SPECTRE filming photos from weekend emerge

SPECTRE LOGO

There was more outdoor SPECTRE filming in London over the weekend, which got coverage in the U.K. press and saw images show up on social media.

The DAILY MAIL described events in its usual, breathless fashion such as this description of star Daniel Craig:

“The 47-year-old actor cut a dapper figure, dressed in suit to portray the titular spy as he strolled along Whitehall in London, drawing large crowds of excited onlookers.” The story has photos as well as a video.

THE MIRROR also chimed in, making some guesses about the plot of the 24th James Bond film based on photos of the filming.

Meanwhile, social media participants also put out photos, such as this one on Twitter.

On THIS PAGE of the message board of the James Bond MI6 website, users downloaded photos from social media outlets and posted them.

Whiplash: The Telegraph on Skyfall

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

On May 8, The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. had a story about THE TOP 10 MOST OVERRATED MOVIES OF ALL TIME.

The No. 1 entry? Skyfall, the most recent James Bond film, which was released in 2012.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the story by Tim Robey.

Awkward in shape and thrilling only periodically, the film’s a fraught salvage job for which (director) Sam Mendes got far too much of the credit.

Look closer and the scars of indecision are painfully obvious, especially in that third act. Ben Whishaw’s Q allows the MI6 server to be hacked by… plugging a pair of ethernet cables into Silva’s laptop? The tube crash is a shambles. The disposal of Severine, after Bond has had his wicked way with this maltreated sex slave, is brutally callous. Daniel Craig seems hardened, waxy, and humourless, with no gift for floating a weak punchline, and the uninspired script (“Got into some deep water”, anyone?) gives him a morass of them.

Interesting critique. Meanwhile, the folks at the MI6 James Bond website sent us a link to The Telegraph’s review of Skyfall, written by Robbie Collin.

The link on The Telegraph’s website gives a Dec. 24, 2014 date, or less than a year ago; comments for the review are dated “three years ago,” suggesting the review was originally published in 2012, when the movie came out. Wikipedia, citing the Collin review, says it was published Oct. 26, 2012.

Regardless, it’s an interesting comparison to the more recent story.

Daniel Craig remains Bond incarnate, although six years on from Casino Royale he has become something more than a brawny cipher. There’s a warmth to his banter with pretty field agent Eve (Naomie Harris), the one-liners make a tentative return, and we even learn about the loss of Bond’s parents: the must-have back story for this season’s conflicted superhero.

Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan’s script constantly reminds us Bond’s physical prowess is on the wane, but his verbal sparring, both with M and new foe Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former agent turned vengeful computer hacker, is nimbler than ever.

(snip)

“We don’t go in for exploding pens any more,” quips a fashionably tousled Q (Ben Whishaw). Nor do audiences, and it’s no wonder Skyfall was a stratospheric hit.

That sounds like a rave review and it gets four out of five stars. If Skyfall is overrated, it would seem The Telegraph did its fair share of making it so.

To be fair, the two pieces were written by two writers with two different viewpoints. Still, one would think an editor at The Telegraph would at least want to reference the paper’s own review.

Without that acknowledgment, a reader gets a bit of whiplash.

U.N.C.L.E. awakes: The Rip Van Winkle Affair

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

For one day, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was truly back after a slumber of more than 30 years. Rip Van Winkle only slept for 20 years.

May 9 was a press junket in Rome for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. Images and comments flooded social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

There hasn’t been an official U.N.C.L.E. production since The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie aired on CBS in 1983. Principal photography for the Guy Ritchie-directed feature film took place in the late summer and fall of 2013.

There have been milestones since then, including test screenings in 2014 and release of a first trailer in February. Still, the Rome press junket represented the biggest push by Warner Bros. to begin to raise visibility for the film.

Warner Bros. is in an unusual situation for the “summer” movie season (which begins the first weekend of May). It has no “tent pole” movie, so AS NOTED IN THIS VARIETY STORY, it’s releasing more films than other studios for the summer, looking to make up in volume what it lacks in spectacle. Thus, U.N.C.L.E. has become part of the studio’s “flood the zone” strategy.

Anyway, that’s for studio executives. For U.N.C.L.E. fans — at least those who want new U.N.C.L.E. tales — May 9 marked a beginning (or reawakening).

The U.N.C.L.E. movie, by 2015 standards, is modest ($75 million production budget). It’s in the shadow of the James Bond franchise, whose new installment, SPECTRE, has a $300 million budget, making it one of the most expensive movies of all time.

On the very same day Warners had its coming out party, SPECTRE released its latest “clapperboard” shot, one of the ways the 007 franchise uses social media to promote its product. (If you want to see all the SPECTRE clapperboard shots in scene order, CLICK HERE.)

In the end, despite U.N.C.L.E.’s Ian Fleming connection (the 007 author helped name Napoleon Solo), the two are different animals. Bond is the big kid on the block. U.N.C.L.E. is trying to get established again after a long layoff.

The U.N.C.L.E.’s movie’s Napoleon Solo is played by Henry Cavill, passed over for the role of 007 in favor of Daniel Craig in 2005. Both movies filmed in Rome, but SPECTRE spent $60 million there, almost as much as U.N.C.L.E.’s entire budget.

May 9 was a big day for U.N.C.L.E. fans. It remains to be seen whether the U.N.C.L.E. movie so long in development will be worth the wait. For at least one day, many U.N.C.L.E. fans felt a surge of excitement that it might be.

007.com posts video blog about SPECTRE car chase

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

People who don’t want to know anything about the movie should stop reading now.

The official James Bond website, 007.com, posted a new video blog today which looks at a car chase scene in SPECTRE.

In the film, Daniel Craig’s James Bond is driving an Aston Martin DB10 and is being chased by a Jaguar driven by henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista).

The video includes comments from special effects man Chris Corbould and director Sam Mendes. The latter calls the sequence “a cat and mouse game through the night time streets of Rome.”

Here’s the video, it runs about 100 seconds. No real story spoilers, but, as stated above, the super-spoiler averse should not view.

UPDATE: To view a related tweet from the official 007 Twitter account, CLICK HERE.

The rise of the ‘origin’ storyline

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Fifty, 60 years ago, with popular entertainment, you didn’t get much of an “origin” story. You usually got more-or-less fully formed heroes. A few examples:

Dr. No: James Bond is an established 00-agent and has used a Baretta for 10 years. Sean Connery was 31 when production started. If Bond is close to the actor’s age, that means he’s done intelligence work since his early 20s.

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: During the first season (1964-65), Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) has worked for U.N.C.L.E. for at least seven years (this is disclosed in two separate episodes). A fourth-season episode establishes that Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) graduated from U.N.C.L.E.’s “survival school” in 1956 and Solo two years before that.

Batman: While played for laughs, the Adam West version of Batman has been operating for an undisclosed amount of time when the first episode airs in January 1966. In the pilot, it’s established he has encountered the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) before. There’s a passing reference to how Bruce Wayne’s parents were “murdered by dastardly criminals” but that’s about it.

The FBI: When we first meet Inspector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) in 1965, he’s established as the “top trouble shooter for the bureau” and is old enough to have a daughter in college. We’re told he’s a widower and his wife took “a bullet meant for me.” (The daughter would soon be dropped and go into television character limbo.) Still, we don’t see Young Lewis Erskine rising through the ranks of the bureau.

Get Smart: Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) was a top agent for CONTROL despite his quirks. There was no attempt to explain Max. He just was. A 2008 movie version gave Max a back story where he had once been fat.

I Spy: Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) have been partners for awhile, using a cover of a tennis bum and his trainer.

Mission: Impossible: We weren’t told much about either Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) or Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), the two team leaders of the Impossible Missions Force. A fifth-season episode was set in Phelps home town. Some episodes introduced friends of Briggs and Phelps. But not much more than that.

Mannix: We first meet Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) when he’s the top operative of private investigations firm Intertect. After Joe goes off on his own in season two, we meet some of Joe’s Korean War buddies (many of whom seem to try to kill him) and we eventually meet Mannix’s father, a California farmer. But none of this is told at the start.

Hawaii Five-O: Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) is the established head of the Hawaiian state police unit answerable only to “the governor or God and even they have trouble.” When the series was rebooted in 2010, we got an “origin” story showing McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) as a military man, the unit being formed, his first meeting with Dan Williams, etc.

And so on and so forth. This century, though, an “origin story” is the way to start.

With the Bond films, the series started over with Casino Royale, marketed as the origin of Bond (Daniel Craig). The novel, while the first Ian Fleming story, wasn’t technically an origin tale. It took place in 1951 (this date is given in the Goldfinger novel) and Bond got the two kills needed for 00-status in World War II.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Nevertheless, audience got an “origin” story. Michael G. Wilson, current co-boss of Eon Productions (along with his half-sister, Barbara Broccoli) wanted to do a Bond “origin” movie as early as 1986 after Roger Moore left the role of Bond. But his stepfather, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, vetoed the idea. With The Living Daylights in 1987, the audience got a younger, but still established, Bond (Timothy Dalton). In the 21st century, Wilson finally got his origin tale.

Some of this may be due to the rise of movies based on comic book movies. There are had been Superman serials and television series, but 1978’s Superman: The Motion Picture was the first A-movie project. It told the story of Kal-El from the start and was a big hit.

The 1989 Batman movie began with a hero (Michael Keaton) still in the early stages of his career, with the “origin” elements mentioned later. The Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins in 2005 started all over, again presenting an “origin” story. Marvel, which began making movies after licensing characters, scored a big hit with 2008’s Iron Man, another “origin” tale. Spider-Man’s origin has been told *twice* in 2002 and 2012 films from Sony Pictures.

Coming up in August, we’ll be getting a long-awaited movie version of U.N.C.L.E., this time with an origin storyline. In the television series, U.N.C.L.E. had started sometime shortly after World War II. In the movie, set in 1963, U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t started yet and Solo works for the CIA while Kuryakin is a KGB operative.

One supposes if there were a movie version of The FBI (don’t count on it), we’d see Erskine meet the Love of His Life, fall in love, get married, lose her and become the Most Determined Agent in the Bureau. Such is life.

Groundhog Day: 007, U.N.C.L.E. fan comments

SPECTRE teaser poster

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE teaser poster

Like the movie Groundhog Day, some things in spy fandom happen over and over.

In the James Bond world, even though Daniel Craig was cast as 007 almost a decade ago, you can still find fan debates about the 47-year-old actor.

For example, a story IN THE U.K. MIRROR reported Honor Blackman said that Craig, and not Sean Connery was now the best film Bond.

“I’m sorry to say he’s a better actor – but I think Sean would acknowledge that,” the Mirror quoted Blackman, who played Pussy Galore oppose Connery in Goldfinger. “I think Dan is terrific. He’s capable of so much more.”

Naturally, on social media, Craig fans and supporters noted the story and got into it with critics of the actor.  It happens the other way round, of course, when someone famous — say Ursula Andress in a DAILY MAIL STORY — says Craig isn’t the best Bond (“‘Hes a great actor, but not James Bond.”) Fan critics seize on comments such as that and try to rub it in the nose of Craig fans.

Then again, maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. There are still 007 fans who harshly criticize Roger Moore — who hasn’t done a Bond movie in 30 years — for taking too light a tone with his Bond films.

At the same time, Blackman’s comments were totally comfort food for 007 fans.

“Now it’s no longer like Ian Fleming, it’s more like The Bourne Identity,” Blackman said about current Bond movies. “It’s a different kind of film.” A lot of Bond fans don’t like the comparison with the Bourne films.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

Meanwhile, fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. continue to have variations on a the same theme: Namely, should a movie version of the 1964-68 spy show have been made at all?

There are some fans of the original show who never wanted it made in the first place and view it as garbage four months before it’s due out in theaters.

Among the reasons: it changes the U.N.C.L.E. timeline (the movie depicts the beginning of U.N.C.L.E. in 1963, whereupon in the show it began sometime shortly after World War II); there’s no way the stars (Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer) can possibly compare to Robert Vaughn and David McCallum); and the movie has lost the “everyman” dynamic of the show because it with two leads over 6-feet tall, including the 6-foot-5 Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, originally played by the 5-foot-7 McCallum.

As details dribble out, such as the movie Solo has a history as an art thief, that debate intensifies.

Nevertheless, other U.N.C.L.E. fans, having gone without an official U.N.C.L.E. production since a 1983 television movie, are looking forward to the film and want to give it a chance.

Both are spy entertainment’s version of Groundhog Day. No doubt somebody will again gear up one or the other debate sooner than later.

SPECTRE: recovery time from knee surgery

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE star Daniel Craig has had knee surgery because of an injury during filming, THE MIRROR reported. The question is how long it will take him to recover fully.

Reader Mark Henderson passed along THIS LINK from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which includes this passage:

Unless you have had a ligament reconstruction, you should be able to return to most physical activities after 6 to 8 weeks, or sometimes much sooner. Higher impact activities may need to be avoided for a longer time. You will need to talk with your doctor before returning to intense physical activities.

The website of Johns Hopkins presents similar information AT THIS LINK.

It typically takes about three weeks to recover fully for routine daily activities, but it may be two to three months before one can comfortably return to sports.

The Mirror report didn’t have a lot of medical detail about Daniel Craig. It said his injury originally occurred during location shooting in Austria and it was aggravated during an action scene at Pinewood Studios. Here’s an excerpt.

Craig’s operation was carried out last week by specialist medics in New York, where he lives with his wife Rachel Weisz, 45, in a penthouse in Manhattan’s East Village.

He was seen on Monday morning with a weekend bag, apparently ­leaving for the clinic where he was due to have surgery.

(snip)

While he recovers, studio filming and location shots in Mexico City in which he is not involved in are ­believed to have been brought forward.

The co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, recently talked to reporters in Mexico City. According to A TRANSCRIPT BY IGN, Broccoli said most of the movie’s major locations “are pretty much behind us” until a Morocco shoot in June. That’s near the end of principal photography.

In any event,  it appears Craig could do studio work relatively soon. SPECTRE is set for worldwide release on Nov. 6.

UPDATE (12:35 p.m.): The BBC QUOTES a spokeswoman it didn’t identify by name as confirming the surgery and saying Craig would be back to work on April 22 at Pinewood.

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