Nolan’s Dunkirk gets a big thumbs up from critics

Christopher Nolan

Dunkirk, the World War II drama coming out this weekend, obviously isn’t a spy film. But there is continuing fascination (admiration by some fans, disdain by others) with the idea writer-director Christopher Nolan might one day helm a James Bond film.

Also, two of Nolan’s collaborators, director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema and editor Lee Smith, worked on SPECTRE. The latest wave of Nolan mania among Bond fans occurred via a Playboy interview timed to come out shortly before Dunkirk.

So the blog decided to look at Dunkirk’s critical response.

The answer is a huge thumbs up. The Warner Bros. release currently enjoys a 97 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Here are some non-spoiler summaries of some of the reviews.

KATIE WALSH, TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE: “Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema have crafted a film that places us in this heightened reality, shooting with IMAX cameras on large format film stock. Everything about ‘Dunkirk’ is bigger, realer, in images that are equally breathtaking in their beauty and in their terror.”

BILL GOODYKOONTZ, ARIZONA REPUBLIC: “Nolan is the best example of the filmmaker who, if you asked him what time it was would tell you how the watch works — and in his case that’s a compliment, because he turns the intricacies and minutiae of time and how it’s used in stories into artistic statements. Certainly he has done that here — ‘Dunkirk’ is a great movie, both an old-time inspirational war epic and at the same time very much a Christopher Nolan movie.”

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE: “From first frame to last, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a monumental achievement, a World War II epic of staggering visual spectacle (see it in IMAX if you can) that hits you like a shot in the heart. Leave it to a filmmaking virtuoso at the peak of his powers to break both new ground and all the rules – who else would make a triumphant war film about a crushing Allied defeat? And who but Nolan, born in London to a British father and an American mother, would tackle WWII without America in it?”

DANA STEVENS, SLATE: Nolan’s 2010 Inception “will serve as my yearly reminder never to go into a movie with preconceived ideas. The swift-moving, pulse-pounding Dunkirk reveals its filmmaker at his most nimble, supple, and simple—all adjectives that seem strange to use in connection with a movie shot in 65mm IMAX format, using practical effects and real stunts…But Dunkirk’s simplicity inheres not in its production logistics but in its storytelling.”

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “(T)his is a war film like few others, one that may employ a large and expensive canvas but that conveys the whole through isolated, brilliantly realized, often private moments more than via sheer spectacle, although that is here, too….In Dunkirk, Nolan has gotten everything just right.”

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RECAP: 007 film franchise at mid-2017

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

For the James Bond film franchise, the first half of 2017 was similar to 2016: more heat than light.

There has been nothing confirmed in the first half of the year. There have been two meaningful bits of Bond film news:

–Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported in March that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were retained to work on Bond 25, which would be their seventh 007 scripting effort.

The reason that merits serious consideration is that Bamigboye had a number of scoops concerning Skyfall and SPECTRE that were proven to be correct.

–The New York Times reported in April that five studios made proposals to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to be its studio partner to release Bond 25.

According to The Times, four were established studios: Sony Pictures (which has released the last four 007 films), Warner Bros., Universal and 20th Century Fox. The fifth is an upstart, Annapurna, a movie production company just now entering the movie distribution business.

The significance: The Times has more gravitas than entertainment news websites and British tabloids (including Bamigboye’s Daily Mail), where a lot of 007 items originate.

Other than that? A lot of stories about British bookmakers setting odds for different actors to play 007 in Bond 25. There have also been stories that speculated about actors and Bond.

Eon Productions bought a helicopter from a museum early in the year but, according to the MI6 James Bond website, that aircraft is for a non-Bond film project.

There have been examples of journalistic empty calories, including a Twitter post last month by The Tracking Board’s Jeff Sneider. He tossed out the idea that Eon Productions would like a 007 film universe but hasn’t provided anything to back it up.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Bond 25 to come out in 2018, something many fans want to happen.

In July 2013, more than a year before SPECTRE came out, there was a confirmed director (Sam Mendes’ return to the director’s chair was announced July 11, 2013); a confirmed Bond distributor (Sony); and a confirmed Bond star (Daniel Craig).

There’s still no distributor for Bond 25. Maybe MGM makes a decision in the second half of 2017. Still, Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions said in November 2015 that he was expecting a decision in early 2016.

No director is in place for Bond 25. There’s no confirmed James Bond actor for Bond 25. Some fans believe it’s a cinch Daniel Craig will be back for his fifth 007 film. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t.

But until the distributor selection is made, it doesn’t really matter. MGM, Bond’s home studio for more than 35 years, is one of the weakest studio operations. It can’t release its own films. It needs partners to co-finance and distribute them.

Caveat Emptor: New rumor Eon wants a 007 ‘universe’

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Jeff Sneider, editor-in-chief of The Tracking Board entertainment news website, publicized a rumor that Eon Productions wants a James Bond film “universe.”

“I’ve heard the Broccolis have caught Universe Fever and would love to explore other corners of the Bond franchise… simultaneously,” Sneider wrote in a June 23 post on Twitter.

It was part of an exchange with another Twitter user.

No other details were provided in the exchange.

Previously, Eon developed a script featuring Jinx, the U.S. spy character played by Halle Berry in 2002’s Die Another Day. But nothing came of that would-be project.

Also, during the 1989-1995 James Bond film hiatus, there was a James Bond Jr. cartoon show (where James Bond Jr. was Bond’s nephew).

However, “Universe Fever” has become a thing since Marvel Studios began establishing its shared universe of characters beginning with 2008’s Iron Man.

Today, that’s formally known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warner Bros. has counted with the DC Extended Universe. Universal is using The Mummy, released earlier this month, to launch its Dark Universe of monsters.

There have been 007-related continuation novels and comic books exploring young James Bond, Moneypenny and Felix Leiter.

However, is Eon prepared to crank out a film 007 universe?

The Bond pictures, in part because of financial issues at home studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, have come out at irregular intervals. MGM needs other studios to release Bond movies and currently doesn’t have a partner for Bond 25.

Eon has branched out into other films, but they tend to be small dramas such as The Silent Storm and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

Something to ponder for the future. Meanwhile, you can view Sneider’s tweet for yourself.

 

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A few Bond 25-related questions

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Bond 25 hasn’t been in the news lately. We have no news to offer, but we do have some questions.

Has Purity gone into production yet? That’s the 20-episode series for Showtime where Daniel Craig is a star and an executive producer.

It’s still listed as being in “pre-production” on the actor’s IMDB.COM PAGE.

If that’s the case (and IMDB.com has occasional accuracy issues) then it’s going to be a while before Craig would be available to play James Bond again.

To film 20 episodes could easily take six months (that’s a little more than a week of filming per episode). And we’re almost to the mid-point of 2017.

UPDATE (June 21): Reader Bond on the Box points to a May 23 Variety story about the Becoming Bond television show about George Lazenby as providing a sign that Purity is in production. It quotes a “a gaffer on Craig’s new Showtime series ‘Purity’” about Craig.

How’s that Bond 25 writing going? In March, Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail reported Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired to develop a Bond 25 story.

That was never officially verified. However, Bamigboye had a number of scoops about Skyfall and SPECTRE that were proven correct. So that March story caught the attention of a lot of fans.

More than three months have passed. Do they have a first draft? (Color this blog skeptical.) Maybe a treatment? Or are all involved still throwing out ideas to see which ones stick?

How’s that search for a Bond 25 distributor going? In April, The New York Times reported five studios were trying to cut a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to distribute Bond 25.

The five: Sony Pictures (which has released the last four 007 films),  Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox and upstart Annapurna. The latter is a movie production company that’s about to release its first film, Detroit, a drama about the 1967 race riots in that city, in August.

Since then? No word.

For now, there have been reminders of the Bond franchise’s proud past, including last month’s death of Roger Moore and this month’s 50th anniversary of You Only Live Twice. The future remains to be seen.

Roger Smith, 77 Sunset Strip star, dies

Roger Smith, top center, in a TV Guide cover featuring the cast of 77 Sunset Strip

Roger Smith, who starred with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in 77 Sunset Strip, has died at 84, according to Variety.

The 1958-64 series was an early hit for ABC. Warner Bros., which produced the TV series, quickly launched other private eye shows.

77 Sunset Strip was part of an “extended universe” decades before the term was coined.

Other shows part of that universe included Hawaiian Eye (with Anthony Eisley and Robert Conrad), Bourbon Street Beat (with Richard Long and Andrew Duggan) and Surfside 6 (with Troy Donahue and Van Williams).

All of the shows featured snappy theme songs by Mack David and Jerry Livingston.

Smith was fired with most of the 77 Sunset Strip cast following the show’s fifth season. Only Efrem Zimbalist Jr. remained as Jack Webb and William Conrad revamped the show, turning Zimbalist’s Stuart Bailey into a lone-wolf PI. The experiment didn’t last the 1963-64 season.

Smith married actress Victoria Shaw in 1956, but the couple divorced in 1965, according to a biography on IMDB.COM. In 1967, Smith married Ann-Margaret. He gave up acting and managed her career.

One of his final public appearances was with Ann-Margaret for the premiere of the 2017 movie Going In Style.

Wonder Woman scores a $103.3M opening weekend

Wonder Woman poster

UPDATE (June 5): Wonder Woman’s opening weekend was actually better than the estimate released on Sunday. The movie’s box office take in the U.S. and Canada was $103.3 million, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

ORIGINAL POST (June 4): Wonder Woman, after generating good reviews, also scored at the box office.

The film, starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins, will have an estimated $100.5 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales, according to Variety.

It’s the biggest opening of a film from a woman director. The previous record was $85 million for Fifty Shades of Grey, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, over the Feb. 13-15, 2015 weekend, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

The results provide a lift for Warner Bros. and its DC Comics unit. Last year, two of the studio’s superhero entries, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were savaged by critics. Bad reviews may have contributed to quick falloffs in ticket sales for both movies.

The two films had larger openings than Wonder Woman. Batman v Superman totaled $166 million in its opening weekend and Suicide Squad $133.7 million.

However, Wonder Woman was a solo adventure while Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad featured multiple characters.

Batman v Superman included Gadot’s Wonder Woman as well as short appearances by other characters who will be part of Justice League, coming out in November. Suicide Squad featured villains forced to work for the U.S. government and also had an appearance by Ben Affleck’s Batman.

Wonder Woman breaks the superhero movie glass ceiling

Wonder Woman poster

Appropriately, it was Wonder Woman who broke the glass ceiling of superhero movies.

If anyone doubted it, star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins showed women are more than capable of carrying a superhero epic on their shoulders.

The movie also provides a much-needed lift to Warner Bros.’s franchise of films based on DC Comics characters.

Movies such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad opened big but fell off quickly amid sour reviews and bad word of mouth.

Wonder Woman likelywon’t open as big in the box office. It spotlights a single character, unlike Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. But it appears to be enjoying good word of mouth and absolutely is getting good reviews, with a “fresh” rating above 90 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Superhero movies have been something of a boys club. You’d occasionally get something like 2005’s Elektra with Jennifer Garner. However, it has been a male-dominated genre. Marvel Studios has featured Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in several movies, but she’s either been part off a group or a supporting character.

Meanwhile, things are simply more interesting with a Warner Bros./DC Comic movies that’s not being lambasted for being crummy. Marvel has been on a roll but it could use some competition to keep it on its toes.

In tone, Wonder Woman is somewhat similar to Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger fro 2011. Both feature characters who come of age in a war setting. (Wonder Woman’s origin story is set in World War I, unlike the original comics which were set in World War II.)

Wonder Woman is by no means a copy of that Marvel film. But Wonder Woman, like the first Captain America movie, lays the groundwork for more to come.