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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Espionage > Action > Thriller > Cold War > Terrorism > Quantum Of Solace (2008/MGM Blu-ray + DVD) + Never Say Never Again (1983/MGM Blu-ray/James Bond)

Quantum Of Solace (2008/MGM Blu-ray + DVD) + Never Say Never Again (1983/MGM Blu-ray/James Bond)


Picture: B+/B-/C+     Sound: B+/B/C+     Extras: B-     Films: B-



Daniel Craig has established himself as the grittiest, toughest and most lauded James Bond since Sean Connery, yet it is not that simple.  Besides the grittier turns by George Lazenby (in his single outing in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and Timothy Dalton (in his second and last Bond, Licence To Kill), Connery’s last two Bond outings were as comic as they were gritty.  Diamonds Are Forever (1971) was filled with clever adult wit that made for a huge hit, while his last Bond, the outside-of-the-series Never Say Never Again (1983) was (as Roger Moore rightly pointed out) made to be as comic as Moonraker and Man With The Golden Gun.  So it is with some irony that Never Say Never Again and Craig’s huge second Bond Quantum Of Solace (2008) arrive on Blu-ray at the same time.


There are many odd things about Quantum including many up and downs for the film and the series.  It is the most expensive Bond to date, yet it is also the shortest ever released and considering it is not loaded with gadgets or space trips, it is amazing so much was spent on it.  It has one of the most interesting villains in Mathieu Amalric (Munich, Marie Antoinette, Heartbeat Detector) as Dominic Green and two exceptionally interesting and beautiful new actresses in Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton, making for the best supporting cast in many a Bond film, yet the film is so co-dependent on the viewer seeing Casino Royale that it frustrated many and always will in that respect.  Yet once you get past that, it is a pretty good action film.


Bond discovers a secret organization even his division did not know about is behind some of the events of his previous, personal case, almost costing “M” (Judi Dench) her life.  When Bond investigates, he discovers how extensive they are and that they are so overconfident they are mostly undetectable that he starts to peel the layers away.  Many considered the fight sequences too similar to that of the Matt Damon/Jason Bourne films, but the Bond people hired some of those choreographers to do these sequences, so that was intentional and shows how the Bond franchise will add anything to the films they think will work.


That has led some to comment that this is too much like an action film and not enough of a spy film, but it is arguable that a Bond like this needed to be made where the action was up front and gadgets are limited.  That is special spy gadgets, as Bond uses plenty of gadgets that most people use every day here, so to call it gadget-free is a bit misleading.  Director Marc Forster is more miss (Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction) than hit (Monster’s Ball, Kite Runner) but his better side pulls through in the main work he does.  Though its short length and narrative fracture disappointed many, in years to come, people will realize how much better a Bond this is than it seems now.  It is fun and delivers the goods the way the series always should.  It remains the premiere action franchise and it is nice to see it back on top.


Turning back the clock a quarter century, Never Say Never Again is the only action Bond outside of the series, which deserves brief explanation.  The story begins in the 1950s when Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham were hired by CBS-TV (who made an hour-long Casino Royale in 1954 for the anthology show Climax!) to write a Bond TV pilot for a TV series that never happened.  Fleming got his hands on that work and without the writer’s permission, turned it into the hit Bond novel Thunderball.  When the Bond movie series began in 1962, court battles began, leading to McClory becoming a co-producer on the Thunderball feature film in 1965, ten years after which, rights to that book would revert back to him.


He thought he could launch his own entire James Bond series and even landed the coup of having Sean Connery on board.  They even wrote an entire feature film screenplay called Warhead with John LaCarré, but the Bond producers and United Artists stopped that project that would have had Orson Welles as Blofeld.  Turns out McClory and Whittingham invented both Blofeld and SPECTRE, not Fleming, which is why the series dumped that organization and those characters after Connery left.  Then others became involved with new lawyers and copyright law, winning McClory, Warner Bros. and all involved to at least be able to remake Thunderball (still the biggest Bond in ticket sales ever) so that is how Never Say Never Again came into being.


The Bond producers and MGM/UA tried to stop it from being made, but could not and two Bond films (the other being Octopussy) almost opened head-to-head in the summer of 1983, but Never Say Never Again has both money and production troubles which led its release to be postponed until that fall.  It did decent business, but not as well as the Roger Moore film, which surprised many.  The idea was that Connery’s following would put Never Say Never Again over the top, but not all of it worked out.


The underrated Irvin Kershner (aka Kersh to his friends) became the only American to ever direct a Bond film as the producers only hire Europeans and like directors for the actual series.  He had helmed dramas like Loving, comedies like S*P*Y*S, thrillers like Eyes Of Laura Mars, the highly underrated existential drama/comedy Up The Sandbox with Barbra Streisand and just came off of Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back when he signed on to make this film.  Years after the lack of budget and aged technology shows, his work helps keep this film interesting, even if it is not totally successful.  Though the makers said they were going back to the books, it is the most comical of all Connery Bonds and that turned off too many of the fans of the older films.


Still, they got an interesting look in the actual film and a good cast that has only appreciated in value over the years.  Besides Connery one last time (despite saying he’d never do this again, thus the in joke title of the film) they landed Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo, Kim Basinger as Domino, Max von Sydow as Blofeld and Bernie Casey as the first African American Felix Leiter years before Jeffrey Wright landed the role in the Craig Bonds.  Pamela Salem is Miss Moneypenny, Alec McCowen has a nice brief turn as “Q” and Edward Fox is the new “M” almost implying he is the successor of Bernard Lee in the official series.  Also look for a pre-Mr. Bean Rowan Atkinson (around the time he began Black Adder) as comic relief in Nigel Small-Fawcett.  He is very funny here and if they had been able to continue, there is the hint his character would have returned.


As in the 1965 film and original book, SPECTRE is stealing two nuclear warheads with the help of Domino’s brother, who is being exploited by SPECTRE and their sexy assassin Fatima Blush, played with great energy, joy and sexuality by Barbara Carrera at her star peak.  Despite the comedy, this has sexual touches the series had abandoned after Connery left and it is fair to say only the Craig films have been as sexual since.  No, it is not a great bond, especially when it tries to imitate Raiders Of The Lost Ark, but it is so interesting even when it does not work that it is worth seeing again.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on both are an interesting tale of two transfers.  Quantum offers an interesting combination of HD formats and Super 35mm film, while Again was shot in real anamorphic Panavision (superior to the other formats) to look expensive.  Yet, both are on the grainy side.  In the case of Quantum, it is the style chosen so it can be a gritty Bond with some glamour mixed in, as shot by Director of Photography Roberto Schaefer, who has been lensing all of Forster’s films of late.  Unfortunately, it is a strategy that holds back the transfer and performance of the film overall, but this still looks good here in its AVC @ 28 MBPS transfer, as it did in 35mm.  There are many times the approach works, but a little more polish in scenes would have been nice.  It also looks decent on the anamorphically enhanced DVD, but lacks the detail and solid Video Black of the Blu-ray.  Again is here encoded in AVC @ 35 MBPS, yet looks poor throughout for many reasons.


Though shot in a superior format and by no less than Douglas Slocombe, who would lens all three Indiana Jones films, this print is not in good shape at all and neither is this transfer.  Some shots look like a DVD, the daylight scenes at the beach look dirty and dull as if there was overcast, detail is not always great and depth is bad.  Color is also a big problem and any luster the 35mm print had is dulled out in most shots.  Why?  This was not given a 4K HD upgrade like the films in the actual series and the producers of the Bond films now have legal control, so they have no vested interest in making this look good, which is sad but here it is.  They were never happy with the film and apparently have no intent to upgrade it.


The DTS-HD MA 5.1 on both are also as different as their picture performance with Quantum offering an often state-of-the-art mix that shines in the action sequences and has a smart mix with character.  Sound is well recorded on location and music is mixed in nicely.  The big miss all the way is the worst theme song in the history of the series in Another Way To Die, an ill-conceived duet with Jack white of the terrific White Stripes and Alicia Keys, both out of their element here screeching the lyrics here of a song by White that sounds like lower-case White Stripes.  In the title sequences, it is pumped up to embarrassingly high levels as if that will hide how bad it is.  It is the low point of the mix and for themes in the series, a disaster.  The DTS on the DVD is pretty decent, but no match for the DTS lossless on the Blu-ray.


Again had a 4.1 Dolby Magnetic Stereo soundmaster for its 70mm blow-ups and the previous DVD and 12” LaserDisc were on the warped side, seemingly sourced from 35mm Dolby A-type analog materials going bad.  Sadly, the DTS mix here is also on the warped side at times, the sound is too much in the front speakers and music can be outright weak.  That is still better than the previous Dolby DVD, but MGM has reissued the film on DVD at the same time, though we did not get that copy.  It could only be worse.  Too bad, because there are some fun and interesting sound moments here, but the title song by Lani Hall (a sort of joke song) is also bad, though actually more tolerable than Another Way To Die, but even odder is Michel Legrand’s score which does not include any of the James Bond Theme as the series owns it and sounds like a dated electronic keyboard score at its worse.  The music warp points are the saddest thing here.


Extras on Solace include a fun section of min-interviews with many of the people whop made the film which originally debuted on the internet.  We also get a Music Video for the duet, theatrical & teaser trailers and several nice featurettes including Bond On Location, Start Of Shooting, On Location, The Music, Director Marc Forster and Olga Kurylenko & The Boat Chase.  That is good, but I was expecting more.  Still, it is not bad.  Extras on Again include a photo gallery, trailer, feature length audio commentary by Director Kershner & Bond scholar Steven Jay Ruben and three featurettes: The Big Gamble, Sean Is Back and The Girls Of Never Say Never Again.  That seems fuller than the latest Bond for whatever reasons.


For more on related Bond films, try these links:


Casino Royale







-   Nicholas Sheffo


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