Friday, July 27, 2012

Film Review: The Living Daylights

The Living Daylights
  • Publisher: MGM / United Artists
  • Studio: Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Release: 30 July 1987 (UK), 31 July 1987 (USA)
  • Genre: Action
  • Director: John Glen
  • Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
  • Writers: Michael G. Wilson, Richard Maibaum

The Bond: With Roger Moore bowing out of the franchise, in 1986 the search was on for a new James Bond. Among those considered were the Irish actor Pierce Brosnan, fresh off the TV series Remington Steele. But rumours surfaced that Brosnan was being courted to play 007, interest in Steele surged, and NBC renewed the series. In response to that, producer Albert Broccoli withdrew his offer, and in response to that, the Steele revival only lasted five episodes. In the end, the role went to Timothy Dalton, a Welsh veteran of the Shakespeare circut, who brought with him a more serious, cold, and professional take on the role of 007. And I'm willing to brand myself as an outcast (even more so) by saying that Dalton was an underrated actor and, in fact my favourite James Bond actor that's ever been. He only starred in two of the Bond films, and it wasn't this one that sealed the deal for me, but with a complex script like what we've got here, it would be a little uncomfortable to imagine Moore or even Connery tackling it with the same gravitas. 5 out of 5.

The Girl: Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo), a Slovak-based classical cellist and girlfriend of Koskov. Like Tracy from OHMSS, she's one of those Bond Girls with whom 007 builds an honest-to-blog romance. I especially love how intrinsically she's woven into the plot -- take note of how Koskov set her up as the sniper for his fake defection, in the hopes she would get killed; or how she has 007 drugged whilst under the impression that he is a KGB agent. 4 out of 5.

Other Allies: Saunders (Thomas Wheatley), an MI6 operative stationed in Austria. Highly critical of Bond, especially in his handling of the sniper during Koskov's defection, to my personal annoyance, but it's nice to see him go out on a friendly note. Crushed by an automatic door triggered by Necros2 out of 5.

Kamran Shah (Art Malik), leader of a Mujaheddin unit in Afghanistan.

Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe), a Soviet general seeking to defect to the West -- or rather, fake defection in order to spread misinformation about his political rival, Pushkin. Deliciously manipulative, in particular for the way he tries to sacrifice his own girlfriend for his pseudo-defection plan, but not the most serious or even sane actor out there. 3 out of 5.

Walter Gotell also makes his final appearance in the series as Gogol, now working for the USSR's immigration service.

The Villains: Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys Davies, The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Gogol's replacement as head of the KGB. Seeks to arrest Koskov for misuse of state funds. Despite Koskov's claims, he had nothing to do with the deaths of British agents, so he serves as an ally of Bond. But don't tell anyone... 5 out of 5.

Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker, from Mitchell), American arms dealer seeking a deal with the Soviets in Afghanistan. His home base is a showroom and miniature museum of war history; not the most grounded of ideas, but it helps paint his character as a diehard war aficionado. (Note the many statues of famous warlords with his face on them. Seeing the one of Hitler is... awkward.) As for the actor himself, if he absolutely has to sound like a southern American, then he's what J.W. Pepper should've been like. Crushed by a statue toppled by Bond3 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), a KGB assassin. Not much in the way of personality, but is hyper-competent all the same.  He's pretty much the '80s edition of Red Grant. Thrown out of a plane by Bond. 4 out of 5.

The Gadgets: A keyring finder with stun gas and an explosive charge. Aston Martin makes its return to the Bond franchise with the V8 Vantage, decked out with wheel-mounted laser cutters, rocket launchers, a windshield HUD, a rocket engine, and a self-destruct system. Overkill, I must say. 3 out of 5.

The Locations: The United Kingdom (Gibraltar, England), Czechoslovakia (modern-day Slovakia, filmed in Austria), Austria, Morocco, and Afghanistan (filmed in Morocco). Given that the last act of this film concerns itself with the Soviet war in Afghanistan, it has been addressed that James Bond allied with the Mujahedeen, a faction which would in the real world evolve into the Taliban in a few years' time. (See also: Rambo: First Blood Part III.) Well, that's not the whole truth: the Mujahedeen splintered into a number of groups once their common enemy, the Soviet Union, left in 1989. The Taliban was part of that, yes, but other offshoots include the Northern Alliance tribes, which assisted the NATO coalition in deposing the Taliban in 2001. And for the record, part of the reason for the rise of harsh Islamist ideology in Afghanistan was an overreaction to the atheism imposed by the Soviets. ...Moving on.

The Theme Song: Performed by a-ha (from "Take On Me"). The way I see it, this song was engineered to replicate Duran Duran's theme from A View to a Kill, right down to the lyrics which suggest the lights are on in Pål Waaktaar's head but no one's home. All the same, if you need to know an a-ha song besides "Take On Me", then enjoy the hipster cred. 2 out of 5.

The Pretenders also contributed two songs: "Where Has Everybody Gone" (used as Necros's theme), and "If There Was A Man" (during the end credits).

The Opening Credits: Uses a lot of water and coloured lighting. Evokes the credit sequences of the '70s and '80s in that it's not very interesting. 2 out of 5.

The Novel: This movie shares its title with a short story from 1966's Octopussy and the Living Daylights, which has 007 oversee the escape of a British agent from East Berlin in a manner similar to what we see early on in the film. Read on.

The Plot: We start out in Gibraltar, where the 00 section is running a training exercise. When an assassin kills one of the agents for real, 007 goes after him and kills him in turn. Cue opening credits. We come back to a classical music concert in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now part of Slovakia), where Bond and MI6 agent Saunders are overseeing the defection of Georgi Koskov, a Soviet general. Bond takes up a sniper's post and spots another sniper, presumably gunning for Koskov. However, this sniper is also a woman, who was playing the cello at the concert just minutes before, so instead of shooting her, he shoots her gun instead. Saunders is not amused. Nonetheless, the defection otherwise goes off without a hitch, with Koskov being smuggled into Austria via a gas pipeline.

At an MI6 safehouse in the English countryside, Koskov briefs M and 007 on "Smiert Shpionam" (Death to spies), or "SMERSH", a Stalin-era program which was apparently re-activated by Leonid Pushkin, Gogol's replacement as the head of the KGB. But then a KGB assassin, Necros, raids the compound and steals back Koskov. With the help of Moneypenny, Bond confirms the identity of the cellist lady from Bratislava, and heads over to pay her a visit. He spots her on a tram car, where she is taken by a KGB handler but leaves behind her cello case - which contains the gun she used that night, loaded with blanks. He visits her house, posing as a friend of Koskov's, and helps her escape town and cross into Austria.

Meanwhile, Pushkin is in Tangier, Morroco, visiting Brad Whitaker, an arms dealer. He shows Pushkin samples of a deal which would help the Soviets in Afghanistan, but Pushkin cancels the deal. Whitaker then confers with Koskov and Necros, who agree that they should have 007 assassinate Pushkin. Speaking of whom, after a date with Kara in Vienna, Bond learns from Saunders that her cello was purchased by none other than Whitaker, and suggests that he and Koskov have worked together in the past. However, Saunders is subsequently killed by Necros, prompting Bond to head to Tangier post-haste, where Pushkin is leading a trade conference. He tracks Pushkin and confronts him in his hotel room, where he denies all knowledge of SMERSH's alleged re-activation. So instead of killing him outright, they agree to have Bond stage an assassination of Pushkin; no one is killed who needn't be, and Koskov and Whitaker resume their deal. Bond returns to his hotel room and shares a drink with Kara, but gets drugged and smuggled out of the country by Koskov.

His plane lands in a Soviet airbase in Afghanistan, where the couple are to be arrested: Bond for the apparent murder of Pushkin, and Kara for apparent defection. But he overpowers his jailer and breaks out with not only Kara, but Kamran Shah, the leader of a local Mujaheddin unit. Before they take action against the Soviets, he leads Bond and Kara to a sale of opium, purchased by Whitaker with the money intended for the arms deal. He bought the opium instead so he could turn an even bigger profit, but Bond intends to destroy the shipment so he won't have the money to buy the Russians their arms. So Bond plants a bomb into one of the opium bags, rides back into the airbase, and stores it on an outgoing plane. Just as he is found out, the Mujaheddin raid the place, and Kara and Necros climb on board. Bond disposes of Necros and disarms his bomb, only to drop it on a bridge to halt the Soviet's pursuit of the Mujaheddin.

Back in Tangier, Felix Leiter aids 007 in a raid on Whitaker's home. He encounters and fights the man, which ends when Bond knocks a statue of the Duke of Wellington onto him. Then Pushkin happens to show up and arrests Koskov. Our film ends with Kara performing in Vienna, then retiring to her dressing room for a private rendez-vous with Bond. You are now free to turn off your TV.

If you haven't noticed by now, The Living Daylights hosts, by my judgement, the most complex plot of any of the James Bond films. Here are some hints to help you sort through it all: Kara is initially Koskov's girlfriend. Pushkin wants Koskov out of office for embezzlement, and Koskov spread lies about him to fight back. Whitaker bought opium from the Afghan tribes in order to make more money than from trading weapons alone. With those pointers in tow, I would highly recommend this otherwise lesser-known entry. I wouldn't advise you to start out with it, but once you acclimate yourself with the franchise, you simply must get to it at some point. 4 out of 5.

+ Timothy Dalton's serious performance as Bond.
+ Good chemistry between Dalton and Maryam d'Abo.
+ Intricate plot (could also be a negative).

- Overly complex plot (could also be a positive).
- Jeroen Krabbe and Joe Don Baker are campy villains.
- Less-than-stellar theme song, unless you like '80s pop.

The Call: 80% (B)

IchigoRyu will return in
Licence To Kill

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dance Dance Retrospective: Extreme 2

By 2005, whichever sub-division of Konami was handling the North American and European DDR series, had all but caught up with the arcade titles.  This meant that instead of piggybacking off an existing release, they more or less had to create one from scratch.  And that necessity led to what I consider to be my favourite Dance Dance Revolution game of all time: Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 (PlayStation 2, 27 September 2005).  It had it all: Brand-new songs from Konami-original artists famous from the arcade games, revivals from Extreme, Ultramix, the classic era, and more - and that's just the songlist.  The game also added a new interface tailor-made for the home console scene, a new single-player campaign, a modified graphics engine with new background videos a la Ultramix 2, and online play (which has since been disabled).
The music wheel and Groove Radar are back.
Expanding upon Mission Mode from Extreme 2004, The Dance Master Mode is the new single-player campaign which takes the player through a vast web of challenges.  Like Mission Mode, some of these add modifiers and some have specific objectives, but this time around there is a greater emphasis on playing full songs instead of just sections.  Or, if you just want to play songs at will without any responsibilities other thn keeping your Groove Gauge up, there's always the Free Play mode, which marks the return of the Music Wheel format and the Groove Radar to the blue-dominated UI.  But to unlock new songs and other content, you can't just clear songs like you did in the previous titles.  First, you earn Dance Points, which are used as currency for an in-game shop, by playing songs in Dance Master or Free Play modes.  Strangely, you also have to accomplish certain requirements in order for items to become available, primarily by playing through Dance Master Mode.  The only reason this would make sense is so beginners wouldn't save up for the boss songs straight away.  Seriously, go with one method of unlocking content or the other; don't inflict both upon us!
A new graphics engine loses the cel-shading on the characters, but adds new video backgrounds.
Among the other unlockables are Endless, Combo Challenge, and Survival modes.  The latter two are basically Endless with a limit of one or four lives, respectively.  You may be able to rack up Dance Points faster through these modes, if you can survive long enough.  EyeToy support has also returned from Extreme 2004, however only the Watch Me Dance and Hands & Feet modes have carried over.  That's a shame, because I will admit (and have done so, in fact) that those other minigames were quite fun.  And then there's the online multiplayer, a first for the series on the PlayStation 2.  Unfortunately, as this required a sold-separately network adapter, I did not take part in it, and now it's too late: online support for this game was shut down in September 2006, just as the game's sequel came on the market.

At 74 songs, Extreme 2 has more tracks than any of the American DDR home games that came before it (but still short of the Japanese Extreme, which boasted over a hundred songs). Notable songs include:
  • "In the Heat of the Night" by E-Rotic.  A revival from 4thMIX, this is notably the only song from this German dance-pop band to appear in an American DDR title.  They've had numerous songs used from 3rdMIX to 5thMIX, however their overtly sexual lyrics may not have been in the right taste for American audiences.  To be fair, this is one of their least suggestive songs, but it was enough for this to be the first DDR game to get an E10+ rating from the ESRB (the classification was just created earlier in 2005).
  • "Injection of Love (Hina Mix)" by Akira Yamaoka.  A dark techno song which uses 12-beat rhythms.  The interesting thing is that the North American and European versions of the game use an instrumental version of the song, while the Japanese version adds English lyrics to the song - and fairly sexual lyrics, at that.  Fun Fact: There's also a Japanese version of the song, with vocals by Sana Shintani, which crossed over to one of the beatmania IIDX games.
  • "Passion of Love" by Naoki & Paula Terry.  I don't know about you, but it was a glorious moment hearing these two together again - but little did I know it would be their last work together.  The Australian singer also appears in "Maria (I Believe)", a transplant from beatmania IIDX 9th Style.
  • "Polovtsian Dances and Chorus" by Naoto Suzuki feat. Martha Matsuda.  A trance arrangement of an 1890 composition by Aleksander Borodin, as used in Konami's PS2 game The Sword of Etheria.  Interestingly, this is one of only two songs to have a dedicated music video in-game, the other being "Get Busy" by Sean Paul.
  • As in the 2004 Extreme, some of this game's licenced songs are covers of tracks that have appeared in the Karaoke Revolution series.  But while some of them are direct re-creations ("Crazy In Love" and "Play That Funky Music"), some of them have been remixed into other genres ("Genie In A Bottle", "I Will Survive", "Oops! I Did It Again").  The trance remake of Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle" is my favourite.
  • Revivals from Ultramix include "Absolute (Cuff-n-Stuff It Mix)" and "INSERTiON (Machine Gun Kelly Mix)" by Thuggie D., "Infinite Prayer" by L.E.D. Light feat. Goro, "Quickening" by DJ Taka, and "Sana Mollete Ne Ente (B.L.T. Style)" by Togo Project feat. Sana.
  • The boss songs are "PARANOiA Survivor" and "PARANOiA Survivor MAX", revivals from the 2002 Extreme.  Yes, the latter's Challenge chart is present, but thankfully you are never required to play it in Dance Master Mode.
  • Amazingly, there are only six songs revived from American home versions: "Brilliant2U", "Dynamite Rave", and "PARANOiA" from DDR, "Afronova Primeval" and "Dive" from Konamix, and "Look to the Sky (True Colors Mix)" from MAX.  And for the most part, they're popular classics, at that.
Once again, North America was the first region to get some edition of this game, but it was follwed up in Europe by Dancing Stage Max (25 November 2005), and in Japan by Dance Dance Revolution STR!KE (16 February 2006).  You may wonder to yourself what kind of a name is "STR!KE", espcially since they stylised it with an exclamation point.  But in my eyes it makes sense, and here's my proof:  I recognise this as the 10th title in the Dance Dance Revolution canon, with the 2002 Extreme as the 8th and the 2004 Extreme/Festival/Fusion as the 9th.  Yep, even though there was no arcade port made of Extreme 2 in any region (even Dancing Stage Fusion had an arcade port in Europe), it made enough contributions the series as a whole, in terms of music and otherwise, that I have decided to recognise it as part of the core series.

Speaking of which, the core series is about to welcome its first new arcade game in almost four years, but before we do so, let's take a look at the challengers to Dance Dance Revolution's throne, next time on Dance Dance Retrospective!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Film Review: A View To A Kill

A View To A Kill
  • Publisher: MGM / United Artists
  • Studio: Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Release: 24 May 1985 (USA), 13 June 1985 (UK)
  • Genre: Action
  • Director: John Glen
  • Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
  • Writers: Michael G. Wilson, Richard Maibaum

The Girls: Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), a geologist and oil heiress whose company is threatened by Zorin Industries. She starts out as a fierce, independent woman, but when Zorin traps her and Bond in the burning elevator, she turns into distressed damsel good for naught but screaming out for James. What a waste, eh? 2 out of 5.

Pola Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton), a KGB agent investigating Zorin. She is thrust upon us without warning, but she and 007 apparently have a history together -- that's not the way to go, writers. 1 out of 5.

Other Allies: Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee, from The Avengers (UK)), an agent who poses as 007's servant for the horse show. Sports some playful repartee with Bond as his servant, but is otherwise forgettable. Garrotted by May Day.2 out of 5.

The Villain: Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), CEO of the microchip producer Zorin Industries. Born from a Nazi genetic experiment which left him intelligent but psychopathic, which explains why he willingly drowns and machine-guns his own men at one point. Worth it for that delightful Christopher Walken brand of awkwardness. Fun Fact: This role was first offered to David Bowie, whose influence can still be felt in the character we got. Struck with a fire axe thrown by Bond and dropped into the San Francisco Bay4 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Mayday (Grace Jones), Zorin's amazonian henchwoman. She is just so awesome even before she is mortally slighted by Zorin and gets back at him - the hard way. Lets herself get blown up to foil Zorin's "Main Strike" plan5 out of 5.

Dr. Karl Mortner / Dr. Hans Glaub (Willoughby Grey), a former Nazi scientist who ran the genetic experiment that gave birth to Zorin. Based on his role, he serves as a father figure for Zorin, but in practice that relationship is wasted a little. Fun Fact: In the German dub, in order to dodge references to the Nazi regime, Dr. Mortner is referred to as a Polish communist. Accidentally blows himself up with dynamite3 out of 5.

Second Fun Fact: Dolph Lundgren makes his first film role here, pre-dating his breakout role in Rocky IV by months, as a nameless KGB agent in the scene where Zorin breaks ranks with General Gogol.

The Gadgets: For all its camp, this movie is surprisingly low on "traditional" gadgets. If anything in this department stands out, it would be the remote-control camera robot, which Q demonstrates in the beginning and uses to track down 007 at the end. Just imagine what a pet for the robot from Rocky IV would look like and you've got the idea. 2 out of 5.

The Locations: Soviet Union (Russia, filmed in Iceland), England, France, United States (California).

The Theme Song: Performed by Duran Duran (from "Hungry Like The Wolf"). Fun Fact: It's the only James Bond theme song (thus far) to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and for good reason.  One of the catchiest Bond theme songs; I blame it on the pounding drum track and Simon Le Bon's over-the-top vocal delivery.  It's '80s cheese, but delicious '80s cheese.  4 out of 5.

And on an embarrassing note, the pre-credits scene plays a cover of the Beach Boys' "California Girls" when 007 rides on a makeshift snowboard. Ironically, David Lee Roth (ex-Van Halen) would have a hit with his own version later that year.

The Opening Credits: Motifs include fire, ice, and lots of glow-in-the-dark colours. I don't get what the fire and ice things have to do with the movie's plot (Ice = the opening in Siberia? Fire = the city hall arson?), but like what the theme song did to my ears, it's visually striking compared to what came before it. 4 out of 5.

The Novel: This movie shares part of its title with "From A View To A Kill", a short story from the For Your Eyes Only collection. However, the movie's plot is completely different and original - and by "original" I mean "lifted from Goldfinger". Read on.

The Plot: We open in northern Russia, where 007 evades Soviet patrols to locate the body of agent 003 and retrieve his locket, containing a microchip. He is discovered and a chase ensues across the snow, until Bond makes his getaway in a boat disguised as an iceberg. Cue opening credits. Back at MI6, Q informs Bond and M that the microchip is identical to a British model, designed to resist electromagnetic damage. The clone came from a company bought out by Zorin industries, so they start their investigation with its CEO, Max Zorin. 007 and company find him at a horse race, where his horse wins a come-from-behind victory. Bond confers with Sir Godfrey Tibbett and suggests that steroids were involved, but they cannot prove it.

So Bond heads to Paris, setting up a lunch date (of course, at the Eiffel Tower) with a French PI, Achille Aubergine. He is killed by May Day, Zorin's henchwoman, but not before he tells about a horse sale at Zorin's estate. Bond gives chase, but fails to catch up with May Day. So instead he gets signed up to attend the horse sale. During the festivities, Bond takes note of three clues: a US$5 million check made out to a lady named S. Sutton, Dr. Karl Mortner, a former Nazi scientist who "created" Zorin in a genetic-engineering experiment, and a secret laboratory underneath the stables, where he learns the secret of the aforementioned horse race victory: a tiny computer-controlled steroid injector. But Zorin does some investigation of his own, learning of 007's true identity. He has May Day kill Tibbett, and tries to kill Bond by sinking him in a car -- which of course, doesn't work.

After getting a reprimand from the KGB for his independent business ventures, he proceeds to make yet another: the ambiguous project "Main Strike", which would enable him and his microchip cartel to overtake Silicon Valley and create a monopoly in their market. Bond follows Zorin to San Francisco and sneaks into one of his oil rigs, where for some reason he's pumping sea water into the wells, instead of pumping oil out. He escapes detection and meets up with Pola Ivanova, a KGB agent also on Zorin's case. After a date at the spa, he steals a tape she recorded and learns about "Main Strike". He then meets up with Stacy Sutton, the geologist whom Zorin tried to pay off, over a lawsuit filed by her grandfather. The two head to the city hall to piece together Zorin's intentions, when the man himself arrives to kill her (former) boss, trap them in an elevator, and set the place on fire. Of course, they escape, but they run into the San Francisco police chief, who believes 007 was responsible for the arson and murder (and jaywalking?). He escapes on a fire truck and drives to Main Strike, an abandoned silver mine.

Sneaking about Main Strike, Bond and Sutton uncover the finer details of his plan: flood the San Andreas and Heyward faults by draining nearby lakes, then blow up the geological lock to trigger earthquakes in both faults, thus flooding Silicon Valley. In executing the first stage of his plan, Zorin willingly kills his underlings, save May Day, who take revenge on him by helping Bond take out the bomb, blowing herself up in doing so. But it's not over yet: Zorin scoops up Sutton from his hot-air balloon and Bond hitches a ride by hanging onto one of its mooring ropes. Before he can be smashed on the side of the Golden Gate Bridge, he ties his rope to one of the bridge's cables. Zorin walks out and tries to kill Bond with a fire axe, but instead gets killed and falls into the bay below. Dr. Mortner tries to take revenge by throwing dynamite at him, but he trips and blows himself up instead. With all said and done, Bond and Sutton are free to hide out together, away from the watchful eye of MI6. You are now free to turn off your TV.

So it has come to this: the first James Bond film I've had to give a failing grade. Personally, I blame the plot being a decade-displaced carbon copy of Goldfinger's (without a good reason), the first half of the movie having little to no bearing on the second, the Bond Girl becoming a whiny deadweight, and Bond himself being at the most 57 years old during production. In fact, there's only one other Bond movie which could challenge this as the worst entry in the franchise, but I'll have to review it before I can decide which is worse. If you're going to watch A View To A Kill, do it either for completion (in which case I probably can't dissuade you), or for the combined force of Christopher Walken and Grace Jones. Still, they can't fix everything. I say it's time to switch out Roger Moore for a new lead. 1 out of 5.

+ Christopher Walken and Grace Jones are awesome.
+ Fans of '80s pop will love the theme song.
- The plot is a rip-off of Goldfinger's.
- The first act of the film is inconsequential to the rest of the movie.
- The lead performances (Roger Moore and Tanya Harding) are pretty awful.

The Call: 40% (F)

IchigoRyu will return in
The Living Daylights

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Film Review: Never Say Never Again

Never Say Never Again
  • Publisher: Warner Bros. / Orion
  • Production Studio: Taliafilm / Producers Sales Organization
  • Release: 8 October 1983 (USA), 15 October 1983 (UK)
  • Genre: Action
  • Director: Irvin Kershner
  • Producer: Jack Schwartzman
  • Writers: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Lorenzo Semple Jr.

The Bond: Sean Connery comes back for one more encore. And this isn't just some attempt by the studios to compete with the EON-produced Octopussy, although they very well might have capitalised on it. No, Connery had been working with Kevin McClory on this remake of Thunderball for almost a decade before it came out. As for the results? Nothing to write home about; Sir Sean's performance here seems to have been sedated by old age; he was 52 when the movie began filming in 1982. Not that post-middle age actors can't bring the heat; heck, Chuck Norris broke 60 during his run on Walker: Texas Ranger. But yeah, no such magic here. 2 out of 5.

The Girl: Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger), mistress of Largo and sister of USAF pilot Jack Petachi (Gavan O'Herlihy). I called her Thunderball counterpart, Domino Derval, one of the most sympathetic Bond Girls, but while miss Petachi shares her situation, her performance this time around is, I don't know how to say it... "Bay-singer". I looked it up. No, seriously, her performance was less "with-it", but it's not all bad -- read my comments on the villain for more. 4 out of 5.

Other Allies: Nigel Small-Fawcett (Rowan Atkinson, from Mr. Bean), 007's contact from the British Embassy in the Bahamas. This bumbling contact could've been much more annoying had he had more screen time. Fun Fact: this was Atkinson's first feature-film role. 2 out of 5.

Felix Leiter (Bernie Casey), returning CIA agent. It may seem weird to some for Leiter to be played by an African-American in this canon (not that it's a bad thing), but then along comes Casino Royale... Stay tuned.  2 out of 5.

Nicole (Saskia Cohen Tanugi), a French agent and contact. Drowned in a bathtub by Blush after very little screen time. 1 out of 5.

The Villain: Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), the number-1 officer of SPECTRE (so, does Blofeld serve under him now?), and engineer of their plot, code-named The Tears of Allah. He may have traded in the eyepatch for an even thicker accent (almost like Dracula?), but if there's anything he has over the Largo from Thunderball, it's that he develops his relationship with Domino better this time around. Shot with a harpoon by Domino.  4 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Fatima Blush (Barbara Carerra), assassin and number-12 officer of SPECTRE. Her fashion sense is insane, even by 1980s standards, but her fem-dom performance is one of the best examples of camp this movie has to offer -- and that's saying something. Shot and blown up by Bond's exploding pen-dart5 out of 5.

The Gadgets: A fountain pen that shoots explosive darts, a motorcycle with rocket jets, a laser watch (pre-dating Goldeneye by 12 years), and a bomb hidden in a cigarette case that really is just an unarmed cigarette case. Inspired, that last one. 4 out of 5.

The Locations: England, the Bahamas, France, and unspecified locations in northern Africa and/or the Middle East.

The Opening Credits: Instead of having dedicated credits and pre-credits sequences, the opening puts the credits on top of 007 in a training mission. So, it would be unfair to rate this aspect against the same criteria I've been using for those from the EON series.

The Theme Song: Performed by Lani Hall. Like the last few theme songs, it's another female solo performance trying and failing to emulate Shirley Bassey's first effort, but thanks to its co-producers Sergio Mendes and Herp Albert, it gets adapted into some quality lounge music at points throughout the film. 4 out of 5.

I do have to give a wag of the finger to the rest of the film's score. See, since they were unable to use the classic John Barry theme (see below), they brought on composer Michel Legrand. Some of his cues, in particular the one just before the motorcycle chase, sound - of all things - reminiscent of a Chuck Jones cartoon. Not exactly the image you want to go for when 007 is involved.

The Novel: By now, you've probably noticed that this movie is nothing more than a remake of Thunderball, and there's a reason for that. If you would care to look back at my review on that movie, you'll recall that Kevin McClory sued Ian Fleming over who created the scenario. As a result of the lawsuit, Kevin McClory eventually took back the rights to the plot and its new characters, including the SPECTRE organisation. (Which is why, until the release of Spectre in 2015, the EON-canon universe has avoided bringing it up wherever possible.) He was also given the rights to make a James Bond movie of his own; however it had to be a remake of the story he helped create. And thus we get Never Say Never Again, or as I like to call it, '80s Thunderball.

The Plot: The film opens with 007 on a mission at a drug lord's jungle villa. He breaks in and rescues a female captive, only for him to stab him in the back... but surprise surprise, it was all an MI6 training exercise. Displeased with 007's performance, M assigns Bond to the Shrublands clinic for some forced rehab. At the clinic, his suspicions are aroused by a mister Jack Petachi, a USAF pilot and heroin addict, under the care of Fatima Blush, executive Number 12 of SPECTRE. Bond breaks into Petachi's room, and a SPECTRE assassin returns the favour by trying to kill Bond during a workout. After leaving Shrublands, Petachi heads over to a nearby USAF base for a training exercise involving cruise missiles. With one of his eyes having been "fixed" by SPECTRE to match that of the American president, he sneaks away and programs a machine to load nuclear warheads into the dummy missiles. The test proceeds as normal, until the missiles are radar-jammed and crash-land into the Atlantic Ocean, enabling a SPECTRE team to steal the bombs. The head of SPECTRE announces a bounty of potentially billions of dollars for the bombs, lest two random targets be attacked with them. MI6 reactivates the 00 section to begin the search.

Upon receiving his file, 007 starts his investigation in Nassau, meeting Nigel Small-Fawcett, a contact from the British Embassy, and Fatima Blush, the lady from Shrublands. Bond and Blush make love on a boat, but she tries to kill him twice: once during a diving excursion and one in his hotel room. Bond survives both attempts on his life, and learns from Small-Fawcett that Largo's yacht, the Flying Saucer, is moving from Nassau to Nice, France. Bond follows and catches up with Domino, learning about a charity fundraiser being held by Largo at a casino that night. Upon meeting Largo at the event, he is challenged to a video game and wins, but turns down his winnings in favour of a tango with Domino, where he tells her the truth about her brother.

Bond returns from the casino to discover one of his allies dead and Blush making a getaway. He follows her on a Q-branch motorbike, but she trips him up. Cornered at gunpoint, he tricks her into letting him take out another of his gadgets, an exploding-dart pen, and kill her with it. With Blush out of the way, Bond sneaks aboard the Flying Saucer and is "welcomed" by Largo, but manages to send an SOS message to MI6. The yacht takes them to Palmyra, a North African castle, where Bond is imprisoned (whilst learning that one of the bombs is planted at the White House in Washington) and Domino is auctioned off to some Arabs. Of course, Bond breaks out, snatches back Domino, and the two are picked up by the US Navy. They learn that while the White House bomb has been defused, the other still threatens an unspecified Arabian oil field. Domino helps them pick a starting point thanks to a gem pendant given to her by Largo, which features a map of the area.

Bond and Leiter sneak behind the SPECTRE team through some caves, but Largo blocks off the route behind him. While the Navy provides covering fire, Bond goes back and around to catch up with Largo and the bomb. Before Largo can shoot Bond with his speargun, he himself gets speared by Domino, and the bomb is defused. All said and done, Bond and Domino catch some R&R in a tropical villa when they are interrupted by Small-Fawcett, who pleads 007 to return to Her Majesty's Secret Service. Instead, Bond says, "Never again", and winks at the camera. You are now free to turn off your TV.

I'm assuming you have learned your lesson by now: this is Thunderball for the 1980s. In fact, I'd like to call this the most '80s out of all the James Bond films. Heck, when you replace a round of Baccarat with a video game, there's no way you can bounce back from that. Which is a shame, because it copied a lot of the good from Thunderball as well, including the plot and the plight of our heroine. Considering that it's not part of the true Bond canon, it's not a total loss by any means. In fact, unlike the other non-EON entry which I skipped over, it follows the Bond formula closely enough -- for a reason -- that I decided to put it in as part of my 007 Golden Jubilee (yeah, I'm giving this celebration a proper name now). 4 out of 5.

The Call: 75% (B-)

IchigoRyu will return in
A View To A Kill