Saturday, October 5, 2019

'No Time To Die' - Teaser Poster revealed

EON Productions has revealed today the official teaser poster artwork for the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die. The poster, which can be seen in full on the official James Bond site here, features a photograph of Daniel Craig in tuxedo as agent 007 taken by photographer Greg Williams, who has collaborated with the series since 2002's Die Another Day with the exception of SPECTRE in 2015. Over this image of Bond against the turquoise wall of a place known as Palacio Velázquez in Cuba (we have yet to see what relevance has this scene into the movie), the film's logo is overimposed. The logo, created by Empire Design using the 1929 typography Futura Black, is notably huge in the US one sheet versions. International variations show it considerably smaller, with the title translation assigned to each location.

No Time To Die will be released worldwide from April 3, 2020. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, the film will include Rami Malek, Ana De Armas, Billy Magnussen, David Dencik and Lashana Lynch. Coming from previous Bond films are Léa Seydoux, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes  Rory Kinnear and Jeffrey Wright playing CIA agent Felix Leiter for the third time.

Friday, October 4, 2019

On The Lookout for the Perfect James Bond Video Game

We haven't had a James Bond video game since 2012, if we don't count the James Bond: World of Espionage mobile game fiasco from 2015. Lately, everyone agrees that no 007 video game could beat the uniqueness of GoldenEye 007 and maybe the original stories Nightfire and Everything or Nothing came quite close to let us live in the world of Bond and being more than just a guy with a gun shooting enemies.

I've been asked lately what could make a video game that makes justice to the Bond legacy and, while I'm not a programming expert and I'm not properly a "gamer", I had a few ideas that I hope however comes after Activision takes into account. It would be quite complicated, I admit, and probably a developer would let me know I'm idealizing things way too much, but either way, after studying most of the Bond games for my book The Bond of The Millennium and their reviews I made a few conclusions based on what critics and gamers seemed to hope for a Bond game.

My first idea would be some kind of a mash-up between GoldenEye 007, Nightfire and Everything or Nothing with the free-world feeling of the Grand Theft Auto series by Rockstar. In a way or another, these three games let us live in the world of James Bond, but the Nintendo 64 classic was limited to the action missions and the other two were too scripted and linear, making us feel inside an interactive movie. The point is: we have to live in the world of James Bond - in that vast and luxurious world that includes shootouts, gambling, fast cars and seduction - but with a little bit of more freedom.

Why if, instead of being given a "movie" where we know who the villain is, as well as the good girl or the bad girl, we discover the story as we go along? Better still, we "make" the story. We are thrown with a mission and we interact with our world. Anyone could be the girl. Anyone could be the villain. Anyone could be an ally. Anyone could betray us and we have to "think Bond" and know that by ourselves.

I know of some games that give you the chance of interacting with dialogues. We could be given three possible replies, one of them could lead us to our objective, another one gets us in trouble and we are blown. Remember how important the dialogues are in Bond films. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond is discovered by Blofeld when he (posing as Sir Hillary Bray from the College of Arms) mistakenly points out that the Bleuchamp tombs are in Ausberg instead of St. Anna Kirsch. In Tomorrow Never Dies, he provokes Carver by slipping up he has doubts of the "global positioning" of his satellites. That makes Carver send a few goons to "soften him up" yet he discovers the Media Mogul wasn't innocent. Just like in GoldenEye 007, we are given the option to complete the mission as we want with different techniques and by interacting with different people: one of the allies may die or may not, the main villain may meet his end in different ways, etc.

Imagine having the freedom of driving the Aston Martin DB5 throughout the streets, but using the gadgets or speeding may cause us trouble with the law, compromise the mission and affect our reputation with MI6. We can also talk and seduce any woman, who may or may not be relevant to the mission and/or the job in hand. That could cause us an important waste of time or a huge advance in gathering information to foil the enemy plan. 

Bond is a sharp dresser and he knows what to wear depending on the occasion. Why don't we explore that a little bit? Knowing how to dress is part of "being Bond", what a Bond video game is meant to offer us. From Russia With Love by Electronic Arts allowed us that, although it was pure "make up" and the way we dressed Bond had little to no relevance in the game. Anyway, suppose you have to go to a casino or a party or the opera. You are not allowed to enter until you change into a dinner jacket. You get your debriefing at MI6, and a disclaimer reminds you to go properly dressed, then you go and pick a business suit. Same if you infiltrate an organization or the enemy troops as Bond does in Moonraker, wearing the yellow jumpsuits of Drax's forces. Picking up a disguise on a sticky situation may even help you to avoid the pursuers for a while, as Bond did with the clown suit in Octopussy.

The gambling section is another chapter. A Bond gamer should know (or learn during the game) how to play card games such as Blackjack, Baccarat, Poker Hold'Em or the Roulette. As in Casino Royale, part of your job would be beating a villain on a casino table to hurt his finances and his image before his superiors. Now, what if you beat him and then decide to keep playing and spending your money. You may win a fortune trying your luck or you can lose it all and compromise MI6. In Ian Fleming's novel Diamonds Are Forever, Bond infiltrated the Spangled Mob organization and for his diamond smuggling job he was paid by betting a certain number on the boss' casino. After winning the arragned amout, he decided to try his luck and kept betting, doubling his money. That, however, aroused suspicion on the enemy side. But still, that could be yet another "live like Bond" offer.

On a few Bond games, pulling out your gun in public endangered the mission. That should be kept in mind for future Bond games - the player should be wise enough to know when he should pull his gun out and shoot an enemy down and when he shouldn't. That's something Mission: Impossible for Nintendo 64 did brilliantly (remember what happened if you neutralized that woman on the red dress that was sent to kill you in the middle of a party at the Embassy?).

Most gamers don't pay attention to the FMV sequences, but what if you have important details there? You are posing as Mr. Robert Sterling from Universal Exports, but you introduce yourself as James Bond or by any other name while on a mission. That jeopardizes the assignament. Or not. Remember how 007 ditched the "Arlington Beech, professional gambler" masquerade in Casino Royale and for a good reason? Bottom line: you never fail the mission until the mastermind succeeds with his plan and there's nothing else you can do.

Most people would probably tell me this is extremely unlikely to happen. Either way, those were some ideas for the next publisher, developer or screenwriter of a future and (yet unexistant) James Bond game many of us would like to play and would hook us for hours. We don't have to just live in Bond's world. We need to be free on it.

Nicolás Suszczyk

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

OFFICIAL: Bond 25 title confirmed as 'No Time To Die'


James Bond Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the official title of the 25th James Bond adventure, No Time To Die. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios (MGM), and Universal Pictures International is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation, True Detective) and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fifth film as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. Written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (SPECTRE, Skyfall), Cary Joji Fukunaga, Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Bourne Ultimatum) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Killing Eve, Fleabag) No Time To Die is currently in production. The film will be released globally from April 3, 2020 in the UK through Universal Pictures International and in the US on April 8, from MGM via their United Artists Releasing banner.

No Time To Die also stars Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, Rory Kinnear, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah with Jeffrey Wright and Ralph Fiennes.

In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology. 

Other members of the creative team are; Composer Dan Romer, Director of Photography Linus Sandgren, Editors Tom Cross and Elliot Graham, Production Designer Mark Tildesley, Costume Designer Suttirat Larlarb, Hair and Make up Designer Daniel Phillips, Supervising Stunt Coordinator Olivier Schneider, Stunt Coordinator Lee Morrison and Visual Effects Supervisor Charlie Noble. Returning members to the team are; 2nd Unit Director Alexander Witt, Special Effects and Action Vehicles Supervisor Chris Corbould and Casting Director Debbie McWilliams.

Friday, August 16, 2019

'The Bond of The Millennium', a book covering Pierce Brosnan's James Bond adventures, is released

For many of us, Pierce Brosnan was our first James Bond. We loved all of his big-screen adventures long before we heard that four actors have previously portrayed the secret agent and that 16 films have preceded GoldenEye, the 1995 blockbuster that placed agent 007 once again as a popular action hero as critics thought he was no match for the modern action heroes. Nicolás Suszczyk was one of those kids that grew up with Brosnan's Bond and he dedicates this book to defend this era, making a thorough exploration of these four films by analyzing the characters and the sociopolitical background of the time in which these productions were released, much as he did with The World of GoldenEye back in June. There is also a chapter focused on the video game adaptations of the Brosnan films, particularly the three original adventures developed by Electronic Arts: 007 Racing, 007 Nightfire and Everything or Nothing. As you wait for the 25th James Bond adventure to arrive, this may be a good reading to remember such an important era in the timeless world of James Bond.

The first time Pierce Brosnan went to the cinema, aged 11, he watched a James Bond film. At the age of 27, he married a James Bond girl. He had the chance of playing James Bond himself at the age of 33 but lost the role due to contractual obligations. He was 41 when he was formally announced as the fifth actor to play James Bond on June 8, 1994, playing the role for a decade in four productions and three original video games. One could say that it was written that at some point of his life Brosnan would play Ian Fleming’s secret agent, and this happened during a particular time where the world was going through many cultural, technological and political changes.

Featuring interviews with stunt performers Sarah Donohue (The World Is Not Enough) and Jean Pierre-Goy (Tomorrow Never Dies), actor Daz Crawford (The World Is Not Enough), screenwriter Danny Bilson (007 Nightfire, Everything or Nothing) and percussionist Pete Lockett (Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day), among many others, this book offers an in-depth look to the era that took the franchise to new heights from the 1990s to the first years of the new millennium, remarking the importance that Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of James Bond has had to guarantee the continued success of 007 into the 21st century.

Nicolás Suszczyk became a James Bond fan when he first watched GoldenEye at the age of 7 on his native Buenos Aires. As a freelance writer he has contributed in magazines like MI6 Confidential and Le Bond and sites like Ultimate Action Movie Club, From Sweden With Love, Archivo 007 and The Spy Command. He is the editor of the web sites The GoldenEye Dossier, Bond En Argentina and The Secret Agent Lair, which he co-admins with Jack Walter Christian. In 2019 he published his first book, The World of GoldenEye, also available on Amazon stores.

The Bond of The Millennium is now available on Paperback and Kindle formats on the Amazon store.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

'The Russia House': love in the time of glasnost

Based on a 1989 novel by John Le Carré, The Russia House was directed by Fred Schepisi and released on Christmas Day, 1990. It was, along with Red Heat, the last film to be shot before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in August 1991. The cast had great names: Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer as the leading couple, and supporting actors like Klaus Maria Brandauer, James Fox, Michael Kitchen and Nicholas Woodeson.

It deals heavily with politics, ideals and (of course) espionage, all in the brink of the glasnost led by Mikhail Gorbachov's government in the Soviet Union. Barley Scott Blair (Sean Connery), a British rusophile editor, meets with Dante (Klaus Maria Brandauer) during a writers reunion in Russia, where both agree on the same ideals for world peace, openness and discontent for governments. Some time later, a woman known as Katya Orlova (Michelle Pfeiffer), tries to find Barley to deliver him one of three manuscripts containing sensitive information including nuclear secrets from the USSR. She fails to meet Barley, but hands it in to an associate of him, who -also unable to find him and concerned about the content of the papers- resorts to the British Intelligence. The British find Barley exiled in Lisbon. They convince him to travel to Russia and make contact with Katya in order to get to Dante, verify the information and get the other manuscripts. Barley reluctantly agrees, however things will turn dangerous when he begins to fall in love with Katya.

However, the key of the story relies heavily on love. "Unselfish love, grown up love. Mature, absolute, thrilling love," in the words Barley uses to declare his feelings to Katya. Their story is beautifully written and their love really feels natural, without a sense of adventure or the usual oversexualization that movies have nowadays. In fact, their only sex scene is shown offscreen and both are dressed when they get horizontal. Despite the 28-year difference between Connery and Pfeiffer and not taking advantage of the fact that the Scottish actor was looking impressively good at 60, all the scenes between Barley and Katya have this sense of warmness and caring which gives a sense of authenticity to everything.

Sean Connery convincingly plays the bohemian Barley, an idealist, somewhat anarchist intellectual and jazz lover. The kind of man you would find in a literary club or a library, who enjoys a simple and modest life and has complete disregard for politics or money: "If there is to be hope, we must all betray our countries. We have to save each other, because all victims are equal. And none is more equal than others." Michelle Pfeiffer also did a perfect job portraying a working-class Russian woman, with three children to care for, discreetly dressed and with more sweetness than sex appeal. Likewise, her Russian accent is incredibly convincing and there are a good number of scenes where she talks (dialogue is a big part of the film), so that's an effort deserving a proper recognition. Richard Macdonald's sets for Katya's home showcase how modest her life is: a rather urbane flat with a shower that isn't working properly and she has to fix with a hammer. Those little details also sum up to give a good reflection of the late 1980s Russia which was starting to slowly leave Communism behind. "They just want to be like us," Barley admits to the British agents controlling him.

The Palace Square in St. Petersburg (then known as Leningrad), was one of the scenarios of the film, and director of photography Ian Baker takes full advantage of the wideness of the square and the details of the monuments and statues surrounding the place as Barley meets Dante, another role brilliantly played by Klaus Maria Brandauer who reunites with Connery seven years after the unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again. "You are wearing grey today, Barley. My father was sent to prison by grey men. He was murdered by men who wore grey uniforms. Grey men ruined my beautiful profession, and take care, or they will ruin you too," the hopeless Dante tells Barley concerned that he might been used by politicians and civil servants, which he doesn't trust at all when it comes to delivering the manuscript, and hopes that Barley can make this information be published on his own without spies and governments in the middle.

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith, the film's soundtrack is a character on itself. A beautiful mix of piano, strings, floute and saxophone which gives the story a special gravitas. In fact, given that there is much talking going on the movie and that at times the pace is quite slow, it is Goldsmith's score that saves it. The main motif of the score, which in the soundtrack album serves for "Alone In The World", performed by Patti Austin (lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman), works beautifully during a scene where Barley takes a train from Moscow to Leningrad and different panoramas of Russia are shown through the window, from the city itself to rural regions and other sights. 

The biggest flaw in The Russia House is perhaps the pacing and structure. There is too much talking and so many words generate confussion. Other things aren't quite clear: the "Russia House" is the informal name of the section of the British Secret Service devoted to watch the actions taking place in the country, basically to spy them, but there is never a satisfactory explaination of this. However, considering the overall beauty of the movie, this can be forgiven. If you want to watch a meaningful romantic movie with elements of espionage and Russian politics involved, this one is certainly recommended.

Nicolás Suszczyk 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Goodbye, Felix - remembering David Hedison (1927-2019)

The week has started on a sad note for many James Bond fans, and for those who spent entire afternoons watching many TV series. We learnt that, at the age of 92, David Hedison passed away. He was the fifth actor to play Felix Leiter in the James Bond films.

Described by Ian Fleming as “the Texan with whom he had shared so many adventures”, Hedison portrayed this idea perfectly in Live And Let Die and Licence To Kill. With his appearance in Bond 25, Jeffrey Wright will break the record playing the role for the third time after Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but Hedison concluded his life being the only actor who could express that friendly link with James Bond that went beyond work with two different actors that played the same role: Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton.

He was also the one who had to represent one of the tensest moments written by Fleming on his second Bond novel, Live And Let Die, when Leiter is thrown to a pool full of hungry sharks that mutilate two of his extremities, something dramatically adapted in Licence To Kill and the catalyst of 007’s desire of revenge that would take him to resign to the Secret Service to avenge his friend and his wife Della, killed by the assailants that were after him.

A descendant of Armenians, Ara David Hedistian was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on 20 May 1927. He initiated his artistic career under the name Al Hedison on a number of TV series before reaching fame after playing the mutant star of The Fly in 1958. He later had a role in the original 1960 version of The Lost World and in The Greatest Story Ever Told in 1965, as he played important roles on TV series of that decade like Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea, playing Captain Crane, and the episode ‘Luella’ of The Saint, forming his first friendship bond with Roger Moore.

After an occasional encounter with director Guy Hamilton, the role of Felix Leiter was proposed to him for Live And Let Die, where his friend would be Bond for the first time. There was instantaneous chemistry: Hedison was the Felix who assisted Bond after a “little problem” (the mysterious and surprising assassination of his chauffeur) and had to tolerate the name-calling of the furious Mr Bleeker when Bond destroyed his aeroplane to evade Kananga’s hitmen. He was also the Felix Leiter who shared a tragic destiny who was similar to those of 007: due to the disgraceful consequences of his profession as a CIA and DEA agent, his wife is killed hours after the wedding.

“He was married once, but it was a long time ago”, he had told Della when she was surprised when Bond disregards references to a possible second marriage in a future.

Stripped of one of his legs, bruised and solace-less, Leiter manages to raise a smile when listening to his friend on the phone to inform him that he’ll recover his job at MI6, even after his rebellious attitude of hunting down drug kingpin Sánchez and his criminal empire without the proper authorization, when the US justice didn’t dare to confront him.

Besides his participation in series like Wonder Woman, Charlie’s Angels and Perry Mason, Hedison teamed up with his friend Moore in the films North Sea Hijack and The Naked Face. In 2018 he wrote the foreword for the new edition of The 007 Diaries, which the new Bond had written in 1973 and remained out of print for years: “Roger welcomed me into the wonderful fold of his life. He hosted my life for Christmas in Switzerland and summer in the South of France, always eager to share the spoils of his stardom yet never one to act with exception or snobbery,” he said remembering the actor who passed away on 23 May 2017, the day Hedison turned 90.

We just have to hope both of them are enjoying two Sazeracs watching a choir of angels playing a version of that Paul McCartney song that marked a generation and attracted an even bigger audience to that 1973 film, where Bond was turning into the field of comedy but wasn’t becoming less popular just for that. “Where’s your sense of adventure, James? This is Heaven, relax!” he would say.

Those who have met him, like actor Robert Davi, talked about his sympathy and sense of humour. There are others who didn’t share that luck, but it just takes watching a few seconds of any of his performances to perceive that warmth and kindness that went through the screen. He made us feel that, besides being a friend of James Bond, he was almost a friend of ours. Maybe this is why, despite his advanced age, we are still surprised and saddened for his departure.

So long, great man!

Goodbye, Felix.

Nicolás Suszczyk

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bond 25: Rejected Title Revealed

It's been two months since the synopsis and cast of Bond 25 had been announced in Ian Fleming's Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, but there is still no title. The thing is... there was one until April 24, the day before the announcement.

Far from being Shatterhand or Eclipse, the fifth Daniel Craig 007 movie was going to be titled A Reason To Die, but Universal and United Artists Releasing decided it wasn't strong enough for a James Bond film. Meanwhile, shooting of the movie continues at Pinewood Studios after shooting in Jamaica and Norway. Later this year, the production will move to Matera.

Agent 007 will drive the classic Aston Martin DB5 and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage from The Living Daylights, and the Aston Martin Valhalla will aslo make an appaerance. Enjoying a retirement in Jamaica, Bond will be back in action to assist Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) on a CIA operation to rescue a kidnapped scientist from a man who can handle a dangerous technology. Léa Seydoux will return in the role of Madeleine Swann from SPECTRE, while Ana De Armas and Lashana Lynch will be the new incorporations with Oscar winner Rami Malek, David Dencik and Dali Benssalah. 

Last week, Prince Charles visited Pinewood Studio to greet Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris, Lashana Lynch and Ralph Fiennes as they were shooting the scenes on M's office. The film, directed by Cary Fukunaga, will be released on April 8, 2020.