Mendes: 007 had to thread needle between Bourne, Marvel

SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, had to thread a needle between Jason Bourne and movies from Marvel Studios on the other, Sam Mendes said earlier this month in New York.

“It’s very tricky… to walk the knife edge between, you know, Bourne on the one hand, which is brilliant, especially when done by (director) Paul Greenglass, and Marvel on the other,” Mendes said during an appearance at TimesTalk, part of events held by The New York Times, which sells tickets for people to attend.

“Bond is in this very narrow…you’re threading the needle,” Mendes added. “You only have so many tools you can use.”

The director of SPECTRE and Skyfall also acknowledged specific homages in SPECTRE to earlier Bond movies (Live And Let Die in the pre-titles sequence) and From Russia With Love (train fight between Bond and Hinx on the train).

“But sometimes people see a snow sequence and say, ‘Ah, The Spy Who Loved Me.’ No, it’s just a snow sequence.”

You can view other comments from Mendes and Craig on this video below, which the Times uploaded to YouTube. Note: the closed captioning has a few mistakes, including “marble” for Marvel.

SPECTRE: the glass half-full, half-empty edition

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE has been in U.S. theaters for a week and other markets before that. On social media, there are diverging views among fans, with some taking a glass half-full approach while others see a glass half empty.

What follows summarizes both views concerning SPECTRE-related topics.

SPECTRE’s U.S.-Canada box office opening weekend: The 24th James Bond generated U.S.-Canada box office of $70.4 million.

Glass half-full: It’s one of the biggest openings in the region in 2015, ahead of such popular films as Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation ($55.5 million) and Marvel’s Ant-Man ($57.2 million). Warner Bros., whose movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had a total U.S.-Canada box office of $45.4 million, would have killed for half of SPECTRE’s opening.

Glass half-empty: SPECTRE’s U.S.-Canada opening was 20 percent lower than Skyfall’s $88.4 million despite higher ticket prices over the past three years. On Internet message boards and other outlets, some Bond fans were looking for $90 million or $100 million.

SPECTRE’s opening trailed Fifty Shades of Grey ($85.2 million) and wasn’t even close to the likes of Jurassic World ($208.8 million) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191.3 million).

SPECTRE reviews: After many positive reviews in the United Kingdom, U.S. reviews were more mixed, bringing SPECTRE’s “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website to 64 percent as of Nov. 12.

Glass half-full: A majority of the reviews are still positive, including reviews from the likes of The Atlantic, The Detroit News, Leonard Maltin, NPR (one of two reviews), Time magazine, USA Today and Rolling Stone.

Glass half-empty: Skyfall’s “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes was 93 percent. That’s a long way down. Some fans on social media say the negative SPECTRE reviews may have hurt the movie’s box office.

On the latter point, early James Bond movies — now considered classic — didn’t always get positive reviews either. Time magazine, in reviewing Dr. No., referred to Bond as a “Hairy Marshmallow.”

The New York Times IN ITS REVIEW of Dr. No, liked 007’s screen debut while looking down upon it at the same time.

 This lively, amusing picture…is not to be taken seriously as realistic fiction or even art, any more than the works of Mr. (Ian) Fleming are to be taken as long-hair literature. It is strictly a tinseled action-thriller, spiked with a mystery of a sort. And, if you are clever, you will see it as a spoof of science-fiction and sex. (emphasis added)


For the crime-detecting adventure that Mr. Bond is engaged in here is so wildly exaggerated, so patently contrived, that it is obviously silly and not to be believed.

A sampling of early reviews for Trigger Mortis

Trigger Mortis cover

Trigger Mortis cover

Reviews for the newest James Bond continuation novel, Anthony Horowitz’s Trigger Mortis, are starting to come in.

This blog has already run a guest review from the Ian Fleming Foundation’s Brad Frank. What follows is a sampling of other reviews.


James Bond is a synchronic spy. From the day that the first Bond thriller, “Casino Royale,” was published in 1953, all the way through to this year’s forthcoming “Spectre” movie, Bond has always been thoroughly modern, with all the latest toys. In “Trigger Mortis: A James Bond Novel,” however, Bond ventures somewhere Ian Fleming, or the movie producer Albert Broccoli, would never go: back, into the past.


So although “Trigger Mortis” begins two weeks after the end of “Goldfinger,” its protagonist isn’t — could never be — the same Bond. The new Bond is friends with a gay man, chivalrously sleeps on the couch when a woman doesn’t want to have sex with him and even, at one point, drinks a bottle of water at lunch.


Anthony Horowitz knows exactly what ingredients are required to satisfy even the most gluttonous James Bond fan and serves them up with the confidence of the self-confessed aficionado that he is.


Horowitz is far from the first to take up Ian Fleming’s most famous creation. Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver and Kingsley Amis have all gone before. But there are new elements that Horowitz brings that make this a particularly enjoyable, and familiar, read.


There is a thin line between pastiche and homage, however. Horowitz is an unabashed fan of both Bond and Fleming, as much of his work to date clearly shows, and his plot in less capable hands could easily have erred on the wrong side.


(Ian) Fleming’s estate has made a canny choice in Horowitz, who proved in his (Arthur) Conan Doyle pastiche The House of Silk – which saw Sherlock Holmes battling a VIP paedophile ring – that he can convincingly replicate another author’s world without sticking too slavishly to his template.

In Trigger Mortis Horowitz has had the ingenious idea of showing us Bond in the act of doing something which we know he does a lot, but Fleming would never have dreamed of writing: all the “It’s not you, it’s me” business of dumping his conquests.

FT tries to analyze 007’s post-SPECTRE financial future

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

The Financial Times, IN A STORY POSTED TODAY, tries to analyze the post-SPECTRE financial future of the James Bond film franchise.

The U.K.-based financial publication was prompted by how Sony Pictures’ deal to release James Bond films ends with SPECTRE, the 24th 007 film due for release in November.

Here are some items of note from the FT:

Releasing 007 films is a nice, but not stupendous business, for a studio: The 007 franchise is owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq/Eon Productions (the Broccoli-Wilson family).

MGM, however, is too small after a 2010 bankruptcy and reorganization, to release Bond movies on its own. It needs a partner.

Sony was part of a group that owned MGM when Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were released. Post-bankruptcy, Sony was MGM’s partner for releasing 2012’s Skyfall and this year’s SPECTRE.

An excerpt from the FT:

“While it’s a good piece of business the financial upside or downside is not significant on either end,” says a person close to the studio. “The studio can make good money but not runaway money.”

The FT story dovetails with a 2013 STORY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES that reported how Sony was third in line for profits from Skyfall, with the Broccoli-Wilson family and MGM taking their cut first.

Nevertheless, the FT said various studios — including Time Warner’s Warner Bros. and 21st Century’s 20th Century Fox — will still be interested in wrestling the Bond releasing deal from Sony.

Securing a new 007 releasing deal may be related to additional financial deals by MGM: The Financial Times says MGM may still sell stock to the public in an initial public offering or a simple sale to somebody else.

“The studio could arguably be worth more if a buyer knows a Bond distribution deal is still to be done,” according to the FT story by Matthew Garrahan. “Sony, Warner Bros, Fox and the rest of Hollywood will be watching closely.”

To read the entire Financial Times story, CLICK HERE. A shoutout to reader Paul Wynn who brought this to our attention on our Facebook page.

Moonraker and the ‘guilty pleasure’

A "guilty pleasure" for some 007 fans

A “guilty pleasure” for some 007 fans

Over the past 40 years, the term “guilty pleasure” has become chic. In a James Bond context, some fans will cite the extravagant 1979 Moonraker as a guilty pleasure.

What does the term mean exactly? Wikipedia defines it as “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The “guilt” involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one’s lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes.”

The term was popularized by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, in which the two Very Serious Film Critics (R) acknowledged they like some schlock on occasion. In 1979 and 1987, they came up with their lists of “guilty pleasures,” including such movies as The Greek Tycoon and The Fury.

Moonraker was the only Bond movie where 007 went into space. Before that happened, a space shuttle was hijacked, Bond fell out of a plane without a parachute, a boat chase took place in Venice, Bond fought Jaws (Richard Kiel) on top of a cable car in Rio, etc., etc. Nothing was done in a small way. There were clearly silly moments, including a double taking pigeon and Jaws finding true love.

In other words, nothing very subtle. It was a huge hit in its day. It even got a rave review in THE NEW YORK TIMES. Nevertheless, Eon Productions immediately decided Bond should come back down to earth both figuratively and literally in his next film adventure, For Your Eyes Only.

When Bond fans say Moonraker is a “guilty pleasure,” they’re putting some distance between themselves and the movie. It’s almost as if they’re afraid they’ll lose their “street cred” with other Bond fans. After all, in the 21st century, Bond is Serious Art deserving of Academy Award nominations.

To be fair, it should be noted that opinions of people change over time. They can like something initially, decide it really was awful, then eventually come back and decide it was good or at least not as bad as they thought. What’s more, in the case of Moonraker, some fans will tell you they hated it then, they hate it now. That group is being consistent.

Still, if you like a movie, maybe should own it and not worry about your “street cred.” In the case of 007 films, just because you like a lighter Bond entry doesn’t preclude from enjoying a more serious film also.

Real life intrudes on a legacy of the ’60s spy craze

Bill Cosby with Victor Buono in an I Spy episode

Bill Cosby with Victor Buono in an I Spy episode

As 2014 draws to a close, one of the proudest accomplishments of 1960s spy entertainment may be forgotten because of a scandal.

The scandal? The numerous allegations of rape against Bill Cosby, now 77. The accomplishment? How I Spy, the 1965-68 television series, had a major social impact in the United States.

To recap: In the fall of 1965, an African American (Cosby) starring along side a white actor (Robert Culp) on television was a huge deal. I Spy was the least glamorous, most somber, of the American spy series. The show reflected a major social movement. It was more than another television series. After I Spy was canceled by NBC, Cosby’s career advanced to many levels of success.

But, by the end of this year, Cosby was depicted as a fallen icon. The New York Times, IN A DEC. 28 STORY by Lorne Manly and Graham Bowley examined how Cosby’s legal team dealt with the allegations.

As accusations of sexual assault continue to mount against Mr. Cosby — more than two dozen women have gone public, the latest last Monday — the question arises as to why these stories never sparked a widespread outcry before. While many of the women say they never filed police complaints or went public because they feared damaging their reputations or careers, the aggressive legal and media strategy mounted by Mr. Cosby and his team may also have played a significant role.

The final outcome of the allegations remains to be seen. Still, what had been one of the high points of the 1960s spy craze may never be looked at the same way. Real life has a way of intruding — and is always more serious than fiction.

007 meets ‘data-driven’ journalism

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

James Bond, meet “data-driven” journalism.

That term is in vogue these days. It describes journalism that’s more based on data, rather than interviews. Interviews may supplement what the data shows, but the idea is to base stories by analyzing and sifting through data, according to a Wikipedia definition. With data-driven journalism, there’s more of an emphasis on charts to illustrate what the data shows.

On Dec. 7, THE WASHINGTON POST’S WONGBLOG did such a piece on SPECTRE, the new 007 film that begins principal photography on Monday, Dec. 8.

Here’s an excerpt:

There is another James Bond movie in the works, the 24th in the series of gun-slingin’, sex-havin’, Russia-or-whoever-it-is-nowadays-hatin’ flicks to appear on-screen since Sean Connery kicked the whole thing off. But next year’s film, Spectre, features something rarely seen in the Bond world: an age-appropriate co-star.

The so-called “Bond girl,” in this film, is Monica Bellucci, age 50. For a franchise that has been built on the idea that Britain’s most famous spy has no qualms about romantic entanglements with a teenager (Aliza Gur was a teenager while filming “From Russia With Love”), it’s a step forward.

The story, by writer Philip Bump, is accompanied by A CHART showing the different the different Bond actors and how their age varied with their women co-stars.

The story makes it sound as if Bellucci has the primary female part opposite Daniel Craig, 46. Lea Seydoux, 29, also is in the movie and may also be a Bond woman. It’s possible that Craig/Bond might be involved with both. But, of course, nobody really knows outside of the filmmakers. That’s a twist for this example of data-driven journalism.

Bump, in his story, wrote that “some minor love interests (there are so many) may drag the average down. But for now, we’re content with James Bond appearing with the oldest co-star since Maud Adams’ Octopussy.”

The Post’s story isn’t entirely data driven. There’s some commentary. “And let’s just let out a collective ‘ugh’ to that phrase, ‘Bond girl,'” Bump writes at one point.

Nor is this 007’s first encounter with data-driven journalism. On Aug. 13, THE UPSHOT BLOG OF THE NEW YORK TIMES ran a piece how the 007 continuation novels outnumber the Ian Fleming originals. It’s something fans have been aware of for some time but may be new to the general public. The Upshot included the inevitable chart.


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