U.N.C.L.E. out of running for MTV award

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is now out of the running for the MTV Fandom of the Year awards.

The 2015 film (nominated in the movie category) didn’t make it past the second round of fan voting. MTV today released the list of nominees that made it to the third round, where voting is taking place on Twitter.

By any reasonable standard, U.N.C.L.E. was a surprise just to get nominated. Its box office was a fraction of the likes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Captain America: Civil War, which are among the titles still in contention.

What’s more, the movie was based on a television series more than a half-century old that never was the success in syndication of contemporary series such as the original Star Trek or Mission: Impossible.

For U.N.C.L.E. to make it into the second round amounts to the film playing with the house’s money.

So U.N.C.L.E. fans who participated in the voting should feel good about the result.

For now, U.N.C.L.E. faces an uncertain future. There’s no sequel planned for the Henry Cavill-Armie Hammer movie. Whether U.N.C.L.E. can return in some other form remains to be seen.

But, for a few days, Solo and Kuryakin were out in pop culture again.

Soderbergh says he was twice approached about 007 films

Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

Director Steven Soderbergh says he twice was in discussions about working on a James Bond film, according to THE PLAYLIST website.

The director, who previously vowed to retire at age 50 but is still at it, made the comments during a screening of his 2012 film Haywire, according to The Playlist.

Here’s an excerpt with the few details:

When the conversation swung back to “Haywire,” Soderbergh dropped a big reveal about the 007 series. “Over the years, I’ve been in conversations… ,” he said with a pause and some hesitation and then just blurted it out. “I’ve been approached twice about doing a Bond film. And it never quite got anywhere. And [‘Haywire’] in some ways, was my opportunity to do what I would do with a Bond movie.”

That’s all there is Bond-wise. No details available about the time the supposed discussions took place.

Haywire, released in the United States in early 2012, featured Gina Carano as a double crossed spy operative who gets revenge. It was made in 2011, before Sodebergh was supposed to make a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Soderbergh dropped out of the U.N.C.L.E. project in late 2011 following disagreements with Warner Bros. over casting and budget. The U.N.C.L.E. film eventually was directed by Guy Ritchie.

Soderbergh is scheduled this fall to director Logan Lucky, a heist film that includes Daniel Craig in its cast, part of the actor’s growing list of non-007 projects.

U.N.C.L.E. survives first round of MTV voting

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie survived the first round of voting in the MTV Fandom of the Year awards. A new round of voting has HAS BEGUN ON TUMBLR and will run into July 15.

Here are the instructions on that Tumblr page:

For Round 2: Tumblr, notes = votes. Cast your vote by liking or reblogging the nominees you want to move forward in this epic battle, and remember voting for this round will close on July 15th!

Agents Solo and Kuryakin may be facing tougher odds than when they battled Thrush.

As of this writing the U.N.C.L.E. movie has 79 “notes.” That’s pretty far behind its competition in the film category. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has 1,169,  Captain America: Civil War has 530, Deadpool has 443 and Mazerunner: The Scorch Trials has 292.

Then again, many U.N.C.L.E. fans were surprised the movie even got nominated. So we’ll see.

U.N.C.L.E. movie nominated for MTV fandom of the year

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie from 2015 has been nominated for MTV’s Fandom of the Year awards.

Here’s part of an MTV PRESS RELEASE:

NEW YORK, NY (July 11, 2016) – MTV today announced the nominees for “Fandom of the Year,” presented by JOLLY RANCHER Candy, which will feature 32 nominees going head-to-head across multiple platforms in a special social tournament spanning movies, TV dramas, TV comedies and, for the first time ever, video games.

In the movie category, the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s competition is pretty steep. The other nominees are: Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, Mazerunner: The Scorch Trials, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and X-Men: Apocalypse.

Still, fans of the film, with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, have a chance to get the movie additional notice. The Guy Ritchie-directed film had a modest $109.8 million worldwide box office.

Voting can be done on MTV’S FACEBOOK PAGE. Participants basically vote by sharing a photo of their preferred movie to their Facebook page. Instructions are on the page. The first round of voting ends on July 13.

Other categories include TV dramas, TV comedies and video games. To read the full MTV press release, CLICK HERE.  Thanks to the Henry Cavill News website for giving us a heads up.

Different ways to celebrate Ian Fleming’s birthday

"Sounds like a jolly good time."

“Sounds like a jolly good time.”

Around the world, James Bond fans are noting the 108th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming. There are plenty of ways to celebrate from morning until evening.

Eat a James Bond breakfast: That’s what blogger Edward Biddulph of James Bond Memes did. He even sent a photo of his scrambled eggs on Twitter.

It’s past time for breakfast as we type this, but if you want scrambled eggs the way Bond had them, David Leigh of The James Bond Dossier supplied the recipe in a post some time back.

Warning: Your doctor may not approve of using as much butter as in the Bond scrambled recipe, which is from the short story 007 in New York.

Re-read a Fleming James Bond novel or short story: It’s never a waste of a Bond fan’s time to go back to where it all began. Even in the 1962 novel The Spy Who Loved Me, written from the perspective of a woman, you can see Fleming’s gift for detail.

Watch a James Bond movie: Admittedly, this falls under the “duh!” category and is a bit obvious. But for May 28, you may want to concentrate on 007 films with higher “Fleming content,” as detailed in our handy dandy guide.

Watch an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or the 2015 U.N.C.L.E. movie: Fleming’s involvement in the 1964-68 television series is widely known, but rarely discussed. Many Bond fans look down on the show, and many U.N.C.L.E. fans say he hardly contributed anything.

We take a middle ground. Fleming’s involvement helped attract NBC’s interest. By the time he bailed out in mid-1963, there was enough momentum to get to the pilot stage and indeed the pilot was made in late 1963. And, let’s face it, Napoleon Solo is a lot cooler name than Edgar Solo. So U.N.C.L.E. fans still owe Fleming thanks for that.

Also, in the 2015 film version, one of Fleming’s ideas for Napoleon Solo (that he’s a very good cook) finally saw the light of day.

Play some baccarat: You, too, can go banco. In this day and age, you don’t even have to go to a casino. You can play baccarat online. Just remember to gamble responsibly.

 

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 Spy Command’s final thoughts on ‘Year of the Spy’

BridgeOfSpies
Almost a year ago, this blog christened 2015 as the “Year of the Spy.” As the year draws to a close, this post looks back on that year with some final thoughts.

The blog didn’t write about all the movies discussed here. But the blog editor did see them all. The films listed are in order from best to worst. Actually, none of them was a stinker, so “worst” here is relative. Regardless, here we go.

Bridge of Spies: This wasn’t so much a spy movie as a film about the aftermath of espionage.

The Steven Spielberg-directed “biopic” starred Tom Hanks as James B. Donovan (1913-1970), the American lawyer who negotiated the release of U.S. U2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers from the Soviets.

With any “based on true events” film, one should never view it as history. Regardless, it was very engrossing. Here, CGI is used to recreate Powers’ capture when his plane was shot down.

Hanks is an accomplished actor and, as usual, delivers a strong performance. This movie also is a milestone of a different sort. Spielberg had to rely upon a composer other than mostly retired John Williams. For this film, that was Thomas Newman.

Bridge of Spies is mostly a low-key drama. The stakes are large, but it doesn’t have the pyrotechnics of the typical action film. This is exactly what Newman excels at. His score is perfect for the movie — and also points out his weakness at another prominent movie on this list.

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The return of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin after a 32-year absence was a financial failure, despite a modest $75 million production budget.

The Guy Ritchie-movie took liberties with the source material. Henry Cavill’s Solo was, more or less, the same character that Robert Vaughn played in the 1964-68 series but his back story was quite different. Ritchie took more liberties with Armie Hammer’s Kuryakin, who had a far darker side than David McCallum’s original.

Still, it mostly worked, even if it relied on an “origin” story line. It had a strong opening, downshifted to a decent middle section, then went into high gear in its second half. Once main villain Victoria (Elizabeth Debecki) calls Cavill by “Mr. Solo,” the proceedings accelerated until the end.

One of the strengths of the movie is Daniel Pemberton’s score. The composer was instructed by Ritchie NOT to emulate John Barry’s 007 movie style and that advice pays off.

The chances of a sequel are remote. That’s show biz. But the movie wasn’t camp (a fear of long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans). Perhaps, in coming years, this movie might attain the status of a “cult classic.”

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE:  The 24th James Bond film started out strong as it sought to mix “traditional” 007 movie elements with Daniel Craig’s 21st century grittier take. For the first two-thirds, it succeeded.

Yet, in its desire to top 2012’s Skyfall, some things went awry. The same writers of Skyfall (John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) worked on this year’s Bond film. Their roles, however, were reversed.

Until now, Purvis and Wade — who are very familiar with Ian Fleming’s original novels and short stories — would do the early drafts while another writer (Logan in the case of Skyfall) would come in and polish things up.

In this case, Logan did the early drafts. Purvis and Wade weren’t even supposed to participate. However, Logan’s efforts were found lacking — something that likely wouldn’t have been known had it not been for computer hacking at Sony Pictures, which exposed behind-the-scenes details of many movies, including SPECTRE. Also, playwright Jez Butterworth (who did uncredited polishes on Skyfall) apparently did more on SPECTRE because he got a credit with the other scribes.

Thomas Newman, who did such a splendid job on Bridge of Spies, is only serviceable here, even recycling some of his Skyfall score in some scenes. Clearly, doing a Bond film is NOT in the talented composer’s wheelhouse.

Regardless of the soap opera, SPECTRE ran out of gas. Its final third wasn’t a total loss but it didn’t sustain the momentum of the first two-thirds. As a result, this blog puts SPECTRE behind U.N.C.L.E., which finished much stronger.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation's teaser poster

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation’s teaser poster

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation: The fifth Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible film had its own behind-the-scenes soap opera.

The movie was originally scheduled to debut Dec. 25. But Paramount abruptly moved up the release date to July 31, presumably to get it out of harm’s way from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Presumably, that had to add extra stress to screenwriter-director Christopher McQuarrie. Directors almost always want more time to tinker with a movie in editing, not less.

Regardless, from a box office standpoint, it was an astute move. It definitely hurt the U.N.C.L.E. movie (which came out two weeks later). And the movie was well received, encouraging Paramount to order up another film.

Technically, the movie was very exciting. Star (and producer) Cruise probably scares studio bosses by insisting on doing his own stunts. This blog drops the movie down a step because it’s not as much of a Mission: Impossible movie as its predecessor, the Brad Bird-directed Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol.

The original M:I series (1966-73) was very much about team work. Ghost Protocol very much followed that path (even reworking some bits from the show, albeit in a bigger and more spectacular fashion). Rogue Nation was a step backward. It was another example of turning M:I into The Tom Cruise Show.

Kingsman: The Secret Service: If this movie had sustained its first half for the rest of the film, it probably would have been the best spy movie of the year.

It didn’t. In the first half of the movie, one of the best scenes in the first half is where Kingsman Harry Hart (Colin Firth) says, “Manners maketh man,” before he clobbers some British thugs. But director Matthew Vaughn conveniently forgets that advice. Once Harry is killed midway throught he film, the movie dies a bit with him.

There’s still a decent amount worth watching (and the movie was a hit, especially with international audiences). Still, whatever class was present disappears into the mist.

Taken 3: The final (we hope) of Liam Neeson’s adventures as a former spy does everything it’s supposed to do — but no more. In this installment, the wife of Neeson’s Bryan Mills has been killed and he’s been framed. Of course, he’ll get out it. The question is how.

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