Tag Archives: Judi Dench

The World Is Not Enough (1999, Michael Apted)

Denise Richards is not convincing as a nuclear physicist. That statement made, Apted might get her best performance ever in this film. It’s still awful. Her lack of charisma is painful; one has to wonder how Brosnan and Apted were able to put up with it, given the rest of the film’s considerable accomplishments.

The World is Not Enough probably has ten great action sequences. Something about Apted’s direction lets him ground the general Bond absurdity and create these transfixing sequences. Not all of these scenes are important–there’s a couple for pure padding purposes–but Apted makes them work. Given he’s not known as an action director, it’s interesting to see his sensibilities translate so well to the genre.

Besides the direction, the film’s got a pretty solid script. It’s got some goofiness–it’s not particularly believable Judi Dench is a sentimental moron–but it’s fine. There’s some smiles, if not laughs, and it moves well.

And besides Richards, the supporting cast is excellent. Sophie Marceau gets the primary female role and does well with it. The other principle is Robert Carlyle, who gives one of his great, chameleon performances here. While it might have been simpler just to mimic his Trainspotting performance, he instead creates a nearly sympathetic, utterly evil villain. And Robbie Coltrane’s back. He’s hilarious.

The film survives Richards mostly thanks to Brosnan, who carries the weight of their scenes all himself. But he’s also just very assured here.

Still, I can’t help wondering who else auditioned for Richard’s role.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Apted; screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein, based on a story by Purvis and Wade and characters created by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Adrian Biddle; edited by Jim Clark; music by David Arnold; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sophie Marceau (Elektra King), Robert Carlyle (Renard), Denise Richards (Dr. Christmas Jones), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Zukovsky), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), John Cleese (R), Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Cigar Girl), Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (Tanner), Colin Salmon (Robinson), Goldie (Bullion), Serena Scott Thomas (Dr. Molly Warmflash) and Judi Dench (M).


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Die Another Day (2002, Lee Tamahori)

Fun. I’m trying to think–besides the Ocean series–of fun Hollywood blockbusters these days. It seems like fun is out. Certainly with James Bond. Die Another Day is a lot of fun. In fact, unlike some of the other Bond movies–the ones I can remember well–it seems to be more concentrated on being fun than anything else. I avoided it when it first came out for a couple reasons. Halle Berry and the title. It’s one of Berry’s best performances because, well, she’s supposed to be having fun and apparently she can (or can emulate it). As for the title… I mean, if Sony is going with Quantum of Solace… I don’t think I can hold Die Another Day against the now-gone MGM.

So, anyway, I tried it out….

The movie opens with James Bond surfing, which I thought was going to be too much, but wasn’t. Even though Lee Tamahori has some minor problems with hipster editing, for the most part he does a fantastic job. Die Another Day is a special effects extravaganza and the CG and practical mix very well. The film’s long and packed–the action moves from North Korea to China to Cuba to England to Iceland to North Korea again and there’s a decent action sequence in each location. In fact, I don’t think Tamahori even started messing with the editing until Iceland.

I suppose the movie’s a fine enough close for the original series (I mean, the pre-Sony series) and it’s a decent one for Brosnan. He’s having a good time and he and Berry work very well together. The rest of the cast is so-so. Toby Stephens is fine, but Rosamund Pike is lame. As the bad guy, Rick Yune leaves a lot to be desired… and the less said about Madonna and Michael Madsen, the better. Brosnan and Judi Dench work really well together in this one. As usual, the rest of office staff is good… Colin Salmon has nothing to do, but he’s good. Samantha Bond has one of the best Moneypenny moments.

Oh, the song. Madonna’s opening credits song is dreadful. One of the worst, maybe even the worst. It’s just terrible.

But it’s an incredibly fun outing, original song and lame supporting cast aside.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Lee Tamahori; written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, based on characters created by Ian Fleming; director of photography, David Tattersall; edited by Christian Wagner; music by David Arnold; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Halle Berry (Jinx), Toby Stephens (Gustav Graves), Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost), Rick Yune (Zao), Judi Dench (M), John Cleese (Q), Michael Madsen (Damian Falco), Will Yun Lee (Colonel Moon), Kenneth Tsang (General Moon), Emilio Echevarría (Raoul), Mikhail Gorevoy (Vlad), Lawrence Makoare (Mr. Kil), Colin Salmon (Charles Robinson) and Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny).


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Casino Royale (2006, Martin Campbell)

I had read somewhere Casino Royale wasn’t going to be chock-full of CG like the recent Bond films, but maybe I misread it. As a series, the Bond films are supposed to be about stunt work and explosions. Casino Royale is actually light on explosions and practically absent of stunts. There’s lots of stunt-looking stuff, but it appears to be CG composites. Terrible CG composites, much like director Martin Campbell’s previous Bond film, Goldeneye, which at least had the excuse of being an early CG-adopter. I can find one nice thing to say about Casino Royale–maybe two. Daniel Craig is not bad. He’s fine, actually. He’s not playing James Bond–because after so many actors, Bond is a shell of a character. He’s made by certain trivialities, which make an amusing couple hours in exotic locales filled with foreign actors speaking English and explosions and stunts. Casino Royale, I’m sure it’s more pretentious supporters would say, serves to deconstruct said trivialities, which leaves the film empty. I sat and waited for one exciting scene and it never came. The other good thing was Giancarlo Giannini. He’s amusing in a self-aware performance. A lot of Casino Royale’s performances feel as though Campbell has just called “action.” The performances are all very stagy. But I’ll get to them in a second. First I need to say something about Campbell’s direction. It’s not just uninteresting or boring or predictable–adjectives to describe David Arnold’s atrocious score–Campbell’s direction is actually a new step in DVD-market mediocrity. I sat and watched scenes composed for people’s HDTV’s. Sony HDTV’s, of course, since Casino Royale is a two and a half hour advertisement for Sony productions. Campbell actually repeats certain scenes–ones to humanize Bond–from Goldeneye, lifts them straight out. Except Goldeneye was technically competent.

I guess I can’t escape the performances. Eva Green is awful, Mads Mikkelsen is amusingly awful, and Jeffrey Wright is unspeakably bad. It’s a new level of terrible from Wright, who manages to give the same performance over and over again, but worse each time.

The writing is something special. It manages to bore to new heights. James Bond isn’t the film’s central character for much of the film, he’s the subject, which is not a working arrangement for something known as a… James Bond film. This distance serves to introduce the audience to a fifty-year old character. It’s quite useful in wasting time. I kept wondering if I could say the film has twenty endings, but instead it has no ending for quite a while. Casino Royale breaks the traditional three act structure and replaces it with nonsense. Campbell doesn’t have the directorial chops to work it, Craig’s fine but he’s not a miracle worker–he just keeps his head above water in a drowning pool–so it goes on and on and on. At least if it had been a trick ending, it would have been bad and funny, instead it’s just bad.

James Bond films have always been well-reviewed, at least since I’ve known about movie reviews. The distaste for them comes later–I remember Dalton being well-reviewed for example and there were astoundingly positive reviews for the worst of the Brosnan films. I didn’t to go Casino Royale hoping it would suck so I could be bemused at the state of artistic appreciation in the world today. I went to be amused by stunts and explosions and I didn’t even get those.

Something needs to be said about the terrible song, but hopefully someone else can say it. I’m bored with thinking about Casino Royale already.

Wait, one last thing. Sony appears–from the trailers I saw for their new films, from this film–to be making the worst mainstream films today, which is quite a thing to be able to say.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Campbell; written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis, based on the novel by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Phil Méheux; edited by Stuart Baird; music by David Arnold; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Daniel Craig (James Bond), Eva Green (Vesper Lynd), Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre), Judi Dench (M), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) and Giancarlo Giannini (Mathis).


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