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Roger Spottiswoode
Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Ricky Jay, Götz Otto, Joe Don Baker, Vincent Schiavelli, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn
Writing Credits:
Ian Fleming (characters), Bruce Feirstein

An evil media mogul aims to use his communications network to lure a British submarine off course, steal its nuclear warheads, and ignite a war with China. Pierce Brosnan once again plays James Bond, with Teri Hatcher and Michelle Yeoh co-starring.

Box Office:
$110 million.
Opening Weekend
$25.143 million on 2807 screens.
Domestic Gross
$125.332 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 11/17/1998

• Audio Commentary with Director Roger Spottiswoode
• Audio Commentary with Second Unit Director Vic Armstrong And Producer Michael G. Wilson;
• Isolated Music Track
• Parallel Action Storyboard Presentation
• “The Secrets of 007” Documentary
• Interview with Composer David Arnold
• Special FX Reel
• Music Video
• Trailers
• Booklet


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 8, 2007)

After a dormant period of six years, James Bond roared back to life with 1995’s highly successful GoldenEye. The franchise seemed done after the disappointing returns that accompanied 1989’s Licence to Kill, but the thrills that came along with Pierce Brosnan’s first experience as our favorite secret agent helped resuscitate the series.

Because GoldenEye did so well, expectations elevated for its follow-up, 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. I was among those who felt greater anticipation for the newer film, and I must admit that these thoughts marred my initial perception of Dies, as I didn’t much care for it when I first watched it.

Actually, it wasn’t just my enjoyment of GoldenEye that made Dies seem less than spectacular. The film opened on the same day as Titanic, and my then-girlfriend and I decided to do a day-night doubleheader of the two on that Saturday. We went to a matinee screening of Titanic, which we followed with dinner and a viewing of Dies. To put it mildly, we both loved Titanic. I’d not felt great expectations for the film, as I couldn’t imagine a three-plus-hour tale of a sinking boat to be very interesting. However, the actual experience provided a very compelling tale, and I was truly blown away with the result.

As such, it would be hard for Dies to match up with that. While I can’t currently call Titanic one of my favorite films, I also can’t deny that it made a very strong impact upon me during that initial screening, and it would be difficult for Dies to follow that act. Because of this, the inevitable occurred. We saw TND and both thought it was a moderate disappointment.

In retrospect, I believe that most of my lack of enthusiasm toward Dies resulted from my affection toward Titanic. The latter was great, while the former was merely good, and the higher level of the boat movie made the Bond thriller pale by comparison. Not until months later could I evaluate Dies in a more objective way; at that time, I better understood its pleasures, and I now see it as a good - but still not great - part of the Bond franchise.

While Dies offers the usual power-mad villain, this character receives a brink-of-the-21st-century twist. Elliott Carver (Jonathan Pryce) owns many media outlets, with one of them being the tabloid “Tomorrow” from which the title glibly emanates. Carver creates his own news for the paper, and he also stages fake international incidents to try to crawl his way into the Chinese media market. Like most Bond baddies, he dreams of world domination, but he wants to do it in this unusual manner.

Bond gets involved after the Chinese allegedly attack a British ship located in international waters. The two sides bicker; the Chinese say that the Brits entered their territory and that they didn’t do it anyway, while the English are sure they were slaughtered in an unprovoked melee while in a neutral area. Once it’s discovered that there are some suspicious aspects of the fight and that it might be possible for the British locating devices to be deceived, Bond springs into action to prove Carver’s involvement.

After that we experience the usual Bond shenanigans. He goes to a press party held by Carver and briefly reunites with his enemy’s wife Paris (Teri Hatcher), a woman with whom Bond once had a fling. Bond also meets the mysterious Wai-Lin (Michelle Yeoh), who turns out to be a Chinese version of our secret agent.

The latter offers some of the best parts of Dies. While some older Bond flicks included females who could hold their own, Wai-Lin stands as one of the toughest and most compelling. Although the movie inevitably contrives to have Bond rescue her, we really feel as though this isn’t necessary; she appears to be more than self-sufficient, and Yeoh plays her with spunky aplomb that makes Wai-Lin one of the smartest and savviest Bond babes yet.

As for Paris, she definitely falls within the retro mode. Considering the modest star power of Hatcher, Paris plays a surprisingly small role in the movie, and she really has very little to do. Hatcher looks good in the role, but Paris is an underwritten and incomplete part; the film could have done just fine without her.

Pryce chews the scenery with gusto as Carver. Some dislike his hammy performance while others revel in its glorious campiness. Personally, I would have preferred to see Pryce add a greater level of realism. No, we don’t look to Bond films for true-to-life experiences, but there’s a fine line between stupid and clever, and Pryce occasionally crosses it. He makes Carver a fun villain, but he’s not someone the audiences really fears or respects.

I think my initial complaint about Dies was that it felt somewhat generic and uninventive, but I now feel more positively toward it. The plot is fairly bland, as the media mogul angle doesn’t really add much to the standard “evil genius” story. This seems especially drab after the nice twists and turns found in GoldenEye.

However, Dies does include some terrific action pieces, most of which are quite thrilling. Unfortunately, the traditional opening sequence wasn’t among the better parts of the film, another reason why Dies may initially seem disappointing. GoldenEye started with a true bang, whereas Dies begins with more of a whimper, and that set a lackluster tone for the movie.

Nonetheless, we do find a number of good sequences after that. The “backseat driver” piece that takes place in a German garage is a genuine classic, and the motorcycle bit in which Bond and Wai-Lin are handcuffed together while a helicopter chases them also seems to be very memorable. The finale doesn’t quite live up to these inspired scenes, but it finishes the movie in a fairly satisfying manner.

Ultimately, the phrase “fairly satisfying” aptly describes Tomorrow Never Dies. Few will consider it to be one of the best of the Bond franchise, but few will also see it as a poor entry in the series. The movie lacks some of the spark and panache that elevated its superior brethren, but it still manages to thrill and entertain for most of its running time. Despite some initial reservations, in the long run I’ve come to really like the film.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio A-/ Bonus B+

Tomorrow Never Dies appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film suffered from a rather mediocre transfer.

Sharpness displayed many of the concerns. These elements were erratic since parts of the movie displayed decent delineation. Unfortunately, quite a few others appeared rather fuzzy and muddy. I detected no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, but some edge enhancement appeared.

Print flaws were fairly minor. A little grit occurred at times, but the main defect was an odd one. During a few scenes, I saw light semi-translucent bars that rolled across the screen from right to left. These first appeared at around the 19-minute, 45-second mark, and they virtually always accompanied shots of the Stealth Boat. Most of the movie lacked these problems, but they did provide an occasional distraction.

Colors usually appeared reasonably natural and rich. They didn’t often excel, however, and they sometimes seemed a bit flat and runny. Black levels looked acceptably deep, but shadows were murky. Low-light shots appeared hazy and too dark much of the time. Ultimately, this was a less than stellar image.

Better was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Tomorrow Never Dies. The world of James Bond is a loud and dynamic one, and this mix pumped the audio to a positive degree. The soundfield showed a very high level of activity. The front channels displayed a great deal of sound across the speakers, as music provided fine stereo separation and effects were broad and engaging. The forward spectrum was quite realistic and involving, and the surrounds also contributed a good level of reinforcement. Dies included a lot of action sequences, and all of these became more exciting due to the engrossing audio that came from all around the viewer. The sounds blended together neatly and panned well between speakers to create a fairly seamless environment.

Audio quality also appeared to be generally positive. Some dialogue sounded slightly stiff, and occasional examples of awkward dubbing occurred, but as a whole the speech seemed to be quite natural and warm. No signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility marred the presentation. Jets and missiles betrayed some modest distortion, but otherwise effects sounded crisp and accurate, and they could definitely pack a solid punch. Dies offered fine low-end when appropriate, which meant that the piece often really rumbled the house. Music also showed positive dynamics, as the score seemed to be clear and was presented with good fidelity. In the end, Tomorrow Never Dies provided a fine auditory experience that was marred solely by a few minor flaws.

On this special edition release of Tomorrow Never Dies, we encounter a nice mix of extras, starting with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Roger Spottiswoode, who is essentially interviewed here by Dan Petrie. I found this to be an absolutely terrific track during which I learned a wealth of great information. Spottiswoode covers a wide variety of topics, from the technical elements of making a Bond flick to the creative decisions he had to make. He notes that for all of their common areas, it can be difficult to do a Bond film because a) you have to find ways to make things different and more exciting, and b) everyone and his uncle has an opinion about the series. Spottiswoode even gets into a nice discussion of the pros and cons of various film aspect ratios! I really liked the discussion of the challenges that are unique to the Bond universe, and I thought this was a very complete track.

Good but not as scintillating was the second commentary. It featured producer Michael G. Wilson and second unit director Vic Armstrong. Both men were recorded together for this screen-specific track. I suppose part of the reason I liked this piece less than Spottiswoode’s was because inevitably Wilson and Armstrong repeat some of the same information, but even if that hadn’t occurred, I’d still think less of it. They spend too much of the commentary praising various participants and leave less time to tell of details. Wilson dominates the track, and this tendency makes sense since he needs to continue to maintain a positive relationship with all the folks attached to the project. At times I heard some nice details, and this commentary got a bit more involved in the technical specifics of the film, but it wasn’t as compelling as Spottiswoode’s track. Still, it’s worth a listen for fans of the movie.

A third alternate audio program also appears. This one includes an Isolated Music Track. Via this mode, you can listen to all of David Arnold’s score plus other tunes like Sheryl Crow’s title song in their uninterrupted glory. This piece provides the music in Dolby Surround sound. I’m not terribly fond of movie scores, but I know many folks do enjoy them, so this kind of feature remains a nice bonus.

Next we find a documentary about the Bond series. Entitled The Secrets of 007, this program runs for 44 minutes and 35 seconds and takes a global look at the franchise. Hosted by Peter Coyote, the show splits its segments into various topics such as the different actors to play Bond, the movies’ stunts, Bond women, and Bond villains. Dies gets a minor emphasis, and we hear more about it toward the end of the documentary, but the overall emphasis remains on the entire series. It’s a decent show, but I would have preferred to find a more detailed discussion of Dies, especially since GoldenEye included a similar program; that one makes “The World of 007” feel somewhat redundant. Plus, Coyote does not make a satisfactory replacement for Liz Hurley, the host of the prior program.

A few other smaller extras flesh out the package. One was quite innovative at the time of this DVD’s release in late 1998. When you enter the Special Play Options domain, you can select any of the three audio choices I already mentioned, and you can also pick the “Parallel Action Storyboard Presentation”. With this activated, a few scenes in the movie will display a “007” logo. At that point, hit the “angle” button on your remote and you can watch these segments with their original storyboards displayed in the lower right corner of the screen.

The execution of this feature was a little sloppy; the drawings are made semi-translucent, which doesn’t decrease the manner in which they interfere with the film but it does make them more difficult to see. Nonetheless, this was a neat attempt to do something different and interactive, and it can be interesting for fans of storyboards. Note that you don’t have to watch the entire movie to check out these sequences. The menu offers a “List of Scenes” that allows easy access to the nine parts of the flick that include the option.

An Interview With Composer David Arnold provides a minor chat with the musician. In this 160-second clip, we hear a few tidbits from Arnold about his work on Dies; these statements intermix with shots from the film. Ultimately, the latter overwhelm the former. Arnold gives us a couple of interesting remarks about the challenges of composing for Bond, but this piece feels too brief and superficial to add much to the set.

The Special Effects Reel gives us two minutes and 50 seconds of what the title implies: shots of effects footage as they get composited together. We see greenscreen images combined with backgrounds and other elements as they mix to make the final product. This comes only with music from the film; no narration discusses what we observe. Still, it’s a brief but neat little look at how some of the movie’s pieces created the final result.

Gadgets offers a short look at three of the film’s devices. We find narrated text and small images of the Sea-Vac, the BMW, and the cell phone featured in the flick. The details add a little, but not much, as this was a fairly useless piece.

A music video for Sheryl Crow’s title song provides a reasonably flashy and entertaining clip. The track shows Crow as she lip-synchs the tune, and we also see a mix of snippets from the movie. However, the piece attempts to resemble a Bond credit sequence, and it does so well. Crow romps across the visual landscape, and the movie bits become cleanly integrated. It’s not a great video, but it’s definitely above average for a clip that promotes a movie.

Speaking of promotion, the DVD includes two ads. We get the film’s fun teaser and its full trailer. Lastly, the case includes a terrific 12-page booklet that covers lots of interesting Bond facts. MGM used to regularly produce fine pieces like this; it’s too bad they’ve ceased such endeavors, as I always really liked their solid booklets.

Ultimately, Tomorrow Never Dies offers neither the greatest film nor DVD in the world, but it’s a solid piece in both regards. The movie initially left me a little cold, but I’ve come to better enjoy some of its charms over the years. It doesn’t provide the spark found in the best Bond flicks, but it works pretty nicely on its own. The DVD features solid picture and sound plus a positive roster of extras. Tomorrow Never Dies shouldn’t be your first Bond DVD purchase, but it would make a fine addition to your collection nonetheless.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2808 Stars Number of Votes: 89
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