Elon Musk has a ‘Project Goldfinger’

Elon Musk photo on Twitter on April 29.

Elon Musk’s one time Twitter photo.

Elon Musk, who builds electric cars and launches rockets, has a thing for James Bond.

In 2013, Musk bought the submarine car from The Spy Who Loved Me. For a time, he had a picture of himself on Twitter evoking Ernst Stavro Blofeld (and Dr. Evil).

This week, according to the Jalopnik website, there’s part of his Fremont, California, plant that builds electric cars with a sign reading, “Top Secret: Project Goldfinger.”

Here’s an excerpt from the story by Jalopnik’s Michael Ballaban:

It’s a bit of a mystery as to what it is. The paper sign was attached to a temporary wall sealing off an area from prying eyes near a stamping section of the factory, and everyone I asked didn’t know what I was talking about.

Tesla spokespeople had no idea, Tesla employees had no idea, even Elon Musk himself claimed to have no clue as to what I was talking about when I asked him at a press conference. He laughed, dismissed it as “probably a joke,” and moved on.

It should be noted that Auric Goldfinger gave the code name “Operation: Grand Slam” to his plan to steal gold from Fort Knox (as in Ian Fleming’s novel) or to explode an atomic bomb there (as in the 1964 movie).

Anyway, Ballaban writes he’s been told Musk uses Bond-related names for project updates. Musk does have a lot of his plate. Tesla Motors Inc., the electric-car company that Musk runs, is in the midst of expanding its lineup. And SpaceX, another Musk company, always is busy.

Pinewood Studios parent company agrees to be sold

Pinewood Group PLC logo

Pinewood Group PLC logo

Pinewood Group PLC, parent company of Pinewood Studios, agreed to be sold to PW Real Estate Fund for 323 million British pounds, or $423 million, REUTERS REPORTED.

Pinewood Studios has been the production home for most of the entries in the James Bond film series. Pinewood also has been the home base to other films, including Star Wars and the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.

Pinewood Group’s two biggest shareholders, who hold 65 percent of shares, accepted the offer, according to Reuters. The sale is subject to a vote by other shareholders.

Pinewood also operates a studio complex in the Atlanta area. It is owned by Chick-Fil-A founder Dan Cathy and other investors, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The Cathy group will continue to own that studio operation, the newspaper said.

 

Jack Davis, extraordinary artist, dies at 91

Jack Davis promotional art for Get Smart

Jack Davis promotional art for Get Smart

Jack Davis, a talented artist known for his work on Mad magazine and various commercial artwork, died Wednesday at the age of 91, the University of Georgia said in an announcement.

The university released the news because Davis, a Georgia native, often did caricatures of the school’s bulldog mascot.

Besides Mad, Davis frequently got work commercial art jobs promoting movies and television shows. Perhaps his most famous was the movie poster for 1963’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, with caricatures of Spencer Tracy and the film’s mammoth cast.  Davis then parodied his own work for the cover of It’s a World, World, World, World Mad, a paperback collection of Mad reprinted features.

With the popularity of spy shows in the 1960s, Davis did illustrations promoting The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart and I Spy. The artist also illustrated an U.N.C.L.E. lunchbox.

Davis also drew an intricate illustration promoting NBC’s 1965-66 television lineup. To appreciate it better, click on the image below.

Jack Davis' epic illustration promoting NBC's 1965-66 television lineup

Jack Davis’ epic illustration promoting NBC’s 1965-66 television lineup

 

 

U.N.C.L.E. now on Heroes & Icons channel

Heroes & Icons logo

Heroes & Icons logo

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is now being shown by the Heroes & Icons channel in the overnight hours.

The 1964-68 spy adventure is being televised at 4 a.m. New York time weeknights and 3 a.m. Sundays, according to the channel’s website. H&I currently is television episodes from the first season.

H&I is similiar to MeTV. Both televise programs from the 1950s to the 1980s. H&I tends to show more one-hour programs while MeTV shows more situation comedies.

U.N.C.L.E. still is on MeTV, but only on the weekend overnight schedule. MeTV began showing U.N.C.L.E. in the fall of 2014 as part of a block of programming it called “The Spies who Love ME.” MeTV ended that block of shows in August 2015.

Jason Bourne gets a mix of raves and pans from critics

Jason Bourne poster

Jason Bourne poster

Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is back after nine years and he’s getting mixed marks — more positive than negative — from critics.

This year’s major spy movie currently has a 68 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes, or more than two raves for every pan.

Put another way, it’s comparable to 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (67 percent) and SPECTRE (65 percent), the most recent 007 film.

What follows is a non-spoiler sampling of reviews that have come in so far.

PETER DEBRUGE, VARIETY: “Mostly, the project marks a return to what worked about the franchise — namely, Damon — suggesting the relief of watching Sean Connery step back into Bond’s shoes after producers tried to replace him with a suave male model in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Meanwhile, audiences are expected to forget both “The Bourne Legacy,” 2012’s disappointing attempt to carry on the name by casting Jeremy Renner in a superficially similar capacity, and “Green Zone,” the gritty (and virtually unseen) Iraq War thriller in which Damon and Greengrass tried to get serious. Now, the real Bourne has resurfaced, and both director and star are committed to making the most of it.”

SCOTT MENDSELSON, FORBES.COM: “You’ve seen this movie before. You saw it in 2004 when it was calledThe Bourne Supremacy, and you saw it in 2007 when it was called The Bourne Ultimatum. As is now apparently custom for Paul Greengrass-directed Bourne sequels, the filmmaker steals wholesale from his previous movies to the point where it feels not like a formula but a glorified remake.”

KATIE WALSH, TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE: “It’s a breath of fresh air to see Damon back in this role, one that draws on his innate strengths. His All-American star persona allows us to understand that though Bourne is a lone ranger who doesn’t hesitate to use violence, we innately trust his moral compass. That’s because we know Bourne, but also because of the patriotic, good guy qualities that Damon effortlessly expresses.”

BILGE EBIRI, THE VILLAGE VOICE: “A  more appropriate title for Jason Bourne might be Walking: The Motion Picture. …(I)t’s about people walking. Walking down corridors, through hotels, through streets, through backrooms. Always briskly, always with apparent purpose, often with phones or earpieces or tracking devices so they can talk to someone else who is also walking and who is usually telling them where yet another person might be walking. Occasionally they break into a run or get in a car and plow through traffic. But mostly, they just walk. Is the CIA now owned by Fitbit?”

TODD MCCARTHY: THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Jason Bourne is an engrossing reimmersion in the violent and mysterious world of Matt Damon’s shadowy secret op. With director Paul Greengrass compulsively cutting the almost incessant action to the absolute bone in his trademark fashion and some solid new characters stirred in, Universal’s franchise refresher should have no problem being re-embraced by longtime series fans.”

Two 007 facts amid the speculation

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

What follows are two 007-related facts. They don’t necessarily connect to one another.

On the other hand, you see so much on social media, we thought we’d mention them, for what they’re worth.

–It’s Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s choice, not Eon Productions’, what studio will distribute Bond 25.

That’s not this blog talking. It’s Michael G. Wilson, Eon’s co-boss. He gave an interview late last year portions of which are on YouTube.

“It’s not primarily our decision,” Wilson said. “MGM will…it’s their responsibility.” Wilson said, at the time. He also said that Eon had met with studios (he didn’t specify which ones) which were interested in releasing Bond 25 for MGM.

Sony Pictures has released the last four 007 films but its most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE.

–Barbara Broccoli’s current non-Bond film has a relatively short filming schedule. 

According to the Screen Daily website, the Eon co-boss’ drama, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, is scheduled to wrap filming on Aug. 8. Principal photography began in late June and is based at stages that are part of an expansion at Pinewood Studios.

A producer’s job, of course, doesn’t end with filming. A producer oversees various post-production tasks — editing, sound work, music, etc.

Meanwhile, Screen Daily also refers to the movie as a “passion project” of Broccoli’s. The movie is based upon the memoirs of British actor Peter Turner, who had a relationship with American actress Gloria Grahame. Broccoli acquired the film rights more than 20 years ago, according to Screen Daily.

At the same time, Eon has various other pending non-007 projects. So, there’s no telling how many will take up Broccoli’s time before she turns her attention to Bond 25.

 

DC rolls out more optimistic take on movies

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman was criticized for being overly dark.

At this weekend’s San Diego Comic Book Con, Warner Bros./DC Entertainment provided its first preview of an more optimistic take on its super hero movies.

The studio used Comic Con to show a trailer for the Woman Woman movie scheduled for June 2017. Also unveiled was a video with footage from Justice League, due out for release in the fall of 2017.

To a degree, both seemed lighter than Batman v Superman, which was criticized in late March for its mostly dark and somber tone.

Batman v Superman got a ton of bad reviews, reflected in a only a 27 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. More importantly, for studio executives, its worldwide box office was $872.7 million.

While impressive for most movies, the movie plunged after a huge opening its first weekend. Also, Warners was looking to join the $1 billion club. The movie didn’t match the 2015 James Bond movie SPECTRE ($880.7 million).

WB/DC’s big competitor, Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios, made to the $1 billion club again a few months later with Captain America: Civil War. That movie had a serious, emotional payoff while still retaining the type of humor seen in other Marvel films.

Since then, there has have been executive changes at DC, including elevating Geoff Johns, a comic book writer turned executive, to co-head of DC’s movie operations. The news was broken in May by The Hollywood Reporter, which described the move as a “course correction.”

New York magazine’s Vulture website described Johns as “big on hope and optimism.”

The studio has a lot riding, in particular, on Justice League, because it’s DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers movies (the Justice League came first in the comics). Also, Justice League, is being directed by Zack Snyder, the director of Batman v Superman.

Anyway, both trailers are below.

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