The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’

Hey, it is the end of James Bond Month here at the JOE-DOWN. Joe Brown and I picked four Bond films to dissect in our very nerdy fashion for December. For the fourth and final installment for Bond Month, we went with “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

The info:

The Movie: “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997)

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) James Bond heads to stop a media mogul’s plan to induce war between China and the UK in order to obtain exclusive global media coverage.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 57 percent

Our take:

Froemming: Well, here we are at the end of Bond Month here at the JOE-DOWN. Last week, we stumbled upon a Bond film that neither of us had paid much attention to, but found it to be a winner. This week, we return to the dumpster fire variety of the 007 franchise with “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

I saw this in the theater when it came out, and as I exited the building I vowed to never pay to see another (REDACTED) James Bond movie in the theater again.

Rewatching this in my 30s as opposed to my mid-teens, will I still stand by that declaration? Before we venture into the very confused concept of newspapers being an all-powerful entity with the ability to start WWIII, Brown what did you think of this film?

Brown: Well, I know heading into this review, the only part I remembered was where Bond controls his BMW (Bond cars should be Aston Martin only) with a touch pad on his cell phone. Everything else was a blur to me, save for remembering that Teri Hatcher was in this film as well.

And seeing it again at 30, “Tomorrow Never Dies” seems to fall into the pitfalls that Brosnan had as a whole playing James Bond: The tone fluctuates so much. One minute, Brosnan plays things very serious, then the next scene, he’s pulling tricks out of the Roger Moore playbook as far as corniness.

Also, doing what I do for a living now, can we start blaming Bond and MI6 for the fall of newspapers? Or are we all still going to blame the internet?

Froemming: Watching this movie made me want to unsubscribe to print media out of spite.

The film starts off in the arctic cold of Bemidji the Russian border with an arms deal going down. Here we already run into trouble because I had no idea who was on whose side? Is Russia the enemy? China? All I knew was that M should have smacked the (REDACTED) out of the British military guy for not listening to her and putting everything in danger due to his being trigger happy.

Brown: Well, we’re told that this is a terrorist arms bazaar (I love that word) and some of the world’s most notorious terrorists are there to buy some trinkets. You know, some antiques, some missiles, a nuke… just a fun Sunday stroll to go window shopping.

So instead of letting Bond do his work, the military decides to launch missiles at the place and kill all these bad guys in one fell swoop. One problem: A jet has nukes attached to it and will be a worse catastrophe than Chernobyl.

So, we get Bond attacking these guys in hopes of stealing the jet so it (and the nukes) don’t blow up from the missile launch. We get a pretty cool fight here (save for ripping off “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with a plane machine gun taking out hordes of baddies), and there’s also a jet fight. The way for Bond to win that one: Hit the eject button for the guy in the passenger seat choking him and watch as the guy flies into the other jet and explodes. Because people explode now.

And, that is just the cold open.

Froemming: I had to roll my eyes at the idea of the guy somehow flying into the other jet, causing it to explode. That was….just weird.

But we are then shown the credit sequence to the tune of…Sheryl Crow? With her singing and the T-1000 naked women, this was perhaps one of the worst credit sequences I have seen in a Bond film. What’s more? The band Pulp had recorded a theme song for this film and I say it works much better than what we got.

Brown: Impromptu list time. Best three Bond themes. No explanation, just your favorites. Mine:

  1. You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra.
  2. A View To A Kill” by Duran Duran
  3. Skyfall” by Adele

Froemming:

  1. Live And Let Die” by Wings
  2. “Skyfall” by Adele
  3. Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey

We are now introduced to our villain, a twerpy weasel of a bad guy named Elliot Carver, who is a weird combination of Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch and Steve Jobs. All I could think while I saw him on screen was “One or more of those three guys must have really pissed off the writer of this film in real life.” It was like he was intentionally poorly-written and one dimensional to settle a grudge or something.

Brown: The premise of Elliot Carver (who runs a global media empire) is dumb and the character is cartoony, I will say that I appreciate Jonathan Pryce just going for it throughout the movie. Like, he’s buying into the craziness instead of knowing this movie is stupid.

Now, we see a British ship sailing near Chinese waters in the South China Sea, as some MiGs fly by as a warning. However, there is a third ship abound: A stealth ship run by Carver’s henchmen.

Froemming: Yup, and they saw through a boat with a weird chainsaw thing run by a remote control. I was so bored at this point I barely recall what was happening. I do know, based on experience in the 90s and early aughts, to never trust a man with bleached hair. So I was onto Richard Stamper right away.

After this, we see media baron Carver…designing his own news pages for his paper Tomorrow? That’s just odd. What media mogul does this? I am pretty sure Turner and Murdoch have no idea how to use a computer, let alone a computer program. Though, as a page designer myself, I wish I had a setup like this (minus using Quark like he does. I’m an InDesign man).

Brown: Well, Turner got booted from his company due to AOL, so I can see him holding a grudge over technology. And Murdoch… look man, FOX needs someone to read Breitbart to get their stories.

The idea behind this is to start a war between the Brits and Chinese as a means of making money from newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. Aside from his plan being as paper thin as the underpants gnomes from “South Park,” does Carver really need to start a war for this? There are wars going on all the time. You don’t need to start one. Just cover one that’s ongoing. Heck, this was the mid ‘90s, go cover the Bosnian War.

Froemming: This is just an updated version of William Randolph Hearst and Yellow Journalism, to the point Carver even quotes Hearst himself (“You supply the pictures, I’ll supply the war”). Except, like you said, there were plenty of wars in the 90s to cover. Him starting one with a rising superpower and a former-superpower made very little sense to me. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to start a war with China and the U.S.? Probably, but Bond is British so we get this (REDACTED).

Brown: So the British ship is sunk by this… missile drill (?) and England is ready to go to war with China… unless Agent 007 (who is busy making sexy time with a Danish student at least 20 years younger than him at a college) can prove within 48 hours that someone else did it.

And here is where I’ll say my piece about Brosnan and his era of Bond: What George Clooney was to ‘90s-era Batman, Brosnan is to Bond. The pieces were all there and it’s so easy to visualize Brosnan as the perfect Bond. But through bad writing and a failure on either his part or the directors’ parts, he could never quite get it to work. In this case, it could be the director, whose resume includes “Stop Or My Grandma Will Shoot.”

Brosnan is more… disappointing than bad.

Froemming: Impromptu list time! Top three Bonds, no reason, just list.

  1. Sean Connery
  2. Daniel Craig
  3. Pierce Brosnan

Brown:

  1. Connery
  2. Craig
  3. Roger Moore (Gotta embrace stupid sometimes)

Froemming: Well, to move things ahead, Bond goes undercover at a gala hosted by Carver. His alias: James Bond. Though he presents himself as a banker. I’m not an expert on being an undercover spy, but I am pretty sure they use different names. Even Lazenby used an alias in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

Bond is sent because he also happened to have made stains with Carver’s wife at some point (we even get a joke from Moneypenny about this prior). His wife is Paris (Teri Hatcher) is Bond’s in here. And this was when I was reminded of the fact that in this film, Hatcher is a terrible actress. Carver finds Bond suspect as a banker because as we have learned since the Great Recession, bankers tend to not ask questions about anything. Bond asks too many (well, maybe three) questions.

Brown: At this point, we are introduced to Wai Lin, who cozies up to Carver as a Chinese reporter… or is she?!

When Bond and Paris meet for the first time in this movie, she slaps him for walking out on her. Good on you, Paris. Then she asks if Bond still sleeps with a gun under his pillow. Ladies and gentlemen, that is the only time Bond uses protection in bed. Tip your waitress.

But, even when Bond was an ass to her, she still protects him. Why? You’re married to Carver, Paris, maybe say to him, “Nope, not a banker. World-famous spy/disease carrier James Bond.”

Froemming: Maybe catching chlamydia is a hobby of hers?

Brown: Carver doesn’t like Bond, so he has some goons try and rough him up. But because he’s James (REDACTED) Bond so he beats them up (with a cello, no less. All sorts of “The Living Daylights” flashbacks there) and escapes to his hotel room where he stays up all night drinking vodka and waiting for Paris to inevitably show up and have make-up sex.

Have to mention something else as well. Carver gives a speech to people at his party in Hamburg. He’s German, you see, and no one who speaks German could be an evil man.

During this speech, he uses bad guy lingo with his business talk. His goal is world domination… of the media market. This movie is not at all subtle.

Froemming: Well, Carver is launching a new satellite and Bond cuts off his feed while he is giving that long-winded speech. Thank you, Bond, you saved the world from that noise. Of course, this makes Carver the laughing stock of the media world. Hell, even local nightly news anchors mock him on-air. I admit, I got a chuckle out of that.

Now, Carver is on to Paris and Bond and the loud love making they had — that probably once again upset everyone at Bond’s hotel. Bond sneaks into CMGN (Carver’s confusingly named media network) and steals back a GPS recorder.

Brown: In the safe where he finds the GPS recorder, there is also a bunch of heroin and porno mags. You know, bad guy essentials.

Froemming: I am now deeply disturbed thinking Oddjob might have those items in the hat box he carries for his deadly headwear.

Now Bond finds Colonel Wai Lin also sneaking around this poorly secured media empire building. She is a spy for the Chinese. The two of them escape their own ways. Again, I was bored as hell with this movie.

Bond returns to his hotel room (he makes sure he sets the amazing security on his BMW before, knowing there are goons about) to find Paris dead. She was murdered by the Subway Ghost from “Ghost” Dr. Kaufman, an assassin sent to make sure Bond and Paris’ death look like an OD/suicide sort of thing. We know this because the TV news is reporting it on the TV when Bond walks into the room.

Unfortunately, the goons cannot break into Bond’s car. It is amazingly sledgehammer-proof! They need Bond to get in so they can get the GPS back. This creates an embarrassing moment for Kaufman as he is now tasked with getting Bond to inform him of how to get into the vehicle before he murders him.

Brown: Kaufman is so full of (REDACTED). He tells Bond that he’ll make his death look like a suicide and says shooting Bond from a distance can look like suicide because he’s a forensics expert. Look, just because you saw it on “CSI” does not make you an expert, dude.

Doesn’t matter, though, because he gets tasered and killed by Bond.

Now, onto the part I remembered from my first viewing: The remote-control car.

It’s a cool action scene with one problem. Q never explained all the gadgets with the car, save for the remote control. And all of a sudden Bond starts pressing these buttons on the phone and KNOWS what they’d do. Knockout gas, missiles, road spikes, inflatable tires… You never had any of this (REDACTED) explained to you, Bond.

This whole thing ends with the hired goons getting taken out one by one, with the final one being killed when Bond’s car drives off the parking ramp into an Avis store. I really doubt Avis appreciated their product placement.

Froemming: If anything, this scene was fun. It is too bad it is surrounded by some of the most ridiculous (REDACTED) I have seen in a Bond film.

Now, we are introduced — once again — to Joe Don Baker as Mittens Jack Wade, a liaison with the CIA. Look, I will let you take care of Baker here, Brown.

Brown: Froemming told me that Jack Wade was a character from “Goldeneye” and my question is why bring him back? So I can have another “The Living Daylights” flashback? I liked him better as a gun runner dressed like a nazi than some panchy dude dressed in a Tommy Bahama shirt. Also, this is, what, the third movie we’ve seen with Joe Don Baker?

Froemming: “Cape Fear,” “The Living Daylights” and this. So, we hit the Joe Don Baker trifecta! Also, this was his third Bond film, which probably pays more in residuals than his being mocked by Mystery Science Theater 3000 with “Mitchell.”

Now Bond and Mittens are traveling back to the South China Sea to investigate the wreck that started this whole mess. We are then given another (REDACTED) (REDACTED) (REDACTED) underwater/scuba diving scene that goes on way longer than it should have. It is like this movie went out of its way to adopt all the worst elements of a James Bond movie.

Brown: The big takeaways here are that A. Bond and Wai Lin are working toward the same goal as it turns out she’s an agent for the Chinese government, and B. A cruise missile was stolen from the ship before it sank.

But, our heroes are captured by Stamper (who looks like the pre-steroid version of The Russian from “The Punisher”) and they are flown to Carver’s building in Vietnam. The two escape (naturally) and we get another cool action sequence involving Bond and Wai Lin handcuffed together and having to drive a motorcycle.

Froemming: I feel I should bring up that even while being chased by armed thugs and a helicopter, Bond still tries to molest Wai Lin on the bike. Can’t Bond keep it in his pants for 10 minutes?

Brown: No. I established this in our last review. He has to have sex every 20 minutes or he dies.

Now, the Brits and Chinese are told of Carver’s plan of using the missile against China to start an all-out war between the two. And his gain: Wall-to-wall media coverage that’ll make him even richer.

Look… the motivation, it’s so (REDACTED) lame. Plus, they don’t need Bond to stop Carver. This is 1997, just show Carver America Online and tell him, “Dude, this will be the end of your empire. People will go here for their news (and scathing movie reviews like this) and they’ll get it for free.” He will probably sell his business and go hide in the Cayman Islands somewhere.

Froemming: Look, either way Carver is doomed. If Bond doesn’t kill him, the loss of revenue in the next 10-20 years due to media companies not paying any (REDACTED) attention to the internet will probably lead him to an early grave by his own hand.

Brown: Did this just get meta?

Froemming: I refuse to answer that. Anyway, Bond and Wai Ling escape the helicopter doing things I am pretty sure helicopters simply cannot do because of the laws of physics. Wai Ling cuffs Bond to an outdoor shower — these apparently exist — and runs off to her hideout which just happens to be in this city. Bond follows her and sees some street toughs about to ambush the building she just entered.

Even when this movie was full of action, I was bored stiff by it. Again, the tone switches from jokey to serious so often that I lost interest early on and struggled throughout.

Brown: The problem with this movie is it is so by-the-numbers. It’s by-the-numbers as far as Bond movies with some foreign villain making plans for (a kind of) world domination and using nukes to do such a thing. Then, it’s by-the-numbers as far as ‘90s action movies go with big set pieces, explosions and kung-fu. There are better Bond movies and there are better ‘90s action movies. Bond isn’t going to outdo Jerry Bruckhemier or (dare I say it?) Michael Bay.

Let’s get to our climax here as Bond and Wai Ling infiltrate the stealth ship and set explosives on it. That way, the explosions will show up on radar and the ship can finally be attacked. Amid the explosive planting, Wai Ling gets kidnapped by Stamper, leaving Bond to infiltrate the ship to get his reluctant partner.

Quick point: When things are going according to plan on the stealth ship for Carver, he says “Delicious.” He does this twice in this movie. And I laughed both times because he comes off like Cesar Romero’s Joker from the Batman TV series.

Froemming: Because the excessive bleach has soaked into his skull and caused some sort of brain damage to him, Stamper thinks he has killed James Bond, sending his dead body to the bottom of the ocean. To which Carver says “looks like we have a new ‘anchorman.’” This is a terrible pun and Carver should feel bad for having those words fall out of his stupid mouth.

Bond isn’t dead, but running around the ship where he hides another bomb (we are to believe Stamper got rid of all the others they planted at some point). He sets it off at the climax, making the ship visible to radar now.

Brown: Which is STUPID! There is a nuke on board. You blow that boat up, you are setting that damn thing off. You made that a big point at the start of the movie. Now we’re going to disregard that?

Froemming: It was at this point I wrote in my notes that this is a James Bond movie too influenced by Michael Bay. I expect that stupid (REDACTED) out of “Armageddon,” not a Bond film.

Brown: With Bond face-to-face with Carver, who wanted to use the bomb to get exclusive broadcasting rights in China for 100 years (I’m angry typing that out), Bond finally thwarts Carver by turning on the missile drill from before, grinding Carver into what I can assume is a puddle of gore. And his one liner: “First rule of mass media… give the people what they want.”

I nearly shut off the movie there. But nope, we give the people what they want on the JOE-DOWN, which means we have to watch a self-destruct sequence.

Froemming: Well, Bond and Wai Ling are on the remains of the stealth boat. But since Bond has to have sex every 20 minutes or he will die, he advises her that they should make some stains before getting rescued.

Brown: Nevermind that in the self-destruct sequence, they say there’s 40 seconds left. I timed it. Two minutes. They were able to squeeze a fight with Stamper into that bit. But that’s OK, they should totally have sex on wreckage in what I can only imagine is blood-stained water that will be riddled with sharks.

Froemming: I also imagine it would be a little chilly at night in the ocean as well. It doesn’t look like a place these two should be getting it on at. But he is a sex addict and that is his cross to bear. I say we ride the fuselage of this stealth boat over to recommendations.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Froemming: Nope. This movie is hot garbage. I am angry to have watched it again.

Brown: Nope. Too often in this movie I felt I was watching the Bond equivalent of the Joel Schumacher Batman movies. I wanted to like this movie but it just didn’t happen. Save for maybe “Goldeneye,” skip Brosnan as Bond.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down:

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