Wonder Woman receives surge of rave reviews

Wonder Woman poster

Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman movie has received a surge of positive reviews, a big change from the usual pattern for the studio’s superhero films.

The movie starring Gal Gadot as the title character has an early score of 97 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website, with 60 positive reviews and two negative ones.

That’s a huge change compared with the 28 percent score for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and 25 percent for Suicide Squad.

Gadot’s Wonder Woman was part of Batman v Superman (set in the present day). Wonder Woman, which comes out Friday, is set in World War I, a revision from the original comics stories, which were set in World War II.

Warners’ movies based on DC Comics characters have generated business at the box office, but not as much as many of the films released by rival Marvel Studios, part of of Walt Disney Co.

“Mr. Warner” wants to improve the reception of its DC-based movies. In any case, here’s a sampling (spoilers excluded) of some of the early reviews.

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE: “The good news is that this big-screen outing for William Moulton Marston’s creation is that it leaves the cornball 1970’s TV series with Lynda Carter in the dust and is leagues better than Suicide Squad, the last DC Extended Universe movie to stink up the multiplex. And like she proved in her extended cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, dynamo Israeli actress Gal Gadot owns the role, her body-beautiful forged with feminist fire. She really is all that. The movie? It’s nowhere near what it needs to be to give the actor and the character the resonant sendoff both deserve.”

ALISON WILLMORE, BUZZFEED: “What’s striking about her turn in the spotlight in Wonder Woman, beyond its milestone status as a female-centric studio superhero feature directed by a woman, is the movie’s sense of elated lightness….It’s a saga, written by Allan Heinberg, with a decent sense of humor, which any story prominently featuring Zeus and a Lasso of Truth demand.”

RICHARD ROEPER, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: “Gal Gadot shines in the title role. Diana is sweet and sexy and clever and intense, and she moves with the grace and power of a superhero gymnast (among other skills).”

CATH CLARKE, TIME OUT LONDON: “Unlike Batman, Wonder Woman is not plagued by doomy angst. She’s good and kind, with a strong moral compass. A complex female character? Not exactly. But Gadot (who is ex-army and knows her way round a fight sequence) never lets her become bland and simpering.”

STEVE ROSE, THE GUARDIAN:Those hoping a shot of oestrogen would generate a new kind of comic-book movie – and revive DC’s faltering movie universe – might need to lower their expectations… What promised to be a glass-ceiling-smashing blockbuster actually looks more like a future camp classic.”

Thunderball’s Molly Peters dies

Nurse Patricia Fearing (Molly Peters) helps James Bond (Sean Connery) off “the rack” in Thunderball

UPDATE (June 4): It turns out Molly Peters was born in 1939, rather than 1942, making her 78, according to the MI6 James Bond website and other sources.

ORIGINAL POST (May 30): Molly Peters, who played a nurse in Thunderball who becomes involved with James Bond, has died at 75, according to an announcement on the official James Bond account on Twitter.

Thunderball billed itself as the “Biggest Bond of All.” Bond was particularly active wooing women characters in the film, with nurse Patricia Fearing (Peters), SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe(Luciana Paluzzi) and Domino (Claudine Auger), the mistress of SPECTRE operative Largo.

Peters’s entry on IMDB.COM lists only seven acting credits from 1964 through 1968.

Here’s the posting from the official James Bond feed on Twitter.

 

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JFK at 100: 007’s biggest American fan

John F. Kennedy statue in Fort Worth, Texas (photo by the Spy Commander)

Today, May 29, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

His presidency, shortened by assassination in November 1963, is still studied by scholars.

The purpose of this post is more limited. JFK was the most prominent American fan of the literary James Bond, propelling the character to even greater heights of popularity in the early 1960s, just as the movie series was about to start.

Kennedy provided a list of his 10 favorite books. The titles tended to be biographies of prominent politicians and one was written by Winston Churchill.

But the list also included a spy thriller, From Russia With Love, the fifth James Bond novel penned by Ian Fleming.

Today, you might ask what was the big deal?

JFK was the first American president born in the 20th century. His election amounted to a major generational change. And he and his family were photogenic at a time television became the dominant medium.

As a result, JFK’s endorsement was a boon to the Bond novels and the movies about to come out.

Ian Fleming certainly knew that was the case.

” I am delighted to take this opportunity to thank Kennedys everywhere for the electric effect their commendation has had on my sales in America,” Fleming wrote in a 1962 letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, JFK’s younger brother.

UPDATE (4:15 p.m. New York time): A 1987 story in the Los Angeles Times provides a bit more detail.

ABC newsman Pierre Salinger, formerly Kennedy’s press secretary, said from Paris: “I was simply given the list and instructed to distribute it. There’s been speculation its inclusion was engineered to show he wasn’t an egghead. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I can tell you people were shocked on Capitol Hill.”

The article was a tremendous boon to producers Albert (Cubby) Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who only months earlier had acquired film rights to the Bond novels. By year’s end, they were in pre-production on “Dr. No” and had a deal with United Artists for a second installment–“From Russia With Love.”

Kennedy had done more than just help popularize the novels and pave the wave for screen adventures. He had “created a public tolerance for this type of activity,” said Roy Godson, a professor of government at Georgetown University. “Kennedy was fascinated by these types of operations. No other President, before or since, has been as actively involved in the covert-action aspect of spying.”

 

Oh, there’s another birthday today

Happy birthday, Ernst. You don’t look a day over 98.

We almost forgot somebody else celebrating their 109th birthday.

So here he is, at least one version. Happy birthday, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Now, some will decry him as a bloodthirsty criminal mastermind. And the likes of No. 11 and No. 9 (if they were around) would take that position.

However, he did create a good many construction jobs in Japan, circa 1965-66. Today, he’d get economic-development tax breaks.

He also created jobs, including the guy who operated the crater door (aka Crater Guy).

And, as reader Gary J. Firuta points out, he’s one criminal mastermind whose precise birth date is known.

“Without whom, etc.”

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

It was 109 years ago today that Ian Fleming was born.

Without him, James Bond novels wouldn’t have come to be. That would have freed up a slot for President John F. Kennedy’s list of his top 10 favorite books. Who knows what book would have benefited from being on that early 1960s list?

Also, James Bond movies wouldn’t have come to be. That’s 24 movies in the official series (and counting) plus two others.

Neither would have The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which originated when producer Norman Felton was approached about whether he’d like to a series based on Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book.

The author’s involvement (from October 1962 to June 1963) with U.N.C.L.E. spurred NBC to put the show in development. By the time Fleming exited (under pressure from Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman), enough work had occurred for NBC to keep developing the series. One of Fleming’s ideas (that Napoleon Solo liked cooking) ended up in the 2015 movie version of the show.

For that matter, pretty much the entire 1960s spy mania (Matt Helm movies, Flint movies, I Spy, The Wild Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible) probably doesn’t happen because Bond generated a market for such entertainment.

Happy birthday, Ian Fleming.

About that Spider-Man: Homecoming poster…

Newest Spider-Man Homecoming poster

So the new Spider-Man: Homecoming poster is out and the reaction is….underwhelming.

Truth be told, the era of the classic movie poster passed away a long time ago, with spectacular illustrations (like THIS ONE for You Only Live Twice) phased out in favor of Photoshop efforts.

But Spider-Man: Homecoming spurred more of a reaction. Websites such as The Verge and Movie Pilot critiqued it and found it wanting.

Why so much attention to a movie poster?

Well, Spider-Man has an unusual movie history. It tooks years for Marvel’s No. 1 hero to reach the screen.

None of the five films released by Sony Pictures has done poorly at the box office, although the third Toby Maguire movie in 2007 and the second Andrew Garfield effort in 2014 absorbed some lumps from critics and fans.

Sony reached a deal with Marvel Studios where the latter would take over the heavy lifting and put the character in its universe of film superheroes. Thus, Spider-Man 3.0 (Tom Holland) debuted in last year’s Captain America: Civil War.

Now the first movie with Spidey 3.0 as the lead character is a little more than a month away. But the poster is generating some concerns including:

Is this a Spider-Man movie or an Iron Man movie? Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark has the biggest image of a human without a helmet or mask.

The largest single image is Spider-Man (which seems especially modeled after artist John Romita Sr.’s version from the comics). But Holland’s Peter Parker, while in the center, is definitely smaller than Downey/Stark.

Downey put Marvel-produced movies on the map with 2008’s Iron Man. He’s still around and it remains to be seen how Marvel’s films will perform once he’s put away his repulsor rays. So it makes sense from a marketing standpoint. Still, this is supposed to be Spidey’s show.

There seems to be a lot of clutter: You’ve got six people, Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Vulture, the New York skyline and a lot of lights.

All of this may turn out to be noise. Marvel Studios has had so many hits, the urge to find weaknesses is understandable.

While we’re at it, here’s a new trailer. It appears, at least for a time, Peter wears a Spidey suit unlike any he ever had in the comics.

2 Roger Moore 007 films return to theaters

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only will return to theaters starting May 31 as a tribute to star Roger Moore, who died this week.

Half of the ticket proceeds will go to UNICEF, according to a statement by Park Circus. Moore had been a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF since 1991.

Park Circus distributes titles in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer library. MGM also put out the same statement, which was posted on the official Roger Moore feed on Twitter.

Here’s an excerpt of the statement:

 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM), Park Circus and EON Productions are pleased to announce a series of special screenings in memory of Sir Roger Moore, to take place at cinemas across the world including: ODEON Cinemas (UK), AMC Theatres (U.S.) and HOYTS (Australia, New Zealand), beginning 31 May 2017. Additional locations to be announced soon.

The Spy Who Loved Me, released in 1977, re-energized the film series following the breakup of the producing team of Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. It was nominated for three Oscars.

For Your Eyes Only, released in 1981, brought Bond back to Earth following 1979’s Moonraker, an extravagant film that sent 007 into space. Eyes included substantial material from two Ian Fleming short stories.