Psycho Bondo

So how will the James Bond loyalists take to the apparent hiring of Daniel Craig as the new James Bond?
The Bond casting rumors been all over the map the last few months and ya never know, but reporter Sean Hamilton of London’s The Sun has just reported that Bond producer Barbara Broccoli has offered Craig a three-picture 007 deal, and I’m told by a knowledgeable source that “she really likes him [and] wants him bad.”

Didn’t I just read that the Sony guys, who’ve bought the 007 franchise from MGM, want to stay with Pierce Brosnan for one more film? And what about that plan to de-age Bond and make him into a early thirty-something (which is what Sean Connery was when he played 007 in the early `60s)?
Craig is a GenXer (he just turned 37), and about as far away from a Brosnan-type Bond as you can get. Like I said in a recent item, he strikes me as vaguely psychotic in a Timothy Dalton (i.e., smarter, more serious, less into the sardonic quips) vein. He’s a bit of an ice man. But when you think about it, so was Connery.
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Craig is clearly a serious guy with talent and focus and a certain screwed-down studliness. But there’s also something a bit creepy and even sadistic lurking within. Craig’s grayish-blue eyes have an inert quality mixed in with a hint of menace, and I suspect it’ll hard for the troops to warm up to a guy who just might strangle or throttle you on a whim.
A guy who’s met all the Bond actors (Connery, Brosnan, et. al.) says Craig is “slight…about five-nine or so. The other guys are all six-one or six-two…they command the room when they walk in. You can feel it.”
Craig will be co-starring with Eric Bana in Steven Spielberg’s Untitled Munich Project, which starts filming in the summer for release in late December.

He’s a fairly sympathetic, down-to-business drug dealer in Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake (Sony Classics, 5.13).
He was a bit gnarly and impenetrable in Roger Michell’s Enduring Love, which Paramount Classics brought out last fall, but he was easily the most interesting player in Michell’s The Mother.
Maybe Craig’s chilliness will prove a healthy addition to the 007 casserole. Maybe Pierce Brosnan was too fey and quippy and Irish pub-ish. Or am I just reacting too strongly to the impression left by Craig’s psychotic son-of-Paul Newman gangster role in Road to Perdition?
I’d really like to hear some opinions about this. Send `em off today and I’ll post `em on Friday.


I mentioned in last Friday’s column the exceptionally cool commentary track delivered by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church on the new Sideways DVD, which came out yesterday.
I think it’s a classic — truly one of the hippest and most engaging DVD commentaries ever put forward.
Anyway, here’s a taste. It plays just as Giamatti and costar Virginia Madsen (described by Haden Church at one point in the conversation as “be-jugged”) begin their scene in Sandra Oh’s home in Los Alamos. You know…the beginning of that now-famous scene on the back porch.

Thomas Haden Church: Look at you. You look very handsome there.
Paul Giamatti: Thank you, sir.
THC: Look at you! Rakish…rakish.
PG: Rakish, yeah. Like a Renaissance prince. With that sculpted beard. Look at that sculpted beard.
THC: Absolutely.
[Note to reader: at a later point Giamatti says he thinks he resembles Fernando Rey in The French Connection.]
PG: Was this real wine…we were drinking the real deal here? I think we were.
THC: Now, did you shoot this in sequence?
PG: We shot this whole thing in sequence.
THC: I remember Virginia [Madsen] saying during the q & a, that she very much wanted sort of a mellow…kind of a real mellow thing going. I think Virginia’s tremendous in this scene.
PG: Oh, God..yeah.
THC: Because she completely…she, she badmintons
PG: Wow. I’ve got it. I’m following you!
THC: The, the, the amateur vintner’s palette….right back at you.
PG: She keeps the birdie aloft.

THC: Well, she keeps you
PG: Ah!
THC: On it.
PG: Nice!
THC: In the scene.
PG: Yes.
THC: Because you kind of play it off in a politic way.
PG: Correct. She plays it for real. You’re absolutely right.
THC: Yeah. You don’t want to insult Stephanie’s meager trappings.
PG: Hemmed in by…whatever.
THC: Yeah.
PG: By my doughy white flesh!

Bad Guys

I was in Chicago last weekend and got suckered into going on a gangster tour of the city in a dark brown chauffeured school bus. It cost me $24 dollars. It was half-embarrassing and half-interesting, and it reminded me that curiosity can sometimes lead to suffering.
Actually, I suckered myself. I wanted to see the Biograph theatre where John Dillinger got it and the hotel where Al Capone’s headquarters used to be and the parking garage where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happened, etc. By the time it was over I felt I’d been worked over by a couple of low-rent thugs, which was more or less what happened.
The name of this sucker-bait operation is Untouchable Tours. I highly recommend it to any Chicago visitor who doesn’t mind being treated like an eight year-old as the price for learning a little history.

The owners have been running Untouchable Tours for 17 years, which means they’re not stupid and know what they’re doing.
They’ve learned that people sincerely enjoy being driven around town by a couple of aging hams dressed up as 1930s Damon Runyon characters.
They know that talking in fourth-rate Danny Aiello goombah accents that would get them fired from any respectable touring company of Guys and Dolls plays like gangbusters here.
They know that shooting off cap guns and playing rinky-dink tapes of machine-gun fire along with Nino Rota’s theme from The Godfather are fine atmospheric ingredients.
I felt so embarrassed by these coarse vaudevillian shenanigans, I was close to weeping.
The rubes loved it. I think it’s fair to say they were euphoric. They were poking the tour guides in the arm after the tour on the sidewalk and saying “great show!”…”okay“…”way to go!” I was ready to puke. These are the good people who re-elected George Bush, I told myself. Aristocrats of the American heartland.

A copy line on the Untouchable Tour website says, “Experience Chicago as it was during the 1920s and 30s!” Bunk. Pretty much every Chicago gangster landmark is gone, and the vibe created by the Untouchable bus bozos is pure Disneyworld.
The hotel where Al Capone’s headquarters used to be — the Lexington, at the northeast corner of East Cermak and Michigan Avenue — was torn down about ten years ago. The turn-of-the-century buildings that housed the saloons and whore houses on the South Side that Capone used to run for Dion O’Bannion are all gone. The St. Valentine’s Day massacre parking garage was destroyed a long time ago…terrific.
The only thing still standing is the Biograph, where the G-men closed in on Dillinger in 1934 and put two or three slugs into his back, and one in his left eye. The tour guy said that a female bystander went over to Dillinger’s body and dabbed her handkerchief in his blood, for a souvenir.
When you see movies about Capone and the Chicago gangs, the actors are always in their late 30s, 40s and early 50s. But the real guys were in their 20s and early 30s. Capone was in his early 20s when he started working for Dion O’Bannion, and was only 25 when he had O’Bannion killed in 1924. Hit man Earl “Hymie” Weiss was only 28 when he was gunned down in front of a cathedral at the corner of State and Superior. O’Bannion was only 32 when he died. Bugsy Moran was about 37 when the Valentine’s Day killing happened in 1929.

I kept asking the tour guys this and that, and they told me what they knew between their performance routines. A little begrudgingly, it seemed. Yo…why can’t this guy put the note pad away, sit back and enjoy the ride?
The basic attitude behind their performances is that gangsters are exotic, thrilling, vaguely lovable creatures. Murder in the street, bullets in the head…aayyyy!
At one point the more obnoxious of the two got out a cowbell and started clanking away as he told the story of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow knocking over a kerosene lantern in a barn on the night of October 8, 1871, and thereby starting the fire that ravaged old Chicago.
At this moment my cell phone rang. It was Michael Wilmington, senior film critic for the Chicago Tribune, calling to organize our meeting for later that day. But the guy with the cowbell didn’t like it that Wilmington had called — I guess he felt I wasn’t showing the proper respect for his performance, and he was probably right.
So he started clanging the cow bell right in my ear and riffing to the others in the bus about how “we have this guy in the front with a cell phone who thinks he’s something special,” or words to this effect.

Wilmington, hearing the ruckus, said to me in an irritated tone, “Jeff, are you in the middle of a cow pasture or what?”
After the tour was over I asked one of the Untouchable guys if they knew which Chicago subway line would be the best to get to a certain location, and he said he hadn’t been on a subway in ages. (A mark of a successful man!) As I was about to head off I asked the other guy if he knew where the nearest subway station entrance was, and he said, “I wouldn’t know, pal.”
That was it. That’s when I decided to do what I could to help their business.
I’m not suggesting this as a plan of action, but if a couple of pistoleros were to ambush one of these tour buses on North Lincoln Avenue and let go with some machine gun fire…no intentions of hurting anyone, of course…just put a few holes in the bus, shatter some glass, blow out the tires. If this were to happen, there would be a certain symmetry, I think. And it would really give the tourists a thrill.

Chicago Snaps

Destroy All Broccolis

“On one hand, Daniel Craig as 007 is sort of inspired: Fleming’s Bond was more than a bit of a bastard, and a true read of the character would reveal him as much more sociopathic than we’ve seen him on film.
“Indeed, I had the sense, watching Dalton’s two outings, that if he hadn’t been forced to make with a quip at stupid times, we’d have seen that simmering homicidal rage inside Dalton get out and get the real character.
“On the other hand, the Broccolis aren’t dead and haven’t turned the franchise over to someone who will actually make something other than a loud, exploding, popcorn film. So what fucking difference does it make, right?
“The Bourne movies have proven that there’s still room for quality spy films in the marketplace. Too bad Bond has no chance to be any of them.” — Marc Mason, “Should It Be A Movie?” c/o

Sin City

“I love your column and read it fairly religiously, and I’m amazed by how you and so many other people missed the point of Sin City.
“Yes, the direction was amazing, the actors played their roles faithfully, the lighting was great and the whole feel of the movie was fantastic, but that’s not what the movie was about at all.

“Did you ever stop to think about what was the philosophical differences between the good guys and bad guys? Did you ever stop to think why the most powerful women in the movie were prostitutes? It seems to me every critic who reviewed this movie just turned their brain off because they thought it was a piece of pulp fiction, but no-ones talking about the real message of the movie.
“Go see it again with attention to these details and I’ll let you know how I saw the movie. It went way beyond the skin deep treatment it’s getting.” — Aaron


“Being the fan of Cameron Crowe that I am, I just can’t help wondering if he made the right choice when he fired Ashton Kutcher off Elizabethtown. Why? I just saw Kingdom Of Heaven and then went back to see Kutcher’s A Lot Like Love again.

“And my doubts were confirmed into a very fine conclusion: Ashton Kutcher is a truly wonderful and talented actor. Something that Orlando Bloom might become one day. He’s the only thing that’s keeping Kingdom Of Heaven from becoming a masterpiece. Let’s hope that he will not screw-up Elizabethtown. I’m pretty sure that Ashton wouldn’t.
“And, yes: A Lot Like Love will be first true sleeper hit of 2005.” — Zagreb-based exhibition guy.


“Your Jekyll and Hyde comments baffle me. What is it you don’t understand about Taxi Driver, the genius of Scorsese, or the greatness of screenwriter Paul Schrader? It’s listed as #47 on AFI’s list of the 100 greatest films ever made, so you must be mistaken.
“However, your comments on the brainless Sin City are absolutely correct. The film is geek noir — ‘hard guys talking tough’ — and it is, as you say, ‘all crap.’
Taxi Driver, though gritty and unnerving, tells us something about who we are as a people, a commentary on the society in which we live. Sin City, while spectacular and slick, tells us nothing, and leaves us, like the old lady in the Wendy’s commercial, screaming ‘where’s the beef?'” — Ron Cossey.