You know his name. You got his number. Since 1962, James Bond has been the spy whose reputation precedes him: As international man of mystery, as guru of gadgets and espionage thrills, and as the agent who never encountered a boundary – country, or personal space – he couldn’t sneak across.
The Ian Fleming adaptations started with a bang: Dr. No remains among the best-reviewed of 007’s movies, bringing forth that first legendary era of Sean Connery suited up as the debonair rogue that women crave and men aspire to be in vain. Case in point: 1967’s Casino Royale had no less than six James Bonds within its spooferifous walls, none holding a candle to the Con’. The non-comic caper is the worst-reviewed James Bond movie, and was produced outside of franchise gatekeepers Eon.
As celebrated was Connery’s reign was – the late actor’s films occupy three of the top five slots on this list – the sun sets on every empire, and thus was ushered in the age of the Lazenby. A mild administration for George, yes, with only 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service released, though Certified Fresh.
Then it became time to move over for Roger Moore, who offered a lightly winking and intelligent Bond for those burned-out ’70s times. Three of his movies are Rotten, three are Fresh, and one is Certified Fresh. Not bad, and he even traveled into space.
In 1981, Connery came back for non-Eon Bond Never Say Never Again, just as HQ was hiring Timothy Dalton for the job. Dalton’s Bond: Cool and menacing, and his films The Living Daylights and License to Kill are praised by modern fans for their dark, grittier take on the spy game. It’s something Daniel Craig would pick up on in the future, but with a bigger budget and fewer a-ha theme songs.
Pierce Brosnan brought back the sophisticated sex appeal, as the best Bond in the not-so-greatest movies. GoldenEye was intoxicating Certified Fresh fun, while the three that followed are all Rotten.
After Austin Powers took the piss out of the franchise for a decade, Eon turned to resurrecting James Bond as the brooding, brutish hulk we have today. Casino Royale was a return to form, Daniel Craig’s sneer and occasional smile calibrated to the modern cynical viewer. Skyfall was likewise Certified Fresh, but there was not so much critical love for in-betweener Quantum of Solace and the most-recent Spectre of 2015.
Six years passed until No Time To Die, the longest wait between Bond movies. At 15 years, Craig holds the record for longest uninterrupted on-screen ownership of Bond, but Connery spread his appearances as Bond across 21 years. Now, we’re reaching into the classified files for every James Bond movie ever ranked by Tomatometer!
(Photo by United Artists, Sony Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection)
If you’re looking to watch all the James Bond movies in order, you’ll hit the good stuff right away: All the Sean Connery movies in his first run are classics of the franchise. Before hitting Connery’s departure from the 007 role in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, you’ll encounter George Lazenby’s solo entry (1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and 1967’s comedy spoof Casino Royale, which was made outside of Eon Productions, the company founded to steer Bond from the book to the big screen.
Roger Moore took on the mantle from 1973’s Live and Let Die to 1985’s A View to a Kill, with Connery returning one last time in the non-Eon Never Say Never Again in 1983.
Timothy Dalton appeared twice as Bond to close out the ’80s with The Living Daylights and License to Kill.
After six years, the longest period between switching lead actors, Pierce Brosnan debuted with 1995’s GoldenEye, and exited with 2002’s Die Another Day.
2006 saw the introduction of Daniel Craig as the latest Bond in town with Casino Royale, and he will be retiring with the long-delayed No Time to Die. With its 2021 release, Craig will hold the record for longest continuous actor to represent Bond.
Continue on to see the full list on how to watch all the James Bond movies in order!
After being alerted to Dev Patel’s existence by his Skins-watching daughter, director Danny Boyle cast the then 17-year-old actor in 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire. The film, which was originally dropped by Warner Independent after the studio doubted its commercial prospects, would go on to gross over $350 million worldwide, win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and make international stars out of leads Patel and Freida Pinto.
It would be hard to match that kind of explosive feature debut, and for the next several years, only the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel cinematic universe films would come close to that early critical and box office success. But Patel came roaring back with Lion, the true-story drama that would earn him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nom, with the film itself ultimately in the running for Best Picture. The Certified Fresh Hotel Mumbai and Personal History of David Copperfield followed, and now Patel is getting career-best review write-ups for A24’s Arthurian jam, The Green Knight.
Read on to see all Dev Patel movies, ranked by Tomatometer!
M. Night Shyamalan broke through into the mainstream with his second-feature, the late ’90s horror phenomenon The Sixth Sense. The two similarly successful films that followed (Unbreakable, Signs) was building up Shyamalan as a director of possible Speilbergian talent, though in danger of having his third-act screenplay twists overwhelm his brand. That bore Rotten fruit with The Village and The Happening, which set off a bum streak with big-budget sci-fi and would-be blockbusters: The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth.
The Visit in 2015 would be a back-to-basics, comeback horror effort. Its box office and relative critical success set the stage for the Certified Fresh Split, which brought back the dark superhero world of Unbreakable. Shyamalan closed the trilogy with Glass.
Shyamalan’s latest is Old. See where it places as we rank all M. Night Shyamalan movies by Tomatometer!
Now that Amazon has assimilated MGM, is it time to again contemplate a 007 series? Plus, AMC and Norman Reedus plan a Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! TV show, Neil Gaiman announces big stars added to The Sandman adaptation on Netflix, a new Cobra Kai IV trailer teases a returning villain, the CW requests a Powerpuff pilot do-over, and more of the week’s top TV and streaming news.
(Photo by Sony Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection)
If ever there were a time to expect nearly 60 years of James Bond on the big screen would finally lead to a 007 TV series, it’s now. With this week’s announcement that Amazon would shell out $8.45 billion for MGM and all the movie and TV series that come with it, one of the studio’s signature properties — 27 Bond films — could also potentially become one of its most exciting TV projects.
In the time of ongoing streaming wars, when streaming networks need not just original programming, but also fully stocked inventories of legacy TV series and movies to tempt consumers to pony up yet another monthly fee for entertainment, buying an existing library can instantly mean both. IP, intellectual property, as always, is the name of the Hollywood game.
Last week’s ATT divestiture of WarnerMedia that led to a $43 billion merger with Discovery means HBO, HBO Max, CNN, TBS, Animal Planet, HGTV, Food Network, Discovery Channel, among others networks, and Warner Bros. Pictures are going to be a part of one company that has not yet be named. All that programming under one umbrella, which aside from the TV series you already know — Friends, The Sopranos, The Big Bang Theory, and all the other big titles TV fans clapped together their hands for when HBO Max launched — will also include the programming of Shark Week, Puppy Bowl, the Property Brothers, and Guy Fieri. Plus the merger also brings together DC Comics TV shows and movies, like the great Harley Quinn series, and Harry Potter and The Matrix movies, as well as Rick and Morty and other Cartoon Network and Adult Swim programs.
The Amazon-MGM merger adds movies like the Rocky, Legally Blond, and RoboCop franchises to Amazon, and also potentially adds 17,000 MGM TV episodes from series like Shark Tank, The Real Housewives franchise, and The Handmaid’s Tale to Amazon Prime Video, plus all the spin-offs, reboots, remakes, movies, and documentaries they could spark.
But those migrations from networks to streaming services aren’t all going to happen immediately, and some maybe never. Bravo, for instance, has its own streaming home on Peacock, so the Housewives may continue to make their bedazzled presence known there for now, and Emmy winner The Handmaid’s Tale has yet to finish out its original run on Hulu (though author Margaret Atwood’s sequel novel, The Testament, could become an Amazon movie or series). As for a Bond TV series, MGM has floated the idea for years, only to have the family of the movies’ famous producer, Cubby Broccoli, to reject 007 on TV. Plus, famed MGM movies like The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain were sold to what is now WarnerMedia years ago, meaning the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger will benefit from those films instead of Amazon.
But the bottom line, TV fans: when these supermergers and their complicated streaming rights issues finally shake out, you’re gonna need a comfier couch for a lot more viewing. And a much bigger entertainment budget.
(Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
The Walking Dead’s signature rebel is producing a TV series about a group of movieland’s most famous on-screen rebels. TWD star Norman Reedus, under his bigbaldhead production company’s deal with AMC Studios, is developing a series adaptation of Russ Meyer’s cult classic movie Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the 1965 exploitation movie about go-go dancers on a kidnapping-and-murder spree through the California desert. The series, with the full support of Meyer’s estate, will “pay homage” to the movie, but will expand its focus on the kick-ass women who were flying in the face of cultural conventions at the time.
“I’ve been watching Russ Meyer’s film since I was a kid, wearing my Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! shirt to school,” Reedus told Deadline. “It’s safe to say I’m beyond inspired by Russ’ style of filmmaking, and I am over the moon excited for the opportunity to reimagine this story for the modern world.”
More trailers and teasers released this week:
• The Mysterious Benedict Society is an adaptation of Trenton Lee Stewart’s series of books about four children tasked with saving the world from a global crisis known as “The Emergency.” Stars Tony Hale in a double role. Premieres June 25. (Disney+)
• Apocalypse ’45 is a powerful documentary that honors the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II with new footage and voices of 24 men who recount the end of the war: the last months of the battle in the Pacific in 1945. Premieres May 27. (Discovery+)
• Animal Kingdom Season 5 picks up with the family in chaos as they seek revenge and look for a new leader to emerge, while flashbacks reveal the rise of the late Smurf. Stars Shawn Hatosy and Finn Cole. Premieres July 11. (TNT)
• Love, Victor, the GLAAD Media Award-nominated spin-off of the Love, Simon movie, returns for Season 2 as Victor has come out to his parents and takes his relationship with Benji public, neither of which proves to be as easy as they hoped they would be. Stars Michael Cimino and Nick Robinson. Premieres June 11. (Hulu)
• Dave, returns for Season 2 with his continuing quest for superstardom … if he can avoid causing an international incident first. Starring Dave “Lil Dicky” Burd. Premieres June 16. (FXX)
• In the Dexter limited series reboot, it sure looks like Dexter Morgan, a.k.a. Jim Lindsay is a popular man about his new hometown. If only his neighbors knew …. Michael C Hall returns as the transplanted serial killer this fall. (Showtime)
• False Positive is a film about a couple (Ilana Grazer and Justin Theroux) who finally get pregnant after a long struggle with fertility, only to start suspecting something sinister is afoot with their fertility doc (Pierce Brosnan). Also stars Gretchen Mol and Sophia Bush. Premieres June 25. (Hulu)
• Penguin Town is a docuseries about a bunch of ornery penguins who stir up trouble on the beaches of Cape Town every summer while looking for their love matches. Narrated by Patton Oswalt. (Netflix)
• Evil Season 2, the horror series from The Good Wife’s marrieds Robert and Michelle King, moves to a new streaming home for its sophomore season. Stars Michael Emerson, Christine Lahti, Katja Herbers, Mike Colter, and Aasif Mandvi. Premieres June 20. (Paramount+)
• Fresh, Fried & Crispy is the reality series with YouTuber Daym Drops, who has earned more than 250 million views of his food reviews, travels all around the country to find the best unknown fried dishes coming from the streets, fancy restaurants, and home kitchens, from extra crispy pork chops in Birmingham to deep fried Oreos in San Diego. Premieres June 9. (Netflix)
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(Photo by Amanda Edwards/Karwai Tang/WireImage; Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Neil Gaiman dropped a blog post to announce additions to the cast of the Netflix adaptation of his comic book series The Sandman: Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Death), Mason Alexander Park (Desire), Donna Preston (Despair), Jenna Coleman (Johanna Constantine), Niamh Walsh (Ethel Cripps in the 1920s and ‘30s), Joely Richardson (Ethel Cripps in the present da), David Thewlis (John Dee), Kyo Ra (Rose Walker), Stephen Fry (Gilbert), Razane Jammal (Lyta Hall), Sandra James Young (Unity Kincaid), and & Patton Oswalt (narrator Matthew the raven). Previously announced cast includes Tom Sturridge (Dream), Gwendolyn Christie (Lucifer), Sanjeev Bhaskar and Amid Chaudry (Cain and Abel), Charles Dance (Roderick Burgess), Vivienne Acheampong (Lucienne), and Boyd Holbrook (The Corinthian).
Chris Noth has joined the HBO Max Sex and the City reboot series And Just Like That … where he’ll reprise his role as Mr. Big, a.k.a. Mr. Carrie Bradshaw.
Jesse Plemons will star opposite Elizabeth Olsen in Love and Death, the HBO Max miniseries about the true story of two church-going couples, enjoying small-town family life in Texas, until somebody picks up an axe and swings it at one of the others. Plemons plays Allan Gore, whose wife, Betty, was murdered by her best friend Candy (Olsen), when Allan and Candy started an affair.
And another true crime casting at HBO Max: Parker Posey will play prosecutor Freda Black in the streaming channel’s limited series The Staircase, about accused wife killer Michael Peterson (Colin Firth). Toni Collette, Juliette Binoche, and Rosemarie DeWitt also star.
Grammy-nominated rapper Jeremiah will play Elijah, a member of the CBI in Starz’s Power Book IV: Force, the Power spin-off focusing on Joseph Sikora’s original Power series Tommy Egan, who has left New York to move his considerable skills to life in Chicago.
More action for the Windy City: Shameless star Jeremy Allen White will star in the FX comedy pilot The Bear, about a chef who returns to his hometown of Chicago to run his family’s restaurant.
AMC’s upcoming Ultra City Smiths, which features stop-motion baby dolls in the half-hour story of adults who are trying to solve the disappearance of a famous wealthy citizen of the fictional Ultra City has announced a group of new voice cast, including Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Alia Shawkat, Tim Meadows, Terry O’Quinn, Debra Winger, Luis Guzmán, and Tom Waits as the series narrator. Previously named cast includes Jimmi Simpson, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, John C. Reilly, Bebe Neuwirth, Jason Mantzoukas, Damon Herriman, Melissa Villaseñor, Kurtwood Smith, and Tim Heidecker.
(Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
FX has cast the two leads of its new adaptation of the James Clavell novel of Shogun, the epic set in feudal Japan and unfolding the clash of two ambitious men and a female samurai. Cosmo Jarvis (Raised by Wolves) will play an English sailor shipwrecked in Japan, while Hiroyuki Sanada (Army of the Dead) plays a powerful lord with dangerous enemies. Lady Mariko, the samurai with shady family ties, has yet to be cast. (Variety)
Eight new episodes of Celebrity IOU will find sibling superstars Drew and Jonathan Scott helping famous types renovate special properties for loved ones. Sledgehammer swingers will include Josh Groban, Kevin Hart, LeAnn Rimes, Darren Criss, Howie Mandel, Ali Wong, Kim Kardashian and Kris and Kendall Jenner, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The new love of Lily Collins’ Emily in season 2 of Netflix’s Emily in Paris will be played by Katy Keene star Lucien Laviscount. The actor will play Alfie, whose contentious early relationship with Emily blossoms into romance later in the season.
Amazon has added Sophie Okonedo and Tobias Menzies to the Season 2 cast of anthology series Modern Love, which already features Gbenga Akinnagbe, Minnie Driver, Lucy Boynton, Kit Harington, Garrett Hedlund, Aparna Nancherla, Anna Paquin, and Miranda Richardson.
Hacks star Christopher McDonald has joined Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn’s Marvel series Secret Invasion on Disney+. Deadline reports he’ll play a new character whose identity is being kept under wraps for now.
(Photo by (c)Buena Vista courtesy Everett Collection)
Disney+ is developing a live-action Hocus Pocus 2 movie that will feature the return of original stars Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. The sequel to the 1993 movie about the Sanderson sisters is set to premiere in 2022.
Celebs signing overall deals this week: Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding and his Long House Productions signed a two-year first-look TV and movie development and production deal with SK Global; Empire creator Lee Daniels signed a multi-year overall deal with 20th Television that includes ABC’s fall remake of The Wonder Years and a series adaptation of Waiting to Exhale in development; and next Batman movie star Robert Pattinson has signed a first-look deal with Warner Bros. that includes films and Warner Bros. Television and HBO Max.
And from Batman to Batgirl: THR reports Bad Boys for Life directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah will direct a Batgirl feature for HBO Max, with a script written by Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey and The Flash). The movie will focus on the Barbra Gordon Batgirl, the daughter of Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon.
The CW did not pick up its pilot for Powerpuff, a series about the adult Powerpuff Girls. The remake of the Cartoon Network series was deemed not quite right, so the network will try to rework it with writer Diablo Cody and the four leads, Chloe Bennet, Dove Cameron, Yana Perrault, and Donald Faison. In other CW upfront news, the network will begin programming Saturday nights; its three new series for 2021-22 season are a remake of The 4400, an adult version of the beloved Nickelodeon game show Legends the of the Hidden Temple, and Killer Camp, a game show that’s part summer camp, part murder mystery, for cash. Midseason series will include the All American spin-ff All American: Homecoming and Naomi, the DC Comics drama about the titular comic book-loving teen superhero (played by Power and Army Wives alum Kaci Walfall), executive produced and written by Emmy winner Ava DuVernay (When They See Us) and Arrow writer Jill Blankenship.
Showtime has ordered the new anthology series Super Pumped, from Billions showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien executive producing and Beth Schacter (Soundtrack) writing. The first season is based on Mike Isaac’s bestselling book Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber., and Emmy winner Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Trial of the Chicago 7) will play Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO who was ultimately ousted in a boardroom coup.
Nominations for the 48th annual Daytime Emmy Awards were announced, and ABC’s General Hospital, one of just four daytime soaps on the networks, leads nominees with 21. Days of Our Lives (NBC) and CBS’ The Young and the Restless have 11 each, and CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful has nine. The late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek received a posthumous nod as Outstanding Game Show Host and Larry King, who died earlier this year, received a nomination as Informative Talk Show Host. The Daytime Emmys will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+ on June 25 (8 p.m.). The full list of nominees is here.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker R.J. Cutler’s (The War Room) all-access documentary about Martha Stewart will stream on Netflix. Variety reports Cutler shopped a sizzle reel that won over Netflix, and the documentary will likely include everything from multimedia mogul Stewart’s early life as a babysitter for Mickey Mantle’s children to her infamous prison sentence.
Food Network host Guy Fieri has signed a contract extension with the cable network for three years and a reported $80 million. Fieri’s mega-popular series Diners, Drive-Ins and Divesbrought in more than $200 million for Food Network last year, and Fieri raised an incredible $25 million for restaurant workers who were laid off from their jobs during the pandemic.
(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Elizabeth Banks is executive producing and starring in Red Queen, a futuristic drama about an America where democracy is replaced by a group of superpowered humans who rule over those with no powers (literally and figuratively). The series, adapted from author Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling book of the same name, is in development at Peacock.
Person of Interest and Helstrom co-executive producer Amanda Segel will write the Game of Thrones spin-off 10,000 Ships, reports Deadline. The series, one of three GoT spin-oofs HBO has planned, will revolve around warrior queen Princess Nymeria and her crew, who landed in Dorne after being defeated by the Valyrians in the Second Spice War.
Blumhouse TV has secured the rights to adapt Battlesea Poltergeist, the number one podcast worldwide, as a scripted series called Blumhouse’s Ghost Story, as well as a companion unscripted series. The BBC podcast tells the story of the longest documented poltergeist ever (12 years) and is at the center of Blumhouse TV’s plan to launch a franchise of ghost stories. (THR)
Schitt’s Creek creators Eugene and Dan Levy are releasing an official coffee table book on the series, packed with photos, behind-the-scenes memories, and, best of all, a complete guide to David Rose’s memorable sweater collection. Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: The Story of Schitt’s Creek will be released on Oct. 26. (EW)
Six men, 26 movies, billions in box office receipts, countless Martinis: when it comes to 007, it’s been a journey. In our latest episode of Vs., supervillain/superhost Mark Ellis is pitting James Bond vs. James Bond (vs. James Bond, and on and on) to decide who was the best of cinema’s bed-hopping British spies. Will it be Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, or current Bond, Daniel Craig? (OK, it’s probably not gonna be Lazenby – though we only have love for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.) The Bond boys battle it out over box office, Audience and Tomatometer Scores, the quality of their villains, and one wildcard round, before Ellis puts himself square in the cross hairs and declares a winner. Don’t agree with the ultimate decision? Slice him up with laser beams, feed him to the sharks, or… you know… let us know with a thoughtful argument in the comments.
Hey, Billie Eilish, here’s a tip: How about just changing “Bad Guy” to “Bond Guy” and calling it a day? You’re welcome, and we’re sure no one else has made this joke today.
The 18-year-old is bringing her joie de vivre, all creepy and haunting and weird, to No Time To Die as the newly-selected theme song singer. This makes Eilish the youngest to ever write and record a James Bond theme, the ultimate movie-song gig that has welcomed the likes of Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, Adele, Madonna, Duran Duran and more.
Listen to Eilish’s song here:
No Time to Die, starring Daniel Craig in his fifth and final outing as 007, hits theaters April 10. And now, you can vote on your favorite James Bond theme songs over the past six decades!
Thumbnail image by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection
(Photo by Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures)
Daniel Craig famously said he’d rather resort to self-harm than take on another James Bond project after he completed production on 2015’s Spectre, but somebody somewhere managed to convince him to do one more, and now we have No Time to Die. This one, though, this one is really the last time he’ll step into 007’s bespoke suit — that’s what pretty much everyone assumes, anyway. As a result, the same conversations that popped up post-Spectre about who might replace Craig in the role have resurfaced, if they ever truly went away in earnest.
With that in mind, as James Bond prepares to take on his 25th assignment, we here at RT have put together a list of 25 potential candidates who could step into the role after No Time to Die, and we want to know who you think is the best fit. With all the various discussions about the possibility of passing the torch to a non-white actor or a woman, we decided to cast our net wide and offer up a wide variety of choices, from dapper gentlemen and leading ladies to brooding brawlers and even a few outside-the-box options. So cast your vote below and let us know who you think should be the next James Bond!
Note: You can vote for as many of the candidates below as you want, but you’ll only be able to vote for them once.
Irish actor Andrew Scott is arguably most recognizable to U.S. audiences for malevolent characters: classic literary villain Professor Moriarty opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in TV’s Sherlock, as cruel psychiatrist Dr. Addison Bennet in Alice Through the Looking Glass, and as duplicitous government agent C in James Bond film Spectre.
So seeing Scott turn up as a priest in Amazon series Fleabag understandably may result in immediate suspicion of the character. The series’ history of revealing unexpected core character flaws might also set viewers’ expectation levels to yellow ― “exercise caution” ― when it comes to investing in this new player on Fleabag’s scene. Plus: Fleabag.
“It’s original and audacious storytelling,” Scott says of the series created and written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, a star rapidly ascending with a scene-stealing turn as the voice of robot L3-37 in Solo: A Star Wars Story and as executive producer and creator of award-winning BBC America series Killing Eve. Waller-Bridge was also tapped by Bond himself, Daniel Craig, to inject her distinctive comedic voice into the script of the upcoming film from director Cary Fukunaga.
Scott this week also appeared — ranting with a gun — in the first trailer for season 5 of Netflix sci-fi anthology hit Black Mirror. We’re eager to find out what delirium awaits us there, but in the meantime, we’re savoring his performance in Fleabag season 2, which is reliably unexpected.
The season is Certified Fresh at 100% with 43 reviews at publication and is being lauded by critics with lines like: “A portrait of grief, fear, and love that’s startling, painful, achingly funny, unbearably sexy, pretty much perfect, and somehow better than the first season. It is a marvel. It should not exist.” (Allison Shoemaker, RogerEbert.com).
We spoke to Scott about these strange, beautiful, tragic, hilarious sketches of humanity and what it was like to inhabit one of them.
(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)
Debbie Day for Rotten Tomatoes: Throughout the season, as a viewer, I think you keep asking yourself, “Is this love or is this insanity?”
Scott: I think both those things can exist at the same time. (Laughs). I think a lot of the time, people’s experiences of love are exactly that. I think that question, “Is this love or is this insanity?,” can nearly be applied to everything or relationship, because it is insane to go through that experience — it’s insane. That’s exactly it. As the Priest says in that sermon (in the series): It’s this extraordinary thing, it makes you crazy, and makes you do all these things that you never imagined you would be, both good and bad. I think Phoebe’s great talent is to be able to hold two things in exactly the same thing. I love the fact that it’s funny and tragic at the same time. I like that the idea of being vulnerable and being powerful exists in the same scene. It’s all the things … it’s very fluid, and I think that’s why people have responded to it so much, that’s what makes such great television, is that feeling of nuance, because the lack of nuance is the death of great art.
(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)
After season 1, I think viewers are hoping for some redemption for Fleabag, and at the beginning of the new season, here’s this priest and ― whether you believe or not ― you may hope that she finds something to hold on to, but she chooses the same sort of destructive path.
Scott: You think it’s destructive?
I think she makes another bad choice for herself. You want to believe in love, and you want to believe that people will choose love, but when you get involved with someone who’s not really available ―
(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)
How did you approach your character, seeing this dynamic in the scripts? What did you think of him at first when you read it?
Scott: We talked about, when we first spoke about this relationship between the two of them, was how do you play love, and what should we expect from our television characters? And there’s not one of us who have not made bad choices ― I even sort of hesitate to use the word “bad” ― you make choices that aren’t necessarily going to provide you with a lifelong relationship.
But I do think they have an immediate connection with each other, and that happens in life, too, and for me, the priest is flawed and he definitely is very conflicted, and I believe he is also very much in love.
Sometimes people of the church are depicted as asexual or that they’re not interested in or have no thoughts or feelings of intimacy regarding sex, and that just can’t be true, because that’s not true for any human. We all have a relationship with sex. And love. Even if you’re asexual, you still have a sort of attitude towards it. I think that’s a very interesting thing from my perspective about what actually do you do? What do you do with your sexuality?
(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)
Scott (cont.): I think sometimes in drama, we’re told what we’re supposed to feel because we make these sort of cartoonish characters, and I think the reason that Fleabag is unique, is that we don’t. Sometimes they do things that are cruel and selfish, and sometimes they’re very vulnerable, and sometimes powerful. And sometimes they’re abusive and sometimes they’re incredibly loving and kind. And that suggestion is in us all.
I think it’s a sort of lack of judgment and the fact that we can do that through comedy makes it special.
The Priest is obviously so conflicted, and he has a problem with alcohol. Was that built in before he met her, or is that something he recently adopted?
Scott: His relationship with alcohol is not healthy. It was sort of important not to overstate that in a sense ―let the audience do some work ― but I definitely think he has a longstanding unhealthy relationship with alcohol, like a lot of people.
(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)
I’m going to be careful about spoilers, because the relationship is built on these very special moments, but the first “fox talk,” I think, might also be the first time he asked her, “Where’d you go?” when she breaks the fourth wall and looks at the audience. Did you guys talk about what her behavior in that moment would look like to him?
Scott: The most important thing was, it’s a deep connection. I think it shows how connected he is to her. I think they’re both quite solitary characters, and Fleabag’s friend is the audience…and the relationship with the audience is sometimes helpful and sometimes destructive, and sometimes a way of just avoiding a life and relieving power. And the fact that he’s able to see that, and solely him — he’s the only character who can see that — speaks to me, not just as sort of “exciting television” or kind of convention, but just the idea that he, he sees her, he sees all of her, and he wants it from when they first spoke, he wants to talk about this extraordinary love. For my money, I feel like, they almost love each other right from the get go. I think they are definitely intrigued by each other and that sort of deepens, and I think they don’t really know what it is. Like a lot of us when we first meet somebody that you connect to and you think, Well, is it love, or is it insanity?
The café scene is also a very special moment. It was so real and very intense. First, does he see her behavior as mental illness? And is that tension built into the writing or is it something that gets fleshed out when you’re working the scene?
Scott: It’s built to a certain degree into the writing. Phoebe and I have got a great chemistry going, and so I think we just sort of saw what happens on that day. Phoebe’s very playful in that sense, in the relationship … At the beginning and certainly in that scene, it really genuinely is what it is “Where are you going?” I don’t think he knows, but it’s like “What is it that you’re doing?” And I think we can all sort of relate to that to a certain degree. When people are, to a certain degree are unknowable, and you go, “What is that thing? What is that look on your face?”
Because the idea of playing with the format of breaking fourth wall is so exciting — I find it really exciting that that’s developed in the second series … There’s a sort of metaphysical sort of vibe in the second series of pictures falling off walls and foxes following you at night … A little bit like love, it’s completely unknowable if you’re serious, and so it’s hard to answer those questions. And the only thing we really do is to dramatize the question, rather than try to nail them down too much, because that then it becomes less interesting drama.
(Photo by Steve Schofield/Amazon Prime)
Speaking of the storytelling, the fox detail of the story is the kind of quirky detail that you don’t see very often in film and in television. What are your thoughts on the writing for this series?
Scott: I think the writing is extraordinary. I think somebody’s hair looking amazing the day of their mum’s funeral, or somebody wearing really tight jeans to the funeral, or a fox trying to break into a toilet, and you know, partnered with scenes about death and loss and pain, I think it’s just so extraordinary, that she writes with such flair and such imagination and boldness, that’s really a thing that I want to watch on TV. And to be part of it is really exciting ― it’s original and audacious storytelling. And that has to start with the writing, and I think she’s not afraid of the grand gesture and to push the boundaries of how we tell our stories. And I think that’s why people really respond to her work, because, juxtaposed to that, is a great sense of humanity, fun, and a kind of kindness. I’m truly in awe of her imagination, really.
Fleabag season 2 is now streaming on on Amazon Prime.
(Photo by Jonathan Olley/Columbia Pictures)
For the last four years, Daniel Craig has been, to use his own word, “coy” about whether he’d return for another James Bond movie. Back in 2015, he even told our very own Grae Drake, “I’m not gone yet.” Rumors have gone every which way but confirmed, even with recent announcements of a release date and potential directors for the next 007 adventure. Last night, the actor finally said “yes,” he is still on board as the most famous spy character of all time.
He made the confirmation on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, admitting that he’s been discussing the possibility for the last couple months but wanted to save the news for the CBS talk show. “We’ve just been trying to figure things out,” he said. “I always wanted to. I needed a break.” He also explained his infamous quote about preferring bodily harm to doing another one.
At the end of the interview, Colbert asked if this will be Craig’s final installment as Bond. “I think this is it,” the actor answered. “I just want to go out on a high note.” Then he added, “I can’t wait.” Presumably he was referring to doing this next one, not leaving.
In response to the confirmation, many movie critics have chimed in about the news. Craig’s last outing as Bond, Spectre, received fairly positive reviews overall (64 percent on the Tomatometer) but they weren’t as glowing as his prior installment, Skyfall (93 percent) or his debut with the franchise, Casino Royale (95 percent). So there are mixed feelings:
I think we all want to see Craig go out on a high note as well. He’s left his mark on the character and has had two of the best Bond films ever made.
– Matt Goldberg, Collider
It was a near-inevitability that he would return for one last ride…he waited until right before his new movie opened to drop the news.
– Scott Mendelson, Forbes
Pro: Daniel Craig is a great Bond. Con: Spectre was not great, and also the end of it felt like a farewell for his 007.
– Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
Daniel Craig announced on Colbert he’s back for Bond 25 — here, I genuinely believed he’d call it quits. We need more Lucky Logan-like DC.
– Jason Gorber, Screen Anarchy
Happy to see Daniel Craig returning for another Bond despite his four-film tenure being a study in steadily decreasing quality.
– Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects
Delighted that Daniel Craig is back as Bond, so that all the good actors floated for the role can continue to do just about anything else.
– Guy Lodge, Variety
The currently untiled 25th James Bond instalment will be released in the US on November 8, 2019. See below for Craig’s appearance on The Late Show, in which he also shares a Logan Lucky clip and discusses his cameo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
For bad movie lovers, there are few things guaranteed to get pulses racing more than the prospect that some misbegotten cult favorite isn’t just a bad movie for the ages, it’s the next The Room. The Room occupies a weirdly rarified place in the trash cinema realm as, to quote the title of a documentary about Troll 2 (a previous honoree), the “best worst movie.”
The Room is the gold standard for exquisitely, transcendently, historically unself-conscious awfulness, but in recent years its position has been threatened by Neil Breen’s Fateful Findings. The movie has an unmistakable The Room quality, if only because both films are the works of homely middle-aged men the world might otherwise ignore, but who look in the mirror and clearly see a younger, sexier Ryan Gosling with Steve McQueen’s swagger and James Dean’s effortless, timeless cool.
Like The Room‘s Tommy Wiseau, Breen is unwisely obsessed with sharing his unclothed body with the world, but while Wiseau thrust the image of his naked ass grinding into the minds, subconsciouses, and nightmares of his audiences with brutal, nightmarish force, Breen treats his audience to scene after scene where his top is ripped off in a sexual frenzy, revealing a hairless, bird-like chest Breen apparently imagines will send women into fits of erotic ecstasy.
Astonishingly, Breen seems to understand the mechanics and psychology of sex even less than Wiseau does. Wiseau at least seemed to have seen a few Cinemax erotic thrillers and surmised that roses, forgettable R&B music, sexy red dresses, and ass-thrusting are essential to the act of making love. The sex scenes in Fateful Findings feel like they were ghost-written by a 10-year-old boy who has yet to be given the “facts of life” speech and imagines that babies are the product of two adults awkwardly hugging each other standing up, sometimes in a shower with one party rocking a dinner plate-sized bandage on his face, and sometimes in the presence of the many laptops that are Fateful Findings’ primary set dressing.
“Imagine a version of The Room that’s 10 times as ambitious and twice as incompetent.”
To get a sense of the film’s delirious lunacy, imagine a version of The Room that’s 10 times as ambitious and twice as incompetent. Wiseau might have sought out to be Marlon Brando and Tennessee Williams in the same disturbing-to-look-at package, but Breen sets out to be Marlon Brando, David Lynch, a Nicolas Sparks romantic hero (and for good matter, Nicolas Sparks), a Spike Lee-style provocateur with a kitchen-sink approach to social commentary, Alan Pakula when he made All The President’s Men, and Douglas Sirk in the 1950s.
Wiseau made a movie about the duplicity of women and the tragic futility of being a nice guy. Breen made a movie about everything, including magic. The film opens with a pair of children — a boy named Dylan and a girl named Leah — on a hike through the woods who discover some rocks that have some manner of magical power, though the exact nature of that power remains ambiguous throughout the film. Many thrillers thrive on an underlying sense of mystery; with Fateful Findings, that mystery often takes the form of, “What the hell is going on?” Having now seen it, I can only offer a feeble and insufficient answer to that question.
Dylan grows up to be a best-selling author played by Breen himself, who looks like someone was molding a replica of David Duchovny’s face and, after getting 10 or 11 crucial things wrong — a turkey-like expanse of wobbly neck fat where his chin should be, a weird, unruly net of hair — just decided to give up and leave the mess unfinished. Breen is not bad looking (if your tastes run towards unattractive middle-aged men), but in the strange world of Fateful Findings, Dylan is sexually irresistible to women of multiple generations, despite his predilection for yelling at them as if he were a hectoring Jewish grandma, not a moody cross between Edward Snowden, M. Night Shyamalin’s character in The Lady In The Water (you know, the one whose next book will benefit all of humanity with its genius), and sexy cyber-Jesus.
The now adult Dylan is perambulating about one uneventful day when a Rolls-Royce barrels down the road and hits him with a cartoonish force and velocity that can only be deemed “hilarious.” It’s never encouraging when the formative trauma in a film engenders the kind of sustained belly laugh that comedy professionals dream of scoring at least once in their life.
Dylan ends up in the hospital and the prognosis is grim. Nobody thinks he has much of a chance of survival, including an attractive blonde woman in scrubs who volunteers, apropos of nothing, that this strange mystery man is not her patient but she’ll check in on him anyway.
This at first appears to be a wonderfully unnecessary, irrelevant detail, like The Room tossing in a character with cancer as an afterthought, but in the world of Fateful Findings, there are no coincidences. It turns out that this comely medical professional is Leah (Jennifer Autry) from the opening scenes, despite the fact that she looks a good 20 years younger than the haggard-looking middle-aged man with whom she once shared a childhood. Apparently those magical stones caused one of the young sweethearts to age and wither at a markedly faster rate than the other.
“Breen’s conception of politics is as childlike as his conception of sex and romantic relationships.”
Unfortunately for Dylan, he already has a partner in Emily (Klara Landrat), who he slinks out of the hospital to have bloody, bandaged, stand-up shower sex with after making a miraculous, possibly magic stone-powered recovery. Alas, Dylan’s relationship with Emily is not magical in nature, nor have the schmaltzy forces of fate designated her his soulmate, so their coupling is innately doomed, especially after Emily proves herself unworthy of a genius sex bomb like Dylan by getting addicted to the pain pills he heroically refuses to take.
Dylan is supposed to be writing a follow-up to his debut novel, but he’s got more important things to do. It seems he’s got a side gig as the world’s greatest hacker, using the many laptops littered around his office to hack into government and corporate files, and he’s discovered more incriminating information than any hacker in the history of the universe.
What kind of incriminating information? Fateful Findings doesn’t bother wasting its time specifying exactly what Dylan is doing as a whistleblower. He’s blowing the whistle! He’s delivering a lid-blower that’s blowing a lid off all the bad stuff the bad guys are doing, with the money and the lies and the corruption! Dylan’s revelations are so shocking and profound that when he announces them in a press conference (where he is hilariously and unconvincingly green-screened in front of a Washington, D.C. tableau), they compel all of the bad people who are doing the bad things to confess publicly, and then commit suicide in dramatic fashion as penance. The film is, remarkably, a political thriller with no politics. Breen wants to expose the covert machinations of the powerful, but his conception of backroom statecraft is as childlike as his conception of sex and romantic relationships. He comes out against the stealing and the cover-ups and the hypocrisy and the lies and whatnot, but that’s the extent of his political commentary.
Fateful Findings is paced and scored like a massage so sleepy and glacial that it puts even the masseuse to sleep. It has the hypnotic, disorienting quality of a waking dream, in part because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to regard the action as anything vaguely resembling reality. Really, the only way Fateful Findings would make any sense at all would be as the elaborate, narcissistic fantasy of power and sexual virility experienced by a sad baby-man just before he dies after getting slammed by a Rolls-Royce at what appears to be a hundred miles an hour. I haven’t even mentioned Dylan’s beer- and car-loving best friend, whose wife kills him and makes it look like a suicide, or the sexy teenage girl out to seduce Dylan, because honestly, there is far too much craziness in Fateful Findings to chronicle completely in a mere 2000 word essay.
On an episode devoted to the film, one of the commentators on the glorious bad-movie podcast The Flop House noted that what truly great films and truly terrible films have in common is an exhilarating element of unpredictability. You literally never know what’s going to happen next. That’s true of Citizen Kane. It’s also true of Fateful Findings. Because it inhabits so many different genres and understands so little about each one, it’s impossible to predict whether a specific scene in Fateful Findings will be devoted to Breen’s weird sexual issues, his messianic sense of specialness, the weird splashes of David Lynch-style gothic surrealism, or his child-like understanding of romance, whimsy and magic. The Room is a slave to convention by comparison.
“Fateful Findings doesn’t want to be a great bad movie; it just wants to be great.”
That’s what makes the film so endlessly fascinating. Breen isn’t just free of the rules and dictates of professional filmmaking. No, he’s also free of the rules and dictates of logic, sanity, and rational, adult thinking. In Fateful Findings, there is a gulf both tragic and poignant between the man Breen clearly imagines he is and the reality, as well as between the film Breen imagines he’s making and the film he actually produced.
The promise of outsider art is that, whether through neurology, psychology or history, there are some people who see the world differently than everyone else does, and they create art or entertainment or psychodrama that powerfully reflects that unique understanding or, in the case of the Wiseaus and Breens, lack of understanding.
Like The Room, Fateful Findings is less fascinating as a coherent, comprehensible work of art or entertainment than as a revealing window into its creator’s rampaging madness. As such, its rewards are infinite, its mysteries captivating. It’s a worthy successor to The Room in part because it never aspires to be the next great bad movie. Fateful Findings doesn’t want to be a great bad movie; it just wants to be great.
That almost embarrassing sense of intimacy is only enhanced by the fact that you cannot buy a DVD of Fateful Findings on Amazon, nor rent it from Netflix, although you can stream, rent, or buy a digital copy of the film on Amazon. I purchased this much buzzed-about cult sensation directly from fatefulfindings.biz. Breen shipped it out in a screener with no packaging, just a no-nonsense case, which added to the feel that I was procuring Fateful Findings straight from its creator’s warped mind.
Nothing destroys a great bad movie like an excess of winking self-consciousness, by a need to let the audience know you’re in on the joke. Not only is Fateful Findings not in on the joke, it inhabits a world where jokes do not exist, only trembling sincerity and tone-deaf earnestness. It is this earnestness that makes Fateful Findings something special. A movie that does everything right is an absolute miracle, but so is a movie that gets everything wrong, and now that I have been introduced to Breen’s surreal world, I can’t wait to delve back into it again and again.
My Certification: Fresh
Tomatometer: N/A (Audience Score: 30 percent)
Follow Nathan Rabin on Twitter: @NathanRabin
When I was 13 years old in 1989, Dana Carvey wasn’t just my favorite Saturday Night Live cast member; I thought he was the funniest man alive. And if you were a tween or an early teenager in the late 1980s, Dana Carvey really was the funniest person in the world. There was something about his persona that appealed particularly to small children, a goofy, man-sprite playfulness that implicitly conveyed that while Carvey may look like a grown-up (albeit an eternally boyish one), inside he was the class clown every Saturday Night Live fan wished they sat next to.
Carvey was known for his political impressions, but even these had a distinctly child-like sensibility. Carvey didn’t impersonate the real George H.W. Bush — a Connecticut war hero who ran the CIA before spawning a political dynasty and becoming the most powerful man in the world — but rather embodied a child’s broad conception of this strange man as a funny-talking goober spouting catchphrases.
Then Carvey’s fans got older and the beloved Saturday Night Live cut-up more or less disappeared from the world of television and film, following the failure of his brilliant and uncharacteristically edgy and dark sketch comedy vehicle The Dana Carvey Show. The zeitgeist-capturing success of Wayne’s World — a film Mike Myers famously tried to cut the then- more popular Carvey out of — and its sequel notwithstanding, Carvey made a couple of limp vehicles (Clean Slate, Opportunity Knocks) and co-starred in some disastrously received studio films like The Road To Wellville and Trapped In Paradise. Aside from cameos in The Shot, Little Nicky, and the documentary Fire On The Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story, Carvey did not appear in a movie between his costarring role in 1994’s Trapped In Paradise and 2002’s The Master Of Disguise, which he also co-wrote with Harris Goldberg.
“The Master Of Disguise isn’t just pitched towards children; it feels like it was made by children as well.”
Partially out of childhood nostalgia and partially out of fondness for the Carvey era of Saturday Night Live, I had casually been looking forward to Carvey’s return, but The Master Of Disguise taught me and a generation that grew up on Carvey’s comedy to be careful what we wished for. The Master Of Disguise isn’t just a comedy very overtly pitched towards children; it feels throughout like it was made by children as well.
The fact that The Master Of Disguise is a children’s film does not render it any less perverse. If anything, the bizarre friction between the never-ending stream of weird sexual innuendos and self-indulgent references to R-rated movies released decades before the film’s core audience was born makes it even weirder. Most Hollywood executives might have a problem with creepy sexual content in a kid’s movie, but The Master Of Disguise feels like it was greenlit and overseen not by Joe Roth, the head of Revolution Studios, but rather by Sir Mix-A-Lot, who has always been refreshingly honest about his sexual preferences.
One of the film’s running jokes, for example, is that protagonist Pistachio Disguisey (Carvey) is sexually attracted to women with enormous posteriors that remind him of his beloved Mama’s (Edie McClurg, the original Edie McClurg type) zaftig rump. This is no one-off gag. On the contrary, it appears over and over again throughout the course of the film. In the most appalling instance, Pistachio and his grandfather (the great character actor Harold Gould) stare longingly at the big ass of a long-haired stranger walking away from them and are so shocked to discover the plus-sized bottom belongs to a dude that the ice cream cones they are conveniently snacking upon rocket straight into their mouths. It looks disconcertingly like two butt-obsessed men are performing oral sex on frozen treats — a rare example of a double gay panic joke in a PG-rated children’s film.
Early in The Master Of Disguise, Pistachio’s father (James Brolin) makes a getaway by pretending to be not just Bo Derek but specifically 10-era Bo Derek. That might seem like an awfully adult reference for a movie that would need to drink from a sippy cup if it were a human being, but The Master Of Disguise outdoes the 10 reference for jarringly inappropriate adult content by paying reverent homage to such beloved favorites of the pre-school set as The Exorcist, Scarface (Carvey spends an endless scene imitating Tony Montana as alter-ego “Mr. Peru”) and Jaws, which is lovingly resurrected by Carvey when he performs what appears to be Robert Shaw’s entire role late in the film.
Just about the only reference children might actually get is an unexpectedly melancholy moment when Pistachio tries to impress a little boy (whose mother ultimately becomes his assistant and love interest) by imitating Shrek, a movie whose primary voice is provided by a man famous for his troubled and tension-filled relationship with Carvey.
But before The Master Of Disguise can be glaringly, gallingly inappropriate, it first establishes an elaborate mythology for its title character, who we learn is part of a clan that has furtively protected society for ages through its uncanny gift for impersonation. The legacy of the Disguiseys has been kept a secret from Pistachio, who works in the family restaurant and, like Jerry Lewis long after his prime, is a grown-ass man in his forties who dresses and behaves like a mentally challenged child. Pistachio is a blinkered innocent, but during stressful situations he enters something of a fugue state where he can’t help but impersonate whoever he’s with.
“No one who ever sees one of his horrifying get-ups is ever likely to forget the trauma.”
Then one day, bad guy Devlin Bowman (Brent Spiner) shows up — he has an unfortunate predilection for laughing so hard and sinisterly at his evil plans that he unleashes explosive flatulence (because when you’re making a movie for kids you’ve got to explore the comic possibilities of both butts and farts to their full potential). Bowman kidnaps Pistachio’s parents and forces his father to use his uncanny powers of impersonation to steal priceless artifacts like the U.S Constitution. This is when Pistachio lazily lurches into action under the guidance of his grandfather to try to find his missing parents and thwart Devlin’s evil plan to sell beloved artifacts on a black market Ebay.
Now the purpose of a disguise, generally, is to fit into your surroundings so thoroughly that you are unnoticeable and can go about your important business uninterrupted, but Pistachio Disguisey pursues an antithetical strategy. Instead of blending in so well that he becomes borderline invisible human camouflage, able to swarm in and out of dangers inconspicuously, Pistachio makes such a bizarre, surreal spectacle of himself that not only is he destined to be noticed, but no one who ever sees one of his horrifying get-ups is ever likely to forget the trauma.
This extends to the audience. In The Master Of Disguise‘s signature scene — the reason the film has attracted such a strangely loyal following — Pistachio decides that the best way to go undercover at an exclusive enclave known as the Turtle Club is to disguise himself as a bald, turtle-shaped, amphibian-man hybrid who croaks “Turtle!” to no one in particular in a strangled voice redolent of deep mental illness and unimaginable damage.
Though he is presented as a lovably eccentric nut, Pistachio frequently comes across more like a deeply disturbed man who has suffered a definitive break from reality and lives in an insane world of his own imagining. His rampaging madness insists than an institution called the Turtle Club could only have acquired that name because it caters to a clientele of freakish man-animals who look and act like turtles, screeching the word “turtle” for no discernible reason when they aren’t retreating into a homemade shell (i.e. a turtle-shaped suit so enormous Pistachio is able to hide within it when threatened). “Am I not turtle-y enough for the Turtle Club?” Pistachio inquires aggressively — words I am ashamed to admit I will remember long after I forget the birthdays of my wife and son.
The turtle scene is at once the film’s nadir and its apex. Once seen, it cannot be unseen. It signals a shift from spectacularly stupid slapstick silliness to something that borders on avant-garde. The Master Of Disguise doesn’t have much use for a plot, but after the Turtle Club it all but abandons logic and linear storytelling altogether. The half-assed narrative becomes simply an excuse for Carvey to cycle through a series of characters that he obviously adores playing but which make very little sense within the context of the film, like a Tony Montana doppelgänger who also possesses the grace and moves of a ballet dancer.
The other actors in The Master Of Disguise don’t act with Carvey so much as they respond to his mugging and over-the-top shenanigans. This is particularly true of Jennifer Esposito, whose role is a never-ending assault on her dignity (at one point, Pistachio and his grandfather obsess about her “scrawny” posterior and how it fails to measure up to McClurg’s butt) but it’s also spectacularly unchallenging. All she really has to do is be attractive and seem appropriately embarrassed to be in the company of someone like Pistachio Disguisey, which is definitely within her wheelhouse.
“The turtle scene is at once the film’s nadir and its apex. Once seen, it cannot be unseen.”
The Master Of Disguise wraps up what little story it has around the 71-minute mark. This renders it barely feature-length, so the filmmakers eke another 10 minutes or so out of this nonsense with an endless series of outtakes and bloopers. What’s fascinating about this is that many of them are clearly from deleted scenes. Wikipedia lists fictional politician Mayor Maynot, real-life painter Bob Ross, a vampire, legendary ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy, Groucho Marx, Gluteus Maximus (a parody of the protagonist of Gladiator), Forrest Gump, and a caveman as characters Carvey plays in the end credits but not in the film itself.
This raises the horrifying and fascinating prospect that the filmmakers shot way more footage than they ended up using (not difficult to imagine when the end credits show up shortly after an hour has passed) and that there were scenes that were written, costumed, and filmed but were edited out because they did not work as well as The Turtle Club scene or the one when Pistachio and his grandfather ogle the man’s ass.
I like to imagine that there is a four hour cut of The Master Of Disguise with every scene and character and costume included, but that anyone who watches it would go stark raving mad, and the people behind the film could not have that on their conscience. I would totally watch this fabled, probably theoretical cut because I find the film so hypnotically terrible and so joyously, wonderfully devoid of logic and sanity. It really feels like Carvey got an opportunity to realize every bad idea he’d ever had as a writer or performer and shoehorn them into one crazily overstuffed, overstuffed-with-crazy, impossible-to-forget extravaganza.
Though The Master Of Disguise is a commercial success that I imagine also did well on cable and home video, Carvey has not written or starred in a movie in the 13 years since the film was released. In a weird way, he doesn’t have to, because it feels like he did everything he ever wanted to do, film-wise, with The Master Of Disguise. It represents a strong, uncompromising vision no less fascinating for being insane and just barely a movie, rather than an extended highlight reel for the even longer film the end credits threaten.
My Original Certification: Rotten
My Re-Certification: Fresh
Tomatometer: One percent
Follow Nathan Rabin on Twitter: @NathanRabin
The 26th 007 movie opens in America this week and Bond, in typical fashion, goes big for his world red carpet Spectre premiere, featuring Daniel Craig and all his major co-stars.
Like similarly Texas-sized opuses It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Cleopatra, and 1941, the 1967 James Bond spy spoof Casino Royale is notable primarily for its magnitude. It’s distinguished by its Spruce Goose-like size as well as its Spruce Goose-level sleekness and effectiveness. It was less a film than a universe unto itself. Nearly a half century later, it’s still remarkable that enough money and willpower existed in the world to get such a gaudy, endless parade of star power, production values, and dizzying, dazzling eye candy onscreen in one ridiculously overstuffed extravaganza. This is true even if Casino Royale often feels like a one-joke movie whose single gag is, “Isn’t it crazy how much money we’re wasting?”
But Casino Royale also took up a lot of cultural space because it was, and remains, inextricably linked to the James Bond franchise, an institution that has ferociously held on to its central place in the pop culture landscape longer than just about any ongoing franchise. It was the first big cinematic adaptation of the Bond series released without the participation of producer Albert R. Broccoli, although it was less a straight adaptation than a spoof that used the bare bones of Ian Fleming’s story as the springboard for a terminally dated goof.
The 2006 Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale, which reinvented and reimagined the series, stood out in part because it swung as hard in the direction of grim, grounded seriousness as its quasi-predecessor did in the loopy realm of anything-goes screwball comedy. It benefited from a clear-cut authorial vision, one much bolder and more distinctive than had ever been associated with director Martin Campbell before. But the 1967 Casino Royale feels like it was assembled by an international team of highly paid, highly confused professionals who had no idea what anybody else was doing and precious little interest in how their jagged, weird little contributions would serve a whole that seemed to be steadily slipping away from the filmmakers even before production began.
“Casino Royale feels like it was assembled by an international team of highly paid, highly confused professionals.”
Casino Royale feels like an anthology film comprised of four or five discrete segments from different filmmakers with different aesthetics that were frantically refashioned into a narrative film at the last minute. That’s not too far from the truth, as the film has a starting basketball team’s worth of credited directors and an army of uncredited script doctors. It’s as if the producers decided the way to create the greatest, most decadent feast in cinematic history would be to invite the greatest chefs in the world all to collaborate on one massive meal, conveniently forgetting the old cliche about too many cooks spoiling the broth.
But on to the film itself. In one of Casino Royale’s many intriguing-in-theory, hopelessly muddled-in-execution conceits, its primary James Bond is actually a very proper English gentleman (a Sir, even, in his majesty’s secret service) played by David Niven, who has retired from active duty following a career of extraordinary achievement to enjoy a peaceful existence ruled by classical music, gardening and extreme propriety.
Sir James Bond reluctantly agreed to let the Queen use his name and number (and license to kill, it would follow) for the sex fiend immortalized by Ian Fleming in his novels and the Broccoli-produced films, and is none too happy about being associated with someone of such low moral character.
In this case, casting is destiny; Sir James Bond is essentially the persona Niven perfected over the course of his career: droll, wry, the very picture of bone-dry British wit. He stutters and stammers but he’s a wiz in a pinch, as evidenced by the fact that an international coterie of bigwigs, including characters played by William Holden, John Huston and Charles Boyer, seek him out when the sinister entity known as SMERSH is liquidating top secret agents from around the world.
Niven’s Bond is initially reluctant, but he ultimately ends up spearheading MI6’s campaign against SMERSH. To confuse the enemy, Bond seizes upon the novel notion of renaming all of the agency’s operatives in the field “James Bond” and assigning them all the code number “007,” even the women. For the purposes of Casino Royale, David Niven is James Bond, and Peter Sellers is James Bond as well, and even Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet), Bond’s daughter with legendary female spy and seductress Mata Hari, enters the family profession as another James Bond in an endless sequence rich in exotic, lush sensuality yet almost utterly devoid of jokes.
Sellers plays world-famous baccarat expert Evelyn Tremble, who is recruited to square off against Le Chiffre, a sinister heavy (no pun intended) played by Orson Welles, in a high stakes battle of wills at the card table. In a somewhat curious strategy, the famously prickly and unpleasant Sellers decided that the way for him to stand out opposite the high-powered likes of Welles and Woody Allen (who previously tangled with Sellers on the set of What’s New Pussycat and engendered his eternal contempt and hatred by being funnier than him) would be to eschew comedy altogether and deliver a straight-faced performance, where he’d show Niven a thing or two about what it meant to play a dashing continental gentleman of action. So a popular favorite for funniest man alive decided to buck expectations and play it completely straight in one of the biggest comedies of all time. It was a bold, if perverse, choice, but Sellers compounded the curiousness of his involvement with the film by bolting before his scenes were finished, leaving the filmmakers to scramble and figure out a way to coherently end their film without the participation of a man who, with the possible exception of Niven, could rightly be said to be its star.
“Sellers seems to make a deliberate choice not to be funny.”
Sellers at least seems to make a deliberate choice not to be funny; the rest of the cast arrives in the same place by accident, and often through furious and furiously wasted exertion. For a film committed to excess in all its forms, Casino Royale is peculiarly short on actual gags. Because the James Bond movies delight in winking at audiences as they lovingly recycle the franchise’s tropes, a parody of James Bond almost by definition would come across as a parody of a parody, a spoof of a spoof, a goof of a slightly different, slightly more straight-faced kind of goof. Accordingly, Casino Royale feels like a Mad Magazine parody of itself. It’s not an encouraging sign that the film’s idea of a risque Bond girl name (“Giovanna Goodthighs,” played by a young, pre-stardom Jaqueline Bisset) is less outrageous than actual Bond girl names like Pussy Galore.
For all of the smart and talented people who worked on Casino Royale, there is no animating intelligence uniting its disparate strains. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster whose stitches fall apart, leaving behind only a surreal tangle of severed limbs on the ground. The actors and filmmakers all seem to have their own conception of who James Bond is and how he functions in the world, and these conceptions clash violently with each other when they engage with the others at all. And the behind-the-scenes craziness bleeds onto the screen constantly. Characters are introduced then abandoned for endless stretches of time, only to come back just as nonsensically. Sellers’ Tremble simply disappears late in the film, at which point Woody Allen (who is entertaining because he’s a young Woody Allen, albeit not as entertaining as he’d be in just about any other context around this time) takes over as a manic evil genius with a diabolical plan to kill all men taller than him so he can turn the world into his harem.
All of this barely controlled chaos climaxes with an endless fight involving the main characters, and Native Americans, and cowboys, and just about everyone else in the world (including George Raft for some reason), which suggests that the filmmakers ultimately gave up on providing any kind of coherent, satisfying ending at all, and simply gave themselves over to the random insanity of the movie. The ending plays out as if the best single stage direction the film’s world-class brain trust could come up with was: “Craziness ensues.”
“The behind-the-scenes craziness bleeds onto the screen constantly.”
Casino Royale is rich in all of the qualities that do not make comedies funny. It has enough sexy women to stock Playboy clubs in the major cities of the world and substantially more stars than there are in the heavens. It has enormous sets that would look better lovingly photographed and collected into a coffee table book on a surrealistic 1960s go-go set design than relegated to the background of a comedy whose laugh-per-dollar-spent ratio rivals 1941 for sheer waste in pursuit of non-comedy. I would rather admire that coffee table book while listening to Burt Bacharach’s score than have to endure this clattering contraption’s screaming psychedelic sound and frenetic motion.
Casino Royale is a lush opus full of Oscar-worthy production values, particularly a costume department whose gorgeous get-ups for exotic lovelies dazzle the eye even as they leave the funny bone untouched. It’s paradoxically way, way too much in every sense, and not much of anything at all. It’s a whole lot of movie, and one big cinematic headache.
There is a tendency in our culture to honor things disproportionately just for hanging around. In a world full of fleeting and ephemeral phenomena, we honor resilience. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it sometimes breeds affection as well.
In that respect, Casino Royale is like a crappy version of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree that has always been there for me at various points in my life to let me down. When I was a kid obsessed with James Bond, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, crazy comedies and sexy girls in revealing outfits, I was disappointed to discover that Casino Royale somehow managed to combine these irresistible elements in an eminently resistible package. As a teenaged cinephile I was intrigued to see how the fascinating sensibilities of Welles, Allen, Sellers, Huston and behind-the-scenes (and uncredited) contributors Ben Hecht, Billy Wilder, Joseph Heller and Terry Southern came together, and I was frustrated to see that when these incredibly distinctive entertainers collaborated, they did so in a way that negated both their personalities and their brilliance.
Finally, I re-watched Casino Royale for this piece through the prism of both the mania for Spectre and my own childhood and adolescent nostalgia for this big, dumb, Day-Glo burst of uber-kitsch; I was disappointed yet again. This elephantine curio stubbornly refuses to transcend the muddled, mercenary nature of its creation and evolve from an ugly and confused duckling (albeit one with great clothes) into a beautiful cult swan.
My Original Certification: Rotten
My Re-Certification: Rotten
Tomatometer: 29 percent
Follow Nathan Rabin on Twitter: @NathanRabin