Footnote: 8th anniversary of a fateful event

Facebook image Marvel put on Facebook

Facebook image Marvel put on Facebook

Today, May 2, is the eighth anniversary of the release of Iron Man. Things haven’t been quite the same since.

Originally, Quantum of Solace, the 22nd James Bond film, had that release date. That was always going to be ambitious, given that Casino Royale came out in the late fall of 2006.

Eventually, Sony Pictures, Quantum’s distributor, decided it couldn’t be met. The 007 film would be released in the fall. Truth be told, given the issues Quantum had as it was, shooting for a May 2008 release likely would have made things worse.

Nevertheless, that move opened up the May 2 slot for Iron Man, the first movie Marvel would produce itself instead of leasing characters to other studios.

Marvel had an ambitious plan — starting a movie “universe” of connected characters. To make it work, though, Iron Man needed to be a hit. Marvel was taking a chance on star Robert Downey Jr., a talented actor, but one who had a history of personal problems.

The gamble paid off. Iron Man was a hit. Walt Disney Co. later bought Marvel because of its movies and characters.

Eight years later, Downey Jr. is still the biggest star in the Marvel movie universe. He’s a major presence in Captain America: Civil War, which makes its U.S. debut this week.

Meanwhile, Civil War is the start of Marvel’s Phase III of films. Until Iron Man came out, nobody talked about “phases” of movies. Happy anniversary.

The 007 (like) song in The Jungle Book

One of the big hits this spring has been The Jungle Book, Jon Favreau’s remake of Walt Disney Co.’s 1967 cartoon version of the Rudyard Kipling story. In the new version, live action is combined with a lot of computer generated effects.

Anyway, in the movie’s end titles, Scarlett Johansson, who’s also a voice performer in the film, does a rendition of “Trust In Me,” that sounds very James Bond like. Here’s an audio-only version on YouTube. Thanks to @maycausefunny on Twitter for tracking it down.

 

 

We weren’t the only one who felt the song had Bond-like qualities. After the above video was posted on the blog’s Facebook page, a poster provided the following link on Vimeo where Gregory Bertrand combined the Johansson-performed song to SPECTRE’s main titles.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/163940708″>Spectre (2015) – Opening Credits &quot;Trust in me&quot;</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/gregorybertrand”>Gregory Bertrand</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

UPDATE: Over on Facebook, a commenter says the Scarlett Johansson version doesn’t sound like a Bond song and it “reminds me of the original sung by Sterling Holloway” in the 1967 cartoon version. You can view that below and make up your own mind. It’s definitely the same song (the Sherman brothers get a credit in the 2016 movie) but to our ears it’s a much different arrangement.

Captain America: Civil War a test of Marvel’s momentum

Captain America Civil War promotional art

Captain America Civil War promotional art

The “summer” U.S. movie season gets underway this week with Captain America: Civil War being a test whether Marvel Studios maintain its momentum.

The movie already is in release outside the U.S. In terms of reviews, it’s like the mirror image of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Cap has a 94 percent score on the Rotten Tomatoes website, based on 78 “fresh” reviews and only five “rotten” ones, with many U.S. critics yet to weigh in. Batman v Superman scored 27 percent, with 89 approving reviews and 236 pans.

A big opening weekend seems assured. But Marvel at times operates in such rarefied air at the box office, it can get criticism for not opening *big enough*.

Last year at this time, Avengers: Age of Ultron was cast as “only” having a $191.3 million opening weekend, because that was short of Marvel’s The Avengers’ $207.4 million in 2012. Then again, few are going to be sympathetic to Marvel or its corporate parent, Walt Disney Co., if Civil War is seen as not meeting expectations.

Then, of course, there’s the challenge whether Marvel’s latest effort will encourage repeat viewings and generate word-of-mouth to bring more people into theaters. Batman v Superman started out huge ($166 million its opening weekend) but fell off sharply. That film’s global box office, which Warner Bros. had hoped would exceed $1 billion, may fall short of SPECTRE’s $880.7 million.

It will also be interesting to see if Captain America: Civil War will maintain the tone of its 2014 predecessor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which evoked darker, 1970s spy movies.Directors Anthony and Joe Russo , who helmed the 2014 film, were retained for the new movie, which does pick up story threads from Winter Soldier.

The movie's logo

The movie’s logo

At the same time, Civil War is more sprawling, and is inspired by a 2006-07 story line in Marvel Comics that spanned multiple titles. That makes Civil War almost a third installment of The Avengers rather than a Cap adventure.  It’s telling that in the movie’s logo that “Civil War” appear in much larger letters than “Captain America.”

Eight years ago, Marvel Studios began its trek of producing its own films, instead of licensing characters to studios, with the release Iron Man. Marvel plans out movies for years in advance (something Warners is trying to emulate with Superman v Batman and next year’s Justice League film).

Marvel is now in “Phase III,” with Civil War being the test whether it can keep going.

UPDATE: For Marvel, the early news is more than favorable. Captain America: Civil War has generated non-U.S. box office of $200.2 million, Variety reported.

A footnote about two of Wilson & Broccoli’s non-007 films

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

We read a debate on a 007-related message board about the non-Bond films of Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Supporters of the Eon Productions co-bosses said it was great they were involved with other projects, it would keep them fresh and invigorated. Skeptics wondered whether this would adversely affect the Bond series.

This post doesn’t take a side in the debate. Rather, it’s to provide additional information. We’ll take it step-by-step.

–Broccoli and Wilson are listed as executive producers on two independent films, Radiator and The Silent Storm.

–What does that mean? “Executive producer” in movies is a secondary, supportive-type title to the producer or producers. On television, executive producer is the title used by the top producer or producers of a show.

On SPECTRE, the 24th 007 film, Broccoli and Wilson were producers (the top producers, naturally) and Callum McDougall was executive producer. McDougall also doubled as unit production manager.

–Put another way, Broccoli and Wilson aren’t the primary producers on either Radiator or The Silent Storm, the same way Callum McDougall wasn’t the primary producer on SPECTRE.

Broccoli and Wilson are among 12 executive producers on The Silent Storm and among eight executive producers on Radiator.

The lead producers of Radiator were Tom Browne and Genevieve Stevens. The lead producers of The Silent Storm was Nicky Bentham.

As for the debate on the message board, the real question is how well Broccoli and Wilson are at multi-tasking.

In the 1960s, there was a tension between Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli (Barbara Broccoli’s father and Michael G. Wilson’s stepson) and Harry Saltzman.

Saltzman pursued a number of non-Bond projects while Albert R. Broccoli (aside from Call Me Bwana and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the latter based on another Ian Fleming novel) concentrated on the 007 series.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, meanwhile, are pursuing the Saltzman model. Besides the independent films, they’re also involved in plays and television projects.

Limbo for the serious 007 fan awaiting real news

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It’s a weird time to be a James Bond fan.

A typical social media day for a 007 fan consists of the following:

–The latest speculation who will be the next James Bond, whether it be (in alphabetical order) Henry Cavill, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston, Aidan Turner and who knows who else.

This gets repackaged in various ways. When the various actors are out promoting their latest movie or television shows, they get asked about Bond and that becomes the story instead. Or, to attract clicks, an outlet will write about why some possible Bonds shouldn’t get the role. Or, British bookies adjust their odds for the next 007 and stories get generated.

Whatever. It’s not real news.

–A notification that today is either the anniversary of a birth date of a Bond actor or crew member or the annivesary of the death of a Bond actor or crew member.

–An obituary of a Bond actor or crew member, such as the passing of four-time 007 director Guy Hamilton.

There’s an odd effect to all this. For the serious fan, one can’t excited about the future Bond actor speculation. At this point, we don’t even know there’s a vacancy. Yeah, Daniel Craig talked in some interviews like he was ready to go but nobody *really knows*. And none of the speculative stories has any *actual information.*

Meanwhile, the barrage of the latter two social media postings (anniversaries and obituaries) keep pushing fans to look backward, rather than forward. It’s like “Throwback Thursday” every day.

The obituaries are important, because they recognize the accomplishments of those who can no longer speak for themselves. The anniversaries have their place but in the absence of actual news, they get more attention than they should.

In terms of Bond 25, we probably won’t get any real news until Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer either signs a new contract with Sony Pictures or selects a new studio to release the next 007 film. Afterall, you can’t have a release date until there’s a studio to release it. And MGM doesn’t have the resources to do so by itself.

So, for now, Bond fans are in for a form of limbo. The future is foggy while what little hard information is out there pulls attention backward instead of forward.

 

This may be the best hope for an U.N.C.L.E. sequel

Billionaire Warren Buffett (b. 1930), who's old enough to remember The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s original TV run

Billionaire Warren Buffett (b. 1930), who’s old enough to remember The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s original TV run

Parody alert

Mr. Warren Bufffett
Chief Executive Officer
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Dear Mr. Buffett,

You’re of an age when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television show was big stuff. Last year, there was an U.N.C.L.E. movie released by Warner Bros. but things didn’t work out for the studio.

But U.N.C.L.E. is such an optimistic concept — West and East united against a common foe — it deserves another chance. And you could be the person to make that happen.

Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner, is having its problems these days. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice needed to be a billion-dollar blockbuster but fell short. It may have even lost money in its theatrical release.

Warners needs a break. And having a well-known billionaire — one who has a positive image — backing a movie would be a boost to the studio and to Time Warner.

You may ask, “But shouldn’t I back The Justice League movie instead?” The problem is, that would be too obvious. The Justice League is the next huge movie and for Warner Bros. to turn to you for financing would look like panic. Financing an U.N.C.L.E. sequel would be a much more subtle play.

By backing an U.N.C.L.E. sequel (50 percent of the production cost? 60 percent? 70 percent?) you could cast it as an investment in man’s better nature. Afterall, U.N.C.L.E. was the utopian 1960s spy show. It was a post-Cold War show that aired in the midst of the Cold War.

What’s more, your involvement would give Warner Bros. a much-needed boost of good publicity. In turn, that would give you the leverage to negotiate a purchase of a stake of Time Warner stock under good terms, as you’ve done with other companies as explained in a 2014 Forbes.com story. Also, when Warren Buffet takes a stake in a company, it usually results in good press for that company.

Finally, you’re at a stage of life where you’re testing out potential successors for Berkshire. You could give one of those possible successors as an assignment. A test, so to speak.

Finally, if you pursue this course, you’d easily be able to get Alicia Vikander (who just picked up an Oscar for a different movie), Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer to show up for the Berkshire annual meeting. That would be the talk of Omaha.

Just some food for thought.

Regards,

The Spy Commander

 

The secret behind U.N.C.L.E.’s “whip pan”

The "whip pan" is reversed, reveal an image from U.N.C.L.E.'s original main titles

The “whip pan” is reversed, revealing an image from U.N.C.L.E.’s original main titles

Who says you can’t learn something new about a show that’s a half-century old?

On Facebook, Ken Kopacki, a member of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Inner Circle page (named after the show’s original fan club), deconstructed the famous “whip pan” of the 1964-68 spy series.

The whip pan — intended to simulate the effect of suddenly whipping your head around — was used as a transition device between scenes. It was cheaper than doing a dissolve, which required more work in the film lab. With a “whip pan,” the film editor simply inserted a short piece of film between scenes.

Kopacki said he was editing a clip and saw how the “whip pan” had a name embedded in it. He reversed the image and saw how it included the name of actor Fritz Weaver.

The reversed image was from U.N.C.L.E.’s original pilot, simply titled Solo. Weaver was one of the guest stars, playing the first villain to clash with agent Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn).

The Solo version of the pilot utilizes the whip pan in its main titles (where Weaver’s name appears) as well as a few places in the episode itself.

At some level, this is akin to how if you played certain rock songs backwards there were hidden messages. In real life, the U.N.C.L.E. “whip pan” is how creative things can happen under tight television budgets.

In 1983, The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television movie created a “whip pan” at a Las Vegas casino. The 2015 movie version of The Man From UN.C.L.E. didn’t include a whip pan.

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