Tagged: Casino Royale

John Ostrander’s Writing Class: Our Characters, Our Selves

I’ve had a chance recently to catch some, not all, of Showtime’s series, Penny Dreadful, and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit. It takes the same concept of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (combine genre characters from the Victorian Age into a single story) and uses it with mostly horror and supernatural characters and elements, again in Victorian London.

The “real” penny dreadfuls were the pulp fiction of their day, precursors to the pulp magazines and also comics. The TV series was created by John Logan (who, among other things, wrote Skyfall and will be writing the next two James Bond films as well) and is the co-executive producer along with James Bond director Sam Mendes (he also directed The Road to Perdition).

There are also other Bond connections, including Timothy Dalton as the African explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, who is the father of Mina Murray, who just happens to be a character in the novel Dracula. Eva Green, who was the “Bond Girl” Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, plays Vanessa Ives, a medium and possibly a witch. Among interest to we pop culture geeks would also be Doctor Who’s companion Billie Piper as a prostitute with a possibly very dark future.

The show also features Victor Frankenstein and his creature(s) as well as Dorian Gray and a werewolf. To say more would spoil the story for those who have not yet experienced it. The show is well acted, well directed, well written and with first class production values. First class altogether as well as being suspenseful, creepy, and shocking.

What I like most about the show is the complexity of the characters. No one is wholly admirable nor wholly despicable. One of my favorite characters is Frankenstein’s Creature, who sometimes goes by the name Caliban; he is tragic and sympathetic and dangerous all at the same time. You learn things about all the characters and you’re not sure you should root for them – but you do.

All of which really leads up to the true topic of this week’s column – creating complex characters. It is both easy and difficult. It falls back to one of my cardinal rules – we write what we know, especially about people and life as we have experienced them.

What defines a given character is what they want and what they are willing to do to get what they want. By want, I mean really want – not just sorta kinda want. What do they need, what do they desire, what do they lust for, what must they have? Something primal. The more intense the want (the motivation), the better it will drive the story. The reader must not only know what the character wants, they have to feel it. They must feel the desire behind it.

What prevents the character from getting what they want (at least initially) is what makes the story. That’s the conflict. How the character copes with that conflict reveals what their true character is. Same as in life. If the need were easy to satisfy, the story would be quickly over.

Sometimes the conflict is with a person (the antagonist), sometimes an object (a mountain), sometimes a situation (a hurricane, for example). Think of your own life. What is most likely to keep you from getting what you want? As often as not, the answer is you yourself. You have doubts or fears but what is most likely to get in your way is a competing need. You want A but you want B as well and they are mutually exclusive. However, your inner child wants both. That conflict has to be resolved for the story to reach its climax. What we choose, what the character chooses, tell us and tells the reader who the character truly is.

Character exists within opposites. Never try to explain them away. Make the reader feel both desires and identify with both. State them, dramatize them, play with them before you resolve them.

Keep in mind that there may be more than two conflicting wants; in life, we may have dozens. Not all of them have to be resolved; only the main ones. Also keep in mind that it is not only your protagonist that has these conflicting needs; all your characters should. It should be true in your stories because it is true in life; it’s never simple, it’s never easy, it’s never neat and that is what makes it fascinating. Conflict is not just external; it’s internal. Apply what you know to the characters you write.

That’s the job.

 

RANKING THE JAMES BOND FILMS, PART 2: Numbers 13-4

RANKING THE JAMES BOND FILMS, PART 2: Numbers 13-4

Here I present Part 2 of my rankings of all the Eon-produced James Bond films.  Last time we ranked and examined 23-14.  This time we count down from number 13 to number 4.  Next time we’ll do the top 3.

On with the rankings:

13. Skyfall

O-ver Ra-ted!  I do not understand all the love for this movie.  Sure, it looked great and had some nice action—but so did “Quantum of Solace” and a bunch of the others listed beneath it here.  The plot had gaping holes, the villain succeeds at every single thing he wants to accomplish, the last reel of the film is actually dull, and the time frame for the character is impossible to pin down.  (He’s early in his career!  No, wait!  He’s the aged, grizzled spy, nearly washed up!  No—wait! Etc.)  It gets bogged down in the zillion nods to previous films and everything that happens in the first three-fourths seems clumsily contrived to set up the situation the producers desired at the end.  Not a favorite by any means.
12. Diamonds are Forever

It hasn’t aged well at all, it rehashes previously-used storylines, and parts of it don’t make a lick of sense after repeated viewings.  Even so, while not greater than the sum of its parts, it does contain some fantastic parts.  In particular you have to love the two assassins and the sublime Charles Gray as Blofeld.  And above all we get Connery back for one last go-round in the Eon series.  Dumb but fun.
11. For Your Eyes Only

The other particularly watchable Roger Moore Bond film (besides “Live and Let Die.”)  The bit with him romancing the teen-aged skater is a bit creepy, as he’s starting to show his age by this time.  But the more straight-ahead spy story is a welcome relief after the last few entries.  And the crossbow-wielding leading lady is terrific.
10. Dr. No

Crude—nobody associated with the production had quite found their footing yet—and it looks like it was filmed on a budget of about seventeen dollars.  But it’s undeniably fun, and the DNA for the entire rest of the series is on display here, though it hadn’t quite gelled yet. 
9. Tomorrow Never Dies

I have a soft spot in my heart for this one because it was the second in Pierce Brosnan’s run, and he’s my favorite Bond of all; and because it features the great Michelle Yeoh as a Chinese agent to rival Bond himself.  I would pay good money to watch a movie series or read a book series featuring Yeoh’s solo adventures—or Tiger Tanaka’s.  It’s also fun that the villain is a sort of Ted Turner/Rupert Murdoch mashup.
8. Live and Let Die

The first and best of the Roger Moore run.  The voodoo stuff is genuinely frightening—certainly it was to this kid back in the Seventies!—and the iconic moments like the jazzy Bourbon Street funeral and the rotating bar booth remain pleasant memories.  And Moore was still young enough to seem plausible in the role.
7. Thunderball

The Connery films were starting to seem a bit similar at this point, but the underwater stuff was new at the time and the villain was about as fun as any before him—though setting him on a ship and giving him an eyepatch might have been a bit much.
6. Casino Royale

Daniel Craig exploded onto the screen as one of the best Bonds of all, in one of the absolute best movies.  Parts were confusing to me at first; a lot happens in this movie.  Ultimately, though, it’s dark and intense and so much fun.
5. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

George Lazenby is underrated, in my view, while the film itself is somewhat overrated by Bond aficionados, in my view.  The whole bit in the allergy clinic in the middle gets a little sillier with repeated viewings, rivaling the worst of Moore’s excesses later on.  But it’s a really good spy story and there’s no denying the power of the ending.
4. Goldeneye

My favorite Bond actor in his best Bond film.  I love nearly everything about this movie.  We’d waited so long for Brosnan to play the part.  When it came out,  it represented a (you’ll pardon the expression) quantum leap forward in the sheer “epic-ness” of the series, back to what they’d been able to achieve (for far less money) in Connery’s heyday.  It sports a supporting cast, including Alan Cummings and Sean Bean, as good as any film in the series.
So there you have my numbers 13-4.  Next time we’ll look at the three best James Bond films of all, in my estimation.
Be sure to visit www.whiterocketbooks.com to listen to our James Bond podcast episode (or find it on iTunes) and also to check out the many great books we have available.  See you next time!

John Ostrander: The Bond Evolution

James Bond, as a movie franchise, has been around for fifty years and the franchise celebrates in magnificent fashion with the latest installment, Skyfall. For me, it’s definitely the best thus far of the Daniel Craig Bond movies and it may be my choice for the best of all the Bond movies. I know that “best” is, as often as not, a personal, subjective opinion rather than an objective choice. People can cite certain criteria as the basis of their opinions but who determines the criteria? For example, there are those who regard and will always regard Sean Connery as the best Bond and anything else is heresy.

Let’s look at Skyfall in context of the past fifty years of Bond films. On my list of the best Bond films are From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, Casino Royale. As much as I really enjoyed the latter, Skyfall is superior.

To start off, we have an A list director in Academy Award winner Sam Mendes (for whom Craig played in Road to Perdition, made from Max Allan Collins’s graphic novel). Together with cinematographer Roger Deakin, there are some stunning visuals in the film. This is the best-looking Bond movie ever.

The action set pieces, including the opening, are breathtaking, as are the opening credits by Daniel Kleinman, who also did several other Bond films including Casino Royale. The visuals in the opening credits actually play into the story and what has just happened onscreen with a hallucinatory effect.

A Bond film also heavily depends on its villain and with Javier Bardem’s Silva we have one of the greats. You can detect a touch of Heath Ledger’s Joker in him but not blazingly so. He smiles, he laughs, he’s brilliant, he’s predatory and he lusts for Bond’s body. Bardem knows how to both underplay the character and take him over the top. Considering that the character doesn’t even appear for the first hour or so into the film, the impact is indelible.

A Bond story doesn’t always have to make sense; it often provides the framework for the derring-do and the action but this one actually digs a bit into both the character of Bond and of his boss, M, played by the stunning Judi Dench. She is so tough and no nonsense that she could have been a white, British Amanda Waller. The most important relationship in the film is between M and Bond and ultimately it’s very touching, very human. The story doesn’t just keep everything very status quo; the situation and the characters are challenged and there is change.

The movie lets Bond fail early on, lets him get seedy, lets him fall off the mark in his skills so that he has to work to reclaim them. It addresses the question of whether or not Bond and M are dinosaurs, are they truly needed in this age of computer wizardry. (Yes, they are.) It also addresses the fact that Craig, and Bond, are getting older. In the Roger Moore era, it was glossed over as they gave Moore turtlenecks to hide his wattle. Here, Bond looks older, more worn, and it is suggested to him that he has lost a step or two and maybe its time for him to retire.

The movie pays service to the Bond films of the past without being strictly tied to its continuity. It doesn’t reboot the franchise so much as evolves it. During much of the Moore era, the franchise just got silly and even later incarnations didn’t change things much. Then the Bourne movies came out and the status quo changed. Bond had to change as well and that started with Casino Royale but has found its culmination here. At the same time, the Bond franchise doesn’t shy away from its past; there is a suggestion that between the last film, Quantum of Solace, and now many of the previous Bond adventures may have taken place, specifically Goldfinger. It redefines Bond and his world so that they work for today.

Skyfall digs deeper, attempts more, looks better, and challenges both the characters and us, more so than any other Bond film. Yes, I’m including From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. That’s why I’m saying it is the best Bond film ever. And don’t we want it that way? The best is not the past; it’s now and, hopefully, in the future. When people ask me what is the best story I’ve written, I always say, “The next one.” I hope to go to my grave thinking that. Gives us something to work for and to look forward to. Me? I can’t wait. Bring on the next Bond!

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

Emily S. Whitten: Cleolinda Jones – Comic Book Movies in 15 Minutes

You don’t have to be born with a comic book in your hand to be a fan. As I’ve mentioned, my early exposure to comics was mostly in the form of movies and TV. These days, I read comics too; but I know a lot of fans who’ve primarily discovered comics through the movies, and often stay mostly with that medium.

Some of those people take that movie fandom and turn it into something awesome. One such is Cleolinda Jones, prolific blogger and author of numerous hilarious movie parodies called Movies in 15 Minutes (there’s also a book). Although one thing she’s known for is being the Internet’s top Twilight snarker, she also writes really interesting discussions of comic book movies.

Recently, there’s been a flurry of talk about who gets to be a geek, and I agree completely with John Scalzi’s assessment that anyone who shares a love of geeky things is just as much of a geek as anyone else, and that we can all come at our love of pop culture and fandoms from very different backgrounds and tastes. Given all that, I thought it might be fun to get the perspective of an awesome female author and blogger who’s so known in pop culture and geek circles that people have actually written articles studying her blogging habits  and who clearly fits into comic book fandom but doesn’t come at it from the usual angle of reading comics. Also Cleolinda is just awesome and fun to interview! So here we go!

What kind of exposure have you had to comics generally – as a reader, a viewer, etc.?

Um… there were some tiny comics that came with my She-Ra dolls? I remember walking past racks and racks of comics at the grocery store every weekend and being really intrigued, but I was a very quiet, bookish child, and didn’t even bother asking my mother if I could have one. When I was in my 20s, I started picking up graphic novels based on which movies I had become interested in, and Watchmen on its general reputation.

How did you get into comics movies, and what was the first one you watched (as a child, and/or in the modern resurgence of comics movies)?

I think it says a lot about the genre that I don’t think of them as “comics” movies – I think of them as superhero movies and thrillers and action movies and whatever genre the actual story happens to be. I mean, technically, you could say that The Dark Knight and Wanted and From Hell and 300 are all “comics movies,” but if you say “comics,” I’m generally going to think “superheroes.” And those are such a box-office staple that it’s hard to think of them as something you get into, you know? They’re just there, and everyone goes to see them, and there are so many of them that some of them are awesome and some of them aren’t.

The first superhero movie, certainly, that I remember was Tim Burton’s Batman in the summer of 1989. I was probably ten or eleven at the time, and didn’t actually see it until it was on HBO a year or so later, but I remember that it was a big damn deal at the time. That black and yellow logo was everywhere, as were the dulcet purple strains of “Batdance.” Maybe it’s the Tim Burton sensibility that really got me into Batman movies initially; Batman Returns is pretty much my favorite Christmas movie ever, shut up. I just straight-up refused to see the Schumachers at all.  But I’m a Christopher Nolan fangirl, so that got me back in. Which may be the roundabout answer to the question: I get into these movies depending on who’s making them and/or who’s playing the characters. Nothing I read or saw about Green Lantern really attracted me from a filmmaking point of view (well, I love what Martin Campbell did with Casino Royale, there is that), so, in a summer crowded with movies, I didn’t go see it. And, you know, I’ve had Green Lantern fans tell me they really enjoyed it; that’s just the kind of choice you end up making with the time and money you have when you’re more interested in movies as a medium than comics.

What are your thoughts on the accessibility of comics movies, as someone who doesn’t primarily read comics? Are there any you found incomprehensible or confusing because you didn’t know the source material? Which do you think has been most successful as an adaptation for non-comics-reading viewers?

Well, despite my lack of comics-reading background, I usually hit up Wikipedia to get a vague idea of what happened in the original storyline. So the moment I heard that Bane was the TDKR villain, I went and looked it up and immediately wailed, “Noooooo I don’t want to see Bane [SPOILER SPOILER’S SPOILERRRRR]!” Because I keep up with movie news very closely, I knew when Marion Cotillard was cast that she would probably be [SPOILER]. And then, of course, they mixed it up a little anyway.

I guess The Avengers could have been confusing – which was something I lampshaded a little in the Fifteen Minutes I did for it, the umpteen previously on bits. But I felt like they explained it fairly well as they went. I had randomly seen Captain America (“It’s hot. Which movie you wanna see?” “Uh… that one? Sure”), so I knew the Tesseract back story, but I didn’t see Thor until two weeks after I saw The Avengers. But pop cultural osmosis plus the explanations in the movie meant that I understood the Loki business just fine; all seeing Thor did was give me more specific punchlines. (I do think that humor relies on knowing what you’re talking about, so I usually do a little research after I’ve seen something when I’m going to write it up.) Really, though, it’s hard to say. I’m usually aware enough of the movie’s background by the time I see it that I’m not confused. I mean, I’m already aware that Iron Man 3 is using the Extremis storyline, and there’s some kind of nanotech involved, and an Iron Patriot? Something – not enough to be spoiled, per se, but enough to have a frame of reference going in.

Just going by the numbers, it seems that The Dark Knight and The Avengers have been incredibly successful adaptations – and I don’t even mean in terms of money, but in terms of how many people flocked to those movies, saw them, enjoyed them, and were willing to see them again. You don’t make a billion dollars without repeat viewings. And that indicates to me that these movies were rewarding experiences for people, rather than frustrating or confusing (the Joker’s Xanatos gambits aside). And I think familiarity helped in both cases, though through different means. The Joker is obviously the most iconic Batman villain; in fact, The Dark Knight actually skips the slightest whiff of genuine back story there, instead showing the Joker as a sort of elemental chaos, almost a trickster god who comes out of nowhere and then, as far we viewers are concerned, vanishes. There’s no background for non-readers to catch up on; the TDK Joker is completely self-contained. Whereas Marvel’s approach with The Avengers was to get the public familiarized with the characters, very painstakingly, with this series of movies that built up Iron Man as the popular backbone, and then filled in the others around him, either in their own headlining movies or as supporting characters in someone else’s. One movie started out with very recognizable characters, and the other endeavored to make the characters recognizable by the time it came out.

Have you read a comic because you saw a movie about it? Or, have you read a comic because you were going to see a movie about it? How did that change your movie viewing and fan experience?

I got interested in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and read the trade paperback a few weeks before it came out – and then hated the movie. And you know, I think I would have actually enjoyed the silliness of it if I hadn’t “known better,” so to speak, so if it’s not already too late, I try to hold off on reading a book until after I’ve seen the movie. I did read Watchmen first – and did enjoy the movie. I think those are the only ones I’ve read beforehand, though. I did go pick up From Hell and a Sin City set, and I bought the second LXG series in single issues as well; I keep meaning to get V for Vendetta. I’ve never picked up a superhero comic. I just look at the vast history of Marvel and DC and think, where would I even start? (How could I even afford it? Do they have comics in libraries?) I’ve never even read the Sandman series, and that’s supposedly the traditional gateway drug for geek girls.

You write hilarious parodies about all sorts of movies; and the recent The Avengers in 15 Minutes is no exception. Can you talk a little about what it’s like writing the parodies (including how you started and your experience with that generally), and whether it’s any different for comics vs. other movies? Was there anything unique about writing The Avengers one?

Well, the short version is that I came home from Van Helsing (2004) and started writing a script-format bit on a whim; I thought it was just going to be one scene plunked into a Livejournal entry, but it took on a life of its own. I published a book of ten print-only parodies in 2005 with Gollancz; the original Spider-Man (2002) is in there, but there’s also fantasy, sci-fi, overly serious historical epic, etc., spread pretty evenly throughout. Looking back, I think The Avengers is the only other superhero movie I’ve done; 300, V for Vendetta, and Wanted might count generally. It helps for the movie to have some sense of silliness, or at the very least absurdity or over-seriousness. If nothing else, there’s something humorous about movies as a medium – the tropes they run on, the expectations, the necessary coincidences, the mundane things they conveniently skip, the way that this stuff just would not work in real life. And you can point this out and have fun with it without saying, “And that’s why this is a terrible movie.”

The real difference with the Avengers movie – the material it provided – was that it had all of these background movies leading up to it. So you immediately have more opportunities for cross-referencing and in-jokes, in addition to a running “previously on” setup. There were few comics-only jokes (although I did enough research to mention the Wasp and Ant-Man), because the movies themselves were plenty to deal with. Whereas the various Harry Potter in Fifteen Minutes writeups I’ve done played more on the “This Scene Was Cut for Time” idea, referencing the books and the plot holes incurred by leaving things out – what wasn’t there.

If anything, The Avengers was incredibly hard to do not because it was good, but because it was self-aware. I mean, I did Lord of the Rings, a trilogy I love, for the book, but I consider what I do to be “affectionate snark,” and… that’s kind of already built into The Avengers. So, while a gloriously absurd movie like Prometheus took four days and all I really had to do was describe exactly what happens, The Avengers took six weeks.

What’s your favorite comics storyline and/or character?

I seem to be drawn to characters who have just had enough and start wrecking shit. I think I’m so drawn to Batman not because I want to be rescued by him, but because I want to be him. I discussed last week how the Omnipotent Vigilante just can’t work in real life – but it works as a fantasy. Because every time I hear about something horrible on the news, or even just someone on the internet being a complete and utter asshole, I wish I could go be Batman and show up in the dark and scare the fear of God back into people (“Swear To Me!!!! 11!!”). Also, I didn’t really grow up with the more light-hearted TV version(s) of Catwoman; my frame of reference is Michelle Pfeiffer. And that’s a Catwoman whose story arc is almost a “vengeful ghost” story. She has been wronged, and now she’s back, and you are going to pay (maybe for great justice, maybe not). Whereas the Anne Hathaway Catwoman, while a really interesting character, is more about Selina wavering between conscience and self interest, not vengeance. And maybe that’s closer to the “cat burglar” origin of the character – which, again, speaks to how meeting these characters through movies may mean that you have a very different experience from a comics reader.

And then you have someone like Wolverine – I think my favorite scene in the entire series is in the second movie, where he ends up having to defend the school pretty much entirely by himself. You wish you could be that badass, in defense of yourself or someone (everyone) else. This also may be why I saw X-Men: First Class and kind of wanted an entire Magneto Hunts Nazis movie – and maybe why Magneto, even as an antagonist, is so compelling in the Bryan Singer movies. The X-Men universe has some genuinely interesting moral ambiguities, you know? Gandalf has a few legitimate grievances and now he is tired of your shit. *CAR FLIP*

Also, I have a little bit of grey hair at my temple that I wish would grow into a Rogue streak.

Marvel, DC, or neither?

You know, as much as I love Batman, I tend to be more interested in Marvel characters as a whole; not sure what’s up with that. Actually, it may be that Marvel has been so much more pro-active about getting movies made and characters out there; I like about three of the X-Men movies a lot, the first two Spider-Man movies are good (the reboot was good except for the feeling that half the story got chopped out, I thought), and now the Avengers-based movies are turning out really well. There’s just more to chose from on the Marvel side at this point.

Do you have more of a desire to pick up paper (or digital) comics to read after seeing a comics movie? Or do you prefer sticking with the movies?

I seem to be more interested in reading stand-alone stories, which is probably why I picked up Alan Moore books pretty quickly. Even if it’s a somewhat self-contained Marvel/DC storyline, it’s like… do I need to have read twenty years of story before this? Can I just walk in and start reading this, or am I missing volumes and volumes of context? And then, if I get really into this, are they just going to reboot the universe and wipe all of this out? And then you have to figure out what the movie was based on in the first place. I might be interested in reading the comics a particular movie is based on – but then you say, well, The Dark Knight Rises was inspired by ten different comics. If you put all that into a boxed set with a big The Dark Knight Rises Collection plastered across it, I would be more likely to buy that than if you shoved me into a comics store (complete with disdainful clerk) and said, “There Is The Batman Section, Chew Your Own Way Out.” The decades of stories and do-overs and reboots, the sheer flexibility and weight and history, are what appeal to a lot of comics readers, I guess, but they’re exactly what bewilder movie viewers, leaving them no idea where to start.

 

What comics movie are you most looking forward to in the near future; and is there a comic book story or character you’d like to see a movie about who doesn’t have one yet?

I’m curious to see how Man of Steel turns out, even though Superman has never done that much for me as a character. (That said, I always talk about “going into the Fortress of Solitude” when I try to seriously get some work done.) I once heard that Metropolis and Gotham are, metaphorically, the same city – one by day and the other by night – and I don’t know that there would be enough sunlight in a “gritty” Superman reboot, if that makes any sense. And I was just fascinated by the idea of Darren Aronofsky doing The Wolverine, of all things, but it looks like James Mangold is directing that now. And, you know, in checking on that, I see “based on the 1982 limited series Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller.” I see the words “limited series” and “trade paperback rated Must Have” and I think, okay, maybe this is something I have a chance of catching up on first.

I would really, really like to see a Black Widow movie, at this point. As much as I liked Anne Hathaway’s Selina, I wonder if a character that arch doesn’t work better in small doses. I mean, I’d still like to see them try a spinoff movie, but somehow, I think Black Widow might work out better. Everyone’s remarked on how great a year it’s been for people actually going to see movies with active heroines – Katniss, Merida, Selina, Natasha, even warrior princess Snow White – and I’m hoping that idea sticks. I know that the comics industry in general has a problem both in writing about and marketing to women. Maybe movies can lead the way on that.

Thanks for a fascinating perspective on your comics (and movie) fandom, Cleo!

If you haven’t done so, check out Cleo’s comics thoughts and parodies and, until next time:

Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis and the Death of Batman

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Goes To A Party!

Complete James Bond Collection Comes to Blu-ray for 50th Anniversary

In celebration of James Bond’s monumental golden anniversary, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment today unveiled BOND 50,  a collectible box-set  featuring all 22 James Bond films on Blu-ray Disc for the first time in one complete offering. The longest running film franchise of all time, the Bond 50 collection marks the debut of nine James Bond films previously unavailable in high definition Blu-ray.  Fans around the world can pre-order now with participating online retailers.

Acclaimed Bond directors John Glen (five Bond films including For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights & Licence To Kill), Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale) and Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) with special guests Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Caterina Murino (Casino Royale) made the Blu-ray announcement today during a Directors’ Panel discussion in the Panasonic Booth at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

BOND 50 showcases fifty years of Bond neatly packaged into one cool, sleek collectable box-set featuring all six iconic James Bond actors.  Produced using the highest possible picture quality and audio presentation, the collection includes all 22 James Bond feature films from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace and more than 130 hours of bonus features including some new and exclusive content.

“With all 22 feature films available on Blu-ray in one collection for the first time this is a great way for fans to catch up on 007’s epic journey before Skyfall hits theaters next Fall,” said Michael Brown, Senior Vice President, MGM Home Entertainment.  “Now viewers can enjoy the intense action of the innovative franchise in the most immersive home experience possible.”

“We have a whole program of exciting activities planned for our 50th anniversary year, beginning with today’s announcement, by Fox, of the release of all 22 films on Blu-ray for the very first time,’’ added Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, with Eon Productions.  “We are also delighted that Fox has unveiled a specially designed anniversary poster which we hope the fans will love as much as we do. Our website, 007.com will be regularly updated with all the latest anniversary news and events.”

‘Three Musketeers’ 3-D Film Builds Cast

‘Three Musketeers’ 3-D Film Builds Cast

Now that the Robin Hood legend has been mined once more for the screen, attention has pivoted from England to France as director Paul W.S. Anderson has begun casting for The Three Musketeers, a 3-D extravaganza.

To date, he has envisioned Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) as his D’Artagnan with Ray Stevenson (The Book of Eli), Luke Evans (Clash of the Titans) and Matthew Macfadyen (Robin Hood) as Porthos, Athos and Aramis, respectively.

For the villains, it’ll be Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds) as Cardinal Richelieu and Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) as Rochefort.  Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings) has been offered the role of the Duke of Buckingham. Milla Jovovich, Anderson’s wife, will portray Milady de Winter, Athos’ former lover.

The Alexander Dumas novel has been adapted for movies and television dating back to 1903 and was most recently seen in the crowd-pleasing 1993 Disney attempt. The Alexander Salkind two-film production is being dusted off for a Blu-ray release on June 1 from Lionsgate.

Anderson cowrote the script with Andrew Davies and the filming is expected to begin in September. Summit will release the film domestically but has yet to announce a date, which is likely to be in 2011.

This is the second modern adaptation with the other being mounted by director Doug Liman (The Bourne Ultimatum) and Warner Bros. with a 2012 release planned. No casting has been announced and this too will start shooting in the fall.

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ComicMix Quick Picks (in Six) for December 16, 2009

ComicMix Quick Picks (in Six) for December 16, 2009

Six quickies:

Anything else? Consider this an open thread.

Review: ‘James Bond Encyclopedia’

Review: ‘James Bond Encyclopedia’

James Bond Encyclopedia

By John Cork and Collin Stutz
334 Pages, DK Publishing, $40

Nobody does it better. DK Publishing continues to put out the best assortment of visual reference books on pop culture and as we near the holidays, they keep pumping out one must have collection after another.

Few literary figures have endured changing eras and tastes likes Ian Fleming’s spy, [[[James Bond]]]. Fleming created the spy in the 1950s and continued his exploits through the dozen novels and nine short stories before his death in 1964. He got to see his creation catch the attention of a world made uncomfortable by the Cold War, giving them a clear cut hero to root for as he traveled the world and dispatched the Red Menace in all its guises.

Bond has endured despite the constant change in performer, indelibly begun by Sean Connery and carried through by George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and currently Daniel Craig. The world has remained transfixed by the globe-trotter spy, equally adept with women and firearms, always looking best in a black tuxedo. The films, themselves, have gone from depicting the counterintelligence threat from Eastern Europe to megalomaniacs, trying to change and reflect the times. Much like Batman, Bond reflects the tastes of the masses. As a result, we went from the taut thrillers like Goldfinger to the buffoonery that was Moonraker to today’s reboot, a harsher, less disciplined Bond for a darker world.

All of that and more are covered in the 332-page [[[James Bond Encyclopedia]]], lovingly assembled by writers John Cork and Collin Stutz. A visual treat thanks to DK’s art department, the oversized tome introduces to all things Bond. The writers wisely broke things down into categories, updating from the 2007 edition to include [[[Quantum of Solace]]]. We have an introductory piece on Fleming, profiles of the six men to play James Bond, and the sections on The Bond Style, The Role of Bond, Bond Villains, Bond Women, Supporting Cast, Vehicles, Weapons & Equipment, and finally, backgrounds on the making of each movie.  The book concludes with a comprehensive index that’s quite useful.

The Barry Nelson television version, the Casino Royale satire, and Never Say Never Again are omitted – consider this the canonical Bond reference book. Each entry, where appropriate, compares the film version with its prose origins, and differentiates between the differing interpretations such as M, Q, Moneypenny, and Blofeld. If the character appeared on screen and said something, they were included, making this exhaustive and fun to flip through (I had totally forgotten Minnie Driver was in one of the films, for example).

While Cubby Broccoli, Harry Salzman, Barbara Broccoli, and Michael Wilson get their due for guiding the films through the years, I wish a little more attention had been given to the musicians who helped make each film an event. Visually, a section dedicated to Maurice Binder’s stunning opening credits would have been a treat.  Overall, though, this is a book every fan of Bond should have.

Review: ‘Quantum of Solace’ on DVD

Review: ‘Quantum of Solace’ on DVD

Having grown up on James Bond movies, I have been conditioned to expect certain lines, images and sounds. As a result, I was curious to see what would survive when the franchise was rebooted with Casino Royale. They played with the martini line but maintained the title theme and gave us a fresh start (although I still think Daniel Craig is too old for Bond at this stage in his career).

The movie was pretty terrific although I noted at the time that the pacing was odd and the entire final third felt like a separate film. So, going into Quantum of Solace, which is released on DVD tomorrow., I wanted to see what they would do next especially since this is the first film that was a direct sequel.

The events from [[[Casino]]] provide Bond’s motivations and colors everything he does in this film. Here’s the first problem with the new film: it does a piss poor job of reminding you what happened in the previous installment. When Mathis is reintroduced, I had forgotten who he was and what his involvement with Bond and Vesper were. Similarly, when Bond says M was wrong about Vesper, I have no recollection what she said in the previous film.

While Bond films are known for their action sequences, this one felt by rote. We had fist fights, a car chase, a boat chase and a plane chase. Ho hum. They were uninvolving thanks to what I call “in your face” editing so things flash by so quickly, you have no real sense of what’s going on. You get impressions based on the glimpses you have in your field of vision. Storytelling is tossed out the window for style but leaves you either confused or frustrated.

The movie is praised for being a taut two hours but I would have dearly enjoyed ten more minutes if characters actually spoke to one another as characters not plot exposition and surface characterization. Also, the movie utterly ignores time. You have no idea how much time has passed from the first scene to the last. We have no idea how Bond changes his clothes so often, when he sleeps, eats and so on. After having no access to money or passports, we next see him in a boat heading to see Mathis. How?

It wasn’t all disappointing.

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