REVIEW: The Rhythm Section (2020)

A poster for The Rhythm Section

With The Rhythm Section, Eon Productions wanted to show what it could do with the spy genre without James Bond.

In terms of craftsmanship, it’s a respectable effort. The photography is good. The actors give it their all. Director Reed Morano shows off multiple locations. The movie also runs less than two hours, almost a rarity these days.

But when it comes to connecting with the audience, not so much.

Blake Lively’s lead character, Stephanie Patrick, has lost her family after an aircraft crash. She has fallen apart, becoming a drug-addicted prostitute.

Patrick finds out the truth and becomes an avenging angel, diving deep into the world of international espionage and terrorism. She goes after one of her targets by pretending to be a prostitute.

The point is to show a diamond in the rough and what she had to accomplish. Stephanie Patrick is more Jason Bourne than James Bond, and a not very confident (at least at first) Bourne figure at that.

By the end of the film, Patrick has become the new Bourne. She evens things out. She’s ready for new adventures by the end of the movie.

Still, it’d be better if there were more audience investment in Patrick’s story.

Some of Eon’s Bond mainstays show up behind the camera. Chris Corbould, a long-time special effects wizard for the Bond series, is present as second unit director, for example.

Hans Zimmer did not do the score. But he gets the first music credit for producing the score. Steve Mazzaro, one of the composers affiliated with Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions, gets the actual “music by” credit.

Nevertheless, parts of the movie’s score resembles Zimmer’s work on Christopher Nolan-directed movies. Zimmer has been announced as composer for No Time to Die, Eon’s newest Bond film.

An anecdote: I was the third person to buy a ticket at my theater for the first showing of The Rhythm Section on Thursday night. One of the two people who bought tickets before me stopped as the end titles were playing.

“It wasn’t so good, was it?” she said.

Not so much. GRADE: C.

The Rhythm Section off to a slow start with critics

A poster for The Rhythm Section

The Rhythm Section, the non-Bond spy movie from Eon Productions, is off to a slow start with critics.

The movie’s score at the Rotten Tomatoes website was at 41 percent based on 34 reviews early Wednesday evening. The movie comes out Friday, with early showings Thursday night.

What follows are non-spoiler excerpts from a few reviews.

RICHARD ROEPER, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: “Despite a game performance by (star Blake) Lively, ‘The Rhythm Section’ is a junk pile of missteps, from the convoluted screenplay that hops from locale to locale in Advil-inducing fashion to the overly stylized directing.”

PETER DEBRUGE, VARIETY: “From the very first scene, audiences should realize that they’re watching a very different type of character. In many ways, (Blake Lively’s Stephanie Patrick is) even less like ‘Atomic Blonde,’ in which Charlize Theron’s meticulously choreographed, unerringly lethal fighting style is fun to watch but pure fantasy…This isn’t an easy role, but Lively aces it.”

PETER BRADSHAW, THE GUARDIAN: “The movie is an interesting mix of Le Carré/Ludlum locations, invoked with jittery, paranoid urgency…The rapport between (Jude) Law and Lively allows the movie both to relax and pick up the pace. (Director Reed) Morano puts together good fight scenes, robust stunt work and tasty car chases. It’s destined to be viewed on a million long-haul flights, but it works perfectly well as a thriller.”

WILLIAM BIBBLANI, THE WRAP: “You know you’ve got a problem when someone in your movie calls the protagonist ‘a cliché’ and there’s no counterargument, ever, at any point in the film…It hardly feels like a story. It’s as though a vague structure somehow got a mind of its own and wandered into cinemas without supervision.”

Marj Dusay dies at 83

Marj Dusay

Marj Dusay, a frequent guest star on U.S. television programs as well as appearing on soap operas, has died at 83, according to Soap Opera Digest.

Dusay appeared in such series as Hawaii Five-O, The Wild Wild West, The FBI, Mannix, Cannon, Barnaby Jones and Get Smart.

She also was in the cast of Spock’s Brain, an infamous episode of the original Star Trek series. The episode is widely seen as among the worst for the 1966-69 series. It was actually penned by one of its best writers, Gene L. Coon, under the pen name Lee Cronin.

In her prime-time roles, Dusay could play both sympathetic or villainous roles. In one of her Five-O appearances, Twenty-Four Karat Kill, she played an undercover federal agent who assists Steve McGarrett in a case. In The Wild Wild West episode The Night of the Kraken, she played the wife of a U.S. admiral who was really one of the villains, along with a character played by Ted Knight.

Dusay was born in Russell, Kansas, according to a biography on her official website. Her IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 90 acting credits.

A No Time to Die reality check

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Adapted, updated and expanded from previous blog posts.

Ben Whishaw, who has played Q for three James Bond films, has told Collider.com that No Time to Die will be a “summing up” of Daniel Craig’s 007 films.

There has been some fan discussion of how the Craig films will now be this five-film epic, something the series had never attempted. Under this idea, No Time to Die will conclude five Bond films, similar to how Avengers: Endgame was the conclusion of more than 20 Marvel Studios movies.

No Time to Die may be presented that way. But this is just a reminder that Craig’s tenure was never planned this way unlike Marvel.

Let’s go back some years.

Sam Mendes said Skyfall “didn’t connect” to Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace: At a November 2011 press conference, Mendes was asked whether Skyfall was related to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

“It’s its own story,” the Skyfall director said of Skyfall. “It doesn’t connect with the last two movies.”

After the fact, things changed.

The filmmakers once told us SPECTRE was passe: Here’s a quote from Barbara Broccoli in a 2012 interview with CRAVE ONLINE:

Barbara Broccoli: I mean, we’ve talked about Blofeld over the years. The thing is Blofeld was fantastic for the time but I think it’s about creating characters that are, villains that are more appropriate for the contemporary world. It’s more exciting for us to create somebody new. (emphasis added)

The filmmakers told us Quantum was better than SPECTRE: Here’s a summary by the JAMES BOND INTERNATIONAL FAN CLUB of an article that originally appeared in SPX magazine.

Interestingly, Wilson and Broccoli told SFX that they have not abandoned the Quantum organisation, but also confirmed that it is not used in ‘Skyfall’. Wilson also revealed that they have the rights to bring back Blofeld and SPECTRE. ‘We believe we can use them. They’re a little dated at the moment. We went for the Quantum organisation, which was more business oriented, trying to corner the market on scarce resources, rather than a criminal organisation that did blackmail and bank robberies…’.

But Wilson’s co-producer Barbara Broccoli added, cautiously, that they needed a little more time to pass before they could go back to ‘extortion and blackmail! The Quantunm organisation does seem far more realistic. (emphasis added)

In 2006’s Casino Royale, the mysterious organization that Bond battled didn’t have a name. In Quantum of Solace, we found out it was called Quantum. In SPECTRE, we learned there was a tie between Quantum and SPECTRE via Mr. White.

The 2013 settlement with the Kevin McClory estate that gave Eon Productions the ability to use SPECTRE was an opportunity. That changed everything,

With SPECTRE, we got a “retcon” (retroactive change in continuity).

I saw a tweet from a fan who wondered whether No Time to Die was SPECTRE Part II. Essentially, many fans are buying into the idea (seemingly voiced by Whishaw in his Collider interview) that No Time to Die is Casino Royale Part V.

None of this means No Time to Die won’t be an entertaining James Bond. Still, let’s not get carried away.

Whishaw says NTTD is a ‘summing up’ of Craig’s Bond films

Publicity still of Ben Whishaw with Daniel Craig in Skyfall

No Time to Die will be a “summing up” of Daniel Craig’s James Bond films, actor Ben Whishaw said in an interview with the Collider website.

“There are strands of all of the films in it, kind of reaching a conclusion,” Whishaw said. No Time to Die is Craig’s fifth Bond movie.

The actor also said director Cary Fukunaga approached the 25th James Bond film “almost” like an independent film and that filming was “quite improvisational.”

Collider interviewed Whishaw at the Sundance Film Festival.

Whishaw joined the Bond film series with 2012’s Skyfall as a younger Q.

UPDATE (9:30 p.m., New York time): Collider posted its video interview of Ben Whishaw to YouTube. Said video is embedded below.

UPDATE (10:20 p.m., New York time): IMDB.com has posted a separate interview with Whishaw. In that interview, the actor says he has completed a three-film Bond contract with No Time to Die.

 

Billie Eilish says No Time to Die song is finished

Billie Eilish, ahead of winning a number of Grammy Awards on Sunday night, said the title song for No Time to Die is finished.

“It’s done,” Eilish said in an interview on the E! cable channel.

She didn’t provide additional details. (Does done mean it’s recorded? Or just written and recording still has to take place?). Eilish did talk about doing a Bond song in general.

“Writing a Bond theme song is like one of, I feel like,  the biggest goals in life” for a musician and songwriter, she said.

Eilish is performing the No Time to Die song and co-wrote it with her brother Finneas O’Connell.

The interview is below. The Bond portion begins at the 1:19 mark.

MGM is leading media acquisition target, CNBC says

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, is the leading acquisition target among media companies as the industry consolidates, CNBC reported.

MGM “has held preliminary talks” with companies including Apple and Netflix “to gauge their interest,” the financial news network said in an online story. CNBC cited two people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Apple held preliminary talks with MGM.

Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions, and MGM control the Bond film franchise. MGM is owned by a group of hedge funds, which acquired MGM out of a 2010 bankruptcy.

MGM may now be worth $10 billion, CNBC said. Besides Bond, it produces television shows for cable networks and streaming services and owns the Epix premium channel.

Netflix has prompted studios including Walt Disney Co. to start their own streaming services. Apple also has established a streaming service and reportedly is looking to add programming.