About that No. 1 spoiler for No Time to Die

No Time to Die poster

YES, there be spoilers. So if you’re spoiler sensitive, stop reading now. This is your last warning. To make what seems like an obvious point to me, spoilers are necessary for this post. I gave this post the most bland title to avoiding giving things away.

No Time to Die wraps up a five-movie arc featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond. It’s a self-contained Bond universe that (mostly) doesn’t concern the previous 20 Eon Productions movies.

Eon Productions got the idea in the middle of the arc (in between Skyfall and SPECTRE). Still, it’s now official these films are their own thing. That’s much the way that Christopher Nolan’s three Batman movies are their own thing, not related to any other Batman films.

Whether Eon wants to admit it or not, the makers of the Bond film series are following the same path set by Fox and Marvel movies featuring Marvel comic book characters

With 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon specifically adapted interconnected storytelling featured in movies made by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios. With No Time to Die, Eon has doubled down on that concept.

2017’s Logan (made by Fox before it was absorbed by Disney), we had the final Hugh Jackman adventure as Logan/Wolverine. In 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, we had the concluding tale of Tony Stark/Iron man (Robert Downey Jr.), ending an arc of more than a decade.

The concept, of course, is The Hero’s Last Stand. The hero falls, but falls heroically. The audience weeps.

When executed well, it works.

To be clear, The Hero’s Last Stand goes back a long time. It was included in genres as diverse as Biblical epics (Samson and Deliah) and Westerns (Ride the High Country and The Shootist). But Bibical movies and Westerns aren’t popular anymore.

But comic book films are.

For example, Tony Stark makes the ultimate sacrifice to save those who matter the most to him. Sound familiar?

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron about to make the ultimate sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame (2019)

You may respond that’s a coincidence. No, it’s not.

The tabloids ran stories in 2018 and 2019 speculating about whether Bond 25 would kill off Craig’s Bond. They also had stories asking whether Eon or Danny Boyle, No Time to Die’s original director wanted to kill Bond off.

The Sun said in August 2018 that Boyle quit because he did not want to kill off Bond. The Daily Star said in April 2019 that it was Boyle who wanted Bond “to die in the arms of returning Bond girl Lea Seydoux in the 25th spy movie Shatterhand.” (Oops.)

Regardless, we now know that somebody did. The notion of Bond dying has been in plain sight for more than three years.

To be sure, movies can have similar themes and still be good. High Noon and Rio Bravo featured western lawmen who were outnumbered by the bad guys. But the two movies had considerably different takes on the same notion.

Many Bond fans despise Marvel films. Many fans are in denial that Bond has been adapting Marvel film concepts (including Eon boss Barbara Broccoli).

Of course, it also works the way around. Both Nolan’s Batman movies and Marvel’s film output have been influenced by Bond. Example: Look at casino scenes in 2012’s Skyfall and 2018’s Black Panther, for example.

Regardless, all still comes down to execution. So how does No Time to Die’s version of The Hero’s Last Stand compare?

When I finally saw it, I’d have to say very well. The ending had been spoiled for me. Not in a, “I stumbled it while surfing the internet” way but hearing it presented to me full on. Nevertheless, watching it for the first time, it felt genuinely emotional.

You may disagree. And that’s fine. The thing is, Bond’s exit in No Time to Die is not brand-new territory.

Non-spoiler NTTD review

No Time to Die logo

This is intended as a very quick review of No Time to Die. No spoilers here but I’m preparing a post that deals with the No. 1 spoiler.

After all this time, was it worth it? Yes, very much so. I am going back and forth whether it’s a B-Plus or A-Minus.

If you’re a fan of Daniel Craig/Bond, you’ll love it. If you don’t care for Craig/Bond, it won’t change your mind.

No Time to Die was in a position to take liberties knowing it would be the last movie featuring Craig, who is adored by Eon boss Barbara Broccoli. Knowing that, you can take more chances. That’s all I will say until later.

The movie is mostly executed extremely well. The score by Hans Zimmer (and Steve Mazzaro) is better than I thought it would be. They even found a way to get Mazzaro into the main titles.

It weaves bits from the title song by Billie Eilish and Finneas throughout. We haven’t experienced that so much since 2006’s Casino Royale, where David Arnold did the score and co-wrote the title song.

As I get older, I tend to appreciate the more talkative scenes more. One of my favorite scenes is when Bond, gone from MI6 for years, goes to M’s office. It’s quite good, with both sides of the conversation getting in their points.

And, for those who were concerned Bond was emasculated in this movie? Well, it didn’t happen. The trailers didn’t give away everything.

The movie mostly moved faster than a film running 163 minutes. It could have tightened some action scenes. But, these days, you can say that about most movies.

Hours after I saw the movie, I began to think about plot holes, questions, etc. But it’s a success when you don’t ponder that during the movie.

My main concern, if you want to call it that, is the movie is too self-referential. To examine that in more detail requires spoilers.

The blog will get to a more spoiler post soon.

Second sampling of NTTD reviews

No Time to Die poster (date affected by COVID-19)

A bunch of No Time to Die reviews came out the same evening as the movie’s world premiere. But some critics didn’t rush their takes out as fast.

So here is a second sampling of reviews. The excerpts contain no spoilers. Make what you will of the excerpts.

JOE MORGENSTERN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: “‘No Time to Die’ is the latest James Bond episode and the last one to star Daniel Craig. His performance elevates—all but ennobles—the dramatic core of an otherwise choppy narrative, a succession of impressive but impersonal action sequences and affecting interludes that lead to a stirring climax.”

LOU AGUILAR, THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR: “The last thing James Bond needs today is feminist input to match every other Hollywoke production. But No Time To Die is full of it – and worse stuff.”

KEVIN MAHRE, THE TIMES: “The film is a huge thundering epic (163 minutes long) expertly directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (of True Detective) and features a couple of audacious stylistic flourishes…It’s visually astonishing too. As filmed by the Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren (La La Land), it is easily the best-looking Bond to date, with each set piece an excuse to frame gorgeous compositions with richly covered lighting.”

A.O. SCOTT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “As someone who grew up in the Roger Moore era, when defiance of every kind of gravity was the hallmark of the series, I have trouble adjusting my eyes to the darkness and the possibility of tears. I don’t entirely trust the emotions that the director (Cary Joji Fukunaga) and the screenwriting committee (Fukunaga, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) put into play, or the weighty themes they reach for.”

K. AUSTIN COLLINS, ROLLING STONE: “It’s to (Daniel) Craig’s professional credit that his performance in No Time to Die, which comes out on October 8th (in the U.S.), bears little sense of that lack of giving a fuck. It wouldn’t fit this movie, which, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, very much carries the weight of culmination.”

Jerry Juroe, one-time Eon publicity man, dies

Cover to Jerry Juroe’s recent book

Charles “Jerry” Juroe, a long-time publicity man whose career included a stint at Eon Productions, has died at 97.

Friends of Juroe, including Doug Redenius of the Ian Fleming Foundation, and Raymond Benson, former Bond novel continuation author, published tributes this week on social media.

Juroe published a book about his career in 2018. Besides Bond, he worked with many others as a publicist including Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles.

In addition, Juroe was a presence on home video documentaries about the Bond film series produced by Eon Productions. His career also included time at United Artists where he worked on non-Bond UA movies such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Jerry Juroe in 1963 working on the UA-released It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

UPDATE: Eon’s official James Bond feed on Twitter acknowledged Juroe’s passing.

Anybody remember ‘Genoma of a Woman’?

If you don’t, it was a thing back in 2019. Genoma of a Woman was supposed to be the title of Bond 25.

Let’s take a look back.

I suppose “trust at your own will” meant “I don’t really know.” But the website got a lot of publicity out of it. That’s how it goes some times.

More than two years later, Genoma of a Woman was throughly discredited as a Bond 25 title.

Did the originator suffer anything? No. He got an invitation to this week’s world premiere of No Time to Die (Bond 25’s actual title). He even to take selfies with director Cary Fukunaga.

OK, I get it that fan sites celebrate characters and actors. But if you put it out there the movie is going to have a ridiculous title, you need to suck it up, admit your mistake and move on.

Clearly, Eon Productions doesn’t care about ethics, accuracy, or any any of that stuff. As long as you say Eon is doing a great job, you, too, can get on the red carpet.

So it goes.

A sampling of No Time to Die Reviews

No Time to Die poster released Sept. 1.

Hours after the premiere of No Time to Die, an embargo for reviews lifted. What follows are excerpts without spoilers.

PETE HAMMOND, DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD: “Bond is back with a vengeance, and that means Daniel Craig taking on the assignment just one more time in a film that proves a fitting finale for the actor who invests the role with more emotion, power, and style in a movie that not only marks a milestone as the 25th time around, but also one not afraid to take some twists, turns, and yes, risks.”

STEVEN WEINTRAUB, COLLIDER (TWEET): No Time to Die “is LOADED with everything you expect in a Bond film but also has a lot of surprises. Was on the edge of my seat for like half the movie. You def want to have the events of #Spectre fresh in your mind before watching. Loved Daniel Craig as James Bond. Great sendoff.”

PETER BRADSHAW, THE GUARDIAN: “(C)raig’s final film as the diva of British intelligence is an epic barnstormer, with the script from Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge delivering pathos, action, drama, camp comedy …heartbreak, macabre horror, and outrageously silly old-fashioned action in a movie which calls to mind the world of Dr. No on his island. Director Cary Fukunaga delivers it with terrific panache, and the film also shows us a romantic Bond, an uxorious Bond, a Bond who is unafraid of showing his feelings, like the old softie he’s turned out to be.”

SCOTT MENDELSON, FORBES.COM: “Yes, it’s a better 007 film than Spectre, and yes, it’s a better series finale (relatively speaking) than The Rise of Skywalker, but if anything, the two years of release-date delays may have helped the film. In October 2021, critics and audiences may be so thirsty for water that they’ll drink the sand, and frankly I don’t entirely blame them/us. Had this film opened in late 2019 or early 2020, it would have paled in comparison to other series finales and other ‘take stock in our legacy’ sequels that opened around that time.”

MIKE REYES: CINEMA BLEND: “With a runtime that is nearly three hours, No Time To Die’s story gets off to a rousing start and doesn’t let up. In the run up to its debut, there have been promises that the Daniel Craig era of films was going to have a proper ending, tying together the five movie saga in an epic conclusion. That claim has absolutely been fulfilled, as the usual franchise antics are mixed in with a story that very much has history, especially Casino Royale, firmly in mind.”

BRIAN LOWRY, CNN: “After 25 movies over 60 years, billing a James Bond adventure as the end of something requires a certain leap of faith. Still, Daniel Craig’s yeoman service comes to its conclusion with ‘No Time to Die,’ a big and length-wise bloated epic that includes the desired bells and whistles, which, despite its flaws, should buy the movie considerable goodwill from an audience that has waited (and waited) for it.”

Bond 26 questions: The (eventual) search for a new Bond

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions were interviewed on a BBC Radio show on Sept. 27. The duo indicated they weren’t in a hurry to find a successor for Daniel Craig as James Bond.

“We’re not thinking about it at all,” Broccoli said, according to a Variety summary of the interview. “We want Daniel to have his time of celebration. Next year we’ll start thinking about the future.”

Naturally, the blog has questions.

How seriously should we take these remarks?

In general, a CEO always is supposed to be thinking about the future. Barbara Broccoli certainly qualifies as a CEO.

On the one hand, there are signs that Broccoli has at least thought about a post-Craig future for Eon’s Bond film series.

No Time To Die director Cary Fukunaga told Total Film that he had a meeting with Broccoli before he was named to helm the 25th James Bond film.

“At that point Daniel said he wasn’t doing another one, so we spit-balled all the potential new Bonds – that was exciting,” Fukunaga said in that interview.

On the other hand, there are signs that Broccoli is really, really reluctant to let go of Craig. “I’m sort of in denial,” she said in the BBC interview. “I would love for Daniel to continue forever.”

Personally, I take her at her word. She is not anxious to move on from Craig.

Will the search (whenever it starts) be complicated?

Searching for a Bond actor is never easy. The next search will have additional complications.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, has agreed to be acquired by Amazon. But that deal hasn’t been completed and is subject to regulatory review.

It remains to be seen what Amazon will do with MGM assuming the deal goes through. Eon likes some current MGM film executives and has lobbied for Amazon to keep them on board.

Regardless, assuming Amazon completes the deal, that will be an additional piece of complication.

What’s more, Eon has its own issues. Wilson turns 80 next year. There are popular fan theories that he may retire after No Time to Die. Who knows whether that’ll be the case. Still a new Bond isn’t the only succession issue facing Eon.

Details about Horowitz’s 3rd Bond novel emerge

The Ian Fleming Publications 007 logo

Some details about Anthony Horowitz’s third James Bond novel have emerged via HarperCollins’ website.

HarperCollins lists the novel as “Unti Bond #3.” Here’s part of the description from the publisher:

Iconic spy 007 must pose as a double agent to infiltrate a secret Soviet intelligence organization planning an attack on the West—and face off against a man who could be the most diabolical enemy he’s ever encountered—in internationally bestselling author Anthony Horowitz’s third James Bond novel.

The Soviet counterintelligence agency SMERSH may be defeated, but a new organization, Stalnaya Ruska, has arisen from its ashes. Under Moscow’s direction, the group is planning a major act of terrorism which, if successful, will destabilize relations between East and West.

Returning from Jamaica and his encounter with Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun), James Bond ponders his future. He is aware of a world that is changing all too rapidly around him. The old certainties of the early postwar years are gone. Disdain for the establishment is rising, and the intelligence services are no longer trusted. Bond is beginning to wonder if his “license to kill” is still valid.

But the threat to the free world remains all too real, and now 007 has a new assignment: discover what Stalnaya Ruska is planning and prevent it from happening. To succeed, Bond will have to make the Russians believe he’s a double agent and travel behind the Iron Curtain.

First though, he will have to convince Sonya Dragunova, the Soviet psychiatric analyst as brilliant—and as dangerous—as she is beautiful. Sonya knows more of what’s happening in Bond’s mind than he does himself. She’s also hiding secrets of her own. It’s a love affair that is also a treacherous game.

Sonya’s boss is a man who has previously played his part to bring Bond and the West down behind the scenes in two previous Bond novels—but who has never yet appeared, until now. A Fleming creation, the evil genius responsible for Stalnaya Ruka just may be Bond’s most dangerous enemy yet.

Horowitz previously penned Trigger Mortis (2015), which took place after the events of Goldfinger, and Forever and a Day (2018), set before Casino Royale, the first Bond novel by Ian Fleming.

Both books incorporated previously unpublished material by Fleming.

Ian Fleming Publications commissioned a number of novels by John Gardner and Raymond Benson from 1981 to 2002. Starting in 2008, IFP had a series of one-offs. With Horowitz’s arrival, IFP has gone with the author on “adult” Bond novels.

UPDATE: John Cox of The Book Bond site says “FYI, Anthony Horowitz confirmed this is a leak and should not be online. I took mine down.”

The thing is, things don’t work that way. As of 7:15 p.m. New York time, the release is STILL ON HARPERCOLLINS WEBSITE.

The horse is out of the barn, the toothpaste is out of the tube, etc. I’m not taking this post down.

No Time to Die becomes reality this week

No Time to Die teaser poster

After an almost six-year wait, the 25th James Bond film made by Eon Productions becomes a reality this week.

No Time to Die, after many, many hiccups (to put it kindly), will be seen by its first audiences this week.

The official premiere is Sept. 28 in London. There will be other showings in other countries. At long last, Daniel Craig’s Bond farewell will be seen by audiences.

The project was announced on July 24, 2017, with no distributor, no director, and even no star. The only creative crew attached were writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

Daniel Craig, who had starred in the previous four Bond films, finally said on the Aug. 15, 2017 telecast of The Late Show on CBS that he was coming back. Earlier in the day, in radio station interviews, he claimed nothing had been decided.

“No decision has been made at the moment,” Craig told Magic 106.7 at the time. “There’s a lot of noise out there. Nothing official has been confirmed. I’m not like holding out for more money or doing anything like that.”

Since then, the radio stations took down the original links to the interviews. Evidently, radio stations are low on the media totem pole and there are no problems with lying to them.

No Time to Die (as the movie eventually would be titled) went through many rewrites. Besides Purvis and Wade, the likes of Scott Z. Burns, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and director Cary Fukunaga took a whirl at the script.

Also don’t forget for a time that John Hodge was supposed to be the main writer. He and Danny Boyle, the first announced director, had pitched an idea. A script in development for a year was set aside when Boyle and Hodge (supposedly) had a great idea that wowed Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

Then, all of a sudden, the Boyle-Hodge take was found wanting. Members of FOE (Friends of Eon) tried to reassure fans everything was still on track.

Except it wasn’t. The original fall 2019 release date got pushed back to February 2020 and then April 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused further delays. Fall 2020. Spring 2021. Finally, the impending fall 2021 dates.

Nevertheless, Bond is a hard man to put down. Bond never conquered COVID. But he’s coming out this week in the U.K. (and elsewhere) as well as North America next week.

No Time to Die was conceived during the pre-pandemic era. That’s when expensive movies were brought out by studios. If audiences liked them, a box office of $1 billion was possible. No Time to Die, which had production spending approaching $300 million, sought that target.

The new Bond film is coming out in a new world. Maximum movie box office achievement is well below $1 billion.

Maybe Bond can change that. But, personally, I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Regardless, Bond fans are excited. And they should be. The gentlemen agent is back after a long hiatus.

Will this be a “cinematic masterpiece” in the words of Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli? That’s up to the audience.

The fact is, the audience finally gets a chance to judge. The hype is over. Let’s see how it goes.

Al Harrington, Five-O stalwart, dies at 85

Al Harrington in a 1996 special on Hawaii television

Al Harrington, who was a regular cast member on the original Hawaii Five-O series, died Sept 21 after suffering a stroke, according to Legacy.com.

Harrington played detective Ben Kokua during the fifth through seventh seasons. Harrington was a local entertainer who was hired by Leonard Freeman, the creator and executive producer of the series. Harrington had played criminals in earlier Five-O seasons.

According to Memories of Hawaii, a special that ran on Hawaiian television in 1996, Harrington ran afoul of star Jack Lord.

“He felt I was maybe too tall…I was too something,” Harrington said on the special. The actor said Freeman was committed to his choice.

However, Freeman died in 1974. “Then after Leonard died, the writing was on the wall, that I wasn’t going to be there much longer,” Harrington said.

The actor continued as an entertainer. He was cast in a recurring part in the 2010 Hawaii Five-0 (the O became a 0).

Harrington was born in December 1935 in American Samoa. He played running back for Stanford University, where he graduated in 1958. Harrington also performed Polynesian dancing on the side.

Harrington appeared in an episode of To Tell the Truth. He and two impostors fooled the four-person panel. Harrington also performed a sword dance.