For Daniel Craig’s final performance as James Bond in “No Time to Die,” he still has his license to kill, an Aston Martin DB5 and enough weaponry to subdue countless henchmen.
This 25th installment begins with a Norwegian backwoods flashback as a helpless, young girl witnesses a mysterious, masked killer stalking her and her mother, determined to wreak revenge for what her father did to his family.
Then, accompanied by Billie Eilish’s theme song, there’s James Bond in his retirement home in Jamaica when his CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) asks for help tracking a missing Russian scientist.
Too bad Bond’s subsequent side trip to Cuba is so short. That’s where he teams up with kickass CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas, Craig’s co-star in “Knives Out”).
Bond is next seen driving through Matera, an Italian hilltop town, with his girl-friend Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux), heroine of his 2015 adventure “Spectre.” When they’re ambushed, it’s obvious that neither has been totally honest with the other about their respective pasts.
Reporting back to MI6, where he’s greeted by Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), Bond discovers that his prized 007 designation has been given to another agent, Nomi (Lashana Lynch), and she’s not about to part with it, threatening, “You get in my way, I‘ll put a bullet in your knee – the one that works.”
Apparently, M (Ralph Fiennes) oversees Heracles, a secret project which has created nanobots (DNA poisons), specifically targeted at the nation’s most dangerous enemies. With help from Q (Ben Whishaw) and a detour to interview villainous Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), Bond and Nomi pursue malevolent Lyutsifer Satin (Rami Malek) to his secret, high-tech island lair.
Inclusively scripted by Robert Wade, Neal Purvis, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and director Cary Joji Fukunaga, it’s episodic, action-packed entertainment.
During his 16-year James Bond tenure, Daniel Craig has acquitted himself admirably, second only to charismatic Sean Connery. And in this final chapter, Craig clearly demonstrates his dramatic chops.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “No Time To Die” is a highly enjoyable 8, coming to an emotional conclusion.
If you enjoy Westerns, you should see “Old Henry,” a redemption fable set in 1906 about a gruff, Scripture-quoting widower, haunted by his past while trying to raise a restless teenage son Wyatt (Gavin Lewis) in peace and tranquility.
Known as Old Henry (Tim Black Nelson), this crusty gunslinger is tending his modest homestead in the Oklahoma Territory when, after spotting a riderless horse with a bloody saddle, he rescues a gravely wounded young man who has been left to die in the grasslands.
Clutching a badge and a saddlebag of cash, he claims to be Curry (Scott Haze), a sheriff who was blindsided by bandits trying to reclaim their loot.
Then, accompanied by a deputy (Richard Speight Jr.) and a Mexican tracker (Max Arcienega), a black-hatted scoundrel, Sheriff Sam Ketchum (Stephen Dorff) shows up, claiming he’s from Woods County, searching for an escaped thief, explaining “Some call him handsome, but the most I credit to him is devilry.”
Caught between these tense two – ready for a shootout – skeptical Henry McCarty isn’t quite sure who to believe. At the same time, both his adversaries realize he’s not holding a pistol like any ‘farmer’ they’re ever seen before.
“Who are you?” Wyatt asks impatiently.
“I’m who I am,” stoic Henry replies.
“But you’re always preaching about being honest,” Wyatt probes.
“I’ve done things I wish I could take back – a long time ago – before your mom – things that you’ve got no business hearing.”
Writer/director Potsy Ponciroli engages with his taut, yet deliberately poignant pacing, aided by John Matysiak’s evocative backwoods cinematography and Jordan Lehning’s ominous score.
But the film belongs to wiry character actor Tim Blake Nelson, whose stubbled face with a long mustache is topped by long, greasy, stringy hair and a large hat; he looks as if he hasn’t bathed in weeks. He’s compelling and, obviously, not quite what he seems.
On the Granger Gauge, “Old Henry” is a gratifying, surprising 7 – in theaters and streaming on Apple TV and Fandango.
Since filmmaking brothers Justin and Christian Long are from Fairfield, Connecticut, friends and neighbors have expressed interest in their wannabe buddy comedy, “Lady of the Manor,” set in Savannah, Georgia.
The story ostensibly revolves around Hannah (Melanie Lynskey), a crass, weed-smoking slacker who drops a drug delivery in the wrong residence, a house that’s been set to trap a child-molester. Hannah’s subsequent designation as a predator, forced to register as a sex offender, turns out to be the first joke in the lame script.
Then, as Hannah drowns her sorrow in drink, she’s approached by handsome Tanner Wadsworth (Ryan Phillippe), spoiled heir to the Civil War-era Wadsworth Manor. Eager to lure Hannah into bed, he offers her a job as the historic mansion’s live-in tour guide.
Soon after observing the sloppy stoner’s disrespectful impersonation of her, the ghost of legendary Lady Wadsworth (Judy Greer) appears in spectral form, offering to tutor Hannah in everything ladylike – from proper decorum to diction.
(The juvenile Long brothers find it hilarious that the word ‘diction’ has the word ‘dick’ in it, particularly since Hannah collects vibrators, two fashioned with faces of Judd Nelson and Tom Selleck.)
Recognizable as spokesperson for Apple Inc., Justin Long surfaces as Max, a nerdy history professor who, inexplicably, finds Hannah appealing. Plus there are the Black descendants (Tamara Austin, Wallace Jean) of Lady Wadsworth’s favorite slave. And Luis Guzman does a cameo as a bartender.
This paranormal fantasy has only two saving graces: Judy Greer’s mobile face and the bloopers that run during the end credits, demonstrating that the cast had far more fun working than audiences will have watching.
Not surprisingly, in the Lionsgate Directors Statement, the Long brothers designate this as a brand-new genre: a “fart-warming comedy.”
On the Granger Gauge, “Lady of the Manor” is a tedious, contemptuous 2, Pp0streaming on Vudu, Prime Video and Apple TV.
(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See all her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)