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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Never Say Never Again

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#1 of 16 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted March 27 2009 - 08:45 AM

Never Say Never Again

Release Date: March 24, 2009
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case
Year: 1983
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2h14m
MSRP: $34.99

Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1Standard definition
AudioDTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 2.1, Spanish Mono, French MonoStereo
SubtitlesEnglish SDH, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, ThaiNone

The Feature: 2.5/5
"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

I'm sure entertainment attorney Jack Schwartzman (late husband of actress Talia Shire) was offered this adage many times when he decided to remake Ian Fleming's novel "Thunderball". Indeed, it's hard to fathom the motivation - let alone the sheer guts it would require - to tell a story that had already been made into a film (1965's "Thunderball") by an established and influential company like Eon Productions, longtime producers of all films Bond. But Schwartzman did it - not only getting the film made (thanks to an "arcane licensing loophole") but getting Sean Connery to reprise his role as Bond in a story that he had already done. When "Never Say Never Again" came out it had been 12 years since Connery left the franchise and 18 years since he'd starred in "Thunderball".

Not suprisingly, the production was filled with problems. Schwartzman's rights to produce were, of course, legally contested, so most of his time was spent in court rather than on set. There were also problems with Lorenzo Semple's script (which deals with SPECTRE stealing two nuclear warheads and extorting the world of billions) and required the help of two uncredited script doctors, Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement, to rectify its inconsistent dialogue and story. Kim Basinger, who played the character of Domino, also clashed with Director Irvin Kershner (though by all accounts Connery was a good sport through it all).

The movie itself, divorced from its troubled history and reputation, starts off decent but ends up dull. The film's plodding pace and overlong run time lead to a final act we're just waiting to have wrapped up. Connery, however, looking a little gray around the edges, returns to Bond quite comfortably, though Basinger never seems to achieve the same level of confidence. In contrast, Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush is almost too confident, chewing up the scenery in a way that made me realize where Famke Janssen probably got her inspiration for Xenia Onatopp in "GoldenEye". Klaus Maria Brandauer as the villain Largo is a convincing foil to Connery's Bond, though his comeuppance in the finale is ultimately a disappointment.

But in the end it seems the tremendous legal concerns were the film's undoing, rather than anything to do with the production itself. Since the remake couldn't bear any resemblance to the movie "Thunderball", everything had to come from the novel and be rubberstamped by lawyers, which squashed the filmmakers' creative process and complicated the production's practical needs. Though Schwartzman obviously had high hopes for the film, in the final analysis, it really only amounts to an interesting footnote in recent film and Bond history, known mostly for what it tried to do rather than what it actually accomplished.

Video Quality: 4/5
The film is accurately framed at 2.35:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. Colors in a somewhat muted palette show satisfying depth and fidelity. Blacks are deep and inky and contrast is quite good overall, with maybe only a few instances where things seem a touch flat or dull. Fine object detail is very good, strands of hair and skin texture standing out in their clarity, though overall sharpness can vary depending on whether 1980s-era effects are in use. Grain increases and sharpness takes a dip in those instances (which includes the film's title sequence), but as it's source related it's ultimately a credit to the transfer for being so revealing. Grain in general appears preserved with no signs of noise reduction.

Audio Quality: 3/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is heavily front loaded, with activity often being quite concentrated toward the center. Surround activity is inconsistent, at some points providing noticeable support for the film score or with panning effects, but at others seeming to disappear entirely. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible, but can sound a little granular at times. LFE is non-existent, but a few moments indicate the track has good depth and dynamic range.

Special Features: 3/5
The extras, while not plentiful, are thorough, covering major points of interest with little deviation. All video pieces are in standard definition.

Commentary with Director Irvin Kershner and Bond historian Steven Jay Rubin: Rubin mostly serves the role as interviewer but has an impressive knowledge of the franchise. Kershner tends toward scene description when not being re-directed by Rubin, but holds nothing back when asked about the problematic parts of the film.

"The Big Gamble" (16m24s): Kershner, Shire, Schwartzman's son John, Carrera, La Frenais, Clement and Semple offer some rather candid comments and memories about the troubled production.

"Sean Is Back" (8m04s): Cast and crew talk about working with Connery and offer him their highest compliments.

"The Girls of Never Say Never Again" (10m07s): Basinger is noticeably absent, though Kershner and Carerra offer some thoughts about her. Other interviewed include Pamela Salem (Miss Moneypenny) and Valerie Leon (the "Bahamas Lady").

Theatrical Trailer (1m27s) Framed at 1.33:1.

Photo Gallery (3m12s): Sixty-two images playable as a three-minute slide show.


The Feature: 2.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3/5

The "maverick" Bond film known more for what it attempted than what it got right, gets a very good video transfer, decent audio treatment and a thorough special features package.

#2 of 16 OFFLINE   MattFini


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Posted March 27 2009 - 09:23 AM

Cool! This movie isn't great, but I remember enjoying it as a kid. I got this Blu-ray and I'll be revisiting it again this weekend. Thanks for the good review.
Universal, please release Streets of Fire on Blu-ray.

#3 of 16 OFFLINE   Yumbo



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Posted March 29 2009 - 11:10 AM

Looks good.

#4 of 16 OFFLINE   Gary Miller

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Posted March 29 2009 - 12:41 PM

I can't comment on the video, audio or special features, but your summation of the film itself nails it. Great work, Cameron.

#5 of 16 OFFLINE   Osato



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Posted March 29 2009 - 01:02 PM

Thanks for the review! Target has a great price on this blu ray this week. $15

#6 of 16 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted March 29 2009 - 02:40 PM

I pretty much enjoyed this Bond film when it was originally released in the theatres. I certainly enjoyed it much more than MGM's offering "Octopussy" which came out that same summer of '83. Glad to hear that the disc is good as I will be picking this up. Posted Image
Recently watched- The Masque Of The Red Death(1964), Sabotage(2014), Twin Peaks: Season 1, The Pit and The Pendulum(1961), Beware The Batman: Shadows Of Gotham, Scream and Scream Again, Arrow: Season 3, The Return Of Count Yorga, Count Yorga,Vampire, John Carpenter's Vampires, Burn Notice: Season 7, V For Vendetta, Halloween: Resurrection

Currently watching- Planet Earth, True Blood: Season 3, Gatchaman: The Complete Series, Tales From The Crypt: Season 2, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1, Game Of Thrones: Season 2, Heroes: Season 2, The Pacific, Battlestar Galactica: The Definitive Collection, Beware The Batman: Dark Justice, Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, Scarecrow & Mrs. King: Season 2
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#7 of 16 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden



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Posted April 03 2009 - 05:14 AM

Yeah, it was, aesthetically, the defacto winner in the battle of the Bonds. Of course, that's not unlike pointing out the healthiest patient in intensive care or the fastest three legged horse, but a win is a win. Posted Image

"Octopussy" was a real disappointment coming on the heels of "For Your Eyes Only". "Never Say Never Again" was at least an interesting curiosity.

Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#8 of 16 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted April 03 2009 - 07:09 AM

I always liked this film. And, after all, Connery IS Bond, no argument.

My all-time-favourite Bond is still From Russia With Love, but this one fits in nicely, and the sample joke (insiders know what I'm referring to) has continued to be a good one.

Thanks for the review, Cameron, even if I personally rate the Feature a bit higher. Posted Image
This BD disc is mine.


#9 of 16 OFFLINE   Ray_R



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Posted April 03 2009 - 10:11 PM

Along with Cees this Blu-ray disc/title will be mine, eventually. I've always liked it and have been meaning to be getting around to purchasing the DVD. Even though I don't own a BD player yet, might as well take the plunge. Great non-EON OO7 film. I wonder what WARHEAD might've been like? I still say Lazenby should've had another crack at Bond, perhaps with a video game?

#10 of 16 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted April 03 2009 - 10:52 PM

I was impressed with this disc. And I've come to like the movie itself a lot more as well. It's quite underrated.

#11 of 16 OFFLINE   Jim_K


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Posted April 04 2009 - 02:33 AM

My 2nd favorite Bond from the 80's but that's not saying much. I enjoy this alternate take on Bond but it's just too similar to the superior Thunderball.

I'm waiting for a good sale price ($15 or under) on this and TWINE.
Death before Streaming!

#12 of 16 OFFLINE   ATimson


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Posted April 04 2009 - 03:53 AM

Don't know about NSNA, but TWINE is on sale for $15 at Target through today.
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#13 of 16 OFFLINE   ATimson


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Posted April 04 2009 - 03:58 AM

Don't know about NSNA, but TWINE is on sale for $15 at Target through today.
"Niceness is the greatest human flaw, except for all the others."
--Brendan Moody

#14 of 16 OFFLINE   Michael Warner

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Posted April 04 2009 - 04:04 AM

Um, that would be now. Target and Amazon have them for $14.99 each but only until the end of the day Saturday.
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#15 of 16 OFFLINE   Jim_K


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Posted April 04 2009 - 04:33 AM

I guess today is my lucky day then. thanks for the heads up.
Death before Streaming!

#16 of 16 OFFLINE   ahollis



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Posted April 04 2009 - 07:48 AM

Thanks for the heads up on Target. I got it today. They only had NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, the others were sold out.
"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman

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