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Tag Archive: Daniel Craig


Colin Firth british spy

We’re always on the lookout for the next James Bond.  Three years ago we here at borg.com nominated Rufus Sewell here and Paul Blackthorne (Arrow, Dresden Files) and Jason Isaacs (Awake, Harry Potter) here.  Fortunately Daniel Craig doesn’t appear to be giving up his Walther PPK or Aston Martin anytime soon.  But what about the British number one heartthrob, Colin Firth?

Now we at least have an idea of what Firth’s Bond might look like with the preview to the 2016 release Kingsman: The Secret Service this week.  Admittedly we first thought this trailer was for a remake of the classic British spy series The Avengers, with Firth as John Steed.  Ralph Fiennes, the newest M in the James Bond franchise, was the latest to don the famous bowler hat and umbrella for that role.  Firth would have been a good choice for that role, but he also seems to be summoning a little foppish Peter Sellers from the original Casino Royale, too.

Kingsman Secret Service

Based on the six issue comic book mini-series Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class), this latest spy flick has Firth mentoring a street-kid for possible inclusion in a secret spy society.  That mentoring makes this movie give off a vibe like another great coming of age flick of years past, The Freshman, starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick.  If Kingsman is half as good as that film, we’ve got something to look forward to.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The 23rd James Bond film has a lot it must accomplish compared to other franchise movies.  On the 50th anniversary of Bond on film, director Sam Mendes had to deliver something special, more than just the latest entry in the Bond canon.  And despite Mendes’s influences, Skyfall had to be more than another Christopher Nolan action romp like the recent Batman films.  After 50 years, Bond is a British tradition, an international icon, the star of every diehard action film fan’s awaited pilgrimage every few years.  Mendes had to blend the classic with the new as each of his predecessors had, and make sure that even that was done in a new way, without copying other action film franchises like the Jason Bourne movies, as the last movie, Quantum of Solace, has been accused of.  Messing with the Bond formula is like messing with the formula for Coca-Cola.  A director of a Bond film has a delicate trapeze act to maneuver to create a successful Bond picture connecting all the elements of the Bond formula.

So how did Skyfall fair?

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If you were married 50 years ago this time of year (and you know who you are), you’d be celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary–known as the Golden Anniversary.  James Bond, the British agent that never grows old throughout his film franchise also scores a Golden Anniversary this year as several companies celebrate his 50th year on the silver screen.  It’s not the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but, hey, it’s close–and heck, she’s the Queen.  In a year of Olympics in London and British TV series making their mark overseas, it seems fitting that all things James Bond are big from now through the end of the year.

First up is “Global James Bond Day,” slated for October 5, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the London premiere of Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as the first actor to portray Bond, in the first of now 23 official Ian Fleming James Bond novel adaptations.  Although we’ve seen no nations making this a holiday or even a nationally recognized celebration, Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment all are partnering on this big marketing push leading to the release of Skyfall starring Daniel Craig, premiering November 9, 2012, in the U.S.A.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Passion Pictures and Red Box Films are also releasing a documentary about Ian Fleming and the men who made James Bond the largest movie franchise in film history.  Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 focuses on the individuals who have kept Bond fresh and alive with the changing times, Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.  Theater dates for the documentary have not yet been released.

Collectors of screen-used James Bond memorabilia will be happy to hear Christie’s will be auctioning off 50 lots tied to the franchise via an online and live auction charity event benefitting twelve charities (full details are at www.christies.com/bond).  Lot details will be released in September.

If you’re in London you can catch some of the most iconic items from the 007 movies displayed at the “Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style” exhibition at the Barbican center in London continuing through September 5, 2012.  If you’re not in London but are lucky enough to be living in or visiting Canada between October 26, 2012 and January 20, 2013, the Toronto International Film Festival and Bell Lightbox will be hosting its own spinoff of the London “Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style” event.

Exhibition highlights include the steel teeth worn by Richard “Jaws” Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me (1997); storyboards for Diamonds are Forever (1971);  the Anthony Sinclair overcoat worn by Sean Connery in Dr. No (1962);  the poker table from Casino Royale (2006); and multiple gadgets from Q Branch including the attaché case given to Bond in From Russia With Love (1963).

The preservationists of original Albert Broccoli’s EON Productions donated copies of each James Bond film–the New York Museum of Modern Art will be hosting its own Bond film retrospective this year.

Like Bond music like Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die?  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be hosting a “Music of Bond” night in Los Angeles later this year.  If you don’t live in L.A., you might want to know that the best single CD James Bond orchestral compilation of music ever created, Bond and Beyond, was recorded by the late, great Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops in 2002, and can still be found at Amazon.com and other online stores.

And those who saw the big Bond 50 booth at Comic-Con will already know that all 22 Bond films to date will be released for the first time in one Blu-Ray collection beginning September 24, 2012.  You can pre-order the Blu-Ray collection Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection for a discount off the release price now at Amazon.com and get a limited edition hardcover book including 50 years of Bond movie posters.  It will also be available in a standard DVD collection edition, also now at a pre-order discount at Amazon.com.

And borg.com is participating as well as we continue our “Retro reviews” of all the original James Bond novels, continuing later this week with Ian Fleming’s Moonraker.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Nice timing!  Right when everyone is absorbed in the middle of the Olympics in England, it’s good to know someone is paying attention and releasing an expansive new trailer for Skyfall, including bits released two weeks ago in advance of The Dark Knight Rises.

Not only do we see Ben Whishaw as the new Q,

we also get to see Javier Bardem as the blonde villain!

You can actually see why someone thought of him as a possible Khan in the next Star Trek movie.

Enjoy!

Skyfall hits theaters November 9, 2012.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

If you missed the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony last night, watch this five-minute video that launched the festivities.  It’s all you really need to see:

(Original video removed–new India news version updated until better version available)

I don’t know whether it’s because they picked Daniel Craig, the current actor and my favorite actor who has portrayed James Bond, whether Queen Elizabeth II let her guard down enough to appear with Craig in this film, whether it’s the Queen’s happy-go-lucky Corgis, or even the mere perception that Bond and the Queen would parachute in for the Olympic ceremonies, but this is the best opener I have ever seen.

The Olympics should represent the country that is the host, and what is more British than the Queen and Bond and Buckingham Palace and the very stately Prince Philip?  And a little nod to Winston Churchill to boot.  (And if this doesn’t get Craig his knighthood, nothing will).

God save the Queen’s shoes?

Since I have been a little kid I have watched major ceremonies over the years that have included the Queen.  We from those countries that broke away from the British Empire centuries ago sometimes comment negatively about the whole Royal thing, but as a ruler of nations (and whatever power she actually has relatively speaking in Great Britain vs. the rest of the government) it really is hard to beat this woman and her personal management of world affairs for so long.  With her 60-year celebration of her reign this year–her Diamond Jubilee–she continues to amaze and impress.  Sharing highlights of her numerous world-impacting experiences with the many younger political guests at the Jubilee ceremony makes you think about the value and importance of wisdom in leadership, wisdom that comes from 60 years as a successful leader.  Her remarks to the rest of the country’s rulers at her ceremony were so sharp, thoughtful, and eloquent that you wish she would be running the show in England forever.

And back to the Olympics, you know she’s really digging being in a James Bond clip.  Making Bond stand there waiting like that?  Move over Judi Dench!

Brannagh reads from The Tempest, and leads the building of a nation through the Industrial Revolution in Danny Boyle’s impressive opening ceremonies.

And the rest of the show didn’t let up, with Kenneth Brannagh reading Shakespeare, JK Rowling reading Lewis Carroll, Paul McCartney playing his best song, Hey Jude, Rowan Atkinson doing his funniest bit of work ever, and the selection of seven unknown kids to light the torch instead of national athletes.  No doubt event shows like the Academy Awards should look to director Danny Boyle for future productions.

The London Symphony Orchestra’s powerful performance of the theme to Chariots of Fire is mashed up against a funny comic bit of Rowan Atkinson playing a repeated keyboard note from the theme song.

So if England was trying to start the Olympics with a great image and message they have done it, and with the other iconic thing that is truly British–British humor.  And Corgis!  Bravo!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Just released is the new “super trailer” for the 23rd James Bond adaptation, Skyfall.

It pretty much speaks for itself.  You either like James Bond or you don’t (and how could you not?).  And fans will forever quarrel over who was the best Bond.  I’ve said before here at borg.com that what like about Daniel Craig is his ability to so easily and visibly take over the room as he enters, simply through his walk and attitude.  He has presence, and it reflects the sure-footed, suave, and brilliant character Ian Fleming created in his novels.

As Bond, Craig has become “the man every man wants to be, and the man every woman wants to be with.”  Craig is the ultimate British hero, but he plays it differently than the prior Bonds, a more modern type of British character.  In the trailer he appears as tough and thick-skinned as ever, and what’s that?  James Bond in jail for murder?  Will this third film with Craig be his last?

In his first role as Bond, Casino Royale, Craig took the character to new places returning to Bond’s first 007 super-spy mission.  Edgier than ever before, we saw someone in a foot race that seemed like he really was actually in a foot race and actually trying to catch the bad guy, and not caring whether he got scars along he way or his clothing rumpled, unlike some past Bonds.  Playing a high-stakes card game this Bond is not mild-mannered so much as cool and cocky.  Like Steve McQueen in Bullitt, this Bond doesn’t care what anyone else is doing around him.  As much as we are glued to the every move of each “Bond girl” in this film–Caterina Murino as the first bad guy’s girlfriend, and then Eva Green as Vesper, soon to be his first and last love in the series–they are focused on Bond.

The follow-up film, Quantum of Solace, whose title comes from a Fleming short story, was not as great from a story standpoint, but Craig made the best of it.  His best on-screen relationship is with Judi Dench’s M, who strangely comes across as a determined and scornful but somewhat caring mother figure to Bond as much as a boss and head of covert ops at MI6.

Luckily we get to see Craig at least one more time as Bond this October.  Skyfall stars Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) as the villain, with Dame Judi Dench (Henry V, Shakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown) returning as M, with Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter series, English Patient, Schindler’s List), Albert Finney (Big Fish, Tom Jones), Helen McCrory (Life, Harry Potter series, Doctor Who) and Ben Whishaw (The Hour, Layer Cake) in key supporting roles, and Naomie Harris (28 Days Later, Pirates of the Caribbean series) and French actress Berenice Marlohe as the next “Bond Girls.”

Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition) will direct, with filming locations in Scotland, Istanbul and Shanghai.  And still no word has been released as to whether we will see anyone reprise the role perfected by Desmond Llewelyn and later by John Cleese as Q.

Following the above trailer is another cool looking feature not usually pinned to a movie trailer:

a preview of a new Activision video game, 007 Legends.

The first of six missions will be released this October beginning with a return to the Roger Moore film Moonraker.

Great visuals, including the return of Jaws, great music, and the dialogue and sound look promising, too.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

By C.J. Bunce

In March 1952, on his estate called Goldeneye in Oracabessa, northeast Jamaica, ex-British Naval Intelligence officer Ian Fleming finished his first spy novel, penned over the past two months.  As the 60th anniversary of the birth of James Bond approaches, what better time to read the twelve novels and nine short stories written by Fleming?  Casino Royale was a collection of Fleming’s ideas and experiences, and the result of a long-time desire of Fleming to write his own spy novel.  The character of Bond was a compilation of several spies Fleming had met while in the military.

Can the Bond novels hold up after 60 years?  Even considering Bond’s 1950s era womanizing that has been to one extent or the other in 24 Bond films (the original comedy plus the 23 films including the forthcoming Skyfall) the Bond of 1952 is as familiar as the current Bond.  The James Bond novels remain in the top 25 best selling novel series of all time.

As theatrical adaptations go, Casino Royale is very faithful to the original novel.  But there are enough twists and turns that anyone who has only seen the Bond films will find new elements to enjoy in the original novel.  It begins with a dossier read by head of the Secret Service “M,” on one Soviet agent, Monsieur La Chiffre, who “stole from the till” and lost on bad investments over time and with a bounty on his head he is in need of millions of francs to save his own life.  La Chiffre has cleared out accessible bank accounts to turn that money into greater wealth come June at the casino at Royale-Les-Eaux in France, and La Chiffre is reputed as a formidable player.  The recommendation: “the finest gambler available to the Service should be given the necessary funds and endeavour to out-gamble this man.”

Despite that seemingly silly premise, readers can look forward to tight writing, great characterization, and well-plotted action.

What doesn’t come through in the movies is Bond’s inner thoughts.  Modern audiences see Bond as polished and perfect.  The original Bond story shows a different man.  This could reflect a character not yet firmly established or the fact that the character himself was only recently made a 00 agent, the designation of a British agent who had made two kills.  His inner-workings are fun–at one point he plots to rob the bank at the casino and how many men it would take to do the job successfully, simply as an afterthought between pondering how we will proceed next in his actual assignment.

Bond is a renaissance man.  Sure, in the movies he is portrayed as suave and knowing what drink to order, but in Casino Royale we see Bond fluent in French cuisine and culture.  And he is also fluent in subtlety.  His extreme paranoia, required to keep a spy in the danger game alive comes across over and over.  No rest for the weary?

It’s difficult not to approach Bond novels without reference to the corresponding films.  Thankfully Fleming’s first Bond novel can now be compared to the first Daniel Craig Bond film, as opposed to the funny 1967 comedy spoof version with David Niven. In that regard the movie reflects the novel with familiar characters M, head of the Secret Service, assistant Moneypenny, René Mathis, from the French service, CIA agent Felix Leiter, and Vesper Lynd, assistant to the head of the S (Soviet) branch of the British intelligence.

Unlike James Bond of the movies, James Bond of the novels is self-correcting.  He may have classic womanizer thoughts or presumptions, but does not hesitate to adapt or change his mind and act against his baser instincts, something we rarely see in the movies.  Hard-hearted is not yet the established Bond as featured in Casino Royale, and he is a bit more likeable, more personable, apologetic, less automaton.

The plot revolves around a game of baccarat of the highest stakes (literally in the game they break the world record for high stakes play), with Bond strategically placing himself opposite La Chiffre, and they become the key competitors despite a dozen other players.  Bond withstands a few attempts on his life, including one at the table, and ultimately loses millions in the first round of play.  American Felix Leiter comes to the rescue with an endless pot of CIA money, that Bond uses to re-enter the game and finish the job.  From there, Bond and assistant Vesper Lynd are kidnapped as part of a trap, and La Chiffre attempts the most brutal torture to exact the money from Bond, money Bond hid at the hotel.

Iam Fleming’s writing is evocative of the time and place: “Bond lit a cigarette and settled himself in his chair.  The long game was launched and the sequence of these gestures and the reiteration of this subdued litany would continue until the end came and the players dispersed. Then the enigmatic cards would be burnt or defaced, a shroud would be draped over the table and the grass-green baize battlefield would soak up the blood of its victims and refresh itself.”

Negatives?  Readers may encounter a few quirks.  One may be nits like over-use of the word “ironical” once preferred to the modern “ironic,” which after several uses grates a bit.  Fleming also has Bond over-explaining his actions to Mathis in the last chunk of the novel.  And there is a long sequence that is not so much the modern Bond tongue-in-cheek encounter with the “Bond girl” of the week, but reads a bit like a scene from a Harlequin romance novel.

But certainly there is more of what you’d hope for than not:  Bond’s love of wine and food.  A fast car (here a Bentley).  Bond’s vodka martini (the “Vesper”).  A heightened awareness of surroundings.  Pleasure in relationships with other agents.  Pursuit of the beautiful woman of the moment.  Calculated risks.  Confidence to the point of over-confidence.  A car chase.  A crash.  A hand-to-hand fight.  A card game.

A W carved on the back of Bond’s right hand is a curiosity–carved by a Soviet agent who chooses not to kill Bond, but brand him with the symbol of the Russian word for spy.  (Did this come up later in the series?)

There is also much explanation that makes sense of Vesper’s role in the card game and aftermath, that was rather rushed in the film adaptation.  And the ending fully explains why readers were eager for the next and subsequent James Bond spy thriller.

No question–Casino Royale is a fun read, and although it may be obvious, it explains why the successful franchise got off to a good start.

Review by C.J. Bunce

As major mainstream movies are concerned, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo leaves the viewer with a lot to think about.  Some good, mostly bad.  At the end of the movie we are left with a new super heroine of sorts.  As viewers, we uncomfortably accompanied her on an ugly and brutal path.  But at the end, we are left wanting to see what happens to her next.  The plot of the movie itself is complex but not complicated, yet the picture gets spun out of control into just another piece of shock cinema, and despite some good storytelling in building up the mystery, the climax is absurd, leaving us with a lackluster payoff.  There’s too much of everything in this picture, and not enough of what it does best.

I’m not sure this was meant to be a likeable movie, as it was too disturbing to be “likeable”.  Some parts were entertaining.  Some parts were done very well.  Other parts weren’t.  Look for spoilers ahead about what you will see in this movie, but I’ll give none of the actual story and mystery away.

At one level, it’s hard not to get sucked into an investigative reporter mystery.  And the unusual private eye-type job of the female lead in the movie was the coolest feature.  But ultimately we don’t really get to know much about her, and what makes her tick, except that she’s repeatedly been a victim of the system.  The director didn’t get into the daily job she had at the beginning of the film as much as I would have liked and the story meandered into other areas I cared less about instead.

Having watched the first third of the original Swedish version based on the late Stieg Larsson’s novel, I stopped to wait and watch this U.S. theatrical release first.  The original version is up there with the most graphic, disturbingly real-life violent movies ever made.  This new version is not substantially different, and beyond the first third of the movie the violence only builds.  Think of the most disturbing parts of Deliverance, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, Fargo, and Silence of the Lambs.  Like all these films, I would expect this one to do well around award season.  Movies that shock the conscience of the mainstream tend to succeed that way.  If you’re sensitive at all to true-life violence, skip this picture.  If you go, you’ll see graphic rape and torture scenes, numerous crime scene photos and dialogue about torture, rape, and murder.  And you’ll see several full-on sex scenes, none of which substantially contribute to the plot.  As we mentioned here in our first look at the movie trailer, you may recall that the original novel’s name translated from Swedish is Men Who Hate Women.  Ultimately, in both the main story, the back story and the subplots, that is all this movie is about, backed up with a corresponding vengeance story.

Beyond the shock factor of the violence, there is more to discuss, both good and bad.

Rooney Mara (Social Network, remake of Nightmare on Elm Street) playing the title role’s Lisbeth Salander as a down in the dumps, arguably insane yet intelligent, Goth street urchin is pretty much perfect for this role, and there was obviously a lot for this actress to go through, both as a character and in real life as an actor.  For what I saw of the original film, Noomi Rapace in the same role was equally good, however.  In fact all the scenes tracked the original as far as I watched the original version and the actors were all equally good.  For this American version, an Oscar nomination for Mara is certain.  Her best scene is in the final 20 minutes, a denouement that sets us up nicely for a sequel.  We can hope the continuing adventures of Salander in the next movie are better than in this one.

Another contender for an Oscar should be Christopher Plummer (Star Trek VI, Sound of Music, Wolf, Twelve Monkeys, Dragnet, Dreamscape, Somewhere in Time), who took a fairly minor role and made us care about him (maybe more than anyone else) from the beginning of the film to the end.  I was a little concerned about his character being a bit laughable, as in the movie previews he reminded me of Hume Cronyn’s dying character in Brewster’s Millions, yet Plummer’s skill as an actor brought some overall necessary credibility to the picture.  And he gets to utter the classic phrase “The enemy of my friend is my enemy.”

Unfortunately, Daniel Craig (Golden Compass, Road to Perdition, Layer Cake, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall) didn’t get a lot to work with in the screenplay as the lead male but secondary character, a journalist named Mikael Blomkvist.  His character makes stupid choices and he is hard to like, other than saving a stray cat (and yes, as with several other predictable components of the movie, whenever there is an animal in a film like this, you can be sure it doesn’t make it to the last scene).  Like literally every named character in the film, Craig’s character’s life is a mess.  He is flawed and weak, yet his character never gets beyond that state, where in another story it would be cause for some good character growth.  His partner/love interest is played by Robin Wright (The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump, Unbreakable, State of Play), who is the only lead character to sport a Swedish accent.  I wouldn’t blame Wright for this–it was an odd directorial choice, and similar oddities and inconsistencies are peppered throughout the film, with some signs and papers in English and others in Swedish.  Usually a director will pick a path and stick with it.  I’ve always loved the way this was done in The Hunt for Red October, where dialogue begins in Russian, then subtly switches entirely to English.

And speaking of The Hunt for Red October, that movie’s co-star Stellan Skarsgard (Thor, King Arthur, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Avengers) gets a lot of screen time here as one of Plummer’s creepy family members.  Skarsgard is a good actor, and it’s no surprise seeing him cast in this film.  The rest of the cast performs well, too, and there is both a current cast of characters and a younger set shown in flashback.  In fact at the beginning of the film you can’t help be hopeful for a Clue-like whodunnit.  We get a mystery, but it has too many components, with riddles answered too conveniently, to make this a great picture.

The payoff in the film should not be surprising considering every crazy thing leading up to it.  Yet we get there and everything is too nicely tied up, too convenient, too quickly the riddle is solved and it’s just not as satisfying as it should be.

Some nit-picking:

The opening credits may be the worst opening I have ever had to sit through for a mainstream movie.  They consist of bodies plunging in and out of black oil, oil that makes you think the key to the riddle will somehow involve oil, and when you see an overturned tanker halfway through the film it makes you over-focus on it.  Were this a James Bond movie of pure fantasy, this elaborate opener might be appropriate, because it obviously took great skill to create, but for this kind of real-life subject matter it was just long, annoying and irrelevant.

The soundtrack and overall sound effects were too loud and obnoxious throughout–so loud that it often drowned out the dialogue of the actors and contrasted with, instead of amplified, the power of each scene.  Maybe this was the fault of the sound editors.  It was as if the final editors realized that telling us the story in long explanatory sentences quietly was too boring, so some wild, jumpy background music would somehow make us think this was exciting.  It didn’t work.  The setting of the movie is ugly.  A travelogue for Sweden, this is not.  As setting is concerned there is no relief, no light at the end of the tunnel.  Humorously one character gets to have a good line mentioning an IKEA table.

You’ll ask yourself questions after the film.  The biggest is:  Do you need to fully show viewers the full extent of real-life violence to feel complete sympathy for victims of violence?   I think most of the shock was unnecessary to tell this story.  Others may think you need this blatant depiction of violence to get the audience inflamed enough to cheer for the unlikely heroine.  I think we’d cheer for her either way.  How far could you go if you had to fight back?  How much would you help someone like the main character in real life?  What the heck does the dragon tattoo have to do with anything?  Yes, the girl has tattoos, but they are irrelevant to the story.  Ultimately it’s just a catchy title to lure us into the theater.

Is this just an updated version of the La Femme Nikita story?  I was reminded of it several times and it was fun seeing what the Internet can now do to contribute to the investigative process in a mystery movie.  I have to say I found Bridget Fonda’s version of Nikita, Point of No Return, although a lot thinner film, more entertaining than this movie.  And for a real-life mystery, the often overlooked Zodiac, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, is a far better and scarier, whodunnit and suspense thriller.

Ultimately what is in store for the viewer is a mixed bag of opposites.  The negatives are very negative, and the positives are pretty positive.  Unfortunately the negatives left me disappointed with this film.  I can’t over-stress the violent content, and if you don’t believe me check out this great summary on the Internet Movie DatabaseThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is Rated R, but years ago would have easily been an NC-17.   3 of 5 stars.

*Editor’s note:  Make sure you read our follow-up film review here.

Over the years a bestselling novel will grab the public, and the public will clamor for it and want more.  Since the dawn of the motion picture, that story, if enough of the public demands it, will become forever turned into the re-watchable image, and itself become immortal.   The public is anxious to see who will be cast in the lead roles.  Will the film be true to the novel? they ask.  The movie becomes a blockbuster, even in the days before the term was coined, with ever larger opening weekend box office returns.  Over time new topical novels come seemingly out of nowhere, unpredictable, heralding in The Next Big Thing.  You can’t predict it.  You don’t know what it will be about.  But each new person who hears of it will jump on the bandwagon and have to read it.  And then the movie deal comes, and everyone will pay to see it.

These stories that become household names are typically dramas.  You can’t get through even a grocery store without seeing stacks of these books.  Sometimes they are merely historical, as in earlier days of film, like Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (civil war), Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember (sinking of the Titanic), and Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (life in wartime).

And then there are the other novels.  And at the heart of these dramas is something that shocks the senses of the mainstream public of its day.  You can skip across the past 75 years and see these prominent moments of books that must become film.  And each carries its own unique theme, typically experiences we don’t want to face in our own lives.  Yet for some reason we want to see it on the big screen.  These include:

  • In 1941, Richard Llwellyn’s How Green Was My Valley (dangerous labor conditions)
  • In 1953, James Jones’s From Here to Eternity (military hazing)
  • In 1957, Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place (incest, abortion, adultery)
  • In 1957, Corbett Thigpen’s The Three Faces of Eve (multiple personality disorder)
  • In 1957, Pierre Boulle’s Bridge Over the River Kwai (torture and POWs)
  • In 1962, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (child sexual abuse)
  • In 1962, Henry Farrell’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (mental illness)
  • In 1967, Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls (drug abuse)
  • In 1967, Charles Webb’s The Graduate (adultery, uncertainty of future)
  • In 1968, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (cults/satanism/rape)
  • In 1970, Erich Segal’s Love Story (dying young)
  • In 1971, Antony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (ultraviolence)
  • In 1972, James Dickey’s Deliverance (rape, fear)
  • In 1975, Peter Benchley’s Jaws (fear of the uncontrollable)
  • In 1975, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (mental institutions)
  • in 1975, Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives (submission, sexism)
  • In 1979, Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror (fear)
  • In 1982, John Irving’s The World According to Garp (obsession with death and sex)
  • In 1987, V.C Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic (incest)
  • In 1991, Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs (cannibalism)
  • In 1992, John Braine’s The Crying Game (transgenderism)
  • In 1994, Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption (hopelessness and self-worth)
  • In 1994, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (vampirism, senseless violence)
  • In 1995 Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County (adultery)
  • In 1996, Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (adultery, war, regret)
  • In 1997, John Behrendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (murder and sex in a small town)
  • In 2006, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (skewed history/false prophesies)

The nature of the blockbuster has changed from decade to decade, but these books were standouts in their years, bestselling novels that catapulted into something else, they went “viral” before that term was coined.

And The Next Big Thing?  Coming later this month, in 2011, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the novel by Steig Larsson.  Check out this preview, and watch closely, a quiz will follow:

From that trailer we can tell the film must be the ultimate compilation of several past bestsellers-turned-movies.  It has: rape, torture, violence, sex, intra-family murder… actually too many things to list.  The name of the original novel?  Not really the uber-catchy Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, believe it or not.  The author didn’t even know that title in his lifetime.  His title for the novel?  The aptly named Men Who Hate Women. 

Is all this proof that sex, shock, and violence sells?

No commentary here.  Really.  Just a reflection on what the public must be after.  And that we keep going back for more, over and over, not just in this generation, but the one before and the ones before that.

Personally, I try to avoid The Next Big Thing.  Why?  Hype.  I find I am usually disappointed.  And over time, shock after shock after shock dulls the mind.  It becomes common.  Boring.  Instead I prefer hunting out the little seen gems, or alternatively, the purely escapist stuff: action, sci-fi, fantasy, fun stuff, or even comedies… and I stay away from the Real.  And the Bleak.

Then one of these trailers includes an actor you just can’t stay away from.  Like Daniel Craig.  Even when his last film was a bit disappointing.  And who doesn’t like a rough (very rough) and tumble female protagonist?  And then you find the new Girl with a Dragon Tattoo is a remake.  And you can get the dubbed original on video.  Streaming video even.  And you learn the main characters are pretty interesting and have some real chemistry of the camaraderie variety, if you can just wade through all the ultraviolence and ugliness.  Disturbing, for sure.  How does a movie like this become mainstream?  There are certainly hints in the trailer to the new movie to the nature of this one.  But the title of the original book sums it all up.

Will I see this one in the theater just because it stars Daniel Craig?  Not sure yet on that one.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

Finishing up our speculation of a future James Bond that began here yesterday, we’ve got two actors who would be good picks, and who are probably not obvious choices for the super-spy shortlist.  These picks are for an older vs a younger Bond, figuring an actor who can look 40-45 is probably in the ideal range.  Then again, Roger Moore played Bond at age 46 and 58, so there really doesn’t need to be any age limit on choosing a good actor to play Bond.  First up, Paul Blackthorne, followed by Jason Isaacs.

Paul Blackthorne may be best known for his portrayal of wizard Harry Dresden in the short-lived but excellent TV adaptation of Jim Butcher’s novels, The Dresden Files.  Blackthorne has had his share of “guest star of the week” appearances on TV shows such as Medium, Monk, Burn Notice, Leverage, Warehouse 13, and White Collar.  If there is any reason he might not get selected in the future as James Bond it is because he is primarily had TV roles, but he is only 42, with plenty of time to get some movies behind him.  And besides, Pierce Brosnan didn’t do much that was notable before GoldenEye other than Remington Steele.

Blackthorne is a British actor that has honed his American accent so well that you would never know his British background.  If the Broccoli family continues with actors like Daniel Craig down the line as Bond, Blackthorne would fit right in.  And if they want him to play up the Brit-speak he could easily play a Bond of the Sean Connery or Timothy Dalton variety.  In fact, Blackthorne looks like a young Connery.  All that aside, as Harry Dresden we got to see Blackthorne as a versatile actor, the role itself a bit X-Files, a bit cop drama, a bit Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  He’s fun to watch and a likeable actor.  And he looks the part.

Forty-eight year old British actor Jason Isaacs may be most famous for his portrayal as the sniveling, white-haired wizard Lucius Malfoy (Draco’s dad) in the Harry Potter movies.  But in this year’s BBC/public television Masterpiece Mystery series Case Histories, we get to see Isaacs in a more down to Earth role, as a soldier turned cop turned private investigator.  More than anything else, Isaacs comes across as a very cool character, the kind of cool required of Bond, with a fair amount of self-effacing scenes that show his capacity for some good humor, something we haven’t seen so much of in recent Bond portrayals.  Maybe it is time to see how an older Roger Moore type Bond would appeal to fans?

Isaacs also has had a fair number of big screen roles, besides the Harry Potter films, including DragonHeart, Event Horizon, Armageddon, Soldier, Black Hawk Down, Resident Evil, and a lot of voice-over work–he’d have the sound of Bond down pretty well, too.  And like Rufus Sewell and Paul Blackthorne, he sort of has that British renegade agent look about him.  And he’s a dead ringer for Timothy Dalton.

So that’s just three recommendations.  Any others?

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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