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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary - Director Roger Spottiswoode and Dan Petrie Junior, Producer Michael G. Wilson and Second Unit Director Vic Armstrong
  • Featurette - Secrets of 007
  • Isolated music score
  • Production notes - Gadgets
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - Tomorrow Never Dies - Sheryl Crow
  • Behind the scenes footage - Special FX.
  • Booklet
  • Interviews - Composer David Arnold
  • Storyboards

Tomorrow Never Dies - Special Edition

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 114 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

It's the eighteenth Bond adventure, now where did I stick that review construction kit? Aah, here it is...

James Bond: That bloke from the Planet Ark ads.

Main love interest: Wai Lin (the quite wonderful Michelle Yeoh).

Ancillary love interests to a: raise the bonk factor and b: help the story gel (respectively): Professor Inga Bergstrom, Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher).

Evil baddie hell bent on world domination: I-love-me-who-do-you-love? media mogul Elliot Carver.

Baddie's henchmen: Aryan poster boy Stamper, '60s hippie gone bad Henry Gupta, the rather arrogant Doctor Kaufmann, the requisite armies of nameless and expendable evil dudes you expect in a Bond film.

Theme: Tomorrow Never Dies by Shezza Crow.

Exotic locations: Russian border, London, Hamburg, South China Sea, S-S-S-Saigon (sorry, I just had a brief Paul Hardcastle moment...)

Modes of transportation: Some sort of fighter plane (ask a boy!), Aston Martin (YAY!), Rolls Royce (naturally), Boeing 737, BMW 750, a wheelie-trolley thingy, big fugly US army helicopter, cargo plane, parachute, SCUBA gear, chopper (not the one with severed ears mind), BMW motorcycle, Chinese boat, speedboat, stealth boat, Tarzan-style chain.

Blatant product placement: BMW, Ericsson, Smirnoff.

Plot summary: In what is certainly no spot of tea, the British warship HMS Devonshire is sunk in the South China Sea. The Brits blame the Chinese and send a missile hurtling after one of their MIG fighters, blowing it to kingdom come and stepping the world ever closer to the brink of war. However, all is not as it seems, as it is in fact all part of a cleverly masterminded satellite-controlled ballet by an evil media-mogul, pitting superpower against superpower to be first with the news, and gain the one thing he needs to complete his set of worldwide broadcasting rights - those for China. Can Bond expose what's really going on before we all go KABLOOEY?

  Video
Contract

Ooh, after the fairy bread-like transfers of all the Bond movies I have seen on DVD up to this, it was an utter joy to discover that they finally popped down to the chemist and purchased the filmic equivalent of Clearasil. The video is near perfect throughout; in fact I could probably count the speckles I did see on my toes alone. You want a gorgeously cinematic 16x9 enhanced, 2.35:1 transfer? You got it. You want superb black levels? You got 'em. You want lovely and vivid colour in day scenes and night? You got 'em. You want to complain about this transfer visually? Go get a life.

Saying that though there is one complaint I have that is so major that it brought down my ratings for both for video and movie. Just like the previous local release of Tomorrow Never Dies, this is the cut British version. Yes, those nasty little prudes at the BBFC decreed that around six seconds should be cut from this film, and some complete twit managed to inflict this version on us a second time - gee, thanks so much. Whilst the cut bits of footage (anything involving Wai Lin's shurikens plus a slight re-editing of a scene where Bond stomps on a bad guys' face) arenít obviously severed, they still are, and should be enough to have any true Bond fan questioning whether to purchase a butchered version at all.

The other giant no-no foisted upon this disc that affected my ratings is the erasure of ALL of the original subtitles and text-based scene announcements, in favour of using the built-in DVD subtitle function below the actual vision. I am sure I am not the only person alive who wants to see films how they were actually made and with their original fonts, without some artless dimwit boffin somewhere sticking his beak in and making downright stupid decisions such as this. Very, very, VERY weak.

  Audio
Contract

I'm kind of running out of superlatives for describing the sound on the later Bond discs, umm - it... is... really... good!

Another Dolby 5.1 masterpiece, I severely doubt that anybody could whine about their extra speakers going dormant throughout this movie, as they are pumping away throughout the bulk of the flick, rendered silent only when they should be.

I do however have one MAJOR issue with the sound, which ties in with the cuts to the video. As this is the BBFC slaughtered version of the film, many, many sound effects have been tampered with, mainly to reduce the impact of biffs and thumps in the many fight and death scenes. It's akin to drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa, but the BBFC have proven time and time again that they donít give a flying fig about art.

As for the soundtrack, David Arnold has stepped into the shoes of THE classic Bond composer, John Barry, more than admirably. His love for his work and attention to detail really show, and the inclusion of an isolated soundtrack here is particularly welcome.

As for the title theme, well we all know by now that Sheryl Crow did it. She actually co-wrote it with Suzanne Vega's ex Mitchell Froom, who also produced it, and it is serviceable I guess. My personal gripe is that one of the most talented UK bands ever, Pulp, actually did a theme that was rejected by some cloth-eared tool at the Bond factory, which will forever remain a greater crime than any attempted by even the archest of 007's rivals. For Bond completists, the track actually saw a release under the slightly and slyly retooled title Tomorrow Never Lies on the b-side of their single Help the Aged, and I canít recommend tracking it down highly enough. Still, at least the ending theme is an utter corker. k.d lang (bloody MS Word, stop capitalising it!) absolutely belts out the David Arnold/David McAlmont penned tune, and it is a superb high to end the film on.

  Extras
Contract

Animated menus: Once again we're served a wonderful demonstration of what can be accomplished when a little bit of effort and care goes into menu construction. This is another beautifully animated and sonically enhanced, and lovingly gadgety, 007 DVD opener - retaining the style of previous special editions, but adding its own certain flair. And one of the best things about them? You can skip the animations and go straight into the meaty bits - jolly good show chaps!

Commentary - Producer Michael D. Wilson and Vic Armstrong: Oh joy of joys, a Bond DVD with a scene specific commentary! An absolute must for anybody with even a cursory interest in 007, there's rarely a dull moment as Mick'n'Vic (producer and second unit director respectively) guide us through so much interesting background to Tomorrow Never Dies that I'm not giving anything away (nyahh!) Just listen to it, OK?

Commentary - Roger Spottiswoode and Dan Petrie Junior: What's happening here? Not one, but TWO scene specific commentaries! This time director Roger and his buddy Dan front up to the mike, and whilst probably drier and not as riveting as the first commentary, this is nonetheless an essential listen/watch for any fan.

Featurette - The Secrets of 007: Now this is an extra! Essentially an American assembled celebration of the 35th anniversary of Bond, as well as a blatant commercial for Tomorrow Never Dies, there is never a dull moment within its entire 43 minutes. Featuring behind the scenes footage dating back to the '60s, and interview segments with most anybody who has ever worked on a Bond film either behind or in front of a camera, it is narrated by actor Peter Coyote and is certainly a snappily edited little piece. It is thematically divided into a sort of general Bondy overview, the gadgets, the women, the villains, the stunts and a plug for Tomorrow Never Dies, and highlights much of the work behind the film's glorious motorcycle jump stunt. This is the sort of scene you almost take for granted in 007 fare without realising the effort involved in bringing it to the screen, where a real life person with a mannequin strapped to his back (ooh, could it be Bernie in a wig?!) really did jump a motorbike over the whirring blades of a helicopter. Incredible stuff.

Storyboard presentation: Ooh, strange. Here we have ten scenes grabbed directly from the movie, with relevant storyboard sketches superimposed at the bottom right corner of the screen. Unfortunately the superimposition doesnít work that well, as their backgrounds are knocked out, leaving dark see-through ink drawings generally fighting losing battles with the on screen action. I am curious as to why these are numbered 1-6, 18, 19, 22 and 23 also...

Special FX reel: Presented full screen, this is but a sub-three minute blipvert, although much of what it has to show off is certainly quite interesting. It mostly consists of independent green screen elements and original camera vision, followed by the final composites as seen in the film. It is quite remarkable to see just some of what was actually created using CGI, with many before and after shots squeezed into the brief running time of this featurette-ette.

Interview with composer David Arnold: A quick chat with Mr Arnold, running for around two and a half minutes. Obviously a great fan of John Barry's Bond work, as evidenced both by his actual score and his comments alluding as much, the interview delves into his intention to marry the traditional Bond music elements with a more contemporary feel. A fun watch simply for the man's unbridled enthusiasm for his work.

Music video - Tomorrow Never Dies: In two-channel Dolby, this clip makes the song a bit more bearable simply due to it being made (as have previous theme videos, of course) in the style of a Bond opening sequence - only with Shezza writhing about all over the place. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to be content with my dreams of Mr Cocker as 007 (MMMmmm) - but I'll never stop whinging about how Pulp were robbed. Oh, the clip actually cuts off before the fade out is complete, which is rather sloppy (little smacks for whoever mastered it), although to be fair they were probably just bored off their scones with Ms Crow and couldnít wait to get onto their next bit of work...

Teaser trailer: Less than a minute in length, this features specially shot footage of 007, with the rather fabulously arrogant and deadpanned line, "The name's Bond - you know the rest". Informing us that Tomorrow Never Dies is "now shooting around the world", it features a voiceover from the guy that wishes he was the guy who does trailers.

Theatrical trailer: Presented in its proper ratio, looking quite dapper and running for around two and a quarter minutes, this is the release trailer featuring heaps of whiz-bang footage and dialogue from the film. Sadly the impostor mentioned above also voices it.

Gadgets: Brief, and rather illiterate (a note for whoever created this, apostrophes denote possession, and 'devices' isnít spelled with an 's' rather than the 'c'), these are mini data files on the Sea-Vac drill thingy, Bond's Beemer and his mobile phone.

Collector's booklet: Ooh, twelve pages of lavish photos, mostly in colour and screeds of fab Bondy information. One peculiarity is that it has a black and white cover, unlike all of its predecessors, however just pop inside for much colourful data about most every element of Tomorrow Never Dies, as well as histories of Bond gadgetry, baddies, girlies and ships from previous episodes.

  Overall  
Contract

This would easily have received a 10 rating and a DVDNET Gold award if not for it being the savaged English cut. With luck Fox's local branch will soon realise what has happened and source the uncut version for release here (and kindly offer to replace them for those who got lumbered with this version, then ship them back to the UK where the BBFC peoples can get smacked over the head with them!) It is especially peculiar that we got this cut when the concurrent release of Goldeneye is the un-butchered version, perhaps just suggesting that some dunderhead sent us the wrong master?

At any rate, for me at least this is one of the most engrossing and gloriously over the top Bond adventures in the series. Pierce Brosnan is a wonder as Bond, injecting a passionate joi de vivre into the character that had waned as the years, and episodes, progressed. Michelle Yeoh's performance is captivating, and as with most of the latter day 007 adventures quite refreshing as she isnít just a bimbo hanging limply off James' arm. The story is immersive whilst never too convoluted, and Jonathan Price deserves instant Bond-baddie Hall of Fame induction for his gleeful and perfectly over-the-top portrayal of the dorky and despotic media-mogul Elliot Carver.

So Bond fans, here's your chance to vote with your wallets. If you donít mind being dictated to as far as what you can and canít bare witness to by censors from another country, by all means buy this disc. Other than the cuts it is incredible value, and probably compiles the best set of extra features I have come across on any DVD to date. However, if you wish to make a stand to perhaps stop us being landed with inferior, sub-standard versions of classic films in the future, well you know what to do...

If you're not a 007 collector, and are just after a fabulous popcorn rental then I can heartily recommend this disc, it has every hallmark of a Bond (and indeed action) classic, and is a captivating way to spend almost two hours glued to the couch. You even get an incredible car chase AND a phenomenally choreographed motorbike chase - need I say more?

But I want my ninja death star thingies dammit!


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      And I quote...
    "Oh my god, they circumcised Bond!"
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Home Built
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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