JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
FILE #7: "Diamonds Are Forever"
This series will trace the cinema history of James Bond, while also examining Ian Fleming's original novels as source material and examining how faithful (or not) the films have been to his work.
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Screenplay by Richard Maibuam and Tom Makiewicz
Produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli
CHARACTERS / CAST
James Bond / Sean Connery
Tiffany Case / Jill St. John
Ernst Stavro Blofeld / Charles Gray
Plenty O'Toole / Lana Wood
Willard Whyte / Jimmy Dean
Saxby / Bruce Cabot
Mr. Kidd / Putter Smith
Mr. Wint / Bruce Glover
Felix Leiter / Norman Burton
Dr. Metz / Joseph Furst
"M" / Bernard Lee
"Q" / Desmond Llewelyn
Shady Tree / Leonard Barr
Moneypenny / Lois Maxwell
Mrs. Whistler / Margaret Lacey
Peter Franks / Joe Robinson
Sir Donald Munger / Laurence Naismith
Mr. Slumber / David Bauer
Connery's return to the series starts with a great, casual gun barrel turn, and then launches directly into a brutal fight as Bond beats the holy hell out of a guy looking for information about the location of Blofeld. That leads him to Cairo, where he beats the crap out of another guy in a casino, and that leads him to Maui, where he strangles a woman with her own bikini top to get more information about Blofeld out of her. It's a series of quick cuts, and it creates a sense that Bond isn't playing around. He's driven to find Blofeld so he can get his revenge.
JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
I do not write often about music, and I think that's because my feelings about music are even more personal than my feelings about movies. I love movies in general, and I am happy to discuss good films, bad films, what I love, what I hate, and all of it seems to me to be part of one great big larger conversation about film as art. With music, I have very little patience for the things I don't like, and I can honestly say there's no way I could face a lifetime of writing about music I don't like and artists whose work means nothing to me. I will sit through almost any movie and give it a chance, but ten seconds of a song I dislike is enough to get me to change a radio station or turn something off.
The music I love comes to me mainly from friends I trust because I listen to so little radio at this point. I don't spend any real time listening to mainstream pop because it just doesn't speak to me. It's not for me. I don't begrudge anyone else the things they like, but I have no interest in 90% of it. I am aware of pop stars because of their omnipresence in the media, but knowing who someone is doesn't mean I have any real idea about what it is they do. For example, I am aware of Katy Perry because she has had such a high media profile and because she's an attractive woman. I know she had a brief marriage to Russell Brand. I know filmmakers seem to like to use her music, and her song "Firework" is used to truly moving effect in this year's "Rust and Bone." But I can't honestly say I've ever spent any time tracking her work down or listening to it beyond casual exposure.
Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page together in one interview is a whole lot of smart and attractive to deal with at one time, and it almost didn't happen.
When there are multiple press days happening at the same time, studios frequently coordinate so that they can be in the same location and they can work out schedules, knowing that reporters are juggling several obligations at the same time. Last week, I had a bit of juggling of my own to do, since I was covering Oliver Stone's new film "Savages," and then I was also set to talk to some of the cast from "To Rome With Love," but in a different location.
The Four Seasons, which is frequently the location of these press days, was positively swamped that afternoon, and in addition to "Savages" and several other press days, they were dealing with a wedding and some other events, and it was positively insane. When I wrapped up the "Savages" interviews, I ran to get my car so I could drive the six minutes to the second hotel, the Beverly Wilshire, where the "To Rome With Love" team was entrenched. I was cutting things close, but I figured I could make it.
Then it took the valets 45 minutes to get my car.
Steven Spielberg… Daniel Day-Lewis… you gentlemen have your work cut out for you. Fair warning.
Common sense may tell you otherwise, but the rumors are true. There is indeed a movie called "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter." It is a real thing that really exists. I have seen it. And even now, almost two days later, I find it hard to believe that really happened. Timur Bekmambetov has made a fever dream that plays like the supercharged imagination of a 21st Century XBOX junkie raised on 20th Century pop culture, jacked up on Mountain Dew and ADD medications, asleep during a lecture about Abe Lincoln in history class, dreaming this crazy alternate history and getting some real biography mixed up with the most hilariously insane gore and action you'll see in any studio effort this summer. It is deranged. And I am here to testify that I laughed from beginning to end and had more fun than should be allowed in public.
It's the sort of film that I want to own because there are about five scenes I want to slow down and take apart just to figure out what Bekmambetov actually did. He is a madman. He has a remarkable sense of how to destroy time so he can capture some hyperexaggerated burst of violence. He has a great knack for geography and composition that has never been better indulged than it is here, and all the technical acumen he's been picking up on his last few films, including "Wanted," pay off here with a liquid reality that he is in complete control of, start to finish, in a way that is truly impressive.
With the news today that Andrew Sarris has passed away, it seems like a fair moment to reflect on the state of film criticism in general. After all, it was Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael who I would argue made film criticism into a free-standing art form worth practicing with the work they did during the '60s and '70s. I grew up reading both of them, and while I wouldn't say either of them had a direct influence on my voice, they both taught me that it is important to have a voice and to understand why you react the way you do to a movie.
Here's the thing… I don't think real criticism should serve as a consumer reports piece, because I don't think it can. I don't believe I can tell you whether or not a movie is worth your time and money. Instead, what I can do is try to describe a film, examine how it accomplishes its goals or doesn't, and set it into a context regarding genre, subject matter, thematic content, or filmmaker's career. My job, if I do it properly, is to write a piece that stands as a separate experience from the film itself, something that should read the same a decade from now as it does this week. Anyone who presumes to be able to tell their entire readership "You will like this" or "You will hate this" does not think very much of their readership. I know that you guys have a wide range of perspectives, and no two of us have identical taste. Sarris, like Kael, was one of those critics whose work remains a pleasure to read now because he was willing to dig deep into a piece of material, and his command of language allowed him to craft compelling reads, week after week, piece after piece.
Every couple of weeks, I get an e-mail asking me if I can send someone a copy of the "Jurassic Park 4" script that was co-written by John Sayles and William Monahan, and every time, I have to write back to explain to the person that I never had a digital copy of it. Sure, Sayles accused me in print of hacking Steven Spielberg's personal computer to steal the file, but that just suggests to me that Sayles has little or no idea just how many people have their hands on a script over the course of the development process.
One of the reasons so many people remain so curious about that proposed version of the sequel is because of just how crazy it sounded. I still wish Universal had gone ahead and made it, because even if it turned out to be completely insane, it would have been the sort of insane that you can't stop watching, sort of like this summer's "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter." There are some films that you can't believe exist, even after you see them, and I think it's safe to assume that "Jurassic Park 4" had the potential to be one of those films.
With the way Hollywood churns through material these days, we thought it was worth taking a look at the various sources they're pulling from and discussing what they might make from these books, games, TV shows, or whatever else they use. For today's column, we look at Don Winslow's "Savages," a crime novel that is the inspiration for Oliver Stone's new film.
Chon and Ben are friends. They grow marijuana. No, scratch that. They grow the very best marijuana. They have a successful distribution network that has made them both very comfortable. Ben travels the world doing philanthropic work that makes him feel good about how he earns his money. Chon stays at home and tends to the nastier details of their trade. It's a pretty great arrangement.
And then there's O. She's the girl who loves them both. They share her in every way. Sometimes in explicit detail.
When the Baja Cartel decides to expand its reach into Southern California, they put pressure on Chon and Ben to join them and allow them to take over operations. All they want is for the guys to keep growing. Ben and Chon try to quit the business, at which point the Baja Cartel kidnaps O.
Paul Verhoeven is determined to make a film about Jesus Christ.
In related news, Paul Verhoeven is determined to get himself shot by someone who can't handle any discussion of Jesus as anything less than the literal Son Of God.
While I love "Robocop" dearly, I am convinced that Paul Verhoeven ruined his career by making that film. Before that, he was an interesting, provocative European director whose sensibilities were resolutely art-house. Anyone who has ever spoken to Verhoeven can testify to his keen intellect and his almost innate desire to push buttons. I think that's the way he attacks any subject. He loves to ask questions because he is fascinated by human behavior, particularly at the polar extremes of good and bad.
His Hollywood career has seemed like one long misuse of his talents, and it's been painful watching him try to turn garbage like "Basic Instinct" or "The Hollow Man" into something worth his time and his skill. At least with "Black Book," it seemed like he was working on material with some weight to it again. It was a huge step in the right direction.
There's a new trailer for "The Watch" online today, and it appears to have originated from India.
So far, the domestic campaign for the film has mainly emphasized a certain attitude, setting up Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade as suburban guys who seem to be taking an unreasonable degree of pleasure from working as part of a neighborhood watch. In the second trailer, Fox finally revealed the science-fiction elements on the film's premise, but it's still more about attitude than what actually happens.
The international trailer is much more focused in selling the film and the characters. Ben Stiller is Evan, the guy who is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too involved in community activities, and he's the one who organizes the Neighborhood Watch in the first place. The other three are all volunteers, and they don't start the film as close friends.
Vince Vaughn appears to have found a perfect vehicle for his particular brand of motor-mouthed eccentricity as Bob. Jonah Hill's Franklin is a guy who wanted to join the police department but failed the qualifications in pretty much every way possible. Ayoade's Jamarcus seems to be hoping that Neighborhood Watch work will lead directly to a letter from Penthouse Forum. Just knowing that much about the three of them already gives me a better idea of what to expect from the four of them bouncing off of each other.
There is never going to be an easy date for Warner Bros. to release "Cloud Atlas."
Some movies are simply challenges, no matter what. That doesn't make them bad films, and it doesn't make them good films. It just means they are hard to sell to an audience. When you have to cut a 30-second commercial that conveys the main idea or appeal of a film, that is a very difficult thing on certain movies.
Warner Bros. digs "Cloud Atlas." I feel fairly safe in saying so. They know what movie they've got, and they know what sort of challenge is ahead, and so declaring a release date is step one in setting the table for the eventual release of the film.
It helps when you have Tom Hanks and Halle Berry starring in your movie, especially when you can advertise that each of them ends up playing a variety of different roles in the film. And when the supporting cast includes Jim Broadbent, also playing multiple parts, Hugo Weaving reteaming with his "Matrix" directors, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, and younger familiar faces like Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, and James D'Arcy, you've got enough leeway that you can let a relatively unknown actress, internationally speaking, like Doona Bae star in the film in one of the main key roles.