The Long and Winding Bond

It’s amazing to think that The Beatles released their first single in 1962. This was also the first year that a Bond picture came out with Dr. No. Both entities are still extraordinarily relevant. Famously, Sean Connery’s Bond dissed the Fab Four in 1964’s Goldfinger. 

007 fans got some welcome news this week as Cary Fukunaga was announced as the director of the 25th (and as yet untitled) official James Bond film. By the time it comes out, Mr. Fukunaga will be the first American filmmaker to make a Bond pic in its 58 year history.

He brings an exciting resume to the fold. In addition to a filmography that includes varied directorial efforts like Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre, and Beasts of No Nation, his screenwriting credits include last year’s smash It and TV’s The Alienist. His work behind the camera for television also includes the critically lauded first season of HBO’s True Detective and Netflix’s Maniac with Emma Stone and Jonah Hill (which premieres today).

The pick was a surprise and it wasn’t just due to his U.S. heritage. The producers behind Bond had recently gone with a certain type… awards friendly directors branching out to the super spy series. After Martin Campbell successfully kicked off the Daniel Craig era (just as he did for Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye), Marc Forster (maker of Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland) did the disappointing Quantum of Solace. Then it was Academy Award winning Sam Mendes behind Skyfall and Spectre. 

When Danny Boyle was announced as director for Bond 25, it seemed to fit the mold. He’s an Oscar winner for Slumdog Millionaire. He’s also directed some other genre fare (including Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) that made him a fairly exciting pick. Yet it somehow seemed a little safe. After creative differences caused his exit, I figured someone like Joe Wright (who last directed Darkest Hour) could be the replacement.

Fukunaga is an intriguing selection and I’m curious to see how he handles what is very likely to be Craig’s final appearance as 007. And this brings us to Mr. Craig’s longevity. Sean Connery made six movies in the official canon (1983’s Never Say Never Again isn’t considered part of it). George Lazenby did the one-off On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Roger Moore is the leader with seven. Timothy Dalton had two. Pierce Brosnan made four.

This will be Craig’s fifth 007 turn. Surprisingly, he will have actually portrayed the MI6 agent the longest by the time #25 is released in February 2020. His 14 year reign will eclipse the 12 years that Moore played him.

Attention will soon turn to the next Bond. If I had to guess, I figure the seventh actor to play him will debut onscreen in November 2022. There’s been rumors of Idris Elba taking over the role. Expect plenty of speculation over the next couple of years. By that time, the Bond franchise will be 60 years old. Like The Beatles music, it will never die and the long and winding road of the franchise continues to interest us.

Summer 1987: The Top 10 Hits and More

As we begin the month of August and the dog days of summer, I’ll be traveling back 30, 20, and 10 years ago to seasons past giving you the top ten hits and more of that particular time frame. Today we are going all the way to 1987.

It was a simpler time back then. There were very few sequels and franchises and reboots and a good portion of the highest grossing flicks dealt with law enforcement in action type settings. Only one picture grossed over $100 million dollars. Yes, the times have changed, but what a hoot to look back at what was burning up the box office charts three decades ago. This post will also discuss some other notable flicks outside the top ten and some big ole flops.

Let’s get to it!

10. The Living Daylights

Domestic Gross: $51 million

The 15th James Bond picture kicked off the brief two picture reign of Timothy Dalton, who took over the iconic role after the late Roger Moore’s 12 year long portrayal of 007. It’s $51M gross would just surpass the $50M earnings of Moore’s swan song, 1985’s A View to a Kill. Two summers later, Dalton would star in his swan song Licence to Kill before Pierce Brosnan donned the tuxedo six years later.

9. Robocop

Domestic Gross: $53 million

Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic sci-fi action thriller nearly received the dreaded X rating upon its release. It also received critical acclaim and spawned two sequels and a 2014 remake.

8. La Bamba

Domestic Gross: $54 million

This biopic of singer Ritchie Valens starring Lou Diamond Phillips was a major summer sleeper and even earned a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture (Drama). It also featured the Los Lobos cover of the title song that was in the top ten summer songs of 1987.

7. Dragnet

Domestic Gross: $57 million

A few years before Tom Hanks was earning back to back Best Actor Oscars, he was costarring in silly remakes of 1950s cop dramas. Dragnet managed to perform well and it’s a guilty pleasure, especially Dan Aykroyd’s take on Sgt. Joe Friday (a role made famous by Jack Webb).

6. Predator

Domestic Gross: $59 million

One of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s finest action pics, Predator also kicked off an impressive three picture directorial run by John McTiernan that was followed up by Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October. This franchise is still going strong today, but nothing beats the hard edged original.

5. Dirty Dancing

Domestic Gross: $63 million

The biggest sleeper hit of the summer vaulted Patrick Swayze into super stardom and won the Oscar for Best Original Song for Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’s “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”.

4. The Witches of Eastwick

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Mad Max maker George Miller went Hollywood with this critically appreciated comedic fantasy with an all-star cast of Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

3. Stakeout

Domestic Gross: $65 million

This was the height of the buddy cop era and it propelled this one starring Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez to big grosses. A less regarded sequel costarring Rosie O’Donnell would follow six years later.

2. The Untouchables

Domestic Gross: $76 million

Brian De Palma’s take on the classic TV series was a big-budget and highly entertaining affair headlined by Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, and Sean Connery (who won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his work).

1. Beverly Hills Cop II

Domestic Gross: $153 million

Eddie Murphy was just about the biggest movie star in the world in summer 1987 and that’s shown here by the enormous gross of the sequel to his 1984 classic, directed by Tony Scott. A much less successful third entry would follow seven summers later after Murphy’s box office potency had waned.

And now – here’s some other notable pictures from the season:

Full Metal Jacket

Domestic Gross: $46 million

Legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s first film in seven years (since The Shining) is now considered a modern classic, especially for its unforgettable first half featuring R. Lee Ermey’s Vietnam drill sergeant.

Spaceballs

Domestic Gross: $38 million

This Mel Brooks spoof of Star Wars may not be in Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein territory, but it’s certainly earned quite a cult status through the last 30 years.

Adventures in Babysitting

Domestic Gross: $34 million

The directorial debut of Chris Columbus (who would go on to make Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and the first two Harry Potter pics), Babysitting has also achieved cult cred in addition to its decent box office showing at the time.

The Lost Boys

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Another flick with a rabid fan base, the teen pic cast Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, and Corey Feldman in a California town overrun by vampires.

And now for a couple of 1987 summer box office bombs:

Jaws IV: The Revenge

Domestic Gross: $20 million

12 summers prior, Steven Spielberg’s original was a landmark motion picture. By the time the fourth entry came around, the series had gotten terrible. It still has a 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes and Michael Caine actually missed picking up his Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters because he was shooting this turkey.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Domestic Gross: $15 million

Not a solid summer for four-quels. This served as a bad ending to a series started nine years earlier. There was a moratorium on Supes pic for the next 19 years.

Ishtar

Domestic Gross: $14 million

Considered one of the largest bombs in film history at the time, this comedy with Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman was a punchline for years. Its reputation has grown a bit since.

And that’s my recap folks! I’ll be back recounting summer 1997 very soon…

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious is our eighth – yes, eighth – installment of a franchise that it would have been ridiculous to imagine there being that many entries. We’re a long way from the original 16 years ago that was sort of a drag racing rip-off of Point Break, or Point Brake as I deemed it in my review. That said, a common thread among the series is its willingness to be knowingly ridiculous while weaving in endless monologues about the importance of family.

The formula took on a different tone in predecessor Furious 7, which admirably managed to deal with the death of franchise stalwart Paul Walker in its conclusion. In that sense, Fate ushers in a new chapter. New characters are introduced, old ones are rehashed, and the level of silliness is brought to a level not quite seen before. Yes, cars go fast here. However, part 8 owes more to James Bond flicks when they were less grim (think Roger Moore era with a quarter billion dollar budget).

As I’ve written in previous Furious critiques, plot is secondary but here’s what you need to know: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has turned on his team. Sort of. He’s being forced to team up with criminal mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron), who evades authorities in the air on an invisible plane. See what I mean? Isn’t that the kind of villain 007 might battle in the late seventies? Now on the wrong side of justice, Dominic and Cipher must go against Dom’s “family”, including wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and the familiar players played by Dwayne Johnson (whose goofy character is still good for some funny and bizarre moments), Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, and more. Part 7’s main villain Jason Statham is more of a team player this time around and even Oscar winner Helen Mirren turns up as his mum. Statham is granted a fight scene towards the end where he has to be delicate with some cargo he’s carrying (you’ll see what I mean). The scene is genuinely humorous and quite well choreographed.

The plot is all an excuse for the massive action spectacles and globe trotting we’ve become accustomed to and we have it here in Cuba, New York City, and Russia. The climactic sequence set on Russian frozen tundra employs the usual expensive vehicles, but we also are treated to tanks and submarines. Remember the ice action in Pierce Brosnan’s Bond flick Die Another Day? Think that, but it’s not embarrassingly awful.

Our Furious sagas rise and fall on the ability for us to check our brains at the Universal logo. By the third act, I’d succumbed once again to its cheesy charms. Maybe one day this series will truly stall like it briefly did in 2006’s Tokyo Drift. Not yet though and that’s some kind of testament to its durability.

*** (out of four)