Remington Steele Season 5 Review

  • Series Title: Remington Steele
  • Season: 5 (Packaged with Season 4)
  • Episodes: 3 (2-hour TV movies)
  • Discs: 1 (Double-Sided)
  • Cast: Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts
  • Original Network: NBC
  • Original Production Company: MTM

The DVD boxed set includes Season 4 and Season 5 packaged together as a single set. Here is my Remington Steele Season 4 Review. And now on to the review of Season 5, which is three TV movies.

I was a huge fan of Remington Steele when it originally aired, and I remember at the time being excited for a fifth season after the fourth season cancellation. But then, I also remember being very disappointed by the TV movies that aired for the fifth season. And then, there was the issue that Pierce Bronsan was up for James Bond at the time, but NBC wouldn’t let him out of his contract and forced him to do the last season of Remington Steele instead. As a result, both Stephanie Zimbalist, and Pierce Bronsan were pretty miserable to be forced into doing a show they simply didn’t want to do anymore. But to be fair, this does not show on camera.

“The Steele that Wouldn’t Die” picks up where the last episode of season 4 left off – with a trashed Laura Holt marrying Remington Steele on a fishing boat in front of an INS rep to avoid Steele being deported. Laura fantasies about a beautiful wedding but her reality is far different. There’s a brief post-wedding scene at Steele’s apartment, then Laura and Steele head out on their honeymoon in Mexico. When they arrive – it’s one disaster after another as they end-up at an awful hotel in the middle of the jungle. Steele has to go to the next town 30 miles away to exchange money and find a phone to figure out what went wrong about their travel plans. Meanwhile, even though she knows Malvados are shooting at anything that moves – Laura goes out for a walk in the jungle. Steele drives into a pool of dirty water and trashes his outfit, but finds the beautiful hotel in Las Hadas, checks in to the bridal suite and contacts Mildred by phone. Laura, meanwhile, gets attacked by Malvados, rescued by an “archeologist” by the name of Tony Roselli, is pushed by Tony into a river, falls down a huge waterfall, and tramps through the jungle to a set of ruins. It’s all very Romancing the Stone. Tony though is definitely not who he says he is – he’s seen talking to the Malvados, thanking them for the obviously set-up attack that he rescues Laura from. So, Laura, once again also gets trashed, but not as badly as the last episode of Season 4.

Once in Las Hadas, which really is beautiful, both the hotel and the setting, Laura and Remington argue about Tony – when Remington treats Tony nicely, Laura gets angry; when he starts to show his jealousy – she also gets angry, so Steele can’t win. Tony also has a girlfriend, Conchita, who keeps showing up – not that the Steeles (Laura and Remington) realize it. Norman Keyes of Vigilance Insurance also is in Las Hadas and keeps starting arguments and fights with Steele. Steele returns to his room one night and finds Keyes dead. Instead of calling the police, or the hotel manager, or even finding Laura to tell her what’s happened – Steele takes the body and tries to hide it in a cabana on the beach. He is, of course, caught by the police and put in jail.

Mildred arrives, and she and Laura, with “help” from Tony start to investigate. They basically discover  that Keyes’ “death” is an insurance scam. Keyes upped his insurance to two million dollars, naming his “niece” as beneficiary. He also changed the travel plans, keeping Steele out of the way and making it look like Steele had arranged the changes and set himself (Keyes) up. The niece had also arrived much earlier than she claimed to help Keyes frame Steele. Finally, Keyes wasn’t actually dead.

Our heroes figure all of this out – and Mildred breaks Steele out of jail.  Laura, Steele, Mildred, and Tony find Keyes, who is alive, and a chase ensues – by sea, over the land, and by air. Steele catches Keyes, the police show up, while Steele is distracted – Keyes escaped, but then Keyes gets shot.

So Steele is cleared of the murder charge. And in the way of 1980s television – nothing is made of various other charges (breaking out of jail, various breaking-and-entering, stealing of a boat and a car, disturbing a crime scene/moving a body, etc.) The jungle scenes at the beginning where Laura meets Tony are not very convincing – it really looks like a set, and a not very good one at that. Even the waterfall, that should have been filmed, at least in part on location (yes, I’m sure the actors weren’t dropped 50 feet) feels off. The scenes in Las Hadas and Keyes mansion hideout, though, are gorgeous – and it’s clear someone decided to spend money on a location shoot. Much of the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense. Keyes works for an insurance company. He has a long-standing grudge against Steele, but it doesn’t make sense. Why would he care if Steele was “illegal”? It’s none of his business really. It’s not as if insurance companies work for the INS. The actual INS officer actually seems very impressed that Laura and Remington’s feelings and marriage are the real deal. The whole “being deported” plot, with its “fake marriage” is uncomfortable. It was a common plot in the 1980s, when “foreigners” were viewed with suspicion and the romantic comedy Green Card (1990) generated controversy for “showing people how to do something illegal”. Yeah. There’s probably a bigger problem that Steele is an alias than that Remington supposedly entered the country illegally. And really, what are they going to do? Deport “Remington Steele”? He doesn’t exist. Laura’s slight attraction to Tony also makes no sense – and it’s really, really obvious that he’s up to no good – and the professional detectives don’t figure this out? The movies quoted in this episode are from the 1980s – several from 1985 are mentioned. Steele’s situation is lifted from Green Card (mind you, upon checking Green Card was released after this episode). Whereas the fun of Remington Steele was the references to old movies – the key is old movies, classics, most people probably don’t even remember Romancing the Stone any more. The modern references not only take the viewer out of the story, like an anachronism – they actually make the plot seem less original.

Overall, I’d give “The Steele that Wouldn’t Die” 3 out of 5 stars. I will say it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered (the Las Hadas locations are gorgeous for example), and there are some very, very, very funny bits that don’t depend on poking fun at the characters as well. But they could have done so much better!

In “Steele Hanging in There”, Laura and Remington return from their honeymoon in Mexico, but Steele receives a letter from a new INS agent that they are still interested in him due to the death of Norman Keyes. They head to the office and find a waiting room full of clients. Steele talks to a very sexist potential client, who asks Laura to get him coffee, pats her butt, and refers to her as “Steele’s little woman”. Other than pointing out that Laura doesn’t like being called, “the little woman”, Steele joins in on the jokes, rather than pointing out Laura is a full-fledged investigator and his partner in the firm (well, technically – she’s his boss). Laura takes another client in her office. The man is an accountant who fears a painting was stolen. He was working on a client’s estate, and the painting was held in a gallery, but now the owner of the gallery isn’t returning his calls. Laura enters the closed gallery and finds the painting missing. But the client continuously asks for Steele to take over. And when Steele does arrive, and is clueless about the case (because Laura hasn’t had a chance to fill him in yet), the client defers to him anyway. Steele is reduced to blathering that they will “follow standard procedures” although he does remark that he functions best in an advisory capacity.

The situations with the cases would be frustrating enough, but Laura and Remington also have to deal with the INS. They make plans for a nice dinner with the new agent at Remington’s house. But that night, “Shannon”, an old friend of Remington’s shows up and aims to marry him. His protests that he’s already married fall on deaf ears. Seeing Remington with Shannon – when Tony Roselli shows up at the apartment door – Laura throws herself in to his arms, and kisses him passionately. She then immediately introduces him as her brother to the now very suspicious INS agent. Later Laura backs off any romantic interest in Tony, stating she’s serious about her marriage and her husband.

Tony, meanwhile, is just as suspicious as ever. He shows up at the INS and pushes the female agent assigned to the Steele marriage case around. He claims he wants his position back. Later it turns out Laura’s client, the one with the painting reports to him. And once the episode moves to England, he meets a mysterious white-haired man who seems to be pulling all the strings. Tony, it seems, is some sort of spy.

Still working on the case with the painting, and having no idea the entire thing is fake, Laura, Mildred, and Remington fly off to London in pursuit of a clue. At the hotel, Laura discovers a solicitor with news – Remington Steele has inherited a million pounds from the Earl of Claridge. However, the solicitor also tells her another woman already talked to him, claiming to be Steele’s wife. It’s Shannon. Shannon tells Laura she’s being blackmailed and needs to recover some incriminating photos. Laura helps her sneak in (via the tour) to a castle, but all they find is a dead body. Remington, trying to catch up to Laura, finds the body and is, of course, caught with it. He’s brought in by Tony to INS, but Tony tells him he will make Shannon’s statement disappear if Steele does him a favor – the dangerous kind. Remington has to deliver some documents, in the dead of night. If he succeeds, Tony will see to it that his INS problems are history.

There is a wonderful scene at the “Flamingo Club” a traditional ballroom dance club, where Steele, Laura, Tony, and Shannon – dance, including several changes of partners to liven up a lot of exposition. In essence, the audience knows what’s going on, but various characters don’t – so they catch each other up while dancing. It’s beautifully acted and directed (Even Shannon’s “the Greek” whom both Laura and Remington assumed didn’t exist shows up to take pot shots at everyone.) The only problem is the big band music is bland – it should have been Irving Berlin’s “Change Partners and Dance”, since that is what they were doing. Later as Tony and Remington talk, the music is “Chattanooga Choo Choo” which has nothing to do with the plot either. It was a missed opportunity – and the 1938 song is no doubt out of copyright.

Steele succeeds in delivering Tony’s papers, and both the misunderstanding with the dead body at the castle and presumably Steele’s INS troubles are over. Shannon will no longer be a problem. Laura and Steele meet with a solicitor, Steele signs some papers, and then he learns his inheritance is a castle – in Ireland. Laura and Steele decide to take the train and then the boat to Ireland. The story ends with a “To Be Continued” card.

Over all the second TV movie for the abbreviated fifth season of Remington Steele isn’t bad. Tony is annoying, but Steele discovers he really is up to no good, and Laura says straight out she’s not interested in him. Shannon, played wonderfully by Sarah Douglas, is there mostly as a romantic frustration anyway – and she’s written out. This story picks up from the previous one and leaves a few loose ends for the final film. Again, once Steele and Laura are out of LA their relationship improves, as does the story. Overall, more enjoyable that the previous TV movie, if only because Laura and Remington are no longer getting trashed for “humorous” plot reasons. We still don’t know who Tony really is, or who he works for. Some hints that he informed British intelligence of double agents and wasn’t believed, and some scandal in the INS got him sent to South America for several years – none of which makes sense. What does Vigilance Insurance and INS have to do with British Intelligence? None of those agencies work together. It’s like with Keyes – why does he even care about Remington Steele’s citizenship status? It’s none of his business. And if he thinks Steele is involved in insurance fraud (and citizenship cases, even fraudulent ones, usually don’t involve insurance) that still has nothing to do with the INS. It’s all very weird and convoluted. I liked the re-introduction of the Earl of Claridge though.

Finally, in “Steeled with a Kiss”, Laura, Steele, Mildred, and Tony Roselli arrive in Ireland. After a few minutes of ‘humorous’ discussion of directions with the locals, they are met by the staff of Ashford Castle and taken to the estate. At the castle, each member of the staff presents Mr. Steele (or “his lordship” as they call him) with a bill for their department. And the bills are for thousands of pounds. Apparently, the castle has been in arrears for a very long time. Mildred finds and reads a history of the castle, and throughout the story presents Laura and Remington with trivia about it as well as pointing out that any plan to deal with the castle’s debts has already been tried and failed. I did think that this two-part story missed a major opportunity with Mildred. She was introduced on the series as a crack IRS investigator, and as her character was developed, she was also shown to be brilliant with computers and 80s-style hacking. I wanted Steele to ask her to go over the castle’s books and come up with something. No doubt, Mildred would. But she’s merely delivering rather pointless information, and trivia such as the castle’s ghost story.

At the castle, Laura and Remington also run in to Daniel Chalmers (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) He seems to be ill, and, although at first Laura assumes he’s faking – when she finds a drawer full of pills in his room in the castle, she realizes he’s really ill. The end of the part 1 cliffhanger also has Chalmers admitting to Laura he’s Steele’s real father. After finding this out – Laura tries (and eventually succeeds) in convincing him to tell Steele the truth. When, towards the end of the episode, Daniel tells “Harry” (Remington) the truth, he does get angry, but then, after a brilliant conversation with Mildred, he goes back to Daniel to apologize in a very male way (the two trade stories about the various cons they’ve played), including discussing the events of “Sting of Steele” (not by episode name) one of the series most brilliant episodes. Anyway, we know the two have reconciled, Steele goes to pour Daniel the drink he’s requested, and when he turns back, Daniel is slumped in a chair. He’s passed away. It’s very sad – but it leads to the denouement of the story.

Daniel is also in Ireland helping an American woman (played by Barbara Babcock) who is trying to find out what happened to her father, who is being held as a political prisoner by the (Soviet) Russians. Much of the episode consists of this plot actually. The woman (who uses a lot of aliases so I’m not quite sure what her name was) and Daniel originally plan on kidnapping Tony, whom they think is a double agent, turn him over to the Russians, and in return obtain information from the Russian diplomat about the woman’s father. However, the story almost turns into a farce. They knock out Tony, deliver him, and while waiting to speak to the Russian – Laura, or Steele, or even Mildred, rescues Tony. This happens two or three times. Daniel and Steele also kidnap the Russian and chain him to an actual wall in an actual dungeon in the castle. The Russian gets kidnapped twice.

But that’s not all. Steele eventually finds out that Tony is not a double agent, his contact at British intelligence, Finch (the white-haired, older, un-named gentleman from the previous two-parter) is the actual double agent. He also set-up Tony, and even tried to have him killed in the previous story.

The main story line is Daniel trying to help the mysterious American woman secure her father from the Russians; and for Tony to clear his name (and get out of the Steeles’ hair). Both are accomplished. Daniel even does what fans of Remington Steele wanted all along – revealing to Steele he is his father. Even Daniel’s death leads into how Steele and Laura help the American woman – a game of three-card monte (or as Steele says, three shells and a pea) played with coffins. It works and Daniel is even posthumously knighted and buried in the UK and simultaneously buried as a “hero of the state” in Russia.

I really enjoyed this final story. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was one of the best parts of the series, and the episodes he is in always shine brighter. Not that the series wasn’t good without him – it’s still one of the best series of the 1980s and it did launch Pierce Brosnan’s career. The scene of Remington attacking Daniel verbally after finding out he’s his father was brilliantly played and not over done at all. Occasionally in this series, Brosnan did over-play emotional (or comedic) scenes but not here – it’s heart-felt and Brosnan gives it his all. It brings tears to the eyes. The story does also end with Laura and Remington together in his Irish castle (which he gives to the servants). Finally, the two are together. It makes one smile in the way of the best romantic comedies.

The tale of Tony is also wrapped-up. We discover he isn’t a double-agent, but was set-up by one. This story never mentions Vigilance Insurance or the INS – which, really, is all for the better – as those story lines never made sense anyway. Maybe Steele and Laura end-up settling in Ireland? Or if they do return to the US, let’s hope any legal issues are behind them. Tony does continuously hit on, badger, and try to win over Laura. Fortunately, it doesn’t work. There’s even a scene, which is well-played and brilliantly shot, on a Irish street, where Tony asks Laura if she doesn’t feel a spark between them. Laura’s response is that “Maybe if they met a few years ago…” She doesn’t out and out tell him, as she did in the story before, she’s committed to Steele – but for once, her actions speak louder than her words, as it’s obvious that she is. Literally, “for better or worse”, she is committed to Steele. The only thing that could have made it better would have been Laura and Remington actually getting married, in Ireland, at Steele’s castle! Tony then insists he will continue to pursue Laura despite her lack of interest. In a show that constantly shows the sexism that women face, especially women in so-called “male” careers – this is a prime example of just how sexist men are, without being strident about it. Tony assumes she must want him, therefore, he assumes he has the “right” to chase her. Laura has told him “no” several times; and her actions speak volumes about her lack of interest. That is the definition of sexual harassment right there. But Remington Steele also doesn’t dwell on it – and many viewers probably barely noticed, except maybe to think that Tony was a jerk.

Overall, I found myself actually really enjoying the last TV movie for Remington Steele. Yes, the show had lost some of its spark, but at least this particular story has humor, sadness, and above all it is satisfying. Watching the final episode made me happy. You really can’t ask more of a TV show from the 1980s. Or a romantic comedy. Watching Remington Steele just makes me happy. Highly recommended.

Remington Steele Season 4

  • Series Title: Remington Steele
  • Season: 4 (Packaged with Season 5)
  • Episodes: 21
  • Discs: 4 (Double-Sided)
  • Cast: Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts
  • Original Network: NBC
  • Original Production Company: MTM 

Before I start with my review of this season set – I really need to mention some technical issues. First, these are double-sided discs. I really hate double-sided discs – they are even more likely to be damaged than normal DVDs, even with careful handling. Second, my set is missing the final two episodes of Season 4. Disc four lists four episodes: “Steele in the Running”; “Beg, Borrow or Steele”; and “Steele Alive and Kicking”; and “Bonds of Steele”. “Steele Alive and Kicking” and “Bonds of Steele” are no where to be found. You put in the disc and a menu comes up for the first two episodes and that is it. When I pay for a full season, I expect a full season and this sort of shoddy workmanship is annoying and unfair. The next disc of the set starts the tele-movies that makes up Season 5.

That said, though, I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed Season 4 of Remington Steele. Not that I wasn’t sure I’d like this series – I loved it when I originally saw it in the 1980s, and when I re-watched it in the 1990s on some cheap cable station, I was surprised by how well it stood up. However, I remembered not really liking Season 4 – and really disliking Season 5. Yet, when re-watching Season 4 I liked it. I genuinely enjoyed each episode as I watched it. The first episode of Season 4 is a two-parter, set in London, England, which features Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Stephanie’s real father, and a relatively frequent guest star throughout the series), Catherine Harris (Pierce Brosnan’s real wife, who passed away shortly thereafter from cancer), and Julian Glover (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Magnum PI (guest),  Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) as a guest star. Steele attempts to find clues to his past and his real father, Laura is pushed to decide how much she trusts Steele, Mildred finally discovers the truth – that Laura runs the agency not Steele, and Laura and Steele’s relationship is taken to a new level. Plus the story is an excellent mystery with red herrings, side steps, and a very sweet ending. It’s a good start. The rest of the season features OK to good to excellent mysteries, but the characterization is excellent. Now that she knows the truth, Mildred is less the bumbling grandmotherly secretary and more of a real character. The episode where she quits because she feels both Steele and Laura are taking her for granted is really good. Mildred also gets promised the chance to earn her investigator’s license. Also, each episode of the Season 4 ends with Steele and Laura in a clench or even kissing. The romance the show had teased the audience with for four years is finally on the screen in a warm and wonderful way.

Remington Steele was an influential series for me as a young woman. Not only did I become a huge fan of Pierce Brosnan for life, but the show was one of the few that featured a woman as lead and as an equal partner with a man. Other programs at the time either had entirely male casts (Magnum PI, Riptide, The A-Team, etc.) or even if they had a woman in the cast she was often secondary or the show was entirely about the romance (Moonlighting, Scarecrow and Mrs. King). Remington Steele had romance as well, but the mysteries were at the core of the stories.

The second thing about Remington Steele that was very important to me is that it’s the reason I became a fan of classic film. The character of Remington Steele was a fan of the cinema – and had an encyclopedic knowledge of film. While working on a case, he’d mention a classic movie – “North by Northwest, Cary Grant, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, MGM 1959,” which the case somehow reminded him of. But not only did Steele mention these films – he was enthusiastic about them. He gushed about them. In short, Steele talked like a fan about whatever it was he or she was a fan of – a television show, a movie, a book, a comic. Steele showed us, in a time when being a fan, being enthusiastic about media was decidedly not cool, that it was OK to be a fan. And his very enthusiasm about the films made me want to actually see them. Remington Steele made me the Classic Film fan and movie fan that I am. Season 4 has considerably less of the references to films and movies, which is too bad – but the characters of Steele, Laura, and Mildred have grown so that makes up for it in a way.

So, overall, recommended, though I’d really like to see MTM or NBC re-release the entire series in a box set that wasn’t on cheap double-sided discs. Season 5 to be reviewed later.

Tomorrow Never Dies

  • Title:  Tomorrow Never Dies
  • Director:  Roger Spottiswoode
  • Date:  1997
  • Studio:  United Artists / MGM
  • Genre:  Action
  • Cast:  Pierce Brosnan, Teri Hatcher, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yoeh, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Colin Salmon, Geoffrey Palmer, Vincent Schiavelli
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“Mr. Jones, Are we ready to release our new software?”  – Carver
“Yes, sir. As requested it’s full of bugs, which means people will be forced to upgrade for years.” – Jones

“Gentleman, and ladies, hold the presses. This just in. By a curious quirk of fate, we have the perfect story with which to launch our satellite news network tonight. It seems a small crisis is brewing in the South China Seas. I want full newspaper coverage. I want magazine stories. I want books. I want films. I want TV. I want radio. I want us on the air 24 hours a day! This is out moment! And a billion people around the world will watch it, hear it, and read about it from the Carver Media Group.” – Carver

Tomorrow Never Dies is my favorite Pierce Brosnan James Bond film, and it’s one of the best James Bond films in the modern era because for once it has a relatively realistic premise – told in the high-action style of James Bond, of course. The film is about Elliot Carver, a media mogul played brilliantly by Jonathan Pryce, who isn’t merely reporting events, or even spinning events to fit his own point of view, but actually causing the events his media group reports.

For once the opening gambit of a James Bond movie actually fits with the rest of the plot. One of the items up for sale at a terrorist bazaar in Russia is a satellite encoder, which can influence (or change) GPS data. James Bond manages to locate the bazaar, and launch and take away a plane loaded with nuclear missiles prior to the British Navy’s missile destroying the bazaar and the terrorists who are shopping there. However, though the analysts see the encoder, and recognize what it is – they don’t realize it wasn’t destroyed and that Henry Gupta – a hacker for hire escaped with it.

The encoder is important because it allows the next major event to happen. A British ship, HMS Devonshire, is cruising in what it thinks are international waters off the coast of China. The ship is overflown by Chinese migs who insist they are only 11 miles off the coast of China. The Devonshire‘s captain double checks their position with GPS – and then they are attacked and sunk by a stealth ship. The British ship reports they were attacked by the migs, and gives their position before calling abandon ship. The survivors are collected by Stamper, Carver’s thug and enforcer, and shot with Chinese ammo. Carver reports on the developing crisis – using the potential for war, to launch his satellite news network.

James Bond is sent to investigate – first to Hamburg, where he’s instructed to get close to Carver’s wife, Paris (Teri Hatcher), with whom he had previously had a relationship. Paris gives him some information, and is killed for her trouble by Carver. While investigating, Bond runs into a Chinese reporter, Wai Lin. Later it will turn out she’s his opposite number, an agent for the Chinese security service. Bond’s able to get the GPS encoder and escape from Hamburg.

He takes the encoder to the CIA, because it’s an American device. Bond’s CIA contact shows it to a tech, who confirms it could have been used to send the Devonshire off course. The CIA also arranges to drop Bond into the Ocean to find the ship’s wreckage. The Americans assume Bond is jumping into international waters, but one of the British naval officers on the flight realizes he’s actually jumping in to waters belonging to Vietnam. Meanwhile, Bond succeeds in his HALO jump. He find the Devonshire and runs into the Chinese woman again. The two are caught by Stamper, and brought to Carver. They escape, handcuffed together, on a motorcycle. Bond and Wai Lin end-up working together, sending warning messages to both the British and Chinese governments that Carver’s playing them against each other, then head out to locate Carver’s stealth boat.

Bond and Wai Lin plan on blowing up the stealth boat with sea bombs, but are again caught by Carver and his goons. Carver explains his entire plot – not only is he using the crisis he created to “sell papers” and successfully launch his news network – but he’s working with a Chinese general. Carver’s stealth boat will launch an attack on the British fleet (after some initial minor attacks on both fleets) it will then use one of the cruise missiles stolen from the Devonshire to attack Beijing – wiping out the current government and military leaders, except Carver’s general who will be conveniently stuck in traffic. After setting up his new government, the general will grant Carver exclusive media access in China – creating a captive audience worth billions. In short, Carver is creating events, for ratings.

Wai Lin and Bond again escape Carver’s clutches and manage to kill Carver and his muscleman, Stamper, and sink the ship before the cruise missile is launched.

Tomorrow Never Dies isn’t lacking for action sequences as well. They include: Bond and Wei Lin handcuffed together, on a motorcycle, riding through a densely-populated area while being chased by Carver’s men; Bond using a remote control built into his (rather ancient-looking) cell phone to control his car; even Bond’s escape from Carver in Hamburg; and the scenes on the stealth ship, of course. All the big action sequences one expects from a Bond film – and they are well done, technically, and because we care about Bond and Wei Lin – they work in the film too. The action sequences are not overly long, overly complicated, nor do they have effects that no longer work – everything looks really good. So the film satisfies on the level of what a Bond film should be. But what I really liked about the film was the villain and the plot. Elliot Carver is a totally unscrupulous reporter turned media mogul, who’s incredibly psychopathic. Throughout the film we see him fire people for “mistakes” that aren’t their own (such as the woman who’s fired for not knowing what caused the power outage during his media launch party) or even kill any one who gets in the way of his plans, including his own wife. And, of course, he’s willing to sink a British warship, cause a crisis, and risk world war – just to get what he wants, complete power. Throughout the film – Carver gets the best lines, as he explains how the press can not only manipulate events to suit their own corporate purposes – but in Carver’s case, cause events in the first place. Pryce is delicious as Carver.

I also really liked Michelle Yoeh as Wai Lin – the Chinese agent who’s a female Bond. Wei Lin is just as smart as James, and just as dedicated to her country. And I’d watch a film or two about her! Yoeh also plays the part brilliantly.

And, like all of Brosnan’s films, the reoccurring roles of M, Q, Moneypenny, and M’s aide, are all played by excellent regulars. I love seeing Judi Dench as M. Samantha Bond is excellent as Moneypenny. And I really like seeing Colin Salmon as Dench’s aide – even when he has little to do as in this film. Geoffrey Palmer, Dench’s frequent co-star in British comedies, also appears as a British Admiral. Having the new Bond family there, as well as Desmond Llewelyn as Q just makes the Bond film a Bond film, as well as adding that unique something they all bring to it.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Top Hat 

The Thomas Crown Affair

  • Title:  The Thomas Crown Affair
  • Director:  John McTiernan
  • Date:  1999
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Romance, Action
  • Cast:  Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary, Faye Dunaway
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Regret is usually a waste of time. As is gloating. Have you figured out what you’re gonna’ say to your board when they learn that you paid me $30 Million more than others were offering?” – Thomas Crown

“It’s obvious that you like men, but you never keep any of them around very long, either.” – Thomas Crown
“Oh, well, men make women messy.” – Catherine

“You really think there’s happy ever after for people like us?” – Catherine

The Thomas Crown Affair is a fun, romantic, romp – in both senses of the word – romance. Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) is a very successful and rich businessman who has made his multi-billion dollar fortune by acquiring other businesses, then selling them off. The realities of such a source of income aren’t explored – basically, he’s rich, successful, lonely, and bored.

Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) is a highly successful insurance investigator and bounty hunter. She makes her considerable fortune collecting a portion of the recovery fee from high stakes art theft recovery.

Michael McCann (Denis Leary) is a cop, who – we find at the end of the film – would rather work homicides, or help abused women and kids then worry about a multi-million dollar art theft.

The film opens with Crown starring at a painting of haystacks in the Impressionist wing of a large unnamed art museum in New York. He apparently does this a lot, as one of the museum guards recognizes him and the two also make small talk. Meanwhile, the loading dock workers are surprised when a large crate is delivered. They are expecting an Egyptian sarcophagus, but instead a large Greek horse sculpture was delivered instead. Soon, a group of men break out of the horse and attempt to steal paintings from the museum. They are caught, but an investigation quickly indicates that a Monet, worth $100,000 million dollars is now missing from the museum. The Monet will be the McGuffin of the film – it also brings together the main characters.

Leary’s Mike McCann, is a tough, wisecracking, swearing, New York City cop who would rather investigate a murder or do anything else other than investigate an art theft. But he’s called in, and his initial sweep of the Impressionist wing, isn’t successful – either in finding the missing Monet, nor in understanding how the crime occurred or what the thieves were trying to accomplish. But even Mike, appreciates the slightly twisted humor of the Trojan Horse being used to gain access to the museum.

During his initial investigation, Catherine arrives. Much more experienced in investigating art thefts – she corrects nearly every assumption Mike’s made. They spark some. It’s Catherine, who realizes that the showy and unsuccessful attempted theft was a distraction, so the Monet could be stolen by someone else – and she and Mike immediately suspect Crown.

The resulting cat-and-mouse game has Catherine and Mike attempting to catch Crown and get the Monet back. This is complicated by Crown’s romantic pursuit of Catherine. Mike sees Crown’s interest as a way for him to keep her off-balance so he doesn’t get caught. Mike is also jealous of Crown – not necessarily simply his money and success, but he would like to become romantically involved with Catherine himself – though he knows she wouldn’t be interested in a plain, blue-collar, cop like him, especially when she could easily have a rich, successful, businessman like Crown.

Crown romantically pursues Catherine – dancing with her in a club, taking her home for a steamy session of sex, taking her for a flying lesson in his glider, and then taking her away for a weekend to his Caribbean Island get away. Their romance is intercut with the investigation by both the police and Catherine of the art theft. On Crown’s side, his romance is intercut with sessions with his psychologist, played by Faye Dunaway. She points out his deep distrust of women.

Trust will be a re-occurring theme of the film. Can two extremely rich people really trust someone new? Especially when that person may have a reason to not be trusted? Catherine has trouble trusting Crown because not only did he probably steal the Monet – but he may be only using her affection to get away with the crime. For his part, Thomas Crown has reason to not trust Catherine – after all, she could find evidence of his illegal activities – and have him arrested.

The Thomas Crown Affair  is stylish, smart, bold, romantic, and steamy. The music is wonderful, though my (very cheap) copy seems to be missing some of the music. Setting the story firmly in the art world gives it a gloss that a similar romantic film in another setting wouldn’t have. There’s some wonderful direction of the initial theft, and Crown’s crazy plan to return the Monet – let’s just say, The Purloined Letter, and leave it at that. Brosnan is sexy, and plays his smart, rags-to-riches character well. Russo is also sexy and smart.

I enjoyed seeing this film again. It’s more of a romance than a caper film – the stolen Monet really is no more than a McGuffin. Russo has excellent chemistry with both Crown and Mike. And the film has the last minute twist-that-isn’t-really-unexpected that works for this type of romantic film. Overall, it’s a great role for Brosnan, and I wish he would make more of this type of romantic film.

The Thomas Crown Affair is a remake of the film of the same name from 1968 starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. In my opinion, and I’m sure a lot of people would disagree with me – the modern film is better. Personally, I really dislike Steve McQueen – he gives me the creeps, and he’s so icy and cold. McQueen’s the type of actor I constantly expect in his roles to turn out to be a serial killer or something, and I just cannot watch him. Dunaway is also a cold actress, and I just can’t see her playing a romantic role well (though in the 1960s, icy blondes were popular in romantic and suspense films.) Brosnan is much better as a romantic hero – and he gives Crown the depth of someone who is emotionally closed off, and what that costs him. Russo is the exact opposite of cold. Leary adds to the plot, giving the 1999 film a much more modern feeling.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating: 3 out of 5 (Slightly predictable)
Next film:  The Three Musketeers (1993)


  • Title:  Goldeneye
  • Director:  Martin Campbell
  • Date:  1995
  • Studio:  United Artists (MGM)
  • Genre:  Action
  • Cast:  Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Judi Dench
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“If you think for one moment I don’t have the balls to send a man out to die, your instincts are dead wrong.  I have no compution about sending you to your death.  But I won’t do it on a whim.”  — M

“Need I remind you 007, that you have a license to kill — not to break the traffic laws.” — Q

Goldeneye is Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond film and he does a marvelous job — Brosnan plays to his strengths, giving Bond a core of steel and toughness, that isn’t all that nice.  With Brosnan’s portrayal –the charm, clothes, and air of sophistication are a thin veneer that, at best, covers an icy man.  The villainess in this film is Onatopp, a Russian pilot and assassin, who can kill men by squeezing them until they stop breathing.  Yet, she isn’t all that different than Bond — both are functioning psychopaths — Bond more functioning than Onatopp — who clearly gets off on violence and killing.

The Bond franchise re-invented itself  with Brosnan, bringing in Judi Dench as the new female “M” — and she has more balls than any previous M.  Dench is wonderful as the hard-hitting head of MI 6.  Samantha Bond is excellent as Moneypenny — able to give as good as she gets to Bond, and turning down his habitual offers. Desmond Llewelyn is back as Q, but fun and light-hearted.

The plot of the film involves a stolen Russian satellite weapon, an EMP-generator code-named, Goldeneye.  But unlike the cold-war plots of Bond vs. Russia or China — the first half of Goldeneye involves Bond trying to figure out who has the weapon.  Suspects include a Russian arms dealer named Janus, a runaway general, or the two programmers who escaped the disaster when the weapon was stolen and its base destroyed.  Bond eventually discovers Janus is none other than Alec — an old friend and MI6 agent who’s not dead as Bond thought but has gone rogue.  Alec’s working with one of the programmers from the Siberan installation.  Bond ends up working with the other one, a female computer programmer named Natalia.  She’s tough, smart, and although she sort of falls for Bond’s charms, she seems to know his involvement with her won’t be permanent.  They eventually end up in Cuba where Bond and Natalia destroy the satellite antenna and also cause the actual Goldeneye satellite to burn up in the atmosphere.

But it’s a typical Bond film in that there is plenty of action, vehicle chases, flying bullets, and gorgeous women.  The nice thing about this film is the women are all strong:  M, Moneypenny, Onatopp, Natalia  — none are just mindless pretty faces.  But at the same time, this isn’t some “feminst counter-strike” at Bond — the film hits all the line items one has come to expect from a Bond film.  It’s highly enjoyable, if a bit long.  And Pierce Brosnan is gorgeous.  Drop dead gorgeous.  Plus he’s talented and lights-up the screen, with presence and magnetism.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Green Lantern:  Emerald Knights

Die Another Day

  • Title:  Die Another Day
  • Director:  Lee Tamahori
  • Date:  2002
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Action
  • Cast:  Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Dame Judi Dench, John Cleese, Samantha Bond, Colin Salmon
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

Pierce Brosnan’s final foray as James Bond is hardly his best, and I remember disliking the movie when I saw it in the theater. The only reason I ended-up with a copy of Die Another Day was I bought it at a “two fer” sale, and I was more interested in the other movie. And when I watched the DVD for the first time this past summer, after watching all of Brosnan’s other Bond films — it does disappoint.

However, watching this movie tonight, standing alone without watching the other Brosnan Bond films before, I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it. It really is the typical action-packed Bond film. This film is unique in that it starts with Bond at his lowest point – not only does a mission go wrong, but he’s captured, imprisoned and “the secretary disavows all knowledge of his existence”, – sorry, I couldn’t resist that. But seriously, Bond is tortured and kept alone, in prison, for 14 months. He is led out to a firing squad, then traded for another political prisoner. Upon his return to the UK he discovers he’s now a burned spy. But, knowing he was set-up, Bond sets out to clear his name and finish his botched mission.

This quest sends him to Cuba, and Iceland, before returning to North Korea, where he was captured before. The plot involves Blood Diamonds (which throughout the film are referred to as “Conflict Diamonds” – the politically correct wording still irritates me. Call ’em what they are, “Blood Diamonds”, please), and a huge satellite capable of reflecting the Sun’s rays to Earth, basically creating a second Sun, and, when focused, a very nasty pinpoint laser. Oh, and gene-replacement therapy, which somehow gives people new identities and new looks, as well as having a nasty side-effect of permanent insomnia.

If this sounds complex – it is. The film might have been better if it was simplified (note:  not dumbed down, just less of a mess) a bit, maybe cutting out the entire North Korean plot, and keeping the bad guy what he is – a deluded wealthy megalomaniac, faking a new diamond mine to launder blood diamonds, while developing an terrible super-weapon. Ah, well.

The other thing I noticed this time around, and I honestly don’t know how I missed it previously, because I’ve seen most of the James Bond films, and all the classic ones – are all the references to other Bond films. There’s the beautiful Bond girl walking out of  the ocean in a bikini (Dr No) only this time it’s Halle Berry. There’s Bond using a small re-breather tube (Thunderball). There’s somebody nearby being cut in half by a laser (“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”  Goldfinger), and in Q’s lab – there’s the knife-shoe from Goldfinger, and the human jet-pack (Moonraker? One of the Roger Moore films, anyway). They don’t come off as homages, but more as a series which is stealing from itself.

However, I will say this – the cast all did a great job. Brosnan is gorgeous as always, and his acting is perfect – I love the twinge of angst underlying his characterization of Bond. Halle Berry is actually quite good as the American agent (though that theme’s also not new to Bond; nor is the idea of pairing Bond with a young female agent from another country). Judi Dench, John Cleese, and Samantha Bond are wonderful in their re-occurring roles as M, Q, and Moneypenny. And no way is Brosnan getting too old to play Bond – he’s just distinguished. And still gorgeous. Though I must admit , I twitched a bit at him bedding the characterof Miranda Frost, who really did look young enough to be his daughter.

Overall, a standard James Bond film. Not quite as much fun or “high popcorn value” as usual because Bond’s tortured at the beginning of the film, and his suffering flashbacks to it (though all the torture scenes are in the opening sequence and credits, except the flashbacks), but still worth collecting as it is Brosnan’s last Bond film.

Recommendation:  It’s OK, good to add to the collection of the Bond complete-ist, and I’ve seen worse Bond.
Rating:  3 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Dante’s Peak

  • Title: Dante’s Peak
  • Director: Roger Donaldson
  • Date: 1997
  • Studio: Universal
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Romance
  • Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

Dante’s Peak is a typical  disaster movie, but that isn’t a slight against it. Pierce Brosnan is Dr. Harry Dalton, a vulcanologist, who is sent by the US Geologic Survey to the sleepy town of Dante’s Peak in the Cascade mountain range to check to see if the mountain is about to turn volcanic. His early investigation leads to some warning signs, but his boss, Paul soon arrives and urges caution – since a false alarm could be an economic disaster for the town. ‘Course, Paul doesn’t seem to think about what having the volcano explode will do to the town.

After a week of intense study, Paul decides that they can monitor the mountain remotely, and they will leave the next morning. Harry and Rachel (Hamilton) have a last date on the town, only to find sulfur in the town’s water – a sure sign of an impending eruption. They go to pick up Rachel’s children from her home, only to discover they have gone to their grandmother’s cabin up the mountain. The second half of the movie is the more traditional action-oriented part – with plenty of narrow escapes and heart-break, as the situation goes from bad to worse to worst.

But at the end of the day, Harry, Rachel, Rachel’s two kids, and the dog survive. Paul doesn’t. The crew of geologic survey interns does, though. Actually, for a disaster movie, there isn’t as much death as one would normally expect (as in most big Hollywood disaster flicks where huge casts of famous people die horribly). There are deaths, most of them stupid – and pretty much off-camera or near off-camera (the film has a PG-13 rating). But it’s also typical in the Hollywood disaster movie tradition in that Harry is a bit of a “Cassandra” figure – he keeps predicting the mountain will blow, which it does spectacularly, but he isn’t believed until it’s almost too late to do anything about it.

There’s also a bit of romance between Harry, who lost his girlfriend Marion to another volcano they were studying four years previously, and Rachel who’s divorced. Brosnan and Hamilton have good chemistry and the two children and dog aren’t nearly as annoying as they could be. Overall it’s a fun, exciting movie with good special effects. Enjoyable to watch, especially as an escape (in a good way) or “popcorn movie” experience.

Recommendation: See it – for the fun of  it.
Rating: 4 out of  5 Stars
Next film: Dare Devil