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Bond Solace: Bourne Again

Bond Solace: Bourne Again | 'Doubt' Mirrors Jacko Trial | Spring In Its Step; WMG Below $3

Bond Solace: Bourne Again

MGM/Sony wisely opened the new James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace" around the world two weeks before bringing it to America. The gamble paid off. All that solace has raked in over $200 million worldwide so far, a record for any Bond movie. It was maybe one of the best marketing ideas in movie history.

That’s because "Quantum" hits the U.S. this Friday. I reviewed it from Paris on October 31st in this space. And didn’t like it much. So I went again last night as "Quantum" was unreeled as a fundraiser for the Tribeca Film Festival. Star Daniel Craig, whom the ladies adore, showed up, waved, did some perfunctory interviews. But he skipped entirely the big dinner afterwards at Tavern on the Green, leaving Robert DeNiro, among others, in the lurch.

What does Craig know that you don’t? Even on my second viewing, "Quantum of Solace" is not a great movie. It's full of explosions and set pieces, and reminds everyone who sees it of the "Bourne" movies. But as a James Bond movie? It ranks far below the usual standards.

I had the same problems last night as I did two weeks ago with the opening set piece and the Jack White theme song — the song is just horrendous, has no melody of any kind, it’s just noise. And then, to make matters worse, the John Barry "007" music with James in the middle of the animated eye doesn’t come until the very end of the movie!

Coming out of the credits, there is a terrific sequence of James chasing a bad guy on the roofs of Siena, Italy. Frankly, that should have been the opener. There are a couple of other good sequences like that, but frankly you figure this out fast: the writers had no new ideas for "Quantum" so they fell back on the story from "Casino Royale." James is mourning the death of Vesper, his girlfriend. The problem is, no one can remember her, and we’re not made to care much.

And so there’s a Quantity of Silliness, with lots of action and not much story to tie it together. Craig’s now famed physique is featured in a forced scene where he answers the door shirtless — to Giancarlo Giannini of all people! This may be the least sexy James Bond of the entire series. Even the "Bond girls" seem awfully neutered.

What else is missing: there’s no "Bond, James Bond" introduction, and only a circuitous mention of James’s trademark martinis. There’s no Q to demonstrate cool gadgets because this James Bond is, at heart, pugilistic. If he could beat his opponents to death by hand he would; otherwise, he just shoots ‘em. There’s no cleverness. It’s just a rampage.

"Quantum" isn’t all for naught. Judi Dench provides the usual sanity and the only quips. Mathieu Amalric, the great actor from "Diving Bell and the Butterfly," does as much as he can as the poorly written villain Mr. Green. Jesper Christensen is intriguing at first as Mr. White, another villain who reappears later without explanation. Truly, I don’t think the writers of this script had any real idea what it was about. So much good material is wasted!

Actually: a more interesting and potentially violent episode occurred after the screening. A mob of autograph hounds descended on Robert DeNiro as he was trying to get into his SUV, which was parked on a side street. It was a wild sight: dozens of people, all carrying posters, placards, anything DeNiro might sign, swarmed him. It was completely scary and out of control.

Over at Tavern on the Green, DeNiro was composed. "I don’t know what happened," he said. "Maybe it’s the economy and they need the signatures for money for something. I try to do it. But. Yeah, that was bad."

Also at Tavern: actor Jeffrey Wright, who plays Felix Leiter in the new Bond movies. Apparently he didn’t get the call to go to Bar Bouloud with Craig and the other filmmakers. Everyone appreciated him sticking around I ran into beautiful Debra Messing and "Gossip Girl" dad Matthew Settle. Also said to be on the scene: "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm — who left early much to the chagrin of all the women.

'Doubt' Mirrors Jacko Trial

Is "Doubt"— the new Oscar buzzed movie based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play — a rewrite of Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial?

In "Doubt," parish priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is accused of giving wine to a 12-year-old boy in private. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) also suspects Flynn of having inappropriate relations with the boy, and puts him on trial, privately, in her office.

As with Jackson, the circumstantial evidence is all there: the wine, the private meetings, the intense special interest given the boy by the priest. Jackson was exonerated, of course. But during his 2005 trial on seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent — the same year “Doubt” debuted on Broadway — there was a lot of evidence presented suggesting that he was a pedophile or had an unhealthy interest in young boys. Still, after a week of deliberations, a jury found him not guilty on all counts.

And yet, there are doubts.

These same kinds of doubts are what “Doubt” the movie is about, directed by its award winning playwright John Patrick Shanley. It’s a brilliant, riveting, even thrilling film drawn out from his play and filmed on location in the Bronx, New York at a real church, parish, and surrounding neighborhoods.

And while Streep, Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis each give Oscar worthy performances that are totally engrossing, I couldn’t help think of Michael Jackson, and the reality of the accusations against him in 2005. Jury decision aside, his career and life have been smudged forever.

Spring In Its Step; WMG Below $3

Broadway’s "Spring Awakening" still has a lot of spring in its step. The two year old musical just posted a closing notice for January 18, 2009. But when I saw it over the weekend, the place was packed. I think this was thanks to the star turn by current lead performer Hunter Parrish of "Weeds" fame from Showtime. Who knew he could sing and dance? The best song in "Spring Awakening" is one whose title cannot be printed here. But this youthful, energetic rock show is certainly one not to be missed if you haven’t seen it already. It’s also perfect for teens during Christmas break…

…Warner M. Group stock fell below $3 yesterday, finishing the day at $2.98 after hitting a low of $2.94. On wired.com you can actually see clueless company chief Edgar Bronfman, Jr. interviewed with MySpace’s Chris DeWolfe on the a subject he seems to know little about: the music business. Some good news, though: Atlantic’s Craig Kallman has the soundtrack to the movie "Twilight." And it’s a hit. "Twilight" finished number 1 this week, with almost 170,000 copies sold. "Twilight" features a bunch of indie groups signed to Warner Bros. but so far not broken by them in a significant way like Muse, MuteMath, and Paramore. Maybe this will do it. There’s also a track from the label’s Linkin Park. Nothing from REM, however, even though they had lots to choose from…Don’t think Warner’s gets credit for this, though. It’s "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyers who likes this music. She should be in A&R…