Monday, June 16, 2008

Tomorrow Never Dies - A Movie Club Column

Hope all you baby daddies out there had a Happy Father's Day!

Today for our movie club, we present the Pierce Brosnan edition of our James Bond series. The 1997 movie Tom'w Never Dies has a timely for the late 90s villian named Eliot Carver.... a rich ego maniac who decides that having a strong media presence means you can control the world.

As I started to prepare today's column, I was trying to think of which 1990s media icon reminded me the most of Carver, and a few come to mind But now that NBC has dusted Tom Brokaw out of mothballs to anchor the coverage of Tim Russert's sudden death, its interesting to note that Russert was the anti Eliot Carver.,.. Russert was actually a very powerful guy.... hosting political debates....calling races on Primary and/or Election Day... (and ticking off Hillary Clinton by accurately calling it for Obama a few weeks earlier than she would have preferred) plus he was not the host, but rather "the moderator" for Meet the Press.... Guests on that show knew they needed to be on their toes because Russert was quite sharp and extremely well prepared. But unlike Carver who tries to manipulate the news for his personal agenda.. the people who have paid tribute to Russert say that he would follow up a tough interview with a teddy bear charm, and people who were just grilled by him, would come off the air afterwards treating him like a buddy. Apparently they felt it was hard to begrudge a tough, well prepared interviewer who was notorious for being such a big family man especially to his dad Big Russ and son Luke who he talked about endlessly. And you can tell by NBC and MSNBC's weekend coverage that this was one well liked fella. Can you imagine him at the hospital introducing himself to his newborn son with a Vader-esque..."Luke I am your father".

In this movie Tom'w is the newspaper that publishes the news before it actually happens in the race for the exclusive, On the other hand, Friday, NBC waited hours to announce the news because they had to track down Tim's Family in Italy, before announcing it on TV. That explains how the retired Tom Brokaw had enough time to throw on a suit and tie and get over to 30 Rock Friday afternoon to cover for Brian WIlliams who was overseas on a different assignment... I thought Brokaw retired and was fishing in North Dakota. If he had not been in NY, who would they have brought in to anchor the coverage....89 year old Edwin Newman?? Wolf Blitzer said on CNN that they knew about it most of Friday..... but felt that the right thing to do was to allow NBC to make the initial announcement. By the way, I had no clue that this was going on...until a buddy of mine sent me an email praising Russert's journalistic integrity. Perhaps the best example of his honesty was the fact that it was his testimony that put away Scooter Libby after that evil George Bush henchman got into a he said - he said battle after he accused Russert of outing Valerie Plame. . And although I rarely watched Meet The Press (except for Sunday night cable repeats), I spent more Sundays watching NBC Football games with one of the best NFL Announcers ever - Charlie Jones... whose death was also announced Friday but got lost in the shuffle.

By the way the funniest news blooper I ever saw was when Tim had egg on his face when he breathlessly reported a big exclusive during the Clinton administration that turned out to be erroeneous - the name of the Clintons new dog!! Hey if your biggest booboo involves a dog's name.. that ain't too shabby.

Getting back to the movie,.. Here is the trailer...

Eliot Carver seems to "see" the future.... his Tom'w newspaper breathlessly announces news moments after Carver creates it. The Carver ego brings to mind some other ego maniacal media moguls from that time period. The Daily News had a wacko publisher named Robert Maxwell who once fell off a yacht and drowned. And the NY Post had a brief fling with nutty ol' Abe Hirschfeld... writers there were so ticked off that they published a special edition where every article blasted the guy. Even Luann in the comics sat on her bed talking to Bernice about how bad the Post was going to be under Hirschfeld. Nowadays we have Rupert Murdoch running The Post and Fox News.... but the Carver network sort of reminded me of CNN. Carver has a sidekick named Gupta... kind of reminds you of Sanjay Gupta... except the Gupta in this movie is American! And the actor who played him also played the caretaker at that mysterious mansion in The Prestige. Carver also has a fascination with GPS....... CNN has a new Sunday afternoon show after Wolf Blitzer with some guy that has GPS in its title... plus Carver also has a henchman named Stamper who looks like a mix of Anderson Cooper and Bull from Night Court.

The movie starts with a bizarre military encounter between a British Naval ship and The Chinese Air Force. The navy is stunned to hear that they are in Chinese waters even though their radar shows that they are not. And how does this relate to Carver? Well Bonds bosses realize that this amazing 1997 concept called Global Positioning Systems.. which we now lovingly call GPS.. and it turns out that the GPS was showing the British ship to be where it shouldnt be due to tampering from a satellite tracked to Carver. As Bond is sent in... he is forced to confront his past... Mrs. Carver played by Teri Hatcher... and a possible future babe..a Chinese agent played by the Chinese Walker Texas Ranger - Michelle Yeoh. I wasn't paying attention to the opening credits so I was surprised to see Hatcher playing Paris Carver... who the heck in 1997 was named Paris?? - Unfortunately, I also had a mental block during the movie and I couldnt remember Teri Hatcher's name.. so after about 20 minutes, I paused the dvd, went online to imdb and looked it up! I must say she looked spectacular!!

Bond's arrival at Carver's shindig.... along with his reunion with Paris... he had loved and left her many years ago - coincides with the launching of Carvers new Global News Network. Prior to the premiere, Carver meets with his worldwide reporters and has an amusing news briefing... interrupted by an update on a new computer software program his company is releasing which Carver requests have enough bugs in it so customers have to come back and buy upgrades. How Gates-ian. He also announces plans to blackmail a politician with a video involving a young cheerleader and then instructs his underlings that when he gets his demands.. to just release the tapes anyway!

As usual, Bond has his debriefing with Q - Desmond Llewelyn's record 16th appearance in the Bond series - who at the time of this movie was 83 (six years younger than Edwin Newman)... and 33 years after his first appearance in Goldfinger... The toys are pretty cool... the cell phone is a hoot with all the stuff it can do... but the 97 futuristic phone has a black and white screen! Bond also gets a snazzy BMW that he can drive utilizing a remote control in the phone... which is activated by flipping it much like one flips one of those teenybopper cell phones with the dual text messaging keyboard. Q seems to have a problem controlling the car... but Bond gets the hang of it pretty quick taking it for a "joyride" at a parking garage. Llewelyn appeared in one more Bond film after this one and died 2 years later in a car crash in England.

Once Bond has his toys.... he is ready to go.... its off to meet Carver on the night of his big coming out party culminated with a live broadcast launching the new network. But a little technical snafu courtesy of Bond... throws Carver off the air causing him to throw a hissy fit... and apparently upsetting him more than the death of a close relative later in the movie. That death... not shown.... is perpetrated by Dr, Kaufman played brilliantly by Italian character actor Vincent Schiavelli. In the movie Dr. Kaufman is the bad guy who can CSI proof any murder scene... and as Bond discovers a woman's body, a tape of a Carver anchorwoman plays on a TV in the background announcing breaking news that the womans body has been found along with that of a dead man! The whole Kaufman storyline made me chuckle since the local Dr Kaufman in our neighborhood has to be one of the nicest gentlest doctors this side of the Mississippi. He also lived in Italy for awhile.... and not only does he speak fluent Italian... but on my wedding video... he offered his best wishes to the Keans.... in Italian!! As The movie's Dr. Kaufman is about to kill Bond, the drs cell phone rings.. it turns out the Carver henchmen are trying to break into Bonds car to retrieve the GPS busting device that Bond had taken from Carver... but they cant get into the souped up car. Its quite funny watching Kaufman interrupt his "I'm about to kill you" moment to politely inquire how to break into his car.

It's very difficult to compare Brosnan's Bond to the legends of Connery and Roger Moore. These movies are more up to date... as are 007's headquarters as the newer movies used more modern sets to ease away from the images of the classic older films. Even Moneypenny continues to get younger.. in this movie she is played by Samantha Bond. Brosnan's Bond gets his uniform dirty... even though he is as debonaire as always.... he actually has hair out of place during the climatic battle with Carver. And even though Bond is supposed to be THE star.... Yeoh's character gets a lot of screen time...yet always gets bailed out by Bond... Apparently there was an idea that her character could one day get a spinoff movie, but that never materialized. She does a pretty decent job however

The storyline moves along very well. Jonathan Pryce turns in a stunning performance as Carver as he concocts an elaborate plan to start a war between England and China. A military intervention looms unless Bond can prove that Carver instigated this brouhaha. And Carver doesn't disappoint pulling out some hysterical quotes,.... such as threatening to drown Bond by tying him and throwing him off a ship... he tells Bond he can be his news "anchorman". Carver also amusingly taunts Yeoh by loudly mimicking her karate moves. That scene along with Kaufman's interruption of his Bond shooting are two of the most amusing scenes in this movie. Futuristic is a difficult concept when viewing a 10 year old movie... but when Lost on TV brings us people moving islands... it would seem that the idea of sabotaging a radar system was incredibly clever. But with a big military movement looming... Bond's race against time creates quite an entertaining adventure in that race against the clock to pin the military attacks on Carver. Ultimately when Carver meets his fate, James Bonds bosses decide to issue a press release that evoke memories of the story of Maxwell who met his demise in 1991, the same year by the way that Russert took over Meet the Press.

As a movie itself, its quite entertaining.... but when it comes to Bond movies, fans of Connery expecting Brosnan to live up to that standard will be disappointed... although probably not as disappointed as Bills Fan Tim Russert was when Scott Norwood missed that field goal in 1991 that handed the Super Bowl to The Giants. On a scale of 1 to 4 bladders meaning how less likely you would be to leave in the middle to go to the bathroom... Tomorrow Never Dies gets 3 bladders.

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