November 20th, 2008
12:44 PM ET

Your views: James Bond and that 'Trek' trailer

James Bond fans take the secret agent very seriously -– so they don’t have to take him seriously.

The new James Bond film earned mixed reviews from iReporters and blog commenters

Opinions ranged widely (and wildly) regarding the new Bond film, “Quantum of Solace.” Some iReporters and commenters say it’s one of the best in the 22-film Bond series. Others lamented the lack of wit and charm and characterized it as the worst film in the long history of Bond movies - and some folks said it was one of the worst films they’ve ever seen, period. (To those with the latter view: Repeated viewings of “The Number 23,” “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever” and the 1981 film “Nobody’s Perfekt” -– which has lingered in my mind for 27 years as the worst film I’ve ever seen - might raise your opinion of “Solace.”)

The primary complaint was that it didn’t seem like a James Bond movie.

“So I went to see ‘Quantum of Solace.’ Apparently, it is supposed to a James Bond movie. But there were no gadgets, there was no womanizing, there was nothing that even suggested that this was a James Bond movie, except the fact that they called the main character James Bond,” wrote iReporter mikeinprague.

On the other hand, iReporter carbonadam wrote that “Solace” (and its predecessor, “Casino Royale”) are a refreshing change from a series he believed had gotten stale.

“Prior to these two films the Bond franchise had deteriorated into a kind of Ice Capades-style farce,” he wrote. “Craig is the first Bond to even come close to Connery, and these two films are the first in a long time to resemble and pay some homage to the mastery of the originals. The Bourne franchise, especially the original, showed the word what a modern Bond should resemble. Thank God someone was taking notice.”

Commenter Jason Glugla was unhappy with the movie machinery surrounding Daniel Craig’s Bond, believing it didn’t measure up to the series’ history.

“This is James Bond with a villain that could be taken down by your average security guard. You have zero chemistry between Bond and the female lead and they never get together,” he wrote. “The makers of this movie seem to think if you just slap together scenes from other better Bond films that you have a Bond movie.”

“Frenetic action is still not a substitute for a good story line (arc, what arc?),” added DC Dunne.

If there was one thing “Solace” viewers agreed upon, it was one of the previews that greeted audiences: that of “Star Trek,” the J.J. Abrams-directed reboot of the famed TV and movie franchise. That, said iReporter zennie62, is something to look forward to.

“I think that … this movie is going to be a total hit,” he said in a video entry.

Check in next May, folks, when “Trek” comes out. In the meantime, if you’ve got an iReport or comment about Bond or other holiday films (here comes “Twilight”!), fire away.

- Todd Leopold, Entertainment Producer

Filed under: movies
November 17th, 2008
11:00 AM ET

What did you think of the new Bond film?

CNN’s iReporters haven’t wasted any time in letting us know what they think of “Quantum of Solace”:

Daniel Craig plays James Bond in "Quantum of Solace."

– “Too many action scenes and not enough ‘Substance,’ ” said TheVideoMan, giving the film a B.

Alexander28 addressed Roger Ebert’s negative review of the new Bond, saying “[I] don't think that the producers have somehow betrayed Bond because they haven't.”

– “ ‘Quantum of Solace’ will go down in history as one of the most underrated Bond films in the franchise's history,” wrote jdledbetternv.

Me? I thought the film was OK, though it could have been a heck of a lot better if director Marc Forster knew how to handle chase scenes. (Mr. Forster, I’ve seen Paul Greengrass’ work, and you, sir, are no Paul Greengrass.) On the other hand, I think Daniel Craig is a tremendous Bond, the best since Sean Connery. (And, after several films, Judi Dench is now as much M as Bernard Lee.)

Still, I hope the next Bond film can be a little more … Bond-ian and a little less Bourne-ian, with a bit more wit and less darkness. As the credits rolled in my local theater, one person said, “That ended like a real movie.” It wasn’t a compliment.

What did you think of Bond? Send us an iReport (or comment below). We’ll talk about your takes later this week.

- Todd Leopold, Entertainment Producer

Filed under: movies
November 13th, 2008
12:28 PM ET

Your views: Sirius XM, family movies

First of all, thanks for all your comments - and apologies to those who didn't get theirs published. We were inundated, particularly on the Sirius XM post.

(And thanks to the people who posted on iReport - we want more of the conversation to take place there.)

Speaking of Sirius XM, the overwhelming view was: Sirius and XM, you shoulda said something.

"As an XM customer since the beginning, I’m a little upset about the way Sirius has (has not) communicated to the XM customer base. I never received any communications from Sirius about why I should continue with them and not drop the whole thing," wrote Jaymie Massey.

"I’m a Sirius subscriber and was horrified this morning when three of my top 5 stations disappeared!" added Brett.

Indeed, the satellite radio companies provided little notice of the changeover. I had heard of some XM firings in trade publications, but - like most everybody else - had no idea what channels were staying and what channels were being trashed, and what day the changes would be made. Words like "sneaky," "disappointed" and "upset" run through the comments, along with threats to cancel Sirius XM subscriptions.

But, as midmofan noted, "Many are missing one of the key points about the merger: without it we might have lost BOTH Sirius and XM. Both were losing money and the merger makes the operation much more viable." That's true; both companies, despite growing subscriber bases, have struggled financially.

Satellite radio obviously has support - many Sirius fans wrote in to say what they like about the service - but with the merger and the economy, it's going to be a struggle. There are also other threats on the horizon: HD radio, which has had a hard time catching on; Internet radio, which will become more common as cars come equipped to receive it; and, of course, iPods, which are already the alternative of choice.

Like many of you, I've got an iPod as well, filled with my record collection. But I still like the idea of radio, of someone playing music I've never heard or offering opinions I don't expect, or programming familiar material in a fresh way. The new Sirius XM has its work cut out for it.

As for family films ...

"Seems to me that American studios take the least amount of time and effort with 'family' films. Kids don’t care if it’s good right? They’ll want to see anything if there’s enough marketing," wrote Stacie.

"In our home we have taken renting all the 'really old' movies with the contract actors. That was a time when the studios treated adults as adults," added Les Crimp.

There's a lot of debate, however, as to what constitutes a "family film." Some people believe that if it entertains children, it's fine. Others thought it should play to all ages (like "Babe" or "To Kill a Mockingbird," a couple favorites). Some people don't want their family films to have any sex, violence or off-color language. And a few commenters wrote that it was up to parents to decide what was appropriate for their children.

Still, there was a lot of disgust expressed at the studios who make these films, and why so few of the movies measure up to the Pixar standard of "Monsters, Inc.," "Toy Story," "Ratatouille" and the like. (I'd argue that Pixar's films aren't just some of the best family films of recent years, but some of the best films around, period.)

"Good screenwriting needs to be part of Hollywood’s plan to increase business into theaters. I’m surprised with the likes of [Steven] Spielberg ('E.T.'), Christopher Columbus ('Home Alone'), and Rob Reiner ('Princess Bride') running production companies that the focus on well-crafted stories has gone to the side for increased profits for video games rights and product rights (toys/clothing)," wrote Ryan. I don't agree with you on Columbus, Ryan, but your overall point is exactly right.

Still, if you want something for the whole family, they're out there. "Where are all the good family films? They are everywhere, but it does take some effort to locate them," wrote Mark Orsted. So read reviews, scan Netflix and your video store, and vote with your pocketbook: Hollywood always listens to the sound of money.

- Todd Leopold, Entertainment Producer

Filed under: movies • Music
November 12th, 2008
12:20 PM ET

Goodbye, XM

Yesterday at 4 p.m. ET, XM ‘60s channel DJ Pat Clarke signed off his radio show, paying tribute to “Mother Radio” and playing Mary Hopkin’s “Goodbye.”

As of today, XM is now Sirius XM.

It’ll take some getting used to. The thing about radio - and something many of the personalities on XM understood - is that it’s the most familiar of mass media, with that feeling the DJ is talking directly to you. Nothing was more off-putting, in the days when I listened to broadcast radio, than to have my favorite station change DJs or (worse) change formats. (Which is one of many reasons I don’t listen to broadcast radio anymore.)

So, for an XM subscriber and fan like me, that means getting used to the changes. No more XMX, where I could listen to Bob Dylan’s “Theme Time Radio Hour” all day long on Wednesdays. (It’ll still air on Channel 40.) No more Pat Clarke or John Clay. No more hearing the guys on Soul Street argue about the best songs from Philadelphia International. And my wife is upset that Jonathan Schwartz has been pushed off the Sinatra beat (though, apparently, not entirely).

I’m a little leery of the Sirius takeover, if only because - in my admittedly limited experience - the playlists seem narrower, the sound a little slicker. On the other hand, I now have “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” and Vin Scelsa. And perhaps the new “classic alternative” channel – retitled 1st Wave - won’t play the Cure, Depeche Mode and New Order every third song the way XM’s Fred did.

We’ll see if it works out. Yes, music radio isn’t necessary anymore - there’s always the CD player or the iPod connection - but there’s something to be said for having a trusted friend (and that’s what radio personalities become) take you through the day with some good music and entertaining chatter.

Goodbye, XM. And hello?

So send in your thoughts, comments or complaints. We’ll revisit the topic Thursday with some of the best responses.

- Todd Leopold, CNN Entertainment Producer

Filed under: Music
November 10th, 2008
11:32 AM ET

Where are the good family films?

Seems like Hollywood can put out anything family oriented and get a huge return.

"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" had a phenomenal opening weekend.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” was the No. 1 movie at the weekend box office last weekend. The sequel to 2005’s “Madagascar” made $63.5 million, outdoing its predecessor by almost $20 million, on a regular weekend in early November - not a holiday weekend when kids are out of school, like the first “Madagascar.” And the film did so with middling reviews (though, it should be noted, slightly better reviews than the first film got - the sequel earned 60 percent good reviews on, up from 55 percent for “Madagascar”).

Family films are regular cash cows for Hollywood - even if they’re mediocre. “Kung Fu Panda” topped the benchmark of $200 million; “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” which received some scathing reviews, was the top film in the country for two weeks.

Can’t the movies do better? We want to know what you think. Comment below or click on iReport and submit an entry.

Seems to me that great family films are the exception, not the rule - but they don’t have to be. Pixar takes great care with its releases, such as this year’s “Wall-E”; the “Ice Age” films have some of the manic invention of old Warner Bros. cartoons. And yet the majority of family films are glorified TV specials, lacking wit and warmth. Kids are better served watching reruns of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

OK, so Pixar- or Disney-level quality isn’t everything when it comes to family films. All a parent with an energetic 6-year-old wants is something entertaining for 90 minutes, a chance for a little family time. Still, it doesn’t seem to be asking too much to want better scripts and fewer cheap pop-culture (or poop culture) jokes. (Come to think of it, it would be nice if that could be true for all films.)

So send in your thoughts, comments or complaints. We’ll revisit the topic Thursday with some of the best responses.

- Todd Leopold, Entertainment Producer

Filed under: movies
November 6th, 2008
01:01 PM ET

What to see, what to see ...

Three holiday movies I’m looking forward to:

“Quantum of Solace.” The new James Bond film picks up - literally and figuratively - where “Casino Royale” left off. The new movie begins 20 minutes after “Royale’s” ending and continues in the tougher, less jokey vein exemplified by Daniel Craig’s Bond. I’d rank “Royale” third on my list of favorite Bond films, after “Goldfinger” and “From Russia With Love,” and with Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball”) directing and a script again co-written by Paul Haggis, “Quantum” could be another outstanding entry in the Bond series. It opens November 14.

“Frost/Nixon.” I admit it: I have an absurd fascination with the 37th president, perhaps the most Shakespearean character to hold America’s highest office. Peter Morgan’s play got terrific reviews when it ran in London and New York, and I’m curious to see how director Ron Howard opened it up - if at all - for the movies. Nixon is played by Frank Langella; David Frost, who conducted a famous series of interviews with Nixon in 1977, is played by Michael Sheen. The film opens December 5.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Brad Pitt stars in the film version of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man who ages backwards. I’m not a huge fan of either Pitt or director David Fincher - the latter is undoubtedly talented and equally undoubtedly dark - but this looks like it could be a cut above the standard sentimental way Hollywood handles fabulist material. (And the special effects are supposed to terrific, which means they DON’T call attention to themselves.) It opens Christmas Day.

What are you looking forward to?

– Todd Leopold, CNN Entertainment Producer

Filed under: movies
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