1995: 007 convention, the sequel

Program for the 1995 James Bond convention in New York. Image courtesy of Steve Oxenrider.

Program for the 1995 James Bond convention in New York. Image courtesy of Steve Oxenrider.

In November 1995, James Bond was about to end a six-year hiatus from the screen in GoldenEye. So, a few days before its U.S. premiere, the second — and final — James Bond convention produced by Creation Entertainment was held in New York.

On Nov. 12, 1995, fans again traveled at attend an officially sanctioned 007 convention. The new Bond, Pierce Brosnan, put in an appearance as did other members of the cast.

What follows are by no means the only highlights. But they may be interesting to those who couldn’t make it.

Bond quiz: Like the 1994 convention in Los Angeles, the 1995 edition featured a “beat the experts” session. Audience members tried to outfox a panel of 007 experts for fun and prizes.

I was among those who gave it a try. My question: Name the three Bond movies where Bond didn’t don a tuxedo.

After conferring, the panel answered You Only Live Twice and Live And Let Die but that there was no third film.

I replied something to the effect, “To that list you have to add From Russia With Love, where it’s Bond’s double who wears the tuxedo but not Bond.”

There was a momentary dispute but the moderator said I got the prize. He quickly grabbed a pair of 007 boxer shorts. I hesitated.

“Are you man enough?” the host asked. As a result, I came up and claimed the prize.

Screenwriter question: At one point, the schedule had to be altered on the fly. So, Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson and writer Bruce Feirstein came out to take audience questions.

Earlier that year, writer Donald E. Westlake, in a column in The Indianapolis News, said he was writing the next Bond film after GoldenEye. It was the only place I had ever seen that news. So I got in line to ask about it.

My memory is that Feirstein was the first to talk, looking at Wilson and asking, “He is?” Wilson’s said something to the effect that Westlake might end up writing for Bond some day.

Many years later, more details have emerged about the late author’s Bond writing effort, which is to be issued as a novel with Bond removed from the proceedings.

The new Bond: Pierce Brosnan, naturally, was the star attraction. Anticipation for his appearance had been building throughout the afternoon. At one point in the program, the GoldenEye titles were shown.

By the time Brosnan appeared, fans came were ready with more than just good wishes. They came with presents. Lots of presents. The pile of presents grew and grew the longer Brosnan spoke.

One can only guess what Brosnan was feeling. The role had almost been his nine years earlier. Now, he had it. The convention was a reminder there’s a whole lot more that accompanies playing James Bond that just a (hefty) paycheck.

Then it was over. For whatever reason, Creation Entertainment didn’t produce future Bond conventions. Bond was back, however. The two conventions had done what they were intended to do, helping revive interest in Agent 007.

An image of the New York convention is below. Thanks to reader Steven Oxenrider who provided it.


Schedule for the 1995 007 convention, image courtesy of Steve Oxenrider.

Schedule for the 1995 007 convention, image courtesy of Steve Oxenrider.


BvS unlikely to join $1B club, may not match SPECTRE

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

We’ve mostly written about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because how it illustrates the expectations game among major movies.

Anyway, the movie is in its fourth weekend of release and it’s now expected Batman v Superman won’t the $1 billion club for worldwide box office — something that had been widely predicted before its release last month. BvS may not match the global box office of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film.

In the U.S. and Canada, BvS is projected to finish this weekend with about $9 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie is coming in at No. 4 for the weekend.

The movie’s cumulative totals are $311.3 million for U.S.-Canada and $827.3 million worldwide.

Most studios would would kill for those kinds of worldwide numbers. But Warner Bros. had higher hopes for the first joint appearance in movies of DC Comics’ two most famous characters. To provide a little 007 context, Batman v Superman may not match match SPECTRE’s $880.6 million worldwide box office.

The editor of the BoxOfficeGuru.com website said the movie is just about done.

On Twitter, two writers for The Hollywood Reporter did a quick analysis.

Batman v Superman: When being No. 1 isn’t enough

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice shows that these days being No. 1 isn’t enough — it’s by how big a margin and how you compare against expectations.

The Warner Bros. superhero movie was No. 1 at the U.S.-Canadian box office for the second weekend in a row. But its box office performance for the April 1-3 weekend plunged 68 percent to $52.4 million, VARIETY REPORTED.

Typically, movies fall off about 50 percent or so from their first weekend to the second. It should also be noted that Batman v Superman’s $166 million first weekend was fattened up with $27.7 million in Thursday night showings.

Still, a decline of almost 70 percent isn’t good news anytime it occurs. Pamela McClintock, senior film writer for The Hollywood Reporter, added more perspective in a tweet on Saturday:

So, yes, in its second weekend, Batman v Superman ($250 million production budget) didn’t do as well as the R-rated, much more modestly budgeted Deadpool ($58 million) did during the Feb. 19-21 weekend.

Variety’s Brent Lang explained why this is bad news for Warner Bros.

“The major problem facing the studio is it doesn’t just need “Batman v Superman” to be a hit, it needs it to be so fervently embraced that fans will show up to see sequels and spin-offs for years to come,” Lang wrote. “The film is intended to kick off an interconnected cinematic universe of DC Comics characters that Warner Bros. hopes will rival what Marvel has achieved with the Avengers films.”

BvS brushes off bad reviews, has $166M opening

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

UPDATE III (March 28): Actual U.S.-Canada weekend figures came in on Monday, March 28 for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The haul was a few million less but still large, at $166 million, according to Exhibitor Relations.

That means the movie was the seventh-best opening weekend of all time and No. 2 Warner Bros. opening, with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part II retaining the crown at $169.2 million.

ORIGINAL POST (March 27): For Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, all the bad reviews were like bullets bouncing off Superman’s chest. The superhero movie had an estimated opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada of $170.1 million.

It was the sixth-best opening weekend of all time, unadjusted for inflation, entertainment research and data company Exhibitor Relations said in a post on Twitter.  It was also the biggest Warner Bros. opening ever, Exhibitor Relations said.

The development was a welcome piece of good news for Warner Bros. The studio had a terrible 2015 at the box office, so having any hit would be a relief. However, Batman v Superman also represents the studio’s attempt to catch up to rival Marvel Studios and its extended fictional universe of superhero films.

Batman v Superman specifically sets up a Justice League movie scheduled to go into production next month for a November 2017 release.

The Justice League of America is DC Comics equivalent to Marvel’s Avengers super hero group. (The JLA was first and was a revamp of an even earlier group, the Justice Society of America.) Marvel has produced its own movies since 2008, including Avengers films in 2012 and 2015.

Batman v Superman, besides its title characters, includes Wonder Woman as well as cameo appearances by other characters who’ll be part of the Justice League.

The movie had some setbacks. It originally was set to come out in July 2015. Warners pushed it back to May 2016 but retreated after Marvel announced it was going to have the third Captain America movie in the same date.

That film ended up being Captain America: Civil War, which is almost like another Avengers film and will bring Spider-Man into Marvel’s film universe for the first time.

Then, came the reviews. Batman v Superman received so many pans, it has a 29 percent rating (as of this morning) on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Variety has estimated Batman v Superman will need worldwide ticket sales of $800 million to break even. Given all the hype, it probably needs a $1 billion box office to be seen as a success. People likely be watching carefully how much next weekend’s box office falls off for BvS.

Regardless, after all the setbacks, Warner Bros. executives presumably are breathing easier about the expensive movie.

UPDATE: Batman v Superman’s estimated worldwide box office currently is $424.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

UPDATE II (7:50 p.m., New York time): Warner Bros. executives took a victory lap later Sunday, including a quote about there’s “a disconnect between critics and audiences,” according to ComicBookMovie.com.

BvS: Dark and somber, but what’d you expect?

Henry Cavill after reading the latest Batman v Superman reviews

Henry Cavill after reading the latest Batman v Superman reviews

One vague spoiler awaits. There will be a warning.

Well, nobody should have been surprised.

Throughout the production of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the makers talked about how their story was real. Very real. And very serious. If you ever wanted to know what the real world would be like with superheroes, this movie would let you know.

Director Zack Snyder, a disciple of Christopher Nolan and his somber style of film making, even did some trashing talking of Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man, an escapist superhero film that was a decent hit in the summer of 2015.

After two changes in its release date, Batman v Superman is out. This time, movie critics were doing the trash talking, causing Snyder’s film to have a “fresh” rating of only 30 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website. You have to have a lot of pans to get a score that low.

A recurring criticism is the movie is dour and dark. The San Francisco Examiner’s reviewer says “everything is shrouded in a kind of black sludge.”

Again, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Snyder directed 2013’s Man of Steel (with Nolan co-producing and co-plotting) where the costume of Superman (Henry Cavill) has such dark shades of blue, red and yellow it looks as if the uniform actually is dirty.

Vague spoiler follows.

To give Man of Steel more intellectual heft, there is some religious imagery. (Filmmakers often look to the Bible and Shakespeare to add gravitas to their efforts.)

Snyder continues that in Batman v Superman to the point it seems like opening on Easter weekend was planned all along, even though it wasn’t.

The thing is, the movie isn’t as bad as some of the reviews suggest. Not the biggest endorsement, admittedly but it’s the best we can do.

Ben Affleck is good as Batman, even if this version shows signs of finally going off his rocker for good. Ditto for Jeremy Irons as Alfred. The blog’s favorite moment is when Alfred reminds his employer that it was Bruce Wayne, acting almost like a spy, who got a key piece of information rather than Batman punching out a lot of guys.

Cavill is fine in what’s an almost thankless role because this seems more like a Batman film with Superman as a supporting player rather than co-leading character.

The filmmakers did experiment with Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), making him much younger than previous incarnations. Think an evil Mark Zuckerberg (played by Eisenberg in The Social Network). The results are uneven but it was an attempt on a different take. I thought the Gal Godot version of Wonder Woman was a plus, but again it’s definitely a supporting character. Overall, at 151 minutes, it’s too long but better superhero movies have the same fault.

Warner Bros. has a lot riding on the movie as it tries to get competitive with Marvel in superhero films. Despite the reviews, Batman v Superman generated $27.7 million in Thursday night showings in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Deadline: Hollywood website.

Batman v Superman needs a $1 billion global box office to be seen as a success, so Warner executives had to be pleased with the results despite the baby seal treatment by the critics.

UPDATE: It turns out Snyder did, well, pee on one key part of the Superman mythos. The Spy Commander missed it, but New York magazine’s Vulture website caught it. If you want to see what, or who, it was click on the link.

Critics get out the knives for Batman v Superman

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

As Jack Benny used to say, “Well!”

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Warner Bros. answer to Marvel Studios’ extended superhero franchise opens Friday. It’s not going over well with critics — at all. The movie has a 37 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website (as of 6 p.m. Wedneday, New York time) that collects reviews.

But it’s not just the low rating. Critics who’ve attended advance showings apparently have been inspired to rip the film with Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman.

So, here’s a non-spoiler sampling of the pans along with some praise.

A.O. SCOTT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: ” Intellectual pretension, long an occupational hazard in the superhero business, has been elevated to a creative principle. …(Director Zack) Snyder, for his part, deploys signifiers of importance without having anything much to say.”

SOREN ANDERSEN, THE SEATTLE TIMES: “The powers that be at Warner gave director Zack Snyder (“Man of Steel,” “300”) a budget of $250 million, according to published reports, and what he has given in return is a movie that treats the audience as an enemy, a victim.”

LAWRENCE TOPPMAN, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: “The score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL reaches the decibel level of a departing 767, the fireballs quadruple in size and frequency…And the story, like the testicles of a weightlifter on steroids, dwindles away to nothing.”

DUSTIN PUTMAN: THEFILMFILE.COM: “By understanding the massively damaging events in “Man of Steel” should be tackled head-on rather than swept under the rug, director Zack Snyder has made a suggestive, blemished, but ultimately superior follow-up, a work worth deconstructing and pondering.”
COLIN COLVERT, MINNEAPOIS STAR TRIBUNE: “They should have called it “Batmeh v Supermeh. Running 153 minutes, with a swollen budget of $250 million, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is pure overpriced, overproduced, overlong pulp. It is an interesting idea of a film created by people who have no earthly idea how to do it.”
NICHOLAS BARBER, BBC: “Snyder and his team have taken their Batman from the pages of Frank Miller’s game-changing graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, and as a result they get just about everything right, from Wayne’s banter with his prickly butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons), to the sleek-yet-sturdy Batmobile.”

Veteran TV writer featured in NPR feature story

morning edition logo

NPR’s Morning Edition on March 8 ran A FEATURE STORY about the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement community and one of the interview subjects was a writer who kept busy on U.S. television.

Anthony Lawrence lives at the retirement community. His credits include nine episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O series, starting with the second season and running through the sixth.

On Five-O, Lawrence often penned stories that had unhappy endings. Among them was a two-part story, Three Dead Cows at Makapuu. In it, an idealistic scientist — who has gone missing after working on the U.S.’s germ warfare program — decides the only way to get the world’s attention is to unleash a potent sample that will wipe out all life on Oahu.

Eventually, the scientist (Ed Flanders) changes his mind and sacrifices himself to prevent the catastrophe. Lawrence, over the course of his career, wrote in various genres, including Westerns such as three Bonanza episodes that told the back story of each of Ben Cartwright’s three wives.

Here’s an excerpt of the text version of the NPR story as it relates to Lawrence:

More recently, a meeting at the campus was almost movielike: TV writer Tony Lawrence, 87, moved to the campus 11 years ago with his wife, Nancy, who had Alzheimer’s. They had been married 50 years when she died. “And that’s why it was so astonishing and such a miracle to find … someone like Madi in my life,” he says.

Madi is Madeline Smith, 75, a former NBC administrative assistant who moved to the campus in 2014. A year later, she and Lawrence got married in the rose garden. On the couch in their small cottage, the newlyweds sit so close together you couldn’t fit a piece of paper between them. This is what, in showbiz, you’d call a happy ending. Especially since neither wanted to move here.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, this is a bunch of old people. I don’t want to live here,’ ” Smith recalls

“Of course, everybody says that before they come here,” Lawrence adds. But then you arrive and, as Lawrence puts it, “You find out you’re one of the old people.”

To view the entire NPR story, CLICK HERE. To listen to the audio, CLICK HERE.