I thought I recognized it …

Capt. Sully, real life james Bond.

Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: Let us get the driving bit out of the way shall we. He drives a boat, a Russian tank, and a motorcycle which he jumps off a cliff to catch a plane. Speaking of airplanes, at one point Jimbo is piloting a Cesena which catches on fire. So, Bond simply makes like Captain Sully and lands the plane in a creator lake.  He not only smacks the eject button on the TIGER with his brow but he uses his head in others ways. Thank you! Try the veal. After taking Onnatop’s money at the tables Bond figures out her game by picking up her Georgian accent and IDing the license plates on her red Ferrari as fake. This is no small thing since it’s this bit of info that prompts Bond to tail her so he learns she ripped off the TIGER which is linked to the Goldeneye which gets Bond in touch with Wade who leads him to Zukovsky who hooks him up with Alec which ends with Bond saving the world. It’s all in the details.

Final Thoughts: If Goldfinger (1964) is the high water mark by which all Bond films are judged then GoldenEye comes damn close. (And look, both titles are gold body parts!) The script is one of the best Bond has ever had to work with. It’s rich in detail and the twists and turns keep us (and Bond) on our toes. In many films, we as an audience know what’s going on well before the characters and it makes the hero seem dumb for not picking up on the dropped hints. Here, we learn everything with Bond, and therefore experience the same emotions he does. It’s a basic but fundamental element of the film that sucks us in and makes us care about Bond and everything going on around him. I’ve written at length about the balance and repeated themes that Campbell brings to the film and not since Terrence Young has someone so well understood both what makes Bond tick and what makes for an exciting Bond film. The subtle but ever present theme linking the fall of the Soviet Union to failures in their overreliance in technology and rigid ideals hits home more today then it possibly could have in 1995. Are we in The West not now seeing the fall of our society and culture due to faith in technology that gave us incomprehensible financial models and the ability to move billions of dollars in mere seconds? Are we still to this day not continuing to rocket forward with this failed system under the false idea that this is what capitalism is a about?  Heavy stuff for sure but this Bond movie has a thought or two in its head and as much as it tied to a time and place, the newly free Russia of the early 90’s, the timeless theme of governments collapsing under their own hubris then needing to reinvent themselves hangs over everything. So we have that, plus a rock ‘em sock ‘em, gadget filled, sexy, slick Bond film; everything humming along in perfect balance. In the past, I’ve complained about Bond filmmakers feeling the need to go big, and here, from the first shot, everything is big. The difference, it not just the explosions but also the themes and ideas that are big and thanks to the balance between all these moving parts, it all works. As for Pierce’s debut, I will say this; in GoldenEye, he gives the best Bond performance since Connery. I know I’m touching the third rail here but please understand, I am not saying Pierce is the second best Bond (working on the assumption Connery is the best), but simply that in this film, taken as a single entry, Pierce’s performance as Bond is better then any of the previous entries going back to the Connery days. Let’s put it another way. If a 12-year-old boy came up to me today and asked “Who is James Bond?” out of all the 17 movies up to this point, GoldenEye is the film I’d show him. Is it the best one yet? No. Maybe not even top 3. But the 17-year-old and counting GoldenEye still feels up to date enough to hold the attention of a kid raised on Harry Potter and “Halo” while also laying out all the classic elements that define Bond and Bond films. While watching the helicopters fly off into the sunset in the final shot, I did think of Pierce and Campbell and Wilson and Lamont and everyone else involved in this project as heroes. With GoldenEye, they made the movie that saved the franchise.

Martini ratings:

Licence To Kill

Title: Licence To Kill

Year: 1989. The pop culture landscape in the last year of the 80’s was rather bleak. After getting the keys back from the autours at the end of the 70’s, the suits dumbed down the 80’s with a mix of overly commercial crap and vanilla politically correct dreck. By 89 films like Ghostbusters II, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Looks Who’s Talking were hits. The Oscar winner for Best Picture was Driving Miss Daisy, a film that was somehow meant to make baby-boomers feel warm and fuzzy about the Jim Crow south by having the late great Jessica Tandy stop yelling and learn to love the always great Morgan Freeman. Sigh. Number one albums from that year included Electric Youth by then Debby Gibson, Hangin’ Tough by a pre TNKOTB The New Kids On the Block, and Girl You Know It’s True by a duo who maybe one of the biggest F-you’s to fans ever, Milli Vanilli. In place of the true talent, fans were presented two pastel wearing dreadlock dudes who danced like drunken marinates. The record company was telling costumers who brought the Milli Vanilli record that while they may love the beautiful voices they heard, they couldn’t handle the less then beautiful people who produced those voices.   Hell, even the Grammys were fooled by these lip-syncing phonies. (Not the first or last time the RIAA would be dubbed; this is after all the origination that gave awards to Don Henley and Creed.) OK, I’m cherry picking a bit on the whole 1989 sucked thing; the still incredibly sharp and darkly hysterical War of the Roses was a hit and somehow, someway, Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction spent one week at #1, all be it bookended by three weeks of Bobby Browns’ Don’t be Cruel on either side. The point is in 1989 mainstream pop-culture wasn’t really about pushing boundaries. It was about playing it safe and dummying product down for the “mass audiences.” But the good thing about hitting rock bottom is there is no place to go but up. At the dawn of the 90’s the sign wave that is pop culture was about to take an upswing, and a radical one at that. I was lucky enough to know some college kids in 1989 who turned me on a records like Jane’s Additions Nothing Shocking (which was f***king shocking!) and Doolittle by the Pixies. (Thank you again Mike.) Something was happing here, and what it was wasn’t exactly clear, but it rocked in a way I never knew possible. Within three years, even the jocks would be wearing flannel. Something was happening in the world of film too. A young man named Steven Soderbergh wrote a screenplay in eight days. He then decided to direct it. After it was done, he screened it at little film festival in the far-flung cultural vacuum known as Salt Lake City. Two brothers from New York with no Hollywood cred what-so-ever liked Soberbergh’s little movie and decided to distribute the film thorough their upstart company. Made for one million dollars, sex, lies, and videotape went on to make $24 million on just over 500 screens, Miramax became the hottest production company for young talent, Sundance became THE place to be every January and the 1990’s indie film movement was born. The appeal of grunge, independent film, early gangsta rap, etc. was that audiences felt smart for listening to/watching/discovering this stuff. It felt like the artist were other fans making the art/product for us. It felt like we were being treated like intelligent humans and not being spoon-fed whatever the studios told us we should like. It actually felt like these movies and records meant something. In 1989, all of this was bubbling just below the surface, ready to explode. At first glance, Licence to Kill looks to be on the frontend of this wave. The poster, featuring the new no nonsense Bond promised “James Bond is out on his own and out for revenge.” EON took great pride in telling anyone who would listen that this was an adult Bond like none we had seen before. They took delight in pointing to the PG-13 rating, the first ever for a Bond film, as proof. One paper, there is much to be excited about here but understand this, Licence to Kill thinks you, loyal Bond fan, are an idiot. As faithful readers no doubt know, spelling is not my strong suit. When I picked up the DVD for Licence to Kill, I looked at the cover and knew something didn’t look right. I figured “licence” was a British thing; like “colour” or calling “Z” “zed.” So I did a quick flip through the Ultimate Edition’s handy-dandy booklet just to confirm. Yep, EON used the British spelling of “licence” which was kept even after producers changed the title. Cool.

Jane says sex is violent

What was the title before I wondered as I read on… Licence to Kill was the first Bond flick to not be based on a Fleming story hence it’s the first to have a title not supplied by the creator. The original title was Licence Revoked which given the story, makes much more sense. In the film Jimmy B get his 007 yanked and can no longer kill with immunity hence the whole “out on his own” thing on the poster. Awesome, so why did they change it to the confusing Licence to Kill, an item Bond doesn’t have for 85% of the film? I read on. The title was “changed to Licence to Kill when concern was raised that a small percentage of American audiences might not know what ‘revoked’ meant. The British spelling of ‘licence’, however, was retained.” I’m not sure I know where to begin. I guess MGM, 20th Century Fox, and EON should get some credit for having the balls to print that fact in their promotional material for the movie. But then again, no. What “small percentage of American audience” are we talking about here? Those under the age of six? Since this is the first PG-13 Bond, I somehow don’t think the kids were a concern. The thinking was such that American’s would be thrown off by the word “revoked” but license spelled with “c” was OK? I can’t come up with one good reason why “revoked” would somehow challenge Americans anymore than the words “diamonds” or “forever.” These are the people who released films titled A View to a Kill and Octopussy but having the word “revoked” in the title gave them pause? Are you God Damn kidding me? The same year this film came out a Christmas special aired on FOX featuring the cartoon family from the “Tracey Ullman Show.” “The Simpsons” went on to become the longest running show in television history and has seen countless brilliant writers walk in and out the front door. When Matt Groening is asked about the success of the show he often points to the fact that the writers never though they were smarter then the audience. They made the basic assumption that if they found something funny, their audience would as well. EON on the hand, thinks we American’s are too stupid to know what “revoked” means. Girl, you know it’s true, uh uh uh, the 16th Bond film hates you.

What does revoked mean?

Film Length: 2 hours 13 minutes.

Bond Actor: Timothy Dalton. The Welsh born Dalton trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts where he made his bones performing a ton of Shakespeare. As a young man he received raves for his King Philip in The Lion in Winter (1968) and his turn in Wuthering Heights (1970). Impressed, Cubby Broccoli asked the 25-year-old actor to replace Sean Connery as Bond. Thinking he was to young and feeling he still had important work to do, Dalton promptly turned down the plum gig. He then went onto leave his mark by dating Vanessa Redgrave on and off and playing Prince Barin in the best film ever made about a New York Jets quarterback, Flash Gordon (1980). As the 80’s progressed he donned period costumes in several roles but failed to realize his early promise. Thought it all he took his craft very, very seriously; almost to a fault. It’s just acting old boy, your not saving lives. No matter, when he did sign on to play Bond in 1987, his second or third contemporary role, he bent over backwards to treat Bond more like Hamlet and less like Superman. In press interviews for both of his 007 films, Dalton seems embarrassed to be part of a movie that is merely pop entertainment. He comes off as being above the material and all but apologies for having to hang off airplanes. Listening to him, you feel like Dalton’s a man who signed the EON contract and then immediately had buyer’s remorse. He never got past this feeling. In a 2002 interview with the LA Times, Dalton said “Everybody has their own take on how to play Bond. For me, there’s only one man who’s played it and is Bond to this day, and that’s Connery. He must’ve been blindsided. You have to be prepared to go through many doors because you’re not just an actor; you become the front man for this franchise.” All of this angst and frustration and self-loathing and contempt for the material shows in his performance as Bond. There were moments in Licence to KillI half expected Dalton to turn to the camera and scream “I will not be your action figure. I’m AN ACTOR GOD DAMN IT!” The Dalton era could have worked. He is the most physical Bond yet and it shows in the action sequence. During the open of this movie, while Dalton pulls of one stunt after the next, the wife said “Moore could never have done that” and she’s right. You believe this man could ride a cello case down a mountain or drive a truck though fire but here is the deal, when you’re doing stuff like that, you have to bring some joy to the action. Or at the very least acknowledge the ridiculousness of the situation. Both Connery and Moore understood this and dealt with it in their own way. Dalton never figured this side of Bond out. There is a ton of talk on the DVD extras about “returning to the spirit of the early films” and how they were “damn good mysteries and romantic thrillers” and how they wanted a “darker, meatier Bond” with a “harder edge.” Break this down and what they are really saying is they wanted the films to be more like Connery’s swinging 60’s movies and less like Moore’s lounge lizard 70’s films. I get it, the last few Moore film went too silly, but you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Connery had his silly moments too. “My name is Pussy Galore” “I must be dreaming” is comedy gold…finger. The first shot of that film shows Connery wearing a fake seagull on his head for crying out loud. In this film, Bond is flying solo on a personal vendetta. The idea is to re-imagine Bond as dangerous rouge set loose on the world; a seething man pushed to the edge who’s always a hairs breath away from going absolutely ballistic. OK, maybe not as much room for funny in that but as Mr. Craig would prove in his stroll in 007’s shoes, dark doesn’t need to be a drag either.

'Nuff said

Dalton’s take is DOA. Again, he thinks he is above this martial so he never, ever commits to the idea. Instead, Dalton attempts to get power from the character by underplaying him like Eastwood as the Man with No Name. He fails for several reasons. First off, I know Mr. Eastwood and you sir, are no Mr. Eastwood. Clint can melt concert by simply starring out from under the brim of his hat. Dalton has nowhere near enough gravitas to pull that off so when he underplays it comes off a passionless and flat. Secondly, it’s the wrong approach for this material. This Bond is meant to be on the edge but it never feels like there is any danger of him going off the rails. Another Timothy has perfected the art of showing outward restraint while volcanically erupting internally. To watch Mr. Olyphant’s Sheriff Bullock simply walk down the main street of Deadwood is to witness a man seething with anger who is a hairs breath away from going absolutely ballistic. It’s written all over his face as he gives iconic looks from under his hat. And here is the kicker; it’s a blast to watch. Because Olyphant believes it, he sells it, and most importantly, he makes it look effortless. Dalton can do none that, even if he did have the chops, because he never fully commits. When he dose commit, Dalton can be a blast; think “I’m a slasher, I must be stopped” from Hot Fuzz (2007). But as Bond, Dalton is a total drag. Perhaps his worse sin is never realizing that playing Bond might be one of the most fun gigs in the world.

Director: John Glen is problem #2. Working from an original story Broccoli, Wilson and Glen decided to get on the same page as their leading man and go “dark” thus answering my major issue with the previous film. As the cliché goes, be carefully what you wish for. There is a misperception when it comes to pop art that “darker” automatically equals better. It’s like when a 17-year-old female singer thinks the way to become an adult is to take her clothes off. Becoming a slut doesn’t make you adult. Likewise darker or edger or grittier doesn’t mean better or more serious or more mature.

Not a girl, not yet a woman

Glen also makes the fatal mistake of equating “darker” with “humorless.” Again, I think this is part of the overall knee jerk to Moore’s “funny” Bond. Back to Olyphant for a moment, his Bullock proved it’s possible to pull of the trick of being dark and in moments funny at the same time. And let’s not even bring up McShane’s Al Swearengen, the darkest and most hysterical villain of all time. In the name of going “dark,” Glen sucks all the funny out of the film but strangely, not the camp. Lets start at the top, Felix and Bond as the groom and best man respectively, are on their way to Felix’s wedding when they get sidetracked. After a good amount of action the two end up parachuting onto the chapels steps. Already donning their tuxes, the two agents proceed to enter the church with their deployed chutes dragging behind like the train on the brides ground. This could be funny. This could be used as a device to show an agent’s work will always take priority, even on his wedding day. It should be both but in Glen’s hands it ends up being neither and the audience is left wondering what the hell just happened. Glen has progressed not a lick as a director and for his fifth (and mercifully final) Bond film it’s time to call him what he is; an excellent second unit man who should stick to that role. Outside of the big set pieces Glen has no sense of framing, irony, pacing, or storytelling. Sorry, the proof is in the pudding. And frankly, even the action bit is getting stale by this movie. The underwater sequences in Licence to Kill just made me want to rewatch Thunderball(1965) where they were 100 times better. The climatic truck chase while loud and big was all over the map with no scene of space or understanding of who is where doing what. Were their three trucks or four? It took me a second viewing to know for sure. At one point the Bond girl lands a plane in the mountains without the use of a runway. She gets out to see a big rig truck roll down a cliff to come to rest at her feet. Three scenes later, she appears out of nowhere at the exact right time after having somehow driven off the sandy cliff and back up on the road. That’s just one example. This film is full of things just kind of coming from nowhere, moving the plot along, and then disappearing. This is not going “dark,” this is lazy film making that sells fans short. Speaking of not appreciating audiences, I need to point out that on the DVD extras Glen says he felt the whole Americans not understanding revoked was silly. I would love to take the man at his word but I’m not sure I can. He also describes this as his best Bond (that would be For Your Eyes Only (1981)) and he contends that while the film didn’t receive high marks at the time, he is proud to see the new cult of Bond fans rally around it as it has grown in stature over the years. Ummm, I’m calling bullshit. If this segment of Bond fan is truly out there, please feel free to put up your supporting arguments in the comments section. Maybe I’m missing something, but Licence to Kill is mess. While groom Felix and best man Bond are engaged in the pre-wedding action, there are several ill-timed cutaways to the fretting bride and others in the wedding party. It’s strangely treated as more urgent and more important than the death defying action Bond and Felix are performing. Again, that could be funny or make a larger point but there is no irony here, it’s simply bad film making. The entire second half of the film plays like the instructions on your shampoo bottle; wash, rinse, repeat. Bond has gone rouge but a CIA confident and Q have come to help him on the sly. So, Bond instructs them to help with a task, they do, then he says go home, I work better alone. CIA confident and Q huff, then come rushing to Bonds rescue three scenes later. Bond gets bailed out, and then again says that’s it, really, go home. I shit you not, this happens five or six times. The pacing makes the entire thing feel strangely dated, more so then the Connery or Moore films. Making things feel all the more awkward, monumental events are treated as throwaways while a lot of time is spent on stuff that doesn’t really matter. Part of this has to do with Dalton having only one gear for the character but when ohhhhh, say Felix gets his leg bitten off and his bride is murdered, there should be a feeling of weight and consequence, not a tossed-off hospital bedside scene. Glen may want to go “dark” but he has no idea how to handle material with any weight. All of this adds up to destroying the Bond world. Seriously, if you take a step back form this picture, it plays like an episode of “Miami Vice.” However, it must be said Glen did get his pigeons in every film as he promised to do way back in 1981, so congrats John. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Reported Budget: $32,000,000 estimated. This too is an issue. To keep the budget about where it’s been for the last five or so films, producers were forced to abandon their beloved Pinewood Studios. New tax codes in England would have pushed the cost of filming up by an estimated 10%. So, the entire cast and crew relocated to Mexico where a majority of the surrounding country was used for location shoots and Churubusco Studios in Mexico City served as the sound stage and home base. While the last few films weren’t the run away spending spree that the earlier Bond films where, they never felt like they were cutting corners to make the film on the cheep. In the Licence to Kill, the lack of funds can be seen on the screen. This hurts the film in countless ways and further degrades what we have learned to be Bond’s world.

Reported Box-office: $34,667,015 USA and $156,200,000 Worldwide. These numbers are kind of astounding. American audiences abandon Bond like he was Mel Gibson circa 2010. EON more then made their money on the film thanks to overseas ticket sales but this had to be a major source of concern.

Theme Song: “Licence To Kill” performed by a Pipless Gladys Knight. Minus her back-ups, her vocals remain intact but the soul is absent. The lyric are also not up to Motown standards. When I heard Miss Knight belting out “Got a license to kill anyone who tries to tear us apart” all I could think was “really? That seems as if it could be used rather irresponsibly. I mean, having a license to murder anyone who might court you or your lover should be … rescind or voided or annulled or lifted or negated or nullified or recanted or expunged or retracted or invalidated or abrogated or abolished or … there has got to be another word for it…” In the meantime, because Gladys Knight is a pro and kicks-ass, the video here has 100% more balls then the studio version used in the film. Enjoy.

 

Opening Titles: I’m running out of stuff to say about the titles at this point so I’ll quote the wife. “It’s always naked chicks and guns. Who puts these credits together, Phil Spector?”

Opening Action Sequence: The first shots of Bond in the last film featured him all in black. His feet having barley touched the ground he went sprinting into action. The first shot in this film features Bond and two other tuxedo clad men sitting three abreast in the back seat of a car. The tuxes are a tip that a wedding is in the future. The fact they are driving on the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys is a tip that cars will flying off the bridge and sinking in the wet in the future. Indeed, its Felix’s wedding day and the three men are trying to get to the chapel on time when they are interrupted by Felix’s “partners at the DEA.” The feds have the notorious drug dealer Franz Sanchez in their grasp and they need Felix’s help to nab him before he makes it into Cuban air space. Felix jumps on their helicopter and brings James along “strictly as an observer.” However, he does give James a gun “just in case.” We then cut Sanchez, who has risked stepping foot on U.S. soil for a woman; a woman he finds in bed with another man. “What did he promise you, his heart?” Sanchez asks while his men hold the guy at knifepoint. “Give her his heart” Sanchez says as they drag the man out. He then proceeds to whip the woman with a stingray tail. This would be the most badass intro of a villain ever, except the scoring is so ridiculous as nearly ruin the scene. Nearly, but it still manages to work and in a bigger sense sets a precedent that will play out for the entire film. Mainly, the bad guys are the only thing in this movie that’s any fun or works well. Bond villains are always a blast but this is the first film where I found myself enjoying the villain stuff so much that when the film goes to the Bond stuff, I couldn’t wait to get back to the villains. Case in point, when we rejoin Felix and Bond they are screaming at each other in the copper to be heard over the motor. It is jarring and simply bad sound editing. Then, when the chopper lands we are presented with a shot that would be embarrassing in the Bad Boys 2 (2003) trailer. Felix, in his tux, carrying a machine gun, runs straight at the camera, flanked by DEA agents on either side doing the same … in slow motion. I literally couldn’t believe it but I swear it happened (I watched the film twice, I didn’t dream it.) I could be wrong, but I think this is the first slow motion shot in all of the Bond films, and yes, it further destroys the world of Bond. Speaking of, I love when Bond does outrageous shit that works within the rules we have so firmly established. Hell, it’s why we watch Bond in the first place. But nothing, nothing has set up a universe where a helicopter can catch up to a crop-duster plane, have Bond repel out of said helicopter and land on the tail of said plane, hook a cable to the tail, and the helicopter then takes off with the plane dangling under it like a cowboy that has just lassoed a bull. Well, that’s how they get Sanchez as he’s trying to escape and “oh look, it’s the wedding down there. And it’s yours Felix! What say we … drop in?!?!” I wish, but that would be too Moore. Now I want to pause at this point and make this about me, if you will indulge such a detour. I enjoy the hell out of this blog. It’s also a lot of work. It’s work I enjoy or I wouldn’t do it but it consumes a ton of time to come up with different angles and a bunch of tweaking of ideas to make them fit into the context of the big picture. Anyway, some stuff I think works OK and other stuff I’m really proud of. One of the things I thought was quite good and fairly witty was my parachute principal for Bond openings that I came up with for The Living Daylights. Well, Licence kills that idea. Bond and Felix parachute into the wedding and the band strikes up and oh man, it’s just too depressing. Thanks for destroying my theory one movie after I came up with it. We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

Another revenge film staring a Brit

Bond’s Mission: The tagline “James Bond is out on his own and out for revenge” is about right. Sanchez bribes sniveling CIA man Ed Killifer, “Sorry, ol’ buddy, but two mil’s a helluva chunk o’ dough,” who helps the drug lord escape in a sequence involving the Seven Mile Bridge and, as promised, cars going into the water. Now free from prison Sanchez goes after Felix, killing his bride and feeding Felix to a shark. When Bond finds Felix half alive with the note “he disagreed with something that ate him” pinned to his chest, Bond is not laughing. Bond takes it upon himself to go out and hunt Sanchez down, tracing him to a Key West warehouse owned by Milton Krest. Best I can tell, Krest is a highly paid mule who uses his fishing/hunting/electric ell business as a cover to smuggle cocaine into the US for Sanchez. Bond destroys the warehouse, which pisses off the DEA who’s been building a case that is now screwed up by Bonds cowboy act. Marched before M, Bond shows not a bit of concern for screwing up and has his licence to kill revoked. (Ed Note: Revoke <verb> – to annul by recalling or taking back.) Bond all but pulls a gun on M and takes off. Like Sara Palin, Bond is now a loose canon unleashed into the world, gone rogue. “I work better alone” Bond says to drive this whole lone wolf thing home but that’s a bigger lie then “I did not have sex with that woman.” Bond not only screws up the DEA’s case during his little Rambo without a jockstrap routine, he derails a CIA plot to nab Sanchez in a weapons deal and he blows the cover of a Hong Kong Narcotics operation that’s been working on Sanchez for three years. Worse, the three Chinese agents end up getting killed as a result of Bond’s actions. So does Sharky, the Bubba Smith looking dude from Felix’s wedding. So James Bond, one of the best agents in the world, single handedly manages to undermine the British, Chinese, and United States government all in the name of being pissed off. By working alone perhaps Bond meant don’t come near me, I’m King Midis in reverse and everything I touch turns to shit. Bond has always, no mater who’s played him, been kick-ass. He’s always been the smartest guy in the room. He’s always been at the very top of his game. Here, Bond is fumbling around in the dark until by dumb luck he achieves his objective.

Villain’s Name: Franz Sanchez. If you haven’t gathered yet, Bond sucks in this film. Thank EON for Sanchez. It’s only while sharing the screen with slippery snake that the Bond character is elevated to the Jimmy B we know and love. Our baddie is all you want in a Bond villain; he’s sinister, scary, shrewd and charming as hell. Whether he’s feeding CIA men to sharks, beating his girlfriend with a dead animal part, or schmoozing investors to get them to come in on his cocaine empire, he always has the same calm exterior that almost succeeds in obscuring his steal-eye intensity. While Bond spends the film flailing about and getting his friends killed, Sanchez is always in control, until he’s not. While the press material says Sanchez was based on Manuel Noriega but he’s more of a Pablo Escobar like figure, a man who is simply more powerful then the government of his nation. His coke operation basically makes up the bulk Isthmus’ GNP and he therefore has every pol, policeman, and peasant in his hip pocket. He ruthlessly rules through fear, intimidation, and insistence upon loyalty. The first two serve him well but it’s his high ideal of honor among thugs that proves to be his downfall and not coincidentally, the only hook in the film on which we can hang our hat. Take Ed Killifer, the CIA man who sells his buddy Felix out for $2 million. Sanchez uses such a man while finding him despicable exactly because he does sell his friend out. Then, he pays him anyway. Sanchez did after all give his word. The reason Sanchez whips his woman while his flunkies get all Mola Ram on her lover’s chest? Not because of the physical act of sleeping with another man, but because she was unloyal. This character trait is the only thing in the movie that allows Bond to shine and be Bond. In an expertly executed bluff, Bond, Jiu Jitsu like, turns Sanchez’s code of loyalty against him. By sowing seeds of doubt about his trusted henchmen, Bond twists Sanchez in to such a state of distrust that while Sanchez never gets high on his own supply, he still ends up just as paranoid as Tony Montana in Scarface (1983). And like Pacino’s South Florida coke baron, Sanchez ends up imploding and killing everyone he once trusted. (Side note: In another reference to Brian De Palma’s llello opera, one of the CIA guys figures Felix’s missing leg was thanks to a chain saw “They sell more then they do in Oregon down here.” Good stuff)

Villain Actor: Robert Davi. The scenes where Bond talks Sanchez into doubting his own men are some of the best in the film. It’s fun to watch Bond turn the screws but these scenes don’t exist in a vacuum and therefore ultimately don’t work. I think it’s because Davi is the better actor. Or maybe more actually, he is on much surer footing when it comes to understanding who Sanchez is then Dalton is with Bond. As a result, it’s a bit of a stretch to think Sanchez would be outfoxed by Bond Lite. (One can’t help thinking what Connery could have done with the scenes.) Davi, a tough guy character actor from Broccoli’s old stomping ground of Astoria, Queens, originally trained as an opera-singer and was headed in that direction until he damaged his voice. You can catch him belting out a few bars in Goonies (1985) where he and Joey Pants play the bumbling Fratelli brothers. He also made news later in his career for being one of the few in Tinsel Town to outwardly support the second Iraqi war. “There is a conservative movement in Hollywood, and we kind of stay amongst ourselves.” Conspiracy theorist can point to statements like that as the reason we haven’t heard much form dear Mr. Davi as of late.

Say hello to my little coke habit

It’s a shame too, in a Hollywood were Ryan Reynolds lands tough-guy roles, we could use a little more Robert Davi. (Honestly, you buy Reynolds for a second in the Safe House trailer? Hey speaking of the Safe House trailer, check out Denzel’s CIA agent run amuck. Now that’s how you go rouge babe!) )

Villain’s Plot: I like seeing Felix front and center and I like that the villain is more loyal then CIA guys, but the baddie in this film doesn’t really have much of plot. It’s not even like he commits the common sin of wanting too much and biting off more then he can chew (See “The World is Mine!” in Scarface). In fact, he’s just kind of doing what he’s always done. He just happened to feed the wrong guy to a shark and that gets Bond’s panties in a bunch. Meanwhile Sanchez hangs out in his casino while running business as usual until it’s to late. This consists of strong arming the president of Isthmus, setting the market price for coke via a television evangelist (a bit of geniuses we will get to in a bit) and smuggling that coke in vats of bait through the Florida Keys via Milton Krest. All in a days work. Sure, he’s trying to buy some weapons but what multi-national drug cartel isn’t? And yah, he almost gets nailed by the men from Hong Kong when he tries to expand into Asia but thanks to Bond, those pesky ninjas are exposed and dealt with. Top marks 007! While the lack of ambition is a nice change of pace in a Bond villain, the film also suffers from a lack of urgency and stakes because of it. Now, if Bond was really a loose cannon hell bent on bring this guy down despite the US and UK telling him to lay off, then the villain not wanting the world to be his would be fine. We could see Bond reeking havoc to the increasing frustration of the villain until the final mono-a-mono faceoff. But as it stands, we get none of the above and as a result, the final confrontation between Bond and the villain, while explosive (ha-ha) is rather ho-hum.

Villain’s Lair: Did we mention Sanchez is rich? Well he is. He owns the national bank of Isthmus as well at the casino next door; eat your heart out Steve Win. And then there is his seaside villa, a pad that would make the talent of South Beach, Mr. LeBron James, weep with envy. We are introduced to his palatial home via Bond’s eyes. After Sanchez’s men save Bond from the ninjas (I know you think that’s a joke, it’s not) Bond wakes up in an all white room with a bug eyed statue staring at him. He then walks though a dream like lair of waterfalls and wall-less rooms that wrap around an infinity pool that over looks the Isthmus harbor or as it’s known on Google Earth, Acapulco. There is something simply elegant about a baron of blow building a home where everything from floor to ceiling in bone white. Also, let’s take a moment and silently bow our head’s for the poor cinematographer who had to figure out how the hell to shoot this place. Cameras and white don’t get along at all and add the sun reflection off all that water…well lets just say I hope our DP has recovered from the stress nightmares that most certainly plagued him during production. Well done good man, and know it was worth it; the place is simply breathtaking. The same cannot be said for deep forest hideout. After all the talk of a new, dark, Bond that audience will barely recognize, Glen and Co. rely on the most tired and boring of all Bond clichés for the films third act. Everything comes to a head at the villain’s ultra modern over-sized lab (in this case, a coke possessing plant) that is hidden in an agent over-sized wonder of the world (in this case, a faux Aztec temple that is also the home to a Jonestown like cult) that inevitably catches fire and explodes moments after Bond, with girl in tow, escapes. At least in the past with the volcano lair de Blofeld, or Drax’s temple come lunching pad or Scaramanga’s sea side cliff/solar power plant or Stromberg’s octopus garden or even Dr. No’s shanty nuclear powered fishing wharf rocket jamming digs, we had a sense of the place. (Not so with Mr. Big’s voodoo shark aquarium but hey, the graveyard was cool!) Sanchez’s joint just seems to have random rooms that kind of pop up just to serve out whatever purpose the film demands. It has a TV studio with a lion head waterfall, an underground helicopter parking garage, a cocaine-refining assembly line, a huge trucking doc, and a soundproof rape room cheekily referred to as a “meditation chamber.” None of these locations has any relation to the other and the rooms aren’t even visually consistent enough to be close to existing in the same space. But it all blowed up real good, which I guess, is the point.

Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait:  “Ummm, I like the way you do business” The Dude famously told Jackie Treehorn over a Caucasian and I like the way Sanchez dose his. There are countless examples I could pick from to demonstrate how this smooth operator errr operates but I will pick one. After trying to sell a bunch of Asian investors on his importing/exporting business, “drug dealers of the world unite!” Sanchez opens a set of double doors to reveal a room full of women, each with a drink in hand. As soon as they come into to view they are pairing off with the investors who forget the previous hardboiled negations in exactly 1.3 seconds. Well-played sir. Additionally, Sanchez has his skate tail whip and he gets a pet; Blofeld had his lap cat, and Sanchez has his shoulder lizard. The iguana, who I named Iggy, even gets to sport the Diamonds Are Forever (1971) collar.

Why is this man smiling?

Badassness of Villain: Pablo Escobar, possibly the closet thing to a real life Bond villain other than Rupert Murdoch, toyed with running for the President of Columbia (the country, not the university.) He most likely would have won but he reconsidered throwing his hat in the ring once he realized he was more powerful then the President of Columbia while not having to deal with all the bullshit that come with being a politician. I’m not sure when Pablo realized this but perhaps it was around the time the President of Columbia threw the drug lord into prison. A prison, and this is 100% true, that Escobar was permitted to build himself, on his own land, and have guarded by his own hired goons. You suspect Sanchez is the kind of guy who could build his own prison. When he tells the president of Isthmus “Remember, you’re only president for life” you know he is. Between the Felix shark feeding, the heart ripping out, the stingray tail whipping of a woman, and the calm and cool manner in which he does it all while cynically selling drug with a “700 Club” like television show, well, he may just be the most badass villain we’ve seen yet.

Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: As if Sanchez didn’t have enough points already, his trio of henchmen are the most fun asides I can think of. No, they are not quite as memorable as Jaws or Oddjob but these three and Sanchez literally save an otherwise atrocious movie. Exhibit A: Dario AKA Benicio Del Toro. Save his part as Duke the Dog-Faced Boy in Big Top Pee-wee (1988) (not to be confused with the Tim Burton Pee-we film) this was his first time on the big screen. And while he’s not quite Fred “flip you for real” Fenster or Dr. “did you see what GOOOOOODDDDD just did to us man?” Gonzo, every single line he delivers rolls off his tongue like dew dripping off morning grass. “Don’t worry” he purrs to Felix when the agent, suspended over a shark tank, asks about his new bride, “we gave her a nice Honey mooooon” with his voice rising to emphasize “oooon.” Even his wardrobe, which looks like something one of the dancers from Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video would wear, he somehow makes cool. He’s the perfect man behind the man, always present and ready, but also fading into the background when not needed. Next we get Milton Krest who is the only non-reoccurring character in the film to come from Fleming’s pen (the short story “The Hildebrand Rarity.”) Krest is a rich American though how he made his money is unclear. Now, Krest earns a living using his fleet of boats and submarines as well as his Florida Key warehouse to smuggle Sanchez’s blow to a beeper carrying street level pusher near you. One more note about his warehouse, it holds every variety of aquatic life imaginable (sharks, electric ells) for no real reason and has a variety of containers that say ACME on the side. Perhaps Krest makes his money selling gadgets to Wile E Coyote? Anywho, as played by Anthony Zerbe, a character actor who has earned “Oh, that guy!” status, Krest is one smarmy guy. He gets one scene that is absolutely riveting and more frightening then the Sanchez woman whipping incident. In both scenes, Sanchez’s lady, Lupe Lamora, is in bed, this time on board Krest’s boat. Sanchez is not on board and Krest has been drinking. Because Zerbe plays the scene like he is truly inebriated and not like a cartoon stumbling drunk, he gives off the unsettling feeling that he is capable of anything, at any moment. So when his mood starts to sour Lupe is justifiably terrified. She attempts to defuse the situation by playing her ace and threatens to tell Sanchez if Krest touches her.  This backfires horribly as Krest moves in for the kill. “I’ve known Sanchez a long time…. And I’ve seen girls like you come, and I’ve seen girls like you go.” Mercifully, he is interrupted by the ships captain before things truly take a turn for the worse. I wanted to know everything about Milton Krest. Who is he? How did he get involved in this business? How did he and Sanchez meet? What’s his drink of choice? Who is his favorite baseball player? Before we can learn such things he ends up loosing both the shipment of coke AND the money and scratching his head looking for excuses when Sanchez comes calling. I have a feeling this will end badly for old Milton… Between Dario and Krest, we would have had two classic henchmen. But then we get, and I must admit, I somehow forgot he was in this film, Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton!!!!!!! Forget everything you know about this movie. Now, picture yourself sitting in a bar, waiting to meet a friend. That friend enters and says, “I just heard the craziest thing.” “What?” you ask. “OK, Wayne Newton just came out with a movie where he plays a character named Professor Joe Butcher. Professor Joe is a preacher who has a Pat Robertson’s like TV show but it’s really the front for a cult in Mexico somewhere. Everyone in this cult walks around in white robes. As initiation, all the women are taken to a sound proof room when Newton has sex with them. Oh, and Newton drives around this place in a golf cart. OK, to get money, he sells a book he wrote which has a photo of a half naked woman in a yoga posses on the cover and is titled “The Secretes of the Cone Power Reviled.” The other way he makes money is by selling cocaine over the air but only a few distributors in the states know this.” “Wait, what?” you ask. “Shut-up, I’m telling you” your friend answers. “Newton goes on his TV show and sets a goal for pledges. Like he will say on the air he needs to raise $18,000, and then that’s the price for the shipment of coke. So say you’re the Chicago supplier, you call in, pledge, send the check, and then that’s the payment for the coke. He then ships it out of his temple where he also processes the stuff. And here is the best part about all of this, it’s a Bond movie!” Wouldn’t you spit your Anchor Steam on the floor, throw a $20 on the table, and run out to the nearest theater to buy a ticket that second? Hell yes you would and I would be right behind you. And that’s not to all; Newton totally nails the part! I’m not kidding. At one point, the Bond girl shows up at the compound, dons the white robe and pretends to be a fawning follower. Prof. Joe takes her to the pyramid like bedroom, which is decorated with copies of his book, to make the moves. When she pulls a gun on him, is he upset? No. He loves it! As she is locking him in this room, a sound proof room (all the better for raping), he smiles at her and says “Bless your heart!” the same way he says it to the dups on his TV show. Even later, when his temple is blowing up and his entire lives work is literally going up in flames, he is fleeing with a bag of money, the last thing he has in the world. The Bond girl comes up behind him, riding in HIS golf cart, and swipes the money. He stops running and looks at her with a smile of deep admiration. “Bless your heart!” It is a part and performance for the ages and you know what, it still gets buried by this shit pile of film. Honestly, it takes a special kind of suck to blow Wayne Newton’s Professor Joe Butcher.

Bond Girl Actress: Carey Lowell. Most Bond girls are former models and so is Ms. Lowell but I must admit, this Huntington New York native just did it for me more then most. I understand this is purely subjective so many might not agree but I found her to be the hottest Bond babe since Barbara Bach and just a notch below my #1, Diana Rigg. She is simply stunning in the evening gowns she wears to the casino and she gets points for almost pulling off some of the terrible dialogue she’s forced to deliver. (almost…)  Post Bond she went on to have a regular role on “Law & Order” Dunnn-dunnn as A.D.A. Jamie Ross and in 2002 she married Richard Gere. Good for her and great for him.

Bond Girl’s Name: Pam Bouvier. Despite how stunning Ms. Bouvier is, Bond doesn’t recall the first time he met her at Felix’s wedding. At least when they meet up again at the ZZ Top redneck bar he doesn’t let on that he remembers. Strange. Bouvier is some kind of mercenary, its never really clear, who partnered with the CIA on the Sanchez missile sting. She can suck down a martini, handle herself in a barroom brawl and bails Bond out of trouble more times then I can count, including one hell of shot to take out Benicio who literally had Bond dangling over a barrel. Her thanks? Bond screams at her. At another point she somehow resists the temptation to smack Bond when three seconds after lecturing her about her professionalism, his getaway boat runs out of gas. “They must have shot the fuel line.” Uhhuhh, that’s what they all say. Yet, despite the fact that Bond treats her like yesterday’s papers through the entire film, like say when he takes too much pleasure putting her down in front of people while she is playing his assistant, she still falls for him. This isn’t the usually babe in the woods Bond girl who would be wowed by the spy. Nor does he give her the respect of treating her like an equal. So why would she fall for him? And this just adds to the Dalton problem, his Bond is a jerk, and not a fun one. And to a larger extent, the film as a whole is kind of mean to the women, perhaps thinking “dark” means “cynical.” How else can you explain Glen’s choice to make Bouvier weep when she learns Bond is messing around only to be won back after he throws her in a pool? Cynical.

Bond Girl Sluttiness: I’m not really sure. When a man in a tux jumping off a balcony at a formal party and throwing you into a pool makes you all weak in the knees, well, that some kind of kink I don’t understand. None the less, she and Sanchez’s woman don’t just sleep with Bond, they both fall in love. Kara Milovy fell in love with Bond in the last picture and it didn’t quite work, so for some reason Glen decides to double-down here. As a result, when Bond sleeps Lupe as a “field agent using every means at his disposable to achieve his objective” (Thanks Q) Bouvier’s heart is broken. Not that we spend anytime at all exploring this, they are after all just the women. Again, it’s cynical and no fun and sends the film down yet another road that’s abandon when no longer needed.

Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: “Why don’t you wait until you’re asked?”

Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: “Well why don’t you ask?” Don’t worry, it makes no sense in the film either.

Number of Woman 007 Beds: 2. Lupe and Bouvier. But for some reason, Lupe gets more respect. At least Bond has the stones to tell her it ain’t going to work out. Bouvier just kind of gets strung along. I also think it must be pointed out that before Felix’s bride got crooked she and Bond seemed a little too familiar. They are all kiss, kiss and touchy feely and she cuts in to dance with him and then more kissing in front of Felix and I don’t know… this is your wedding lady. For a few minutes there I thought the first PG-13 Bond film was going to go in a very different direction.

Number of People 007 Kills: 11. Krest’s warehouse is like something out of the Final Destinations films; let’s see how many strange ways we can come up with to kill people. Well there is (1) the calamari to the cranium, (2) the electric ell tank, (3) the harpoon to the dude who killed Sharky and (4) Ed Killifer and his $2 million sleep with the fishes in the shark tank bit. (Cue the Pixies – ED …IS….DEAD! Huuuaaa huaa ED IS DEEEEEEEAD! Sorry, back to our regularly scheduled program.) Here again, the killing of Killifer is supposed to mean something in the context of the Bond on a vendetta thing. This is the guy that sold out Felix and Bond is burying not only him but also his blood money so to speak. But it carries no weight. Worse, for the umpteenth time in the film, I found myself thinking back to a previous Bond’s that pulled off the idea better. Roger Moore, of all people, the guy who Dalton treats like the red headed stepchild of the Bond films, did this so much more effectively when he kicked Emile Leopold Locque over the cliff in For Your Eyes Only (1981). Moving on, in a neat trick Bond (5) pulls an emergency door in a plane that a goon rides earthward and he then (6) tosses the pilot out for good measure. He runs a pick-up up truck off a cliff killing (7,8) two dudes and to complete the by air, by land and by sea trilogy, Bond (9) shoots a dude while getting away in his Cigarette boat. Although Banicio (sorry, I have to call him Banicio. It’s just cooler then Dario) was all ready shot and in bad shape thanks to Bouvier, I guess Bond gets credit for the kill by dropping Banicio and his oh so sexy clothes into (10) a circular chopper. It’s not quite Steve Buscemi in Fargo (1996) but it’s a decent “Ehhhuuuuuuu” moment. Finally, Bond and Sanchez, both beat to hell, are lying at the bottom of a cliff and covered in gasoline thanks to the leaking fuel trucks. Let me say I always enjoy seeing a beat up Bond and here he truly looks terrible, so that is something. Sanchez, gun in hand, looks down on the broken agent wonders why he betrayed him. “You could have had it all.” Bond breaks out the lighter Felix gave him and asks “don’t you what to know why?” before (11) torching the bastard. Speaking of “Ehhhuuuuuuu” moments…

Houston, we have a problem...

Most Outrageous Death/s: OK, there isn’t much to like about this movie so when something comes up you’ve got to embrace it. And the outrageous death is pretty outrageous, and something to truly be celebrated. After Milton Krest loose both the payment and the product, Bond convinces Sanchez Krest’s been ripping him off. After Sanchez finds some cash in a deep-water pressurized submarine chamber, his suspicions are confirmed. So, into the chamber with the cash goes Milton. “You want the money? You can have it!” While Sanchez cranks up the dial all poor Milton can do is presses his face up against the porthole. “It’s not my money!” he shouts until a year before Schwarzenegger’s eyes bugged out of his skull in Total Recall (1990), Milton’s melon goes pop in a nice, juicy way. The kicker?  Goon “Hey boss, what about the money?” Sanchez “Have it laundered.”

Miss. Moneypenny:  Caroline Bliss, for all she accomplished in the last film, is rewarded with a greatly reduced and mostly thankless role here. Back in the alcove of M’s office she find herself worried about James; a concern that earns her a tongue lashing from M. Moneypenny then serves her purpose in the plot by informing Q where Bond is and then the film is done with her. Much is made about the misogyny of the Bond films, particularly the Connery era ones, but Licence To Kill treats women perhaps worse then any previous entry.

M: Robert Brown. I always felt Brown was a dick as M and he absolutely confirms it here. In the past, M would “officially” dismiss Bond when the political heat was coming down and then support him on the sly. Not here. Universal Exports commandeers the Hemingway House, a fact I enjoyed immensely. While several six towed cats and armed men watched, M dresses Bond down for undermining the CIA’s case on Sanchez by going on his “personal vendetta.” The thing is, M is kind of right here. But now, see if you can follow this. Bond says he will resign if not permitted to stay on the case. “This is not a country club” M hisses at his best agent. I guess what he means by that is one can’t just walk away from being an agent, you know kind of like “No one leaves the KGB!” (I miss General Gogol) Fine, but then in the next breath M tells Bond to hand over his gun and 00 licence to kill. Is this some kind of “Oh you can’t quit because your fired” argument? I don’t get it. Then, Bond takes a swing at another agent, steals his gun, and jumps off the balcony. There are several MI6 dudes who have a clear shoot at this man who just committed treason against the crown. But then M tells his people “Don’t shoot.” If he said so because he trusted Bond or didn’t want his best agent to get killed or anything other then “there are too many people around” it might have worked. But here’s the thing, they are at the Hemingway House which is walled and cut off from the public. They could shoot all they want in the courtyard and the only causality other then Bond would be a few six toed felines. It’s 100% M’s fault Bond got away so what does he do? He takes it out on poor dear Moneypenny. “There are five typing eras on the first page alone” he barks before literally throwing the paper at Moneypenny. What a dick.

Q: Oh dear, dear Q. Other then Sanchez and his motley crew of henchmen, Q is the only bright spot in this slog of a movie. As loyal to Bond as Moneypenny, Q takes it upon himself at great risk to both his life and career to travel to Isthmus to assist Bond. God knows the ex-007 needs it and anytime Q is out of the lab and into the field it’s a good thing. Posing as Bond’s uncle, Q shows up in Jimmy-B’s hotel room with “everything a man would need on holiday.”

List of Gadgets: In his unassuming suitcase Q has an alarm clock bomb “guarantied to never wake up anyone who uses it,” plastic explosive in a toothpaste tube, a camera that “shoots” .220 high velocity “film” and a Polaroid camera that has x-ray vision and a laser beam flash. There were however, no bottles over 5oz. containing liquids so he had no problems with Heathrow Airport security on the way over. The .220 camera, by the by, has a neat trick in that it encodes itself to one hand, in this cases Bonds, so that no one else can use it. Bond also has a cummerbund that hides a rope (good if you need to say, attended the wedding of a CIA man) and one of the simpler but cooler gadgets to date, a wetsuit with wings that allows one to swim under the radar as one looks like a manta ray. Q himself even gets a gadget, a broom that doubles as a walkie-talkie. After Q uses this devise, he tosses it aside with a casual shrug. Perhaps now he will understand how hard it is to maintain equipment in the field.

Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: His career, future pension and possibly the James Bond franchise.

Other Property Destroyed: For a guy who is cut off from the British taxpayer and the endless budget they provide Bond is rather caviler with funds. He tosses Killifer’s $2 million in the drink with Killifer, he loads Krest’s pressure/ torture chamber up with cash and he giggles like a school girl as he throws countless Benjamin’s out of a broken airplane door. While doing so he does not, much to my disappointment, announce he’s making it rain. Bond also shows little regard for the street value of cocaine when he drowns kilo after kilo in the ocean, blows up the entire coke processing plant and then on his way out blows up four, count em, four tanker trucks full of gasoline and Bolivian marching powder. While destroying these trucks, he also takes out a number of jeeps and other vehicles including a car he crushes after pulling a Diamonds Are Forever side wheelie and coming down hard on the auto. In other news, demand for narcotics soared in Los Angles and New York after a sudden shortage sending the price of an 8-ball to an all time high.

Felix Leiter: Have you noticed how I’ve just kind of nonchalantly been bringing up the fact that Felix got his leg bitten off? This is not by mistake. When we first see Felix suspended over the tank still in his wedding day finest, it’s a rather jarring image, one that I somehow had forgotten about. So when they lowered the long time Bond confidante into the water and he screamed as a shark dined on his lower half, I was kind of taken aback. “Holy shit, are they going to kill Felix?” It was truly shocking and the film could have gotten some mileage out of it. It is, after all, why Bond goes supposedly bonkers and becomes a fugitive. But no, nothing. Glen truly drops the ball a few scenes later when we see Bond standing next to a hospital bed and a nurse comes in and says “He’s legs gone, we see about the arm, by the by did you catch ‘Glee’ last night?” OK not quite but it’s a huge plot development that’s just kind of dropped. Even worse, at the end of the film we see Felix sitting up in his hospital bed like a kid who just got his tonsils removed. He’s got a huge smile on his face as he talks to Bond on the phone. “Hey buddy, yah, thanks so much for killing that guy who took my leg. Solid. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, M’s trying to get a hold of you to give you you’re old job back so everything is as it once was, how swell is that? What? Oh my wife, yah I kind of forgot about her. Oh well, other fish in the sea and all that, see you back at the office and thanks again James.” And that’s it. All is forgiven and James is back in the MI6 fold and roll credits. Look, these two men now have both been widowed on their wedding day thanks to the violence that comes part and parcel with their chosen professions. Is that dark enough for yah? Think there are some larger ideas that can grow out of this? Do James and Felix form a bond over this incredibly traumatic event in both of their lives? Nahhh, they don’t even discuss it. Felix’s bride is given just enough screen time to smooch Bond and then get killed off so the plot can get rolling and then she’s forgotten. Again, I can’t decide if this film is just super lazy or so cynical as to not even care about her or Felix or the audience. I suspect all of the above. Felix by the way was played by David Hedison who becomes the first and to this point only actor to reprise the Felix role. For those keeping score, he was Moore’s NYC docent in Live and Let Die (1973).

Best One Liners/Quips: “Don’t be an idiot, 007. I know exactly what you’re up to, and quite frankly, you’re going to need my help.” Q puts it all in perspective and saves the day.

Bond Cars: No car but Bond does get a Cigarette boat, the cocaine cowboy’s transport of choice in the 1980’s. Q gets the wheels in the form of a grey Rolls.

Bond Timepiece: I saw a flash of a watch on Bond wrist, which was nice since he didn’t have one in the last film. However, it went by so quickly I couldn’t see what it was.

Other Notable Bond Accessories: One of the few good things that can be said about Dalton’s Bond is he smokes, as he, in my opinion, should. It’s one of the few things we can point to that gives this Bond something approaching a personality.

Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: One of the other things is Bond’s drinking. I tipped my hat in admiration when Bond checked into his hotel and ordered a case of Bollinger for his room. While depositing millions into Sanchez’s bank, Bond enjoys a glass of bubbly. He has another when touring the coke bottling plant with the Asian inverters. Bond orders his signature drink, a medium dry martini shaken not stirred, but he must leave before he gets to enjoy. No worries, Bouvier downs it in one slug. I also loved that while in the ZZ Top bar, Bond is served a Bud with a lime and he doesn’t even consider soiling his pallet with such swill. Flashes of the Bond we know and love.

Bond’s Gambling Winnings: Card players are a superstitious lot in general, but blackjack players take the idea of “mojo” to whole new level. I think the reason for this is blackjack, when played properly, is the gambling equivalent of knowing the times tables cold. Memorize the answers and that’s that, no thought required. So as sure as 6 X 8=48, you hit when you have 16 and the dealer is showing 7 but stay when you have 16 and they are showing 6. To play blackjack correctly takes zero skill if you just remember the answer for every card combination and since you are only playing the dealer and not the other players at the table, it’s not all that difficult to memorize all possible card combinations. (Ed. Note: This is assuming you’re playing with a multi-deck shoe, which all casinos do and that you’re not attempting to count cards, which all casinos consider a black bookable offence.) So, with no variables to affect play, gamblers start looking to other factors like “runs,” “streaks” and “luck” to explain why they are up or down at any given point in the game. I know guys who will only sit at certain tables and wait if that table is full and the next table over has an open seat. Other guys have “rules” for when they not only must leave the table, but the casino as well, only to walk to the card room next door and sit back down. While all blackjack players have their own individual quarks, almost all universally subscribe to the concept of a hot/cold dealer. One dealer could be at your table and everything’s coming up roses. The minute this dealer is replaced potential doom is right around the corner. So, the “luck” factor is what keeps blackjack interesting; that and the stakes, the higher the bet the bigger the thrill. Bond sits down at a private table, which means (a) he gets to play six hands at once and (b) he gets to set the limit as high as the house will allow. Playing the sucker, Bond puts his $2 million line of credit from the bank on the table and promptly goes about losing $5000 a hand until he is ¼ million down. He asks for higher limits and based on the fact he’s playing “like a real jerkoff” he is granted his request. In short order he is ¼ million ahead when the new dealer is sent in; the kiss of death. Bond looks up to see Sanchez’s girl Lupe and he knows his winning has come to an end. He did however achieve his goal, as not five minutes later he’s standing in Sanchez’s office baiting the hook. While playing for $10,000 a hand should be exciting, here it is not, because we never see it happen. Most Bond gambling scenes are exhilarating because we get to see Bond play and have a precise understanding of how he out plays his opponent. Perhaps because blackjack is so straightforward they don’t bother showing any of the action here. It’s a shame because hustling at blackjack is a rather novel idea. While tanking on purpose is rather straight forward, going on a $500,000 plus run is not easily engineered. I’m not sure how you can do it without cheating so I would have liked to have seen how Bond pulled it off. However, the only way we learn about what Bond is doing at the table is from other characters dialog breaking one of the cardinal rules of filmmaking; don’t tell it, show it. We have no idea of how Bond switched gears to go on a ½ million dollar positive swing simply because the film finds it unimportant. The blackjack game is an excuses to get Bond in a tux, two ladies in evening gowns and then it’s simply a bridge to get Bond though Sanchez’s door. As a result, this is the most disappointing 007 gambling scene to date.

List of Locations: The fictional country of Isthmus was played by Mexico. Both the interiors and exteriors of the Isthmus Bank, and impressive bit of architecture, were shoot at the Mexico City Post Office which stands as a monument to just how far the once might institution of “snail mail” has fallen. La Casa de Sanchez was owned by Cubby Broccolis “colourful and close friend” Baron Ricky Di Portanova. His sea side villa in Acapulco is not only stunning, but after Tangiers in the last film, wee now have two locations in a row that serve as Dylan song cues. Hemingway House, six toed cats and the Seven Mile Bridge were all shoot in the Florida Keys and the red neck bar fight was filmed in the very same Double Duce in Missouri where Dalton famously declared that “pain don’t hurt.” (Ed. Note: Part of the last sentence is a big lie, and not the part about the six-toed cats.) The final tanker truck chase was shot on a stretch of Mexican road that was closed after being deemed too dangerous. The crew spends entirely too much time on the DVD extras talking about how the sprits of motorist who died over the years on this road haunted their production.

They should make a movie about this guy... oh wait

It’s strange and kind of uncomfortable watching professional men wax nostalgic about being spooked by things they “just can’t explain.” It’s also the classic case of a crew having such a blast on location that they just assume the audience will enjoy it just as much. But we were not there and we don’t. Now if they had caught some of those ghost riders on film, that would have been something. Finally, this was the first Bond that I’m aware of that was not shot at Pinewood Studios in England. The sound stages of Churubusco Studios in Mexico were brought up to date for the production. I don’t know if this decision contributed to the cheep feeling of this film, but it does feel cheep.

Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: Barefoot waterskiing ain’t all that easy but doing it while being towed by a plane and while being shoot at and then jumping into the plane and taking out the gun man and the pilot and then flying off into the sunset … now that’s Bond, James Bond. Remember the scene in the first Indian Jones film where Harrison Ford works his way around the undercarriage of a truck while it’s speeding along a dirt road? And then he pops up, opens the passenger side door, gets into the cab and takes out the driver? Glen rips that off almost shot for shot for Bond to do, only not as well. But once Bond gets into the trucks drivers seat, he handles a road so deadly and dangerous it was shut down by the Mexican government like he’s Tom Kristensen at 24 Hours of Le Mans so take that Indy.

Final Thoughts: I found this film rather frustrating. So many things pile up to ultimately make the entire thing a chore just to watch. Bond needs to be effortless, and all you can see in Licence to Kill is how hard the movie is working. It’s working hard to be dark and different. Dalton is working hard to not be Roger Moore. Producers are working hard to get by on less money. The script is working hard in both direction; push Bond out on his own but dragging him back into Bond conventions. The movie is running in place so fast it digs itself in to hole and never gets out. As a result, Glen is left totally exposed as the hack he is. He somehow managed to get worse with each film he directed, like a Benjamin Button filmmaker he learned his craft in reverse. The first hour of the Licence To Killdefies the laws of space and time by both dragging and being chaotically all over the place at the same time. The film has no look what so ever and comes off like a third rate cop show on cable TV. Nothing is ever visually established or resolved. Maybe, maybe the lack of budget played a part but gone is the craftsmanship of the classic Bond films. Truth is, the care in the area of craft has been on the wane through out the 80’s but other parts of the pictures made up for it. Here it all finally comes to head. Even the good stuff, like Sanchez’s house, seemed to get short shifted. As great as the home is, it’s never fully explored. It’s like Baron Portanova said to Broccoli “yah you can shoot here but you only get the place for the weekend. The wife wants to throw a party on Tuesday. Oh, and stay out of the front two thirds of the house OK? I just had new white carpet put down.” And then there is the script, a failure on all levels. If Bond is going to go rouge he needs to go rouge. He needs to be pissed. If he’s cut off, make him The Dark Knight, a loan loose cannon out there reeking havoc. He comes off as a guy punching the clock whose only half good as his job. And that takes us to Timothy Dalton. Look, I’m not going to continue kicking him, I did enough already, but it’s clear that he either doesn’t get, or refuses to get, what makes Bond Bond. Granted, a better director and script would have done wonders but sorry to all you Dalton apologist out there, he is also a big part of the problem. Play this game, change Bond to Bob, drop the iconic score and remove all those laser projected 007’s from the opening credits. Is this Dalton any good? Or try this, keep Bond out of it, replace Dalton with a Jean Claude Van Damn or a Steven Segal or a Chuck Norris or any other B-level action star from the late 80’s, and keep everything else in the movie the same.

OK, Dalton is much better looking

Is this movie better with one of these guys playing Bob then Dalton playing Bob? They only reason we give Licence To Kill any attention 20 plus years later is because it’s a Bond film. If it were Timothy Dalton in the same movie called Out For Vengeance or something we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We would see it pop up on USA at 4PM on a Saturday, giggle because they just threw ninjas into the plot for no reason what-so-ever except to have ninjas, and we would then move onto to pull up “Breaking Bad” season 3 on our instant Netflix queue. Before I started this blog I kind of felt like ever generation got the Bond they deserved. Well, Licence To Kill is the Bond that late 80’s Hollywood sold us, but to our credit we rejected him. I return to the idea of cynical. EON goes to pains on this and The Living Daylights DVD extras to provide a revisionist history that boils down to “We were trying to go dark and do something different and you fools didn’t get it. But now, 20 years later, people understand what we were doing and we think these movies hold up rather well.” Nonsense. This is a terrible film, Dalton is a terrible Bond, and that is why Bond fans stayed away in droves. (By the by, pat yourselves on the back for that one Bond fans.) Remember, these guys blaming us are the same filmmakers that didn’t trust us enough to know what revoked means. This is a film that has a final scene where Bond jumps off a balcony while attending a cocktail party, lands in a pool, drags a woman in with him, and starts to make out with her while, and I’m not making this up, a 12 foot long concrete fish statue winks at them. This is too dark for audiences? This is what we didn’t understand in ‘89 but can wrap our heads around now? Just because you put 007 in the opening credits doesn’t mean we will just swallow what you’re feeding us. Like the NFL tries to make each Sunday an “event,” every Bond film is promoted and hyped to the stars. When you make those promises you must live up to the hype. Licence To Kill is the NFL equivalent of two 1-6 teams going at it in front of a half empty stadium. Think Bills vs. Lions before the 2011 season. But oh look at em now, these two teams could be facing each other in the Superbowl come February. (OK, probably not but they both should make the play-offs.) All it took was some new running the ship to bring new ideas and get the right personnel in place and suddenly, these two teams have returned to respectably. Well, we’ve got a long six years between this movie and the next Bond. And if memory serves, Bond 17 has one or two new names on the poster. I can’t wait. I was going to give Licence to Kill the sad distinction of being the second movie to receive the dreaded single martini glass rating. But upon second viewing (and I never want to see this film again) I really got a kick out of Sanchez, Krest, Benicio, and Prof Joe Butcher. I wish they had a better film around them because they are some of the more interesting villains to come into Bond’s universe. They were the only things that keep me going on this 2 plus hour ride and for that, thank you gentlemen, and bless your hearts.

Martini ratings:

The Living Daylights

Title: The Living Daylights

Year: 1987. In 1981, ABC newsman Hugh Downs first said the words AIDS, referring to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, on television. By the end of that year, 121 were dead due to an illness no one understood. Six years later actor Rock Hudson and 16,907 others were killed by a virus that had people so terrified they avoided public toilets, air kissing became the standard hello and monogamy was viewed as not merely prudent, but life saving. In a year when a comedy called A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy (2011) can be released by a major studio, the mid-eighties hysteria over AIDS must sound like something out of science fiction to those who did not experience it. For reference, picture the hysteria over the SARS, the bird flu, the swine flu and the “Rage Virus” in 28 Days Later (2002) all rolled into one and you get the idea. Mobilized by Hudson’s passing and the countless others in the creative arts who were stricken, Hollywood took the lead while Washington slept. In addition to producing PSA’s and throwing lavish fundraisers the entertainment industry issued mandates from on high stating that it was now not just irresponsible to show casual on screen sex, but a matter of life and death. The ultimate AIDS film, also released in 1987, doesn’t even mention the virus. But when Michael Douglas walked into his kitchen to find a boiled bunny, audiences of the day understood; sleep with a stranger and you very well could end up dead. No one was immune to this plague, including James Bond. 007 producers had to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves if in a world of Fatal Attraction there was a place for the bed hopping Bond. The fact that the first shot of the 15th Bond film is a beachfront military encampment that immediately bringing to mind Normandy is no mistake, 1987 could very well have been Bond’s D-day, and for more reason than a deadly plague.

Film Length: 2 hours 11 minutes

Bond Actor: Timothy Dalton. For the Silver Anniversary of Dr. No (1962) EON had some business to attend to before they tackled a worldwide pandemic; mainly, who would be their 4th Bond? Kiwi Sam Neil (later of Jurassic Park (1993) fame) was at the top of everyone’s list. Everyone that is except the one guy who counted and after agreeing to a screen test with Neil, Cubby Broccoli issued his veto. Broccoli wanted the debonair Irishman Pierce Brosnan who as fate would have it was coming to the end of his contract on the TV show “Remington Steele.” When approached, Pierce told producers it was his dream to play Bond ever since he saw Goldfinger (1964) as a kid and he signed on immediately. Producers then went ahead and cast Maryam d’Abo as the Bond girl for The Living Daylights and she and Brosnan began rehearsing. Then, showbiz politics reared its ugly head. At the 11th hour “Remington Steele” producers reneged on promises and yanked Brosnan back to the small screen for five more episodes of the soon to be canceled show. And just like that Brosnan was unavailable. Broccoli went back his Rolodex and called Timothy Dalton, his #1 choice to replace Connery back in 1969. At that time, the 24-year-old Dalton turned Broccoli down, thinking he was to young to play Bond, hence the lone Lazenby film. Now 40, T.D. felt he was ready and accepted his license to kill. As they have with every new Bond, EON put the full court press on the press and Dalton’s face was everywhere. The royals even got into the act making worldwide headlines when during a visit to Pinewood studios Princess Di gave Prince Charles a whack on the head with a breakaway trick bottle.

Dalton was introduced to Americans in the July 16, 1987 issue of Rolling Stone which featured The Grateful Dead on the cover. After making their way through articles about the first Bruce Springsteen solo project and the debut of the entire Beatles catalog on compact disk, readers found the headline Meet the New Bond. Same as the old Bond? Above the 24 point type were four black and white photos. The biggest was a head shot of a leather jacket sporting Timothy Dalton oozing sex off the page. The three smaller photos off to the side showed Connery wearing nothing but a towel while pointing a gun at Daniela Bianchi in From Russia with Love (1963), a head to toe long shot of a kilt sporting Lazenby, and Moore and Lois Chiles in those terrible WWI flying ace caps they wore while piloting The Moonraker. Talk about going all in for the new guy and trying to make the other three cats look like heals. In case readers missed the point of the not so subtle photos, the article by Gerri Hirshey starts “Good news Ladies, the newest James Bond does not hold a woman as though she were a sack of gelignite.” Message delivered; this is not your fathers misogynistic Bond (and bonus, he’s hot!) The piece goes on to stress this new Bond is returning to his humble roots. Dalton confirms by saying “My approach can’t be how am I going to play it? But what did Fleming write about? What made these stories work?” Dalton goes on to describe a different 007 then the one we have seen on screen in the pervious 14 films. His Bond is one who gets knots in his stomach before the action starts and one who needs pills and/or a stiff drink once it’s over. Dalton didn’t want a superman but a “flawed and vulnerable” lunch pail Bond. He feels that with Roger Moore the films “lost the humanity” and he sights Connery as his favorite 007. However, he takes inspiration for his Bond from Bogart’s Sam Spade saying his spy will be a ragged investigator who is “down trodden” and gives into vices because he has “given everything to being a soldier and this is how he copes.” As for the ladies, “he can’t love because he might be dead tomorrow.” For what it’s worth, Connery gave his blessing and Moore, ever the gentleman, went so far as to host an American television special welcoming the new guy into one of entertainments most exclusive clubs. Additionally, EON held a press conference where Broccoli & Co. say all the right things about being on board with this new direction. Still, I would have to think that more than one observer found themselves asking if EON was truly ready to let Bond trade in his cuff links and tails for a leather jacket that to quote Chill Palmer is “like the one Pacino wore in Serpico.(1973).” This is after all, the most successful film franchise of all time (and reminded so until this year when a little punk named Harry Potter took the lead) and Hollywood’s first rule is you don’t mess with success. So, are the guys in charge going to let the new guy just waltz in and do his own thing?

Director: John Glen. Everything Dalton said about this harder edged Bond sounds great on paper. So good in fact that if I’m not mistaken his ideas about this “new” direction for 007 would met with wall to wall praise when a “Blonde Bond” is introduced in 2006. But here were are in 1987 and timing, as they say, is everything. And “timing” can mean many things in film. Releasing a film at a “time” when audiences are ready for it is one part, and no small part at that. But an equally important part is timing while making the film. First and foremost, what talent, cast and production folks alike, are available? (Brosnan out, Dalton in) Next, do all those folks share the same ideas about where the film should go this time? This kind of timing can get tricky and can derail a project before it starts. Michael Wilson and Richard Maibaum wrote the script before a Bond was cast. As a result Wilson, by his own admission, wasn’t “exactly sure how to go about writing the part so we wrote it fairly middle of the road.” Timing. The Living Daylights, first published in The Sunday Times Magazine in February of 1962 as a short story, was the last of Fleming’s works to make it to the big screen until the 2006 reboot. Wilson used the story of a cello playing female assassin as a jumping off point. By keeping the Bond character bland, Wilson focused on plot in a way that we haven’t seen in the past few entries and he crafted what amounted to a cold war thriller first and a Bond picture second. A true “spy” thriller, The Living Daylights features a strong narrative with more double crossing and triple crossing than Miller’s Crossing (1990). It’s also the most contemporary Bond picture to this point, featuring such “ripped from the headlines” plot points as defecting Soviets, black market weapons, drug dealing revolutionaries and the Afghan mujahedin. Someone with a strong vision and steady hand like Terrence Young could have navigated Bond through this world. However, he hasn’t directed a Bond picture since Thunderball (1965). Timing. Current Bond director John Glen has little on his résumé to suggest he’s up to such a task. With his debut, For Your Eyes Only (1981), Glen delivered a tight thriller with a nuts and bolts A to B to C plot. In its simplicity, it worked beautify. Octopussy (1983) is much more fun but it’s a Road Runner cartoon without a though in its head. A View to a Kill (1985) is an embarrassment and proves that when Glen is not storyboarding superb action sequences, he is utterly lost. He has very little sense of story, less interest in character and while his timing in action set pieces is impeccable, he has no idea how to pace or beat out two people talking over a cup of coffee. (Think that’s not important? Take a look at a few films by a guy named Quentin Tarantino and get back to me.) When Dalton talks about how the Moore films “lost the humanity” I don’t disagree when talking about the last few in his run. However, I think the guilty party is not the leading man but his director. Would it kill Glen to use a close up, the most basic cinematic way to get an audience more involved in a character and bring forth his humanity? Now, Glen is handed a film where characters are double and triple crossing each other left, right and center. To make that work the audience must see the motives, understand who is playing who, and most importantly, to what end. (Exhibit A: Miller’s Crossing) So, with The Living Daylights we have a script heavy on story in which the main character was purposely kept “light,” a new leading man who wants to put his stamp on the main character by making him “dark,” and a director who’s strength, action, will be undermine by all of the above. Timing.

Reported Budget: $30,000,000 estimated. Same as Glen’s previous film but the money is much better spent here. Instead of rampaging through the streets of San Francisco in a fire truck and blowing up blimps, Glen puts the budget toward create a world of shifty Eurotrash types playing a high stakes game. The gritty look is consistent with these characters and frankly, I was surprised by how “right” the atmosphere in much of the film felt. There is a whole lot of screen space delegated to military iconography giving the film an overall feeling of occupation which is appropriate. The Eiffel Tower of the last entry gives way to remote airstrips in the Afghani mountains where horses (beautify shot in the desert land scrape) are ridden by hardened Arab rebels; not privileged breeders. Sure, we still get planes flying into the sides of mountains, but not before a hand to hand battle takes place on a cargo net hanging out of the back of said plane to give us one of the tensest Bond moments in a long time. EON even put a few bucks down on a brand spanking new Aston Martin. Smiles all around.

At least Bond beat this 1987 movie

Reported Box-office: $50,096,000 USA and $191,200,000 Worldwide. A better take then A View to a Kill and right around Octopussy numbers. Spun as a success at the time, EON used the box-office numbers to prove audiences loved Timothy Dalton. In truth, the film came in at an underwhelming #19 for the year. This dark, topical Bond was passed over by audience who spent their hard earned money to place Three Men and a Babyin the pole position. Yah, you read that right. Ted Danson, Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg singing “Goodnight Sweetheart” to a shit covered infant was the #1 film in 1987. Have I mentioned how terrible main steam pop culture was in the 80’s? (I blame Ronald Reagan and Ernest) Timing is everything.

Theme Song: “The Living Daylights” performed by A-Ha or a-ha. Yah, these obnoxious pricks actually had their name spelled out a-ha in the opening credits. The Norwegian group, a one hit wonder in the states, managed to reach #5 with this tune in the UK. (The Brits also made Oasis the second coming of the Beatles so take this chart success with a heaping spoonful of salt.) To my ears, the song comes off as a poor mans Duran Duran tune and even features the same da da da staccato keyboard as the pervious Bond theme. But here is the true sin. Chrissie Hynde co-wrote (with John Barry) two Pretenders tunes, “Where Has Everybody Gone” and “If There Was a Man,” for this movie and both get buried. The former plays on hit man Necros’ walkman while the latter is featured over the closing credits. Are you kidding me? They picked Pal Waaktarr over Chsissie Hynde? “Take on Me” over “The Wait”? A-freakin-Ha … sorry a- freakin-ha, over the Pretenders???

Opening Titles: Less neon thankfully but more of the now standard naked chicks with guns. Near the end we get a little variation as one of the ladies looks to be covered in dirt as she emerges from water, another looks to be fishing with a hand gun, and the final woman, not in silhouette, makes like Dita Von Teese in a champagne glass. Meh.

Jose, Jose Jose Jose, Joooo se. Jooooo seeee!

Opening Action Sequence: Parachutes have become the Jose Reyes of Bond openings. For those not in the know, #7 bats in the leadoff spot for the New York Metropolitans and is often referred to as “the sparkplug of the offence.”  For any fan of the game, every Reyes at bat is a must see because he is capable of doing almost anything at any given moment regardless of how poorly the rest of the team is going (this year, very poorly.) It’s like “pre-SUV meet tree” Tiger Woods at the Masters. When you saw him step to the tee it meant something great was going to happen. Ditto Reyes at the plate, you just know excitement is on the menu. Parachutes in Bond opens have become sparkplugs. Take the best three openings of the recent Bonds, Moonraker (1979), Octopussy, and most exciting, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); they all feature parachutes in one way or another. So, when I saw four skydivers descending onto the Rock of Gibraltar, well, I was ready for some excitement. True to the “parachute promise,” The Living Daylights delivered. M explains that the penetration of the radar insulations at Gibraltar is only a training exercise, but it is one he doesn’t take lightly. Three of his double O skydivers land with no problem but 0013 gets stuck in a tree and is immediately shot with pink paint. “Your dead mate!” Oh 0013. He always did kind of suck at his job. Anyway, 004 is scaling a shear cliff when a carabineer is sent down his climbing rope. He reads the attached note, is none too pleased, and looks up to see an assassin cutting his line. As he falls to his death his screams catch the attention of another agent who turns to camera. Our first look at Dalton is dramatic and shows that this Bond is all business. It’s off to the races as Bond identifies the assassin and jump onto the roof of his escaping Jeep. Right away there is a physicality to Bond we have not seen since Lazenby flashed the 007 badge and it’s exhilarating to watch. The road, as all roads in Bond films must be, is on the edge of a cliff. Bond holds onto the roof of the speeding vehicle for dear life while fruit carts are upset, a Volkswagen Beetle has its doors knocked off, and monkeys are forced to react with displeasure. (Ed Note: I love monkeys). Somehow, someway, somewhere along the line the crates of explosives in the back of the Jeep catch fire and then the vehicle is launched off a cliff. In a fantastically executed stunt, Bond pulls his rip cord and is yanked out of the back of the falling, burning Jeep moments before it explodes. That the flaming debris from the exploded Jeep sets Bond chute ablaze is a nice touch. We cut to a bikini clad woman lounging on a yacht. She is on the phone, complaining about the quality of the local male population. “If only I could meet a real man” annnndd enter Bond, literally falling out of the sky. “Who are you?” she asks. Daltons Bond, James Bond response is a bit of a disappointment. I know he wants to make the character his own but this is your “I’ll be back.” Your “Go ahead, make my day.” Your “obviously you’re not a golfer.” Dalton just kind of under delivers the line as if it’s any other bit of dialog. Regardless, this open is an excellent intro for our new, more action oriented Bond. Further, the fact that a paintball exercise becomes a real fight with real bullets is a clever device. It’s a signal to the audience, letting us know that before it may have been a game but this time it’s for real. That said it’s still a Bond picture so of course Jimmy B must get the girl with a cheeky remark. Bond checks in with headquarters, informing them “I’ll report in an hour.” “Won’t you join me for a dink?” “Better make that two.” Dalton’s smirk when he delivers the line is as close to Connery as you can get without being the genuine article. We are off to an excellent start.

Bond’s Mission: “Stuff my orders” Bond barks at one point to his Venetian contact, a uptight snot named Saunders, who more then deserve our heroes scorn. The two meet at a Czechoslovakian concert hall just a stones throw from the boarder. Bond doesn’t even get a chance to take his seat and he’s greeted by a curt “You’re bloody late.” “We have time” a clearly annoyed Bond answers. Bond has always been the smartest guy in the room, but Dalton lets you know with a jab, not a smirk. Saunders points out their man, one General Georgi Koskov, who plans on defecting that evening. Gen. Georgi fears KGB snipers and he specifically requested Bond be on hand to protect him. After Bond and Saunders make their way across the street to a lookout perch, Saunders starts clucking about this being my mission so don’t muck it up and I  planned this to the last detail and all of that kind of thing. When Bond asks what the actual plan is he’s told “Sorry old man. Section 26, paragraph 5, that information is need to know only. I’m sure you understand.” Dick. Georgi’s fears are realized when he no sooner sneaks out of the music venue and Bond and Saunders mark a sniper. Bond instantly recognizes the sniper as the female cello player from the concert. Saunders instantly proves to be useless by (A) not knowing how to turn on the night goggles and (B) jabber on as Bond tries to line up the shot on the sniper. Despite this nincompoop babbling away Bond has the presents of mind to smell a rat and simply shots the rifle out of the would be assassin’s hand. Georgi is grabbed by Bond and Saunders and quickly put into a car in the ally. When Bond discovers that Saunders master plan comes down to stuffing the General in the trunk (or as the Brits call it, the boot) 007 takes charge. “Where are you bringing him?” “Sorry old man. Section 26, paragraph 5, that information is need to know only. I’m sure you understand.” Touché ass hat! This is a crackerjack start that launches the plot twisting off into several directions. The coolest aspect from my point of view is Bond spearing the female assassin. In Saunders eyes, Bond missed the target because he didn’t want to kill a beautiful woman. We as the audience, based on our history with Bond, come to the same conclusion. However, it was not Bond’s weakness for the ladies but his professionalism that lead him to miss on purpose. “I only kill professionals, that girl didn’t know one end of a rifle from the other.” It was this decision to trust his gut that eventually allows Bond to unwrap the villain’s scheme. If Bond killed the woman, as Saunders points out he was order to do, the baddie would have succeeded and Bond most likely would be rotting away in a Gulag camp. Stuff my orders indeed. It’s a neat trick to play on the audience, taking our perception of Bond and his known soft spot for the fairer sex and turning it upside down. It’s also a sly and engaging way to reinvent Bond. A lesser film would have had an over written and awkward scene to tell us “this is a new Bond,” but here it’s seamless woven into the story.

Villain’s Name: General Georgi Koskov. Bond doesn’t buy his old friend Georgi’s defector story as well he shouldn’t. After all, “Nobody leaves the KGB!” Georgi is not your typical Bond villain. He’s a slimy guy who likes to mix it up who’s not so much bent on world donation as he is hooked on what gamblers call “the juice” or “the rush.” It’s not the winning, but the actual act of outplaying your opponent that supplies the enjoyment. The fact that he’s manipulating the Soviet and British governments ups the ante and for a true gambling junky; the higher the stakes the better. His deadly game involves knocking-off another Russian General, one Leonid Pushkin, and his convoluted plan involves getting Bond to do the dirty work. However, things go wrong right off the bat when Bond fails to kill Georgi’s would be assassin; actually Georgi’s girlfriend who the General was hoping Bond would kill as well. Whoops. No one, not even Bond, suspects any of this when Georgi is slurping down caviar during his debriefing. The debriefing, by the by, takes place at an MI6 safe house that somehow manages to scream MONEY and modesty at the same time. The MI6 headquarters was actually Stonor House which was built between the 12th and 14th century and was in the family for 800 years. As an American, this is the stuff of fairytales. Our “old” buildings have been around for 200 years. Hell, our country was “discovered” a short 500 years ago. Mind blowing. So, Georgi misdirects the Brits by giving them a list of agents that General Pushkin is supposedly going to bump-off. MI6 buys the lie and Bond is ordered to bump off Pushkin. No sooner is Georgi’s plan set in motion then he is immediately “kidnapped” by the KGB but not before the kidnapper and a faceless MI6 guard get into an amazing fight in the kitchen. Everything from an electric knife to a flaming grill to a scaling hot pot of water comes into play. It’s the best hand to hand fight scene in the film and Bonds not even in the building. It’s a strange choice and it’s also the point in the movies where things start spin a little out of control. Sadly, the film makers never quite catch up.

Villain Actor: Jeroen Krabbe plays Georgi perfectly. He finds the right tone and gives the character enough arrogance that you actually believe that he believes he can somehow pull this whole thing off. The other main baddie is Brad Whitaker. Whitaker is a black market arms dealer played by Joe Don Baker who is NOT that “Law & Order” guy who ran for president as I thought for about half the film. He is however that guy who chugs Pepto Bismol while watching the teddy bear on the wire in that wonderfully creepy scene from Cape Fear (1991).

Villain’s Plot: On the cover of the same Rolling Stone issue mentioned above, right next to Jerry Garcia’s beard is the headline “Inside the Weird World of Oliver North.” Before he was a conservative radio talking head he nearly sank the Reagan presidency with a little something called the Iran Contra Affair. Feel free to visit other corners of the internet to learn all the in’s and out’s of that ugly business but the CliffsNotes version boils down to U.S. Marine North being involved in dealing illegal weapons to our enemies. No doubt American audience saw a little of Ollie North in General Brad Whitaker. This guy is more in the classic mold of the broadly drawn Bond villain. He’s a crackpot who was never actually in the military but worships the intuition, kind of like those weird guys who were never cops but collect police memorabilia and talk like they know how to do police work. Wealthy thanks to his illegal exploits, Whitaker has men in uniform he commands but they are more like butlers and servants. His true army is a bunch of military figures in glass cases that he plays with as a 10 year old would GI Joe toys. Despite being bat shit nuts he is clearly good as his job as he lives lavishly and dines on what has to be the biggest lobster I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s good to be the fake General. He and Georgi are in cahoots and sell weapons and opium and diamonds and pretty much anything else you can unload illegally for large sums of money. Along with political assassination to attend to, the boys get spread a little thin. Perhaps they should have just focused on one international crime as opposed to all of them. The same goes for the writers. They create a situation where they must balance Georgi setting up Bond to take out Pushkin while setting up his girlfriend to be murdered. He’s also setting up MI6 to believe he’s defected while at the same time setting the Russians up to see him as a hero. That’s a lot of irons on the fire, but Glen and Co. then hook Georgi up with a faux General and the two run around smuggling drugs, weapons and diamonds? Why? Once again Bond producers fall into the trap of not trusting a nice tight story to be “big” enough. (See also The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)) So they drag in Whitaker and this whole other storyline that takes us away from what was interesting and different about this movie. It’s all starting to slip, slip away…

Villain’s Lair: Georgi is on the run and unable to return to the Soviet Union until his plan plays out so he spend most of his time at Whitaker’s compound lounging around the pool. This Moroccan base of operations is hidden in plain sight in the middle of the bustling city of Tangier. The massive building, situated on a cliff overlooking the sea, was actually owned by billionaire and motorcycle enthusiast Malcolm Forbes. Forbes housed his collection of 120,000 lead soldiers in the spacious home and was kind enough to let Bond producers use them in the film.

Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: Boys and their toys would be a wonderfully succinct way to describe Bond films to someone who’s never seen one. Whitaker takes this notion literally. A delusional nut, Whitaker walks around in a military uniform of his own design and insists his employee’s call him “General” even though he served less time then Dick Chaney. Kicked out of West Point for cheating, Whitaker fancy’s himself a military historian and master strategists. His little toy solders are displayed in beautiful glass cases where they are set up to reenact famous battles from history. Appropriately, Whitaker had hidden drawers installed into the cases which he can open with a push of a button to display his weapons for potential buyers. He also has the room rigged with strobe lights and speakers that pump out battle sound effects. Perhaps most bizarrely, the entry hall to Whitakers joint is lined with life size mannequins of famous conquerors from Genghis Khan to Alexander the Great to Napoleon to Hitler, all of whom have Whitaker’s face. If you’re starting to think the weapons dealer has a few veggies missing from his salad bar you’d be correct. Georgi on the other hand is a true General with an inflated sense of ego who’s a little to in love with his own scheming. He’s also merciless.

Badassness of Villain: Setting up your girlfriend to be killed by the Brits to legitimize your apparent defection is not a nice thing to do. Dealing weapons and drugs to finance freelance assassinations of high level government officials on both sides of the cold war certainty ups ones bad boy cred. But you want true badassness? Check this out. You know those big ass military cargo planes that can open up in the back so you can drive a dozen tanks onto the thing? There are big. I’d also imagine when they come in for landing they would be moving at a pretty good clip. Right, so if you put one of those planes coming in for a landing on one side of a runway and you had a Jeep speeding toward it from the other side of the runway, who do you think would win this game of chicken? Well, I don’t know who was piloting the plane but Georgi was driving the Jeep and the two hit head on. This would most likely reduce the Jeep to a grease spot but at the very least it would stop the Jeep dead in its tracks. However, the Jeep as driven by Georgi somehow goes through the cargo plane. I say somehow because we never see it happen but as the two collide we see an explosion the next shot shows the Jeep continuing forward but on fire. A dazed Georgi with a little dirt on his face is still at the wheel and jumps out of the Jeep which continues to roll along and then explodes. So yah, defying every law of physics to survive a head on collation with a plane while suffering not a scratch is rather badass … and bad directing. I’m calling you out here Glen. You had the dude jump out of the Jeep after he hit the plane. Why not have him jump out of the Jeep before the collision? A simple flip-flop of shots in the edit room would have done the trick.

Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: Necros who very well could be the Arian James Bond. An expect assassin, he is fluent in several different languages, is a master of disguise and operates with a laser like efficacy. He can use exploding milk bottles or rigged sliding glass doors to take out targets (he’s not so good with a rolling pin.) However, his weapon of choice is his ever present Walkman. A Walkman is an ancient device used to listen to music while on the go.

Like Necros, Riff Randell rock and roller always has her walkman

Unlike an iPod it didn’t hold every song ever recorded, just the ones that were on the 90 or so minute “cassette tape” that was being played at the time. This limited setup required the listener think about what music he wanted to hear before he left his house. Once that decision was made the music fan then had to go rummage through all the other “cassettes” he owned, find the “album” containing the songs he wanted to hear, take the “tape” out of its case, and then get all pissed-off when he found GN’R “Lies” in his Cure “Boy’s Don’t Cry” case. Things were not easy in the 80’s. What the Walkman and iPod do have in common is the use of a wire to connect the “headphones” (an old listening device used before ear buds) to the component holding the music. Necros enjoyed walking up behind his victims and using this wire to choke the breath out of them. I enjoyed watching him do this. While not really henchmen, I want to point out two amazing Russian stereotype characters that I absolutely fell in love with. Rosika Miklos is a jump suit clad gasworks employee straight out of the “big girl. Strong, like bull” mold. (Picture Kristie Ally at her heaviest with a Russian accent.) Rosika, a MI6 contact who is tasked with getting Georgi out of the Soviet Union via the pipeline, introduces herself to the General by thrusting her amble bossism forward. After Georgi is put into the pipeline, pressure must be built up to launch him to freedom and Rosika must distract her supervisor because “switchboard will light up like Christmas tree” when Georgi is launched. Rosika enters her boss’s office and shoves his face into her cleavage only to push him away after Georgi is clear. “What kind of a girl do you think I am?” she protests and huffs out of the room. The other wonderful cliché is the Russian jailer. A short, thick, bald man (Picture Bob Hopkins at his least Roger Rabbitist with a Russian accent) he runs his four cell jail like a small town sheriff in a Western. When Bond and his lady are brought in he seems delighted. “I haven’t had a woman prisoner in a long time.” As he leads them to their cell he passes the only other prisoner, a scraggly bearded Arab man. “Good news!” the jailer barks at him, “you vill not be hung in the morning. (Beat) You vill be shot!” When Bond bends down to get his keys the jailer promptly thwacks him on the back with a stick. “I didn’t tell you to get down.” Bond begins to rise only to be thwacked again “I did not tell you to get up either!” It’s so nice to see someone who truly loves his job.

Bond Girl Actress: Maryam d’Abo. A former model of French and Dutch decent Abo parleyed her Bond girl role into additional “exposure” (wink, wink) in the September 1987 Playboy. In the issue she and other “Women of James Bond” take off all their clothes in a celebration of what it means to be a Bond girl. D’Abo can be seen posing with a white cat and cello. She also hosted a 2002 TV show called “Bond Girls Are Forever.” I love the idea of exploring what it means for actresses to be a Bond girl and the impact it had on their carrier etc. but the parts of the special I watched on Youtube don’t gets past the whole “I always dreamed about being a Bond girl” sound bites. I feel like the Playboy issue was more reveling. Thank you and good night! Don’t forget to tip your bartender. You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here. Thank you!

Bond Girl’s Name: Kara Milovy. A Czech cellist with bad taste in men, Kara is kind of ill define. She’s meant to be more bohemian than glamour girl but how crunchy can one who plays a Stradivarius cello in Vienna’s finest concert halls be? Regardless, I applaud the idea of trying to make the Bond girl more of a salt-of-the-earth type to go along with a rough and tumble Bond. Kara does have her moments in-between starting off as a plot devise and ending up needed to be rescued. At one point she reminded me of the babysitter in Goodfellas (1990) who ends up getting Henry busted thanks to insisting they go back for her “lucky hat.” Bond and Milovy are hightailing for the boarder with every cop in the country after them when she insists on stopping to pickup her cello. But instead of Bond ending up in his own private hell of dinning on ketchup and egg noodles, this turns out to be a good move on the part of Kara. Her insistence on retrieving the cello ends up saving her and Bond when the case is used as a snow-sled to freedom. There is also something classic, in a film noire/romantic/cinematic kind of way, about the idea of two fugitives running around Europe with a classical instrument in tow. The fact that it’s a comically large instrument such as a cello that can be used as a sleigh and a shield to block bullets gives it that Bond spin. Milovy herself is in the classic noire femme fatale model. She runs with exciting men who are more dangerous then she knows

The Red Headed Stranger

and makes out with the hero in one scene while smacking him in the face the next. Even though she’s in well over her head, Kara shows a remarkable ability to role with the punches, like when she blows off the bullet hole in her priceless instrument and plays it like she were Willie Nelson playing his famously shredded guitar.

Bond Girl Sluttiness: So, that was all the nice stuff. Now the problem which sadly is no small thing. Kara’s kind of a dope. However, it’s not her fault. As we were watching the amusement park sequence which I’ll get to in a moment, the wife, who has been kind enough to take the Bond journey with me (IE tolerate watching the films with me) turned to ask “what year was this one?” “87” I said. “Jesus, I would have thought it was the early 70’s with this chick. They update the Bond character but the keep the women stuck in some kind of time warp.” “Well” I responded without even thinking “they may have gotten rid of old man Moore, but it’s still the same old dudes who write, produce and direct these things, and they are just getting older.” As I was saying it I realized just how true it was. Kara is a woman who is accomplished in a ridiculously competitive field and has climbed her way to the pinnacle of achievement. So why is she so easily used by men? She let’s her boyfriend talk her into the whole fake assassination thing that by the by, takes place during one of her performances. She is almost killed. Then she just kind of sulks around until Bond bursts into her apartment and promises to take her to find Georgi. She doesn’t know him from Adam but yah, it’s off Vienna where the film goes sideways. Bond is to meet Saunders at the base of the Riesenrad Ferris wheel at midnight. With time to kill, Bond takes Kara to the opera and on a carriage ride in a sequence containing some of the most poorly framed and jarring shots I’ve seen in some time. It’s like they decided they need a few more shots to fill out the carriage ride sequence and they sent Joe the intern out to get em. As the sun sets, the couple makes there way to the amusement park where Bond’s courtship of Kara is reduced to a montage straight out of any number of hacky 80’s teen romantic comedies. We watch the two giggling as they ride a roller costar, a tilt-a-whirl and I shit you not, bumper cars. Can you picture Connery’s Bond riding around in bummer cars? It’s laugh out loud absurd but it’s treated with the upmost seriousness. Right about the point where Bond wins Kara a big stuffed animal at the shooting gallery … get it? He’s a skilled assassin playing a game with a gun where oh f it. Anyway, right after 007 uses his elite training to win his girl a huge elephant she is frightened into his arms by a funhouse ghost. She bats those eyes of hers and says “take me on the wheel” as organ grinder music sets the mood. And with that, all the coolness and intrigue the Riesenrad Ferris wheel gained in The Third Man (1949) gets sucked out of the room along with any coolness and intrigue this film managed to build up to this point. The two get on the wheel and as they reach the apex, Kara gets the undeliverable line “is it real, or just a dream?” just before the wheel stops. “What’s wrong?” “I arranged it” responds Dalton looking like a Jr. High boy asking his crush to dance at the homecoming ball. “We could be here all night” says Bond as he moves in for the kill. As Harrison Ford once famously told his Star Wars (1977) director, “You maybe able to write this shit George, but you sure as hell can’t say it.” Kara then gets the ultimate “no means yes” line.

Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: “Don’t. It’s impossible. I’ve known you only two days and all I can think of is how we would be together.” Bumper cars will do that to a woman.

Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: “Don’t think, just let it happen” Bond says as he lays Kara on a stuffed elephant. It should be pointed out that while Bond is getting rapey on top of the Ferris wheel, Saunters is being set up to be wacked by Necros. Way to do your job Dalton. Connery or Moore you are not.

Number of Woman 007 Beds: 1, well 1 ½ is more like it. Not that Bond sleeps with half a woman. That would be just too weird for a PG film and besides, Jennifer Lynch’s debut was still a few years off. No, what I mean is in the open after 007 is offered a drink by the woman on the boat, we never see him actually drink the drink but it is assumed he is no longer thirsty. Got it? Cool. So, the other glaring error in regards to Kara and Bond’s relationship is the writers mistook the idea of “monogamy” for “love.” The two are not the same yet the film treats them as if they are as inseparable as Angus Young and power cords. Bond sleeps only with Kara and does so three times; the awkward first time on the wheel, in Afghanistan after she calls him a horses ass, and then finally in her dressing room after a performance. With each passing encounter Dalton gets more weak-kneed and gooey-eyed until it’s clear he’s fallen for this woman. For the record, I’m cool with Jimmy B not adding multiple notches to his bedpost, but he should not have fallen in love, especially with this chick.

For your consideration, Blog James Blog nominates AC-DC to perform the next Bond theme

For Bond to fall in love there needs to be a damn good reason that is integral to his character (See On Her Majesty’s Secrete Service (1969) and Casino Royale (2006)). Otherwise, Bond is a “don’t love em and leave em” kind of guy; all the more so with Dalton taking Fleming’s Bond to the screen. Bond nailing Kara to gain her trust so he can then nail Georgi makes scenes. However, with Glen and Dalton treating Bond like he’s in love, the relationship chafes against the rest of the movie and disconnects Bond from who he is and ought to be.

Number of People 007 Kills: 5ish. The number is on the lower side but the film makes the most of each one. We get a great reaction shot from the assassin who killed 004 right before he goes boom. Seeing Bond has escaped out the back all he can do is look up at the agent and scream. Much later Bond finds himself in Afghanistan fighting alongside the Afghan mujahedin, a rough bunch of tribal freedom fighters. This was yet another ripped from the headline plot point as at the time the US and UK were aiding Afghan rebels in their quest to keep the big bad superpower called Russia out of their country. These very same people are now called terrorists and fighting to keep another big bad super power out of their country but that’s a discussion for another time. Bond teams up with these men who are making a delivery IE drug deal. It just so happens that they are trading opium for diamonds with General Georgi and his men. Bond decides to go after Georgi but first asks Kamran Shah, the rebel leader, if he can get some plastic explosive and a detonator. “I’ll see what I can do” Shah responds and scurries off. Wait. A drug dealer who delivers anywhere on horse back and can hook you up with military grade explosives at a moments notice? Get me that dudes beeper number. Or on second thought, maybe not. There is also something slickly sly about delivering narcotics in satchels marked with a red cross. Anyway, the Afghani rebels ride into battle for an all out attack on the Russian base in a sequence reminiscent of the gypsy camp raid in Form Russia With Love (1963) with a health does on Lawrence of Arabia (1962) thrown in. The horses ridding into battle silhouetted by the desert sands and sun makes for some of the best images in the film. But I was talking about killing. At one point, Bond takes the above mentioned plastic explosive and throws it out of the back of a plane to take out a bridge and send a Russian tank and Jeep into a ravine. (I’m not sure how many were taken out in this stunt so lets call it 2.) Another fantastic sequence features Bond and Necros slugging it out while (A) hanging on a cargo net that is (B) filled with the red cross opium satchels and (C) hanging out of the back of an airplane that is (D) being piloted through the Afghani mountains by Kara who (E) doesn’t know how to fly. This is so much cooler than fighting on top of a Lear jet as Bond and Gobinda did in Octopussy. It’s also 1000 times more terrifying. The long shot shows the net bouncing up and down behind the plane like a tube being dragged behind a boat. At any moment the net could smack the fuselage and by-by buddies. And yes, they did indeed stick two stuntmen on a net hanging out of the back of a plane. After going at each other and dumping the net’s cargo Necros finds himself hanging onto Bonds boot for dear life. In a water torture moment Bond takes a knife and slices his shoe lace ever so deliberately until final his footwear comes off and Necros is sent hurling earthward still clutching the boot. Freaking awesome. Finally, Bond appropriately employees a gadget to take out Whitaker. Bond is pinned down in the toy soldier wing of the faux General’s lair. Whitaker is spraying the room with bullets while Bond takes cover behind a statue. “I should have known you would hide behind that vulture Wellington” Whitaker bellows. I know nothing of Wellington’s military exploits but I find his beef to be most enjoyable. Anyway, Bond puts his key ring, which is ridged with an explosive, on the back of Wellington’s head and when Whitaker gets close enough “BOOM!” The statue smashes down on Whitaker who crashes into one of his glass cases. Busted by a bust.

Most Outrageous Death/s: Remember the arrogant schmuck Saunders who planned out Georgi’s defection to “the last detail” and then screwed up the operation worse than FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina? Yah, well somehow that guy still has a job with MI6. When Bond meets him after his little “Ferris wheel ride” with Kara, Saunders actually proves to be slightly useful. He reports that Kara’s Stratevest, known as “The Lady Rose,” was bought at auction by Whitaker. This proves to be the bit of info that Bond needs to link Georgi and Whitaker. Well done and all that but really, Moneypenny in her new capacity (More on that below) could have just as easily provided this info. Anyway, Saunders gets up to exit and thanks to a Necros booby trap is wacked with the sliding door which kills him instantly. This is actually a lot cooler than it sounds and not at all what is outrageous about this death; its Bond reaction to the death by door that makes this murder noteworthy. Now remember, Saunders sucks. He’s been all problems few answers. But when Bond sees Saunders has been killed, he flips. I mean he gets crazy pissed and completely looses his head. So bonkers and blind with rage is Bond that he recklessly runs out into the amusement park and accidently pulls his gun a 10 year old kid. Jesus man, you’re a pro, keep it together. And by the by, why weep for this incompetent douche? In researching the movie it’s clear that the whole “Bond gets angry thing” was very important to Dalton and that’s fine but he needs a reason to get mad. If Kara was wacked I would get it. But this jerk? And then to go and pull a gun on a kid? It’s a choice that backfires badly. Instead of making Bond look harder and darker it makes him look unfocused and unusually vulnerable.

Miss. Moneypenny: Caroline Bliss. Imposter. I’ll admit that was my reaction when I first saw the sex kitten that is the new Moneypenny. The first few times I saw her and Dalton together all I could think was “They look like they should be on the cover of soap digest.” But I was quick to warm to the new Moneypenny, very quick. By the end of her first scene when she invites Bond over for dinner to listen to her Barry Manilow collection I was instantly won over. Moneypenny is out of M’s foyer and now stationed in Q’s lab where she dose research. This is one giant step for women in the Bond universe and I’m over the moon that it was Moneypenny who broke the glass ceiling. Who knows, maybe one day a woman may sit behinds M’s desk? When searching for female KGB assassins Q comes up with Helga who uses her thighs to strangle and a girl who uses teddy bears to bomb. However, it’s Moneypenny who IDs the cellist Kara Milovy. Not only is she now contributing in a more productive way, I dig the new look. The whole deceptively shy eyeglass wearing librarian with the guarder hidden under her skirt thing works quite well. Keep up the good work Moneypenny.

M: Right off the bat, M gets a nice bit of business to work with. We see him rise from his costmary desk to brief four agents. They, in black, have their back to camera as M paces in front of them expressing his pride in his 00 unit being chosen for the Rock of Gibraltar training exercise. Then suddenly M’s dignity gets suck out of the door, along with the papers on his desk, as we realize the briefing is taking place on an airplane and the open door has reduced M to crawling around chasing his files. It’s funny and gives M some heart but I still haven’t 100% warmed to Robert Brown’s M. I think he can be overly harsh to 007 but such is the way of things. One of the more disappointing aspects of The Living Daylights is General Leonid Pushkin but thorough no fault of his own. Pushkin is played by John Rhys-Davies who you might remember from such roles as Gimli in Mr. Jackson’s Lord of the Ring trilogy and Sallah in two of the three Indian Jones films. (There are only three Indian Jones films. I heard rumor of a forth somewhere around 2008 but it doesn’t exist. Hear me?) Pushkin is the Russian General Georgi accused of reinstating SMERCH (Death to spies) and going after British agents, like poor old 004. Bond gets orders to kill the General who M and 007 have “known for a long time” and had “several dealings with.” When Bond finally gets the General pinned down at gun point, Bond brings up the matter of the dead agents. “My condolences” Pushkin snaps “we had nothing to do with it.” The line is funny and perfectly delivered, but here is the rub, the Pushkin part was originally written as General Gogol. Think about our history with my favorite Russian and you start to see how this plot line of killing the General could have been so much more. Had Bond been sent to kill Gogol, and had he had the “My condolences” exchange with him, and had Georgi been trying to set Gogol up to be killed by Bond; well the film would have been so much tighter and much more emotional. Bond’s doubt in his good buddies Georgi’s story would have made a lot more sense. The double crossing would have had a stronger resonance. I mean, the movie would have just been better all around. Alas, Walter Gotell who plays Gogol was ill at the time and EON couldn’t insure the actor. Timing. So the Pushkin character was written and dear Gogol, in his last Bond film as it turns out, appears in only one scene at the very end. The scene not only feels shoehorned in (most likely because it was) but is so poorly done as to be eye rolling bad. Gogol, now with the arts and immigration department or some such nonsense is meeting up with M and Kara after one of her performances. After some silly back and forth about Kara now being exempt from all the bad things that go along with living in the USSR we hear a commotion and see Kamran Shah and 5 of his rebel buddies come bursting in the door. This is a black tie event and the Afghani folks, of course, are dressed in the same gear they wear into battle because those are the only clothes Afghani rebels would own you see. Also, being Afghani rebels, the go nowhere unless they are armed to the teeth. So yes, they enter the lobby of the exclusive concert hall brandishing AK-47’s. The crowd is horrified until a “no it’s cool, they are with me” moment happens. Kamran then apologizes for missing the performance, “We had some trouble at the airport.” Reuniting the cast on stage for one last comical bit where all loose ends are tie up with a laugh is simply hack work. But where’s Bond? Ugh, you, me, and everyone who has ever seen a bad movie knows exactly where he is as Kara slinks off to her dressing room. Garbage. I’m truly tiring of Glen, time for some new blood behind the camera as well.

Reason 489 the 1980's sucked

Q:All the press around the release of this film was about the idea of “making Bond more human.” However, it’s Q who becomes a real person. Again finding himself in the field, Q is forced to run up a rather long flight of stairs. As he reaches the top, he is understandably winded and pops some kind of pill before he can get on to the next bit of business. I enjoyed this bit of vulnerability and it added depth to Q, a character that sometimes gets the short shift. In his lab he now has Moneypenny as well as a boom box that shoots missiles. “It’s for the American’s; we call it a ghetto blaster.” Q also takes great amusement in making an underling sit on couch that promptly swallows him. Making like Nelson on the Simpsons, the old man enjoys the moment with a little Haaa Ha.

List of Gadgets: Saunters may have the operation to get Georgi out of the Soviet Union planed to the last detail, but he doesn’t have Q. Once Bond takes charge, he and the extremely capable Rosika Miklos stick Georgi into a pipe cleaner and launch him through the gas lines to freedom. In the 80’s there were two novelty items that were considered must haves for you average yuppie car owner. The first was some kind of variant of the “Baby on Board” sign suction cupped to the back window. The other was a keychain that would respond to a whistle. My parents had both and while our custom “Mets fan on board” sign was OK because it was a nod to me, the whistle keychain was a pain in the ass. The idea was, when you lost your keys, you could simply whistle and the keys would then respond with a beep beep beep. The problem was the keychain would beep at everything from a cat’s meow to a Prince song on the radio. I hated the God damn thing and soon enough so did my parents and apparently the rest of the county as the whistle keychain faded away with the tacky “____ on board” signs. Now, if we could get rid of those “My kid is an Honor Roll student at PS 105” and “Rick Perry for President” bumper stickers, well then we would be onto something. Anyway, Bond gets one of those whistle keychains only different. When he whistles the top of “Rules Britannia” the keychain emits a nerve gas, good for knocking out Russian jailers. If 007 gives a wolf whistle then the keys go all Michael Bay. And finally, it’s equipped with a key that opens 90% of the world’s locks. Making up for the lame-ass sunglasses Moore had in A View to a Kill, Dalton gets binocular spectacles. And that would be it. Except if memory serves, I saw Q monkeying around with some kind of four wheeled contraption…

RIP Big Man

Bond Cars: Aston Martin Volante. For Bond fans, seeing an Aston Martin is like being in the ball park for a 12th inning walk-off homer or sitting in the front row of a Springsteen show for a Jungleland encore; it’s a reason for celebration. What I’m trying to say is the Aston Martin is the official Bond mobile and its return is met with much joy in fanboy land. The Living Daylights gives us the latest model, a convertible in black (a new coat of paint according to Q) and while no adjustment would allow a cello to fit comfortably into the back, Q did add some of his trademark modifications. The radio has a police band so 007 can monitor the cops’ chatter which proves to be useful even if the chatter is in Russian and the scanner has no built in translator. That’s what the girl is along for. Lasers have come a long way since the grey Aston Martin driving Connery’s most precious parts were threatened by Goldfinger. Now the Aston Martin has its own Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation weapon which is shot out of the wheel hubs and can effectively cut a car in two at the baseboards while not slicing the tires in the wheel wells. The tricked out auto also comes with missiles that can shot out the front and a rocket booster that pops out of the back. The skis and the spiked tires however were a bit much. Kind of like the sling rope thing that Connery just happens to have when he needs to hang off the side of a building in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) the skis simply appear when the plot in the film demands. (Yes, I know Q made a quip about “winterizing” the vehicle but I don’t buy it and neither should you.) The car also comes equipped with a feature that frankly I’m shocked isn’t included on all of Q’s stuff; a self destruct button. This makes so much sense as to be silly to not include. Think about the most recent real life “Bond moment” we’ve experienced, the SEAL raid on bin Laden’s Abottabad compound. A super secret stealth Black Hawk, a creature we never even knew existed before this operation was shot down and the SEALS were forced to blow the bastard up. You think Q, Bond and crew want SPECTRE or the Russians getting their hands on precious teck like “Little Nellie?” Since the Aston Martin was blowed-up Bond needed other modes of transport including an Audi, a horse drawn carriage and the back of a fruit truck. Traveling like a hobo in the back of a fruit truck 100% succeeds in giving Bond that “gritty” edge that Dalton so strived for.

Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: The paint job on the Aston Martin didn’t survive the self destruct.

Other Property Destroyed: Monkey’s are awesome. (If you don’t get why I can’t explain it to you; you simply will never understand.) Monkeys perched on cliffs observe Bond upset fruit stands and knock doors off Volkswagen Bugs on Gibraltar. A guard wall is also smashed by a Jeep which then blows up before plummeting into the sea below. Bond also sends folks in Jeeps tumbling earth bound when he destroys an Afghanistan bridge and a few Russian military vehicles along with it. Speaking of the People’s Property, after tossing Necros off the cargo plane, Bond grabs his girl and drives a Jeep out of the back. The plane, along with it’s half a billon dollars worth up opium, goes up in smoke. Bond also takes out both Napoleon’s and the Duke of Wellington’s forces by sending Whitaker through the glass that enclosed the Battle of Waterloo. Finally, the single bullet hole thorough the Stradivarius cello could run the British tax payer a cool $175,000 American.

Felix Leiter: It’s the return of the CIA’s best man, Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for Americas greatest hype, I mean hope, Mr. Felix Leiter! Not seen or heard from since the 1970’s, Felix comes back with a grand scheme to get Bond attention. He convinces two ladies to pose as prostitutes, puts them a red convertible, and sets them loose. They encounter their target right at the very moment he could use a set a wheels to evade those pesky Russian cops. They approach, they proposition, the porn horns kick in, and Bond is in the car. The chicks then pull a gun on Bond who thinks he is being robbed. Dear Bond fan, let us take a step back at this moment. This is James Bond, 007. He has escaped death countless times, killed the population of Road Island four times over, and completed ninja school in three days. You think he’s going to let himself get stuck up by two hookers? OK, it’s a new, darker Bond you say. That whole ninja school stuff is no longer relevant. Fine. This Bond, in this very movie, pulled a gun on a kid because he was upset. Don’t yah think two broads robbing him would, I dunno, send him into an OJ Simpson type killing spree? Well, that’s not what happens either. Our bigger, badder Bond smiles and offers his wallet. Ugh. Well, at least Felix had a good reason for kidnapping 007. When Bond is brought into the cabin of the boat where Felix is stationed everything becomes clear. Felix went through this big setup and risked getting two women killed by a skilled MI6 agent because… Ummmm……. Well, Felix and Bond have a drink together and then…Felix says something about working the same case from different angels and … oh screw it. Nothing. There is no reason, at all, to even remotely include Felix. He contributes zip, zero, nada. His return, after six films and 14 years means absolutely less than nothing. Have I mentioned how it’s time for Glen to be shown to the door, impolitely if necessary?

Best One Liners/Quips: While driving the Aston Martin, Bond delivers the understatement of the year “I’ve had a few extra options installed.” “We have nothing to declare… “… except the cello” aint bad either.

Bond Timepiece: I get the idea of having a less ostentatious Bond and a wardrobe to match. On the other hand, it’s not like Moore was flashing a Rolex or Patek Philippe around town. There are earthy, durable and dependable timepieces a man of Bond stature could be seen wearing without compromising his street cred. However, in the name of keeping real, I guess, Dalton decided that knowing what time it is isn’t important when embarking on international secrete missions.

Other Notable Bond Accessories: Now that’s very Bogart. Like any noire hero worth their salt, Bond smokes. Gone are the cigars and back are the Lucky Strikes (We don’t actually see a brand and I would be curious to know what tobacco Bond prefers.) He smokes in M’s office, he smokes at the dinner table and even thought we never see it, I could picture Jimmy B and his lady enjoying a post-coitus puff. Dalton himself was a chain smoker according the Rolling Stone article so it’s a bit odd that Bond doesn’t look like he knows how to hold a cigarette. When one is a smoker, the fag between the fingers becomes a sixth digit and rests naturally. Bond however looks like a 15-year-old sneaking a drag under the bleachers. Back to the wardrobe, Bond has a neat suit he wears for the Georgi mission which can be converted from a tux to a black ops outfit with the aid of some Velcro. Roger Moore didn’t care for guns so his Bond rarely brandished one and if he did, it was 007’s trusty PPK. Dalton on the other hand had no issue squeezing off a few rounds from a Walther WA 2000 sniper rifle which is an almost comically huge gun. He also sprays some lead around Afghanistan with an AK-47. Good on yah Timothy, break out tobacco and firearms.

See kids, smoking DOES make you look cool

Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: 5, and the majority are martinis. However Bond starts out with a glass of bubbly with the chick on the boat. The first drink Dalton orders is a Vesper … well, I don’t know if it’s a proper Vesper but he does request it shaken not stirred so let’s not bugger flies. The point being Moore never ordered a martini and now right out of the gate Dalton delivers the famous shaken not stirred drink request. While on the boat with Felix, Bond has an appropriately American drink, Jim Beam on the rocks. Kara mixes him a martini and asks “did I do it right?” Bond approves before passing out thanks to the Mickey Finn she shook (not stirred) in. Finally, he gets a non-Ruffie spiked martini at the end of the film in Kara’s dressing room.

Bond’s Gambling Winnings: I guess the gritty 007 doesn’t frequent fancy world class casinos. However, the concierge in Tangier recognized Mr. Bond immediately and asked if he would like his usual suite. It’s worth pointing out the joint was considerably nicer than a Holiday Inn. As if that wasn’t enough, Bond then simply picks up the desk phone and presto; he has two tickets to the opera that night. So would it kill him to walk into a decent casino? If so, there are more than a few dive gambling halls in the world, hell I’ve been in some of em myself. We could have had Bond sitting at a $5 blackjack table with a one armed dealer, or seen him shot some dice with vagrants in a poorly lit back ally, or he could have even visited Michael Vick’s place for some good old fashioned dog fighting; something to get the man some action. But no, not a penny risked or won.

List of Locations: The Rock of Gibraltar. It’s something I’ve heard all my life and knew nothing about. Turns out this “rock” is no Blarney Stone but more of a cliff. Located at the south end of the Iberian Peninsula this monolith stands like a century guarding the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. A British position since 1713, Spain contested the UK’s presences and in 1991 the British removed all troops. Cool stuff! The pipeline Georgi is launched through ends up at some kind of castle fortress I wish we got to explore more of. Vienna is a city that just lives to be shot for a film as proven in The Third Man, one of those rare movies that actually succeeds in making the setting a character. A young John Glen worked on that film as a junior editor so he knows how to milk the old world town for all its intrigue and outside of the awkward fairground scenes he does a very good job. In fact, the whole film has a great feeling of “place.” Not quite as strong as say Don’t Look Now (1973) or the underrated Munich (2005) or the incredible The Third Man, but Glen does a very good job of using cold war Europe to establish a tone which keeps the audience aware that no one is to be trusted. This film is at its heart a first class cold war thriller and therefore unlike any other Bond and the intrigue is heightened by locations both grand and simple. The apartment where Bond first encounters Kara is everything I would think of a European city flat. From the height of the ceilings to the tiled floors to the long windows and wall paper between everything feels right. I was reminded of Krzysztof Kieslowski “Three Colors Trilogy” which simply blew my mind when I fist saw it. Red (1994)  in particular just grabbed me an put in Europe unlike anything else I had ever experienced and while The Living Daylights doesn’t come close to that, it has shades of it. Glen, as much as I’ve been dumping on him, deserves great praise for making me feel like I’ve stamped my passport in a way that only From Russia With Love, Thunderball, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service have when it comes to past Bond films. It just a shame he couldn’t hold this sense of place for the entire film like in the fairgrounds or the final joke of a scene. The Afghani desert stuff is first rate and the Tangier scenes are equally strong making it all the more disappointing that the illusion was crushed by a few missteps. I also feel the need to point out, for no reason at all, that whenever I hear mention of Tangier I immediately begin to sing “If you see her say hello…” If you understand, you are indeed a fellow traveler.

Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: Welp, he’s driven it all and now’s he proves that he can outrun skiers, snowmobiles, cars and the entire Soviet Boarder Patrol while sitting in a cello case. That feat along makes the fact that he can get a cargo plane aloft on a short runway seems almost negligible. More impressive perhaps is rolling a Jeep out of the back of said plane moments before it crashes into a mountain. The Jeep is on skids you say? Jimmy B will simply smash into a wall. But how does that help get a Jeep off the skids you ask? Doesn’t matter, he is already off to a great restaurant in Karachi that he knows. All par for the course at this point in the game. What impressed me was Bond’s knowledge of US Civil War history. When he walks in on Whitaker reenacting the battle of Gettysburg with his toy soldiers Bond immediately corrects him “Pickett’s charge is up Cemetery Ridge, not Little Round Top.” Jesus man, I’ve been to Gettysburg several times and I couldn’t have told you that.

Final Thoughts: Bond the 15th could have been, should have been, one of the greats. From the opening shoot, the cold war bursts into the James Bond universe like never before. Add in a healthy dose of Afghani rebels, an Ollie North clone, the Middle East opium trade, and the unspoken AIDS epidemic hanging over everything like a cloud and The Living Daylights has some heavy lifting to do. Sadly, and somewhat predictably, the film nearly collapses under the weight. Writers do themselves no favors by piling on more conspiracy plot twist then were covered up in faking the moon landings or forging Obama’s birth certificate. Add the fact that the villains are not all that interesting and as the rash of recent comic book films have proven, every superhero needs a good villain. Then there is the not so small matter of Mr. Timothy Dalton. I’ve kind of skated around the new 007 and that was by design. I will tackle Dalton in the next movie when I have the entirety of his brief run to evaluate but I will go out on a limb and say, well… his Bond has issues. However, John Glen doesn’t do his new leading man any favors. Let’s once again return to the idea of timing. Take the scene where Bond fights Necros on the cargo net. Earlier, Bond had set a bomb to go off on the plane. Now that he finds himself and his lady on that plane, he must disarm the bomb. Bond gets up to leave the cockpit and Kara asks “Where are you going?” “To defuse a bomb” Dalton replies in an over delivered line straight out of the Bill Shatner playbook. He then encounters Necros in the back, they fight, and Necros falls out of the plane clutching Bond’s boot (which is freaking awesome.) When 007 returns to the cockpit, Kara asks “What happened to Necros?” This is a Bond staple that has been used in at least half of the films up to this point; Bond kills bad guy, Bond girl asks what happened to bad guy, Bond gives a piffy, punny response. But Glen steps on the punch-line. Dalton’s delivery of “He got the boot” is literally cut into so as to bury the line and kill the joke. Then, Dalton goes to leave the cockpit again and Kara once again asks “Where are you going?” “To drop a bomb.” Dalton delivers the nearly identical line in a nearly identical situation with the same urgency he used not 5 minute previous. Yes, Dalton oversells the line but make no mistake; this was not Dalton’s fault. Glen has his actor running around the plane like he’s Benny Hill chase women around a park bench and the director has no apparent interest in beating out the scene. It’s like he said “Oh man let’s just get thought this so we can watch the plane blow up, OK?” This is not Glen’s first rodeo; he and the writers need to support their new guy. Making him do all this unnecessary business, stepping on his lines, making him fall in love, having him pull a gun on a kid, putting him on freaking bumper cars… it’s no good. As I pointed out above, everyone working on the movie needs to be in the same ball park and at times it feels like Wilson, Glen and Dalton aren’t even playing the same sport. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a drag this is because Bond 15 does things no previous Bond has, does them well, and when it works, it’s enthralling. Glen actually manages to create atmosphere at points and individual scenes and sequences, especially at the top and in Afghanistan, are fantastic. The problems is other scenes are complete off tonally and as the movie progresses it looses focus until it’s one big mess. By the end the film has no clue what it wants to be. I’m reminded of a line from Roger Ebert’s (in my opinion overly positive) review of You Only Live Twice (1967). He called the film a “million-dollar playpen in which everything works but nothing does anything.” The Living Daylights is the other side of that coin. It’s a multimillion-dollar playpen which tries to do everything and in the end it doesn’t work. Timing.

Martini ratings:

A View to a Kill

Title: A View to a Kill

Year: 1985. Well, I guess the title is slightly better than Octopussy (1983). However, if this weren’t a Bond film it would rank with Snakes on a Plane (2006), Smokin’ Aces (2006), Lucky Number Slevin (2006) as a film remembered for its terrible title and nothing else. (And what the hell was happening Hollywood in 2006?) While nearly a dozen different moments from Octopussy stuck in my head from childhood the only thing I could remember about A View to a Kill before re-watching it was the poster and the song. Not a good sign. The poster, by the by, speaks volumes. Back in the 1960’s, one of the producers at EON described the Bond films as “comic strips for adults.” I think that’s about right. But what the A View to a Kill poster promises, not at all inaccurately as it turns out, is a comic book for 12 year-old boys.  The pen and ink drawing employees the same iconic shorthand that any reader of Marvel or DC would instantly recognize from countless comic book covers. Our hero is in the center, impossibly balanced above all else while a shoeless damsel in distress clings to him; he with a gun, she with a skirt bellowing up high and a blouse riding down low. They are looking not at the villain, who is behind them holding a smokin’ gun, but out at us, breaking the fourth wall and inviting the reader (or ticket buyer) to join them on their adventure. The other dominate image, the Golden Gate Bridge, also broadcasts a change in thinking for EON as they turn their back on one most important things that makes Bond Bond. Bond was always an English hero who reflected what Brits wanted to see when they looked in the mirror. He is a man of impeccable taste, quick wit and good humor. He is an intelligent operator as quick with his brain as he was with his PPK. Above all, he represents the crown with dignity and is a natural ambassador for all the ideals England holds dear. In 1985, the States too had an action hero who represented everything Americans wanted to be in their wildest fantasies; Rambo from Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985). This John Rambo was very different than the one we met three years earlier in First Blood (1982). While that film was ham fisted and leaned too heavily on stereotypes, it was none-the-less an attempt to explore some heavy ideas. In the movie, Rambo is a Viet Nam vet who returns to find a very different America then the one he thought he was fighting for. Yes, the film finds him running around the North Western woods killing off redneck cops but he was also a deeply conflicted man who was at war with himself, unable to come to terms with being treated like an obsolete tool of war. The film was critical of our treatment of the men and women who served bravely in that controversial war and it didn’t paint the good old US of A in the best light. Rambo 2.0 on the other hand was a recruitment poster boy. He practically had “Be all that you can be!” tattooed across his six pack, a red, white, and blue propaganda action-figure selling Reagan’s vision of America. First Blood Part II gave us a steroid jacked, monosyllabic, one-man army recruited to single handedly correct the history books. (He even gets the line “Do we get to win this time?”) For $2.75 moviegoers got more explosions than the Fourth of July and as much nuance as you find at the bottom of a Bud pounder. Rambo was ugly, loud and carried a big stick called a freaking M60E3. He was the anti-Bond. (See also Schwarzenegger in Commando (1985)) Perhaps feeling their man could use a 1985 update, Cubby and Co. decided it was a good idea to shoehorn Bond (the film more so than the character) into this mold of the Ronald Reagan era action hero. It didn’t work out so well.

Film Length: 2 hours 11 minutes. It feels like 5 and change.

Bond Actor: Roger Moore. “That’s wasn’t Bond” said an 81-year-old Moore at the 2008 premiere of Quantum of Solace. True, he felt the Daniel Craig film was too violent but he conceded that it wasn’t a film for his generation. “That’s keeping up with the times, it’s what cinema-goers seem to want and it’s proved by the box-office figures.” However the quote, “That’s wasn’t Bond,” was not about Bond 22 but Bond 14, AKA A View to a Kill. Moore was working the red carpet in ‘08 to promote his memoir “My Word is my Bond.”  In the book, Moore reveals he had hated guns since he was a teen thanks to being shot in the leg by a friend with a BB gun. This goes a long way to further explain his more humorous/less violent approach to 007. He recalled being dismayed and saddened by the violence in his 7th film and calls it his least favorite. We will cover the 1985/Rambo style violence below but for now lets look at Moore’s other problem with his last Bond film. By his own admission, Moore was too old. When he officially announced his retirement from playing James Bond on December 3,1985, Moore was quoted as saying he felt embarrassed to be seen performing love scenes with beautiful actresses who were young enough to be his daughters. Indeed, two of the sex scenes in this movie could generously be described as creepy, but there are worse embarrassing moments. At 57 years old, Moore simply no longer had the agility or strength to perform even the most basic physical acting. At one point in the film, Moore is seen putting both of his hands onto another man’s shoulders so he can jump three feet down onto a slowly descending lift. In another scene, Bond enters a house by climbing thorough an open window. From the interior, we see Bond pop his head in to look around in a medium close –up. We then jump cut to a medium wide shot where both of Moore’s legs are now inside the window and firmly on the floor. I say this not at all to pick on Moore, he’s 57 for Christ Sake; the man is aloud to get old. But much like witnessing a retired boxer step back into the ring or seeing an aging slugger’s average dropped below the Mendoza Line, it’s no fun and kind of depressing to watch Moore still trying to be Bond after his odometer has clicked well past the half-century mark. Needless to say, the movie suffers. In a misguided attempt to make up for Moore’s lack of ability, Glen stages set pieces that feature Moore being hung in the air off anything the director can find. Bond is made to hang over cliffs, mineshafts, balconies and elevator shafts when he’s not clinging to fire truck ladders, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Effie Tower and even a blimp.

Director: John Glen, at the helm for the third time with 007 License to Dangle officially became the incredible shrinking director. After bursting out of the gate with For Your Eyes Only (1981) and hitting a triple with Octopussy, Glen himself admits on the DVD extras to having used up all his good ideas. He talked about how hard it was to “scour (his) brain” to come up with things for Bond to do that “we haven’t seen before.” His solution? A fire truck. “I mean, what little boy doesn’t love a fire truck?” he chuckles. Perhaps, but I think you’ll find, Mr. Glen, that you are not making Goonies, Police Academy II or Back to the Future, all 1985 films aimed at a younger demographic that, incidentally, beat your movie at the box office. I mean, what little boy doesn’t love pirates, cops who make funny noises or time traveling Delorean? Never the strongest director when bullets weren’t flying, Glen was always extremely talented when it came to putting together action set pieces. While there are strong moments in this film, most notably the base jump from the Eiffel tower and the brief shot of horses racing though the woods, these moments are swamped by what comes before or after. Most of the action sequences make absolutely no sense (the horse jumping bit) or are meant to play for laughs and are simply unfunny (the fire truck chase.) This is a movie where a woman is running on the ground and manages to get scooped up by baddies chasing her in a freaking zeppelin. A bit of free advice; if you find yourself on foot being chased by a zeppelin, a quick step to the right or the left ought to do the trick. Zeppelins are not known for their ability to corner tightly. Glen gives us detours involving Russians and audiotapes that take forever to develop with minimal pay-off. There are clichés from an elevator crashing to the ground seconds after characters escape to a drawbridge that is jumped by the chased but foils the pursuers. All the while Bond is dangling off this and that like a ragdoll in the wind. An example off all of the above rolled into one ugly mess; Bond has to save the girl from San Francisco’s City Hall before it’s burnt to the ground. Carrying her fireman style slung on his back, Bond makes his way to the roof as fire trucks arrive and a crowd gathers. We get a shot of a park bench across the street from city hall and see a drunk bum out of central casting. Bottle in hand, he is awaken by the chaos and looks across the street. As we cut from shots of Bond carrying the woman down a ladder on his back to fire fighters fighting the blaze to on lookers gasping and ohhhhing and ahhhing, we for some reason keep coming back to this drunk, watching the goings on in wide eyed amazement. At one point, Bond slips down one rung and the drunk drops his bottle. When Bond finally gets to the bottom, the faceless crowd cheers over the Duran Duran theme song being played triumphantly on horns. We never see the bum again. Why was he the surrogate for the people of the Bay Area? Was the experience mean to change his life? Did he run out and join the San Francisco Fire Department?  Did he move into the burnt down city hall where he squatted for the next few years? Did he piss on a fire fighters leg? Did he drop to his knees and praise Jesus? We have no clue. This bum was made to be a big deal and literally zero happens with him. This is a microcosmic of the entire film. There are several characters that are introduced and dropped with no real flow or pacing. All they do is break up the action and then disappear without any real meaning for their existence. It’s like the editor traded in his Steenbeck for a blender.

Reported Budget: $30,000,000 estimated. That would make it the most expensive Glen film and $4 million behind Moonraker (1979), the most expensive Bond to date.

Reported Box-office: $49,667,000 USA and $152,400,000 worldwide. Not a bust but down considerably from the $57,403,139 USA $187,500,000 worldwide numbers for Octopussy. While Sly Stallone was redefining what it meant to be an action hero in Rambo II and Rocky IV (#2 and #3 at the box office in 1985) Bond found himself sandwiched between Chevy Chase in Fletch (#12) and European Vacation (#14) for good old lucky #13. No mater how you slice it, this was the worst return on investment in Bonds 23 year history. In fact, the past few films have been soft at the box office and getting worse. Like many icons from the 1960’s, Bond was lost in 1980’s and didn’t truly rediscover his stride until the 90’s. (See also Neil Young, pre Untouchables (1987) Sean Connery, women who don’t shave, Charles Manson) One last note, Dolph Lundgren, who played Ivan Drago in Rocky IV has a blink and you’ll miss it role as KGB agent Venz in this movie.

Theme Song: “A View to a Kill” performed by Duran Duran. With a band named after a character from Barbarella (1968) Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and the three brothers Taylor brought new wave to Top 40 radio, and looked amazing while doing so. Le Bon described his bands sound as “the Sex Pistols meets Chic.” To my ear it sounds more like “Let’s Dance” era David Bowie by way of The New Romanics with a dash of The Pointer Sisters, but what do I know? Perhaps Mr. LeBon has a Johnny Rotten screaming away inside him, just trying to get out. Or not. Anyway, for those not around in the early 1980’s Duran Duran was it. They gained notice in America for their dangerous first single “Girls on Film.” 1982 saw the LP Rio which featured the still enjoyable tunes “Rio,” “Save a Prayer,” and the Roller World Saturday night favorite, “Hungry Like the Wolf.” When the DJ put that baby on we would all shout with joy and skate like the wind. Next came Seven and the Ragged Tiger which was the “Hit record” vaulting into the Top 10 and guaranteeing Le Bon and crew would be hung in every girls locker from here to homeroom. But, dodgy singles like “New Moon On Monday,” “The Reflex,” and the terrible attempt at crafting a sporting event anthem, “Wild Boys,” seemed like a drop in quality, to me at least. Besides, I had moved on to Van Helen’s 1984 and Princes Purple Rain. (See that, even at the tender age of eleven I had a discerning ear and knew crap when I heard it.) So, it was at the tail end of this slide, one that seemed to be even quicker then their rise, that Duran Duran was tapped to record the theme song for Bond 14. On paper, this is a no brainier. For starters, they were one of the biggest bands at the time. In their videos, in heavy rotation on MTV during this period, the group was seen as pretty boy, jet setting, party like rock star rock stars (PG version) which fit with Bond like gadgets and girls. And to top it all off, they were British. Done and done. “A View to a Kill” features Le Bon’s distinctive vocals and the Duran Duran keyboard sound. This song couldn’t be any more of its time, and that is not a knock. They are stuck with the ever present problem of jamming the film’s title into the choirs but when they sing “dance into the fire” all is almost forgiven. It’s a weaker entry when put next to all the great Duran Duran singles but it rocks harder than any Bond theme since Mecca belted out “Live and Let Die” 12 years previous. “A View to a Kill” hit #1 in the US and #2 in the UK making it the highest charting Bond tune to date, with a bullet. Incidentally, after this last hurrah the group went on hiatus and despite flashes of a comeback, they never hit their early 80’s heights again. As for the video below, I normally go out of my way to pick clips that show nothing from the films. Here I make an exception and when you check it out, I think you will 100% understand why. By the by, for those of you under 30, this is what an A Plus, state-of-the-art, cutting edge MTV video looked like in the music stations 80’s heyday. Enjoy.

Opening Titles: Need more evidence we are in the mid-1980’s? Bring on the neon! For you kids out there who didn’t live though the decade and look back upon it as a neat-o time, you need to understand neon was everywhere and people of tasted hated it. But we could do nothing about it. In the credits we see girls wearing neon lipstick with neon eye shadow and neon fingernails on neon skis. The skis thing truly speaks to me. I skied at the time and there was nothing; from the skis themselves to boots to polls to jackets to hats; not a piece of equipment or clothing that could be purchased for the sport of skiing that didn’t come ONLY in neon. You absolutely had no chose if you hit the slopes between ’84 and ’89 than to have some neon somewhere on your body. Anyway, a woman unzips her shirt to revile the films title which is clever I guess, and then amongst the neon is a fire and ice motif as chicks with Gene Simmons eye make-up (in neon) dance and do their thing.

Opening Action Sequence: The first thing we see after the MGM lion roar is not the familiar gun barrel sequence but a disclaimer saying there never is, was or will be anyone quite like Max Zorin. 214 Facebook users from the “Everybody is Special in Their Own Way” group “liked” this intro and several others gave it a “poke.” ;) According to the handy-dandy booklet that comes with the Ultimate Edition DVD’s, after shooting was finished EON discovered a fashion designer by the name of Zoran owned a company called Zoran Ladicorbic Limited which sounds Bondian indeed. Fearing Mr. Zoran may no longer feel special after learning about Max and would then use Zoran Ladicorbic to destroy the world, not clothe it, EON’s lawyers insisted on the legal speak at the top. We then cut to Siberia where Russians are skiing around on the ground and flying around in the air up to no good. We know they Russians because they have a big red star painted on the side of their helicopter and snowmobiles, we know they are in Siberia because there is snow, and we know they are up to no good because they are Russians. We then see Bond looking not unlike Paul Simon on his eponymous album cover. You know those guys who walk about the beach with metal detectors?

Rhymin' Simon and Jimmy B have the same tailor.

That’s what Bond is doing only in the snow. He finds a frozen body and recovers a microchip from a locket around the dead man’s neck. No sooner does Bond put the chip in his pocket and those pesky Russians are shooting at him. Olen’s don’t fail me now! Bond successfully evades his 20 pursuers by skiing, tumbling and hurdling down the mountain until an exploding snowmobile sends him flying into a ditch where lays face down as a teamster stands just out of frame and throws snowmobile parts at him, including a skid. Bond grabs the prop from the sploded snowmobile and used it as a snowboard. In 1985 snowboarding was still a nitch thing and much like many in the Casino Royale (2006) audience were introduced to parkour via Bond, I’m sure this was the first time many saw a man snowboarding. Sure, the skid didn’t have bindings or anything but who cares; it is a really cool way for Bond to improvise an escape and I’m willing to go roll with it. What I’m not willing to overlook is the music cue. Please forgive the pause in the action but we need to break this down. The job of the open is to set the table for the rest of the film. We are in the middle of a chase that is meant to throw us into Bonds world so naturally, we have gadgets, Russians, skiing, and the Bond theme. But once James starts to shred on his faux Burton, we here the familiar cords of The Beach Boy’s 1965 top five hit “California Girls.” Why on God’s green earth or in holy hell would anyone pick this song to play at this moment? What are they trying to say? We see Bond doing something new that (at the time) most had never seen. The first time you see snowboarding the thing I would think that it most closely resembles would be skateboarding, maybe you could think of surfing. When a few shots later we see Bond snowboard over open water I guess perhaps the surfing comparison would be more appropriate. If that’s what Glen was going for, why not start the Beach Boys when Bond hit the water, not thirty seconds prior when he’s in snow? But if we are meant to think of surfing, then why “California Girls?” It’s not like the Beach Boys didn’t write a tune or two about hangin’ ten. From their first three records alone you’ve got Surfin’ Safari, Surfer Girl, Catch a Wave, The Surfer Moon, South Bay Surfer, The Rocking Surfer, Surfer’s Rule, Surfin’ USA, Noble Surfer, Surf Jam, Surfin’ and what I would have chose if I had to, their cover of Misirlou, the tune made famous by Mr. Surf Rocker himself, Dick Dale. And then on top of all that, it’s not even the Beach Boys performing the tune. You would be forgiven if your first guess was “Oh, it’s the Dave Lee Roth cover because he had a hit with ‘California Girls’ in 1985” but you’d be wrong. (And while we are here, let’s just forget about Diamond Dave’s solo career. Cool with you?)The cover is performed by Gidea Park. Who you ask? Gidea Park I answer. Named after a park in east London these guys are the best damn Beach Boys cover band on that side of the Atlantic. What happened here, could EON not secure the rights? Well then don’t use the song, that doesn’t at all work anyway, in the first place! For crying out loud, EON has a hit song full of energy from a super popular band that was record for this movie! Stick the Duran Duran tune in there if you need something. I think, think, this was all supposed to play has funny, and perhaps 1985 moviegoers were slapping their parachute paint cover knees, but I seriously doubt it. It’s simply not funny. So, to recap; we have third rate rip off performing a reference that makes no scene and stops the film dead while simultaneously sucking all the cool out of anything Bond maybe doing and is so unfunny as to be cringe worthy. Sadly, you can take the last sentence and apply it to 85% of this film. The one thing this open got right; it lets us know exactly what we’re in for.

Bond’s Mission: Bond gets briefed by Q while the gadget guru is dressed like a butler and playing with a robotic cat. Add this to the fact the Moneypenny looks like Little Bo Peep off to find her sheep and it’s very difficult to focus on the exposition. It turns out the body that Bond found in Siberia was that of 003. He was in Russia to swipe a microchip and only got so far. After a look at the microchip on the indispensable micro-comparator, we see that the stolen Russian chip is identical to a nuclear blast resistant chip the Brits commissioned from an outside contractor, one Max Zorin. But he can’t be the bad guy, he’s a staunch anti-communist. No evidence is presented to back this up but we will take M at his word for now. Anyway, it’s off to the races where Zorin will be hanging out in the owners box. Here we meet one Sir Godfrey Tibbett, MI6 equestrian expert who has no idea how Zorin is able to produce winning horses from inferior bloodlines. But perhaps Achille Aubergine knows, he’s French so naturally he hangs out at the Eiffel Tower, you can find him there. Turns out good old Archie doesn’t know about Zorin’s horses either, but there is a horse auction going on at Zorin’s chateau, perhaps Bond could snoop around there. After divulging this extremely important piece of information that Bond could have found by perusing the style section of Le Paper, Aubergine is killed. Further more, when Bond tells Sir Godfrey about the horse auction, Tibbett nods knowingly and says he can get them on the guest list. This is how the entire film unfolds, which is to say it goes all over the place while standing still. Wouldn’t MI6’s equestrian expert, one who can quickly get himself and Bond an invite to this exclusive auction, have known about said event? This means Bond traveled all the way to Paris for nothing. Well, not nothing. If he didn’t go to Paris we wouldn’t get the fishing hook murder, the Eiffel Tower base jump, or the split car case scene. And why the hell do we care about the horse racing mystery in the first place? This is a very long walk away from that whole Russian’s steeling microchips thing that got 003 killed wouldn’t you say?

Villain’s Name: Max Zorin, who as we are told at the beginning, is most certainly a made up character. Turns out this disclaimer is completely unnecessary. Not even the most delusional soul on the planet, much less a successful fashion designer, would mistake this cat for a real person. I suggest you sit down, pour yourself a drink (shaken, stirred, canned or bottled) and get a load of this; it’s a doozy. Max Zorin’s official bio, according to M. “Born in Dresden, strayed from East Germany in the late ‘60’s, French passport, speaks at least five languages, no accent … made his first fortune in oil and gas trading now a second in electronics and high tec.” We also already learned he’s a staunch anti-communist with a terrible dye job and 1970’s cop sunglasses. Later, on the very same grandstand, we hear General Anatol Gogol (Yahhh Gogol!) add a little more to the story. Zorin spent sometime behind the iron curtain and was in fact a member of the KGB, or more accurately, still is. “Nobody leaves the KGB!” Even later, while strolling on San Francisco Fisherman’s Warf, the CIA tells Bond that Zorin’s horse veterinarian is Dr. Carl Mortner AKA Hans Glaub AKA Doctor Monocle. Turns out Dr. Monocle was a Nazi, (or still is, Nobody leaves the Nazis!) who hung around the concentration camps during WWII. He passed the time injecting pregnant prisoners with experimental drugs that made their offspring super strong and super psychotic. “You think Zorin could be one of those kids?” You think? So, mama Zorin was injected with some kind of HGH that made her kid strong and crazy. How did he end up in the KGB? Did the Russians rescue him and raise him? While that was going on why wasn’t the evil Nazi Dr. Monocle, who acts like Zorin’s father, facing judges at Nirenberg? No matter, we are talking about Max here, who is, let me see … a Jewish born medical experiment birthed in a concentration camp who is raised in Russia by a Nazi doctor and suffers from sever roid rage making him an acknowledged psychotic who none the less is recruited into the KGB only to flee to France where he makes billions in oil and war profiting by double dealing microchips to both the East and the West all the while racing and auctioning off steroid infused horses and he can still just waltz into San Francisco’s City Hall at any hour of the night carrying 5 gallon canisters of gasoline? (That last bit comes later) Yes, that him.

Villain Actor: Christopher Walken. Now, I know what your thinking, “Holy shit! Christopher Walken as a Bond villain! That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard. Who better to play a steroid pumped, psychotic, KGB, capitalist, Jewish, jockey, pyro hell bent on taking over the world?” and you should be right but I must disappoint you. First off, Walken had not entered his self-aware/over the top/William Shatner school of acting period yet. If I had to put a finger on it, I’d say that began with the Frank White role in King of New York (1990) and was fully realized in True Romance (1993). That’s not to say he couldn’t get nutty as proved by his Nick in The Deer Hunter (1978) or his scene stealing turn as Duane in Annie Hall (1977). But it just wasn’t cowbell fever crazy yet. As Zorin he does have his moments. He gets to yell the line “He compromised mine!” in the Walken way. He also has great scene with Moore where the two are discussing horses. Unbeknownst to Bond, while they are talking, Zorin is looking over 007’s bio on the computer. With each new bit of info; British secrete service … license to kill … extremely dangerous; Walken puts forth a little snort and giggle as if he can’t believe his good fortune to have been matched with such a skilled adversary. He has one more scene with Grace Jones that is note worthy but that’s kind of it. Much hay is made about Walken being the first Oscar winner (Best Supporting Actor for Deer Hunter) to play a Bond villain but they don’t do much with him and his talents are pretty much wasted. Perhaps because of Max’s ridiculous back-story, the writers had no idea who Zorin was or what to do with him. I’m sure Walken had no clue. It’s just one more missed opportunity in a film chock full of em.

Villain’s Plot: Turns out Max has bigger plans than living off his twitchy horses. And just so we are clear, when I say twitchy, I mean Roger Clemons throwing a broken baseball bat Mike Piazza’s head during the World Series twitchy. “From A View to a Kill” was a short story that first saw the light of day in a Fleming anthology of Bond tails called “For Your Eyes Only.” This collection, published in 1960, consisted of stories written for a never realized Bond television series. Fleming’s “From A View to a Kill” had Bond solving a case involving the disappearance of NATO couriers in France. Much like they did with The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), EON took the name from Fleming’s story and nothing else. So for the second time, producers created a 100% original Bond adventure and therefore all the blame must be lay upon EON’s doorstep. On the indispensable DVD extras Glen says he was heavily involved in the scripting. They started by finding locations and then crafting a story around that. Fair enough. After all, this is the crew that two short years earlier found a storybook city in India that I’m sure 99% of moviegoers were seeing for the first time in Octopussyso, what did these intrepid location scouts come up with this time? The Eiffel Tower? The Golden Gate Bridge? San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf? Ohhh, and they went to Iceland to shoot icebergs that end up getting 30 seconds of screen time. Are you kidding me? What did these guys do, take the travel budget, say F it, and spend two weeks in Disney World while looking for locations at EPCOT center? Bond movies are meant to take us to exotic locations, not tourist traps. I never look up the writers but sinners Richard Maibaum and Michael Wilson must come forward and atone. The steroid horse thing is a mess and doesn’t tie into the second half of the film but it at least holds our interest and has some intrigue. As for Max’s diabolical scheme of pumping seawater into San Andreas fault to cause a “double earthquake” so the silicon valley will drown and Zorin Industries can corner the microchip market, well, it’s as unwieldy as this sentence. Bond goes to San Fran and tracks down Stacey Sutton, a geologist who was bequeathed an oil company. Zorin wants said oil company and is willing to pay $5 million to get it. Why? He’s about to drown half of California and control every microchip on earth? What’s he need this lousy $5,000,000 oil company for? Sutton also works as a geologist for the city and her boss is a bureaucrat who is either in Zorin’s pocket or an unwilling pawn, we never learn which. OK, so Bond wakes up in Sutton’s house and asks why Zorin would be pumping seawater into his wells as opposed to getting oil out. Why don’t we go down to city hall to find out Sutton responds. Cut to city hall, Sutton comes running out of her boss’s office, crying because she’s been fired. Cut back to her house, Bond says if only he could see a map of where the fault line goes, perhaps they could figure this out. Cut back to city hall with Sutton and Bond looking for the maps. Why waist all this time? The entire plot unspools in this unfocused confusing fashion. Bond is a smart guy and we figure out what the hell Zorin is doing before Bond and his geologist friend are even in the ballpark. And then there is the dialog. “That’s odd, seismic activity

Roid Rage 101

near Zorin’s offices…But why would he be pumping sea water into the fault, that’s incredibly dangerous … flooding a fault could cause a major earthquake but why would Zorin want to do that … on the tape Zorin mentioned to Silicon Valley, what’s the connection … I need to know his intentions if I’m going to go to the top … if only we knew how those fault lines ran … that information is available at city hall, hey I still have my pass card! And I’ll contact Washington to get more help! Don’t waist any time, we only have 24 hours…” This goes on and on, they talk about double earthquakes and keystones keeping the entire state of Californian from falling in the ocean and “that keystone is right under us, if he blows that he will flood the entire Valley! And look James, the once in a blue moon peek of the spring high-tide is in 45 minutes! Well, we better hurry then!” I mean this is a film where the villain literally laughs as he says “Nobody can stop me now” while the evil doctoer, WITH A GOD DAMN MONOCLE, looks on twisting his fingers like Montgomery C Burns. This is not a Bond film, it’s a SyFy Original that went straight to DVD.

Villain’s Lair: Wow. Let’s give credit where credit is due, Zorin’s estate is breath taking and one of the few highlights of the film. Shot at The Château de Chantilly located just north of Paris this is the kind of joint Jay-Z would run around while pouring Crystal on naked chicks in one of his early aughts videos. It is on these immaculate grounds that Zorin hosts a party that boasts an eclectic guest list. Given his unusual background, I guess it understandable that Texas oil men and sheiks would be mixing with several folks in 16th century period costume and a Geisha or two. Once Bond joins them it looks like the starting field of The Cannonball Run (1981). The most impressive building on the grounds is the Grandes Écuries or The Great Stables which are said to be the most beautiful in the world an you will get no argument here. The story goes that a 18th century Prince (Louis Henri, Duc de Bourbon, Prince of Condé if it ever comes up on Jeopardy) had a dream that he would be reincarnated as a horse. So, he commissioned stables worthy of royalty to be built so his hooves would never need to touch dirt. A famous architect (Who is Jean Aubert, Alex?) went forth and built a dwelling more luxurious than you, I, or any one we know will ever live in where horses could eat hay and shit. Since he was a Prince and very, very rich, this was thought of as the act of an eccentric man as oppose to someone who is bat shit nuts. Zorin, of course, has made some addition of his own like a secrete lab under the stables where Lance Armstrong has been know to drop in during the mountain stages of the Tour De France. The other striking room is Zorin’s office, full of little chachka like priceless woodcarvings and Napoleonic paintings.

Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: You mean besides being a steroid pumped, psychotic, KGB, capitalist, Jewish, billionaire, jockey? Well, I’d go with the hair. That blond dye job just screams “I’m crazy!” If you saw this hair on the subway, you would think “that’s something,” and then say something. The other interesting thing about old Max is he has more gadgets then Bond. He retrofit his 17th century stables with a huge cargo lift; good for transporting horses underground to conduct steroid experiments in private. The way the drug gets into the horse is thanks to an implant that holds the drug until it’s administered by the push of a button hidden a jockey’s whip or a gentleman’s cane. You would think the two devices would be able to talk to each other via a simple radio wave an you’d be correct, but somehow a microchip is involved and waalaa, the horses and Silicon Valley are connected. Weak sauce. Zorin, mad genius that he is, had the forethought to rig his steeple chase course with gates that can be raised and lower at the push of button in case, say, he’s ever on the course and being chased by a British agent. Zorin also has a camera hidden behind a gorgeous mirror in his office. This camera is hooked up to a device with advance face recognition software that reminds us how cool it is when stuff in Bond movies that seemed outlandish is commonplace 25 years later. Much ink has been spilled pointing out how similar Zorin and Auric Goldfinger’s plot for taking over the world are but I see the two as kindred sprits when it comes to large three-dimensional maps. Both baddies just can’t wait to get a room full of men to watch as they pull the maps out of the floor and dramatically spell out their plans for world domination. In fact, both men as so proud of these maps that if someone in the room doesn’t care for the presentation, they are killed off immediately; Goldfinger’s detractor in a industrial car compactor, Zorin’s by being dropped from a blimp via a trick staircase. The blimp itself is quite a nifty gadget that when deflated can look just like a run-of-the-mill-motor-home and with one push of a button becomes a high speed air-to-ground kidnapping device.

Badassness of Villain: Yes. When Bond looks you in the eye and tells you killing his partner was a mistake and you respond “You amuse me Mr. Bond,” that’s badass. When you put an unconscious Bond into the back of his Rolls Royce and push the car into a lake while cackling at 007’s demise, that’s badass with a good dose of crazy thrown in. (Ed. Note: The only thing I remembered when rewatching this movie was Bond surviving this ordeal by using the air in the tire to breath. I thought that was so cool as a kid and I was crushed when my father bluntly told me “never could happen.”) Walking into city hall and burning it down? Throwing a guy out of a blimp? Leaving the KGB? All of this, A #1 badass. And you anit seen nothing yet. In the 1980’s something made it OK to show hundreds and hundreds of people getting mowed down by machine guns on the big screen in the name of entertainment. There were a few rules, these people had to be faceless, the deaths had to be mostly bloodless (Despite bodies being Swiss cheesed with bullets) and their was no aftermath to clean up; the story would simply blow by the piles of dead bodies and go onto the next bit of business. This made for a weird kind of guilt free/zero moral consequence enjoyment in watching people get slaughtered. Films like Terminator (1984), Red Dawn (1984), Commando (1985), First Blood II and I’m sure countless more I can’t remember stacked up the body count in tasteless fashion. Well, Glen and Co. clearly felt they needed to “update” Bond and give their new movie this “modern” convention. True, many a Bond villain has threatened nothing less that killing every human being on the planet but they did so in a way that was (A) over the top and clearly fiction and (B) they never get to the killing because Bond always saves the day. Not so with Zorin. Near the end of the film countless workers and several of Zorin’s most trusted asides are spread out in several mine tunnels. They are working hard for their boss, lining the mine with explosives. The idea is to blow the mines and send water from the above lakes rushing through the shafts into the fault causing an earthquake that would flood most of Northern California. Bottom line, dead men tell no tales so Zorin blows the tunnels early and adios muchachos. Fine, he’s a bastard. But then we get shot after shot of these men screaming and drowning. Then, some come pouring into the main room where Zorin and his henchman Scarpine are watching from a safe perch above the rushing water. These two breakout machine guns and start laughing their asses off while shooting the drowning men and women. And this keeps going and going and going. I mean it’s almost endless. A dude tries to climb out of the water at Zorin’s feet and he’s kicked and shot in the face. May Day and Bond must navigate floating bodies as they try to escape. And we cut back to Zorin killing more and more guys. It’s 100% out of place and does nothing for the film other than show how tasteless it’s creators are. Look, everything in all art is context. I’m not against this kind of violence at all if it works within the context of the film, even if it’s over the top. A coked up Tony Montana killing everything that moves in the climax of Scarface (1983) is a hyper over the top. But everything in the movie has been over the top and leading to this moment. The graphic slaughter in the first act of Saving Private Ryan (1997) brings home the horrors of D-Day and in a larger scene, war. Seeing Zorin kill hundreds by drowning and shooting has zero value and is beyond gratuitous. It draws attention to itself for all the wrong reasons because it has no context within the film and even less in the James Bond canon at large. It doesn’t even add to Zorin’s badassness, it’s just shoves more garbage into this ass bad film.

Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: God bless Grace Jones. She is the only saving grace (hee hee) in this film and she 100% kills it. I know she and Moore had their behind the scene issues and I don’t care how big of a headache she was; it was worth it. Jones is a Jamaican-born model, singer, fashion icon and performance artist who has done so much cool stuff it would take up take up half the entry to list. Lets just say she kicks ass. As May Day, Jones is my favorite henchman this side of Jaws. She’s a ruthless assassin with a funky fashion sense and thighs that could strangle a boa constrictor. The single best moment of the film comes when she and Zorin are sparing in the Château de Chantilly’s workout room. She and Zorin fall and wrestle on the mat until he final gets her pinned. She bits and hisses at Zorin’s face like a trapped dog. Then the two embrace in a passionate kiss and it becomes clear that this is their mating ritual. They are about to get going when a ringing phone interrupts. When Zorin gets up to answer Jones pouts like a kid eating his vegetables. The scene is sexy, scary, poignant and funny all at once. May Day gets to parade around in amazing outfits, each one cooler than the last. She runs around oilrigs and mine shafts with 8 inch heels and jumps off the Eiffel Tower wearing the sexist ninja outfit ever. She even gets to be Jesus at the end of the film, sacrificing herself to save the rest of humanity…well, at least the greater San Francisco metro area. Whenever May Day wasn’t on screen I was eagerly awaiting her next appearance. Then there is Dr. Carl Mortner / Hans Glaub/ Doctor Monocle who injects the horses and in some creepy scenes acts like Max’s grandfather. When he shouts “Maxxxxxxxxx” while Zorin and Bond are fighting it’s just out and out strange and it kind of made my skin crawl. The Nazi doc also needs to learn how to handle explosives when traveling via helium filled aircraft. Not because helium is flammable you see (it’s not) but because it a bad idea to fumble dynamite when your in a enclosed container a few hundred feet off the ground. Lastly there is Scarpine who besides having a neato scar, looking like a soccer hooligan, and shooting up rooms full of men really serves no purpose.

Bond Girl Actress: Tanya Roberts. A Bronx girl, Roberts stole America’s heart as the Shemp Howard of Charlie’s Angels, joining in the last season as Julie Rogers. She also served as delightful eye candy in the late night HBO favorite The Beastmaster (1982). In Sheena: Queen of the Jungle (1984) she got top billing as Sheena who was basically a chick Tarzan. She is also hands down the worst actress to play a Bond girl so far. Granted, she is not given the strongest character to work with but Ms. Roberts didn’t necessarily see it that way. One the DVD extras she talks about how her character is integral to the plot and not just a girl on Bond’s arm. This is like saying consumption of Scotch is integral to being a devout Mormon. In the fourteen Bond films up to this point, there hasn’t been a less necessary Bond girl. Or one with such a pedestrian name.

Bond Girl’s Name: Stacey Sutton. What? We go from Octopussy to Stacey Sutton. There’s not middle ground here folks? As we discussed above, she took over an oil company from dear old granddad, studied geology in college and then…Zorin! Despite her credentials she spends the entire film saying the most moronic things and is not one bit of help in cracking the case. When she isn’t talking she’s simply a girl on Bonds arm and not the sexiest one at that. With her blond feathered hair she looks like every girl I went to school with in the 1986 or every housewife in the greater Milwaukee metro area in 2006. Considering the devastatingly sexy Grace Jones is over on the other side I’d say Bond got the short end of the stick in this adventure.

Bond Girl Sluttiness: Bond fends off several of Zorin’s goons when they invade Suttons spacious home. She is visibly shaken so Bond cooks her a quiche. “What’s a quiche?” “It’s an omelet.” They dine by candlelight, tell tales of days past into the evening, and Bond even offers to go lock up and re hook up the phone. “The box is right outside my bedroom window.”  Why you little minx, perhaps you are more interesting than … oh Jesus, she’s fallen asleep. Well, I guess that’s understandable; she did change outfits three times in the course of three scenes which I’d imagine is exhausting. Anyway, ever the gentleman Bond tucks her in and sleeps in a wooden chair, shot-gun at his side which in a better film could have been a sly visual reference to a John Ford era western but here it gave me a moment to go to the fridge for another Brooklyn lager.

Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: “The bubbles they tickle my … Tchaikovsky!”

Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: “I take it you spend a lot of time in the saddle.”

Number of Woman 007 Beds: Four. Picking up where the California Girls left off in the open, Bond takes out a chopper with a smoke signal gun and looks around to see a British flag on an open hatch. Clearly inspired by Karl Stromberg’s love nest/ watercraft in The Spy Who Loved Me Bond commissioned Q to come up with a similar design hence the love nest iceberg boat piloted by some blond chick. Bond breaks out a bottle of Vodka (they are in Russia) which is well shaken (he was skiing, snowboarding and surfing) and gets down to getting down (it is five days to Alaska.) In a nice little role reversal for 007 it is he who shows up naked in the ladies bed. The lady in question would be May Day who ties a ribbon around the Maypole with Zorin’s blessing. Foolish man. For lady # 3 we have Pola Ivanova, the Russian agent who exists in the film only to get her Tchaikovsky tickled in the hot tub. (Yes, there is some business about her having a tape and Bond needing to get it but since it was recorded at the very same time Bond was also spying on Zorin, he could have just as easily picked up on conversation. The tape exists only to justify Ivanova and Ivanova exists only to sleep with Bond.) Finally, Bond bonks the Bond girl as is now required in the closing scene. In perhaps the least sexy sex scene put to film, we see just the top of their heads above a shower curtain as Q watches the goings on via the camera on the damn remote control cat.

Number of People 007 Kills: Three. Perhaps in an attempt to counterbalance the blood orgy Zorin unleashes in the mine, Bond himself only kills in two instances which bookend the film. In the open, two chaps in a Russian helicopter smack their aircraft into the side of a mountain after Bond fills the cabin with smoke. Then, at the end, Bond and Zorin tangle on a Golden Gate suspension cable until Zorin finds himself hang of the edge (people dangling again.) He gets in a little last laugh then plunges to his death in the icy waters of the San Francisco Bay far below. I believe Otis Redding wrote a song about it while sitting on the doc. In between there are a lot of fake-outs and false positives. Two dudes get boxed in an assembly line only to come out the other side. Several baddies get blasted with a shot gun that turned out to be loaded with rock salt. I would write them down as a kill and they would get up, dust off their pants, and jump into a car to drive off.

When a player knocks the ball out of another players hand, it is a fumble … unless you're Tom Brady.

Most Outrageous Death/s: After Max swan dives off the bridge, the Nazi Dr. Monocle determines that the best way to get Bond is to throw a stick of dynamite at him. Dr. Monocle is in a blimp, a good thirty to fifty yards away from Bond, who is on a narrow, rounded cable. What are the chances this bomb will (A) even reach Bond and (B) explode at the exact second it’s closest to him before falling to the roadway below? We will never know because Dr. Monocle fumbles the throw. (No, the tuck rule does not apply, in replays you can clearly see he was not making a throwing motion with his arm. PS It was a fumble Brady!) Dr. Monocle and Scarpine play hot potato with the thing until it blows them out of the sky.

Miss. Moneypenny:  Lois Maxwell in her last Bond film. A close friend of Moore’s since the 1940’s when they were in the same class at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) Maxwell was asked to comment on her two Bonds. “I always said I’d have Roger for a husband, but Sean for a weekend lover” which I think sums up the difference perfectly. The only player to be in all 14 films up to this point and second only to Desmond Llewelyn in overall appearance (18 for Q) Maxwell always served admirably and brought a sweetness to the Bond franchise. So how do producers reward her for her years of service? In her first scene she is dressed in a pink outfit that makes her look like every bridesmaid’s nightmare. We get a little joke regarding the hat rack where Bond takes her hat off and tosses it to her but that’s about it. Next, we see her at the track cheering on the ponies like a degenerate drunk at Aqueduct and then that’s it. I was thinking, is this how Moneypenny leaves the stage? Are they going to do something at the end for us to remember her by? Yes, they do, and I wish to God they hadn’t. As we’ve discussed, it’s now become Bond film law that before the closing credits roll, MI6 will track down Bond to find him screwing the Bond girl. The way this film ended was with the blimp going boom and since Bond didn’t check in with headquarters after the incident it is feared 007 was on the blimp and now dead. M is desperately working the phone to find out more information about his #1 man. We cut to see loyal, lovely Moneypenny sobbing, fearing her James is gone forever. We then cut to Bond in the shower bonking the least interesting Bond girl to date. This is Moneypenny’s curtain call? This is our final image; Moneypenny crying her eyes out thinking Bond is dead while he’s getting his rocks off? Could you think of a crueler exit for this beloved character? Why do this to her? I hate this movie.

M: M and his Soviet counterpart, General Gogol get some of the best lines in the film. After briefing Bond on the microchip deal, M looks at the three piece suit sporting 007 and tells him to “get properly dressed.” A funny line because he his always so. General Gogol gets to yell at Zorin “nobody leaves the KGB!” and also gets the biggest laugh in the film. After all is said and done and Bond is still thought to be dead, Gogol shows up at Universal Exports to present “The Order of Lenin for Comrade Bond. The first time ever awarded to a non-Soviet citizen.” M seems perplexed “I would think the KGB would applaud the destruction of Silicon Valley?” “On the contrary Admiral” the giggle Gogol responds “where would Russian research be without it.” This is funny, and we could have cut to Bond in the bath here keeping Moneypenny out of it. There is also the MI6 equestrian expert Sir Godfrey Tibbett who is an interesting enough character and presents a good comic foil for Moore. And for the record, when he was running around the stables at night in a black leather jacket I was reminded of John Belushi sneaking around campus in Animal House (1978).

Q: “007, if you read any memos from my department your would realize this is a highly sophisticated equipment.” Really? Looks like a remote controlled cat you could pick-up at Radio Shack for $29.99.

List of Gadgets: Outside the remote control cat, a tool Bond never uses, Q presents none of the gadgets in this film. They just kind of appear in Bond back pocket when he needs them. We’ve got the beachcomber metal detector that finds the microchip on the dead guy, a microchip Q examines on the incredibly useful micro-comparator. (Ed Note I feel like we have seen the micro-comparator in the past but for the life of me I can’t figure out in which film. Any help from you dear reader would be gratefully accepted). The chip itself is neat in that it can’t be taken out by a magnetic pulse, like ones given off in a nuclear blast. One would think a functioning microchip would be the least of your problems on the day after, but there you go. We also have the iceberg party boat and the shaver used to find bugs in hotel rooms makes a return

Rowdy Roddy Piper's sunglass are 1000 times cooler than Bonds.

(Last seen in Live and Let Die (1973) I believe). At Zorin’s party, Bond see’s Zorin talking to a woman in his office though a window. Her breaks out a pair of sunglass that got me very excite. Will they let him see though walls? Will he be able to zoom in and see what Zorin is writing? Will they allow him to read lips? When he puts them on, they do nothing besides making him look like Truman Capote. Seriously, he puts them on, adjusts some dials, and nothing happens. I watched again to see what I missed and it appears they may have cut down on the glair off the window, but isn’t that was all sunglasses do? The ring that takes photos of people at the party is more useful but my favorite gadget doubles as a clever bit of product placement. Bond is about to breaking into a home via the window. He reaches into his pocket to get a credit card to do the old unlatch the windows lock trick, a movie stand-by. Turns out the credit card has an electronic magnet so instead of swiping the card he simply puts it next to the lock and open sesame. Apparently, anyone can pick up this neat toy at their local Sharper Image.

Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: Nothing destroyed per se but MI6 ought to have that iceberg boat steam cleaned. After all, it was 5 days to Alaska so what happened in there? God only knows. Hey, that’s another Beach Boys tune.

Other Property Destroyed: One Russian snow mobile and one Russian chopper in Siberia but that is nothing compared to havoc he reeks in Paris. After May Day leaps off the Eiffel Tower, a feet that would have been much more impressive had we not seen Superman fly around the landmark to save Lois Lane five years earlier in Superman II (1980), Bond carjacks a taxi from a wine swilling Parisian cabbie. “My car! My car!” he screams sounding not unlike Pepe Le Pew as Bond proceeds to get the car decapitated and chopped in two while riding backwards down steps and jumping off the roof of busses. Finally, in what may or may not be a nod to the wedding he trashed with a boat in Live and Let Die, Bond jumps onto a boat to trash a wedding, breaking through the glass ceiling and landing on the wedding cake. “Congratulations!” According to M, this little jaunt through The City of Lights cost 6 million franks. I was very happy to get this information because I always wondered who at MI6 picked up the tab for Bonds rampages. We know Q gets shocked with the bill when equipment in the field doesn’t make it back and now we know “00 overseas destruction” comes out of M’s budget. He also trashes half of San Francisco while hanging off the back of a fire truck, no bill is mentioned.

Felix Leiter: Having given up on Felix after his rather sold performance in Live and Let Die the CIA sent Chuck Lee who was played by David “I go first Indy” Yip of Temple of Doom (1984) fame. Since it’s not Felix we can assume the CIA agent will serve the same purpose as a red shirt on an USS Enterprise away team and sure enough poor old Lee gets it before we really got to know him. As always, the rules from Zombieland (2009) are wise to keep in mind at all times and not just during the end of days. After all, if Lee followed rule # 31 (Check the back seat) he would still be with us today. And that goes double for Sir Godfrey Tibbett.

Best One Liners/Quips: May Day “Wow! What a view….” Zorin “…to a kill.” What? No, not really, the best line is “Nobody leaves the KGB.”

Bond Cars: They even screw up the car in this movie. Bond gets a generic grey Ford that would make a suburban Mom embarrassed to ride around in. Tibbett gets to drive Bond around in a classic Rolls Royce. The Rolls used in the film was actually Cubby Broccoli’s car. Apparently he would hang around the set going into a near panic whenever one of the actors was driving it. At one point Bond asks Tibbett, who is undercover as Bond driver/ man servant, to go into town to inform headquarters of the doping scandal happing at Zorin’s horse farm. Tibbett uses the excuses he’s going to wash the car as a reason to leave. When he realizes he is being followed into twon, Tibbett pulls into a corner lot PB station with one of those cheep car washed in its parking lot. He then proceeds to drive this amazing car through scouring brushes and filthy recycled water. I mean, it would kill any owner of a Rolls to subject the finish to such treatment and Oh look, it did kill him. The most true to life scenario in the film yet.

Bond Timepiece: None which is better than the digital crap we’ve dealt with the last few films.

Other Notable Bond Accessories: James is rocking the Olens once again. He also breaks out two aliases in this adventure; Sinjin Smyth the rich heir who later become James Sinjin Smyth and James Stockton of the London Times.

Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: 4. When he meets his French connection (bum da bum ching) at the Eiffel Tower the two share a bottle of Bollinger 75 before the Frenchman is kill by a fishing hook. Bond also drinks some red with Sutton and an empty bottle can be seen in the back ground so we will assume it was more than one glass. He also tries to have some bubbly with Sutton when two first meet at Zorin’s party “You didn’t say what part of the States you come from Mrs.” “No I didn’t” but it doesn’t go so well. In the open, he shows up to the love nest iceberg boat with a bottle of vodka which he refers to as “very shaken” which brings me to an interesting point; Roger Moore never orders a martini and never says the words “Shaken, not stirred.” In Live and Let Die they tried to establish Moore’s drink as Bourbon and water but for some reason they never followed up on that. He has had shaken, not stirred martinis ordered for him (Triple X in The Spy Who Loved Me) and mixed for him (Manuela in Moonraker) but he himself has never requested the drink that is most associated with James Bond.

Bond’s Gambling Winnings: When Bond visits the track, he of course had to lay a bet. It happened to be on Pegasus, Zorin’s doped up horse, which of course wins. This move reminded me of when Bond used Khan’s loaded dice in the previous film. It’s a shrewd F you to use the villain’s cheating to your own advantage and proves once again the Bond is a truly great poker player.

List of Locations: Iceland, Switzerland, France and the United States. Switzerland plays Siberia in the open and Iceland provided four shots of icebergs for the sequence. The various Santa Clara Valley and Bay Area locations are ho-hum by Bond standards. We also hit all the Europe on $50 a day spots in Paris so it’s left to The Château de Chantilly to do all the heavy lifting. I wish the entire film took place here. Save all the sets at the chateau, the only other memorable one is the huge main room in Zorin’s mine. It reminded me immediately of the mine in Temple of Doom only three times as big. It is really quite striking but when it’s flooded I couldn’t help but return to Temple of Doom, remembering that just a year earlier did the same thing. Another point I wanted to cover is that A View to a Killinspired the first Bond based video game. Available for the Commodore 64, the game put you in Bonds shoes to experience three “boards;” the May Day chase through Paris, the escape from city hall with Sutton and the race to defuse the bomb in Zorin’s mine. While rewatching all the Bond movies I often found myself thinking of how much video games are influenced by these films. Take any Bond skiing sequences and you have a SSX Snowboarding game, or take his gun battles in the air, on the water and in cars and you could graft a Grand Theft Auto sequence on it. In fact, his globe trotting while searching for clues and chasing baddies would make for a kick ass sandbox game, so I wonder why “Goldeneye 007,” recently reissued for the Wii, is the only Bond game to have meet with any kind of wide spread praise? It seems like making a great Bond video game would be a no brainer. Perhaps much like “Batman: Arkham Asylum” defied all expiation and proved you can do a

Paris, 8 bits at a time.

superhero game well we just need the right team to tackle 007. (Ed note: I love me video games but I have never played a James Bond title. I’m an XBOX guy so if anyone has any suggestions as to which one to try out, I assume Goldeneye, please let me know your thoughts.)

Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: Just when you thought Bond couldn’t up his skiing game after For Your Eyes Only here comes the Beach Boys errr, Gidea Park to prove you wrong. OK not really. Truth be told, this is one of the weaker ski sequences. Sure it features 007 tumbling and getting up, skiing on a single ski, and snowboard but we have seen much more impressive moves in the powder from Bond. Showing himself to be the kind of 80’s man you might want to take home to mom Bond proves he can cook a mean quiche, can tie a knot strong enough to secure a blimp to a bridge (you get a merit badge for that in scouts) and if you’ve ever locked out of your house, he can deftly pick a lock. As for the ever expanding list of vehicles Bond is licensed to operate, it’s seems as if it’s gotten to the point where Glen gathers his writers and they just have a brain storm. Have we seen him on a snow mobile yet? I’m not sure but let’s do it. How about a taxi that’s been split in two? No, and I like were you going with that, make it happen. What if we put him on horse and then tried to make him all kinds of Christopher Reeve on a rigged jumping course? Jesus man, that’s Superman you’re talking about, show some God damn respect! But your point is taken. We could do that also have him jump from a horse to a car just for the fun of it ok? Wait guys, wait a minute. I have it! A hook and ladder fire truck! Quick, get me the mayor of San Francisco on the phone, we have a movie to make!

Final Thoughts: Bottom line, the longest tenured Bond stuck around the party for one to many. If Sir Roger left after a six-pack, I think his overall legacy would be much rosier. However, he ordered that seventh martini and kept trying to extend closing time, sitting at the bar well after all the fun was had and the lights had been turned off. As is often the case when this happens, Moore awoke the next morning with a bad taste in his mouth. He then made his way to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and said himself “Jesus, I hope I didn’t embarrass myself.” You did indeed Roger, but you are not alone. No one got out of this one without a serious blemish on the old resume. Look, making a movie is about choices. Every story point, location, character, line of dialog, costume, etc. etc is a choice. And then within those choices there are hundreds of more choices made by hundreds of very talent people working very hard to put out a film that they will be proud of and that audiences will enjoy. I have such appreciation for everything these craftsmen and women do. Added to which I have a nearly bottomless reservoir of good will for James Bond. I’m willing to overlook a lot, especially when everyone involved is working to get it right. But here, the entire crew just made bad, lazy, and all together wrong choices across the board. It gives me no pleasure to rip this thing up, but ripped up it must be. Octopussy may have been lacking on the plot front but it was fun as hell and everyone involved seemed to be having a blast. A View to a Kill is dreary drudgery that’s as much fun as the debt ceiling debates. No one involved seems to give a toss, almost like they are punching the time clock and looking forward to time off. Let’s just stick Bond on the screen, have him do something outrageous, and call it a day. The audience will feast on anything we feed ‘em. How else can you explain a movie where a cat food bowl with “pussy” written on it passes as wit? And I didn’t even get into the fifteen minutes of painful keystone cops antics. It was right about the point when half a dozen cop cars were falling off a rising draw bridge that I called bullshit on the entire affair. I simply gave up. Why not? The crew gave up on this puppy long before I did. Grace Jones is the only one even trying and she got labeled a diva for her efforts. When I finally got done watching I felt duped, cheated, like a sucker. “Step right up, step right up, see the most famous action hero of all time James Bond….” Only Roger Moore was right, this was not James Bond. It’s truly a bummer that this is how Moore and Maxwell leave the stage. By the end of the film, I got the feeling that even Glen and crew knew they had a clunker on their hands. For the first time ever, the end credits don’t give us the title of the next Bond movie, they simply promise “James Bond Will Return.” Well, that’s good news. He sure as hell wasn’t here for this crap fest. I truly hoped I would never have to issue this rating at Blog, James Blog but A View to a Kill earned every last drop.

Martini ratings: 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.