Bond is coming back; Soderbergh promises he’ll retire

In 1962, a bouncing baby franchise was born when superspy assassin James Bond did in the evil “Dr. No.” Now middle aged and needing a bit of exercise to keep its financial heart pumping after nearly five decades of very hard living, the Bond machine survived the end of the Cold War that spawned it, only to be stalled by MGM’s financial morass. Some thought, “It’s a 22 movie run, more if you count a few non-canonical Bond flicks, give it a rest already.” Today, however, Nikki Finke has word that Bond 23 is officially going ahead with star Daniel Craig and the long-rumored Sam Mendes in tow as director. You’ll have your next serving of Bond with your Thanksgiving turkey in November of 2012, assuming nothing untowards happens in post-production.

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In 1963, a bouncing baby human being was born in Louisiana. 26 years later, director Steven Soderbergh personally gave the modern day independent film movement one of its biggest kickstarts with 1989’s “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” Now, he’s announcing officially that he’s packing it only two decades into a career that, at least in theory, could go another four or five.

Though Mike Fleming jokingly pre-accuses him of doing a Brett Favre, movie directors are not sports figures, and, to paraphrase Marcellus Wallace of “Pulp Fiction,” their asses really can age like a fine wine. John Huston, who led the kind of life that might have killed a lesser man in his forties, made one of his greatest films, “The Dead,” when he was pushing eighty and about to be dead himself. Old French New Waver Alain Resnais is scheduled to release a movie more or less to coincide with his 90th birthday, and Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira released “The Strange Case of Angelica” in 2010, the year of his 102 birthday. (He’s supposedly working on another.) Almost no one, except Matt Damon, seems to be taking Soderbergh seriously about this.

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You know what, I’m on board with both moves. James Bond has become far bigger than any one set of filmmakers and, like Sherlock Holmes, Superman, and Mickey Mouse, there’s no reason he shouldn’t keep on chugging along indefinitely in new incarnations. And, given how surprisingly good “Casino Royale” was, I’m willing to let the current James Bond team overcome the disappointment of “Quantum of Solace.” All I ask is for a little more of “From Russia with Love”-era Bond and a little less shaky-cam Jason Bourne.

As for Soderbergh, I’m a fan who admires the fact that he’s unafraid to take risks and make movies that, admittedly, sometimes kind of suck, but always in interesting ways. Re: his impending retirement, I’ve watched too many creators repeat themselves over the years to have anything but respect for his decision. I think it’s possible that we all have only so many stories to tell in a particular way and that, perhaps, when we feel we’re through telling them in one medium, maybe the thing to do is switch to another that might permit new stories to emerge. Later, if we return to the first medium, maybe we’ll then have a new story to tell, or at least an interesting new way to tell it. So, if Soderbergh just wants to spend his life painting, I say, “bless him.” If he gets the urge to start making movies again from time to time and unretires as many times as Frank Sinatra, that’ll be great too. The thing not to do is stagnate.

  

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It’s your pre-Labor Day end-of-week movie news dump. Yay.

As the madcap summer movie series ends, just a few items to wrap up the silly season.

* Not silly at all and quite possibly tragic. It appears there was a very serious stunt-related accident on the set of “Transformers 3,” or perhaps it was a not so stunt-related “freak accident,” says Nikki Finke.

* L’affaire Depardieu et Binoche est tres bizarre. (If my French is incorrect and it almost certainly is, please send complaints to the UCLA languages department.)

* The concept art from the canned Pixar film, “Newt,” is beautiful. Maybe someday we’ll get to see the abandoned footage. Their discards are probably at least twice as good as most finished films.

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* I have a feeling we’re going to hear a lot about “The Black Swan” through Oscar season. It apparently wowed them in Venice though the thoughtful and quirky cinephile critic emeritus J. Hoberman of Village Voice finds it “borderline risible.” To me, remaking “The Red Shoes” with a dash of Dario Argento and even DePalma (not my favorite) sure sounds pretty cool.

* Christopher Rosen may be a doubter, but I say keep hope alive, Kristen Bell!

* Director Tomas Alfredson, who did such a great job on “Let the Right One In,” is shifting genres from very young vampires to depressive real-world style spooks like George Smiley (Gary Oldman this time ’round) in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Michael Fassbender, however, left to be a superhero so now Tom Hardy of “Inception” is stepping in. That should work okay, too. (I finally saw “Inception,” by the way, and…I’m too tired to talk about it now, which is sort of how I felt as I was watching it, actually.)

* Is “Hunger Games” really “The Running Man” with teens or more like “Battle Royale” made safe for an American audience? Sam Mendes, Gary Ross and David Slade duke it out to see who’ll realize whatever it is. Interesting to see the name of the talented writer Billy Ray involved here.

* Crocodile Dundee may now roam free in the Outback — I mean the branch of the steakhouse chain in Burbank.

  

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It’s your end of week late movie news dump

No time to waste and, fortunately, it’s a bit slower than usual tonight.

* I admit it, a lot of the financial/stock market terminology used in Carl Icahn’s letter to Lionsgate stockholders, as carried by Nikki Finke and summarized by THR, eludes me. However, the gist seems to be that it’s all out war now.

* I was out covering the red carpet at the Mike Nichols AFI tribute last night — you’ll be seeing something about it here closer to when the show will actually air in a couple of weeks. Although I had the opportunity to speak very briefly with some genuinely great people, I was a bit disappointed there was no opportunity to watch the presentation on CCTV while I was there. Still, looks like the show that’ll air on TV Land should be something.

George Segal and Elizabeth Taylor in

* As an English major and someone who has actually read Cervantes, Joel Silver’s apparent approach to “Don Quixote” — which is not to be confused with Terry Gilliam’s ever-dicey “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” — makes me want to slash my wrists just a little.

* Some better news, also from the Playlist, which is that uninhobbited Guillermo del Toro is going back to his vampiric roots and doing a Van Helsing film that will, it safe to say, be much better than the last one, if it ever happens.

* Speaking of good directors who could use a gig, the Vulture claims that Sam Raimi has been offered the gig on the “Wizard of Oz” prequel, “Oz, the Great and Powerful.” I’ve no idea if it’s true, of course, but I’m reasonably sure he’d do a better and more imaginative job than either Sam Mendes or Adam Shankman, which is not really a knock on them.

* Re: talk of a “Taken” sequel. I know the movie did well, but I have a feeling that Liam Neeson just wants to keep working right now.

* Jim Emerson examines the notion of the movies that killed the movies, in the sense that sometimes the success of a particular film, or a type of film, you personally dislike a great deal can make a person actually loose interest in all films that come after, to some degree or another. For Francois Truffuat, it was 1962’s “Dr. No.” Yes, the first James Bond flick. Of course, his own career was really just still starting.

  

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A day at the TV Land Awards

Cast Of The Love Boat

The TV Land Awards are not an “and the winner is…” kind of award show extravaganza. They’re more a series of honorary nods to the very popular shows of television’s illustrious, time-killing past with an emphasis on glitz. And so a bunch of us media types were invited to add to the hub-bub at the Sony Studios back lot on a breezy April, waiting on a red carpet for whichever celebrity was escorted to our assigned spots, with those from famed print and broadcast outlets obviously getting the first dibs. In the case of this lowly pixel stained wretch, I felt honored to chat with a few really terrific performers who, each in their own way, had made quite an impression on me personally.

That most definitely applies to Jane Leeves, the comedically gifted actress best known as Daphne, Niles Crane’s Manchester-born one-true-crush and eventual wife from “Frasier.” After confessing that I’d had a crush of my own on her since before her famed “Seinfeld” turn as “Marla, the Virgin” her response was typically blunt-yet-charming. “I’m not that old!”

“Neither am I!,” I blurted. (I later learned that Ms. Leeves birthday was the following day. My own birthday was two days prior. I guess age was on both of our minds.)

Aside from being no non-TV star herself, Ms. Leeves was there to promote her now show, coincidentally to be aired on TV Land in a rare foray into original programming, “Hot in Cleveland.” The show teams Leeves with Wendy Malick (“Just Shoot Me”) and Valerie Bertinelli (“One Day at a Time”). The three play “very L.A.” career women with show business-related backgrounds of various types. (Leeves plays an “eyebrow plucker to the stars.”) Feeling a bit aged out of the L.A. game, they attempt a trip to Paris, but instead find themselves marooned at the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They quickly realize that beautiful, middle-aged women who can refer to celebrities by their first name are actually in fairly short supply in the midwestern metropolis and they decide to stay and be big fish in a smaller glamor pond. Betty White costars as a neighbor, perhaps a wacky one. Cue the glib comparisons calling this a “younger ‘Golden Girls.'”

Nevertheless, fans of Ms. Leeves should rest assured that her character is no retread of Daphne Moon. “She’s focused her whole life on her career and has forgotten to have a life. She’s the sort of smart aleck, wise-ass of the group, so it’s very different.”

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Then, perhaps feeling a bit star-struck, I went with the fallback question I frequently steal from our esteemed Will Harris. What project has she done that she doesn’t feel has gotten enough attention.

“It’s my cooking, quite frankly.”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Tuesday night at the movies

A busy day in tinseltown, but I’ve got to keep things brief tonight.

Spiderman* Nikki Finke is breaking the story that “Spiderman 4” is on hold due to script problems. In other words, Sam Raimi supposedly “hates” the screenplay a large of number of screenwriting cooks have been preparing.  The latest to get his hands on the script is screenwriting standby Alvin Sargent, who worked at the past two Spidey movies and is, at 82, probably by far the most senior fellow writing comic book movies these days. And, oh yeah, it might be in 3-D.

* In another scoop for the Finkster, she reports that underage It-boy Taylor Lautner is Hollywood best compensated teen and now being paid “per ab,” though he apparently has half an ab. I wonder if I get figure out a way to get paid per nose hair.

* Anne Thompson reports that Sam Mendes is “in talks” to direct the next James Bond movie. This would be a major change of pace for the director best known for the Oscar-winning, cinephile-derided, “American Beauty” and “Road to Perdition,” whose attempt at an indie dramedy, “Away We Go,” failed to set the world on fire last year.

* T-Bone Burnett, a superb musician and record producer who has found his greatest fame working on “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” and pretty much every major film with a country music/Americana aspect to it, tells Kim Masters a moving story about how the late musician Stephen Brutan influenced the filming of “Crazy Heart” with Jeff Bridges.

* And how can we get through a day without mentioning “Avatar“? If you’ve been wondering how the Na’vi nasty is done, you’ll get some “soft R” clues, I’m guessing, on the special edition DVD. That’s the word from Huffington Post. I guess we’ll have to wait longer to have 3-D big screen alien-sex.

* On a vastly more serious “Avatar” related note, the Washington Post reports that James Cameron is openly considering making a hard-hitting film about nuclear weapons and traveled to Japan — the only country to ever be attacked with nuclear weapons — to start researching it last month. This is the kind of film you can make with a major studio after you have the kind of monster hit Cameron appears to have on his hands.

As for the research, not all of us are able to talk to survivors of the blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki — I actually have, in another life, and consider myself lucky for having done so. If you’ve never read John Hersey’s Hiroshima, however, you should. The world might not be under constant threat of annihilation as it was up from the fifities to the late eighties, but nuclear weapons remain a serious threat. ‘Still, I’m sure Fox would be just as happy if Cameron decided to make “True Lies II.”

* It’s a big day for octogenarians breaking stereotypes just a bit. Christopher Lee is continuing his exploration of “orchestral metal.” I hope you enjoy his new direction.

* The Premium Hollywood/Bullz-Eye gang is quickly dividing into Blu-Ray “haves” and “have nots.” For the benefit of the “haves,” (a group that does not include me) Glenn Kenny recounts his favorite BR discs of 2009.

  

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