Summer Sees and Skips for the Whole Family
By Kristin Battestella
With all the holidays and vacays, you and you’re family need to know what to watch during you’re summer movie nights. Here are some tips on what to enjoy- along with a few pictures to avoid.
See and Enjoy
Napoleon Dynamite- After finally seeing this 2004 teen comedy I was pleasantly surprised by its coming of age wit and awkward stuck in the eighties silliness. Not quite for children, but teens and folks who remember graphic t-shirts will laugh.
Little Miss Sunshine- A fine ensemble cast-including Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Alan Arkin- gives this quiet picture the umph, charm, and plenty of humor. Some parts are a little sentimental, and you should know if you’re kids can handle some of the heavier subject matter before viewing; but this one has drama and family analysis for the intelligent audience.
Mr. Bean’s Holiday-He’s not as cruel as he used to be, but Mr. Bean’s hijinks still have laugh out loud moments and English wit for the whole family. This road trip sequel does far better than the titular Bean and even has some heart-warming charm, too.
The Departed- Put the kids to bed for this gritty undercover cop and mole game from director Martin Scorsese. Plenty of hardware and fine action from Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mark Wahlberg add spice and intrigue-and more than make up for an ambiguous ending.
The 6th Day- Sure there’s action that we expect from Arnold Schwarzenegger, but this 2000 sci-fi thriller has science, intelligence, and religious debate to thicken the mix. More than just an excuse to have two
Yes Man- Jim Carrey’s latest starts off like Liar, Liar but grows into a charming mix of humor and drama. Fine support from Zooey Deschanel and Terrence Stamp add reflection and warmth. Outside of brief nudity and innuendo, the whole family can enjoy-not often said for a Carrey picture.
Traitor- Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce are dynamite in this international thriller. Touching upon the FBI, CIA, radical Islam, and the
Donnie Darko- A little obvious and weird; but a fine ensemble, intriguing premise, and good old teen angst keep this quirky picture interesting. Go for the Director’s Cut DVD for more scenes and food for thought.
Finding Neverland- Sentimental and full of Victorian Charm, fans of Kate Winslet, Johnny Depp, and all things Peter Pan will love this little film. The whole family can enjoy the drama, fantasy, and trouble with growing up while learning a thing or too about J.M. Barrie.
In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale- I have tried to watch this poor imitation of the Lord of the Rings at least a dozen times. So many things are wrong with this Uwe Boll film-from the blatant Peter Jackson ripoffs to the woeful cast. Ray Liotta’s Goodfellas’ delivery does not work with Matthew Lillard and his Shaggy squeaks-and that’s if you can figure out what the hell is going on.
The Golden Compass- Another children’s fantasy book rushed to the screen, creating a mishmash of effects with an incomplete story. Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig are wasted along with some fine young talent. Some were upset about the anti-Catholic sentiments in the novels, but there isn’t much of anything worthwhile here.
Pathfinder- We don’t see nearly enough Viking pictures, but a great story idea is lost amid all the action and barely there bad dialogue. What might have happened if Vikings encountered early Native Americans? The racial stereotypes here certainly don’t tell us.
The Other Boleyn Girl-I like Medieval films and Tudoresque material, but this adaptation of the Philippa Gregory novel boils the reign of one of England’s most infamous monarchs down to a sisterly catfight. Erica Bana, Natalie Portman, and Scarlet Johansson are wonderful elsewhere, but an international cast was not needed for what should be some definitive Englishness.
By Kristin Battestella
Initially, I began writing two separate reviews for 1999’s The World Is Not Enough and 2002’s Die Another Day. After viewing Brosnan’s final two Bond pictures in one night, however, I found my writing so darn negative, similar, and depressing that I combined my commentaries. Do I really want to talk about all the wrongs in these Bond pictures? It just hurts so much!
After losing an assassin in
The Word Is Not Enough makes unique strides in its action packed and plot critical pre opening sequence. It’s the series’ longest opener at nearly fifteen minutes; and the slick assassinations, touches of MI 6 proper, and sweet boat chase make time fly here. However, I have to say I’m a little tired of snow sequences and skiing and parachute action. It’s been done so many times in these movies alone. It’s not cool anymore. It’s not nearly as action oriented-perhaps over actioned- as the subsequent Die Another Day or Craig’s updated pictures, but The World is Not Enough makes no new action attempts, either.
An international cross continental pipeline and Stockholm Syndrome, nuclear warheads and cute doctors, wow- The World Is Not Enough pulled out all the stops, didn’t it. House writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Bruce Feirstein’s plot starts off strong but meanders with double talk drivel and a mishmash of devices and locations. Onscreen titles tell us whether we’re in
Now, as much as we love Pierce Brosnan and love Pierce Brosnan as Bond, he seems to have peaked with his debut in Goldeneye and gone downhill since. Brosnan is on form here, and the bland nature of The World Is Not Enough is not his fault. The humor, innuendo, and quips are all there; but the story and script relegate Bond to a blind bodyguard. How did he not see through Elektra King from the start? Sure, he gets his fun, and villains always say that women are his weakness-but Bond isn’t usually so, well, duped. This, his shoulder injury and the youth of Christmas Jones make Brosnan’s Bond appear far older than he really is. Is he that dumb, out of practice, and far from his prime? Of course not, but the story and action in The World Is Not Enough would have us think so. Some love to hate Roger Moore’s tenure-but his films seem to alternate between horrendously bad and really, really good. Unfortunately, Brosnan’s four pictures slowly meander in story, become slaves to action, and don’t do him justice.
Like Brosnan, I really love Judi Dench (As Time Goes By, Shakespeare In Love) and I really love her hard ass M. Nevertheless, attempts to put M into the main plot of a picture don’t seem to work. Her abduction happens way to easy, and seeing such a posh and classy lady in a dingy cell isn’t dangerous, it’s laughable. Thankfully, the humor with Q and John Cleese’s R is better. A bit obvious yes with a Monty Python alum, but its fun to see someone who’s as dorky and somehow charming as Q. Tragically, this is Desmond Llewelyn’s final picture, but he’s a delight as always. While it’s understandable to have the gadgetry scene and it’s a stretch this time around for more M; but where the heck is Moneypenny? I’d like more of her and MI 6’s easy doctor, Molly Warmflash. Great name and intelligence from Serene Scott Thomas; she’s believable as a doctor and still smokin’. It would have been great fun to see her become a regular. It’s also nice to see M’s aides Robinson (Colin Salmon, Dinotopia) and Bill Tanner (Michael Kitchen, Foyle’s War) both return. I suppose we can have too many house players hogging a picture, but with an increased M and MI 6 headquarters, The World Is Not Enough misses another opportunity in expanding these players.
Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King is the series’ first true female villain, but it’s not as if we haven’t had bad girls and twisted henchwomen before. I don’t think any onscreen explanation is given for her French accent, but its okay. Her delivery is authentic and believable. It’s certainly better than all the dub jobs of old. There’s an explanation for it, but her big ass odd earrings annoy the heck out of me. Marceau (Braveheart) is beautiful and sexy and in some ways Bond’s female match, that’s all that matters. Unfortunately, The World Is Not Enough again strays from what could be so good. By time we get to the supposedly sexually angsted final confrontation between Elektra and Bond, it’s a little anticlimactic.
I like Robert Carlyle in his comedy work like The Fully Monty but his Renard is one of dumbest villains in the franchise. It’s not the bullet in the brain and no pain touches-though they are silly enough-but Carlyle’s style and accent just don’t seem badass enough here. When watching, I kept expecting him to peel off the bullet scar, say ‘Cheers’ and eat it. Also unbelievable is Denise Richards (Wild Things, Starship Troopers) and her Dr. Christmas Jones. Like bootylicious Tanya Roberts in A View to A Kill, Richards’ is too young and her delivery to marshmallow to be scientific. Her Tomb Raider short shorts and cropped top are also ridiculous. If she’s there to look at, then don’t try to deny it. Bond pictures are the one place where its okay-nay it’s preferred and expected to have completely superficial women. Besides, for however smart they try to make Christmas, she’s still the damsel in distress. Always crying for James, isn’t she? Much time is also spent on the second series appearance of Robbie Coltrane’s (Harry Potter) Valentin Zukovsky, but this is also a rehash and uncharming attempt by Feirstein to recapture the wit of Goldeneye. One time Bond director Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter) should have kept the focus on Bond and Elektra-creating a strong antagonistic relationship instead of these supposedly important people.
Fans of the cast will of course enjoy The World Is Not Enough, as will die hard Bondafiles regardless of this missed boat. I feel bad for younger folks who say they grew up with Brosnan as Bond. If you think this is the finer point of the franchise, then you are sorely mistaken. I suppose straight action fans might enjoy this outing and its nuclear intrigue, but unfortunately, middle of the road fans are somewhat left out by this middle of the pack Bond picture. After a night with The World Is Not Enough, I can see how audiences felt tired by this long-standing series and thought Bond needed time to cool and re-establish itself
The trouble is, the franchise went from bad to worse with Brosnan’s final picture, Die Another Day. In this 20th James Bond picture, 007 is captured and tortured in North Korea after the apparent death of General Moon’s (Kenneth Tsang, Parental Guidance) son Colonel Tan Sun Moon (Will Yun Lee, Witchblade). Bond is traded for Moon’s captured assistant Zao (Rick Yune) and escapes the custody of M (Judi Dench) as he plots his revenge. In
Like its predecessor, Die Another Day meanders like a montage of every other Bond picture. I really liked the touches of 40th Anniversary specialness in Q’s laboratory, but yes, the invisible Aston Martin is just too much. This isn’t the sixties films, where we can blame such travesties on it being an old picture. Give Bond the Batmobile complete with a Robin saying ‘Holy Invisible Aston Martin, James!’ why don’t you. The knife in the shoe, the jetpack-even the simple use of series staples like ‘Universal exports’ is all that’s needed to honor 40 years of films. Can’t you just do what makes the series good? I would trade one allusion to the hat toss over all the ice palace magic and chases. After the first five minutes, the ice chase wasn’t cool-The Living Daylights did it better. (Nobody does it better…)
Die Another Day starts off well enough, too, with a fine pre title sequence and the torture montage stylized within the titles. Very neat, we think we’re going somewhere Bond hasn’t really gone before-and then, we hear the theme song. Only modern pups who like hip hop electronic gibberish can rate this as one of the series’ top songs-the same crowd that doesn’t know of any other Bond before Brosnan. I thought the blu-ray disc was skipping! Madonna’s woeful title song is another sign of the series’ recent reliance on product placement and marketing to the MTV generation. It’s supposed to be so hip and edgy, but in the end it’s just bad. I much prefer ‘Beautiful Stranger’, Madonna’s song for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. How ironic. Die Another Day does look great on blu-ray, but the sound was so agitating- big explosions and music over such soft voices. Sure, this is often a technical issue with most systems, but it’s also more writing on the wall that stock writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade’s story is less important.
Die Another Day was moved to 2002 to hit the 40 years of Bond exactly, but its Korean locales and sentiments seemed to come at just the wrong time. Again, we’re given some serious political intrigue with such promise; it’s modern and realistic, but a little too much, too. How can we take the pros and cons of Korean unification seriously when its hidden behind invisible cars, ice castles, mirrored satellites, and a General’s son stomping his foot while pretending to be a white boy? Whew, I think I lost myself there for a moment. If this is the film, I’d rather have Moneypenny’s VR sex romp, too.
I don’t care for Toby Stephens in Sharpe’s Challenge and I certainly don’t care for him here. It doesn’t bode well for a Bond when we prefer the villain over him, but it’s worse for the picture if the villain is useless all together. Spoiled adventurer
Of course it’s fake, but Brosnan works the shaggy hair, itching beard, and prison scrubs to perfection. If the movie sucks, again it’s not his fault. Brosnan has the suave believability as well as the spy charm, and we can like him as Bond while admitting most of his tenure was ho-hum. Brosnan keeps his Bond mannerisms on form regardless of how realistic (like the Korean torture) or unrealistic (like that frigging car) things get. We watch Die Another Day because we want to see Brosnan’s Bond make it out of this picture unscathed. It was director Lee Tamahori (Along Came a Spider, Next, XXX) that let us down. The balance between the hyperbole and Bond’s revenge is just too askew.
While I don’t dislike Oscar winner
There are a few fine things in Die Another Day, don’t get me wrong. Judi Dench makes the most of her M here. She struggles to keep the political and international peace while secretly supporting James. As skeptical as M may seem, we know deep down her tough love is also on Bond’s side. Equally complex- if underutilized- is Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice) as Miranda Frost. Again, the simple formula of using a double entrée name goes a long way. She hot, she’s uptight, there’s ice. It’s a shame that Tamahori and the media upstaged this fine Bond Girl for the mediocrity of Jinx. Though he’ll never be Desmond Llewelyn, John Cleese’s first official film as Q has the wit and class of his predecessor. Again, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The quiet ‘I never joke about my work’ does wonders in tribute to all the fun and wizardry of Q’s long standing relationship with 007.
On that note, it’s also great fun to simply hear the various mixes of the James Bond Theme and hints of other music associated with the series. And humor! Some of the innuendo is corny and forced, yes, but it’s these little Bondisms that are lacking in Craig’s tenure. If you stick to what makes Bond, well, Bond, you can take a mish-mashed picture like Die Another Day-or even a not too bad picture like the subsequent reboot Casino Royale- and make it something truly great. Despite some pretty awful pictures over these forty plus years, we’re still talking about Bond movies for a reason. Stop copying Bourne and give us the good stuff!
Bond collectors surely own The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day on DVD, but the numerous editions and pricey blu-ray sets are not for the casual fan. Brosnan lovers and fans of the casts can find what they’re looking for cheap enough, but again; I drive my husband insane with my complaints regarding the uneven sets and staggered blu-ray releases. Can the pups who only like Brosnan as Bond buy a single set of his four films alone? No. Mainstream action audiences might enjoy the visuals, fast pacing, and plot loss of The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day, but Bond fans can certainly find better pictures in the Eon canon. Intelligent viewers, unfortunately, should stay far, far away. Holy Bad Bond Reviews, James!