Die Another Day

STARRING Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Rosamund Pike, Toby Stephens, Rick Yune WRITTEN BY Neal Purvis, Robert Wade DIRECTED BY Lee Tamahori THE PITCH ”It’s a much simpler story this time. You can actually follow the plot.” — Brosnan

Sadly, those rumors you’ve been hearing about the 20th James Bond film are false. Halle Berry will not share a hot lesbian smooch with Madonna (although the Material Mom will make a cameo as well as sing the title song). What is true is that Berry will be wading out of the ocean in a retro bikini much like the one that made Ursula Andress famous in the first 007 flick, Dr. No. ”She’s sort of a female Bond” is the only other thing this year’s Best Actress Oscar winner will reveal of her character (except that she’s ”supersecure in her sexuality” and ”extremely intelligent”).

Another hopeful sign: After years of Bond films with meandering plots, this one actually sounds intriguing. ”It has a thriller aspect to it,” Brosnan explains. ”Bond is betrayed and gets ousted by his own people. He has to find his way back and reclaim who he is.” Naturally, it’s a quest that involves plenty of glam locales (Cuba, Iceland, Korea), high-speed chases (including one on an iceberg), improbable spy gear (an Aston Martin with an ”adaptive camouflage” button), and a showdown with megalomaniacal supervillain Stephens (A&E’s The Great Gatsby) as a billionaire environmentalist with peculiar ideas on how to save the planet.

”It’s a Bond movie, so the mantra is always going to be ‘girls, gadgets, and action,”’ says Tamahori (Along Came a Spider, The Edge). ”If you try to make an old-fashioned Cold War espionage movie — along the lines of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold — you’d be sunk. It wouldn’t work. The trick is to use the [Bond] elements in a new and refreshing way. Find new [things] that haven’t been done before.” Which tends to be expensive. When you spend $2.5 million on 11 identical Aston Martins, it adds up quickly; in this case, to well over $100 million, making it the costliest Bond film ever.

The most refreshing thing about this 40th-anniversary film, though, may turn out to be its sly winks to 007’s past. Along with that deja vu bikini, there’s also a Goldfinger-style laser (”Although we don’t aim it right up to the crotch — that would have been too obvious,” says Tamahori) and a scene in which Bond strips out of a scuba suit to reveal neatly pressed formal attire. ”It’s a potpourri of all the early Bond movies,” Brosnan says. ”There’s a lot of stuff in it that the old Bond fans can pick up on.” THE LOWDOWN What Bond needs most these days are young fans — like the ones who gave XXX its big opening. Still, the franchise remains indestructible (each of the last three has grossed more than $300 million worldwide), which makes 007 a pretty formidable 40-year-old. (Nov. 22)

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets

STARRING Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Kenneth Branagh, Robbie Coltrane WRITTEN BY Steve Kloves DIRECTED BY Chris Columbus THE PITCH ”The same children, the same costumes, the same Quidditch, the same Hogwarts. But it’s not a sequel. It’s a film in its own right.” — producer David Heyman