BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY
Die Another Day ★★★
First released 40 years after the first Bond film, Dr No, this pays homage to its predecessor by having Halle Berry emerge, bikini-clad like Ursula Andress before her, from the sea. Pierce Brosnan plays 007 and the bad guys are North Koreans in cahoots with sinister, diamonds-obsessed billionaire Toby Stephens, who is eager to rule the world. Basically, then, the same old same old but if you’re happy with that you’ll be happy with this. On his third outing, Brosnan eases comfortably into the role, Judi Dench is M, John Cleese the eccentric Q and Berry is both eye candy and an efficient agent herself. Interesting locations, spectacular stunts, nasty villains and, well, it’s a Bond movie, what more can I say?
Hobson’s Choice ★★★★
Director David Lean may be best remembered for his epics such as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, but before such bank-holiday engulfing fare he earned his spurs on smaller-scale productions such as this. Victorian Salford is the setting for a comic story starring Charles Laughton as the overbearing, boozy and bone-idle owner of a boot-making business, whose shrewd spinster daughter becomes his fiercest rival. John Mills plays the man whose fabulous footwear is vital to each of their success. Look out, too, for Prunella Scales (Sybil from Fawlty Towers) in an early role.
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe ★★★★
Given that he began his cinematic career (and to quote the Pixies) “slicing up eyeballs”, and went on to create political, moral and religious outrage with his later works, Luis Bunuel would seem a strange choice to adapt this Daniel Defoe classic. But while it may not be as surreal and subversive as his other films, this tale of a man left to his own devices on a desert island still has much to say about the human condition. Dan O’Herlihy was Oscar-nominated for his performance as Crusoe, only to lose out to Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.
The Hunt for Red October ★★★★
Sean Connery sports one of his more unlikely hair pieces in this Cold War thriller, which sees him play the captain of a wily Russian submarine that’s headed for American waters. With the experimental vessel nigh-on undetectable in the water and carrying a nuclear payload, it’s left to CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) to figure out if the Russian is a friend or foe. He’s not the only one in the dark, either, as Die Hard director John McTiernan keeps his cards close to his chest, meaning you’ll have to see this one out to discover if the world goes kaboom at the end.
Under Siege ★★★★
Steven Seagal action movies are a bit of a joke these days (the guy can barely move), so here’s a kind reminder of him in his prime. He stars as the ship’s cook who becomes the US Navy’s last line of defence when terrorist Tommy Lee Jones commanders the USS Missouri. Fortunately, Seagal is as handy with his fists as he is with a frying pan, and pretty soon he’s cracking open that big ‘ol can of whoop-ass and dishing out the punishment. Sure the concept is hard to swallow, but it’s all done in such a deliciously self-aware way that you’ll be demanding seconds. Or Under Siege 2, as it’s otherwise known.