Batman (dir. by Tim Burton)


Here on the Shattered Lens, the love for Batman is very strong. There are too many Batman related articles to fully list, but for a good start, go with Ryan’s Which Way Forward for the Batman Franchise.

This isn’t so much a review for Batman as it’s just me looking back on the film.

I spent the Saturday Morning of June 24th, 1989 standing on a line that snaked around the white walls of the Sunrise Multiplex Cinema in Valley Stream. Thankfully, by the time I arrived, there were only a few people there. Most of them were my friends, so we were close to the door. The following year, the Sunrise would go down in history as being the only movie theatre I’ve ever known with metal detectors after a shooting around the release of The Godfather Part III prompted tighter security. Before then, anyone going into the theatre had a free run of the place. From that incident to the theatre’s shutdown in 2015, you always had to pass the metal detectors.

You knew Tim Burton’s Batman was going to be something grand when they first put up the posters in bus stations. The character was so well known that the poster was simply a black and gold Batsymbol with a date – June 23. In my neighborhood, the poster lasted a week before the bus stop’s glass was broken and it was stolen. This was how mad people were for the film. Although merchandise was already available, it moved at an incredible pace. For a film made before pre-Internet, the buzz was just amazing.

“Okay, Everyone, we know you’re looking forward to seeing the movie.”, came the announcement over the theatre’s loudspeaker, which caused a few murmurs from everyone. It was a smooth, business like voice, probably from someone who had never even heard of The Caped Crusader. “We’re going to open up the doors and we want everyone to proceed to the ticket booths in a nice, orderly fashion.”

I was 14 at the time. Batman was the first movie I ever saw without my family. My parents, a cop and a bartender, saw so much of the worst of NYC that they figured the best place for me was home. Still, since I was among friends they knew, I gave me a pass. It was a big deal. My friend Pierre and I had a plan, along with the 4 others that came with us. We’d head in, make for the ticket booth and go right in for our seats near the back right side.. No refreshments were necessary, since we could all go eat at the mall later on after the move was done. To make sure I didn’t miss anything, I had already read the novel for the story beforehand.

Anyone close to the door could see the theatre workers as they approached, keys in hand. The layout of the Sunrise was such that after stepping through the front door, you could cut to your immediate left or right down a open path to separate ticket booth. As the door unlocked, was pushed open and secured, someone from near the middle of the line decided it was time, declaring in a loud scream.

“Batman!!!!!”

It was madness. Utter madness. Bodies piled into the theatre in a mad scramble for the ticket booth. On the way there, I was shoulder blocked and fell to the floor. I instantly curled into a ball to keep from getting trampled, wondering if my parents were right about not letting me out. ‘Here lies Lenny…”, my epitaph would read. “…he died at the movies after being let outside on his own just once.”

Thankfully, I was scooped up to my feet a few seconds later by one of my friends.

“Go on! We’ve got your tickets! Head for the ticket guy, we’ll meet you there!” he yelled over the crowd passing us on sides.

“Okay!!” I’d been to the Sunrise tons of times, so I knew it well. I moved through the crowd, bypassing the concession stand, which was already developing a line of its own. I thought they were going to go in without me and leave me there. I don’t know they did it, but within a few minutes of reaching the ticket taker. most of my group caught up, tickets in hand for all of us.

The actual experience of Batman was a packed crowd with almost non-stop talking throughout. After all, the audience was made up of teens and DC fans that that were ravenous for anything Batman related. Superman had about four films by the time Batman premiered. I think the only real time the entire audience hushed was near the beginning when we first see Batman grab the one robber and they ask him what he is. After that, the crowd pretty much erupted in applause.

Of course, that line would become famous and reused over the years, such as it was with the WB’s Supernatural.

Even before the film was released, the buzz for Batman was immense.

Batman focuses on Gotham City, a grand town with a great deal of crime. Reports are coming in of a mysterious vigilante figure resembling a giant bat that’s taking down random criminals. Crime in Gotham is run by Boss Carl Grissom (Jack Palance, City Slickers), with his right hand man, Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson, The Departed). After discovering that Napier’s spent some quality time with his girl, Alicia (Jerry Hall, Urban Cowboy), Grissom sets him up so that he’ll be caught by the cops. Things don’t go as planned, and after falling into a vat of chemicals, Napier is reborn as The Joker. Can the Dark Knight defeat this new menace?

One of Anton Furst’s designs for Batman.

For me, one of the most interesting elements of Tim Burton’s Batman is how Jack Nicholson was the main draw for the film. Nicholson stands front and center in this film. If any real eyebrows were raised, it was over casting Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight. Keaton and Burton worked together on Beetlejuice, so there was some chemistry. However, when the announcement for Keaton being cast in Batman, most people were pretty skeptical. Keaton was known for playing more comedic roles, and playing the Batman required a more serious attitude. However, I’ve always felt that comedians are the most shocking when they take on a serious role. Some examples of this are Patton Oswalt in Big Fan, Robin Williams’ Academy Award winning performance in Good Will Hunting and most recently, Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. I feel that worked for Keaton, and most viewers underestimated what he could bring to both Bruce Wayne and Batman. As Wayne, Keaton seems a bit subdued. As Batman, he’s a little scary simply because he doesn’t quite look like the kind of individual who would roam the streets at night dressed as a bat. My parents would later argue over Batman’s drop of Jack Napier at Axis Chemicals. I thought it was a situation where he just couldn’t hold on to him. My parents’ viewpoint was that Batman deliberately did it. We never really know for sure, but it did seem a little convenient that Batman couldn’t hold on to Napier. Overall, Keaton’s Batman plays second fiddle to Nicholson’s Joker, who also had a some sway in the design of the nemesis for the film.

Batman’s cast also includes Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) as Vicki Vale, Robert Wuhl (Bull Durham), Billy Dee Williams (Nighthawks) and Pat Hingle (Sudden Impact) as Commissioner Gordon, The cast is pretty perfect here, without anyone really falling out of step. Batman stories would grow more serious by the time Nolan would step in, but for the 1980s, it was just fine.

Anton Furst would win an Oscar for Best Art Direction for his design of Gotham City, which was for its time, quite dazzling. On par with some of the designs from Blade Runner and The Crow, Furst’s rendition of Gotham was dark and brooding, compared to the more modern backdrop of Batman Begins. In addition to Gotham’s look, Furst also helped design the Batmobile, which was based off the Chevy Impala (another Supernatural connection). When the film was released on home video, my family caught sight of the Batmobile up close on the street as it delivered VHS Copies to a video store in Manhattan. Although he died some years later, Furst’s work on Batman remains an influence on both the comics and future installments of the movies.

1989 was also a big year for Danny Elfman. His score for Batman would earn him a Grammy, and the main theme would become a definitive one for the Caped Crusader throughout the early 1990. Shirley Walker would build on the theme with her music from Batman: The Animated Series. It was also something of a surprise for Prince. With songs like Trust, Electric Chair and Vicki’s Waiting, Prince’s Batman Soundtrack is full of great hits that you really wouldn’t think would fit in a story like Batman. Still, they manage to do just fine, and even elevate scenes like the Joker’s entry in the Gotham Museum and the Balloon Parade.

Batman is not without a few problems. It gets a little long in the tooth in the film’s second half, particularly in the scenes leading up to the Monarch and Bruce losing his parents. It’s not a terrible slowdown, since it has to set the tone for some of the more spectacular fights later on. It could have been edited just a little tighter. Additionally, when compared to some of the modern versions, 1989’s Batman can feel a little bit dated (to me, anyway). That’s more of a nitpick, or where you stand on the Batman universe as a whole. Everyone has their favorite adaptation on the Caped Crusader.

Burton and Keaton would later reunite in 1992’s Batman Returns, and the franchise on a whole would take a different turn with Joel Schumacher’s takes in 1995’s Batman Forever and 1997 Batman & Robin. 

Lisa Recommends Fool For Love (dir by Robert Altman)


As the day draws to a close, I’m going to recommend one final film.

It’s not, by any means, a perfect film.  In fact, it’s pretty damn imperfect.  It’s a film that occasionally tries too hard to be profound.  It’s based on a play and it never quite escapes its theatrical origins.  What was undoubtedly exciting on the stage, drags a bit on the screen.  It’s a fairly obscure film.  I just happened to catch it on This TV a month ago and the main reason that I watched it was because of the cast.

But no matter!  I still think you should watch this film if you get a chance.

The name of that film is Fool For Love.

First released in 1985 and based on a play by Sam Shepard, Fool For Love takes place over the course of one long night at a motel in the Southwest.  Staying at the motel is May (Kim Basinger), who is hoping to escape from her past.  Not eager to allow her to escape is her former lover, Eddie (Sam Shepard).  An aging cowboy, Eddie shows up at the motel and tries to convince May to return with him to his ranch.  As they argue, clues are dropped to the terrible secret that haunts their past.  Martin (Randy Quaid), a buffoonish but well-meaning “gentleman caller,” shows up to take May on a date and finds himself sucked into the drama between her and Eddie.

Meanwhile, on the edge of every scene, there’s the Old Man (Harry Dean Stanton).  The Old Man watches Eddie and May and offers up his own frequently sarcastic commentary.  It becomes obvious that he not only knows about the secret in their past but that he’s determined that they not get together.  Is the Old Man really there or is he just a figment of everyone’s imagination or is he something else all together?

As I said earlier, the film never quite escapes its theatrical origins.  As well, while Shepard and Kim Basinger both give authentic and charismatic performance, they don’t quite have the right romantic chemistry to really convince us that Eddie would chase May all the way to that isolated motel.  It’s hard not to feel that if May had been played by Shepard’s then-partner Jessica Lange or his Right Stuff co-star, Barbara Hershey, the film would have worked better.

And yet, even if it never comes together as a whole, Fool For Love is a film that should be seen just for its display of individual talent.  Of the film’s five main creative forces, only Kim Basinger is still with us.  Director Robert Altman died in 2006 while Sam Shepard and Harry Dean Stanton both passed away in 2017.  While Randy Quaid is still alive, it’s doubtful he’ll ever again get the type of roles that earlier established him as one of America’s best character actors.  Whenever I read another snarky article about Quaid hiding out in Vermont and ranting about the “star whackers,” I can’t help but sadly think about the perfect performances that Quaid used to regularly give in imperfect films like this one.

So, definitely track down Fool For Love.  Watch it and pay a little tribute to all of the wonderful talent that we’ve lost over the last 10 or so years.  Watch it for Robert Altman’s ability to turn kitsch into art.  Watch it for the rugged individualism of Sam Shepard and the once-empathetic eccentricity of Randy Quaid.  Watch it for Harry Dean Stanton, the legendary actor who, more than any other performer, seemed to epitomize the southwest and Americana.

Watch it and spare a little thought for all of them.

A Movie A Day #285: Bless The Child (2000, directed by Chuck Russell)


Kim Basinger is Maggie, a nurse who has adopted her autistic niece, Cody.  Her sister, Jenna (Angela Bettis), used to be a junkie but now she has cleaned up her act and married a former-child star-turned-cult leader, Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell).  Because Jenna’s daughter has supernatural powers and Eric is a Satanist, they want the little girl back.  Christina Ricci is Cheri, a junkie goth who used to be a member of the cult and who tries to warn Maggie before getting her head chopped off.  Jimmy Smits is John Travis, the FBI agent who helps Maggie out when Jenna and Eric kidnap Cody.  Mostly, though, he’s just Jimmy Smits, a TV actor who looks out of place whenever he appears in a movie.

Bless the Child was one of two movies that Kim Basinger made after winning an Oscar for L.A. Confidential.  She also made I Dreamed Of Africa, which probably did the most damage to her career but the box office and critical failure of Bless The Child probably did not help either.  Bless The Child was an overlong rip-off of The Omen films.  The only suspense is whether Cody is the antichrist or the reborn messiah.  Basinger and Jimmy Smits both look lost amid all the theological chaos raging around them.  Even Christina Ricci is wasted in a role that could have been played by anyone willing to dye her hair black.

One final note: Rufus Sewell is not terrible in Bless The Child, even if the majority of his lines sound more appropriate for Darth Vader than a former child actor.  (He even tells Maggie to feel the hate growing inside of her, like Vader trying to draw Luke over to the dark side.)  Sewell is still a busy actor but it seems like he has never really gotten his due in Hollywood.  Most of the good Rufus Sewell roles now seem to go to Jude Law.

Film Review: Fifty Shades Darker (dir by James Foley)


The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is shaping up to be the cinematic equivalent of a twitter parody account.

That’s the conclusion that I reached today after my BFF Evelyn and I watched the second part of the trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker.  Since we had both read the book, we weren’t shocked when Fifty Shades Darker turned out to be a bad movie.  Hell, we weren’t surprised when Fifty Shades of Grey turned out to be bad, either.  Each subsequent book was worst than the one that came before it so, when the film version of Fifty Shades Freer is released next year, it should be the worst of all.

Still, nothing could have prepared us for the amount of laugh-out-loud moments and odd details that were offered up in Fifty Shades Darker.  Consider just a few:

Having broken up with Christian “I’m fifty shades of fucked up” Grey at the end of the previous film, Ana Steele (Dakota Johnson, doing penance in the hope of being sprung from Purgatory) is now working for a hip and trendy Seattle publishing company!  How do we know that it’s hip and trendy?  Well, it’s in Seattle and it’s called Seattle Independent Publishing!  (As opposed to Seattle Corporate Press.)  Her boss, Jack (Eric Hyde) leers at her in a style that basically screams, “Lifetime movie villain!”  There’s a scene in which Ana tells her editors that they should be making more of an attempt to reach readers in the “18-24 demographic” and everyone reacts as if this is the first time that they’ve ever heard about this concept.  You half expect someone to say, “18 to 24 year olds!  WHY DIDN’T WE THINK OF THAT!?”  Seriously, after seeing this, I’m going to send my resume to the Dallas Observer, along with a note that says, “18-24.  Hire me for more info.”

When Christian (poor Jamie Dornan, who I’m pretty sure was trying to blink out an S.O.S. signal at certain points in the film) and Ana first reunite, it’s to attend an art show.  Ana’s artist friend has filled an entire gallery with photos of Ana, the majority of which resemble the “sexy” photos that Darcy posted to her MyRoom page in that very special episode of Degrassi.  Christian buys all the pictures because he can’t handle the idea of anyone else having Ana on their wall.  This obsessive and controlling act is just enough to apparently make Ana reconsider her decision to dump Christian because he was being too obsessive and controlling.

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Christian eventually confesses to Ana that he’s only attracted to women who look like his mother and he punishes them because he’s angry with her.  “Oh, Christian, your Oedipal complex is so sexy,” Ana coos.  Okay, she doesn’t say that.  I said that and then Evelyn said something that I can’t repeat.  And then we laughed and laughed.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know that everyone has their issues and God knows, I’ve got a few myself.  But the minute a guy tells me that he’s only dating me because I look like his mother, that’s the minute I leave.

When Christian tells Ana about his messed up childhood, Ana responds by drawing on his chest with lipstick.  And I swear, that lipstick remains on his chest — without a smudge — for at least a few days.  Every time we would catch a glimpse of those perfect lipstick markings on Christian’s chest, Evelyn and I would start laughing.  I mean, drawing on your partner (or having your partner draw on you) can be fun but most people wash it off after a while.

(Incidentally, when the Scary Movie people get around to parodying this movie, you know that the lipstick scene is going to be recreated.)

Christian’s childhood bedroom is decorated with a poster of Vin Diesel.  When Christian is pouring out his heart, Vin Diesel is glowering in the background.  It would have been neat if the poster had suddenly come to life.  Perhaps Vin could have suddenly appeared in the bedroom and said, “Someday … BUT NOT TODAY!”

And I’m not even going to talk about the Ben Wa balls.

fifty-shades-darker-teaser-intrigued

Anyway, there’s really not much of a plot in Fifty Shades Darker.  Ana gets back together with Christian but says that she wants to have a “vanilla” relationship.  Christian agrees but he still keeps doing controlling stuff, like buying Ana’s company and freezing her bank account.  Ana gets mad.  Ana breaks up with him.  They get back together.  This happens a few times.  Christian tells Ana to stay away from a man.  Ana gets upset but then the man tries to rape her which feels like the film’s way of putting her in her place for doubting Christian’s instincts when it comes to men.  Kim Basinger pops up as the woman who introduced Christian to BDSM and tells Ana that Christian will never be happy in a vanilla relationship.  Ana says that vanilla is her favorite ice cream.  Here’s my thing: why can’t Ana come up with a more complimentary term than “vanilla” to describe her relationship goals?  I mean, Ana’s clever.  She came up with that whole 18-24 thing, after all.

There’s also a crazy woman (Bella Heathcote) who shows up occasionally.  We know she’s crazy because she’s dressed like someone who lives in an abandoned subway tunnel.  She occasionally grabs Ana and says, “I’m nobody!”  Hmmm….I wonder what that’s about…

(Well, don’t wonder too much.  There’s not a single mystery or question in Fifty Shades Darker that isn’t solved a scene or two after it’s raised.)

One of the redeeming things about Fifty Shades of Grey is that neither Dakota Johnson nor director Sam Taylor-Johnson seemed to be taking it all that seriously.  Dakota would pause meaningfully before delivering the worst of her dialogue, a sign that even she couldn’t believe what she was about to say.  Meanwhile, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s direction suggested that she found the story to be just as ludicrous and stupid as everyone else.  However, Fifty Shades Darker is directed by James Foley.  Foley is a veteran director, one who has been making films since before I was born.  He does a workmanlike job and you can almost hear him shouting, “Now, where’s my paycheck!?” during certain scenes.  Under Foley’s direction, there’s no winking at the audience.  There’s no hints of subversion.  Foley’s direction is very literal and more than a little dull.  He was hired to direct a big-budget version of a Chanel No. 5 commercial and that’s exactly what he does.

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The other big issue with Fifty Shades Darker is that Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have very little romantic chemistry.  They both look good naked but that’s about it.  Jamie looks miserable to be there and Dakota seems to be trying to keep herself amused.  The lack of chemistry was less of a problem in Fifty Shades of Grey.  In that film, all that mattered was that Christian was rich and hot and Ana didn’t really haven’t anything better to do.  But, in Fifty Shades Darker, we’re asked to believe that they’re actually deeply in love and … no, it just doesn’t work.

Evelyn and I laughed through the entire movie.  In the past, we’ve gotten in trouble for doing this because we do have a tendency to get a little bit loud.  However, nobody in the audience seemed to mind.

Anyway, Fifty Shades Freer will be coming out next year.  Hopefully, someone will read this review and work my idea about the Vin Diesel cameo into the film.

Seriously, it would be great!

vin-diesel-jamie-dornan

Playing Catch-Up: The Nice Guys (dir by Shane Black)


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Last night, along with seeing Trainspotting at the Alamo Drafthouse and watching The BFG at home, I also rewatched The Nice Guys.

Now, I saw The Nice Guys when it was first released last May and I absolutely loved it.  However, before I started rewatching it, I was a little worried .  I remembered that The Nice Guys was a stylish and often hilarious action film, one that featured a great comedic turn from Ryan Gosling and a performance from Russell Crowe that showed why he deserves to make a comeback as a leading man.  I also remembered that, for all of its graphic violence and often profane dialogue, The Nice Guys was also an unexpectedly sweet-natured movie.  I loved not only the rapport shared between Gosling and Crowe but also the relationship between Gosling and Angourie Rice, the actress playing his daughter.  In fact, I remembered enjoying The Nice Guys so much that I was worried that it wouldn’t hold up to a second viewing.

It often happens when you love a film the first time that you see it.  On a second viewing, you start to notice all the little flaws that you didn’t notice the first time.  Lines that you remembered as being brilliant are no longer impressive, largely because you know they’re coming.  All too often, the films that blow you away fail to hold up over time.

(Anyone tried to rewatch Inherent Vice lately?)

But you know what?

The Nice Guys is not one of those films.  I watched the film for a second time and I loved it even more than the first time.

The Nice Guys takes place in Los Angeles in 1977.  It’s a time of wide lapels, leisure suits, tacky interior design, porno chic, and concerns that the L.A. air is so full of smog that not even bumble bees are willing to fly around in it.  Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a well-meaning if somewhat sleazy private investigator who has been hired to track down a porn star named Misty Mountains.  Of course, Holland know that Misty is dead.  Everyone knows that she’s dead.  She died in a car crash, one that made all the headlines.  But Misty’s aunt swears that she saw Misty after Misty’s supposed death.

Holland thinks that Misty’s aunt may have mistaken her niece for Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley), the daughter of Judith Kutner (Kim Basinger, whose presence is meant to remind audiences of L.A. Confidential), an official at the Justice Department who has been leading a crusade against pornography.  Holland starts to search for Amelia which leads to Amelia paying Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to intimidate Holland.

Who is Jackson Healy?  Well, he’s not a licensed private investigator, though he’d certainly like to be.  Instead, he’s a professional enforcer.  If you pay him enough money, he’ll beat people up for you.  Usually, he beats up stalkers and ex-boyfriends.  When he discovers that Holland is a private investigator, Jackson is intrigued.  Jackson would like to be a private investigator.  Of course, that doesn’t stop Jackson from breaking Holland’s arm.  Jackson’s a professional, after all.  As Jackson leaves Holland’s house, he runs into Holly (Angourie Rice), Holland’s twelve year-old daughter.  She gives him a bottle of Yoohoo.

Later, Jackson is confronted by two men.  Keith David plays Older Guy and he’s intimidating because he’s Keith David.  His partner is a giggly sociopath played by Beau Knapp.  For reasons that are too much fun for me to spoil, he is known as Blue Face.  The two men demand to know where Amelia is.  After Jackson manages to chase them off with a shotgun, he teams up with Holland to try to track down Amelia and find out what’s going on…

Got all that?

The mystery — which eventually expands to involve everything from porn to political protest to the Detroit auto industry — is deliberately and overly complex but at the same time, it’s actually rather clever.  And, as I can now say after rewatching the film, it actually holds up quite well.  But, to be honest, the mystery is not as important as the whip smart dialogue, the frequently over the top action, and the chemistry between Gosling, Crowe, and Rice.  As good as the action may be, the film’s best scenes are simply the ones that feature the three leads talking to each other.

(Upon discovering that Jackson both broke her father’s arm and that he beats people up for a living, Holly immediately asks how much it would cost to have one of her friends beat up.)

And you know what?  As played by Gosling and Crowe, they really are the nice guys.  Holland tries to be cynical but, for the most part, he’s just an overprotective father.  Jackson may beat people up for a living but he’s not a sadist.  He’s a lot like the film, violent but with a good heart.

The Nice Guys is full of wonderful set pieces, like when Gosling, Crowe, and Rice infiltrate a sleazy 70s party or the film’s explosive finale.  For me though, I love the little details and the quieter moments.  I love the fact that even one of the worst people in the movie responds postively to having someone innocently hold his hand.

(I also love that Matt Bomer shows up, playing a totally terrifying hitman.  It’s a small role but Bomer does so much with it.)

It’s a shame that The Nice Guys came out as early in the year as it did.  It’s also a shame that it didn’t do better at the box office.  The Oscars could use a little action and a little comedy this year, don’t you think?

James Bond Review: Never Say Never Again


With the release of the latest James Bond yarn, Skyfall, imminent, the Shattered Lens has been looking back at every single James Bond film ever created – the entire history of the franchise. Today’s selection for review is 1983’s Never Say Never Again. Unlike the overwhelming majority of the franchise, this film was not produced by EON productions, but rather by an independent studio. It is an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Thunderball, much like the 1965 film that shares the novel’s name. It also marks the return of Sean Connery to portray the film’s lead, 00-agent James Bond, 12 years after appearing in Diamonds Are Forever.

I have to say, when I entered into reviewing this film I was certain that I had seen it before, but it took only ten minutes or so of film action before I realized that this film, somehow, had completely flown under my radar.

I have to say, it does not make a strong first impression. We don’t get a cold open with Bond, but rather launch directly into the credit sequence with what I have to admit may be the worst opening theme song of the entire franchise. I haven’t even posted it here, I’m so embarrassed by it, but I’m sure a quick youtube search will yield some results. It’s lengthy, slow, and weirdly incongruous with what proves to be a fairly action-packed Bond adventure.

The story here is sort of needlessly complicated. Addressing the long lapse between Connery appearances as bond, M (Edward Fox) notes that he has recalled James Bond to service against his will, and that after failing a routine training exercise, that Bond is in unacceptable physical condition. His first assignment? To proceed to a health spa to be placed on an exercise and dietary regimen to bleed all of the toxins out of his system, with a strong implication that Bond’s behaviour and mind-set are as much of a problem as his physical condition. While at the spa, of course, Bond becomes privy to a strange interaction between the beautiful nurse Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) and an accomplice with a bandaged face, one Jack Petachi (Gavan O’Herlihy). The duo spot Bond, and attempt to have him assassinated, but 007 is able to overcome the assassin and lives to fight another day.

We learn that both Blush and Petachi are agents of the infamous terrorist organization, SPECTER, headed by Ernst Stavros Blofeld (Max Von Sydow). In a convoluted plot, Jack Petachi will use a surgically implanted false eye to replicate the retinal scan of the President of the United States. Using this eye, he is able to arrange for two nuclear warheads to be placed aboard cruise missiles. Using strategically positioned transmitters, SPECTER’s agents then guide the launched missiles remotely, driving them into the sea where their agents can retrieve the nuclear weapons. With the warheads, Blofeld plans to hold the world hostage, forcing world governments into paying an annual tribute to SPECTER, or risk the annihilation of world cities in nuclear fire. Soon after, Jack Petachi is murdered by Fatima Blush, who throws a snake into his speeding vehicle, causing him to lose control and crash through a wall. She then plants a bomb in the vehicle and blows him sky high.

Responding to the crisis presented by SPECTER, M reluctantly reinstates the 00-agents, including James Bond. Bond is immediately assigned to track down the missing warheads.

From there, we’ll travel from the Bahamas, home of SPECTER agent Maximillian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer)’s massive yacht, Flying Saucer. Bond meets Domino Petachi, Jack Petachi’s sister, and Largo’s lover (Kim Basinger) and comes into conflict with both Fatima Blush and Largo himself. Bond will chase Largo from the Bahamas to France, into the Mediterranean, and out to the Middle East, with help from noted CIA agent Felix Leiter (Bernie Casey). The action sequences, once they get rolling in the second half of the movie, don’t really let up, and take us to an underwater finale where Domino finally kills Largo in revenge for the needless death of her brother.

For all that this film does right, I have to confess that this was definitely not my favourite James Bond film. The pacing seemed brutally uneven for much of the film, with the action sequences spaced too far apart. The film does spend a little effort winking and nodding at the earlier Connery Bond films, probably in part because Never Say Never Again was not developed by the franchise’s principle producers, EON. Although this film is a far cry from the extremely gadget and superscience-y Bond films that dot the landscape after Connery’s original departure, there is a definitively 80s quality to this film – especially in the film’s score, which at times is loud and invasive, and other times oddly subdued – which prevents it from ever fitting right in with the other Connery films.

The performances are pretty good all around. Sean Connery himself might never have taken a 12 year vacation from playing 007, the women around him are beautiful, and Brandauer is a flamboyant villain in the classic Bond style. Max Von Sydow is excellent in presenting yet another take on supervillain Ernst Blofled, though I thought he was more or less wasted in a very limited role.

If you are waxing nostalgic and just can’t live without one more trip with Connery as James Bond, you probably won’t find this film disappointing. Something about it never really struck a chord with me, however, and I came away thinking of it as a bit of a slog.

Join us tomorrow as we continue our odyssey through the history of James Bond with the slightly-silly but always-fun Octopussy. Until then, against my better judgment, I’ll leave you with the theme song to Never Say Never Again … remember what I said about the music score before you chance it though!