Official: It’s a compliment being compared to a 007 villain

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose background includes the financial side of movies, said Sunday it’s a compliment being compared to a James Bond villain.

“I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie,” Mnuchin told host Chris Wallace in an interview today on Fox News Sunday.

Background: Last week, Mnuchin and his wife, actress Louise Linton, were looking at the first U.S. dollars printed with his signature.

They posed for a photograph distributed by The Associated Press. The photo went viral on social media with people making the comparison to 007 villains.

“What were you thinking?” Wallace asked Mnuchin today about the photo.

“I didn’t realize the pictures were public and going on the internet and viral,” the treasury secretary replied. “But people have the right to do that.”

Here’s how AP photographer Jacquelyn Martin described what happened in a story run by the news service.

The media had been told that Mnuchin would first look at stacked sheets of new bills. He was taking a look at some as they were processed, when he was passed a sheet of bills to inspect. Then he turned to the camera and held up the bills, which I hadn’t expected him to do so early in the tour. Mnuchin turned his head and gestured to Linton to join him. He then had her help him hold up the sheet of bills for the photo.

Mnuchin formerly was involved with RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which has co-financed a number of Warner Bros. movies.

As a result, he has received a number of executive producer credits on those movies. Among them: The Lego Movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Wonder Woman.

Mnuchin, 54, divested his stake in the company earlier this year. RatPac-Dune has been in the news because another principal, Brett Ratner, has been accused of sexual misconduct.

Anyway, Mnuchin’s comments today kept the reaction going. One example:

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Justice League’s motto: Do no harm

Justice League movie logo

No major spoilers but the spoiler adverse should pass this up.

The subtitle of Justice League could be “Do No Harm.” One of the main missions of the film seems to be to repair the damage done to DC Comics characters in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

In that regard, Justice League succeeds.

(OK spoiler sensitive types bail out now.)

The film brings back Superman who had died at the end of Batman v Superman. What’s more, he’s brought back (after an understandable period of adjustment) as being….well, Superman.

With 2013’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, the Man of Steel was full of self doubt, unsteady and, at times, not very Superman-like. In Justice League, Henry Cavill’s Superman costume looks like it has been cleaned. It looked dirty in his previous two appearances.

Even better, Superman embraces being a hero. That’s what Superman does. The movie doesn’t have Clark Kent wink at the audience, the way comic book Clark Kent did decades ago. But it’s a big improvement. And Superman actually isn’t in the movie that much.

Other characters do a lot of the heavy lifting. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman understandably carries a lot of the load. Jason Momoa grabs attention as Aquaman, a character general audiences probably aren’t that familiar with. Ezra Miller brings a neurotic take on the Flash.

Finally, there’s Ben Affleck’s Batman. The actor took much of the brunt of criticism for Batman v Superman, which depicted the character at times as a homicidal maniac. The “do no harm” label applies here as well. Batman is more on an even keel (well, as much as a guy who dresses up in a Bat costume can). The new-look Affleck/Batman even shows some compassion at times.

The production of this film has been a bit of a soap opera. Extensive rewrites and reshoots. A large budget, raising doubts whether this movie will ever earn a dime of profit. And even having Henry Cavill’s mustache (grown for Mission: Impossible 6) digitally erased in the reshoots.

And, of course, there has been plenty of speculation whether Affleck will return as Batman. Intentional or not, a scene in the film evokes this when Affleck’s aging Bruce Wayne acknowledges he can’t keep being Batman much longer.

In the end, the movie makes the viewer forget the soap opera. That may be the biggest compliment one can provide. GRADE: B-Plus.

Broccoli: Bond 25 doesn’t have much in place beyond Craig

Eon boss Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig

Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli told RTE Entertainment that Bond 25 has its biggest piece in place, star Daniel Craig, but not much else beyond that.

“I’m very happy that he’s coming back,” Broccoli was quoted as saying. “So, to me, that’s the crucial thing. And we’re just looking on everything else.

“We don’t have too much in place, but we’ve got the main man in place, so that makes me very happy,” she said.

Broccoli didn’t comment much beyond that but added this:

“(W)e’ve got to find the director. We’re working on the script and we’ll see… Hopefully by the beginning of the year we’ll have more news on all those fronts.”

Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said in July that Bond 25 will have a U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019.

To read the entire RTE story, CLICK HERE. It mostly concerns how Eon’s non-Bond spy film, The Rhythm Section, is filming in Ireland.

RE-POST: Why Mendes shouldn’t direct Bond 25

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A year ago, a Sam Mendes film project went up in smoke. That got Bond fans talking whether he might return to direct Bond 25. Then, Mendes was attached to a Disney live-action adaption of Pinocchio.

But now, Mendes is no longer attached to that project. So, again, there’s talk such as THIS STORY in the Express) wondering whether Mendes might direct Bond 25 after all.

Originally the blog was going to ignore it. But, just in case, what follows is the text of a November 2016 post. All points still apply.

A major non-007 Sam Mendes project, a movie adaptation of The Voyeur’s Hotel, has evaporated, according to the Deadline: Hollywood website. That’s because of a documentary coming out concerning the person who is the the same subject as the non-fiction book.

That has gotten some James Bond fans wondering if Mendes could be available to direct Bond 25 (whenever it gets made) after helming Skyfall and SPECTRE.

To quote a retired comic, “Oh, I hope not.” Here are some reasons why.

He’s never sounded enthusiastic about directing a third Bond film: In July 2015, he told the BBC that, “I don’t think I could go down that road again. You do have to put everything else on hold.”

In May 2016, according to a story by The Associated Press, he said: “I’m a storyteller. And at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters.”

(That AP link has been broken. However, here’s a Deadline: Hollywood story about the same event with the same quote.)

Directing a Bond film is a big undertaking. If he has even the slightest doubt (and it sounds he has big doubts), he shouldn’t attempt it.

Enough with the homages: Skyfall had homages to past Bond films, including bringing back the Goldfinger version of the Aston Martin DB5.

That continued with SPECTRE. The DB5, despite being blown to smithereens in Skyfall, is miraculously put back together in SPECTRE. A fight between Bond (Daniel Craig) and Hinx (Dave Bautista) seemed modeled after a similar scene in From Russia With Love. The Independent published a story listing other homages.

Mendes can’t help himself. The next movie, when ever it may come out, needs a break from homages.

No more boasting:  In an April 2014 interview on The Charlie Rose Show, Mendes said he cast all the major supporting characters, including Tanner.

Problem: Tanner was played by Rory Kinnear, who first portrayed the character in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, a film Mendes had nothing to do with.

Mendes also claimed that in Skyfall “for the first time characters were allowed to age.” Problem: He’s wrong, it happened a number of times in Bond films.

Enough already.

If Mendes comes back, that means Thomas Newman comes back as composer: Newman is Mendes’ guy. Fans have mixed opinions about Newman’s work on Skyfall. He did get an Oscar nomination but didn’t win.

However, with SPECTRE, it was clear that Newman had run out of ideas. He recycled a number of Skyfall music bits in SPECTRE. That’s true not just of the compositions, but the sound and orchestration.

John Barry used the 007 theme in five Bond films (From Russia With Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker). But it had different arrangements and orchestration each time. The repeated music in SPECTRE sounds the same as it did in Skyfall.

What’s more, based on his other work, it’s clear that smaller-scale dramas (such as Bridge of Spies) are more in Newman’s wheelhouse. He’s a talented composer with such films. Bond films just aren’t his strength.

Let someone else have a try on Bond 25. But that probably won’t happen if Mendes is back as director.

Some critics get out the knives for Justice League

Justice League movie logo

Some critics have gotten out the knives for Justice League, the Warner Bros./DC Comics movie debuting this week.

Rotten Tomatoes is waiting a bit to unveil its “fresh” rating for Justice League. So it’s hard to tell how representative these non-spoiler excerpts are.

Still, it’s clear some critics are feeling no restraint. (One headline: “‘Justice League’ Is a Big, Ugly Mess.”)

RICHARD LAWSON, VANITY FAIR: “The film is, plainly stated, terrible, and I’m sorry that everyone wasted their time and money making it—and that people are being asked to waste their time and money seeing it. I hate to be so blunt, but it simply must be said this time.”

ALONSO DURALDE, THE WRAP: “(I)f you like your superhero battles in deep dark tunnels or under skies purple with alien soot, director Zack Snyder is back with yet another installment that looks the way Axe body spray smells.”

CHRIS NASHAWATY, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: “Some day, hopefully soon, DC will get the recipe right again and duplicate Wonder Woman’s storytelling magic. But today isn’t that day, and Justice League unfortunately isn’t that film. C+”

MATT GOLDBERG: COLLIDER: “In place of disaster, Justice League is a largely bland, forgettable affair that has nice moments scattered throughout and the promise of a better tomorrow, but outside of Wonder Woman, that’s all the DCEU ever really offers: the promise that the next movie will be better. And sure, Justice League is better than Batman v Superman, but that doesn’t make it good.”

GEOFFREY MACNAB, THE INDEPENDENT: “This is surely the most infantile of recent superhero yarns – a film that squanders the talents of an impressive ensemble cast and eschews any meaningful characterisation in favour of ever more overblown special effects.”

To be fair, some critics have liked the movie. Here’s a sampling. Some of these are mixed (or have caveats), but here are complimentary excerpts:

MARK HUGHES, FORBES.COM: Justice League “retains enough of the DNA of the previous (DC-based) films to be recognizable as their successor, while carving out a new space closer to the tone and style of action-adventure superheroism found in Wonder Woman. And it offers average movie-goers the sort of chest-swelling sense of heroism and pure joyful entertainment they love and reward with their hard-earned dollars at the box office.”

OWEN GLEIBERMAN, VARIETY: “The film is the definition of an adequate high-spirited studio lark: no more, no less. If fans get excited about it, that may mostly be because they’re excited about getting excited. Yet the movie is no cheat. It’s a tasty franchise delivery system that kicks a certain series back into gear.”

TASHA ROBINSON, THE VERGE: “And taken as a whole, Justice League is often thrilling and rousing, with few of the outright infuriating twists that have made past DCEU movies so frustrating…For once, the heroes have a relatively black-and-white battle ahead of them, without existential questions about whether humanity deserves saving, or whether they deserve to save humanity. And that lets the characters cut loose in a triumphant barrage of over-the-top carnage that shows them each to their best heroic potential.”

MGM says Bond 25 distribution not resolved

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said today that distribution — and presumably financing — of Bond 25 has not been resolved.

“Distribution plans for Bond 25 still have not been announced and we are continuing discussions with a variety of potential partners,” MGM chief Gary Barber said on an investor call. “We look forward to sharing more details on Bond 25 on future calls.”

Deadline: Hollywood reported Sunday that a new joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures was close to being named U.S. distributor for the next James Bond film. An international distributor has not yet been selected, Deadline said.

The last four 007 films have been distributed by Sony Pictures. Under Sony’s most recent two-picture deal, Sony co-financed Skyfall and SPECTRE with MGM but only got 25 percent of the profits.

MGM is getting back into distribution. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 without a distribution operation. MGM films were co-financed and distributed by various studios.

On the call, Barber talked up the joint venture with Annapurna.

“We decided the time was right to be less dependent on co-production partners to theatrically distribute our theatrical films,” Barber said.

The first MGM film to be distributed by the joint venture will be a remake of Death Wish early next year.

Wonder Woman sequel to debut 1 week before Bond 25

Wonder Woman poster

Bond 25’s U.S. competition just got tougher.

Warner Bros. has rescheduled Wonder Woman 2, the sequel to this year’s hit, to Nov. 1, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter said. That’s six weeks earlier than it’s previous release date of Dec. 13 — and one week before Bond 25’s current U.S. date of Nov. 8, 2019.

Warners moved the Wonder Woman sequel after Walt Disney Co. moved Star Wars Episode IX to Dec. 20, 2019, THR said. That movie originally had a May 2019 release date. But the Star Wars entry changed directors (to J.J. Abrams from Colin Trevorrow), causing Disney to push back its release.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions announced the Nov. 8 date for Bond 25 in July. For the moment, there isn’t an official distributor for the 007 movie. However, Deadline: Hollywood reported on Sunday that MGM and Annapurna Pictures’ new distribution joint venture is close to being named the U.S. distributor of Bond 25. An international distributor hasn’t been decided, Deadline said.

If the Nov. 8 date stands, Bond 25 will have major competition in the U.S. from the second weekend of Wonder Woman 2. (Bond 25 is to come out earlier internationally but a date hasn’t been specified.) Patty Jenkins, who directed this year’s film, is scheduled to helm the sequel.

One potential caveat: Page Six, the New York Post’s gossip operation, on Nov. 11 reported that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot is balking at playing the character again if producer-mogul Brett Ratner’s RatPac-Dune is involved with Wonder Woman 2. Warner Bros. has called that story false.

RatPac-Dune has helped finance a number of Warner Bros. movies over the past few years, including Wonder Woman. Ratner, meanwhile, has been accused of sexual misconduct.

On the other hand, given how Wonder Woman was both a critical and box office hit, Warner Bros. has incentive to get Gadot back. She has been a major part of the marketing for Justice League, which comes out this week.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times reported separately that the RatPac-Dune deal with Warner Bros. expires in spring 2018 and likely won’t affect Wonder Woman 2.

Footnote: Warner Bros. has been among those studios vying to be a Bond 25 distributor.