Join Frank, Tom, and the esteemed Mac McSharry as we bring Podcasting Them Softly’s For Your Ears Only and 3 for 3 full circle! We discuss three “undercard” films of Sean Connery’s at length, discuss his contribution to film, along with some of our other non-Bond films that didn’t make our respective selections! Upcoming podcasts from the three of us include Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as James Bond in DIE ANOTHER DAY and then a brand new 3 for 3 where we discuss our three favorite character actors.
I hate to be that guy that always champions universally reviled films as actually being pretty good, but I have to be honest in my reviews and I really don’t see the big issue with 1998’s The Avengers, but keep in mind I’ve never seen a single episode of the original 60’s tv series. This was some seriously fun, albeit chaotic and unfocused 90’s big budget retro espionage silliness that might not be the most amazing thing, but definitely entertained me for what it has to offer. In this iteration the roles of dapper super spies Emma Peel and John Steed go to Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes, who both look damn sexy in the costumes and have cutesy chemistry with each other that was endearing, they’re an interesting mix and they haven’t done a film together since but I enjoyed the flavour that their pairing projected. They work for an appropriately arch government agency called ‘The Agency,’ run by two veteran cranks given the code names ‘Mother’ and ‘Father.’ The sheepish gimmick of casting Jim Broadbent as Mother and Fiona Shaw as Father is a an amusing if thinly conceived running joke that serves as a cheeky litmus test for the film’s overall saucy sense of humour. Our two heroes must do battle with Sean Connery’s Sir August De Wynter, a de facto Bond villain and all around nut-job who wants to hold the entire world ransom by controlling the weather with a giant machine he’s designed. Cue rampant meteorological destruction in London, elaborate set pieces, glib line delivery and all the big budget production design you can shake a jewel encrusted cane at. Speaking of that, I don’t care what you think of the film itself, there’s just no denying the positively stunning set design, costuming and overall visual flair… this is one seriously good looking movie, starting with its cast. Fiennes rocks that pinstripe suit to the fucking nines, while Thurman has maybe never been sexier in her skinny leather catsuit. Connery has this Burt Reynolds thing going on with his hair which oddly suits him, and speaking of suits he goes through one impressive range of wardrobe bedazzlement here, showing up in everything from full highland regalia complete with a kilt to a Snow White n’ silver custom job to a full on teddy bear costume when he arbitrarily decides to hold a teddy bear board meeting with his nefarious cronies all done up like plush toys. He gets priceless dialogue too, including precious barbs like “rain or shine, all is mine” and seems to be having a right hammy blast with the character. Shaw and Broadbent are old pros and have fun chewing scenery with droll, proverbially plummy cutlery and the cast includes the likes of the lovely Carmen Ejogo, Eileen Atkins as a charming old granny who wastes baddies with a WWII era sub-machine gun, John Wood, Patrick McNee as an accidental invisible man, Keeley Hawes and Eddie Izzard in a Paul McCartney wig who gets one solitary line of dialogue, but I suppose if you’re only gonna give that dude one line it might as well be the film’s single PG-13 F bomb. Ok so this isn’t the greatest movie ever made but it’s most definitely not as bad as the reputation would have you believe, I think the mob mentality snowballed a tad there. Sure it’s inane as all hell, there’s visible editing issues and it doesn’t flow as well as other films of its ilk but hell, if you look up eye candy in the cinematic dictionary you’ll find the drop dead dime-piece of a poster gleaming back at you. Production design, costumes and big sexy action set pieces certainly don’t save a film or shunt it into annals of pedigree but they can certainly make one well worth watching, and on that front I wasn’t disappointed, not even a bit. Sift through the bad press and make your own decisions on film, you’ll be surprised what you find yourself enjoying.
Just Cause, a sweaty 90’s Sean Connery potboiler, is one of those films that could have had its ducks in a line to be somewhat believable and entertaining but the script is a weird one and the execution of said script.. well to say it goes off the rails would be putting it mildly. Connery plays a hotshot professor who was once a legendary lawyer, lured back into the muck of the legal system by an elderly woman (the great Ruby Dee) whose son (Blair Underwood) has been sitting on death row for eight years for the rape and murder of a little girl. She’s convinced he’s innocent, and begs him to investigate the case, and so he journeys to the sweaty Florida Everglades to nose around. Laurence Fishburne plays the dodgy local sheriff who put the boy away on a brutally coerced confession and doesn’t take kindly to anyone trying to dig old secrets up or overturn convictions. Soon information turns up related to another inmate on the row, a serial murderer played by Ed Harris in such a try-hard, faux intense, maniacally cartoonish performance you have to feel for the guy. Here’s the thing: this film doesn’t work for two glaring reasons. Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with a humdinger of a twist ending, but you have to be honest with your audience and play at their level, not deliberately hide shit, manipulate and mislead us into thinking one thing, then just do a fucking unabashed 180 degree turn and expect us to accept it. The twist is ludicrous, especially when you look back at the editing, composition and overall thrust of the first half of the film. Secondly, the film builds a careful series of events to mount tension and at the last minute decides it wants to be an action movie, throws all story and credibility to the dogs and blares rudely on for an obnoxious, balls out, car chase ridden finale it it doesn’t earn, need or warrant in any way. Connery is kind of bland here, just a stalwart archetype following the breadcrumb trail dutifully. A supporting cast of very talented folks like Chris Sarandon, Kate Capshaw, Ned Beatty, Chris Murray, Kevin McCarthy, Hope Lange and an unrecognizable Scarlett Johannsson are all squandered in underwritten bit parts. Fishburne is the only one who makes a valid and lasting impression, doing his best with the writing as he always does and putting menace, mirth and actual gravitas into his work. Don’t know what else to say, this thing just sucked.
Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones are easily two of the sexiest bona fide movie stars to ever burn up the big screen, and in Jon Amiel’s Entrapment they get to do that alongside each other in a sort of Thomas Crown Affair-lite heist romp that’s… well it’s not fair to bash the film overall because the thing only really exists as framework to see these two strut their stuff. Let’s just say that our two leads are the stuff of legends here, while the script and film overall is decent enough, when it isn’t tying its own shoelaces in knots. Catherine is Gin, a skilled but amateur thief also moonlighting as a government employee catching operatives like her. Sean is Mac, a seasoned master art thief who takes her under his wing and the two of them plan some hefty heists while being watched like a Hawk by insurance honcho Cruz (Will Patton in mercurial menace mode). These jobs provide some excellent set pieces including a canal based intrusion into a museum of art and a high wire balancing act atop Malaysia’s Petronas Twin Towers, here a swanky international bank. The supporting cast is peppered delicately with classy talent including Ving Rhames as Mac’s sometimes loyal supplier, Mr. Gibbs from Pirates Of The Caribbean as a vicious cockney fence and the late great character actor Maury Chaykin as an impossibly unpleasant underworld power broker who resembles an angry Buddha crossed with the cigar chewing baby from Roger Rabbit. The main attraction here is Connery and Jones, and in that arena the film delivers wonderfully. He lives in a drafty Scottish castle on an island collecting priceless artifacts where much of the film is spent as they train rigorously for upcoming jobs. Their relationship is obviously tense at first, then warmer until genuine sparks fly and that segues into inevitable conflict later. Both actors are terrific, and the showcase scene sees her practicing a stealthy, unbelievably sexy Catwoman routine to avoid those obligatory security laser beams while he watches with an infusion of guarded pride and rapturous attraction. Me too, Sean. I guess you can brush past the fact that the plot is altogether too breezy and loose to really be considered a thriller, and the chessboard of shifting alliances is not only a bit over the top silly but also not clearly delineated and becomes kinda fuzzy, I mean ultimately I only mention it to be comprehensive in my review and say that as a whole it doesn’t work completely, but most people will watch this to see two of their favourite movie stars in action together and as far as that goes, you won’t be disappointed.
What is there to say about Sean Connery other than he was a legend, an iconic totem who terraformed the landscape of cinema throughout his career and left us with a rogues gallery of tough guys, adventurers, action heroes and memorable starring roles to revisit. Here are my top ten favourite performances from Sean!
10. Draco in Rob Cohen’s Dragonheart
It’s only his voice here, but he voices a great majestic dragon and gets to banter with Dennis Quaid for the whole film, their chemistry is terrific. It’s one of the few times he did voiceover work which is odd because he’s got the pipes for it and would have done very well extensively. His pronunciation of “look to the stars” has always stuck in my mind since seeing this wonderful fantasy film as a kid.
9. Marshall William T. O’Niel in Peter Hyams’ Outland
This is a fairly standard western that just happens to be set in space, where plays the lone lawman standing up to corporate corruption on his own. There’s something so elemental about the sight of uniformed Sean, shotgun in hand dishing out justice on one of Jupiter’s moons, and he rocks the strong, silent, lethal avenger role here nicely.
8. Allan Quatermain in Stephen Norrington’s The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Alright so this film doesn’t have the best reputation but I really enjoy it, so there. Sean is terrific as the gruff literary figure and blusters his way through several delightfully preposterous action set pieces with a world weary swash and buckle that sells the material. Who cares if he himself has stated in interviews he had no idea what he was even filming because the script was all over the place, he looks damned dashing in the costume flinging around six guns, guzzling from a flask and making impossible shots from a highly stylized long rifle.
7. Henry Jones in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
He makes the perfect dysfunctional father to Harrison Ford’s Indy here and their relationship is exactly what you’d expect from such an extreme lifestyle. My personal favourite moment is when he literally crashes an enemy plane from the ground by scaring up a flock of seagulls to obscure its visibility using his umbrella, and looks damned pleased with himself about it after too.
6. Marko Ramius in John McTiernan’s The Hunt For Red October
Some thought it odd to cast a Scot as a Russian submarine captain but he does such brilliant job as a morally shrouded man of fierce conviction and brutal resolve that we don’t even care about accents or ethnicity, just authenticity and nuance in performance.
5. Jim Malone in Brian DePalma’s The Untouchables
The toughest Irish cop in prohibition era Chicago, Malone is a true bruiser tasked with training Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his rogue unit, and he doesn’t fuck around either. “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way.” His delivery of those lines is light, breezy but laced with lethality that has you believing every word.
4. John Connor in Philip Kaufman’s Rising Sun
This is an underrated performance in an even more underrated film and if you’re doing a Connery retrospective right now after he’s passed, it’s a must. There’s a murder among the elite Japanese community of LA, and Connor is a culturally adept guru who knows how to navigate such waters. It’s a terrific piece of acting with meaty dialogue, great character work and chemistry alongside Wesley Snipes.
3. Ramirez in Russell Mulcahy’s Highlander
I can’t imagine the fun he must have had playing this character, but it radiates off of him in every frame anyway. A supernatural Spaniard warrior tasked with training immortal Scottish McLeod (Christopher Lambert), he’s arch, tongue in cheek, lovable, adorned in eye shadow that would make Jack Sparrow blush and just has this wonderful, charming way about him that almost has you wishing he’d get his own spinoff franchise.
2. James Bond/007 in various James Bond films
Its Bond, baby. While I can’t call Sean my favourite Bond in cinema, he was technically the first actor to hold that martini, brandish that Walther PPK, fill out that expensive suit and kick ass for MI6, and he does so with style, flourish, sex appeal and magnetism in spades. My favourite outing of him as Bond? 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which might be an weird choice but hear me out: he was already an older dude by this time or old in terms of playing a lithe super spy, but man he was a trooper and did a fantastic job in his final Bond adventure alongside the likes of Rowan Atkinson, a sultry Kim Basinger and a sassy Barbara Carrera.
1. John Mason in Michael Bay’s The Rock
The other British super spy in his career, I love his work as Mason because there’s a lot more depth than 007 and we get this world weary, sardonic and almost very sad energy from a guy who has been locked up unjustly for like three decades. All he wants to do is see his grown up daughter one time but he’s recruited to basically save the entire city of San Francisco, which he does in his own sneaky, brutal and often quite funny way. Mason is a terrific character and much more than just a spy or action hero, Sean gives him a deep pathos and soulful gaze that makes this, at least for me, his best acting work.
John McTiernan’s The Hunt For Red October is considered the big daddy of submarine films and up until today I’d never seen the whole thing front to back. I now get the hype. This would always be on AMC or TBS Superstation when I was a kid, and my dad would always tune in no matter what. What a fantastic, thrilling, well acted film and one that carries a life affirming antiwar message while still containing some hair raising scenes of aquatic combat.
Marko Raimius (Sean Connery) is a legendary Soviet sub commander who has disappeared with the covert nuclear boat the Red October, plotting a course for the US eastern sea board and ditching any orders from Russian command. Is he going to nuke the east coast? CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) believes he means to defect and disarm but that’s a tricky thing to prove based on a series of hunches during a time of such uncertainty as this. Jack has an uncanny intuition about this guy, who remains somewhat of a mystery, even to his own crew and country. A harrowing series of chases, near misses, standoffs, moral wrestling, betrayals and political posturing ensue but at its heart this is a film about one dude who has had enough of war and just wants out, a theme I greatly appreciated and enjoyed.
Connery is superb here and this might be my favourite of his performances. He’s both enigma and beacon of personal integrity whilst fiercely not letting anyone get in his way, including a pesky, short lived political officer (Peter Firth). He carries the film with a grizzled nobility and despite being an antagonist of sorts, is the most likeable and relatable character. Baldwin fares very well as Ryan too and although Harrison Ford is still my tops, he plays this guy to the hilt with spirit and determination. Other standouts include Scott Glenn as a badass American sub captain, Richard Jones as a wry US negotiator and Courtney B. Vance as a keen radio communicator. The cast is amazing with killer work from Stellan Skarsgård, Joss Ackland, Andrew Divoff, Tomas Arana, Sam Neill, Tim Curry, Jeffrey Jones, Timothy Cathhart, Ned Vaughn, Fred Dalton Thompson, Gates McFadden, Shane Black, Peter Jason and James Earl Jones. This is the very definition of a solid film in all arenas and in that of thematic material and character, it excels wonderfully. My two favourite scenes: Connery and first mate Sam Neill discussing how they’d live their lives in America when all is said and done, where they’d live and what vehicles they will drive. Later on Ryan and Raimius share a moment alone on the sub’s deck as River banks pass by, each remembering their grandfathers teaching them to fish in their respective countries. Amidst all the angst, political unease, torpedos and destruction it’s nice to find little oasis moments of character, serving to remind us that whatever side we’re on and no matter how bad the conflict is, we are all just people. We all need reminding of that once in a while, and both Connery and Baldwin do that exceptionally with their work here. Great film.
What evil lurks in the hearts of men? . . . . The Shadow knows…!
Russell Mulcahy’s period stabilization, tour de force of film-making sees its time-honored source material come alive on the big screen…just as it exists on the panels on which it was born. Mulcahy’s Shadow predates the meticulous period recreations and universe building of the modern era with its use of substance, flair, atmosphere and gorgeous little winks to the audience – or as it is more commonly known – fan service…
What makes a comic book film truly saw, is the fact that they shepherded by master visualists, such as my honored guest. Russell’s fluid use of camera, lighting and mood-enhancing trip the light fantastic; working like the perfect partner in a duet with a phenomenal cast lead by Alec ‘in all his glory’ Baldwin, the breathlessly breathtaking Penelope Ann Miller and the most delightfully awesome assortment of some the finest character-actors ever to grace the silver screen such as, James Hong, Sir Ian McKellen and the sweetest transvestite of them all…the grand Tim Curry…
The sun is shining and the days are getting sweatier (here in the great southern land, at least), but we pause and are luxuriously seduced away on the musical carpet of Jerry Goldsmith, into a fantasy panel on a comic page crafted out of artistry and light. What evil lurks in the heart of men, come find out with your mate, my mate, our mate and legendary director Russell Mulcahy….
Frank and Tom are joined with special guest Dave Chantry, to discuss the renegade James Bond film, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN featuring Sean Connery’s return as James Bond, 007. This is a very lively discussion about the often forgotten and criticized Bond film, that features a stellar cast, amazing production, and behind the scenes talent that is some of the finest of the series.
For your reference: The Battle of the Bonds
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, over Men at Work and why can’t they make a sequel. While I feasted on potato chips nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping, turns out it was Herbert West a-rapping, at my chamber door.
I just want to go on the record and say there are a handful acting dynamos out there that have enjoyed long and industrious careers. But then, there’s Jeffrey Combs. If you’ll forgive the crassness of a STEP BROTHERS fan (and Jeff, I mean this as a compliment mate), Mr Combs is the f#@king Catalina Wine Mixer of genre/character/genius actors. You need only to watch Sir Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners – nothing further your Honor.
Now I love RE-ANIMATOR, I love the RE-ANIMATOR fans, heck I have card-carrying diehards as friends, but I must confess I’m more of a fan of Jeff’s Cellar Dwelling, Fortressy, Robot Joxy, Doctor Mordridy type offerings – and don’t get me started on Honky Tonk Freeway – whole other show.
But for right now let’s focus on NEVERMORE. The creators of the eleventh episode in the second season of Masters of Horror have brought their act to a literal theatre near you – but if you’re reading this outside of the US – sorry. Directing legend, Stuart Gordon (Space Truckers) and his (frequent) co-writer from “The Black Cat” Dennis Paoli (From Beyond) have created a vehicle which has brought to the stage a critically heralded experience that has delighted audiences for over a decade.
Hailed as “a landmark performance” by the L.A. Times, Combs has thrilled crowds across the country with his dynamic and revelatory portrayal of the legendary Poe.
This marks NEVERMORE’s Westchester County, NY, premiere, an event made extra special by the area’s bicentennial celebration of Washington Irving—a contemporary of Poe who was, from Poe’s perspective, also a rival. As Combs recalled in a recent River Journal article, “I don’t think they ever met. I take dark delight in pointing out that Poe doesn’t have very nice things to say about Irving. Specifically, about Irving’s penchant for always having a moral to his stories while Poe was often criticized for being without morals.”
SHIFF (The Sleepy Hollow Film Festival) celebrates the Hudson Valley’s wellspring of American history, of classic literature, and the continuing legacy of supernatural writings and cinematic works that it has inspired,” says festival co-founder Taylor White. “We’re excited to have NEVERMORE as part of the festival because it encapsulates so many of these ideas—not to mention it’s a fantastic show, at the perfect time of year, in the perfect venue. We can’t wait for the crowd to experience it!”
As Combs added in the River Journal, “Poe was truly one of America’s great writers. I’m honoured every time I step on stage and recite his beautiful words.”
SHIFF, a celebration of outstanding genre cinema in the cradle of the American supernatural, takes place in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, NY, October 10-13, 2019.
Finally, Jeff Combs was an absolute pleasure to chat with, his personality is as vivacious and extraordinary as the multitude of characters he has brought to our screens. If we had more time I would have really delved a great deal deeper – but, never being one to turn down opportunity when he comes a-rapping at my chamber door, I could not in good conscience turn down the chance to talk with one of the world’s most original performers. He’s still batting a thousand, I hope you’ll enjoy…
Who loves Michael Bay’s The Rock? I think a better question is who doesn’t. It was one of my first introductions to the action genre as a kid and I sat there in Saturday morning disbelief at just what was possible in the realms of cinema. Alcatraz Island, nuclear warheads filled with horrific poison gas, Nicolas Cage in charismatic goofball mode, Sean Connery basically reprising his 007 role one last time, a rogues gallery of gnarly character actors all hamming it up to high heaven, a score from Hans Zimmer that soars and invoked both emotion and adrenaline, what’s there not to fall in love with.
The plot here is besides the point: angry rogue military general Ed Harris takes Alcatraz hostage, threatens to launch warheads across harbour into crowded San Fran. Chemistry guru Nic Cage, ex MI6 super-spy Sean Connery and a team of Navy Seals covertly lead a siege on the rock to stop him. Many guns are fired, a lot of shit blows up and endless one liners are uttered. That’s the nutshell version though, the actual experience is something blissful and perfectly pitched in terms of the recipe for a great action film. Connery is intense yet somehow laid back and steals the show as the pissed off, blacklisted agent who really doesn’t care about the threat towards the city, or at least pretends not to. Cage, whether strumming his guitar, banging his super hot Italian American wife (Vanessa Marcel) or referencing Elton John right before killing a bad guy, is comic dynamite and a source of desperate, scenery chewing energy that somehow works despite how ridiculous his performance is (it’s like the antithesis of his work in Con Air, the sister film to this). What I love about Harris’s villain here is that, unlike many huge budget action flicks, you actually care about this guy and what he wants, despite the extreme measures he’s gone to get them. He’s calm, resolute and sorrowful and not much about his performance suggests an antagonist except for the situation the character is written into and it’s an interesting, thoughtful choice for the film’s baddie. The real nasty characters are the mercenaries he hires to carry out his mission, who include the more subdued likes of David Morse and John C. McGinley, the less subdued Bokeem Woodbine and Gregory Sorlader and the positively psychotic Tony Todd as Captain Darrow, the last guy you’d want on either side of the moral fence as his seems to be absent. On the other side of the action we get John Spencer as a cranky FBI bigwig, legendary Michael Biehn as the Seal commando, always awesome William Forsythe as the one FBI agent with a brain in his head and cameos from Pat Skipper, Claire Forlani, Danny Nucci, Tom Towles, Jim Caviesel, Stanley Anderson, Raymond Cruz, Xander Berkeley, Philip Baker Hall and Stuart Wilson.
From the moment Harris’s team steals the rockets to the explosive sequence where Cage flags down the military in a sly Platoon reference, this thing fires with everything it’s got. Connery’s escape and car chase through the streets of San Fran goes on needlessly long and exists only for the purpose of an action sequence, making it all the more awesome. Harris and Biehn’s utterly badass stare down and frantic chicken fight over who will order a stand-down first always gets me. It’s such a well made action film that even the Bay haters sound like ignoramuses when they bash it. Roger Ebert, who has routinely torn Bay new assholes over the years in his reviews, loved it. Zimmer’s theme is the perfect symphony for fighter jets, commandos, yellow hummers’ (“You shtole my humvee!”), trolley cars, assault weapons and high powered rockets to thunder across the harbour in spectacular fashion. The Rock rocks.