Archive for the ‘Movie Blog’ Category

Last year I wrote about The Paramount Decree, and how it had been decided the decree will be terminated in 2022 following a two-year “sunset period”.  At the time I suggested this would open the door for major studios like Disney and Warner to purchase, and possibly save stricken cinemas.  There appears to be no appetite for that in the industry, as the major studio look in a different direction for film distribution.  It may therefore may be time for something similar to the decree that fundamentally changed cinema all those years ago.  A decree to save cinema from itself!

First a quick recap: In the early days of cinema in the US, the major film studios (Warner Brothers, RKO, Fox, MGM, and Paramount) owned their own theatres that exclusively screened their films.  Films that were produced by writers, directors, technicians, and actors who were under contract to the studios,  They also owned the laboratories, that processed the film and created the prints.  There weren’t distribution companies as we know them today as they were releasing their own product.  To put is it simply the studios were vertically integrated.  The Paramount Decree as it became known was an antitrust case correctly titled United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 U.S. 131 (1948).  The case changed the face of film exacerbation in the US, ripples of its effects can be felt all over the world to this day.  The ruling forced the separation of motion picture production and exhibition companies. 

The way we access movies is rapidly changing as physical media is being replaced by online content, it is likely to change further and quickly.  As we come out of lockdown, will people be so happy to be able to visit the cinemas that we will see a massive upturn in attendance, or will people be wary of social interaction?  My experience of online movies came by something of a backdoor.  I subscribed to Love Film, a DVD postal rental service.  When they were taken over by Amazon, they started offering streaming as well as DVDs.  They soon dropped the DVS and became a streaming platform; following several surprisingly seamless rebrands, we went from:  Lovefilm video-on-demand, to Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Video, and now have Prime Video.  Meanwhile, Netflix that also started life as a mail-order DVD rental business in California, in1997. By the time it reached the UK in 2012 it had become a subscription-based streaming service.  When I got a new “smart” TV in 2015 I embraced streaming and also subscribed to Netflix. I still have both to this day.

The problem is that we are becoming inundated with subscription streaming services. There is no doubt about the quality of some of the best movies and TV shows across the services, but its getting spread very thin. Here are a selection of the better know services available in the UK and what they cost (if my research is correct):

  • Netflix £5.99 – £8.99
  • Prime Video £5.99 (plus extra add on channels)
  • Now TV (Sky) Sky Movies Pass – £9.99, Sky TV – £6.99
  • Apple TV Plus £4.99
  • Mubi £9.99
  • BFI Player £4.99
  • Disney + £5.99 recently increased to £7.99

Disney is the most significant of these, as they are a major studio, THE major studio.  With their acquisitions of Marvel, Fox and Lucasfilm they control a large number of the big franchises and dominate the top echelons of the box office charts each year.  They have been bringing all their properties under their own umbrella to the extent that when certain licensing agreements expire. At the same time they are creating new streaming only contend, what we used to know as TV shows for their various IP’s, mainly Star Wars and Marvel. We aren’t far of a time when outside of cinema’s Disney + will be the only place we will be able to watch their “content”.   HBO Max ($14.99 per month) is going the same way in America (we don’t get it in the UK) with Warner properties.  It will soon be the only place to see the fabled Snyder Cut of the Justice League movie.   They are also planning to release all their major films for 2021 online first, or at the same time as in US theatres. Paramount Plus ($5.99 with adds or $9.99 without), (yes Paramount are still around after all these years) is going to be more than just a rebrand of CBS All Access.  Their big headline is that they will show big tent pole Paramount such as Mission: Impossible 7 within 45 days of their theatrical release.  Smaller films will be even sooner, possibly day and date.  This will put them at loggerheads with cinema chains.  Lets not forget, the same is happening in the other direction, with streaming giants Netflix and Amazon creating their own TV and movie content.

I don’t think I really need to spell out what I am thinking! But I will! Should governments legislate to stop studios owning streaming services? And likewise, should streaming services be aloud to make their own content, effectively turning themselves into studios? Or should we let the industry continue as it is until it finds its own solution?

I actually don’t think a new variation on the Paramount Decree is the answer, but I do think something needs to happen for the good of consumers, and possibly for the long-term good of the industry. It isn’t just about the viewers, streaming services and cinemas need to work together to provide a platform so smaller and independent films get seen. We are already at a stage where viewers who wish to see a wide range of movies (and TV shows) they need to subscribe to multiple services.  Governments will tell you that competition  is good for consumers, but this isn’t always the case.  We had a situation in the UK (England and Wales to be more precise) where you could only watch Premier league football on Sky TV.  Then the government stepped in and said no single company could have the rights to all the games.  Just over a decade later fans need to subscribe to three different service to see all the games, with no noticeable drop in price due to competition. What I am suggesting is simple, if studios were banned from owning their own streaming platforms, or even showing their content exclusively on limited platforms, it would create a different type of competition, possibly leading to the merger of many sites allowing consumers to watch more content, of a higher quality for less money.  This would not be a universal fix all, it could create a situation like we have in cinemas where the large chains show all the same blockbusters and ignore all the independent and foreign films, but it’s a start!

If I can end on a what is both a massive tangent, and a positive note.  Things aren’t as expensive as we may think, or as expensive as they used to be.  If you paid £1 to rent a movie on VHS in 1982, that would be £3.61 in today’s money.  But then you would need something to play it on.  A Ferguson Videostar VHS video recorder (a popular British video recorder in the day -we had a second hand one in the mid 80’s) would have cost £599, that is equivalent to £2,162 when adjusted for inflation.  And what about the a TV?  A 20″ or 22″ was about normal for a larger living room TV a PYE or Ferguson would have cost around £500, or £1,805 in today’s money.  I’m sure there are people out there today who have spent £4,000 on a TV, I certainly wouldn’t!

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I have been listening to the Movie Mount Rushmore Podcast recently, and have dipped into their back catalogue.  Movie fans who haven’t already, should give it a listen.  Two long-time friends Anthony Jordan, aka AJ and me Nico Lurot, talking about movies; in their own words:

cast (available on most major platforms) here you can check out our weekly Movie Mount Rushmore, where we count down our individual TOP 10 lists of a specific topic, then combine to make the Mount Rushmore; these are the MUST-SEE 4 movies of that topic / genre

This week’s subject, “The Best Movie in a Franchise”  was chosen by me, so I thought I would pick my top own top ten.  The intention was to pick the best film within a given series, not necessarily the best franchises.   However, I’m sure AJ and Nico will come up with their own interpretation.  I’m sure there will be some disagreement on what constitutes as franchise!

Aliens (Alien is a masterpiece, and the is a strong argument that its the best, but  – Aliens Vs. – weakest: Predator – Requiem

The Terminator (T2 gets all the love, but for me the original is the best) – weakest: Terminator Genisys (2015)

The Empire Strikes Back (obvious choice, but by far the best)  – weakest: Revenge of the Sith (borderline unwatchable)

Thor: Ragnarok (For a long time I would have said The Winter Soldier, but Ragnarok edges it) – weakest: Close call between Thor: The Dark World, and Ant-Man and the Wasp

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (after 25 years and a few less impressive movies, the franchise was at risk of becoming a parody of itself, then came this movie, that isn’t just a good Star Trek movie, it stands out as been a really good movie in its own right) – weakest: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (with the original crew, The Next Generation, and the reboot, there are a lot of good and bad movies.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (I’m not a Potter fan. I didn’t read the books. I didn’t start watching the movies until this one purely because of director Alfonso Cuarón. I have since gone back to watch them all. This remains the best) – weakest: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (long and dull movie with lots of walking and camping. Dubbed Harry-on Camping by Simon Mayo.) 

Wonder Woman (by far the best of the DCEU) – weakest: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (yes, it’s worse than Suicide Squad)

Fast Five (This is the tipping point were the franchise moved from, silly but grounded, to ridiculous to Mission Impossible) – weakest: Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – This is a tricky one, as all the movies are brilliant or terrible depending on your point of view!

Logan (AJ and Nico, don’t like this movie???) – weakest: Dark Phoenix (If you have seen it, explanations will not be required)

The Bourne Identity (everybody loves the Paul Greengrass  movies, my favourite is the  first movie directed by Doug Lima) weakest: The Bourne Legacy

Honourable mentions:

Superman 2 (the best Superman movie, not just of the best of the Christopher Reeve movies)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (too close to call with Raiders of the Lost Arc)

The Dark Knight (the best Batman movie, closely followed by Batman Returns)

The Fellowship of the Ring (the one that won all the Oscars was the weakest!)

Bumblebee (the first Transformers wasn’t bad, all the sequels are terrible except Bumblebee which is great)

James Bond: I can never decide the best between Russia With Love, and Casino Royale, Die Another Day is by far the weakest. 

And as a final word: AJ, Nico Die Hard is the best of the series not Die Hard with a Vengeance!

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“You wake up to eerie silence. You call out ‘Hello?’ but no-one answers. You’re alone except for a film projector and speakers with infinite battery life and five of your favourite films at the foot of the projector. You have nowhere to be so start watching the films. What are they, where are you and how will your story play out?”

This is the scenario presented to us by Claire Packer at the recently rejuvenated Cinematic Delights.  Her expectation goes beyond just choosing the five films.  Find out more HERE.

  • My five films: What are the five films you would happily watch for the foreseeable future and why?
  • My fate: Where have you been deserted – are you adrift like Hanks in Castaway or are you an end of the world survivor like Smith in I Am Legend?
  • My finale: How will your time alone end? Will you be saved by Spielberg or will you live happily ever after on your own like Disney?

Let’s start in the middle where am I? I prefer to go with the Desert Island Discs/Hanks in Castaway option, as it always gives a degree of hope!

As for the movies, I set myself an extra challenge.  Eleven years ago, hosted a similar event that I called Desert Island DVD’s also taking its inspiration from the long running BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs.  I have decided not to choose any of the eight movies I picked before, they were: My movies back then were:

  • Casablanca (1942)
  • Some Like it Hot (1959)
  • Two Lane Blacktop (1971)
  • Goodfellas (1990)
  • Dazed and Confused (1993)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Oldboy (2003)
  • Serenity (2005)

Like last time, it isn’t just about my favourite films, its about films I can watch over and over and not tire of. One thing I can say fore sure, limiting us to just five films was cruel!

Chinatown (1974): I’m not sure there has ever been a film dripping with despair as Chinatown.  Not only is it one of my favourite movies, but it is strangely perfect for this scenario.  When I watched it during the first lockdown last year there was something comforting about watching people whose situation was more hopeless with than me. 

Fandango (1985): The most sentimental film on the list.  The film that give its name to my Blog and twitter handle.  This film has to be on the list for so many reasons.  Just taken on its own merits, it’s a great and under seen film.  It also lends a little much needed brevity to my list.  It is also associated with great memories; the favourite film of a close friend, it was on hard rotation when I was a student, we also visited some of the filming locations while on holiday in West Texas a few years back. 

The English Patient (1996): I loved the film from when I first watched it at the cinema twenty-five years ago.  It has since been either forgotten, overlooked, or dismissed.  I don’t care what anybody thinks, it’s an absolute masterpiece.  One of the few films that I actually think is better than the book on which it’s based.  Like Chinatown, I see more every time I watch it. 

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): There is a conversation at the heart of the movie between Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) about why the characters are doing what they are doing.  The answer is simple, they are all looking for either hope or redemption.  That’s kind of what all movies are about! And that’s just one of the reasons the film is so perfect. 

Atomic Blonde (2017): Comparisons with another film that came out a few years before are inevitable, but Atomic Blonde is both the slickest and most fun of its type.  It does the near impossible task of invoking other great films, without making me wish I was watching them. 

The final question: How will your time alone end?  That’s not for me to say, but we are nothing without hope!

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1: Portrait of a Lady on Fire – I did a half year list during the first lockdown, this came second; on re-watch, it’s even better and jumps up to number one.  I went into this movie not knowing anything about it, that’s probably the best way, so I am not going to give a synopsis to give anybody who hasn’t it the same opportunity.  The film is beautiful to look at, and tells a beautiful story that unfolds to devastating effect.

2: Parasite – My number one at the half year stage, a beautifully crafted movie, it doesn’t lose anything on rematch, but it didn’t haunt me the number one did.   Again, I will not give a synopsis, or even genre.  I went in knowing nothing, again the best way to see the movie.  There is no one outstanding performances, the whole cast is sensational.  The direction is sublime, and the story subtly brilliant, with movements of humour, pathos, and overflowing with subtext.

3: JoJo Rabbit – I saw a preview of  this in December 2019 (that seems like a lifetime ago!) but it didn’t come out in the UK until January 2020.  I made a decision few years ago to pick my annual top ten based on UK release dates.  A satirical comedy about a ten year old member of Hitler Youth, whose imaginary friend is an incarnation of Hitler, sounds like a bad idea.  But when the Writer, Director, Hitler is Taika Waititi it all strangely works.  The film is light and very funny, that makes it even more hard hitting in the serious moments.  An absolute masterpiece.

4: 1917 – Set on the Western Front in northern France at the height of WW1, two young British soldiers are tasked with delivering a vital message.  Made up of long takes (up to nine minutes at a time) and near seamlessly edited together to look like a single take.   It’s not the first single take movie, and far from the longest take, but it is certainly the most ambitious given what is depicted.  Although fictional, it is inspired by a true story told to writer/director Sam Mendes by his grandfather.  An outstanding and breathtaking movie that is so much more than the (effective) gimmick of its shooting.  Dean-Charles Chapman and particularly George MacKay are both excellent.  I watched the movie in IMAX, and have avoided re-watching it on TV as I fear it won’t be the same. 

5: Diqiu zuihou de yewan (UK title: Long Day’s Journey into Night) – Technically not a 2020 film, it received a limited UK release in the last week of 2019, but didn’t see the inside of many cinema’s until the following month.  A man returns to his hometown for his father’s funeral.  He reminisces about an old friend killed years before, and sets out to find a lost love.  The whole film has a dreamlike quality as it skips around in time and space until the final hour depicts an actual dream, shot as one long unbroken shot.  A lot is left unexplained leaving the viewer to decipher the story from the flashbacks and the dream.  Stunning throughout, the film is at its best in the final hour.

6: Mangrove – I normally only pick from movies seen at the cinema, in a break from tradition Mangrove was made for TV and originally show on the BBC as part of the “Small Axe” series of films.  Directed by Steve McQueen and set in London in the 1960s and 1970s all the films depict the lives of West Indian immigrants.  The story of the “Mangrove Nine”, comparisons with Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 are inevitable.  While it lacks the comedy of its American counterpart, Mangrove is a better film.  While hard hitting, it doesn’t paint its protagonists as victims.   

7: The Invisible Man – Following the abject failure of The Mummy (2107) Universal’s overly ambitious  so-called Dark Universe didn’t happen.  This left the door open for the Blumhouse treatment.  The story is as grounded and real as The Invisible Man could be, and also benefits from the always brilliant Elisabeth Moss.  Not only better than expected, but genuinely good.  Like all great thrillers and horror movies, the story has real world relevance.  

8: Saint Maud – Marketed as a horror, Rose Glass’ feature debut defies genre.  Morfydd Clark’s titular Maud’s religious devotion is treated in a way reminiscent of something more demonic.  The gloom and despair of a faded British seaside town all helps with the oppressive nature of the film.  What the film is about is open to interpretation, what is not is the sense of melancholy, dread and malevolence that haunts the film. 

9: Queen & Slim – I thought long and hard about including this film of the list, because it’s so timely, I was concerned how it would hold up over time.  Looking back after nearly a year I decided I had to include it, partly as a testament for the time it was made, but mainly because it is there on merit.  For those who don’t know, the story follows a young black couple on a first date; things spiral out of control following a routine traffic stop.  More than just a road movie, it uses the language and conventions of cinema to make a powerful statement.  Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith are outstanding. 

10: The Gentlemen – Guy Ritchie, returns to what Guy Ritchie does, British gangsters.  While not as fresh and original as his early work, it is a refreshing change from some of the rubbish he has made more recently.  It’s all too slick and contrived to be great, but is exactly what a film like this needs to be, fun.  Worth watching for standout performances from Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant.

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We all have an idea of what a Christmas movie is, there are so many options – Traditional: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947 & 1994), White Christmas (1954) – Trendy: Die Hard (1988), Gremlins (1984), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – Fun/Comic: Home Alone (1990), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Love Actually (2003).  Alternative/Horror: Black Christmas (1974), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010), Krampus (2015).  But if you step away from the usual suspects, what are the Christmas films you can act watch and enjoy:

G0 (1999): Christmas eve in LA is the setting for three interweaved stories. A drug deal goes wrong. A trip to Vegas goes wrong.  A pair of actors are forced into helping the police and it goes very wrong!  You get the idea. The connections between the three stories feel natural not contrived. The direction from Doug Liman (who went on to make some great and varied movies including The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow) walks the perfect tightrope, the film is well paced, well edited and knows when to use comedy and brevity. Full of great comedy moments from the taught, an witty script, but it is the great acting from the young (and little know at the time) cast elevate this film to near greatness.  But is it the a Christmas movie? For many people, Christmas is about family, in this year more than ever as many of us cannot be with extended families this year, the film shows us what family can be.  For these young people, their friends are there family, and this is what Christmas means to them. 

Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Set in the days leading up to Christmas; after his wife confesses that she was once tempted to cheat on him, doctor Bill Hartford is sent into a head spin and spends the night in New York meeting a strange array of characters. This culminates in him gate crashing a surreal ritualistic orgy.  Behind all the gloss and opulence and the dreamy surface this is a gritty and real story of love, sex and relationships.  Just like an  80’s yuppie in peril movie like After Hours, and Into the Night (both 1985), Eyes Wide Shut sends our “hero” into an odyssey that he didn’t plan and doesn’t really understand, and as a viewer it is always on the edge of reality and dream.  Beyond the setting, this another thing that makes it a Christmas movie, the plot, and the larger than life characters are reminiscent of Tchaikovsky Christmas ballet The Nutcracker. 

Batman Returns (1992): You would be forgiven for thinking Tim Burton’s Christmas masterpiece is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), (directed by Henry Selick, not Burton) it is a great Christmas movie, but Burton’s best Christmas movie can a year earlier with his sequel to Batman (1989).  Christmas baby Oswald Cobblepot is born deformed and rejected by his parents and throw him into the sewer.  Thirty years later, now going by the name Penguin, he is introduced to the people of Gotham by millionaire, philanthropist, and crook Max Shreck.  The Christmas credentials of the movie aren’t that simple, we get a winter wonderland setting, but little else.  Characters are set up for redemptive story arcs  that don’t happen; there is no real story of good will or forgiveness, but what we do get is a slightly cynical dark satirical look of corporate culture and commercialisation of society.  If you don’t like any of this just sit back and watch the bets Batman: Michael Keaton, and the best supporting character in a comic book movie, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman.

This is by no means a definitive list, just a few movies I intend to watch. After that, if I am still looking for something to watch, I may consider: The Apartment (1960), Lethal Weapon (1987), Carol (2015).

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A few months ago I had the idea imaging the casting of an Avengers film, had it been made in the 80’s.  Having never finished or posted my list, Screenrant beat me to it! With three of their choices being the same as mine, there didn’t seem much reason to finish.  I read this around the same time as I was writing about The Paramount Decree, this gave me the idea to go a slightly different way; taking the same characters they chose, and casting them from the Golden Age of Cinema, as if the film had been made around 1940.

Clarke Gable as Tony Stark / Iron Man – Stark is charming and wisecracking;  chances are he is both the funniest and the cleverest person in the room, but he is also a self obsessed dick!  Who could play that better than Gable?

Burt Lancaster as Steve Rogers / Captain America Cap needs youthful good looks, a certain sense of innocence, but also needs to convey a certain melancholy.  On top of all that he needs to be big and athletic.  Sounds like Lancaster to me.   

 James Stewart as Bruce Banner / The Hulk – Banner is an awkward neurotic genius, but deep down he is good to the core.  Has to be Stewart.

Johnny Weissmuller as Thor – The Austro-Hungarian-born Weissmulle doesn’t have the Norse looks that would be ideal for the part, but he certainly has the stature. 

Vivien Leigh as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow – Romanoff needs to look sweet and innocent, but be far from it, this is something Leigh did many times. 

 Errol Flynn as Clint Barton / Hawkeye – I don’t even need to explain this one, it has to be Flynn!

James Mason as Loki – Screenrant talk about “charming arrogance and wicked bravado” Mason has this in spades.

Gary Cooper as Phil Coulson – Coulson was the hardest character to cast because there is so much going on for so little screen time.  Untimely the character is defined by his honesty and boy scout optimism, Cooper fits the bill.    

Spencer Tracy as Nick Fury – The temptation is to go for a black actor to emulate Samuel L Jackson, but there simply weren’t that many prominent in that era.   But Tracy certainly has the gravity and whit. 

Katherine Hepburn (Maria Hill) Tall and athletic, she certainly looks the part, but she also has the whit needed.  On top off all this, she has Tracy to bounce off!

Such an amazing era of cinema, there are so many great actors who didn’t make the list. 

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A tipping point for cinema?

A couple of weeks ago I suggested that major film studios could be the saviour of cinemas/theatres; it now seems there is no appetite for this.  There have been two big announcements; first Warner Bros. said that all its 2021 movies would debut online on its HBO Max streaming service at the same time as the cinema release. Now Disney have announced some of its films including Peter Pan & Wendy (directed by David Lowery), and Pinocchio (directed by Robert Zermeckis, starring Tom Hanks) will skip cinema’s and go straight to Disney+ subscription streaming service.  On top of this they have announced multiple new Marvel and Star Wars projects for the streaming service.  The suggestion is that Disney see their future online, which is an interesting considering their successful TV channels (that include ESPN, ABC, Lifetime, History, and FX) that are sure to be impacted their TV business.  The TV channels are currently earning them more money than Disney+ but the future is online and Disney look to be taking a hit now in order to future proof the business.   

Looking at it from the other side, as we come out of lockdown two, Cineworld venues in the UK (and the rest of the world) look set to remain closed until March 2021.  In a statement they have suggested they have secured sufficient liquidity to survive another year providing they reopen their 660 venues across the UK and US by late spring.  The financial measures all seem to revolve around managing a near $5bn debt.   Odeon and Vue are opening most venues in tier 1 and 2 areas within the next few days; the great hope to bring people back to cinema is Wonder Woman 1984 due for a UK release on 16 December 2020.  Given the strong reviews and the good will created by the first film it wouldn’t be unreasonable under normal circumstances to expect a box-office in the region of $1bn topping the just over $800million the first film took.  But these aren’t normal times!  Not only are people still slow to return to cinema’s, but have announced that when the film is released the following week, on Christmas day in the US, it will simultaneously be available on HBO Max. While many people will still choose to see the film in the best way at the cinema, a huge proportion of the audience will be lost to those who are happy to see it at home. 

Directors Christopher Nolan and Director Denis Villeneuve have been outspoken about the Warner decision.  This is somewhat understandable when you look at the two directors.  Nolan has long been the champion of shooting films on celluloid and exhibiting them in cinema’s.  He has also made a lot of money for the studio.  Villeneuve on the other hand is in a interesting position; he has a film in the can with Warner.  Dune (adapted from Frank Herbert’s 1965 Novel) was due for release next week, but has been pushed back an entire year.  The issue, his film isn’t actually an adaptation of the book, it is half the book!  Given the $165million budget, it would probably need to achieve over $700million to guarantee a sequel. 

All things considered we are in a precarious position for the future of cinema.  With the Covid-19 situation and the lockdowns associated with this, it was always going to be tough.  However, the real issue is the studios and distribution companies.  Disney and Warner are big hitters, and while they are clearly acting autonomously, they are sure to influence other smaller companies.   You then have to consider the audience; as a film lover, I want to watch films on the biggest screen possible, but many people will be happy to see things at home.  The problem is that if we don’t support cinemas many of them won’t be there in future.  As concerning as the loss of cinema’s making them too exclusive, too expensive. That could be slow death of cinema.

On a positive note, the decline of cinema has been predicted for the past 90 years, and it’s still here!

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I have read a couple of things on twitter recently suggesting certain actors are too old, or too young to play Bond.  But how old is Bond? Ian Fleming made very few explicit references to Bond’s age.  The clearest came in the third novel Moonraker, published in 1955.  Bond states that he is “eight years shy” of mandatory retirement age for a 00, forty-five.  This would make him thirty-seven.  This however only tells us how old he was at the time of this novel as the passage of time between many of the books isn’t always clear.  From reading these I have always seen the character as being late 30’s early 40’s.  But what of the actors who have played the part?

Note: All ages are approximate based on when the film was shot. 

Sean Connery (1930 – 2020) – Connery was 31, in his first Bond movie Dr. No (1962),  He left the role after You Only Live Twice (1967)  age 36.  He returned for Diamonds Are Forever (1971)  age 40 (although he looked about 50!).  He then returned again for the unofficial Bond movie Never Say Never Again (1983) age 52, but didn’t look that much older than in his last official Bond movie.

George Lazenby (1939) – Appearing in just one Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), the youngest to date Lazenby was just 29 during production. 

Roger Moore (1927 – 2017) – Moore was actually older than Connery, although considered for Bond around 1967 when he was 40, he didn’t actually get the part until, Live and Let Die (1973) at the age of 46.  Having made seven Bond films he is often regarded as the longest serving Bond, but all the films came in just twelve years culminating in A View to a Kill (1985) by the time he was 57.

Timothy Dalton (1946) – Considered for the part multiple times including as early as 1968 when he was just 21.  He has stated, that he turned it down when he was around 25, as he felt he was too young for the part.  His name came up again around 79/80 when he was around 30.  He finally got the part:  The Living Daylights (1987) age 40.  His second and final Bond film came just two years later, Licence to Kill (1989) when he was 42.

Pierce Brosnan (1953) – Like the previous two Bond’s, Brosnan came close before getting the part.  He was offered the role in what became The Living Daylights before Dalton when he was around 33 at the time, but had to drop out due to a conflict with the TV Remington Steele.  He got the part just under a decade later, his first film GoldenEye (1995) age 42.  By the final film Die Another Day (2002), he was 49.

Daniel Craig (1968) – The longest serving (official) Bond based on years in the role, Craig’s first Bond was  Casino Royale (2006) age 37.  His final film was mainly shot last year but isn’t set for release until next year: No Time to Die (2021) he was 51 at the time of shooting.

So there you have it the youngest Bond was 29, and the oldest 57. What next, how old will the next James Bond be?  A lot depends on the story they want to tell.  If they go for another reboot, they could go as young as they want, pre 00 days possibly to his time as a Royal Naval Reserve, or when first recruited into the secret service.  I have long suggested bringing Timothy Dalton back to play an older retired Bond, this idea could now also work with Pierce Brosnan.  Or, they could do what they have done four previous times (five if you count Connery’s return), just drop a new actor into the part with saying a word, well except a joke in the cold open!

Back in September it was reported that major UK bookmakers had stopped taking bets on Tom Hardy, some even suggested he already had the part.  I don’t believe this to be true, and In some ways this could hamper his chances in the end as it will take a lot of air out of the big announcement when finally made.  Born in 1977, he is 43 now.  They are unlikely to start shooting the next film before an official announcement of the star his made, and they are not going to announce the new Bond until after the release of No Time to Die (hopefully, Covid allowing next year), as a result the next film could go into production in 2022 by which time Hardy  will be 45.  A year younger than Moore in Live and Let Die, so not the oldest Bond debut, but not far off.  This delay could present an interesting opportunity; it has already been confirmed Nomi, the character played by Loshana Lynch (just turned 33) is the new 007, promoted to the role after Bond quit/retired.  Assuming her character is any good and doesn’t get “fridged”, why not make film starring her.  As a 00 agent, it would be a Bond film in all but name that should please those calling for woman to play Bond, and appease those who say a woman cannot be Bond!  Most importantly it could begin pre-production now and script allowing, begin filming as soon as the lockdowns ease.       

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As we wait for cinemas to reopen following England’s second lockdown, I can’t help wondering what their future will be.  Even before we entered the second lockdown in November Cineworld, the UK’s largest and the world’s second largest chain, closed all their venues until further notice.  So what next?  To predict that we may have to look back to the last big change to cinemas.  

In the early days of cinema in the US, the major film studios (Warner Brothers, RKO, Fox, MGM, and Paramount) owned their own theatres that exclusively screened their films.  Films that were produced by writers, directors, technicians, and actors who were under contract to the studios,  They also owned the laboratories, that processed the film and created the prints.  To put is it simply the studios were vertically integrated. 

The Paramount Decree as it became known was an antitrust case correctly titled United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 U.S. 131 (1948).  The case changed the face of film exacerbation in the US, ripples of its effects can be felt all over the world to this day.  The ruling forced the separation of motion picture production and exhibition companies.  This had the desired effect of increasing the number of both independent productions, and independent cinema’s/movie theatres.  As the Hollywood studio system began to breakdown it clearly did its job, and was responsible for the end of what is known as golden age of cinema.  There was also a more far reaching unexpected result;  independent cinema’s free to choose their own programming started to show more international and independent “art” movies.  This was the first steps towards the weakening of the Motion Picture Production Code, the eventual emergence of New Hollywood.  So why is this important now? The antitrust decrees  had no expiration dates, however, last year The United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division began a review of the “Paramount decrees” and decreed that as of this summer they would enter a “two-year sunset period” followed by the termination of the decrees in 2022.  To quote the great Sam Cooke: “a change gonna come“.

The way we consume movies (and television) at home has changed dramatically in recent years.  Just a few years ago here in the UK, a film would be screened in cinema’s, around six months later it would be made available to rent (and sometimes buy) on video, then a few years later be screened on free to air TV.  The first major change to this came with satellite and cable TV channels who began showing films after the video release but before they made it to free to air TV.  Fast forward through a few changes to cable/satellite TV and we have Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video as well as countless other streaming services.  They started screening movies and TV shows, but before long they were making their own content.  Now Disney has joined the party and will soon be the only place to stream Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Disney Content, not to mention the back catalogue of the recently acquired 20th Century-Fox (now know as 20th Century Studios).

Film critic Mark Kermode has long advocated so-called “day-and-date” release, a simultaneous release across multiple platforms.  The concept has been used, mainly by independent films during the disruption caused by Covid 19.  Although the process is likely to reduce film piracy, most cinema chains have resisted the concept fearing it will reduce attendances.  This is most likely true, but given the state of the industry, all bets are off.  Who is most likely to support day-and-date release? Simply the people who own more than one platform.  Will Amazon, Netflix, or Disney move into cinema ownership? Given the money they all have, they are the obvious choices.  What are the consequences of companies like this owning cinema’s?  One notable point, is that there is now a further level of integration with streaming offering a new way method of distribution unimaginable in the Golden Age.  On the flipside, filmmakers are no longer tied to a studio (we can thank Olivia de Havilland for that, but that’s another story).  There are potential advantages.  My biggest problem with Netflix in particular is their reluctance to show films in cinemas.  If they owned the establishments and were pocketing the box-office, it may encourage them to screen films where they belong, on the largest possible screen.  There is another possibility; we are all suffering from platform fatigue!  With an ever increasing number of streaming platforms most of us have to pick and choose which we subscribe to.   Cineworld Unlimited and Odeon Limitless offer unlimited movies for a month subscription.  Is there room for a joint home, and theatrical subscription?  This would certainly be an incentive! 

There are certain to be a few twists and turns before these strange times are over, I just hope there are still plenty of cinemas left when the dust settles.

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Back in 2010, there was a thriving movie blog community. There are very few blogs that have have survived to this day. This very site is hanging by a thread as life and work get in the way of my writing. Not to mention Covid-19 curtailing my cinema going. Listeners to the BBC’s flagship film program will know that the cinema code of conduct is ten years old. To celebrate the anniversary, listeners have suggested updating it for there strange days in which we are living. This made me think of the original code and my suggested additions.

It started with an idea from Wynter Tyson from CinemaScream (now defunct, but you can still read his wise words at Clameur Du Cinema) suggested we propose our own additions to the code of conduct. I thought my suggestion that people not be “Space Invaders” was more relevant than ever. I’m not sure I can endorse my other suggestion any longer, firstly as most cinema’s have done away with boxoffices, and because I almost never read a review until after I have seen a film. This philosophy worked out particularly well recently when I went to see Saint Maud knowing nothing about it, an approach I would certainly recommend with this stunning film.

Here is my original post from a decade ago:

Listeners to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s film review show BBC Radio 5 Live will be familiar with the Wittertainment Code of Conduct. Devised by them with the help of listeners to make cinema going better for all.

Wynter from CinemaScream asked us to post the Code of Conduct on our blog along with our own 11th rule. I couldn’t decide between two so here are my 11th and 12th rules.

11: No Space Invaders: We are not talking about 80’s video games (but I suggest you don’t play them in the cinema either), I am talking about the people who insist on sitting directly in front, behind or to the side of you despite the cinema being nearly empty.

12: Read Film Reviews: The ticket office staff are not there to tell you if a film is any good. If you haven’t decided what movie you want to watch don’t join the queue!

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