Monthly Archives: April 2012

The World Is Not Enough is the worst James Bond film ever made, worse than even late bad-fashion, Roger Moore duds A View To a Kill or Octopussy .  As camp and aged as Moore became at the end, Pierce Brosnan proved to be something worse – tedious.  He’s got two moves: a smirk and grim displeasure.

Still, Bond films are rarely deep character studies, so how hard can one be on Brosnan?  At least we get beautiful sights, jaw-dropping stunts, good gadgets, a certain clever patter, Bond’s ingenuity, gorgeous women and intriguing villains with grand designs.

The World Is Not Enough has none of these things.  It is set almost exclusively in the drab former Soviet Union (see exciting Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan!); the stunts are pedestrian (another ski chase, a ho hum boat chase, more travel in an oil pipeline); the gadgets are routine (Bond can make his car come to him like a dog); the repartee’ is awful; and, worst of all, Bond is no longer ingenious – most things just drop into his lucky lap.

Unforgivably, the women are forgettable.  Sophie Marceau is grim and Denise Richards is so ridiculously Charlie’s Angels, she holds no interest – where the hell are Jill St. John and Barbara Carrera when we need them?

Now, that’s a Bond girl.

The villains have no design, other than financial mixed with some revenge (almost as bad as in Goldeneye, when the whole movie centered around Jonathan Pryce getting tv rights in China).  Worse, the picture is accompanied by a relentlessly cheezy Bond theme-meets-drum machine.

Finally, Bond is again emotionally involved with a woman (that’s two out of four for Brosnan), adding to the tiresome nature of the whole thing.  Bond’s attachment to a woman is rarely a good sign, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service notwithstanding.

Brosnan played the part one more time after The World Is Not Enough, demonstrating even more urgently that the Bond series needed a new face.  I had urged Jeremy Northam or Clive Owen, but the franchise knew better when it tapped Daniel Craig.

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A nice ensemble “bromantric” comedy.  Steve Carell plays the schlub husband thrown over by the “wife in mid-life crisis” Julianne Moore after she flings with an office colleague.  Despondent, Carell retreats to the local singles bar to lick his wounds, where the charming, suave ladies man Ryan Gosling takes him on as a project, ala’ Henry Higgins.  Carell is soon quite the ladies man himself but still pining for his wife, while Gosling learns the merits of deeper love with the electric but gawky Emma Stone.

There are some glitches: Carell’s sad-sack/nice guy routine is getting a bit stale; the friends of the broken-up Carell and Moore and Stone’s lame-o boyfriend are ridiculously stock and unrealistic; Carell’s 8th grade son is a little too cloying and hip; and Moore is reprising her flustered role in last year’s excellent The Kids Are Alright.

Still, this is cute and mostly funny, and Gosling, who I have been very hard on for his work in The Ides of March (confused) and the wildly overrated Drive (catatonic) is the engine.  His repair work on Carell provides some of the best scenes, and he and Stone have very convincing chemistry.

Also, Marisa Tomei plays a one-night stand who ends up being a teacher of Carell’s son.  Tomei just keeps getting better and better looking and more charming to boot.  She can be very dark, as she’s shown in The Wrestler and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, but she’s also a deft comedienne, as she showed here and in Cyrus.

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Harsh, unyielding and spooky, David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larssen’s first of his best selling trilogy (adaptations of all three have been made in Sweden) is intricate, engrossing and decidedly chilly.  Daniel Craig plays a Swedish journalist who has just been convicted of libeling a financier.  Another corporate titan (Christopher Plummer) summons Craig after having his background checked by an investigative firm.  The firm’s investigator is a ward of the state (Rooney Mara) who ostensibly works as an office clerk, but, in fact, is a genius of surveillance and investigatory technique.  Plummer entices Craig to investigate the 50 year old disappearance of his niece, and Craig eventually enlists the loner and outcast, Mara, to assist him.

Fincher’s strongest milieu is psychological crime.  Seven gave us the mastermind of Kevin Spacey as he offed his victims using the seven deadly sins as a guide.  Zodiac was an intriguing take on a real life case, the Zodiac murders in Northern California during the late 1960s, early 1970s, and while it bombed at the box office, only two movies appeared on more critics’ top ten lists in 2007.  Fincher can deftly keep a lot of balls up in the air with great precision yet still tells a tale you can follow.  The book provided a family tree chart in the preface, and given the number of characters in the family, I found myself referring to it regularly.  Screenwriter Steve Zallian has smartly excised the plot of a few people, but not many, yet I never found myself confused.

Mara is genuine as a troubled, anti-social outcast who teams up with Craig to work on the mystery, and they produce a strong and convincing bond (her nomination for best actress is merited).  The close of the picture, when she realizes she cannot have perhaps one of the few people who has shown her affection, is a gut punch.

The ending, however, is muddled, tacking on a financial windfall/scam to the resolution of the mystery.  Once you’ve witnessed the solving of a string of gruesome ritual killings and a missing persons case that goes back decades, a coda of fraudulent financial transfers is hardly satisfying and robs crucial minutes away from further character study of the family, some of whom get short shrift given the sweep of the story.

Another distraction is Mara’s progressively expert investigatory skills, which by the end of the film near those of a super hero (as Christopher Hitchens noted about her literary character, she “is so well accoutred with special features that she’s almost over-equipped”).  The more La Femme Nikita she becomes, the less your investment in her.

Be warned.  Like Fincher’s Seven, this film is both brilliant and disturbing.  Gruesome murders, rape, animal mutilation, and what appears to be an unbearably cold Sweden all await.  Not for the faint of heart