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IN SHORT: Best Bond since Thunderball.
First, a flashback: Cranky and his friends, to the man, all walked out of Goldeneye holding the same opinion: If only Pierce Brosnan had something to do, rather than go through the paces that made every Bond film seem the same time and time again, the series could once again be close to what it was when Sean Connery was Bond.
Cranky doesn't care how much money Goldeneye made, it was tired and by the book and, most important, it wasn't fun.
Someone finally paid attention. True, everything in Tomorrow Never Dies is in the Bond template, from a big bang opening sequence (followed by the usual fizzle of a Bond song) is here -- the gadgets, the car, the girls, the explosions -- but the 18th flick in the MGM franchise explodes gloriously across the screen.
Everything in the Bond template gets done better than it's been done in years. Lots of gadgets, all of which Bond uses. A terrific new car which more than earns its keep as the best Christmas present a boy can get - - and if you don't agree with me, just watch Brosnan in the back seat of the car, grinning and cackling like the aforementioned boy, as he guides the BMW by remote control. Delightful.
The action sequences in Tomorrow Never Dies are the most fun I've sat through in years, thanks to director Roger Spottiswoode who knows when to cut a sequence short, and how to blend action with humor (He should. He helmed Eddie Murphy's 48 Hours.) A long sequence, set on the streets and rooftops of Saigon offers the joy of a very clever and potentially gory death for Bond -- but I won't tell you what it is -- and the thrill of seeing action starbabe Michelle Yeoh (last seen in Jackie Chan's Supercop) wrapped around Bond and handcuffed to him, all at the same time. The villain, in this case media baron Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) meets a suitably grotesque and gory end. Oh happy, happy joy joy!
The story in brief: Carver, as Lord and Master of a media empire with tendrils into every house on the planet with a television, wants control of the news information flow into every home. Info is power, y'know. Therefore he must create the story which, in this case, is World War 3. Bond has 48 hours to stop him, aided by his Chinese equivalent, a sexy hard kicking agent named Wai Lin (Yeoh). Teri Hatcher, as his Carver's wife Paris, adds spice and a bit of skin as a former Bond love.
Wait, there's more.
The double entendres fly hot and heavy in the first hour. Just enough to make you groan, and then they're gone. "M" (Judi Dench) has a bigger role than jockeying a desk and "Q" (Desmond Llewellyn) plays a supporting role in two, count 'em two, product placements. Yes, you've all been bitching online about the commercials for umpteen products that have purchased a place in Tomorrow Never Dies. Cranky has, too. Get over it. The film rocks.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Tomorrow Never Dies, he would have paid...
Tomorrow Never Dies is everything a boy could want. Except for the song, in which singer Sheryl Crow sounds like a beached whale. Unlike Goldeneye, which barely recovered from its song, Tomorrow Never Dies rights itself in two or three minutes and zooms off into the Bond hall of fame.
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