M:I-Fallout gets some love from critics

A clapperboard from Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Mission: Impossible-Fallout is getting some positive reviews two weeks ahead of its release.

The sixth M:I film starring Tom Cruise and released by Paramount is due out the last weekend of this month.

It was a hectic production, which included Cruise breaking his ankle during a stunt. But the early reviews are mostly complimentary.

Here are some non-spoiler excerpts:

ROBERT ABELE, THE WRAP: “In the shootout phase of international action franchise competition, then, “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” has decidedly zinged one past all caped defenders with a rousing, silly-serious, old-fashioned humdinger that could make a whole audience of veteran action stars nod slowly, wide-eyed, and say, “I remember those days, but I never worked that hard.”

RAFER GUZMAN, NEWSDAY: “Yet here is Cruise, 56, performing some of the most impressive feats of derring-do ever captured on screen….Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, on his second “M:I” film, keeps this elaborate machine purring like a luxury sedan with only the occasional misfire. The plot gets so tangled in mental chess and double deceits that the characters often sound like internet conspiracy theorists (“Don’t you see? This is the trap!”).”

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “The plot may be as indecipherable as The Big Sleep, but the action is insane in this sixth installment of Mission: Impossible. Loaded with extended sequences that show Tom Cruise doing what look like real — and really dangerous — stunts all over central Paris and London…writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s second outing on the series tops what he did with Cruise three years ago with Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.”

PETER DEBRUGE, VARIETY: “(Tom Cruise character Ethan) Hunt himself has acquired a gravitas along the way that distinguishes the series from its most obvious inspiration, the James Bond movies of the 1960s, back when Sean Connery was that franchise’s first and only star. Now playing to an audience who’s forgotten (if it ever realized) that these films were inspired by a knockoff TV series from the same era, “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” isn’t just another stunt-driven save-the-world bonanza.”

KEITH UHLICH, SLANT MAGAZINE: ” It would help if there was a single character worth caring about…The real fallout here is that everyone’s a zero.”

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Bond 25 has new production designer, fan publication says

Bond 25 will have a new production designer, with incumbent Dennis Gassner not returning, James Bond-magasinet said, citing comments made at the opening of the 007 Elements museum in Austria.

“Dennis Gassner is not doing the production design on Bond 25,” the publication said in an Instagram post. “The new production designer is Mark Tildesley. The news was confirmed by art director Neal Callow at the opening for @007elements.”

Gassner told International Cinematographers Guild Magazine last year that he was “about to do my fourth James Bond film.” Gassner took over from Peter Lamont starting with 2008’s Quantum of Solace through 2015’s SPECTRE.

However, that was before Danny Boyle emerged as Bond 25’s director earlier this year. Tildesley has been production designer on Boyle-directed movies such as 28 Days Later and T2 Trainspotting.

When the 007 film series began, Eon Productions had regular crew members such as Ken Adam (production designer), Peter Hunt (film editor) and Ted Moore (director of photography). When Adam was unavailable for From Russia With Love, art director Syd Cain essentially took over.

In recent decades, Eon has deferred selections for key posts to the directors it hired. That has been the case with directors of photography for years. Now, that trend is spreading to other posts. Thomas Newman, for example, scored Skyfall and SPECTRE because he was director Sam Mendes’ choice.

UPDATE (3 p.m. eastern time): Other fan groups have posted on social media while not mentioning the production designer news. Apparently, today was a press event at 007 Elements. The actual opening is July 12.

MI6 Confidential examines Horowitz, other topics

Anthony Horowitz

MI Confidential No. 46, the publication’s newest issue, looks at 007 continuation author Anthony Horowitz and other topics.

According to the publication’s website, Horowitz, among all the Bond continuation authors, was the only one who “had the privilege and challenge of integrating original and unused (Ian) Fleming material.

“After doing so successfully in 2015 (with Trigger Mortis), Anthony Horowitz was invited to reprise this role for ‘Forever and a Day’, released this May.”

MI6 Confidential said it spoke with Horowtiz about research and the  “enormity of the task of integrating his timeline with Fleming’s.”

Other articles in No. 46 include Steven Cole discussing his six years of writing the Young Bond book series.

For more information, CLICK HERE. To order, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $9.50 and 8.50 euros.

1966: Dick Van Dyke takes on the spy craze

Title card for The Man From My Uncle

In the 1960s, many television shows did a take on the spy craze. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66), one of the most acclaimed U.S. situation comedies, was no exception.

Near the end of its run, CBS aired “The Man From My Uncle.” It has references to both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (near the peak of its popularity) and James Bond films. Amusingly, the episode doesn’t actually have spies.

Nevertheless, a nameless U.S. agency (resembling the FBI) asks Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore) for the use of their house to conduct a surveillance in their New Rochelle, New York, neighborhood.

The lead agent is Harry Bond (Godfrey Cambridge). Given this is 1966, the significance of agent Bond’s name is obvious when Rob looks at the agent’s identification.

ROB: Bond? Harry Bond? Hey, you’ve got the same last name…

BOND: Yeah. Please no jokes. I’m not 007.

Something similar happens a few moments later when Laura meets the government man.

LAURA: Bond? Isn’t that the name of….

Rob stops her before things get too far.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Rob was the head writer for a leading variety television program. The Dick Van Dyke Show was an early sitcom which depicted its lead character at both home and at work.

As a result, in this story, Rob is nervous and excited that a government man is working out of his home. Rob’s anxiety around Harry Bond is the source of much of the humor of the episode.

Harry Bond’s quarry is a criminal who has a relative living in Rob’s neighborhood. Suffice to say, the feds eventually get their man despite Rob’s offers of assistance.

At the end of the episode, Rob speaks into what he thinks is his son’s walkie talkie.

ROB: Hello, Thrush? This is agent Triple-oh-nine. If you do not release our agents immediately, we will activate our atomic de-activator and blow up your tonsils. Do you read me there, Thrush?

BOND: This is Thrush.

ROB (embarrassed): Hi, Thrush.

BOND (bemused): We read you and will release all your agents if you just stop playing with our equipment.

ROB: Mr. Bond, I’m sorry. I thought this was my son’s.

BOND: That’s all right, Triple-oh-nine. We’ll be right in.

For those not familiar with U.N.C.L.E., Thrush was the villainous organization of that 1964-68 series.

Godfrey Cambridge’s title card for The Man From My Uncle

Trivia: The Man From My Uncle was written by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson. While mostly known for writing comedy, the duo also wrote an episode of the hour-long drama I Spy that same season.

Sheldon Leonard was the executive producer of both The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Spy. Marshall and Belson later developed Neil Simon’s play The Odd Couple into a television series.

Marshall (1934-2016) later became a director of such films as Pretty Woman and The Princess Dairies.

Godfrey Cambridge died in 1976 in the TV production Victory at Entebbe, where he was playing Ugandan president Idi Amin. He was replaced by Julius W. Harris, who had portrayed Tee Hee in Live And Let Die.

Meanwhile, you can view The Man From My Uncle below (at least as long as YouTube doesn’t yank it).

Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man, dies at 90

Steve Ditko’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man 33

Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man and a key member of the Marvel Comics “bullpen” of the 1960s, has died at 90, TMZ reported.

Ditko was found dead in his New York apartment on June 29, TMZ said. The website said the chief medical examiner listed the cause of death as “arteriosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease — basically, a heart attack brought on by clogged arteries.”

The Hollywood Reporter, in a separate obituary, said Ditko may have died two days earlier.

Ditko co-created Spider-Man with writer-editor Stan Lee. He took over the assignment after artist Jack Kirby had taken on the project. Ditko drew, and later took plotting credit for, the earliest Spider-Man stories, lasting from 1962 into 1966.

The character has been the subject of six movies from 2002 to 2017, with another set for 2019. He also appeared in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and this year’s Avengers: Infinity War.

Nerdy Hero

Spider-Man’s true identity was nerdy teenager Peter Parker. While other heroes were admired, Spider-Man was feared, thanks to publisher J. Jonah Jameson. Parker had to worry about making ends meet for himself and his aunt May.

Things happened to Ditko’s Spider-Man that other heroes didn’t experience.  In Amazing Spider-Man No. 25 (the first to carry a Ditko plot credit) Spidey was forced to ditch his primary costume. But Aunt May also found his spare costume.

Peter came up with an explanation but May kept the costume. In the next issue, Peter buys a costume but it gets stretched out. He’s forced to use his webbing to keep it in place.

Memorable Sequence

One of Ditko’s most-remembered Spider-Man sequences Amazing Spider-Man No. 33. the climatic installment of a three-issue story arc. Spidey is underneath “tons of fallen steel” while a serum Aunt May needs “laying just out of reach.”

The artist used the first five pages to depict Peter working up the strength to lift the steel. The final page was a full-page panel where Spider-Man finally throws off the steel.

In later interviews, Stan Lee acknowledged the idea was Dikto’s. Lee likened his scripting to doing a crossword puzzle to come up with the right dialogue and captions for the moment.  The sequence was adapted in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Dr. Strange as drawn by Steve Ditko

Ditko also created Dr. Strange, who had his own Marvel film in 2016 and who also appeared in Avengers: Infinity War. The artist also also helped to revamp the Hulk when that character (created by Lee and Jack Kirby) got revived in the mid-1960s (in Tales to Astonish) after an initial comic title of his own was canceled after six issues.

In the 1960s, Ditko’s politics were far different, and much more conservative, than his many college-age fans. The artist was an admirer of author Ayn Rand, and that influenced much of his post-Marvel comic book work with characters such as Mr. A.

‘J.D. Salinger of Comic Books’

Ditko was known for being a recluse. Writer J.M. DeMatteis once called him ” the J.D. Salinger of comic books.”

In 2007, British television show host Jonathan Ross reported a documentary about the artist. The program went into detail about how much Ditko extensive contributions to the early Spider-Man and Dr. Strange stories.

The show’s climax was Ross finally getting in to see Ditko (with the assistance of writer Neil Gaiman), but that moment took place off-camera. “It was quite magical, actually,” Gaiman says on the documentary. “It was really, really cool.”

Ditko abruptly quit Marvel after clashes with Lee. He’d eventually return but it wasn’t the same as his 1960s stint.

As news of Ditko’s death spread, there were tributes by comics professionals influenced by the artist’s creativity.

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007 collectibles then and now: From kids to old guys

James Bond lunchbox seen around U.S. school yards, circa 1965-66

In the mid-1960s, there was no doubt. James Bond — suave ladies man with a license to kill — was being marketed to American school children.

Gilbert marketed a series of James Bond figures that included backgrounds based on the 007 films produced by Eon Productions.

Among the figures:

–James Bond being menaced by Goldfinger’s laser beam. Or, as it was phrased on a home video extra, the “most famous near castration in cinema history.”

–M’s desk with a sheet of bullet-resistant glass that came up from the desk, presumably based on Ian Fleming’s final 007 novel, The Man With the Golden Gun, where bullet-resistant glass came down from the ceiling.

–A small model of Dr. No’s “dragon,” a small figure of the Disco Volante from Thunderball.

Some of the 007 Gilbert figures

I know this because I had that Gilbert set. My late father explained the significance of the bullet-resistance glass in M’s desk and how it worked in the novels. The set didn’t survive my childhood. Kids, after all, tend to be destructive when it comes to toys.

There was also, during this time, a James Bond lunch box. I never had that. But I saw it in school.

Almost 60 years later, things have changed. New 007 collectibles aren’t really aimed at kids. They’re intended for middle-aged (or older) men who have enough money to afford them.

The newest example will debut officially later month — a Lego Aston Martin DB5. It’s to be unveiled at a July 18 event at a Lego store in London. Images have leaked out and it may sell for about $170.

People have told me via social media that, of course, Bond can’t be aimed at kids. Bond, after all, has that license to kill and there’s no way it could ever, ever be marketed to young audiences.

Except, of course, it once was. But that’s how it goes.

All this may reflect the aging of the Bond audience. The people most likely to plunk down $170 (or whatever the price ends up being for a Lego Aston Martin DB5) are men in their 50s and 60s with some disposable income.

In any event, things rarely stay the same.

Images of Lego Aston Martin DB5 apparently leak

One of the images of the Lego Aston Martin DB5 on Instagram

Images of packaging for the new Lego Aston Martin DB5 appeared to have leaked and are on Instagram.

The images appear on #legoleaks on Instagram.

When the blog looked this morning, there were five postings of the packaging, including special cards. One of the postings quotes a price of $169.99.

The packaging include words “Licence to Build.” The hashtag #LicenceToBuild has been used by Lego, Aston Martin and Eon Productions’ official 007 feed on Twitter to promote the project.

The companies formally haven’t identified the DB5 as the licensed product. However, in recent social media promotions, they have used quotes from Goldfinger, Skyfall and SPECTRE. Lego has scheduled an event at 10:07 a.m., July 18 at its store in London.

Thanks to .@CorneelVF on Twitter for the heads up.