Bill Finger to get credit on Batman adaptations, THR says

Gotham promotional art

Gotham promotional art

Bill Finger, widely viewed as the co-creator of Batman, is to get a credit for his work on Batman-related adaptations, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER SAID.

Finger will begin receiving a credit on the Gotham television series “beginning later this season,” according to a statement from DC Entertainment published by THR. Finger (1914-1974) will also get a credit in the 2016 film Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice, DC said in the statement.

Bob Kane has received sole creator credit for Batman since the character debuted in 1939, including seven Warner Bros. movies released since 1989.

Finger’s contributions to the character include major revisions to Kane’s original costume (such as the cowl and gauntlets as well as a dark color scheme), the Bruce Wayne true identity, Bruce Wayne back story, the original Robin, the original Robin’s back story, etc. Finger wrote the first Batman story published in Detective Comics No. 27 and many other early stories.

In 2014, illustrator Ty Templeton did a cartoon showing what Batman would have been like without Finger’s contributions.

DC said in the statement published by THR it and Finger’s family “reached an agreement that recognizes Mr. Finger’s significant contributions to the Batman family of characters.”

In addition to Batman, Finger also co-created the original version of Green Lantern, which debuted in 1940. Finger also co-wrote a two-part story in the 1966 Batman television series.

DC has long been owned by the various parent companies of Warner Bros. DC now is part of Warner Bros. and moved to Burbank, California, from New York, the comics company’s long-time home.

U.N.C.L.E. movie underwhelms in U.S. opening

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

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

UPDATE (Aug. 17) — Revised figures on Monday, ACCORDING TO THE NUMBERS WEBSITE, put The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie at $13.4 million, compared to $60.2 million for Straight Outta Compton.

(ORIGINAL POST): The Man From U.N.C.L.E. underperformed in the United States and Canada, finishing No. 3 in its debut weekend with estimated ticket sales of $13.5 million, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Guy Ritchie’s reinterpretation of the 1964-68 television series trailed Straight Outta Compton, a film about the rap group N.W.A. at $56.1 million and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, in its third weekend of release.

The Tom Cruise M:I film had estimate weekend ticket sales of $17 million, according to A TWEET from Exhibitors Relations.

Straight Outta Compton initially was estimated to produce a $30 million opening weekend and is coming in at almost twice that. It also was also shown on 2,757 screens, compared with U.N.C.L.E.’s 3,638, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

Over the weekend on social media, there was some debate about all this. Those who were annoyed (or worse) that the movie didn’t retain the series’ secret headquarters, Jerry Goldsmith theme (only a few notes were used in the film), or who wanted different casting, etc., said the results validated their positions.

The answer, though, may be more simple than that. It could be that outside of the aging U.N.C.L.E. fan base (including folks such as the Spy Commander) and the younger Henry Cavill fan base, there weren’t that many people who wanted to see the movie.

Warner Bros. can’t be blamed for a lack of marketing support. The studio bought ads all over U.S. television the past few weeks. For example, it paid for a two-minute ad on the ABC prime-time telecast of the ESPN ESPY awards. The spot ran shortly before transgender ex-athlete Caitlyn Jenner picked up an award for sports courage, the main highlight of the show.

Would having Jerry Goldsmith’s full theme boosted the box office take? If a great Goldsmith theme had that much impact, the 1973 series Hawkins on CBS would have lasted longer than a season and the 1975 Archer series (as in Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer) on NBC would have run longer than six episodes.

Would having the secret HQs, complete with Del Floria’s tailor shop have changed the outcome? 2015 audiences already had a secret HQs in Kingsman: The Secret Service. It was basically an updated version of the U.N.C.L.E. secret HQs of the show.

Would having, say, Jon Hamm, the star of the now-completed Mad Men series, as Napoleon Solo instead of Henry Cavill changed things?

Hamm’s Million Dollar Arm in 2014 was No. 4 its opening weekend in the U.S. at $10.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It finished with worldwide box office of $38.3 million. Of course, to be fair, he also was the voice of Herb Overkill in Minions, which had worldwide box office of more than $900 million.

Would having cameos by Robert Vaughn or David McCallum, the stars of the original show, increased ticket sales significantly? Would ticket sales double or triple? Or would they have risen by 1 percent or less? Meanwhile, McCallum endorsed the film in a Fox News interview and that doesn’t seem to have had much impact.

For Warner Bros., the best hope for the film may be in overseas markets. The DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD website reported there were early signs of a better reception in various countries, including Russia.

Movie draws attention to U.N.C.L.E.’s origins

The original U.N.C.L.E.s, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum

The original U.N.C.L.E.s, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie comes out this week, prompting the Los Angeles Times to examine the origins of the 1964-68 series it’s based on.

The story looks at a number of angles, including how 007 author Ian Fleming was involved in the first few months of the show’s development.

Susan King of the Times talked to the likes of Dean Hargrove, one of the main writers on the show; Steven Jay Rubin, author of books about James Bond; film and TV music expert Jon Burlingame, who produced a series of U.N.C.L.E. soundtrack recordings in the 2000s; and Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media in New York.

Here’s an excerpt:

Young moviegoers checking out the feature film version Aug. 14 starring Henry Cavill as Solo and Armie Hammer as Kuryakin probably don’t realize the original TV series existed — let alone know of the show’s impact on baby boomers.

“Man From U.N.C.L.E.” hit at the right time. Noted Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media in New York, “The same excitement seeing the Beatles live on television which happened a few months before, I think the same thing happened when ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ debuted in fall 1964.

“There was something cool about it. It created an emotional resonance for TV. It became the most popular show on campus in 1964, ’65 and ’66 — the first two seasons. It was a cultural phenomenon.”

Separately, The Hollywood Reporter talk about how U.N.C.L.E. MAY HERALD THE RETURN OF SPY ACRONYMS.

U.N.C.L.E. helped popularize such acronyms, although Marvel Studios has beaten the U.N.C.L.E. movie to the punch by including SHIELD (which didn’t debut until a year after U.N.C.L.E.) in its films.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in knowing more about the show, CLICK HERE for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide, produced by The Spy Command.

Who’s the next spy to be revived? How about Matt Helm?

Matt Helm as he appeared on Fawcett paperbacks, circa 1963

Matt Helm as he appeared on Fawcett paperbacks, circa 1963

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., after a long hibernation, arrives in movie theaters in less that two weeks. If U.N.C.L.E. can stage a comeback, any character can. So who should be the next ’60s spy to be revived from “suspended animation”?

How about Matt Helm, code name Eric?

Strictly speaking, Helm wasn’t a spy. He was a “counter assassin,” taking out various murderous threats to the United States. Created by author Donald Hamilton (1916-2006), Helm was the star of 27 paperback novels, published from 1960 until 1993.

Of course, the general public has, at best, a hazy memory of that. Helm is mostly remembered for four movies starring Dean Martin, which turned Hamilton’s very serious novels into light romps, which resembled a spy version of Dino’s 1965-74 variety show on NBC.

As this blog has noted before, that film series probably affected the 007 films the most. To get Dean Martin involved, he was made a partner in the enterprise. When Dino made more money from The Silencers than Sean Connery got from Thunderball, the Scotsman’s relationship with Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman soured.

In any case, like U.N.C.L.E. (which, after decades in the wilderness, arrives in movie theaters on Aug. 14), Helm has been “in development” in Hollywood for quite some time.

The last word this blog had was in 2012, when The Hollywood Reporter had a story that Helm still was on Paramount’s to-do list. If there’s been Helm news since, The Spy Commander missed it.

Regardless, you won’t find a Matt Helm movie on any list of scheduled movie releases in the near future.

Fans of Hamilton’s novels have long wished for a serious Matt Helm movie. In the jaded 21st century, audiences are more than ready for Helm’s rough stuff.

Still, Hamilton’s novels would be hard to replicate on film. The stories are told in the first person. Hamilton’s prose is so engaging, the reader gets sucked in. When Helm kills somebody, you almost find yourself saying, “Of course. What else was Matt to do?”

The beauty of Hamilton’s novels is they’re told in a gritty way (not unlike Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels), but the author could come up with plots as fanciful as anything Ian Fleming devised. It’s a delicate balancing act, but one that many readers enjoyed over more than three decades.

Perhaps the operative with the code name of Eric will never make a screen comeback. Still, if Solo and Kuryakin can return to the screen…..

THR analyzes the appeal of Tom Cruise’s M:I series

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation's teaser poster

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation’s teaser poster

The Hollywood Reporter has published an article examining why Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible film series remains popular.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the newest film in the series, is due for release on July 31. It’s the fifth entry in 19 years. Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter story about the M:I series differs from other film franchises.

The Mission: Impossibles are almost a stealth series; they’re released some distance apart (Mission: Impossible II followed four years after the first, with the third six years after that; Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol arrived five years later, making this summer’s Rogue Nation seem almost rushed with just a four year window between movies), and lack the tight self-referential nature of modern genre franchises. You really can go into each movie entirely fresh and learn all there is to know within a matter of minutes. (Mostly because all you really need to know is “Tom Cruise plays an unstoppable super spy.”)

The initial M:I film in 1996 included Jim Phelps (Jon Voight), the lead character played by Peter Graves for six of the seven seasons of the 1966-73 series. But that movie turned Phelps into a villain, with Cruise’s Ethan Hunt vanquishing Phelps.

2011’s Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, directed by Brad Bird, actually dug into the original show for some major sequences (albeit bigger and better versions for the screen).

Paramount, the studio that releases Cruise’s M:I movies, originally scheduled the new film for Christmas but moved it up to the summer. Studios generally don’t move up movies on the schedule if they don’t believe in their prospects. We’ll soon see whether star-producer Cruise still has his golden touch.

A weird week (at least on the Internet) for SPECTRE


This was an unusual week for SPECTRE. The marketing effort for the 24th James Bond film zigged one way but the Internet zagged in an entirely different direction.

The week began with a video blog showing behind-the-scenes footage during SPECTRE’s shoot in Mexico City back in March.

That’s understandable. The Mexico City sequence opens the film (the filmmakers have disclosed this, so it’s not a spoiler). It’s going to be expansive, so the short video sought to give the viewer an idea of that without giving any plot details away.

The Internet, however, refused to be gently guided in that direction. Bookmaker William Hill in the U.K. decided to alter its odds for the actor succeeds Daniel Craig as Bond. Craig said back in 2012 he was contracted for two films. That would mean he’s on board through Bond 25. That would indicate, there won’t be an actual vacancy until 2018 or so.

Nevertheless, the bookmaker moved actor Damian Lewis to 3-1, generating stories in familiar trade publications such as THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and VARIETY as well as outlets such as THE TELEGRAPH and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. Even The Atlantic, which normally analyzes weighty and serious matters, DID A STORY that used the William Hill news as a news peg to also examine whether the next 007 should be black.

Referring to SPECTRE star Daniel Craig and his blonde hair and Lewis and his red hair, The Atlantic story concluded, “Ten years removed from his casting, the fuss about Craig seems ridiculous, and it’s hard to imagine a public outcry if Lewis really did sign on to the franchise. “But the same can’t be said for what could happen if the producers defied change-averse Brits to make a truly bold casting decision.”

In any case, Indiewire took the whole thing a step further. It asked readers to PARTICIPATE IN A SURVEY about who should be Craig’s successor. (Indiewire calls it a poll, but it’s not. An actual poll employs statistical methods in selecting its sample of respondents. This is just click on whoever you want to be 007.) Anyway, there were turn out the vote efforts by fans of potential future Bonds.

It’s probably safe to assume the folks at Eon Productions and their studio partners at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Pictures are not real happy about this turn of events.

MGM and Sony are ponying up $300 million or more and, no doubt, would rather have the public concentrate on the upcoming SPECTRE due out in November than the next re-casting of Bond, whenever that occurs. In the 21st Century, the Internet sometimes has a way of not cooperating with movie marketing.

WikiLeaks publishes Sony hack data (no spoilers)


WikiLeaks, the group that has published leaked U.S. government documents, SAID IN AN APRIL 16 STATEMENT it has put more than 30,000 hacked Sony Pictures documents and more than 173,000 company e-mails into a searchable database.

The Sony documents first surfaced in November 2014. Part of the hacked documents concerned SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, which is being released by Sony this coming November. Stories were published in various media outlets at the time about the movie’s $300 million budget and details about its script. The hacked material also included personal information about Sony employees.

“Whilst some stories came out at the time, the original archives, which were not searchable, were removed before the public and journalists were able to do more than scratch the surface,” the group said. WikiLeaks said the material should be in the public domain because Sony “is an influential corporation…with an ability to impact laws and policies.”

WikiLeaks said Sony is “a strong lobbyist on issues around internet policy, piracy, trade agreements and copyright issues. The emails show the back and forth on lobbying and political efforts.”

Sony, in a statement quoted by THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, criticized WikiLeaks.

“We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than 6,000 employees,” Sony said in the statement, according to THR.


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