Tomorrow looks like yesterday

 

"Tomorrow Never Dies" (12). Nationwide

From the moment Monty Norman's oh-so-familiar theme tune swings into action for the pre-credits sequence, the 18th Bond movie, with its 1960s-ish title song by Sheryl Crow, promises to deliver a reassuringly traditional 007 adventure, and so it proves. Despite the obligatory post-Cold War "terrorists" and the fact that the baddie (Jonathan Pryce) is a megalomaniac media mogul, this marks a further return to the vodka-swilling, promiscuous Bond of yore.

None of that feeble Timothy Dalton new man stuff here - immediately after the first big shoot-out we find our hero "learning a new tongue" from a buxom Scandinavian lass, giving Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) the opportunity to utter the immortal line: "You always were a cunning linguist, James", before summoning him to save the world from an implausible World War between Her Majesty's Government and the People's Republic of China. The cause of the conflict - the sinking of a British frigate by Chinese airplanes - has been orchestrated by Pryce as part of his mad plan to take over the world's media (who could credit such a thing?), and Brosnan's attempts to stop him take the story to Germany, Vietnam and the South China Sea.

Brosnan really makes a very good Bond, the best since Connery was in his prime, and director Roger Spottiswoode (Under Fire, Air America) has a slightly more distinguished track record than most of his predecessors, reflected in the competent action sequences. There were reports of friction over the script during production of Tomorrow Never Dies, and it certainly looks cobbled together at times, but then what Bond movie doesn't? The real scripting flaws are in characterisation and dialogue, both of which rapidly decline as the film wears on. Most crucially, there's not enough fun - Pryce's character, in particular, must be one of the most boring Bond villains ever, making you long for the halcyon days of Smersh and Spectre. Michelle Yeoh, by contrast, is sadly under-utilised as a Chinese super-spy.

Strangely, the producers don't make more of the current taste for all things Swinging and British, but the outrageously overt product placement clearly supersedes any aesthetic considerations; it's hard to believe for example, that the brand of vodka 007 prefers in his shaken-not-stirred martinis is Smirnoff. As Bonds go, though, Tomorrow Never Dies is pleasant enough brain candy, although Brosnan's efforts deserve better . . . maybe next time, Meester Bond.

"I Know What You Did Last Summer" (18) Nationwide

For several years, the teen slasher pic seemed to be a genre which had fallen into, if not disrepute (since one of its charms was always its disreputableness), then certainly disrepair. But a young screenwriter called Kevin Williamson has put a stop to all that in the space of a few short months, first with his wonderfully knowing script for Scream, and now with I Know What You Did Last Summer, which has emulated Wes Craven's film's success at the American box office.

Like Scream, the characters in I Know What You Did Last Summer are aware of, and comment on, the cliches of the horror story in which they find themselves, but this time everything is played much straighter, and the laughs are left out entirely. On the night of their graduation from high school, four friends accidentally run over a pedestrian on a dark road. Fearful of the consequences of getting caught, they dump the body off a jetty into the sea, and go their separate ways. But one year later, the four find that they are being stalked by someone who . . . well, you can guess the rest.

Played by an engaging young cast, led by Jennifer Love Hewitt of the TV series Party Of Five, and solidly directed by Scotsman Jim Gillespie, the film starts well, with a wonderful tracking shot over the sea towards the little fishing town where the protagonists live, to the accompaniment of a sludge-metal version of Summer Breeze. It's a pity that the tone of brooding, trashy menace isn't sustained for long - Williamson's script seems too concerned with Hewitt's sense of guilt about the accident to revel in its consequences. Essentially, there's too much wandering around in search of the truth and not enough he's-behind-you stuff to keep the plot engine ticking, and the ending is a throwaway let-down. The publicity material makes reference to Dostoyevsky, but perhaps Williamson and Gillespie should have concentrated more on their Hitchcock.