“[Emma’s] mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses, and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.
“Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse’s family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor’s judgement, but directed chiefly by her own.” –Emma, Chapter 1
Number 5: 1996 (Miramax)
Portrayed by: Greta Scacchi
Age at time of filming: 32
Every one of the actresses who’ve played Mrs. Weston have done an excellent job, and, really she’s a hard character to mess up, so she’s usually also written very well; which makes this exercise frustratingly difficult.
Douglas McGrath’s 1996 interpretation, portrayed by Greta Scacchi, finds herself in the bottom spot, largely because (again, 1996 being a soft-take), while this version does a great job of showing what close friends Emma and Miss Taylor were, it really fails to convey her failings as a governess in any meaningful way… or any way whatsoever. In fact it sort of basks in Emma and Mrs. Weston’s friendship, with them playfully tag-teaming a game of “Let’s Tease Mr. Knightley”. Not only that, but given how childishly Emma is written in this version, you get to see how this Anne Taylor might have handled her as a child, and to be honest she’s a little too good of a guide. You can’t quite believe that “her mildness of temper” ever prevented her from “imposing restraint” in Emma. It kind of negates half of the point of her in regards to how she informed (or failed to) Emma’s character.
Rating: 3/5 Inadvisable Wedding Cakes
Number 4: 1972
Portrayed by: Ellen Dryden
Age at time of filming: 34
There’s not a whole lot that’s good about the BBC’s 1972 mini-series of Emma, but Ellen Dryden as Mrs. Weston is one of them. While her performance falls in line with the generally on-cue style acting of the adaptation as a whole, she’s such a likeable presence that I was very willing to forgive it. She was a pleasant surprise; a Helga Hufflepuff-like figure with a cheery smile (and some really fab dresses), she even gets a few digs in at Frank, much like Mrs. Weston of the book. (really disappointed they left out the silversmith quip though.)
The only problem (aside from the on-cue acting) is, much like 1996, Denis Constanduros’s screenplay fails to adequately convey her short-comings as an authority figure, which are so important to understanding Emma’s character arc. She finds herself sitting just above Greta Scacchi, perhaps because she stood out so much and exceeded my expectations.
Rating: 3/5 Inadvisable Wedding Cakes
Number 3: 1996/97 (ITV)
Portrayed by: Samantha Bond
Age at time of filming: 30
We’re entering into the big leagues now, with Samantha Bond, the youngest Mrs. Weston on record. Here is a Mrs. Weston who looks just perfect gabbing with Emma. While, like with 4 and 5, this adaptation runs a little soft on Mrs. Weston in text, Samantha Bond’s youth and performance both make her bond with Emma make a lot of sense, while also helping the viewer understand how having a best friend for an authority figure got Emma where she is.
That and Samantha Bond is just great, and we love her.
Rating: 4/5 Inadvisable Wedding Cakes
Number 2: 2020
Portrayed by: Gemma Whelan
Age at time of filming: 38
What can I say? Gemma Whelan was maybe a shade older than I’d expect for Mrs. Weston but she’s just so damn delightful. The Westons are some of the few characters that, in my opinion, the 2020 version gets absolutely bang on. Not only is Gemma Whelan a treasure in the role, but the screenplay does right by the character. The opening scene doesn’t just show you the bond between Emma and Miss Taylor, it’s a touching, lovingly shot scene that makes you feel it too.
Really the only drawback to this interpretation is that there’s so little time in the two hours allotted to let her stretch her legs.
Rating: 4 ½ /5 Inadvisable Wedding Cakes
Number 1: 2009
Portrayed by: Johdi May
Age at time of filming: 34
Once again surprising no one (I do hope this doesn’t become a running joke in this series, but I’m not optimistic), my number one interpretation of Mrs. Weston is 2009, portrayed by Johdi May. Once again, y’all know I love Johdi May, but no, that is not the only reason 2009 sits at the top of this list.
In fact, the biggest reason she’s my number one is to do with the writing. This is the only case in which the adaptation has the time and insight to show all of the aspects of Mrs. Weston’s character that make her an instrumental part of Emma’s story. I’ve already gushed about this in my review of this adaptation, but I just love how well-rounded this interpretation is. Not only do they not gloss over Mrs. Weston’s short-comings, they actual show you, in the first episode exactly what her dynamic with Emma was like when she was supposed to be an authority figure (and how she let Emma’s failings slide.)
Rating: 5/5 Inadvisable Wedding Cakes
If you liked this, check out my rankings of Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Weston
Twenty-five years ago one of my favourite ever Bond films was released, in which powerhouse action cinema director Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro, Bond franchise reboot Casino Royale) breathed fresh air into the series while introducing new James Bond, 007 Pierce Brosnan to audiences. Needless to say the end result was an action-packed spy thriller extravaganza that brought the franchise crashing enthusiastically into the 90s, with one of its best stories, best villains and, best of all, a brand new M! The end result is my personal favourite of the old pre-reboot Bonds. Here’s to a quarter century of this brilliance ...
As always, WARNING!! Potential spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen it ...
Gadgets: car with missiles, exploding pen, grappling belt, etc.
Bond Girls: Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) and Natalya Simonov (Izabella Scorupco)
McGuffin: Project GoldenEye, a Cold War-era satellite that generates targeted EMPs
Villains: The Janus Crime Syndicate, which includes Xenia, General Ourumov (Gottfried John), and its leader, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), a former MI6 agent and friend of Bond. Why is he the villain? Stay tuned.
Back to the recap!
Alec’s alive! And pretty badly scarred, as a result of surviving the explosion...somehow. Looks like he faked his own death with the help of the General. Pretty sneaky, sis.
So, apparently...James Bond is an orphan. His parents died in a climbing accident, according to Alec. Is...is that canon? Is that right? Hold on, lemme check the Bond Wiki that probably exists...aaaaaaand, not exactly. In truth, outside of this movie, their death was never really explained in the continuity. So...huh. I mean...sure?
Well, Alec’s an orphan, too. Survivors of World War II and the British Betrayal (a real event in United Kingdom history where the UK handed Cossack ex-pats back to the USSR, which went VERY VERY BADLY. I won’t go into the historical specifics, but Alec’s parents committed suicide as a result of it. And having read up on it...yeah, I kinda get it. Doesn’t justify his actions, but I understand his convictions.
He’s also angry at James for fucking up the bombs back at the dam nine years ago. Yeah...yeah, Alec, I get it, honestly. I mean, you’re the villain, and you’re still wrong, but I actually feel bad for him. Not the typical Bond villain...and I can dig it. Anyway, he shoots James, knocking him out.
James is strapped inside of the helicopter (like he does every Tuesday night), which is set to fire missiles...on itself? Somehow he escapes, makes a stupid joke (my GOD, there are so many of those in this movie), and frees Natalya, who punches him and tries to run away. But soon enough, they’re both captured by the Russian government.
Looks like Natalya’s graduated to Bond Girl status, as the two are trapped in a cell together. She reveals that Boris was the traitor that leaked information to Janus. They meet the Russian Defense Minister, and convinces him (with Natalya’s help) that the General is responsible for the theft of GoldenEye. She also reveals a second GoldenEye antenna in existence. But that revelation doesn’t help the Minister much, as the General arrives, shoots him and his man, and frames Bond for the murder.
Bond and Natalya escape, chased down by Russian guards in a pretty cool action sequence, to be honest. By the way, everybody in Russia seems to speak English. Didn’t mention this earlier, but it started to bother me here. Anyway, Bond STRAIGHT UP ABANDONS NATALYA, and she gets taken away by the General, almost certainly to be killed. Nice, James. Now what?
OH MY GOD IS THAT JAMES BOND IN A TANK
OK...that’s awesome...but it also makes no sense AT ALL for a James Bond movie. A covert British intelligence spy is driving a tank down a busy St. Petersburg street. Y’know...people tend to notice that shit. But at the moment, I don’t care as much, because this scene is cool. Silly, dumb, and nonsensical as it is...it’s pretty sick to see James Bond driving a tank.
That brings something up, though...this feels far more like Mission: Impossible, rather than a Bond flick. James Bond wouldn’t literally destroy a city, Ethan Hunt would. Hell, that’d be a lot even for him. And at least Hunt’d react to it more than James does. Brosnan does the whole cool Bond demeanor really well, but the character isn’t really built for this kind of grandiose situation. And this movie came out before Mission: Impossible!
Back to Natalya, who’s been taken to Alec on a train. Alec proceeds to be a little, je ne sais quoi...rapey. He implies that James and him used to...ugh...share everything (nice objectification there, buddy), and slobbers all over a clearly-not-into-it Natalya. Which brings something up: Alec is Earth-3 James Bond. Instead of being smooth with women, he’s rapey. Instead of being handsome, he’s scarred by the accident. And instead of being good and faithful to the British government, Alec is eeeeeeeeevil, and hates the British government. He’s literally dark Bond.
Which sucks, because his character actually had potential. He could’ve been a more complex, sympathetic villain, and one of Bond’s few complex villains in the canon. They’re literally flattening the character out, just to make Bond look better by comparison. And that isn’t a great sign for the hero of the movie, is it? Speaking of Jimmy Boy, what’s he up to again?
Right. The tank. Oof. Bond derails the train, then boards it to save Natalya. The General gets killed in the process, and Alec and Xenia escape. Natalya hacks into Boris’ computers, as the train is about to blow up. We learn that Boris’ password is…”chair.”
OK. Now what?
OH GODDAMN IT
...OK, look. On a surface level, me being irritated at the kiss seems unnecessary. Over-the-top, even. So, why am I so pissed at this kiss? Well, first off, the chemistry is not goddamn there, sorry. They barely know each other, Sean Bean just slobbered all over her, and they just got out of an exploding train. LATER JAMES.
Second of all, and arguably most importantly to me: OF COURSE they kiss. GODDAMN OF COURSE they start making out on the track. Because this movie is THE MOST STEREOTYPICAL BOND MOVIE THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN, while in several ways NOT USING THE CHARACTER CORRECTLY AT ALL. This is a Flanderized Bond film. They’ve taken all of the traits of Connery’s original portrayal, and concentrated them into a canned paste. So, yeah, OF COURSE Bond and Natalya kiss here. Most predictable thing in the goddamn world, Jesus Christ…
So they go to Cuba to find Alec, meeting Agent Wade there. Finally, Bond has the car! Awesome. He hasn’t used any of his gadgets in the entire movie, and I’ve been waiting for him to. He definitely could’ve used the belt at the prison break, or even the pen grenade. I’m sure that’ll be at the end, though. Don’t understand why the car wasn’t used in Russia, but it’s here now! Whew. I was afraid that WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN AGENT WADE TAKES THE CAR
THIS IS A JAMES BOND MOVIE, AND HE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A REAL CAR SEQUENCE? WHAT IN THE NINE FUCKS IS GOING ON HERE?
...I am so angry and upset right now, oh my God.
Natalya and Bond have a heart-to-heart...I guess. She calls him cold and emotionless (which he has to be), he says he has to be (toldja), and they immediately start making out in the house that they have. By the way, HOW IN THE SHIT IS THIS ENTIRE ACT POSSIBLE. They are in post-Cold War Cuba, there’s NO way this would be OK with FIDEL GODDAMN CASTRO. And Cuba’s a small island, he totally knew about this shit.
Anyway, after their love-making session, they get in the plane and head to Alec’s place. The plane’s shot down (BECAUSE OF COURSE IT IS), and they crash in the Cuban jungle. James stands up, and is immediately assaulted by Xenia Onatopp’s stunt double. I mean it, it’s very obvious.
Xenia...Xenia kills people with her thighs and uses their bodies and physical pain to masturbate. THAT’S IT. NO OTHER WAY TO STATE THAT, IT’S THE GODDAMN TRUTH. She literally Kegels people to death. As she’s about to get off (LITERALLY A THING THAT HAPPENS), James shoots the helicopter she’s attached to, causing it to crash and crush her...I think. Her cause of death isn’t really made super clear, to me at least. James makes a shitty pun (OF COURSE), and we move on.
Turns out that the satellite to broadcast the signal to the other GoldenEye satellite is underwater, alongside Janus’ base. The target of the EMP is, of course, London. Alec sends his men (no idea where they came from, but whatever) to take Bond out, as the satellite is armed and readied.
They make it into the base, of course, because he’s James Bond! Theoretically! He’s drawing the fire from the guards, while Natalya does the real spy work and sabotages the computer covertly. Alec’s plan is revealed: he plans to steal all of the money, records, and information from London and its computers, then will set the EMP over London, sending them into the Stone Age. Because the EMP means that all knowledge of electricity and wiring has been erased from human consciousness.
What I’m saying is, it’s a dumb plan. James’ is barely better, though. Natalya really saves the day by causing the satellite to change direction. Once that happens, James relies on his other ally in this movie: blind goddamn luck.
The pen. They took the pen. James doesn’t get to use it, he doesn’t trick them into taking it. They just take it and accidentally arm it, and James takes advantage of it. If it weren’t for that LITERAL ACCIDENT, or if Boris had put the pen down instead of clicking it, they would’ve been absolutely screwed.
Natalya’s honestly the real hero of the film; Bond’s basically relegated to (supposedly) cool lines and fights, nothing else.
Boris tries to undo Natalya’s sabotage, as Alec goes on the hunt for her and Bond. Once he finds James, a firefight takes place on what I’m now realizing is the Arecibo satellite in Puerto Rico, which collapsed and was destroyed last year. Awww.
Alec and James fight in the satellite, and I gotta be honest...it’s pretty cool. Alec kicks James’ ASS, and James barely escapes him. A neat fight on a ladder takes place, and James eventually drops Alec off the ladder, onto the satellite dish. The following exchange takes place.
Wow, James, didn’t realize that killing your former ally and friend was such a personal goal for you. Geez, man. Of all the bad lines in this movie, this one just makes James seem like a sociopath. Why “for you,” James? What does that even mean? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, JAMES?
Well, James’ wish comes true as the satellite erupts into flames, and Sean Bean meets his inevitable fate, killed by the falling debris. Boris, on the other hand, is killed by...liquid nitrogen canisters. Yeah. And it’s comical.
James and Natalya get airlifted out by the Marines, FROM CASTRO’S CUBA, I’LL REMIND YOU, and...the movie ends.
That’s it. That’s GoldenEye.
We gotta talk. No navel-gazing, I need to talk about this movie. And it won’t be a pretty talk. Yes. Really. Epilogue in a few.
Let’s talk for a sec about everyone’s expressions...
1. Mary, looking like she rather be dead then watch any longer.
2. Bertie watching intently.
3. Tom, acting like he’s in a photoshoot and smiling right at the camera.
4. Laura, thinking, “Wow is this how rich people watch races? I’m in!”
5. Rosamund looking totally happy, smiling like she’s having the time of her life (tbh, she probably is).
6. Cora looking incredibly confused.
7. Robert looking only slightly less confused then his wife, while also managing to appear annoyed at being told off by his sister: (”I don’t think you can shout that. Isn’t Talbot the name of a car?”)
GoldenEye, plot holes, and movie logic - part 2 of 3
The chemical weapons factory has exploded and we get the title sequence. People have argued left and right which James Bond title sequences, songs, and accompanying music videos are good, which are bad and in what exact order. I can just say I like both the song and the sequence. Both of them fit well with the film's aesthetic and soundtrack.
Act II - Monte Carlo, Severnaya, Sankt-Peterburg
a) Monte Carlo
Nine years later we find Bond in the hills of the Mediterranean coast, taking a civil servant for a ride. Can civil servants be attractive women? Yes. Do they have to be portrayed as "grey mice" with no character whatsoever? Do they really? Bond seducing women left and right is an estabilished trope, but I've stated my preferences and no rational human being behaves in that way. "Thorough evaluation" my foot...at least we get something more interesting in the evening, when we (including Bond) are introduced to Ksenia Onatopp. Cheesy name aside, I love a good dialogue...which moves the plot to a Canadian admiral, on a visit in Monte Carlo to see a French military demonstration, playing in casinos, having a good time with his obviously-not-wife and dying for his calelesness. Bit of a stretch, but I can give it a pass.
The next day, Ksenia and who we later learn is Urumov (grey, clean shaven, tall, masked to look like the ginger-bearded, bald, short admiral) board the French frigate. Inside the ship, Ksenia shoots the helicopter crew and nobody hears a thing. The helicopter flies away from the insuspecting French sailors, French/Monégasque air traffic control...basically from everybody and nobody pursues them. Nobody, except Bond, who vainly tries to stop them and is detained. I think that last bit was the only thing that made sense in this scene.
So, good storytelling, good direction and some more dumb stuff; albeit not as bad as in the intro sequence.
Russians speaking English with a thick Russian accent among themselves. Russians coding in English in a Soviet-era base with presumably Soviet-developed systems. Does that make sense? On the other hand, this was the 90's and people were used to it...along with the terrible portrayal of hacking, which has improved only in the last ten years or so. Luckily, we don't get more of that stuff, because the helicopter arrives!
How do they manage that, however, is beyond me. Severnaya (a fictional place, don't confuse it with the real Severnaya Zemlya archipelago) is in the middle of Siberia! How did they manage to fly the helicopter thousands of kilometres, across Europe, without being intercepted? How did they refuel? Janus' organisation must have been very powerful. Security at the Severnaya facility is not. There weren't any guards in sight, and only one officer serving. The fictional Russians really treated security like the real ones treated nuclear safety. And that goes for Ksenia too - when she shoots up the vent, she doesn't check for bodies. I guess she's too busy looking sharp in the uniform and with the AKS-74U and getting off while shooting it. Anyway, they fly off and a couple of MiG-29's try to intercept the alarm. Why did they explode in the air? Unless the electromagnetic pulse somehow scramgled their engines or some valves, there wasn't a reason for them to explode. That seems a bit dumb.
At MI6, Moneypenny is sending mixed signals. Having previously flirted with Bond over telephone (in the middle of the night, after swiftly getting information on Ksenia), repremands him for flirting, then gets back to the playful mood....but overall, Moneypenny is great and I love her character. Maybe I just don't understand people.
Never mind, we get to meet the new M! Ladies and gentlemen, Judi Dench and her blue eyes. She's brilliant. Seriously, everyone in this is very well cast. The dialogue, the characters...mmm!
Well. Minor plot holes, minor annoyances, overall great continuation of the setup.
Bond's visit to the Q department is all for laughs here. Reception depends on your taste - just stay away from Q's baguette.
In Russia we meet Jack Wade, CIA. Here we go, a bit of realism. Inconspicuous guy - except for the manners. He brings a lot of fun, he's a much more likeable role for Joe Don Baker than Brad Whittaker from The Living Daylights. He was so good they used him again in the next movie instead of Felix Leiter, Bond's canonical CIA mate. Another colourful character, Robbie Coltrane's "New Russian" Valentin Zhukovsky returned in a future movie and even got a bigger role (and stupid hair dye). On the other hand, I always suffer when I hear Minnie Driver sing out of tune.
I really like the atmosphere of Sankt-Peterburg. The square, the streets, the offices, the club, the spa, the iconic graveyard of soviet relics. In the spa scene, Bond cocks his pistol twice. Again, often used trope and I never let it pass, because it's annoying every time. Here we also come to the big plot hole: When exactly did Alec turn? How did he survive? Was Bond supposed to die at Archangelsk? Why did Urumov escape unharmed, while Alec became Two-Face? It just doesn't fit. Other than that, good motivation, I guess.
So, Bond and Natalia, a survivor from Severnaya, are bound in the helicopter with guided missiles on countdown...how did Alec set the missile lock? If they were heatseekers, Alec would surely start the helicopter himself. If they were radar-guided, how did they get them to lock on the firing platform? There must have been a failsafe...
Next morning, the interrogation: No complaints here, well handled. Urumov is a bad speaker and a very good shot. The following shootout is all sparks and no blood again. Bond utilises his beloved capture gun, AKS-74U, again. That (and the OP belt-buckle rope) get him to the tank yard. Yes, the famous pleasant drive through Sankt-Peterburg. Did I say I preferred realism? Did I really say that? Well...it is realistic. In a way. True, there are some unnecessary explosions, but overall, that scene is glorious. Bond in a T-55 Soviet main battle tank, rolling through the streets like a ball rock after Indiana Jones. It makes Urumov turn alcoholic.
Two notes to this scene:
1) - That T-55 was from the Bovington Tank Museum, it was dressed to look like a modernised variant of said tank. As with all Soviet tanks, the driver sits on the left - and he did, masked by a bunch of wires. Pierce Brosnan was sat in a hole cut for him on the right and did basically what Maggie Simpson does in the Simpsons intro. According to the stunt coordinator, non-tank people don't know that tanks are basically blind and a super-expensive camera got run over by it. Ouch.
2) - There is a known controversy with the music of this film. Éric Serra's music is...divisive. I like it, most of the time. It's electronic, rather flashy, but in its subdued moments it evokes steel pipes and hollow corridors. However, his track for this scene, "Pleasant Drive in Saint Petersburg" was too much for the director and when Serra refused to redo it, Campbell hired John Altman, who wrote a more traditional track, "Tank Drive in Saint Petersburg" . It's kind of jarring, but it's definitely better than the original track, which is too funky. Were the original more grandiose, with triplets here and there, it would have been perfect. Oh well.
"Bond in the tank sneaks up on the baddies." is my friend's frequent mockery of the next scene. It could have been fixed by a shot of one of them looking at the tank, acknowledging its existence and then riding away in the train. I don't mind it that much, though, especially compared to the next scene, which is Bond's interception of said train. How much time did he have to track them? How could he have tracked them? Why would they (presumably) turn back to Sankt-Peterburg? Questions, questions... Meanwhile, on the train, Alec is being sleazy. Uncomfortably sleazy. Worse still, illogically sleazy.
And then we come to the badly edited scene: Bond 's tank appears in the tunnel. The train spots him. Bond shoots HE at it, jumps out of the tank, runs a hundred metres towards the train, waits for it to pass - all that in a few seconds. I know that action is supposed to flow, but this is too much.
A few character observations to round up this paragraph:
1) Ksenia comfirms she's not just a sadist, but also an adrenaline junkie. Nice touch.
2) Natalia proves to be quite capable by not losing her head and tracking Boris.
3) Natalia proves to be just another dumb Bond girl by making out with Bond. Or is it natural with all women after an adrenaline rush? I didn't notice any setup for this.
So, what do I take away from act two? I have serious beef with the big plot hole, that tank vs. train scene editing, and the technical-related mistakes. On the other hand, I enjoy the atmosphere and especially that tank drive. When did a Bond movie do something like this? Hell, when did any action movie do something like this? Just for that I can excuse even the biggest mistakes in this act. Is it enough to redeem the whole movie for me, though? That will be revealed in part 3. Until then, have a nice day.
In relation to this, I have been looking through some screencaps and still the only female character I can think of who John seemed to regard in that same intense sort of way as he often looks at men was Kate Cameron in Death in the Slow Lane. He evidently didn’t like her (totally justifiably), but she’s one of the few women he could actually appear to be almost flirting with. She is a forceful and domineering personality so that probably is why he reacts to her in that way, the same way he does tend to react to a lot of men.
Rebellion's first film, School's Out Forever, released next month
Rebellion’s first film, School’s Out Forever, released next month
First announced back in June 2019, Rebellion’s first feature film, the post-apocalyptic thriller School’s Out Forever, gets its digital release next month (February) followed by a Blu-Ray and DVD release in April.
The film is set to be followed by several projects based on Rebellion’s comic book and publishing shared worlds, including, as previously reported, the new Judge Dredd Mega-City…