Bond 25 not part of MGM-Annapurna distribution deal

Annapurna logo

Bond 25, at least for now, is not part of a deal where Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures are joining forces to distribute their movies in the United States.

The two studios are forming a joint venture for U.S. distribution, the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets reporting, citing an announcement.

The announcement, however, said Bond 25’s distributor would be determined at a later date.

MGM hasn’t had a distribution operation since it exited bankruptcy in 2010. Annapurna, a movie production company, only recently got into distribution with its Detroit drama that came out in August.

The joint venture will release about 15 movies annually. The first movie to be released by the joint venture will be a remake of Death Wish, due out in early 2018.

The big project that isn’t covered by the joint venture is Bond 25. MGM and Eon Productions in July announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 without any word who the distributor would be.

Annapurna, founded by tech heiress Megan Ellison, was among the studios seeking to distribute Bond 25. Others included Sony Pictures, which released the last four 007 films, and Warner Bros. Then, in September, The Hollywood Reporter said in September that Amazon.com and Apple were also seeking he Bond rights, possibly with an eye of buying control of the Bond franchise.

MGM and Annapurna have done business before. In March, MGM said it had a deal to distribute Annapurna movies in some international markets. Also, Annapurna originally was going to release MGM’s Death Wish remake.

The Deadline: Hollywood website suggested the MGM-Annapurna joint venture may be in the best position to distribute Bond 25.

“With MGM moving back into distribution, it seems like the natural set-up to distribute the next Bond film,” wrote Deadline’s Anita Busch.

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Eon’s new spy movie gets a February 2019 release date

Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in November 2011

Eon Productions’ new spy movie, The Rhythm Section, has been given a February 2019 release date by Paramount, The Wrap and other entertainment news sites reported.

The film, starring Blake Lively, will be released Feb. 22, 2019. The project was announced in July. It’s based on a novel by Mark Burnell.

“Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) is on a path of self-destruction after the death of her family in an airplane crash, a flight that she was meant to be on,” according to a plot summary released in July. “After discovering that the crash was not an accident, her anger awakens a new sense of purpose and she rises to uncover the truth by adapting the identity of an assassin to track down those responsible.”

The Rhythm Section is part of a growing portfolio of non-007 films by Eon. Its drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool had its premiere at the 2017 Telluride Film Festival.  It’s being released in December by Sony Pictures Classics, part of Sony Pictures.

Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have announced a U.S. release date of November 2019 for Bond 25. Currently, the movie has no distributor.

Bond 25: The post-Waltz (?) edition

So, actor Christoph Waltz says he won’t be in Bond 25 after playing Blofeld in SPECTRE. Naturally the blog has some questions.

Does he mean it? That’s an appropriate question that can’t really be answered right now.

Waltz, after all, repeatedly denied he was playing Blofeld in SPECTRE.

Also, this decade, Naomie Haris denied she was playing Moneypenny in Skyfall. And, of course, it was revealed in the final scene she was. Thus, comments from actors tend to require the appropriate dosage of salt.

If Waltz really is gone, what does it mean? One possibility: “Waltz seems to be saying Blofeld will be back in Bond 25, but with a new actor in the role,” writes Philip Nobile Jr. of Birth.Movies.Death. (He also notes the possibility that Waltz may have been fibbing again.)

Another possibility is Blofeld’s not in Bond 25, that the movie will be a one-off adventure.

Initially, Skyfall was a one-off not directly died to the preceding installment, Quantum of Solace. Skyfall’s villain, Silva (Javier Bardem) was after revenge against Judi Dench’s M.

In the writing stages of SPECTRE, the creative team decided on a creative arc that would tie all of the Daniel Craig films together. Having secured the rights to the Blofeld character, SPECTRE specified that Blofeld was “the author of all your pain” for Bond.

Prior to the Craig films, the 007 series was light on continuity. You had occasional references to previous films but it wasn’t a major priority. That changed when Eon Productions opted to make Quantum a “direct sequel” of 2006’s Casino Royale.

We’ll see. For now, Bond 25 has no director. Whatever work has been done on a story will likely be reworked once a director is on board.

Paul Baack, extraordinary 007 fan, dies

Paul Baack (1957-2017 ) in 2013, wearing headphones to utilize his voice-activated software.

Paul Baack, co-founder of the James bond fan site Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, died today at 60.

Paul and Tom Zielinski began the site, intended as a James Bond “e-magazine,” in 1997. HMSS, according to the founders, was the equivalent of a “toy train” for them.

It was more, of course.

From 1997 until 2011, HMSS presented magazine-length articles about James Bond and related topics. Contributors included Raymond Benson, the 007 continuation novel author from 1997 to 2002.

Benson named a character after Paul in his 1999 Bond novel High Time to Kill.

Normally an obituary refers to its subject by his or her last name. But the Spy Commander, for this obit, will refer to him by his first name.

Paul, from the beginning, designed the HMSS pages. His graphics enhanced the articles. He had a way of prodding the authors to make their contributions just a little bit better. Paul would make suggestions to improve the articles.

Those suggestions came in the form of a gentle nudge, not a dictate. HMSS, after all, was a hobby — the toy train analogy — not life or death. Nevertheless, Paul’s instincts were excellent. He was right far more than he was wrong.

Paul Baack-designed promo for the fall 2011 issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, the e-magazine’s last issue.

Paul led a tough life. In 2003, he was paralyzed after being struck by a car. Despite that, he carried on. He utilized voice-activated software to do his HMSS work and follow his various other interests, which included doing artwork such as THIS and THIS and THIS.

This blog was, in fact, Paul’s idea. He wanted a way for HMSS to have a presence on the internet between “issues.” The Spy Commander was among the HMSS contributors.

Eventually, I took over the blog. But I was always aware he was reading. I was always glad to receive his feedback.

HMSS had a good run. It went offline in 2014.

“Bond and Holly” by Paul Baack

Paul was one of the most memorable people I ever met. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering he endured since 2003. But he endured it with warmth, and grace and humor.

James Bond fandom is richer for what Paul and Tom Zielinski started. This blog, obviously, would not exist without Paul’s encouragement.

After HMSS went offline, the blog published THIS POST about how it was now on its own. Paul posted this comment:

“‘Upward and onward’ indeed! Heartfelt thanks to you, Bill, for keeping the flame.”

Thanks to you Paul, for lighting the flame in the first place.

Waltz says he won’t be in Bond 25

Bond 25 unofficial logo 2
Actor Christoph Waltz, who played Blofeld in SPECTRE, said he won’t be returning for Bond 25.

He was interviewed briefly at the Festa del Cinema di Roma and the it was posted on the Facebook page of Talky Movie.

“No,” Waltz replied when asked specifically if he would be in Bond 25. “No, I’m really sad. But that’s the tradition…I would have liked to.”

Potential caveat: Waltz denied he was playing Blofeld more than once before that movie was released in 2015.

Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have announced a 2019 release date for Bond 25. But, at the moment, there’s no distributor in place to actually get the film into theaters.

The Archivo 007 website reported this earlier. I spotted because of a post on Twitter by @Bond25Film.

To view the Talky Movie video of Waltz, CLICK HERE.

Thor: Ragnarok — third time the charm?

Thor: Ragnarok poster

Thor: Ragnarok has begun its international run and will debut in the United States next week. So far, critics have given it their seal of approval, far more than the hero’s two previous installments.

The new movie, with Chris Hemsworth returning as the Norse God of Thunder, has a 95 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the website that collects reviews.

That’s up from the 77 percent fresh rating for 2011’s Thor and the 66 percent for 2013’s Thor: The Dark World.

Thor has a reputation for being one of the stuffier of Marvel’s original comic book heroes. He was powerful, but not tortured the way Bruce Banner/Hulk was. Thor didn’t crack wise the way Peter Parker/Spider-Man did.

A common view among reviewers is Thor: Ragnarok has more humor compared with the earlier installments. Regardless, here’s a look at some non-spoiler excerpts from reviews.

RAFER GUZMAN, NEWSDAY: Thor: Ragnarok “turns down the Shakespearean pretensions, cranks up the humor and delivers what is essentially an action-comedy with swords and capes….It’s a close cousin to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ a high-energy lark that occasionally makes time for monsters, battles, bloodletting and spectacular special effects.”

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE: “Need a quick fix for the bleak dystopian epics flooding the multiplex? Take a hit off the laughing gas rising up out of Thor: Ragnarok, which may be the most fun you’ll ever have at a Marvel movie…As for Hemsworth, who showed his comedy chops in the femcentric Ghostbusters remake, the Australian actor seems liberated by the opportunity to shake off any trace of God-of-Thunder gravitas.”

Thor fights the Thing in a 1968 Fantastic Four comic drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Joe Sinnott.

STEPHANIE ZACHAREK, TIME: “Thor: Ragnarok is boyishly eager to reveal Thor’s goofy likability to us, as if it were something we hadn’t yet cottoned to. Directed by the enormously talented New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, it’s well intentioned but ultimately numbing, an instance of fun overkill whose ultimate goal seems to be to put us into a special-effects coma.”

LINDSEY BAHR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: “The results are pretty decent, though perhaps not the total departure that had been hyped….But it’s a fairly flawed movie on the whole with egregious tonal shifts. Some of the gags go on too long with the Hulk with too little payoff and sometimes it seems as though there’s a mandate that every 25 minutes there will be a big fight no matter what.”

ROE MCDERMOTT, HOT PRESS: “Similarly, the action sequences – though well-executed – are lacking in originality, resulting in an utterly generic offering. You’ll watch, be lightly amused for two hours, and go back to forgetting that Thor exists.”

The man who hired Goldsmith, Williams and others

Stanley Wilson’s title card (along with others) on a first-season episode of Universal’s The Name of the Game

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

The blog’s post this week about the television factory run by MCA Corp.’s Revue Studios (later Universal Television) didn’t have room to get into some details. This post is aimed at remedying that.

One of Revue-Universal’s stalwarts was Stanley Wilson, who ran the music department.

In that capacity, he hired composers who had to work under tight deadlines. Wilson hired some of the best, some of whom would become major film composers.

One of Wilson’s hires was Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004). Goldsmith already had credits at CBS. But the network let him go.

Stanley Wilson’s title card (along with others) on an episode of Thriller, whose composers included Jerry Goldsmith.

Wilson wisely assigned him jobs at Revue-Universal. Some of Goldsmith’s best television work was on the studio’s 1960-62 anthology series Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff. For a 2010 home video release, extras included permitting viewers to listen to Goldsmith’s music only for episodes he scored.

Wilson (whose title was either “musical supervisor” or “music supervisor”) also brought on John Williams to work on the 1960-62 series Checkmate, a detective series created by Eric Ambler. It was one of the earliest credits for Williams. Williams was also hired by Wilson to work on the anthology show Kraft Suspense Theater.

Other notable Wilson hires included Morton Stevens, beginning with an episode of The General Electric Theater. The episode starred Sammy Davis Jr. Stevens worked for Davis as his arranger.

Wilson hired Stevens for the Davis episode of The GE Theater. That began a career switch for Stevens of scoring television shows. That included scoring the pilot for Hawaii Five-O and devising its iconic theme. Stevens also was a major composer on Thriller.

Other Wilson hires included Quincy Jones for the pilot of Ironside (resulting in the creation of another well-known theme) and Dave Grusin on a number of Universal projects. They included the 1968 television movie Prescription: Murder that introduced Lt. Columbo to television audiences.

Jon Burlingame, a journalist who has written extensively about television and film music, had a 2012 article in Variety when Universal named a street on its Southern California lot in honor of Wilson.

“Stanley Wilson Avenue connects Main Street with James Stewart Avenue on the Universal lot, not far from the now-demolished Stage 10 where its namesake conducted literally thousands of hours of music by young composers who would go on to become the biggest names in Hollywood film music,” Burlingame wrote.

On his blog, Burlingame wrote an additional tribute. “Wilson is an unsung hero in the film/TV music business.”

Wilson died in 1970 at the age of 54.