ODD TITLE FOR NEXT BOND FLICK

It hardly sounds like the title of a 007 movie, but producers said Thursday that Quantum of Solace, which will be what the 22nd James Bond flick is to be called, actually comes from a 1960 short story by Bond creator Ian Fleming. The producers of the film also provided further details about it, including that it will pick up the story where Casino Royale left off and that, in addition to the U.K. (at Pinewood studios), it will be filmed in Austria, Italy and South America. The MGM film is due to be released by Sony Pictures on Nov. 7.

EBERT RECOVERING FROM SURGERY

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert underwent surgery Thursday to rectify complications from previous cancer operations that left him without the ability to speak. Reports said today (Friday) that he remains cancer free and quoted his wife Chaz as saying, "We are grateful to everyone for the continued prayers and concern. The surgery went well, and we look forward to giving you more good news about Roger's recovery in days to come."

RAMBO, CHARGING BACK INTO THEATERS, FACES MONSTER

This weekend will provide a box-office test of whether the public will turn out to see a 61-year-old former action star in a role that he first made popular as a much younger man. Sylvester Stallone first introduced the character of John Rambo in 1982 in the movie First Blood. He last appeared as the character in 1988, helping rebels in Afghanistan oust the Soviet Union. (In the interim most of those rebels turned against the U.S.) "Hopefully, what our advertising has done is introduce Rambo to a whole new generation of younger males," Lionsgate distribution chief Steve Rothenberg told today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times. The question among box-office analysts was whether it could top Cloverfield, which had a spectacular opening last weekend. While Rambo is expected to take in $15-20 million, that figure would merely come close to equaling what Cloverfield would bring in if its ticket sales fell by 50 percent. It's also being challenged by the debuting comedy Meet the Spartans, a spoof of last year's 300, which has also been garnering considerable buzz in recent weeks. (Spartans was not screened for critics.)

MOVIE REVIEWS: RAMBO

Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times gives Rambo one of several so-so and/or grudgingly complimentary reviews. "Rambo hits his stride in the film's second half, meting out justice in an unjust world and ultimately the movie works best when warbling its out-of-tune greatest hits." (Indeed, the film has the greatest number of hits of any Rambo movie -- a professor of national security studies at Ohio State counted 236 killings.) Besides, Crust says, "There's something oddly touching about Stallone's march down memory lane." Stallone was the writer and director of the movie, as well as its star, and Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle acknowledges that he provides "a straight-ahead action film that makes the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan look like a debutante ball. It's 90 minutes of flying, dismembered limbs and explosions of blood, but give the man credit. Stallone can do action. If you want action and nothing but, here it is." A.O. Scott in the New York Times compares the Rambo character to the "samurais and gunslingers" of classic films and concludes, "Mr. Stallone is smart enough -- or maybe dumb enough, though I tend to think not -- to present the mythic dimensions of the character without apology or irony. His face looks like a misshapen chunk of granite, and his acting is only slightly more expressive, but the man gets the job done. Welcome back." But Kyle Smith in the New York Post headlines his review "RAMBOLONEY!" and concludes: "Needlessly violent? No, Rambo is needfully violent. Johnny R. is a man constructed of violence. He can no more do without firing arrows into skulls than a lady poet can do without her yoga. The psychological effects of his métier might be worth considering, but Stallone isn't interested in anything but the next explosion." Several critics predict that the movie should perform well at the box office. The Los Angeles Daily News's Glenn Whipp writes, "Interestingly, the relative absence of this kind of action movie in recent years makes the new Rambo something of a curio that will satisfy genre enthusiasts whose taste for (first) blood cannot be quenched by costumed pansies like Spider-Man." But Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer predicts that modern-day audiences are likely to be disappointed. Calling it a "slab of action porn," she advises that anyone interested in such stuff should "buy the video game. With its first-person-shooter perspective and gun-and-run narrative, this one's for the PlayStation crowd."

MOVIE REVIEWS: HOW SHE MOVE

The Canadian film How She Move, the critics seem to agree, has all the clichés of similar dance movies. But Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune comments that screenwriter Annmarie Morais "has a way of making the clichés seem new. ... Mainly it's a very solid dance picture." Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Times has a similar reaction. "There's nary a twist you don't see coming," he writes, "but the film's strong acting, spectacular dance routines and culturally specific details turn cliches into catharsis. It's the sort of film that sends you home with a spring in your step." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe asks, "How many times can you watch the same movie with different actors and a new title? If it's a dance musical and the dancing's good, the answer's obvious: As many times as they can keep cranking 'em out. No one went to see Astaire-Rogers movies for the plots, and no kid is going to go to How She Move for its hackneyed inspirational story line about an inner-city good girl who wants to step bad. When the cast starts clomping atop a car, their synchronized bodies joining with the booming cross-rhythms, we're sold." Nevertheless, several critics point out numerous shortcomings (beginning with that ungrammatical title for a film about high-schoolers competing for a college scholarship.) Rafer Guzmán in Newsday begins his review this way: "Somewhere between the acrobatic dance sequences and lead-footed script of How She Move there exist fleeting glimpses of a serious film that could have been."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.