Monday, November 27, 2006

The Casino Royale Story

Seeing as Casino Royale is on its way to becoming the highest-grossing Bond movie ever, I thought it might be time to reveal the story of how Ian Fleming's first Bond novel finally made its way on to the screen some 50 years after it was written. It's not merely a tale of "they just never got around to it"; it's a 40 year-long epic in the making, that required three corporate mergers, the embittered screenwriter of Thunderball, and the film rights to Spiderman in order to come into being.

So, without further ado: The Casino Royale Story.

Casino Royale was written by Ian Fleming, and was published in 1953, the first of 14 Bond novels Fleming would write before his death in the mid-'60s. In 1955, Fleming sold the film rights for the book to two producers, who, despite their best efforts, were never able to get a film version made. The rights would eventually end up in the hands of Charles Friedman, who would sit on the property for nearly 10 years. (More on him later.)

In the meantime, Fleming sold the remaining film rights to his current and future novels to Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, who then made a deal with United Artists to produce a series of James Bond movies, the first being Dr. No in 1962. Subsequent films came out about once a year, and were incredibly successful.

During this period, the most contested Bond property in history came into play. No, not Casino Royale (which would be the logical guess, since that's what this story's about), but Thunderball. Thunderball started life as a screenplay for a Bond movie, written by Fleming and a man named Kevin McClory. McClory unsucessfully tried to get Thunderball made into a movie for a number of years. Following McClory's failure, Fleming sold the Bond novels to Saltzman and Broccoli, and went ahead and adapted Thunderball into a novel. McClory, angered by Fleming fucking around with material he thought was partly his, successfully sued Fleming, and was given the rights to all nearly all aspects of Thunderball. (This lawsuit also prevented Thunderball from being made into the first Bond film.) And, after unsuccessfully trying to get it made into a film once again, he ended up going to EON (Saltzman and Broccoli's production company) to get his movie made. As part of his agreement with EON, McClory was prohibited from doing anything with the Thunderball property for 10 years after the movie's release. His anger over this stipulation would cause McClory to become a thorn in the Bond franchise's side for more than 40 years, and eventually be integral in bringing Casino Royale to the screen.

In the late '60s, seeing the success of the Bond franchise, Charles Friedman went to EON in an attempt to get Casino Royale made into a movie. EON, soured by their collaboration with McClory, took a pass. Friedman went on to produce a comedic version of the book at Columbia. Because it was not made by EON, and is a comedy, no one has ever considered it one of the "official" Bond films. The property would remain dormant at Columbia until...

Let's jump ahead about 30 years: United Artists (which, due to bankruptcy in the early '80s, was now owned by MGM) continued to make Bond films; Kevin McClory had finally made a version of Thunderball in 1983, now called Never Say Never Again (yet another film not considered to be an "official" Bond movie); and Columbia Pictures was now a part of the growing Sony empire. Pretty much all was good in the Bond World.

That is, until the mid-'90s, when McClory got the bug in his ass that he wanted to make Thunderball yet again. He went to Sony, who owned the only other Bond property not owned by MGM. Together, he and Sony cooked up a plan to start a "rival" Bond franchise to compete against MGM's. (Remember that nonsense in the mid-'90s about Tarantino directing a Bond movie? Well, this is what that was all about.) Needless to say, MGM was quick to file suit to prevent this from happening. And, MGM might have lost that suit, seeing as Sony and McClory were the rightful owners of the properties they intended to produce, had they not owned the one thing Sony wanted more than a Bond movie: the movie rights to Spiderman, which MGM had acquired when Carolco went bankrupt.

In exchange for the rights to Spiderman, Sony relinquished any claim to the Bond franchise, giving MGM the rights to everything James Bond. This allegedly also included Thunderball, a fact McClory still contests. (It's worth noting that Sony went on to make two Spiderman films that grossed roughly half of what the entire Bond franchise has grossed, and MGM went on to make two Bond films that, well...they should have kept Spiderman.)

Which brings us up to 2005. Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire who had owned MGM, on and off, for 35 years, decided it was time to sell MGM for the fourth time. And, after a brief bidding war, MGM ended up in the hands of (surprise, surprise) Sony. With the acquisition came the rights to the Bond movies, including Casino Royale, a property it and Columbia Pictures had previously owned for 35 years.

Which is how it came to pass that Sony finally got to make the "official" version of the last original Bond property, 50 years after the original book was published.

And I bet you thought they just picked that one out of a hat.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Eight Films To (Not So Much) Die For

For the past month or so, they've been airing commercials for something called "Eight Films to Die For," a three day film festival of undistributed horror movies. Honestly, it sounded like a good time, but, like most fun things, I didn't think it would come anywhere near The JVL.

But, turns out, it did. Unfortunately, I found out about it on the last day of the festival. Fortunately, they were airing encores on Monday and Tuesday. And this is how I was able to see two of the films.

The first film I saw was Rinne (or Reincarnation for those of you, like myself, who don't speak Japanese). Rinne is the newest movie from Takashi Shimizu, who apparently got tired of having made The Grudge roughly six times, and decided to make something new. This one tells the story of a movie crew who begins shooting the story of a notorious murder at what appears to be a haunted hotel. (Actually, it isn't so different from The Grudge at all.) It's pretty standard shit. The best thing about the movie, though, was that I think I was the only person that knew this movie would be in subtitled Japanese. ("Oh, this isn't in English?" was heard throughout the crowd.) If you don't like subtitles either, not to worry: It will be in English when they remake it as a Rachel Bilson or Alexis Bledel vehicle in a couple of years. I can't wait.

The second movie (and I should call it the "#2 Movie," because it was pretty close to shit) I saw was Dark Ride, about a bunch of dumb kids who hole up in an abandoned dark ride that was the scene of a number of murders years earlier. It's really not very good. It has a ridiculously convoluted plot, in which a number of coincidences conspire to get a number of dumb kids killed; screenwriting at its worst. And why is this movie called Dark Ride, as a dark ride is a funhouse that you ride around in a little cart on tracks. This place is just a number of spooky rooms connected by a bunch of hallways...with no tracks. Dark Walk may have been a more appropriate title. Its one saving grace was that it gave a funny new meaning to the term "giving head."

All in all, not a very good experience. Instead of Dark Ride, I wish they would have encored Wicked Little Things, which is not only a Zombie Movie, but a Kid Zombie Movie, where all the zombies are children. That's oh so wrong, but oh so right, all at the same time.


Actually, I hate Duke, and any sycophantic cocksucker who claims to like them should have to choke on their own balls. That's why it was a seriously great time for me to see my Golden Eagles beat their asses.

This is somewhat of a big deal. This is the first time Marquette has played Duke since they lost to them in the '94 NCAA tourney. And, this time, they beat them rather handily. (In all fairness, that '94 Duke team had Grant Hill when he was the best player in college ball, and this Duke team, well, they could use Grant Hill right about now.)

But, we did beat them, and, on Monday, when the polls come out, I expect we might crack the top 10, something we haven't done this early in the season forever. Should be a good time.

Oh, and Fuck Duke.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mighty White Of Ya, CBS

In this post, I claimed that the new Ray Liotta show, Smith, wasn't very good. And, CBS agreed with me, and canceled it. Now, usually when a show gets canceled in such a prompt way, it just goes away, until someone buys the DVD rights and releases that one-disc "The Complete Series" DVD. I suspected the same fate would befall Smith.

Needless to say, I was rather surprised to see, during a random look through their website, that CBS has put the entire series of seven episodes (four of which never aired) in their on-demand video section. Now, you can see just how terribly the series would have turned out, just like CBS did!

Check 'em out; I know I will.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lost Gets Lost

For those of you excited to tune in tonight to get your Lost fix: don't bother. Last week's episode was the last we'll see until February. (Apparently, Lost only airs during sweeps periods now.) It will be replaced in the schedule by Groundhog Day: The Show, with Taye Diggs in the Bill Murray role.

I don't understand why ABC would do this. They don't seem to understand that a majority of TV watchers are idiots. When they tune in on Wednesday at 8, and see that Lost is gone, and they don't see any ads for it, they'll assume it's been canceled. This is why shows that get moved from their usual timeslots end up getting canceled: People don't know they're on anymore, and don't watch them.

I also don't understand ABC would split up the season of its third highest-rated show in order to air a mid-season replacement in its timeslot. (I refuse to acknowledge Dancing with the Stars as a show.) What if The Taye Diggs Hour turns out to be a dog, and they are stuck airing this piece of shit until Lost returns? What are they gonna do, air another night of Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy reruns?

I'd say that ABC was the dumbest network on TV, but at least they're smarter than FOX, who put the premieres of their two most-popular shows, 24 and American Idol, deep into January. That's stooppid.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Famous People Call My House

It's no secret that celebrities stump for political candidates. They sometimes even go out on the campaign trail for them. It is odd, however, when a celebrity calls your house on behalf of a candidate.

The other day, there was a message on the machine from none other than Bradley Whitford, the star of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He was calling on behalf of some candidate whose name I don't even remember. I was so surprised that Bradley called that I didn't even pay attention to whom he was calling about.

I did notice that when he called he said, "Hi, this is Bradley Whitford, from The West Wing," as if him being on West Wing lent him some sort of political credo. As a TV buff, I think he's less credible due to the fact that he's not even on West Wing anymore. He might as well have said, "Hi, this is Bradley Whitford, from Billy Madison"; just about the same thing.

An odd experience all around. I'm hoping for a call from Jane Kaczmarek in 2008.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Good To See Someone Listens To Me

In this post, I lamented the fact that the theatres in The JVL had taken a pass on The Prestige, in order to keep theatre space open for Pirates of the Caribbean 2.

Just wanted to follow up and let you know that they took my advice and made the change. Two weeks later than i would have hoped, but it eventually happened. I know y'all were concerned, but there's no reason for concern any more.

BTW, The Prestige is very good (if not highly predictable), and Borat is fucking hilarious (if not slightly staged). Check 'em out.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hasta Lumbago, Saddam

Today, it was announced that Saddam Hussein was indeed guilty of war crimes, and was sentenced to death by hanging.

I'm glad they tried this guy in another country, because spending my tax money to reach the most foregone conclusion in the history of jurisprudence would have pissed me off.

Oh well; it was a nice run while it lasted. See you in Hell, Saddam.

Friday, November 03, 2006

United Artists Has New Bosses

Earlier in the week, it was announced that Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, who were booted from Paramount just mere months ago, have been tagged to head up United Artists. Wagner will be CEO, and Cruise will have some say over the production slate, as well as having a place to star in and produce movies.

It's rather ironic that Cruise and Wagner weren't good enough to merely produce movies for Paramount, yet are good enough to run an entire studio. This is how movies like Battlefield Earth end up getting made.

I thought of something else when I heard this. Even though Cruise can no longer make any Mission: Impossible movies, since those rights are owned by Paramount, he's not entirely out of the spy game. United Artists owns the rights to the Bond franchise. Cruise could make himself the next James Bond if he wanted to. (Scary, but true.)

We'll see how it all pans out, I suppose.

J.J. Abrams Has Found New Ways To Fuck With Us

While I'm on the subject of Tom Cruise, I thought I'd pass along something I noticed while watching M:I:3 (that's a lot of colons) the other day.

I was watching M:I:3 with the commentary on, as I'd already seen it and didn't really need to know what the characters were saying. Cruise and Abrams talked for the entire 130 minute or so running time, all the way through the credits. So, I listened the whole way through.

As I was browsing through the credits while they commented on them, I happened to notice something odd. At the bottom of the "Producers Would Like To Thank" section, I noticed a thanks for The Hanso Foundation, which, as fans of the show will know, is the fictional entity responsible for the crazy shit on Lost, which also happens to be an Abrams show.

Can you tell that Abrams has let the success of Lost go to his head? I'm surprised one of the characters on Six Degrees doesn't work for The Hanso Foundation. Might give someone a reason to watch that show.