Tomorrow Never Dies

(12) 119 mins ’That’s what comes of growing up in a tough neighbourhood,’ remarks Chinese secret agent Wai Lin having dispatched a bevy of bad guys. ‘That’s what comes of not growing up at all,’ ripostes 007, casually demolishing one final villain. Yes, Bond is back and he hasn't aged a bit. He's still the same overgrown schoolboy with a fondness for groan-inducing puns and a licence to indulge in thuggery for Queen and country.

This time Bond is up against megalomaniac media mogul Elliot Carver, who is manipulating events to bring the planet to the brink of World War III. As the Gulf War proved, war is good for TV ratings. But Britain’s secret service chief M suspects that Carver is behind the sinking of a Royal Navy frigate in Chinese territorial waters and sends Bond to investigate. In Hamburg, he runs into Carver’s wife, Paris (Teri Hatcher), one of Bond’s many old flames.

So how does this eighteenth Bond movie measure up to its predecessors? The verdict is decidely mixed. The pre-credits sequence Bond sabotages a terrorist arms bazaar high up in the Khyber Pass and makes off in a stolen jet fighter is scrappin edited and goes on too long. So do many of the later action sequences, and some of the stunts (including a

five-mile freefall parachute jump into the ocean) inspire

more admiration than excitement.

Nor can Jonathan Pryce's villainous tycoon match the baroque grotesqueness of Bond’s finest adversaries. Indeed, he’s considerably less outrageous than the movie’s shameless product placement. On the plus side, Pierce Brosnan appears far more at ease than he did in Goldeneye and is shaping up as the best Bond since Connery. Michelle Yeoh, doyenne of Hong Kong action films, is a Bond girl with a difference and brings a lithe ..

Close-Up (PG) 93 mins

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East Beats West: Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies

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to interView and what additional ttllOl'llldllOll to give in voice-twers iianian director Abbas Kiarostam: brings Questions of that is real and what 's fabricated to the fore in his 1990 film Close-Up But unlike mock and mocking documentaries Sticn as This Is Spinal Tap and Man Bites DOC], his approach has a more serious purpose This doesnt mean, however, that his film is (old and analytical, for it also reveals some truly fascinating quirks of human behawour

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screenwriter Bruce Feirstein, author of Real Men Don't Eat Quiche) have the requisite amount of innuendo. 'Pump her for information,’ says Judi Dench's M as Bond goes to his assignation with Paris Carver. But the notion that Britain still has the imperial muscle to go into a military stand-off with China is the biggest joke of all.

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Film soundtracks

Someone's been dabbling in strange pharmaceuticals. Back in 1971, Frank Zappa's 200 Motels (Rykodisc/MGM, « fit) was a Wildly eccentric take on the rock band tour experience, and the soundtrack double album really needs those bizarre visuals to sustain interest Sometimes funky, sometimes like a harsh contemporary rock opera by Alfred Schnittke, this long-missing, often unlistenable item from the Zappa CD catalogue includes an excellent booklet and even the Cinema trailer for those wuth appropriate computers Ah well, one man's 'qenius' is another iii iin’s 'nretentieiis bollocks’, and there's more that: enmiinh of both here

in Tomorrow Never Dies iAt's’itv‘i, s- fl! t, DaVid Arnold works Monty Norman's original Bond theme into as many tracks as possible, givmci the score an old-fashioned feel despite the 90s beats No surprises anywhere, especially Sheryl Crow's title track, which Shirley Bassey wouldn't get out of bed for

To gauge what's missing, check out The Essential James Bond (Silva Screen, »\ is \t), which picks the best muSical bits from all of 007’s preVious adventures The City of Prague Orchestra's approach doesn't, however, really have symphonic depth, so those slow numbers are barely a notch ab0ve hotel lobby background noise Nevertheless, here's proof the series has produced some tunes that are cinematic aural icons

Carl DaVis is the UK's leading composer for silent film restorations, although his work often verges on pastiche For the 1925 The Phantom Of The Opera (Silva Screen, s- as si he draws on Gounod's l'aust the prOdUtllOll taking place Within the film a and offers some nicely accessible tunes of his own which fit the on- screen images like a glove

Much better, however, is James Bernard's score for Nosferatu (Silva Screen, t s t, which captures the battle between good and eVil, darkness and light, concord and discord Rariritng from (hirpy, rustic woodwind to foreboding brass, the former Hammer Films composer has created a rich symphonic poeiii with miiSical moods giVing colour to characters that stands up in its own riglit Check it Out when broadcast on Channel A at l 05pm on Friday 2 Januarv iAlan Morrison)

Music of the night: Lon Chaney in The Phantom Of The Opera

STAR RATINGS a c r «x 1r Unmissable it v: s * Very good a- * * Worth a shot * x Below average air You’ve been warned