Late July: The new hot spy movie release date

Atomic Blonde poster

Through a series of unrelated events, the last weekend of July has emerged as a hot release date in the U.S. for spy movies.

This year’s entry is Atomic Blonde, with Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, an operative adept at both gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. It opens in the U.S. on July 28.

Atomic Blonde is the third spy film in a row to open during the final July weekend.

The streak began with Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the fifth installment in star-producer Tom Cruise’s film series.

Rogue Nation originally was set to open on Christmas Day 2015. However, Paramount moved up Rogue Nation’s release to get it out of the way of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which had a Dec. 18, 2015 release date.

The strategy worked. Rogue Nation ended up with a box office of $195 million in the U.S. and Canada and $682.7 million globally.

Rogue Nation also affected another spy movie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which came out just two weeks later. Rogue Nation was still going strong and U.N.C.L.E. was No. 3 its opening weekend.

In 2016, both star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass returned to the Bourne franchise with Jason Bourne. Universal slotted the movie for a July 29 release date.

Jason Bourne didn’t do quite as well as Rogue Nation, with a U.S.-Canada box office of $162.4 million and $415.5 million worldwide.

Regardless of Atomic Blonde’s box office results later this month, the July spy movie streak already is guaranteed to continue. Paramount has Mission: Impossible 6 scheduled for July 27, 2018. The movie currently is in production.

To a degree, this makes a lot of sense. The “summer” movie release in the U.S. begins in May. Many of the biggest summer films already have been in theaters and late July is a chance for spy films to find an audience.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s one of the trailers of Atomic Blonde.

Bourne 6: Another reason to keep on living

Jason Bourne teaser poster.

Jason Bourne poster.

Frank Marshall, producer of this year’s Jason Bourne, told Yahoo Movies that a sixth installment in the series is in development.

According to the website, “the franchise is taking a break but a sixth film is currently in development, and it may address the character facing up the ageing process.”

The producer said star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass are “very pleased with how the movie turned out. It’s really about the story, just like on this one, everyone said ‘if you come to us with a good story, we’ll think about it.’”

Marshall added: “So right now, we’re taking a pause and then we’re going to dive back in and try to find a story.”

That’s not exactly a hard and firm commitment. Jason Bourne had worldwide box office of $415,2 million, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s solid for most movies but lagged the $442.8 million for 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, the previous Damon-Greengrass Bourne entry.

Overall, there have been five Bourne films, four with Damon and one (The Bourne Legacy) with Jeremy Renner as another character. That 2012 film’s global box office totaled $276.1 million.

The Bourne series had an impact on the 007 film series and was a factor in Eon Productions ditching Pierce Brosnan and casting Daniel Crag as a tougher Bond. The primary example of that was 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which featured similar jerky camera movements and fast editing cuts.

Also, according to Greengrass, Bond producer Barbara Broccoli once inquired whether the director would be interested in a 007 film. Meanwhile, Damon has criticized the Bond character in the past.

Suicide Squad opens big despite reviews

The Joker after reading the Rotten Tomatoes website about Suicide Squad.

“We’re No 1!” The Joker chanted.

Despite bad reviews and reports about production and editing problems, Suicide Squad opened big in the U.S. and Canada.

The Warner Bros./DC Entertainment movie generated estimate box office in the region of $135.1 million for the Aug. 5-7 weekend, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO website.

The results were, no doubt, welcome news for “Mr. Warner” (this blog’s nickname for Warners). The studio has a lot riding on movies based on characters originally published by DC Comics.

The movie, about a group of villains forced to work for the government, initially had positive buzz when its first trailer was released early this year.

Over the past week, that changed as critics panned the movie and The Hollywood Reporter published a story describing reshoots and a last-minute attempt to light the film’s tone in the editing room. The IndieWire website published a follow-up story saying Suicide Squad was “the product of everything that’s wrong with studio filmmaking.”

The main question now is whether Suicide Squad can hold on to its audience and attract some repeat viewings. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened big in March ($166 million its opening weekend), but it fell off quickly.

Jason Bourne was the No. 2 movie of the weekend, with estimated box office of $22.7 million in the U.S. and Canada, a 62 percent drop from its opening weekend.. That movie has a global box office of $195.3 million, with $103.4 million of that coming from the U.S. and Canada.

 

Gene Colan: The Bourne Precursor

Gene Colan self portrait, circa 1970

Gene Colan self portrait, circa 1970

The big movie this weekend is Jason Bourne. Like previous entries in the film series, it features a “shaky cam” technique intended to make the audience feel as if it’s in the middle of the action.

However, some of that concept was pioneered by the work of comic book artist Gene Colan (1926-2011).

Colan worked for both Marvel and DC, including a six-year run (1966-1973) on Daredevil as well as brief runs on the title later in the 1970s as well as the 1990s.

In a documentary for the home video release of the 2003 Daredevil movie, Colan described his approach to the many action scenes he drew.

“If there was a fight scene, I would try to do it in such a way to confuse the reader,” Colan said. “Because in real life, very often you don’t see the details. You’d just see action.”

Colan said you would see “arms and legs and people sailing over tables. But you don’t see the details. And very often it’s done in a dark room where you can see even less. But it’s exciting. It’s more dramatic that way…I wanted the story to be mystifying and sinister.”

As a result, Colan-illustrated stories emphasize movement in their action sequences. Colan drawings simulate the blur of a punch or a kick or other mayhem.

With 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Eon Productions embraced the approach of the Bourne film series. Eon hired Dan Bradley as Quantum’s second unit director, where he’d be in charge of the movie’s action scenes. Bradley was a Bourne film veteran.

Here’s how Bradley described his approach, according to a 2008 post on the Commander Bond website:

“One of the things I really believe is that we shouldn’t try and make everything feel perfectly staged. I’m always saying to my crew, I want to feel like we were lucky to catch a glimpse of some crazy piece of action. I don’t want it to feel like a movie, where everything is perfectly presented to the audience.”

Of course, comics and film are different. Colan drew mostly 20-page stories where action scenes took up only part of the story. Jason Bourne employs “shaky cam” for much of its running time, even when actions scenes aren’t occurring.

Still, the notion of disorienting the audience remains a strong one, given the box office reception, so far, for Jason Bourne. It’s just worth remembering others, including Gene Colan, took a similar path before.

Colan, of course, drew more than just Daredevil. CLICK HERE and HERE and HERE to see his take on Dr. Strange, the mystic character created by Steve Ditko. The good doctor will be the subject of a Marvel Studios movie in November.

Jason Bourne shakes off critics on its opening weekend

Jason Bourne poster

Jason Bourne poster

UPDATE (July 31) — Jason Bourne is now projected for an opening weekend of $60 million in the U.S. and Canada, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER said.

ORIGINAL POST (July 30): Jason Bourne’s amnesia is extending to critical reviews as the year’s major spy movie appears on its way to being the No. 1 movie this weekend in the U.S. and Canada.

The movie, which reunited star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, is on a pace to generate more than $60 million in ticket sales in the region on its opening weekend, according to the Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website. The film’s global opening weekend may exceed $100 million, Deadline reported.

That was despite a “fresh” rating of only 57 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Early in the week, the movie’s score was 68 percent. But more negative reviews came out as the week progressed, dragging down the film’s score ahead of its debut.

It appears that won’t matter, at least as far as box office is concerned. Jason Bourne was forecast to open at $60 million in the U.S. and Canada while studio Universal was being more conservative at $40 million-plus, according to a July 26 story at TheWrap entertainment news website.

SPECTRE, the most recent 007 film, had a U.S.-Canada opening weekend of $70.4 million in November 2015. The biggest Bond opening was 2012’s Skyfall at $88.4 million.

Jason Bourne was the fourth movie in the series starring Damon and the third helmed by Greengrass. Both have criticized 007 films, which rankles some Bond film fans. Jason Bourne was the first Bourne entry since 2007 for both Damon and Greengrass. The Bourne Legacy, released in 2012, featured Jeremy Renner as another agent.

The gritty style of the Bourne films — including more intense and violent action scenes — had an impact in the 2000s on the 007 series made by Eon Productions.

Bourne was a factor in recasting the Bond role with Daniel Craig, The New York Times reported in 2005. And 2008’s Quantum of Solace employed Dan Bradley as second unit director. Bradley had worked on the Bourne films in the same capacity.

 

Jason Bourne gets a mix of raves and pans from critics

Jason Bourne poster

Jason Bourne poster

Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is back after nine years and he’s getting mixed marks — more positive than negative — from critics.

This year’s major spy movie currently has a 68 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes, or more than two raves for every pan.

Put another way, it’s comparable to 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (67 percent) and SPECTRE (65 percent), the most recent 007 film.

What follows is a non-spoiler sampling of reviews that have come in so far.

PETER DEBRUGE, VARIETY: “Mostly, the project marks a return to what worked about the franchise — namely, Damon — suggesting the relief of watching Sean Connery step back into Bond’s shoes after producers tried to replace him with a suave male model in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Meanwhile, audiences are expected to forget both “The Bourne Legacy,” 2012’s disappointing attempt to carry on the name by casting Jeremy Renner in a superficially similar capacity, and “Green Zone,” the gritty (and virtually unseen) Iraq War thriller in which Damon and Greengrass tried to get serious. Now, the real Bourne has resurfaced, and both director and star are committed to making the most of it.”

SCOTT MENDSELSON, FORBES.COM: “You’ve seen this movie before. You saw it in 2004 when it was calledThe Bourne Supremacy, and you saw it in 2007 when it was called The Bourne Ultimatum. As is now apparently custom for Paul Greengrass-directed Bourne sequels, the filmmaker steals wholesale from his previous movies to the point where it feels not like a formula but a glorified remake.”

KATIE WALSH, TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE: “It’s a breath of fresh air to see Damon back in this role, one that draws on his innate strengths. His All-American star persona allows us to understand that though Bourne is a lone ranger who doesn’t hesitate to use violence, we innately trust his moral compass. That’s because we know Bourne, but also because of the patriotic, good guy qualities that Damon effortlessly expresses.”

BILGE EBIRI, THE VILLAGE VOICE: “A  more appropriate title for Jason Bourne might be Walking: The Motion Picture. …(I)t’s about people walking. Walking down corridors, through hotels, through streets, through backrooms. Always briskly, always with apparent purpose, often with phones or earpieces or tracking devices so they can talk to someone else who is also walking and who is usually telling them where yet another person might be walking. Occasionally they break into a run or get in a car and plow through traffic. But mostly, they just walk. Is the CIA now owned by Fitbit?”

TODD MCCARTHY: THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Jason Bourne is an engrossing reimmersion in the violent and mysterious world of Matt Damon’s shadowy secret op. With director Paul Greengrass compulsively cutting the almost incessant action to the absolute bone in his trademark fashion and some solid new characters stirred in, Universal’s franchise refresher should have no problem being re-embraced by longtime series fans.”

Why the Bond vs. Bourne debate is silly

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Matt Damon is promoting his latest Jason Bourne movie, creatively titled Jason Bourne. Among other things, Damon has said Bourne would beat James Bond in a fight.

In turn, some Bond fans have been offended. Here are some reasons they shouldn’t be.

Bond and Bourne are fictional characters. Therefore, Bourne can’t beat Bond or vice versa.

Are you ready to get into other countless debates? You might as well participate in debates such as would Jim Phelps beat Joe Mannix in a fight? Or would Jim Phelps beat Dan Briggs in a fight? Or would James West beat Matt Dillon in a fight? Or who would win in a fight between Bambi and Godzilla? Or who would win in a fight between Superman or Batman? Oh wait….the latter question generated a $250 million movie…..

All you’re doing is helping Matt Damon promote his movie. Damon is trying to generate publicity for Jason Bourne. If you’re a 007 fan annoyed with this and posting on social media about it, you’re just helping him. He’s getting paid for his trouble while you aren’t.