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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: Never Say Never Again

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#1 of 2 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted March 28 2009 - 04:21 AM

Never Say Never Again

Release Date: March 24, 2009
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc VIVA Eco-Box
Year: 1983
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2h14m
MSRP: $19.99

Video2.35:1 anamorphic1.78:1 anamorphic and 1.33:1
AudioDolby Digital: English 5.1, English 2.1, Spanish Mono, French MonoStereo
SubtitlesEnglish, SpanishNone

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: 3.5/5
The film is accurately framed at 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen displays. Colors in a somewhat muted palette show good 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 good (detail in general suffers in most wide shots), 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), resulting in some noticeable compression noise. Grain in general seems a little heavy at times, which by itself is not an issue, but it can prove a compression challenge for the standard definition transfer. Fortunately, excessive digital sharpening and noise reduction appear absent.

Audio Quality: 3/5
The 448 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 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.

A Dolby Digital 2.1 audio option is also available.

Special Features: 3/5
The extras, while not plentiful, are thorough, covering major points of interest with little deviation.

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: 3.5/5
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 good transfer to DVD, decent audio treatment and a thorough special features package.

#2 of 2 OFFLINE   Harry-N



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Posted April 01 2009 - 07:27 AM

Cameron, I'm a big fan of all things "Herb Alpert", and it was he, his wife Lani Hall, and Sergio Mendes who contributed the theme to this movie. The original DVD release had a noticeable "wow" in the theme music portion of the DVD, and I'm wondering if this has been corrected in this release? Harry
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A fugitive moves on, through anguished tunnels of time, down dim streets, into dark corners. And each new day offers fear and frustration, tastes of honey and hemlock. But if there is a hazard, there is also hope. - Closing narration to THE FUGITIVE, "Death Is The Door Prize".

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