The Films of 2020: Possessor (dir by Brandon Cronenberg)


Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is a professional assassin.

That really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.  For whatever reason, films about assassins have become very popular over the past few years and those assassins are often women.  However, what sets Tasya apart from other assassins is the technique that she uses.  Under the direction of Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Tasya can possess someone else’s body.  While controlling that other person’s body, Tasya commits her murders and then commits suicide.  The host dies while Tasya’s mind returns to her original body.  The media then reports that the murder was some sort of random incident and, with the killer dead by their own hand, their true motives will probably never be known.  It’s an outlandish premise and yet, it’s one that feels oddly plausible.  Most mass shootings and random acts of violence remain a mystery precisely because their perpetrators often take their own lives.  Three years after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, we still don’t know why Stephen Paddock opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas.  We’ve become conditioned, I think, to accept that these things just happen.

Wisely, Possessor doesn’t go into too much details about just how exactly Tasya possesses other people.  We see that it involves a lot of odd technology and we also discover that Tasya struggles to return to her “normal” self after her mind returns to her body.  That’s really all we need to see.  Too many films make the mistake of trying to explain all of the little details, as if the audience is going to be concerned as to whether or not a film about possession is 100% plausible.  The director of Possessor, Brandon Cronenberg, understands that all he really has to do is make it look convincing.  He doesn’t have to explain it and, indeed, there’s much that Cronenberg doesn’t explain.

Tasya’s latest assignment takes her into the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), who is engaged to marry the daughter of arrogant businessman named John Parse (Sean Bean).  Colin and Tasya find themselves fighting for control of Colin’s body.  Even while Tasya is setting up the circumstances that will lead to Colin killing both his girlfriend and her father, Colin is resisting and struggling to take control.  It all leads to some disturbingly surreal imagery, as well as some shockingly gory violence.  There’s a lot of blood in Possessor.  Both figuratively and literally, Possessor is a film that’s obsessed with what lies under the skin.  Throughout the film, bodies and minds are ripped open and what we discover inside of them is frequently grotesque.

Possessor is a film that raises a lot of questions and which often refuses to provide easy answers.  Does Girder sincerely care about Tasya or is she just manipulating her emotions to get the result that she desires?  Who exactly does Girder work for?  Does Tasya truly want to get back together with her estranged husband, Michael (Rossif Sutherland)?  Is Michael as clueless as he seems or does he secretly understand that Tasya is lying whenever she says that she has to go away on business?  Possessor is not always an easy film to follow but Cronenberg’s visuals are so strong and the performances are so wonderfully off-center that it remains enthralling regardless of whether or not it always makes it sense.  By the time one person is wearing someone else’s face as a mask, it’s pretty much impossible to look away.

With its emphasis on body horror and loss of identity (as well as its chilly Canadian setting), Possessor has a lot in common with the early work of David Croneberg.  That’s perhaps not surprising, considering that Possessor was directed by David’s son, Brandon Cronenberg.  Unfortunately, Possessor doesn’t really have the same dry sense of humor that distinguished David Cronenberg’s best films.  (David Cronenberg was, in his way, as much of a satirist as a horror director and Possessor doesn’t quite have the same subversive charge as something like Rabid or Shivers.)  That said, Possessor is still a fascinating and enthralling film, one that will stick with you long after it ends.

The Indiana Film Journalists Honor Nomadland!


The Indiana Film Journalists announced their picks for the best of 2020 earlier today.  Check out the nominee here and the winners below!

BEST FILM
Nomadland (winner)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (RUNNER UP)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Soul (WINNER)
Wolfwalkers (RUNNER UP)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Another Round (WINNER)
Song Without a Name (RUNNER UP)

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Dick Johnson is Dead (WINNER)
Athlete A (Runner-Up)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always (WINNER)
Matthew Rankin – The Twentieth Century (RUNNER UP)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Chloe Zhao — Nomadland (Winner)
Charlie Kaufman – I’m Thinking of Ending Things (RUNNER UP)

BEST DIRECTOR
Chloe Zhao — Nomadland (Winner)
Regina King – One Night in Miami (RUNNER UP)

BEST ACTRESS
Frances McDormand — Nomadland (Winner)
Jessie Buckley – I’m Thinking of Ending Things (RUNNER UP)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (WINNER)
Youn Yuh-jung – Minari (RUNNER UP)

BEST ACTOR
Delroy Lindo — Da 5 Bloods (Winner)
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (RUNNER UP)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Leslie Odom, Jr. — One Night In Miami (Winner)

Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods (RUNNER UP)

BEST VOCAL / MOTION CAPTURE PERFORMANCE

Jamie Foxx — Soul (Winner)

Sean Bean – Wolfwalkers (RUNNER UP)

BEST ENSEMBLE ACTING
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (WINNER)
One Night in Miami (RUNNER UP)

BEST MUSICAL SCORE
Ludwig Göransson – Tenet (WINNER)
Emile Mosseri – Minari (RUNNER UP)

BREAKOUT OF THE YEAR
Maria Bakalova (actress) – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (WINNER)
Andrew Patterson (director) – The Vast of Night (RUNNER UP)

HOOSIER AWARD
Athlete A (WINNER)

ORIGINAL VISION AWARD
The Twentieth Century (WINNER)

Dick Johnson Is Dead (Runner-up)

Here Are The Nominees of the 2020 Indiana Film Journalists Assosciation!


Bad Education

The Indiana Film Journalists Association (IJA) has announced their nominees for the best of 2020!  They’ll be announcing the winners on December 21st!

What I like about these nominations is that there’s a lot of them.  2020 may have been a difficult year for many but there were a lot of good films released and it does seem kind of silly (as it does every year) to limit things to some sort of arbitrary number.  Why only nominate 10 films when you could nominate 20 or 30?  Many of the nominees below will appear on my own personal best lists in January.

The other thing that I like about these nominees is that the include films like Bad Education and Mangrove.  There’s some debate as to whether or not these films should be considered Oscar eligible.  I feel that they should be so it’s nice to see that the folks in Indiana agree with me!

Here are the nominees:

BEST FILM
Da 5 Bloods
Another Round
The Assistant
Athlete A
Bad Education
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Dick Johnson is Dead
Emma.
The Father
First Cow
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari
The Nest
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Nomadland
One Night in Miami
Palm Springs
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Possessor
Promising Young Woman
Small Axe: Mangrove
Song Without a Name
Soul
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Twentieth Century
The Vast of Night

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Onward
Soul
Wolfwalkers

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
76 Days
Another Round
Bacurau
Beanpole
La Dosis
Song Without a Name

BEST DOCUMENTARY
76 Days
All In: The Fight for Democracy
Athlete A
Boys State
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Desert One
Dick Johnson is Dead
Disclosure
John Lewis: Good Trouble
The Last Out
Miss Americana
MLK/FBI
Time
Totally Under Control
Welcome to Chechnya

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Brandon Cronenberg – Possessor
Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers – Soul
Sean Durkin – The Nest
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Kitty Green – The Assistant
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round
James Montague and Craig W. Sanger – The Vast of Night
Matthew Rankin – The Twentieth Century
Andy Siara – Palm Springs
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Alice Wu – The Half of It

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller – The Father
Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell – The Personal History of David Copperfield
Charlie Kaufman – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Mike Makowsky – Bad Education
Kemp Powers – One Night in Miami
Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland

BEST DIRECTOR
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Brandon Cronenberg – Possessor
Pete Docter – Soul
Sean Durkin – The Nest
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Kitty Green – The Assistant
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Kirsten Johnson – Dick Johnson is Dead
Charlie Kaufman – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Regina King – One Night in Miami
Spike Lee – Da 5 Bloods
Melina Léon – Song Without a Name
Steve McQueen – Small Axe: Mangrove
Matthew Rankin – The Twentieth Century
Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7
George C. Wolfe – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Alice Wu – The Half of It
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland

BEST ACTRESS
Haley Bennett – Swallow
Jessie Buckley – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Carrie Coon – The Nest
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Sidney Flanigin – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Julia Garner – The Assistant
Han Ye-ri – Minari
Leah Lewis – The Half of It
Rachel McAdams – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Pamela Mendoza – Song Without a Name
Cristin Milioti – Palm Springs
Elisabeth Moss – The Invisible Man
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Aubrey Plaza – Black Bear
Margot Robbie – BIrds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Anya Taylor-Joy – Emma.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jane Adams – She Dies Tomorrow
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Toni Collette – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Olivia Colman – The Father
Olivia Cooke – Sound of Metal
Allison Janney – Bad Education
Margo Martindale – Blow the Man Down
Talia Ryder – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Youn Yuh-jung – Minari

BEST ACTOR
Christopher Abbott – Possessor
Ben Affleck – The Way Back
Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
Kingsley Ben-Adir – One Night in Miami
Paul Bettany – Uncle Frank
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Eli Goree – One Night in Miami
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Hugh Jackman – Bad Education
Jude Law – The Nest
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods
Mads Mikkelsen – Another Round
Jesse Plemons – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Eddie Redmayne – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Steven Yeun – Minari

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods
Bo Burnham – Promising Young Woman
Bill Burr – The King of Staten Island
Peter Capaldi – The Personal History of David Copperfield
Colman Domingo – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Aldis Hodge – One Night in Miami
Caleb Landry Jones – The Outpost
Alan Kim – Minari
Frank Langella – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Orion Lee – First Cow
Ewan McGregor – BIrds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Bill Murray – On the Rocks
Leslie Odom, Jr. – One Night in Miami
Paul Raci – Sound of Metal
J.K. Simmons – Palm Springs
Dan Stevens – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
David Strathairn – Nomadland
David Thewlis – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

BEST VOCAL / MOTION CAPTURE PERFORMANCE
Sean Bean – Wolfwalkers
Tina Fey – Soul
Jamie Foxx – Soul
Oliver Platt – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Donald Ray Pollock – The Devil All the Time
Ben Schwartz – Sonic the Hedgehog

BEST ENSEMBLE ACTING
Da 5 Bloods
Another Round
The Devil All the Time
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
The King of Staten Island
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari
One Night in Miami
The Personal History of David Copperfield
She Dies Tomorrow
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Uncle Frank

BEST MUSICAL SCORE
Erick Alexander and Jared Bulmer – The Vast of Night
Terence Blanchard – One Night in Miami
Ludovico Einaudi – Nomadland
Ludwig Göransson – Tenet
Emile Mosseri – Minari
Richard Reed Parry – The Nest
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Soul
William Tyler – First Cow
Jay Wadley – I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Isobel Waller-Bridge and David Schweitzer – Emma.
Benjamin Wallfisch – The Invisible Man
Jim Williams – Possessor

BREAKOUT OF THE YEAR
Maria Bakalova (actress) – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Max Barbakow (director) – Palm Springs
Emerald Fennell (writer / director) – Promising Young Woman
Sidney Flanigin (actress) – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Alan Kim (actor) – Minari
Orion Lee (actor) – First Cow
Leah Lewis (actress) – The Half of It
Darius Marder (writer / director) – Sound of Metal
Andrew Patterson (director) – The Vast of Night
Tayarisha Poe (writer / director) – Selah and the Spades
Kemp Powers – co-writer / co-director for Soul and writer for One Night in Miami
Matthew Rankin (writer / director) – The Twentieth Century
Andy Siara (writer) – Palm Springs
Autumn de Wilde (director) – Emma.

HOOSIER AWARD
Athlete A
Eliza Hittman, writer / director of Never Rarely Sometimes Always and graduate of Indiana University

ORIGINAL VISION AWARD
After Midnight
Assassin 33 A.D.
Dick Johnson is Dead
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Possessor
Promising Young Woman
She Dies Tomorrow
The Twentieth Century
The Vast of Night
Vivarium

Mangrove

Here’s The Trailer for Possessor!


Starring Christopher Abbott, Andrea Riseborough, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuppence Middleton and Sean Bean, Possessor is the new film from Canadian filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg!  And yes, if you’re wondering, Brandon is the son of the iconic horror director, David Cronenberg.

Possessor is a film about an elite assassin who can inhabit other people’s bodies.  The film made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, way back in January.  At the time, the critics loved it.  Speaking for myself, I’ve heard wonderful things about the film and I can’t wait to see it.  Possessor will be released on October 9th.

Here’s the trailer!

Bravo Two Zero (1999, directed by Tom Clegg)


In 1991, during the Gulf War, a British SAS patrol — codenamed Bravo Two Zero — is dropped behind enemy lines in Iraq.  Led by Andy McNabb (played by Sean Bean), their mission is to track down and destroy Iraqi scud missile launchers and also to disrupt communications between Baghdad and Northwestern Iraq.  Almost from the minute that the 8 member teams is dropped behind enemy lines, things start to go wrong.  The weather turns against them.  They’re spotted by both Iraqi civilians and soldiers.  While the team tries to make it back to safety, McNabb and three others are captured by the Iraqis and are forced to endure torture while looking for an opportunity to escape.

Bravo Two Zero, which originally aired in two parts on the BBC, is based on Andy McNabb’s memoir about what happened when Bravo Two Zero found themselves trapped behind enemy lines, their mission compromised.  It’s a rousing story but it’s also a controversial one.  Several other people who were involved with the operation claimed that McNabb (which was a pseudonym adopted to protect the identities of the other members of the unit) exaggerated certain details, particularly the extent that he was tortured and the number of Iraqi soldiers that the unit had to fight on their way to the Syrian border.  What is known for sure is that the unit was trapped behind enemy lines and, of the 8 who set out, only five returned, having survived against almost impossible odds.  It’s possible to debate the exact details but no one debates the bravery of the men involved.

As a film, Bravo Two Zero takes McNabb at his word.  It’s a tough and gritty war film and Sean Bean gives an excellent performance in the role of McNabb.  Real-life footage from the Gulf War is mixed in with the recreation of what happened to the unit and it gives the film both a semi-documentary feel and it also ratchets up the suspense.  While the news broadcasts present what appears to be a very easy victory over Iraq, we’re reminded that it wasn’t as easy for the men who were actually getting shot at on a daily basis.  Will the men be able to make it to Syria before the rest of the world moves on?  Though the film is clearly on the side of the Coalition Forces, it’s hardly blindly jingoistic.  While the Iraqis who torture McNabb are presented as being sadists, the majority of the Iraqi citizens come across as just people trying to survive day-by-day while bombs rain down upon them.  For the most part, the Iraqi people are presented as being caught in the middle of a war that, regardless of who wins, will never benefit them, pawns in a battle between competing super powers.  The film’s villain is Saddam Hussein and not the people living under his dictatorship.

Bravo Two Zero is an excellent war film, one that emphasizes the hard work and training that goes into serving with the SAS over the usual action film heroics.  While never glamorizing combat or war, it pays tribute to those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Celebrate National Trivia Day With The Actors Who Could Have Been James Bond!


 

Today is National Trivia Day so I thought why not share some trivia?  I love film trivia.  I especially love trivia about who was considered for certain films.  Hell, one of my most popular posts on the Shattered Lens dealt with all of the actors who were considered for the Godfather!

(I even came up with an alternative cast for The Godfather, even though I consider the actual film to be the best cast film in history.)

I also happen to love the James Bond films.  (Well, not so much the recent Bond films.  I’ve made my feelings on SPECTRE clear.)  As a franchise, I absolutely love them.  So, with all that in mind, here is a look at the actors who could have been Bond.  I’ve compiled this article from many sources.  And yes, you could probably just find a lot of the information on Wikipedia but then you’d miss out on my editorial commentary.

Hoagy Carmichael

Ian Fleming himself always said that his pick for Bond would have been the musician, Hoagy Carmichael.  He even made a point, in Casino Royale, of having Vesper Lynd exclaim that Bond looked like Hoagy Carmichael.  Of course, the first actor to actually play Bond was Barry Nelson in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale.  Nelson is probably best remembered for playing Mr. Ullman in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Barry Nelson, the first James Bond

When Dr. No went into production in 1961, many actors were considered for the role before Sean Connery was eventually cast.  Many of them were very well-known actors and, had they been cast, Dr. No would not have been remembered as a Bond movie.  Instead, it would be remembered as a star vehicle for … well, let’s take a look at some of the better-known possibilities:

Among the famous actors who were mentioned for Bond in 1961: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, James Mason, Trevor Howard, Stanley Baker, George Baker, Jimmy Stewart, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.  (Of that list, I think Burton would have made for an interesting Bond.  If the Bond films had been made in the 1940s, Grant would have been my first choice.  Trying to imagine Jimmy Stewart as a British secret agent is … interesting.)

Once it became obvious that a star was not going to play Bond, the role was offered to Patrick McGoohan and Rod Taylor.  McGoohan had moral objections to the character.  Rod Taylor reportedly felt that the film would flop.  Steve Reeves, the American body builder who became famous for playing Hercules in Italy, was reportedly strongly considered.  At one point, director Terrence Young wanted to offer the role to Richard Johnson, who later played Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Of course, the role went to Sean Connery and made Connery a huge star.  In 1967, after Connery announced that he would no longer play the world’s most famous secret agent, there was a huge and widely publicized search for his replacement.  Some of the names that were considered are intriguing.  Others are just bizarre.

Oliver Reed

To me, perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned was that of Oliver Reed.  Reed definitely would have brought a rougher edge of the role than some of the other actors considered.  However, that’s one reason why Reed wasn’t picked.  Apparently, it was felt that he did not have the right public image to play the suave Mr. Bond.

Somewhat inevitably, Michael Caine was sought out for the role.  Caine, however, refused to consider it because he had already starred in three back-to-back spy thrillers and didn’t want to get typecast.  Caine’s former roommate, Terrence Stamp, was another possibility but wanted too much control over the future direction of the Bond films.  Future Bond Timothy Dalton was considered to be too young.  Another future Bond, Roger Moore, didn’t want to give up his television career.  Eric Braeden has the right look for Bond but was German.  Rumor has it that producer Cubby Broccoli even considered Dick Van Dyke for the role, though I find that hard to believe.  An even more surprising possibility was the nobleman Lord Lucan, who was offered a screen test in 1967 and who, ten years later, would vanish after being accused of murdering his children’s nanny.

Lord Lucan

Among the actors who auditioned before George Lazenby was cast in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Michael Billington, Jeremy Brett, Peter Purves, Robert Campbell, Patrick Mower, Daniel Pilon, John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Hans De Vries, and Peter Snow.

After the mixed reception of both Lazenby’s performance and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby was soon out as James Bond.  Even today, there’s a lot of controversy about what led to Lazenby being dismissed from the role.  Some say Lazenby demanded too much money.  Some say that Lazenby was merely used a pawn to try to get Sean Connery to return to the role.  Regardless, Lazenby only made one film as Bond.  (Of course, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has retroactively been recognized as being one of the best of the series.)

With Connery still claiming that he would never return to the role, the film’s producers went through the motions of looking for a new Bond.  Once again, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were considered.  Connery suggested that a talk show host named Simon Dee should play the role.  An actor named Roger Green auditioned.  So did Michael Gambon, though he later said he was turned down because, in his own words, he “had tits like a woman.”  Interestingly, several Americans were mentioned.  Clint Eastwood as James Bond?  Burt Reynolds?  Adam “Batman” West? The mind boggles but their names were mentioned.

John Gavin

And interestingly enough, an American was cast.  John Gavin is best known for playing Sam Loomis in Psycho but he was also, briefly, James Bond.  After Gavin accepted he role and signed a contract, Sean Connery announced that he would be willing to return to the role.  Gavin was paid off and Connery went on to star in Diamonds are Forever.

After Diamonds, Connery left the role for a second time and, once again, Bond was recast.  This time, Roger Moore would finally accept the role.  However, before Moore was cast, several other actors were considered.  Some of the regular possibilities were mentioned again: John Gavin, Simon Oates, Timothy Dalton, and Michael Billington.  Others considered included Jon Finch, Ranulph Fiennes, Peter Laughton, and Guy Peters.  Some of those names are probably as unknown to you as they are to me but it’s intriguing to think that Guy Peters may not be a well-known name but, at one time, there was a possibility that he could suddenly become one of the biggest stars in the world.

Looking over the history of the Bond franchise, it’s interesting to see the number of times that Moore tried to leave the role, just to be talked into returning.  Every time that Moore considered quitting, a new group of actors would be considered for the role of Bond.  In 1979, when Moore said he might not return after Moonraker, Timothy Dalton, Michael Jayston, Patrick Mower (who was also considered for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and Michael Billington were all considered as replacements.  So was Julian Glover.  Ironically, when Moore did agree to return to the role, Glover was cast as the villain in For Your Eyes Only.

David Warbeck

To me, the most intriguing actor mentioned as a replacement for Roger Moore was David Warbeck.  Warbeck was a television actor and model who subsequently had a nearly legendary film career in Italy.  Not only did he play a key role in Sergio Leone’s Duck You Sucker!, but he also starred in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat and The Beyond.  He also appeared in the best of Italian Apocalypse Now rip-offs, The Last Hunter.  In interviews, Warbeck claimed that he was under contract to Cubby Broccoli to step into the role in case Roger Moore ever walked off the set.  The likable and rugged Warbeck would have been an interesting Bond.

In 1983, when Moore again said he might not return to the role, Michael Billington (who actually did appear in a Bond film when he played a KGB agent killed at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me) would be once more considered as a replacement.  British TV actors Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were also considered for the role.  In a repeat of what happened with John Gavin in Diamonds are Forever, American actor James Brolin was actually put under contract until Moore agreed to play the role in Octopussy.

James Brolin, in a screen test for Octopussy

After A View To A Kill, Moore left the role for the final time.  Famously, future Bond Pierce Brosnan was actually cast as his replacement until the surge of interest created by his casting led to the renewal of Remington Steele, the American television show in which Brosnan was starring.  Once the show was renewed, Brosnan could no longer work the Bond films into his schedule.

Among the other names mentioned: Sean Bean, Simon MacCorkindale, Andrew Clarke, Finlay Light, Mark Greenstreet, Neil Dickson, Christopher Lambert, Mel Gibson, and Antony Hamilton.  Sam Neill was another possibility and reportedly came very close to getting the role.  Watch any of the films that Neill made when he was younger and you can definitely see hints of Bond.

Sam Neill

In the end, Timothy Dalton finally accepted the role.  Ironically, for an actor who spent 20 years being courted for the role, Dalton turned out to be a bit of a flop as Bond.  He made two movies (both of which were considered to be disappointing when compared to the previous Bond films) and then left the role.

Looking over the contemporary reviews of Dalton as Bond, one thing that comes through clearly is that a lot of people resented him for taking a role that they felt should have gone to Pierce Brosnan.  When the Bond films resumed production with Goldeneye in 1994, Brosnan finally stepped into the role.  Reportedly, if Brosnan had turned down the role, the second choice was Sean Bean.  Much like Julian Glover, Bean may have lost out on 007 but he did end up playing the villain.

Sean Bean

Among the other actors who were reportedly considered before Brosnan accepted the role: Mark Frankel, Paul McGann, Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe, and Lambert Wilson.  Ralph Fiennes, who has been M since Skyfall, was also considered.

As opposed to his predecessors, Brosnan seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of playing Bond and never threatened to leave the role.  Looking over the Bond-related articles that were published from 1995 to 2004, I found the occasional speculation about whether Rupert Everett would be the first gay James Bond or if Sharon Stone would be the first female James Bond but I found very little speculation about Brosnan actually leaving the role.  Indeed, when Brosnan officially retired as Bond in 2004, it was less his decision and more at the prodding of the franchise’s producers, who felt that the series needed to be rejuvenated with a new (and younger) actor.  After Brosnan left, the series was rebooted and Daniel Craig played the role in Casino Royale.

In the past, I’ve made it clear that Daniel Craig is hardly my favorite Bond.  I loved Skyfall (and I consider it to the 2nd best Bond film, after From Russia With Love) but, even in that case, I felt that the film succeeded despite Craig instead of because of him.  With Casino Royale, we were supposed to be seeing a young and inexperienced Bond.  That’s never come through to me, probably because Craig looked like he was nearly 50 years old when he made Casino Royale.

Among the actors who were mentioned for the role before Craig received the role: Ralph Fiennes (again), Colin Salmon, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill, Rupert Friend, Julian McMahon, Alex O’Laughlin, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott, and Goran Visjnic.  Dominic West, who I think would have been great in the role, reportedly ruled himself out because he heard a rumor that Brosnan would be returning to the role.

Dominic West

Daniel Craig, of course, has been talking about leaving the role ever since he was first cast.  I think Skyfall would have been a perfect movie for him to leave on.  (It would have saved the world from SPECTRE.)  However, Craig has apparently agreed to do at least one more Bond film.  Maybe two.

When Craig does leave, who will replace him?  Idris Elba, of course, is probably the most widely discussed possibility.  James Norton has also been named as a possibility.  Others that I’ve seen mentioned: Tom Hardy, Jack Huston, Aidan Turner, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Henry Cavill (again).

My personal choice?  Dominic Cooper.  He’d be an off-center Bond but I think it would still be an intriguing pick.

Dominic Cooper

Who knows what the future may hold for 007?  All I know is that I look forward to the speculation.

Happy National Trivia Day, everyone!

Playing Catch-Up With The Lesser Films of 2015: Get Hard, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pixels, The Wedding Ringer


SPOILER ALERT!

One or more of the films reviewed below will appear on my list of the 16 Worst Films of 2015!  Can you guess which one(s)?

Get_Hard_film_poster

Get Hard (dir by Etan Cohen)

Will Ferrell is funny and Kevin Hart is funny and you would think that putting them together in one movie would be especially funny but … nope.  Get Hard, which I watched on HBO a few weeks ago, is incredibly not funny.  Ferrell plays a hedge fund manager who is convicted of fraud and embezzlement and it’s a sign of how haphazard this film is that I was never really sure whether he was supposed to be guilty or not.  Anyway, Ferrell is terrified of going to prison but fortunately, he runs into Kevin Hart.  Hart is playing the owner of a car wash here, a mild-mannered family man who simply wants to be able to afford to send his daughter to a good school.  However, Ferrell assumes that, since Hart is black, Hart must be an ex-con.

So, Ferrell hires Hart to teach him how to survive in prison and Hart agrees.  And, to be honest, this is not a terrible idea for an edgy satire but the film pulls it punches and never really exposes or challenges the racism that led to Ferrell hiring Hart in the first place.  Instead, it’s more interested in making homophobic jokes about prison rape (there’s a particularly long and unpleasant scene where Ferrell attempts to learn how to give a blow job that feels like it was lifted from a deservedly forgotten 90s film) and eventually, it devolves into a painfully predictable action film.

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (dir by Andy Fickman)

I know what someone out there is saying.

“YOU’VE NEVER EVEN SEEN THE FIRST PAUL BLART: MALL COP!!!  WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO REVIEW THE SEQUEL!?”

Well, listen — it’s true.  I’ve never seen the first film and the only reason I watched the second one (on HBO at a friend’s house, which means that it literally cost me nothing) was because I had heard how terrible it was and I figured that I should see it before making out my list of the worst films of the year.  But, even with that in mind, I think I can still give this film a fair review.

(At the very least, I’ll try.  Dammit, I’ll try.)

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is one of those films that is so forgettable that you forget about it while you’re watching.  Kevin James plays Paul Blart, a mall security guard who goes to Las Vegas for a security guard convention and ends up getting involved in thwarting a big heist.  It’s a comedy, though I can’t think of a single time I laughed.  Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was not quite the abomination that I had been led to expect.  It was, in no way, comparable to Birdemic, April Rain, or Man of Steel.  Instead, it was just an incredibly empty and soulless film.  It was a zombie movie that existed only to eat money.

One thing that is frustrating about a film like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is that Kevin James seems like he could actually survive appearing in a good film, if he could just get a chance to make one.  He’s likable and he’s got an everyman quality about him.  But, for now, he seems to be trapped in films where he either plays Paul Blart or he’s surrounded by talking animals.

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Pixels (dir by Chris Columbus)

Speaking of Kevin James, he’s also in Pixels!  He plays William Cooper.  When he was a kid, he was obsessed with playing video games.  Now that he’s an adult, he’s the President of the United States!  And he still keeps in contact with his best friend from childhood, Sam.  Sam, needless to say, will never be President.  When Sam was a kid, he was traumatized when he lost a national video game championship.  Now that he’s an adult, he installs home-theater systems and he’s played by Adam Sandler…

When Earth is invaded, it turns out that the aliens are under the impression that video games are real!  So, they recreate a bunch of classic video game characters and send them off to do havoc.  Who better to stop them than the President and Sam?  And who better to help than a nerdy conspiracy theorist (Josh Gad) and Eddie Planet (Peter Dinklage), the same guy who cheated in order to defeat Sam at the video game championship….

If you’re thinking that sounds like way too much plot for a silly comedy about video games coming to life, you’re right.  Pixels has some cute moments (though, based on the comments and occasional laughter of the middle-aged people in the theater around me, I get the feeling that a lot of the film’s video game-themed humor was a bit too “before my time” for me to fully appreciate) but oh my God, it was such an unnecessarily busy movie.  The idea behind Pixels had some potential but the film refused to take advantage of it.

I’ve said this before and I always get some strange looks but I honestly do think that — if he would actually break out of his comfort zone and stop doing movies that mostly seem to be about finding an excuse to hang out with his friends — Adam Sandler could be an acceptable dramatic actor.  Check out his work in Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People, Reign Over Me, Spanglish, and even the first half of The Cobbler.  (Tarantino even wrote the role of Donny Donowitz in Inglourious Basterds with Sandler in mind.)  The fact that Sandler could be doing good work makes his continual bad work all the more frustrating and annoying.

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The Wedding Ringer (dir by Jeremy Garelick)

And speaking of Josh Gad…he’s also in The Wedding Ringer!  For that matter, so is Kevin Hart.  Hart plays a guy who, for a sizable fee, will pretend to the lifelong best friend (and best man) for grooms who do not have enough real friends to fill out a wedding party.  Hart refuses to get emotionally involved with his clients but that all changes when, despite himself, he becomes friends with Josh Gad, who is on the verge of getting married to Kaley Cuoco.

The Wedding Ringer got terrible reviews but it also was very popular with audiences and I imagine a lot of that had to do with the relationship between Hart and Gad.  Both of them give very sincere performances that elevate some otherwise unpromising material.  The Wedding Ringer wasn’t good (it’s predictable, it’s portrayal of Kaley Cuoco’s character verges on misogynistic) but, at the same time, it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be.  In the end, it was pretty much a typical January film.

I'm so excited!  I'm so excited!  I'm so ... wait a minute, am I just here because this is a post about bad movies?

I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so … wait a minute, am I just here because this is a post about bad movies?

Which of these four films will make my list of the worst 16 films of 2015?  The answer shall be revealed soon!

 

 

A Few Thoughts On The Martian…


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I’m a few weeks late in reviewing The Martian, largely because I was on vacation when it was first released.  When I finally did see The Martian, it was at the wonderful UEC theater in beautiful Russellville, Arkansas.  As opposed to my experience when I saw The Green Inferno, the theater was packed and, throughout the entire movie, it was obvious that the audience absolutely loved what they were seeing on screen.  They laughed, they applauded, and it was obvious they had a great time with the movie.

And why not?  After the commercial failures of both The Counselor and Exodus, it’s obvious that director Ridley Scott was not going to take any chances with The Martian.  There’s not a single scene that is not specifically calculated to keep the viewer as complacently satisfied as possible.  Telling the story of how botanist Mark Whatney (Matt Damon) gets stranded on Mars and must figure out a way to survive until he can be rescued, The Martian is such a positive film that its total lack of cynicism almost gets overwhelming.  The end result is a film that is a 100 times better than Exodus but never as interesting or challenging as The Counselor.

In fact, as I watched The Martian, I kept thinking about another film about a man stranded out in the middle of nowhere, Into The Wild.  The main character in Into The Wild spent his isolation contemplating the meaning of life and finally reaching some sort of spiritual peace before starving to death.  Mark Whatney, on the other hand, spends his isolation recording a snarky video diary and listening to classic disco songs.

And, before anyone gets offended or accuses me of being a film snob, allow me to say that I enjoyed The Martian.  I thought it was an entertaining movie and I especially loved the soundtrack.  But, at the same time, one can enjoy The Martian and still acknowledge that there’s not much going on underneath the crowd-pleasing surface.

Looking back on the film, I find it remarkable just how little we learn about Mark Whatney.  We hear at one point that he has a family but we really don’t learn anything about his life on Earth.  In a way, he’s a bit like Robert Redford in All Is Lost.  Except, of course, Mark Whatney talks.  He talks a lot.  Fortunately, Mark is played by Matt Damon, who is a great talker.  If I think that The Martian is entertaining but also a bit overrated (and I do), I also think that Matt Damon deserves every bit of praise that he’s received for his performance.

Interestingly enough, The Martian not only features Matt Damon’s best performance but it also features Jessica Chastain’s worst.  Chastain plays Commander Lewis, who is in charge of the Mars expedition and who take it upon herself to bring Mark Whatney home.  And really, this should have been a great role for Jessica Chastain but, for the first time that I can remember, she gives a performance that just isn’t that interesting.

Then again, there’s really only one interesting character in the entire film and that’s Mark Whatney  (though I would have liked to learn more about the astronomer played by Donald Glover, who gives an appealingly eccentric performance).  This is Matt Damon’s film and it’s best moments are the ones where Mark deals with life on Mars.  In fact, there’s a part of me that almost wishes the majority of the NASA scenes had been left on the editing room floor and almost the entire movie had just been Matt Damon on Mars.

In the end, I did enjoy The Martian.  It’s a good film that some people are insisting was great.  (Of course, a lot of that is because it’s trendy to be into science.  Fortunately, Mark Whatney isn’t as much of a pompous blowhard as Neil DeGrasse Tyson, nor is he as creepy as Bill Nye.)  Some people are even suggesting that The Martian is the new Oscar front runner and maybe it is.  (After all, it’s not like there was much going on below the surface of Birdman either.)

But for me, in the years to come, the main thing I’ll remember about The Martian is the totally kickass soundtrack…

 

The Martian Arrives With An All-Star Cast


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Ridley Scott, master filmmaker with a talent for visual storytelling, has had an uneven string of films the last decade or so. His last couple of films have either been underwhelming or divisive. One thing that hasn’t failed him has been the look of his films which continue to be great.

His last film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, wasn’t what one would call a great film. One could even say it wasn’t even a decent one. Hopefully, his latest will break his prolonged streak of misses and get him back on the hit column. This film is the adaptation of the Andy Weir best-selling novel, The Martian.

Ridley Scott has Drew Goddard’s screenplay adaptation to work with not to mention a star-studded cast led by Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain (the inclusion of the latter already makes this a must-see for one of the site’s writers). From the first released trailer we seem to be getting a film that brings back memories of Apollo 13 and Cast Away.

The Martian is set for a November 25, 2015 release date.

Trailer: Jupiter Ascending


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The Wachowskis, Andy and Lana, have a new film set for release in early 2015. Jupiter Ascending was suppose to come out in 2014, but things happened and now it’s been pushed back for a February 2015 release.

Such a drastic delay in release usually means something major on the negative side of the ledger has occurred and the studio in charge of it’s release have little to no faith in the film. Has Warner Bros. Studios lost faith in the latest Wachowski offering? Is Jupiter Ascending the hot mess that it has been rumored about? Is the grandiose space opera the film is being made out to be making studio exec’s nervous?

So, many questions that most people who like to dwell on the in’s and out’s of filmmaking and the business of making them are probably asking themselves.

My only concern is that the Wachowskis have taken the extra time to make the film they set out to make. They’re one of the few filmmakers who seem to always get to do the sort of dream projects that more successful directors rarely get a chance to or even attempt to try. Whether it’s The Matrix, Speed Racer or Cloud Atlas, the Wachowskis have danced to their own tune and for some reason Warner Bros. continue to give them big-budgets after big-budgets to get their next dream project made into reality.

Here’s to hoping Guardians of the Galaxy being such a huge success will help this upcoming space opera turn it’s February release (usually a place where films go to die) into a new addition to the resurgence of the space opera.