Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 3: Miss Moneypenny

“Flattery will get you nowhere… but don’t stop trying.”  — Miss Moneypenny, Dr. No

As promised, I continue fan-casting James Bond’s closest associates this week with the ever-loyal Miss Moneypenny.

Miss Moneypenny

Moneypenny is the private secretary and assistant to “M”, head of MI-6, and holds the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Navy (actually, the Women’s Royal Naval Service until it was integrated into the Royal Navy in 1993). The latest version even did a bit of fieldwork before deciding she was better suited to administrative duties. As with “M”, the character’s creation appears to have been inspired by a mix of various real-life acquaintances/associates of creator Ian Fleming — from Kathleen Pettigrew (personal assistant to Stewart Menzies, the actual head of MI-6 from 1939-1952) to Joan Howe (Fleming’s own secretary at The Times in the 1950s, who typed the original Casino Royale manuscript).

The Four (Primary) Moneypennys

Moneypenny is incredibly attracted to — perhaps I should say infatuated/smitten with? — the dashing and roguish Agent 007, often daydreaming about marrying him or, at the very least, enjoying an illicit tryst. Knowing that this will likely never happen, she has (mostly) resigned herself to playful flirting with Bond. She is smart, efficient, and quite loyal.

Lois Maxwell played the role for all Connery and Moore films, as well as Lazenby’s one film. (The only exception was 1983’s non-official Never Say Never Again, in which Pamela Salem filled in.) Caroline Bliss was Dalton’s Moneypenny in 1987 and 1989, with the conveniently-named Samantha Bond taking over for Brosnan’s run. Craig’s first two films had no Moneypenny, but Naomie Harris has had the role since 2012’s Skyfall, which also gave her the first name “Eve”. I am not aware of any physical description given for the character, but the movie versions have obviously varied a bit. What does seem fairly consistent is that she is slim, attractive, and her age is roughly that of Bond, give or take. Over the years, the actresses ranged in age from mid-30s to late-50s, as did the Bond actors (though Moore was a bit older).

For the next reboot, I’d like to see Bond and Moneypenny continue to be about the same age: early- to mid-30s, though a slightly older Moneypenny would be OK. I would also like to keep a bit of sexual tension and Moneypenny’s unrequited feelings, which were barely there in Fleming’s original novels but have become identified with the character in the movies and later novels. To that end, attractive 30-something actresses are naturally my focus here.

Let me begin by saying that there are a couple Americans who I considered: Alison Brie (5’3″,b.1982) and Emma Stone (5’6″,b.1988). They would each bring different qualities to the role, and I thought they might do a good job. Assuming we want to stick with someone from the UK, though, I considered Emma Watson (5’5″,b.1990). However, she may be a bit too young (barely 30 by the time a reboot might shoot), and I’m not sure how well she’d fit the role. On the other hand, I thought Hayley Atwell (5’7″,b.1982) would be a fun choice. The reason I ultimately rejected her is that I’d rather see her as a “Bond girl”, in particular as an agent of some sort, so she can show off her “Agent Carter” moves.

Which brings me to my three preferred candidates for Miss Moneypenny…

Sienna Miller (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

First choice: Sienna Miller (5’5″,b.1981). You might remember her from “Keen Eddie”, Layer Cake (w/ Daniel Craig), Stardust, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, American Sniper, or the recent The Lost City of Z. The British-American former model seems to have the right mix of prettiness and spunkiness (like Harris) that makes for a fun and interesting Moneypenny.

Keira Knightley

Next up: Miller’s close friend (and co-star in The Edge of Love), Keira Knightley (5’7″,b.1985). If you somehow don’t remember, Knightley has appeared in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, The Hole, several Pirates of the Caribbean films, King Arthur, The Jacket, Domino, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Everest, etc. Like Miller, Knightley is a very attractive and talented actress who could have a lot of fun with this relatively small, supporting role.

Honeysuckle Weeks

My third choice is less known, a tad older, and more “cute” than “pretty”, IMO. Honeysuckle Weeks (5’7″,b.1979) came to my attention as the driver/aide to Detective Foyle in “Foyle’s War”, so this casting would be especially appropriate(?) if Michael Kitchen (who played Foyle) became the next M. She was also in various British mysteries, as well as Red Mercury, “The Bill”, The Wicker Tree, “Inspector Lewis”, and “The Five”. I can definitely see her as Moneypenny.

That about does it. Have ideas of your own for Moneypenny? Let us know in the comments! I think I’ll take a break for now, but I’ll take a stab at fan-casting ‘Q’ and Felix Leiter in the coming weeks/months.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Fan-Cast: James Bond, part 2: M

“Go to hell with ‘dignity’. I’ll leave when the job’s done.”  — M, Skyfall

A little over a month ago, I did some fan-casting for legendary British intelligence officer, James Bond, aka Agent 007. I promised to eventually follow up with casting suggestions for Bond’s closest associates. So, assuming another reboot when Daniel Craig leaves the franchise in a few years, this week I’d like to take a shot at finding a new “M”. (I was going to do “Miss Moneypenny”, too, but I decided they each needed a separate post.)

M

The Four Ms

Apparently inspired by various individuals that Ian Fleming knew or was familiar with, M is the Head of the Foreign Intelligence branch of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, i.e., Great Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) (aka MI-6). As a member of the 00 Section, Bond reports directly to M. The tradition of the head of MI-6 signing his/her name with a single letter came from the agency’s real-life first director, Captain Sir Mansfield George Smith Cumming, KCMG, CB (1 April 1859 – 14 June 1923), who used to sign “C”. Some, but not all, of those holding the office in the novels and movies have had the initial “M”, but the single-letter title seems to have stuck.

As per Wikipedia, “A naval theme runs throughout Fleming’s description of M and his surroundings, and his character was described by journalist and Bond scholar Ben Macintyre as “every inch the naval martinet”. Macintyre also notes that in his study of Fleming’s work, Kingsley Amis outlined the way Fleming had described M’s voice, being: angry (three times); brutal, cold (seven times); curt, dry (five times); gruff (seven times); stern, testy (five times).” The character often clashes with Bond, while simultaneously trusting the agent’s intel and respecting his end-results. I am not aware of any physical description given for M. Of course, there have been multiple people to hold the office (four in the movies, not sure about the novels), including a woman, so that would all vary, anyway. But, we do know that the sorts of people who are appointed are very smart, accomplished, usually with military experience, and not averse to doing a little field work.

If casting someone in their 70s (by the time a post-Craig film went before the cameras), I can think of three distinguished British actors that could do the role justice. First, there is Jeremy Irons (6’2″,b.1948), known to genre fans for everything from Dead Ringers and Die Hard with a Vengeance to The Man in the Iron Mask, The Time Machine (2002), Eragon, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Michael Kitchen (5’7″,b.1948) hasn’t done much genre work, though he did appear in Dracula A.D. 1972, “Thriller”, “Tales of the Unexpected”, The Russia House, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”, and he played the recurring ‘Bill Tanner’ character in Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough. (He came to my attention when he starred in the “Foyle’s War” series of TV movies.) Then, of course, there is the amazing Helen Mirren (5’4″,b.1945). In addition to starring in the various “Prime Suspect” mini-series, Mirren can be seen in “Thriller”, Excalibur, 2010, White Knights, “The Twilight Zone”, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, State of Play, RED & RED 2, with some voice work thrown in.

If I had my druthers, though, I’d like to see someone a little younger in the role, if for no other reason than to increase the odds of their staying with the franchise for several years. So, here are a couple of candidates:

Colin Salmon

Once suggested by Pierce Brosnan to replace him as Bond, Colin Salmon (6’4.5″,b.1962) would be a terrific M! First appearing in “Prime Suspect 2”, Salmon went on to appear in such genre fare as “Tales from the Crypt”, Immortality, Resident Evil, “Dinotopia”, “Keen Eddie”, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, “Hex”, “Doctor Who”, Punisher: War Zone, “Merlin”, “Strike Back”, “MI-5”, “Arrow”, “24: Live Another Day”, etc. And, oh yes, he played M’s Chief of Staff, Charles Robinson, in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Salmon is a wonderful actor with a commanding voice and presence. It might even make sense for the Robinson character to be promoted into the M position.

Stephen Dillane

“Game of Thrones” fans know him best as would-be king ‘Stannis Baratheon’. But, Stephen Dillane (6′,b.1957) has been around for awhile and appeared in plenty of other genre productions. These include “The One Game”, “Super Soldier”, Welcome to Sarajevo, Spy Game, King Arthur, Freakdog, 44 Inch Chest, “Eternal Law”, “Hunted” (in which he played the head of a small office of spies), “Secret State”, Zero Dark Thirty, and the current “The Tunnel” series. His characters are often cold, stern, by-the-book types, which fit perfectly with Fleming’s original characterization of M. I think Dillane would be a great choice.

If I was more familiar with British TV and movies, I could probably come up with a couple more. But, those will have to do for now. Comments?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Politically-Correct Avengers Casting

Maybe I should have titled this “Incredibly ‘Diverse’ Avengers Casting”?

A few weeks ago, I was doing some fan-casting brainstorming, and I started getting some weird ideas. There’s all this talk about comics and their big-screen adaptations needing more “diversity”. This usually means changing characters that have been historically white (or Anglo/Euro) to something non-white. For example, Heimdall, Electro, and The Shocker have, afaik, always been white guys in Marvel’s comics, but they are played by black actors in the movies. And, of course, there was the controversy about whether or not Iron Fist / Danny Rand should have been switched from white to Asian (or mixed) for the Netflix series. (I’m glad they didn’t go that way.)

On the other hand, there is a history of Hollywood “whitewashing” Asian characters — either making the characters white or just having them played by white actors (often with truly terrible stereotyping) –, with the most recent hubbub being over Scarlett Johansson playing the central character in the live-action version of the Japanese manga, Ghost in the Shell.

I was wondering, then, what if some Hollywood nut decided to make a “politically correct” Avengers movie with a cast that was not only “diverse” but, shall we say, represented some out-of-the-box, “avant garde” thinking? So, I decided to have some fun with it and came up with a few ideas. I wish I had Photoshop skills to make some suitable images, but you’ll have to use your imagination to picture them in the appropriate costumes (or armor, as the case may be).

Note: I realize I risk triggering a lot of people with this, but please do NOT get offended by it. It is not meant to insult or make fun of anyone but to show the incongruity of the casting, and, of course, to poke playfully at the PC push for increased (and often unnecessary, imho) “diversity”.

Jorge Garcia (5’11.5″,b.1973) — very overweight, baby-faced Latino — as Captain America

Jorge Garcia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosie O’Donnell (5’6.5″,b.1962) — chubby, 50-something lesbian — as Iron Person

Rosie O’Donnell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Hart (5’4″,b.1979) — short & black (but, at least he works out!) as Thor

Kevin Hart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeffrey Tambor (6’1″,b.1944) — 70-something, transgender (well, the character he played in “Transparent” was, anyway) — as Dr. Bruce ‘Caitlin’ Banner / Hulk

Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Dinklage (4’5″,b.1969) — very short; not sure if he’d have the upper-body strength to be a formidable archer — as Hawkeye

Peter Dinklage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janet Jackson (5’3.5″,b.1966) — 50, black and Muslim — as the ‘Widow of Color’

Janet Jackson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RuPaul (6’4″,b.1960) — 50-something, gay, drag queen — as the FABulous Falcon

RuPaul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon Helberg (5’7″,b.1980) — skinny, short(ish) Jew — as Winter Soldier

Simon Helberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shohreh Aghdashloo (5’5″,b.1952) — 60-something, Iranian-born, deep/husky voice; she did play a gypsy on “Grimm” — as Scarlet Witch

Shohreh Aghdashloo in “The Expanse”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen Hawking (b.1942) — 70-something, wheelchair-bound — as Vision

Stephen Hawking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stacey Dash (5’5″,b.1967) — 50, mixed-race (Mexican and Afro-Bajan) female; hey, Marvel already has a young black female Iron Man (aka Ironheart), so why not? — as War Machine

Stacey Dash (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sho Kosugi (6’0.5″,b.1948) — 60-something, East Asian, Shinto(?) — as Nick Fury

Sho Kosugi back in his heyday (and even sporting an eyepatch!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variety of races/ethnicities? Check. Gay/lesbian and transgender individuals? Check. Different (non-Christian) religions represented? Check. A “differently-abled” person? Check. Women in normally-male roles? Check. Ageism and various other potential prejudices challenged? Check. The PC crowd should love it!

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 10

Guess what time it is, boys ‘n girls! Time for a new issue of your favorite super-zine, the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter. Let’s see what our semi-retired hero has been up to….

“Joy of a Child”

I did something fun the other day! Okay, okay, big deal, right? But, this was special.

You remember me mentioning last year that I was friends with an ILEAD agent and his son, Jason? Well, Jason’s 10th birthday was last week, and, super kid that he is, Jason decided he wanted to do something different this year. Instead of having a regular party and getting presents, he went to a pediatric hospital to play with and hand out presents to the kids who are patients there. (His Dad, “Agent Mike”, helped him raise money for the gifts by having a fundraiser in their neighborhood, supplemented by donations from Mike’s co-workers — a great group of guys ‘n gals!) Jason a bunch of friends dressed up as their favorite heroes — real or fiction — before showing up at the hospital. (Jason went as me, of course.) What none of the kids knew was that, when “Agent Mike” told me a couple days before what they were going to do, I decided to make a surprise visit — in full costume, of course.

I didn’t want to take away from Jason and his friends surprising the patients, so I gave them an hour to make their entrance, pass out presents, and get a couple games going. Mike and his wife caught it all on camera, which I watched later, and it was really sweet to see Jason & friends handing out toys and befriending the kids with cancer and other conditions, some quite serious. They really brought a lot of smiles! Then Mike called to give me the go-ahead, and I flew up to the big, bay windows, smiling and waving to the kids eating cake & ice cream in the 3rd-floor cafeteria. Seeing those kids’ faces light up even more when they saw me, I’m honestly not sure who was more thrilled, the kids or me. Then I went inside, where I talked to the kids, making sure to visit every one, signed autographs, and flew several around (slowly) either in my arms or riding on my back.

Seeing so many kids suffering with terrible diseases and injuries was heart-breaking. But, seeing and hearing how brave they were, listening to them talk animatedly about “regular” stuff, and being able to give them a few minutes of added joy, was also heart-warming. Sweet kids, too, and I felt really blessed by the whole experience. I’ll definitely be going back on a (semi-)regular basis.

“Big Relief”

I suppose the visit to the pediatric hospital might have been particularly meaningful for another reason, too. I haven’t said anything publicly until now, but I was recently hospitalized myself. A couple years ago, I told you all about my migraine headaches that I’ve been dealing with since getting my powers. I only have a truly bad episode two, maybe three, times a year, but they are whoppers! Neurologists couldn’t make any specific diagnosis, so I’ve just had to live with them, like 37 million other migraine-sufferers in the U.S. Of course, my extra-large body size and modified metabolism (which is at least partly to blame) mean that I have to take extra-large doses of painkillers. Other than that, I ride it out like anyone else. Until now…

You might also remember that my super-headaches started being accompanied by nausea — not unusual for other migraine-sufferers, but it was for me. Long story short, after brainstorming with Doc Matrix and a couple other big-brains, my regular neurologist (Dr. Beni Vaniswaran) came up with a new device to perform some new tests — ask him, I don’t understand it. In fact, I was visiting Dr. V’s office in the hospital, where he was going to explain their plans for the device, when I had my latest migraine attack. He was able to get me admitted, called in Doc Matrix, and the two of them worked 24 hours straight to get the prototype built. They put me through a battery of tests over the next few days — even after the migraine subsided — and figured out what was happening to me.

As it turns out, my unusual migraines are caused by sudden surges of some mutated hormone causing the blood capillaries in my brain to spasm. The nausea is a side-effect of my body’s immune system trying to neutralize the hormone, which was causing tiny cysts to form here and there in my brain. Fortunately, the cysts degraded naturally and were flushed out of my system. So,… the good news is that they now know what is going on in my head to cause these symptoms. The bad news is that they don’t think they can stop the hormone surges, because it has to do with my weird metabolism, which they don’t understand very well, yet. So, I’ll be going back for more tests, giving samples of bodily fluids, etc., every few weeks. On the other hand, the (second piece of) good news is that Dr. Vaniswaran and Doc Matrix have developed a nanite-based drug that greatly improves the effectiveness of my body’s delivery of the natural hormone-neutralizer. This should mean that the migraine episodes will be shorter, hopefully less severe, and the nauseous side-effect should be a thing of the past. Yeah!

“Spielberg Would Be Proud”

Here’s something you all might find interesting…. I met that mysterious new “hero”, Star Seraph. Not his real name, of course, but that’s what the media are calling him. (I even saw one news headline that read: “There’s A New Seraph In Town!”) For those of you who haven’t followed the sightings, his first known public appearance was when he stopped that nuclear meltdown in the Ukraine 6 months ago. Two months after that, he showed up in Italy to rescue hundreds of people during the earthquake. And, of course, last month he quite suddenly appeared in The Hague, Netherlands, where he made short work of the terrorists who were plotting to blow up the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. In each case, he just pops in, does his thing, and pops out without so much as a “Hello there. Happy to help. Bye, now!” And, since he teleports, no one has been able to track him. No one knows who he is, where he comes from, etc. We all appreciate his work so far, of course, but his deadly dispatching of the Hague terrorists has some a bit worried.

No one has gotten a clear, up close image of him on camera, either, partly due to his speed and partly due to the bright glow that always surrounds him. He did appear to be fairly humanoid in appearance, though. Since I have now met him, I can confirm that he does indeed look basically human, yet what some might call “exotic”. He is slightly shorter than I am (maybe a little over 6’6″), less bulky but still quite muscular, alabaster skin, angular face and almost non-existent ears. Not sure if he has any hair.

How did I meet him? He just showed up one evening, hovering over my backyard. For whatever reason, his glow was toned down, allowing me to see him, and I think he was wearing white, form-fitting “pants”, but no shirt or footwear. I cautiously walked up to within maybe 30 feet of him, tried talking to him, but he just watched me and listened. (Felt like I was being… assessed.) After about five minutes, he uttered one word, “Good”, before floating up and then teleporting away with a soft “Pop!” sound.

And that, my friends, was my “close encounter of the odd kind”. Probably won’t be the last….

Stay strong, amigos!

Finito.

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

Review of Iron Fist (Netflix series)

“You are the worst Iron Fist ever.” — Davos

I had originally meant to do a “Mr. Zeus” installment this week. But, I decided I’d better do this review while the show is still relatively fresh in my mind. Some of my comments may be briefer or less systematic than usual. We shall see…

For the most part, I’m going to ignore the many missing or changed details in this version of Danny’s becoming an orphan, the Rand connection to K’un-Lun, the introduction of Colleen Wing, etc., from the comics version. Unfortunately, the bulk of my comments will still probably be negative, so allow me to start with something positive: I liked the opening credits. The music was good, with a sort of Asian/mystical feel to the electronica vibe. The dark-ish mood and swirling, inky effect with the semi-slo-mo kung fu guy worked for me. I don’t know if that guy was real or totally CGI, but he looked like a good fit for Danny/Iron Fist.

Speaking of which, as you might guess from my earlier fan-casting for the title character, I thought Finn Jones was all wrong. True, the studio didn’t cave in to demands to make the character Asian. Jones is also the right age, height, and has blonde hair. But, Iron Fist should’ve been more muscular and athletic looking, and his hair should’ve been cut shorter and straight. (And get rid of the beard, too.) As for the portrayal of Danny, I don’t know whether to blame Jones, the writers, or the directors — probably a bit of all of them.

SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

Finn Jones as Danny Rand

Danny’s seeming naivete and other mannerisms were annoying, as were his fits of anger and going off half-cocked at the end. He acted like a child. And what were those “episodes” toward the end, when he’d grab his head and his vision got blurry (or, at least, ours did)? Sometimes, he had a memory flash from the plane crash or K’un-Lun. What was that about?

We never really got satisfying answers either for Danny’s abandoning of K’un-Lun or even for Colleen’s going against her own principles when she did the cage matches. In fact, motivations in general were a weak point.

Danny’s fighting skills were, shall we say, rather underwhelming. Dull. Poorly choreographed and/or poorly edited. If it wasn’t clear before, the last couple episodes confirmed that he had a *lot* more training to do. But, imo, he should never have received the powers and responsibilities of the Iron Fist (w/ tattoo) at his current skill level. He should have been even better than Daredevil, but at this point, I think DD would put him down easily.

He says that he spent years training in martial arts, which includes controlled breathing *and* controlling his emotions. A minute later, he’s freaking out over air turbulence, and Claire has to calm him and get him to focus. What?! Same goes for his anger issues.

If (like he told Ward) the only time he drove a car was as a 10yo on his dad’s lap, how is Danny driving around NYC on his own a couple days later? For that matter, if he’s been stuck in extradimensional K’un-Lun for 15 years, why does he seem so unfazed by — even familiar with — NYC? A few familiar buildings and landmarks, sure. But, I’d like to have seen more fish-out-of-water behavior.

Casting for Colleen was good. Jessica Henwick is certainly an attractive woman of mixed Asian & Anglo ethnicity with martial arts skills. In fact, she was much more impressive in that area than Danny was. (She showed what she could really do, even without the sword, in those cage matches!) On the other hand, she’s too short and her hair is supposed to be medium brown to auburn. Still, she was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing series. (I’ll even forgive the fact that Danny’s supposed to have a romantic relationship with Misty Knight, not Colleen. That is, if they wanted to stay faithful to the source material. In the Marvel-Netflix world, though, Colleen is a better match for him.) Claire (Rosario Dawson) was another one. It was nice to see her involved and continuing to connect the various series together. Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Ann Moss) makes a couple of welcomed appearances, as well.

Not sure about the Meachums, as I don’t remember that much about them from the comics. I will say, though, that that is one supremely dysfunctional family! I despised the manipulative Harold (David Wenham), who treated his son like $#!+ — and that was even before the, er, violent physical exchanges. Of course, he was supposed to be a total jerk, so… well done! I thought I was gonna really hate Ward (Tom Pelphrey), too, but I ended up just pitying him. I wanted to like Joy (Jessica Stroup) more, and she had her moments, but she ended up disappointing me, too. (Especially the final scene.)

What to make of Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho)? She is formidable, but inconsistently so. One day, she exhibits the ability — presumably through focused chi or some such thing — to “knock” someone several feet when she is standing several more feet away from them. (Think telekinetic “shove”.) A day or two later, though, she’s all scared when Danny charges her and she doesn’t even try to defend herself. What’s up with that? Was the latter behavior merely an act in order to give her more opportunities to get in the heads of our heroes?

I question the wisdom of using The Hand again as the “big bad”, especially since we know they will show up in “The Defenders” and/or season 3 of “Daredevil”. Surely, the writers could have found another evil organization to use from Marvel’s stable or even created a new one. Even though there was the interesting twist toward the end with the competing factions, I feel like The Hand was underutilized except as another connecting thread with the other shows. Their fighters weren’t very impressive, either, and they’re supposed to be among the deadliest in the world.

I hesitate to delve into the various other issues with the plot. Instead, I point you to this excellent review by Mike Floorwalker at Looper, which I fortunately read as I was finishing this up. He briefly discusses plot holes, inconsistencies, plodding development, lack of humor, “shoehorned-in moral conflict”, et al. In my opinion, most of his observations are right on the mark.

A few quick, final comments…

o Interesting casting for Davos (Sacha Dhawan) and Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez). I wouldn’t have gone that way, but I suppose they did adequate jobs. Physically not very impressive, though. No clue why Davos, who I always thought was East Asian in appearance, is played by someone of Indian descent with a Manchester accent, either.

o There was not enough of K’un-Lun, and I think there should have been flashbacks of Danny training with Davos (since they changed the Davos character and made him Danny’s peer) and under the instruction of Lei-Kung the Thunderer.

o The “iron fist” F/X was decent, I suppose.

As usual, I really wanted to like this character/series, especially with its connection to the other Netflix series. It could have been spectacular. Unfortunately, it fell *well* short of its potential. I got the feeling that the series’ creative minds might have known the basics about Danny Rand / Iron Fist — they had some facts about his history, abilities, etc. — but they didn’t really understand the character.

If I were to grade the four series, I’d give “Daredevil” an A-, “Jessica Jones” a B-, “Luke Cage” a B or B+, and “Iron Fist” a C- (and that might be a bit generous). I haven’t read a lot of other reviews, but from what I have heard/seen, the general consensus agrees with me. I just hope that the creators learned something from the criticism and make some positive changes for “Defenders” (though that has already filmed) and any future Danny Rand / Iron Fist appearances.

P.S.  We never saw the iconic costume, either. (That yellow & green robe doesn’t count.) At this point, I’m sort of glad.

Quick Reviews of Legion and Grimm (TV shows)

TV series come an go. Sometimes you really get into them, and other times you wonder why the heck you’re wasting your time. (Well, I do, anyway.) Without going into a lot of detail, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about one brand-new show that just finished its first season (“Legion”) and one show that just finished its sixth and final season (“Grimm”). Just f.y.i., in case you haven’t watched them, yet, there are a few spoilers below….

Legion

Bizarre. Freaky. Surreal.

Keller, Stevens, & Plaza

Those are the predominant descriptives that come to mind for the 8-episode series that ended a few days ago. I really wanted to like it, and there were some parts and aspects that I did like. But, for the most part, I have to say I didn’t care for it. It was one of those shows that I was determined to see through to the end of the season, but I didn’t look forward to it each week. (“The Expanse” and “Humans” were like that for me, too.) Some episodes were better than others. But, overall, there was too much weirdness and not enough action, for my taste. It’s not that it creeped me out; it just wasn’t my thing.

There was a very different vibe and, I think, pacing with this show than most. I didn’t care for most of the psychiatric ward stuff, though I understand that it was an integral part of the storyline. I *think* it was supposed to be set roughly in the early ’80s, though the fashion and music seemed mostly a mix of ’60s & ’70s. Of course, show creator/writer Noah Hawley did warn us,

“It’s a little more of a fable in my mind. If you were to say, ‘Where is it, and when is it?’, it’s not exactly clear, I think. And a lot of it is because [David]’s not exactly clear. It’s the world as perceived subjectively on some level.”

We were promised “numerous split personalities — each commanding a different aspect of his power”, which we never got to see. (Maybe in season 2?) There were a couple scenes in which David acted more psychotically, which gave us a glimpse of what Dan Stevens could do with the truly crazy and violent version of Legion from the comics. I like that they did make the connection to the comics after all, even if they didn’t name any of the heroes. (I.e., animated stick-figure of his biological father looked/acted like Prof. Xavier; main baddy was X-Men villain Amahl Farouk (even if he did look more like a circus freak), which I figured out shortly before they revealed/named him.)

I liked Rachel Keller as the semi-tragic ‘Syd’ (partly based on X-Men’s Rogue, maybe?). I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything else, but she reminds me a lot of Gillian Jacobs. Aubrey Plaza’s portrayal of ‘Lenny’ was… weird; but, then, so was ‘Lenny’, so maybe that’s a good thing. In general, I thought the acting ranged from just OK to really good.

Overall, an unconventional and peculiar, slightly disjointed ride. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll probably dig “Legion”. For me, I guess the negatives outweighed the positives. To quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Grimm

I liked “Grimm” from the start. With its various “wessen” creatures — many of whom were supposedly inspirations for myths, legends, & fairytales — living in plain sight, as it were, I considered it sort of a sister show (though very different) to “Once Upon a Time”. The premise was interesting, the plots entertaining, and the central cast was composed of complex characters dealing with odd and sometimes frightening situations. Some characters were lovably eccentric, others infuriatingly two-faced, and the couples (when they were couples) were adorable. Besides that, I had a bit of a crush on Bree Turner’s ‘Rosalee’ character.

“Grimm” cast

So, I was understandably concerned that the show’s end be properly satisfying (and, mostly positive). I was disappointed at first that the show was ending, but I came to realize that it had probably run its course and should end before the writing, etc., became stale. I didn’t like the fact that it was only given 13 episodes for its final season, but that was better than the 6-episode final season that “Nikita” got to wrap up its plotline(s). I was a bit surprised when “Grimm” season 6 debuted, because I thought the final episodes would be about “Black Claw” and wessen rising up and taking over the world — or, at least, major cities and corporations across the globe. That’s where I thought the story was going. But, either I misunderstood, or the writers changed their minds and decided to go in a very different direction.

They did wrap up some plotlines, while also introducing a few new wessen. I thought the mysterious & powerful splinter of wood was something totally different than what they went with. (Maybe they thought my idea was too obvious?) And, of course, it played a major part in wrapping up the final story. There were a couple times during those last couple episodes that shocked me and had me thinking they’d be ending on a very dark, heart-breaking, and foreboding note. But, I was pleasantly surprised at how it all worked out. I will say that it was a little odd and sudden-feeling. It wasn’t “perfect”, and there remain a few unanswered questions. (I’m trying not to give the finale away by saying too much.) Perhaps, the writers were just too rushed to squeeze everything in at the end? In any case, and for the most part, I enjoyed the “Grimm” series finale.

I have taken pleasure in watching this show — equal parts gruesome and delightful — over the past 5 1/2 years. I became quite fond of the characters, too. (Well, most of them.) And I appreciate that they were able to go out on a high note and before jumping the shark. (Hey, that might’ve been a cool wessen!)

Leb wohl, meine Freunde!

Fan-Casting: James Bond

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”  — Goldfinger, in Goldfinger

Yes, it is time once again to seriously contemplate who is “worthy” to pick up the mantle of James Bond, Agent 007.

So far, it appears that Daniel Craig (5’10”,b.1968) will do a fifth film — 25th in the franchise, not counting the original Casino Royale (1967), which was a non-series spoof, and 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which was “unofficial” — before saying farewell. It’s just as well, since filming can be brutal. Craig has suffered various injuries during his stint, including a serious knee injury while filming a fight scene for Spectre (2015) that required arthroscopic surgery. Plus, he will be at least 50 years old by the time the next movie gets filmed, and Craig has admitted that it’s tougher to stay fit and that he already requires more action-doubles than he used to. (We all know that we prefer to see the actors performing their own stunts for that extra dose of realism.)

Who might take over? As I wrote a couple years ago, Idris Elba (6’2.75″,b.1972) is being talked up by some people. As much as I like him, I explained why I didn’t think they should go with a black Bond. (Or Asian or Latino, either.) In addition, Elba is already in his mid-40s, which automatically shrinks his “shelf life”, if you will. If he shot his first film as Bond for release in the early-2020s, then we’d soon be back to having a 50ish 007 already. Same goes for one of my other favorites, Richard Armitage (6’2.5″,b.1971) from “Strike Back” and The Hobbit movies. I think he’d be great, but as of this writing, he is already 45. Also, Damian Lewis (6’1″,b.1971), who’s name comes up on occasion. Tom Hardy (5’9″,b.1977), who has been suggested by others, is pushing 40, but I don’t think he (or Lewis) is right for the part.

Not that actors can’t remain fairly fit and handsome and charming well past 50. Connery and Moore certainly did, though I doubt they did their own stunts in the later movies. [Note: Connery was 32 when Dr. No (1962) came out, 41 for Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and 53 when Never Say Never Again (1983) was released. Moore was 45 when Live and Let Die (1973) debuted and 57 when he finished with A View to a Kill (1985).] So, I’m not saying guys like Elba and Armitage couldn’t do a bang-up job. But, these days, it’s hard to find actors — let alone those heading into middle age — who would want to be tied into doing, say, five or more action films over a period of a dozen years or more. Especially if they enjoy performing in other genres.

My preference would be to see a younger James Bond, having recently been recruited from the Royal Naval Reserve and freshly graduated from MI-6’s “00” program. Ian Fleming never revealed Bond’s age, though researchers have come up with two estimates for his birthdate: 11 November 1920 and 11 November 1921. Fleming wrote his first Bond tale in 1953, and I believe it was supposed to be contemporary. That means Bond was already working for British Intelligence when in his early 30s. With that in mind, I’d like the new James Bond to be in his early- to mid-30s. The ever-popular Tom Hiddleston (b.1981) fits this age range, and he’d probably do a fine job, though producer Barbara Broccoli has said he is “a bit too smug and not tough enough to play James Bond.”

In any case, I have a few other candidates that I like even better….

Aidan Turner

Aidan Turner (5’11”,b.1983), another Hobbit alum, is perhaps the current fan-favorite. He has also appeared in “Being Human” (the British version, where I first noticed him), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, “And Then There Were None”, and now stars in the latest incarnation of “Poldark”. He has the looks and the charm. If he buffs up a bit and practices that cold stare, he might be a pretty good choice.

 

 

 

Max Brown

When I first started thinking about fan-casting Bond a few years ago, the first person I thought of was Max Brown (6’2″,b.1981). I had recently seen him playing a medical examiner in “Beauty and the Beast” and thought that he might have the right stuff. He’s a handsome Brit, so that was a good start. You might recognize him from “MI-5” or “Agent Carter”. Or, if you’re a fan of series about British monarchs, you may have seen him in “The Tudors” or “The Royals”. Could he be our new Commander Bond?

 

Philip Winchester

Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981) is another great choice and someone I’ve cast before. He’s a bit beefier than the previous two and has already played the action hero — primarily in “Strike Back”. Winchester has also been in Thunderbirds, “Crusoe”, Solomon Kane, “Fringe”, “24: Live Another Day”, and currently stars in “Chicago Justice”. He looks good in a tux, uniform, tee-shirt, or shirtless, and I can easily see him as our steely-eyed, suave Mr. Bond.

 

 

Sam Witwer

As a bonus, I’d like to throw an American into the mix. Sam Witwer (6’1″,b.1977) is pushing 40 (though he doesn’t look it), so he’s also older than preferred. But,… he’s a possibility. He has appeared in many genre shows, but you may best remember Witwer from “Battlestar Galactica”, “Dexter”, “The Mist”, “Smallville”, the American “Being Human”, and “Once Upon a Time”. He has also done voicework for various Star Wars video games, as well as “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels” animated series. I know, it seems like heresy to suggest an American play an iconic British hero, but Brits and Canadian play Americans all the time. As long as he can “act and talk British”, why not?

Done. I’ll probably do another post or two on Bond’s regular supporting characters in a few weeks. Meanwhile, do you have any other casting ideas for the next ‘007’? Let us know below…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

The Silmarillion TV/Movie Deal

I (almost) forgot all about this! I mean, I added the tentative Dec. 13, 2018, date for the first movie release to my “Upcoming Movie Release Dates” page back in September. But, I forgot to post about it.

As I may have mentioned before, I am not very knowledgeable regarding The Silmarillion. (In fact, I’m not nearly as big a Tolkien-geek as I’d like to be, and it has been many years since I read The Hobbit and the LotR trilogy. If only I had more time….) I used to have a paperback copy of The Silmarillion (see pic to the right), which sat unread on my shelf for quite awhile, before I finally picked it up. But, I couldn’t get into it and didn’t get very far before being distracting with other stuff, never to return.

For those who don’t know, or can’t remember much more than I can about it, here is a quick Wikipedia summary of the contents of The Silmarillion:

The Silmarillion comprises five parts. The first part, Ainulindalë, tells of the creation of Eä, the ‘world that is‘. Valaquenta, the second part, gives a description of the Valar and Maiar, the supernatural powers in Eä. The next section, Quenta Silmarillion, which forms the bulk of the collection, chronicles the history of the events before and during the First Age, including the wars over the Silmarils [i.e., three brilliant jewels composed of the unmarred light of the Two Trees of Valinor] that gave the book its title. The fourth part, Akallabêth, relates the history of the Downfall of Númenor and its people, which takes place in the Second Age. The final part, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, is a brief account of the circumstances which led to and were presented in The Lord of the Rings.

The five parts were initially separate works, but it was the elder Tolkien’s express wish that they be published together. Because J.R.R. Tolkien died before he finished revising the various legends, Christopher gathered material from his father’s older writings to fill out the book. In a few cases, this meant that he had to devise completely new material in order to resolve gaps and inconsistencies in the narrative.”

If I remember correctly, it was mostly 3rd-person narrative — which could be filmed in a sort of documentary style — but not much in the way of stories with protagonists following a plot, etc. But, that’s based on a vague memory of a brief exposure to probably just the first part of the book. So, I could very well be wrong. Still, as I said in a previous post, “any attempt to do more Tolkien movies would have to take a lot more creative license to flesh out a complete, movie-length story than even Jackson’s team has done. But, some of it might work as a TV series, or maybe a series of mini-series….”

So, here’s the scoop…

The news originally broke on or slightly before Aug. 1, 2016, on (now-defunct) OneRingtoRule.com, but Moviepilot’s JabberTalky jumped on the story with his own article, announcing,

“New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, MGM and Showtime have officially announced the completion of a deal with the Tolkien Estate to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved novel, The Silmarillion, in a cross-platform deal that will include a multi-film franchise and premium cable television show to air on Showtime.

Warner Bros. confirms they will be going straight into preproduction, shooting the first two films back-to-back with a release date of December 13th, 2018 for the first installment.”

No director or cast were announced at the time, of course. But, Peter Jackson is set to executive produce and screenwriter Michael Arndt is adapting the first chapter. These are very good signs.

Now, this could be really good! With feature films and a Showtime series, they can cover a lot of ground. It will be very interesting to see how they break it all down, mixing historical narrative with action and romance, etc. I hope they are able to faithfully flesh out the stories and personalities of characters like Morgoth, Sauron, Feanor, Beren & Lúthien, etc. And, of course, they need to maintain the wonderful, visual style of Jackson’s previous Tolkien films, along with the beautiful soundtrack music, all of which captures the depth and tone of Tolkien’s mythology.

 

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P.S.  April Fool! Gotcha! Sorry, but I couldn’t publish this w/o letting you all know it was a joke. Sorry about that. I share your pain. In fact, I wrote this back in January, thinking the announcement was real. I was finishing it up, when I read some of the comments on the Moviepilot article, which were dated April 2014. Dang it!

P.P.S.  According to this piece at iDigitalTimes, Christopher Tolkien didn’t care for Jackson’s take on his father’s material, and he is quite intent on keeping other Tolkien properties away from the award-winning director. Oh, well! Maybe some other worthy will get the Tolkien blessing….

P.P.P.S.  Here’s a more recent article discussing the difficulties of adapting The Silmarillion, while expressing a wish for a “Game of Thrones”-style series by HBO.

Assessing the Casting of ABC’s Inhumans

Inhumans Royal Family

Don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard/read all that much about this upcoming series. I mentioned several facts that came out earlier in a post last November. Recently, though, there have been a few cast announcements and a couple of on-set pics from where they are shooting the show in Hawaii.

I’ve liked the Inhumans since I first read about them in “Fantastic Four” comics back in the 1970s. They had an interesting and isolated culture, cool powers & appearances, and an on-again/off-again, quasi-frenemy sort of relationship with our heroes (sort of like Namor has). I especially liked the core group of the Royal Family, which fortunately look to be central to the new show. So, of course, I want to see live-action versions that are faithful adaptations from the source material. With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the actors who will be portraying these beloved characters. Here are my 2 cents…

Anson Mount as Black Bolt: I am not familiar with Mount (6′,b.1973). He has appeared in episodes of series I watched (e.g., “Smallville”, “CSI: Miami”, “Lost”, “Dollhouse”), but nothing stands out in my memory about him. He has been a regular in other series, most recently starring in the drama/western “Hell on Wheels”, but I am unfamiliar with them, unfortunately. Physically, though, Mount appears to be a pretty solid choice, both in face and build. Having looked at some photos, he often appears to have an intense and/or weary look, which should work well for the silent, burdened King of the Inhumans.

Serinda Swan as Medusa: The lovely Miss Swan (5’7″,b.1984) is quite a bit shorter than the comics version of Queen Medusa (5’11”). But, I think she has both the beauty (and curves) and physicality to do right by the role. You may remember her as the sorcerous Zatanna on “Smallville”, which I thought was terrific casting! She has also been on “Supernatural”, “Breakout Kings”, “The Tomorrow People”, “Chicago Fire”, “Graceland”. I don’t know that she has ever had to stretch her acting skills much, so I hope she can get a handle on the Queen of the Inhumans. I assume they will need to do her mass of prehensile hair via CGI, so it shouldn’t be a problem coloring it red.

Ken Leung as Karnak: The first time I remember taking note of Leung (5’7″,b.1970) was with his role in “Lost”. Of course, he has also been in such genre fare as Rush Hour, Spy Game, Saw, X-Men: The Last Stand, “Person of Interest”, “Zero Hour”, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, et al. He is the exact height that Marvel’s wiki lists for Karnak, and I think the martial-artist character is supposed to look like an Asian human. (He’s also supposed to have an unusually large cranium. I wonder if they’ll use CGI, prosthetic, or ignore that particular characteristic. Same question re the body tattoos the character acquired in later years.) Leung will need to portray a much more physical, analytical, and self-assured character than he usually does, but he may be able to pull it off.

Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon: I don’t believe I am familiar with Ikwuakor (6’3″,b.1984), though he has had small roles in “Castle”, “Hawaii Five-O”, “Extant”, “Colony”, “NCIS: Los Angeles” and appeared in a few movies (e.g. Ink). The comics version of Gorgon is Caucasian-looking but often with dusky complexion; so, if they’re going to make one of the characters black, Gorgon makes the most sense. (Note: “Black Bolt” is a shortening of “Blackagar Boltagon”, plus that character usually wears a black costume.) Ikwuakor isn’t as tall (6’7″) or bulky as Gorgon is usually made to be, but he is fairly tall and muscular. Maybe he’ll bulk up even more for the part? I hope he does a good job, since this could be a breakout role for him.

Mike Moh as Triton: As an Asian with martial arts expertise, Moh (5’9″,b.1983) would have been a good choice for Triton’s younger brother, Karnak. But, maybe his muscular-yet-lithe “swimmer’s body” was what they really wanted for the scaly, aquatic Triton. His genre credits include “Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight”, “Supah Ninjas”, “Castle”, “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist”, “Street Fighter: Resurrection”, as well as the non-genre “Empire”. Who knows, maybe he’ll really “own” this part. I wonder how long he can hold his breath….

Isabelle Cornish as Crystal: This role calls for an attractive, young blonde woman about 5’6″ or so, and that’s what they found in Cornish (5’8.5″,b.1994). She doesn’t have near the resume of her sister, Abbie, nor has she been in any genre stuff. But, she was in several episodes of a couple of Australian dramas: “Home and Away” and “Puberty Blues”. I’m rooting for Cornish to make her mark with this role. It may seem like a small thing, but I just hope they make her hair the strawberry blonde color that Crystal is known for having. (That said, I realize that red-headed comic characters tend to end up as brunettes on TV. Grr! At least keep her blonde, OK?)

Iwan Rheon as Maximus: Rheon (5’8″,b.1985) is the guy who played the sadistic bastard Ramsay Bolton on “Game of Thrones”. Other than being shorter (5’8″) than the comics version (5’11”) and thus a little shorter than I’d prefer, he is perhaps the most perfect casting for Black Bolt’s scheming younger brother, Maximus the Mad, as I can think of. We already know Rheon can play a great, psychotic villain. Though also a ruthless prince trying to gain power, Maximus is a very different character in a very different situation. I just hope Rheon has the talent to keep them quite separate in both his and the audience’s minds. (Come to think of it, Maximus is quite Loki-like, and Tom Hiddleston might make a good candidate for him, as well.)

Lockjaw stand-in on Inhumans set

‘Lockjaw’ as Lockjaw: From the leaked tweet-pic (seen here, sort of), it looks like the most beloved Inhuman character, the huge, teleporting canine named ‘Lockjaw’, will be handled with CGI. Makes sense to me! I certainly wouldn’t want to be the casting director tasked with finding a real, live dog that size (let alone who can act), ‘cuz they don’t exist.

Well, that’s that. I wish I was more knowledgeable about some of these actors, so I could make better guesses about their suitability talent-wise. But, I guess we’ll see soon enough, come September. Here’s hopin’ that ABC/Disney puts out a quality mini-series that Inhumans fans can enjoy!

Oh, and here’s a CBR article you might like, too!: “Inhumans: 15 Things We Want From The TV Show”

Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 2 of 2

Music is often an integral part of a TV show, especially the opening theme. Last week, I shared ten of my favorite, most memorable themes from sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure series of the past few decades. As promised, this week we continue by easing our way into the 1980s and up to the present. I hope you enjoy them, especially if you’re old enough to remember watching some of these yourself.

Are we ready? Continuing in chronological order…

11) The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982)

The “Lonely Man” ending theme was particularly poignant and memorable, too.

 

12) Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988)

 

13) The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983)

 

14) Knight Rider (1982-1986)

 

15) The A-Team (1983-1987)

 

16) Miami Vice (1984-1990)

 

17) Star Trek: TNG (1987-1994)

 

18) Quantum Leap (1989-1993)

 

19) The X-Files (1993-)

 

20) Game of Thrones (2011-)

 

There you have ’em! Wow, that brought back a lot of good memories, going through all of those plus several I left out! And, since I couldn’t even bring myself to stop at twenty, here are five more honorable mentions:  Return of the Saint (1978-1979), The Fall Guy (1981-1986), Airwolf (1984-1986), Babylon 5 (1994-1998), Alias (2001-2006)

Now, when am I gonna find the time to track down and binge-watch these shows again…?