Musings on #BOND25 news – New Director, Writers + Cast

Ok, as a massive Bond fan, today’s a big day. Somehow I missed the news that they were going to do a LIVE stream right from Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s legendary Jamaican villa. Yep, the same exact location where Fleming wrote all those 007 novels.

Apparently next week on April 28 the cast/crew will begin to shoot the still-nameless Bond movie and Daniel Craig will be back to reprise his role as 007.

Bond25 cast and crew at the Jamaican LIVE reveal event

Yeah, so much for all those rumors about who’ll be the next Bond. I mean, the 25th Bond film isn’t out in the US until April 8, 2020 (April 3 in the UK and internationally), but of course the rumor mill will continue endlessly.

In any case, below is the video of the Live Reveal, which honestly isn’t the most exciting video despite it being in such a glorious location. Even most of the cast seemed in a rather gloomy mood, and Craig himself struggled to give a shit explain about the enduring appeal of James Bond when he’s asked that question, ha!

Before I get to the cast, well the main things are who’s making the movie. It’s been confirmed that Cary Joji Fukunaga will direct the film. I’ve only seen one of his films, Jane Eyre, but he’s well-known by US audiences since Beast of No Nation (starring fan-favorite for Bond, Idris Elba) and True Detective series. I gotta say the Japanese-American filmmaker is handsome and dapper enough to actually play 007 (that is in a world where someone of his ethnicity could actually be cast as James Bond)

As for the script, longtime Bond writers Neal Purvis & Robert Wade wrote the original script but now they’re bringing in Scott Z. Burns (Bourne Ultimatum, Contagion, The Informant!) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (creator of Killing Eve series). I actually knew that Scott Z. Burns is involved in Bond 25 when I attended a panel honoring him at the Minneapolis St Paul Film Festival (MSPIFF) where he talked about his roots growing up in Golden Valley, Minnesota and went on to be one of the most acclaimed and prolific writer/director in Hollywood. He might be the first writer to tackle Bourne AND Bond, and I for one am excited to see what he’ll bring to the table.

Now the cast…

Returning cast are Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Léa Seydoux, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw and Jeffrey Wright.

I pretty much love every single one of those returning cast members. I do miss Dame Judi Dench as M, but Fiennes is terrific as M. I also love Harris as Money Penny, Whishaw as Q and Wright as Felix. A truly solid group there in Bond’s corner.

INTRODUCING new cast members:

Ana de Armas, Dali Benssalah, David Dencik, Lashana Lynch, Billy Magnussen and Rami Malek.

Now, out of the new group, I’m most intrigued by Lashana Lynch and Rami Malek’s casting. I quite like Lynch as Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel. I didn’t even know she’s British until I saw her speak in this video, super cool! She and Naomie Harris both have Jamaican roots, so this project must be extra special for them.

As for Rami, this is his first high profile role he’s doing since he won an Oscar for Bohemian Rhapsody AND looks like he’s going to play a Bond villain. He said in a video message that “I will be making sure Mr. Bond does not have an easy ride of it in his 25th outing.” 

I know a lot of people are probably excited for Malek’s casting but at this point it’s kind of meh. Yes I like the diverse casting here. He is Egyptian-American and a good actor, but I don’t see the boyish-looking 38-year old as having the kind of gravitas I expect as a classic Bond villain. Heck, it would have been awesome to see Idris Elba as a Bond villain, now THAT’s a guy that could give any Bond actor a run for his money and he’d probably steal all his ladies, too. If they were bold enough, why not someone like Viola Davis as a Bond villain?

In any case, there are rumors that Christoph Waltz would also be returning as Blofeld. Now I like him as an actor, but he’s so rubbish in Spectre I really don’t care to see him again. So I guess it remains to be seen how Malek would fare in the role, I suppose I should give him the benefit of the doubt.

One thing I am excited about is that Bond is returning to his Jamaican roots. Not only did Fleming wrote his Bond novels in Jamaica, but that’s where the entire franchise kicked off as Dr. No with Sean Connery was filmed there in 1962. Barbara Broccoli gave some hints to the plot in the reveal, “Bond is not on active service when the film starts. He is enjoying himself in Jamaica. We consider Jamaica Bond’s spiritual home. He starts his journey here.” According to Fukunaga, they already shot parts of the movie in Norway (due to weather), but they’ll resume filming in Jamaica the following weeks, Matera in Southern Italy and also Pinewood studios in London.


Well, what do YOU think about Bond 25 news? Let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects

SideEffectsPoster

This supposedly Steven Soderbergh‘s last feature film wasn’t even on my radar, in fact I just saw the trailer the day of the screening a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad I didn’t know anything about this movie and I think the less you read or watch about it the better. In fact, when I went to the screening, the press associate said the studio won’t allow anyone to be admitted to the theater once the film has begun, saying that the opening scene is so key to the plot that showing up late would surely lessen the viewing experience for the viewer.

The opening scene takes place in what looks to be a luxury apartment in Manhattan, belonging to a well-to-do couple Emily (Rooney Mara) and Martin (Channing Tatum). Emily’s husband has just gotten out of jail where he spent a four-year term for insider trading. She should be overjoyed, right? But instead she’s afflicted with recurring bout of depression and suicidal behavior. The doctor who ends up treating her, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), proceeds to prescribe her an anti-depressant. But when a regular drug isn’t enough, he gives her a new one that just came out in the market called Ablixa, suggested by Emily’s former shrink, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The drug perks Emily up for a while — much to the delight of her husband – but then the drug’s supposed side effect ends up creating more problems than its worth.

At least that’s what Soderbergh wants you to think. When people first saw the trailer or even reading the premise involving a pharmaceutical corporation, they might immediately think of Contagion (which was also written by Scott Z. Burns). Other than the medical-related theme, it can’t be more dissimilar. Soderbergh is known for experimenting on his projects and this one is no different.

As the story progresses, we realize more and more that everyone and everything are not who/what they seem. The character focus alternates between Emily and Dr. Banks, who apparently has some issues on his own and a past incident that catches up with him. The narrative pretty much shifts from being a character study to a whodunnit Hitchcockian thriller laden with plot twists. I find the first act to be much more intriguing, but its um, potency kind of wears off in the second act, recovered slightly in the third though the lurid twist is a bit eye-roll inducing.

SideEffectsMovieStills

I think Side Effects is a deftly-constructed thriller, it’s packed with clever camera work, shrewd acting and appropriately moody atmosphere (thanks largely to Thomas Newman‘s ominous score). Yet somehow the film fails to engage me. Not to mention the lack of emotional connection with any of the characters, made worse by the decidedly morose and unsettling tone of the entire film. A few commenters in the Five for the Fifth post pointed out how some Soderbergh’s films are emotionally-cold, and this one is a perfect example. There is not a single character that I can truly empathize with, maybe Banks’ wife (played by the underrated Vinessa Shaw), who has to put up with her husband’s antics. By the end I feel that they get what they deserve, if only they happen much sooner.

We’ve got another killer heroine from Soderbergh. Instead of the bad-ass action hero in Haywire, this time we’ve got a slightly more rounded character — and more unhinged – but still equally detached. Performance-wise, I think Mara was given the most material to work with and she’s able to tackle the contrasting personalities her character requires. I’ve only seen her in The Social Network, which was brief but memorable. She’s definitely a gifted performer and her glacial aura is put to good use here. Her blank expression suggest there’s something lurking, enhancing the chilling effect. At the same time, her lack of warmth makes it impossible to root for her. Jude Law is pretty good here as he’s the co-lead of the film, a much more sympathetic character despite his flaws. I must say that Law doesn’t have quite have that star quality so when the narrative is focused on him, he doesn’t exactly lights up the screen. All I could say for Zeta-Jones is that perhaps she’s inspired by her husband’s choice of role in his next film when she signed up for this role.

Final Thoughts: Unpredictable? Perhaps. Absorbing? Not really.

Despite the roller-coaster ride that Soderbergh set up for the viewers, this film left me rather underwhelmed. I glanced at my watch a few times as I was watching it, which is never a good sign. I didn’t see some of the twists coming but yet when it happened, I wasn’t all that surprised either. The revelation itself seemed a little too neat that it doesn’t quite pack a punch. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a decent thriller, but it doesn’t leave a level of greatness I expect from Burns and Soderbergh pairing.

Judging from the reaction about his pending retirement, I know a lot of people are disappointed by that and wish the director would stay around. Well pardon me for being indifferent.

3 out of 5 reels

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Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.