‘Show me the money!’

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

Two separate events created a furor and accusations of entertainment companies being cheap.

One was the competition announced for No Time to Die poster artwork.

Under terms of the contest, all entries become the property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio.

Five winners will receive 2,000 British pounds ($2,665). Another 20 pieces of artwork will be designated as finalists and receive 250 pounds ($333.12) each.

The tweet announcing the contest asked: “Are you a budding artist or illustrator? Here’s your chance to design poster artwork inspired by Daniel Craig’s Bond film.”

Twitter, though, can be an unforgiving place at times. While some Bond fans indicated their approval, many artists typed replies that included some pretty harsh comments (i.e, swear words), essentially saying artists should get paid and terms of the contest are onerous.

Examples (without swear words) include THIS TWEET, THIS TWEET, and THIS TWEET.

CLICK HERE and you can scroll down and see the replies for yourself.

The other situation, mostly unrelated except for the money angle, concerns Discovery Networks, which wants to eliminate royalty payments to composers.

Here’s an excerpt from a story by Variety.

Discovery has informed many of its top composers that, beginning in 2020, they must give up all performance royalties paid for U.S. airings, and that they must sign away their ability to collect royalties on all past shows on its networks.

Eliminating royalties will reduce composer income by 80 percent to 90 percent for those shows, Variety said. According to the report, composers don’t get paid that much up front. Discovery includes the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, HGTV and Food Network.

Professional composers took to Twitter to express their disapproval.

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Bond 25 questions (Danny Boyle edition Part III)

After Danny Boyle this week confirmed his involvement in Bond 25 (he’ll direct if a script being written by John Hodge is approved), the director’s comments generates even more questions about the next 007 film.

Who will be the composer? Some directors have a long-running collaboration with composers. The duos of Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini along with Steven Spielberg and John Williams come to mind.

The 007 film series isn’t immune. Thomas Newman did the scores for Skyfall and SPECTRE because director Sam Mendes wanted him.

Boyle has worked with a variety of composers.

Some examples: Boyle’s A Life Less Ordinary (1997) was scored by David Arnold, the five-time 007 film composer. A.R. Rahman scored Boyle’s 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire. Daniel Pemberton scored 2015’s Steve Jobs.

Arnold, of course, knows his way around scoring a Bond film. Pemberton, in scoring 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was under orders from director Guy Ritchie to avoid a James Bond sound. To know how to avoid a 007 sound, you have to know what the Bond sound is to begin with.

Then again, Boyle might have a new choice up his sleeve. Assuming Boyle makes it to the Bond 25 director chair, the composer question may be one of the biggest wild cards in the production.

Why Boyle, and why now? Boyle wasn’t asked this question and nobody else is talking for the record.

A guess: For what ever reason, the powers that be (Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) were looking for something different. 

In March 2017, the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye reported that six-time 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been hired for yet another go. That was confirmed in July 2017 and, as recently as December, Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a Hollywood Reporter podcast the writers were still going at it.

P&W was a safe choice. Eon, which has employed P&W’s services since 1998, when they began work on the World Is Not Enough’s first draft, knows what P&W can do. By this time, P&W knows the ups and downs of working for Eon.

Boyle (and writer Hodge) evidently pitched something that caught the interest of Eon and MGM.

Is everything locked down? In the words of Sheriff J.W. Pepper: “Helllllllllll no!”

Outsiders don’t know when Hodge will deliver his first draft. Regardless, it’s doubtful that draft will be ready to go before the cameras. In movies, there is much rewriting after the initial draft is delivered.

What would be the strangest thing you could imagine regarding this process? If P&W were brought in to rewrite whatever Hodge delivers.

 

Joe Kraemer won’t score M:I-Fallout

Mission: Impossible-Fallout promotional image featuring Tom Cruise performing a stunt.

Joe Kraemer, who scored 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, will not handle music for the franchise’s new installment, Mission: Impossible-Fallout.

“There seems to be confusion in the film music community re:my assoc with MI6:Fallout. Here’s the deal: I wasn’t hired, fired, or replaced,” Kraemer wrote in a post on Twitter.

“I was notified by email that I was not being asked back,” he wrote. “That is the full extent of my involvement with the film & the filmmakers.”

Kramer’s music was one of the highlights of the 2015 M:I adventure. The composer, in addition to using Lalo Schifriin’s iconic theme from the original show, also utilized one of Schifrin’s underscore compositions from the series.

A fellow film composer also took to Twitter to compliment Kraemer’s work.

“I think the confusion would be based on everyone wanting more @joekraemer MI music because Rogue Nation was so good!” Daniel Pemberton wrote in a Twitter post. Pemberton’s work includes the 2015 film version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

Kraemer’s Twitter post is embedded below.

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U.N.C.L.E. sequel being written, /Film says

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

Armie Hammer is quoted by the /Film website as saying a sequel for the 2015 Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is being written despite the film’s tepid box office.

According to the website, Hammer said he contacted Lionel Wigram, the co-producer and co-scripter of the 2015 movie.

“I was like, ‘Dude, what’s the deal? I get asked about this shit all the time. Can you just write a sequel?’” Hammer is quote as saying.

“He was like, ‘You know what? Yeah, fuck it, I’ll do it. Sure, I’ll write a sequel.’ I was like, ‘If you write one, I’m sure we can get one made,’ so who knows? Today is the first day I’ve actually told anyone that story.”

Two caveats: 1) Studios and production offices are littered with scripts that were never made into films. 2) Wigram, in this telling, doesn’t exactly sound like it’s his top priority.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s global box office was less than $110 million. During its opening weekend in the U.S., it came in No. 3, behind Straigh Outta Compton and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. The latter debuted two weeks earlier than U.N.C.L.E.

Wigram’s collaborator in writing the film was director Guy Ritchie. The duo’s latest project is King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which has had three separate release dates but is currently scheduled to come out May 12. That movie also is being scored by Daniel Pemberton, who did the music for the U.N.C.L.E. film.

The 2015 project was an “origin” story and dispensed with familiar U.N.C.L.E. tropes such as a secret headquarters. It had Hammer as Illya Kuryakin and Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo. Cavill currently is working on Mission: Impossible 6.

UPDATE (April 17): The Collider website also chatted with Armie Hammer. That story had slightly different quotes from the actor. “I actually recently talked to Lionel Wigram… and I was like, ‘Dude if you don’t start writing this script I’m gonna show up at your house and cut all of the tires of all of your cars, I swear to God.’”

So, in this telling, Wigram replied (according to Hammer), “You know what? Fuck it. I’m just gonna do it, I’ll probably start writing it.”

‘Year of the Spy’ reflected in music award nominations

Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman

The Film Music Reporter today published a list of nominees for the World Soundtrack Awards. Musical work done during 2015’s “Year of the Spy” figures into some of the nominations.

Thomas Newman was nominated as film composer of the year for SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film; Bridge of Spies, a historical drama directed by Steven Spielberg about the American lawyer who negotiated the release of U2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers; and Finding Dory

Daniel Pemberton was nominated in the same category for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the movie based on the 1964-68 television series, Steve Jobs and Mal de pierres (From the Land of the Moon).

Other film composer of the year nominees were John Williams, Ennio Morricone and Carter Burwell.

There are also five nominees for best song written directly for a film. “Writing’s On The Wall,” used during SPECTRE’s main titles is one of the nominees. The song, co-written by performed by Sam Smith, won the Oscar for best song in February

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.

A few thoughts about the U.N.C.L.E. Blu Ray

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

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

The blog made an preliminary examination of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Blu Ray disc which went on sale today. Some random observations:

Some interesting content in the extras: For example, one of the extras shows how some of the stunts were performed. In an early sequence, Gaby (Alicia Vikander) and Solo (Henry Cavill) are in a car which Gaby appears to be driving. For much of the sequence, there was a stunt driver in a cage atop the car. There was also judicious use of “green screen” CGI.

Technology: In the original series, Sam Rolfe, who scripted the U.N.C.L.E. pilot, said he wanted the tech to be about 15 year ahead of what was available at the time. During the original show, the tech went beyond that, including vaporizers and mind-reading machines. Meanwhile, in one of the extras, co-scripter and co-producer Lionel Wigram said the idea in the movie was to keep the tech as close to the early 1960s as possible.

A bittersweet line: Also in the extras, Armie Hammer says he hopes the movie will lead to more U.N.C.L.E. film adventures. Given how the movie flopped, that’s not likely to happen.

Lens flares: Director Guy Ritchie appeared to adopt a visual signature of fellow director J.J. Abrams, particularly in the opening sequence in East Berlin and later when Solo is tortured by a former Nazi. But there’s even more of the visual technique through much of the movie.

Oops: At the 38:44 mark, you can see very faint shadow of a boom microphone on the door to Illya’s hotel room in Rome when Solo comes calling. To be honest, the Spy Commander missed this detail the five times he saw the movie in the theater. But it’s the kind of thing you can catch up with when you can pause and rewind.

“Have the chair warmed up”: This line was used twice, albeit in subtitles, and foreshadows a sequence when Solo is tortured by the former Nazi. Again, the kind of thing that’s easier to catch when you can pause and rewind.

Daniel Pemberton’s score: Still one of the best things about the movie. Director Ritchie didn’t want to mimic a John Barry James Bond score and it was one of the best decisions he made.

The Jerry Goldsmith U.N.C.L.E. theme: Ritchie really, really didn’t want it in the movie and Pemberton barely placed a few notes in it. In the end, it really wouldn’t have mattered to throw the original U.N.C.L.E. fans a bone and include it in the end titles.

It’s still one of the best entries in 2015’s “Year of the Spy.” Yes, it changed the back stories of Solo and Illya. Still, the movie got the most of its relatively modest $75 million production budget.