Some early U.N.C.L.E. reactions arrive

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

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

Following this week’s early press screenings of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, reactions are starting to appear on social media.

None of them have been detailed. The guess here is that an embargo is in place before those invited to the see the movie can comment in detail.

That’s standard operating procedure, involving movie reviews and feature articles about films. Occasionally you’ll hear about a flap where a scribe published before the embargo time. The U.N.C.L.E. screen is unusual because it took place six weeks before the movie’s Aug. 14 release date.

In any case, for what it’s worth, here are some tweets that have come out since the screening.

From a Reuters scribe (included in an update of our post the other day about the screening):

From a film critic who has written for BlackFilm.com and Latino Review, according to the Rotten Tomatoes website:

A film writer at Uproxx weighs in.

A writer for BlackFilm.com (spotted by Henry Cavill News, which is how we saw this one):

Warner Bros. gives an early press screening of U.N.C.L.E.

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

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

Warner Bros. has conducted an early media showing of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, according to the editor of an entertainment news website.

Steven Weintraub, editor in chief of Collider.com, took to Instagram and Twitter tonight to say he was attending.

“Going back to the 60s with Guy Ritchie tonight,” Weintraub wrote in a caption accompanying a photo he put on Instagram. “Seeing an early screening of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Wb. must think they’ve got the goods to show us the film 6 weeks early.”

The movie, starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, doesn’t arrive in theaters until Aug. 14. Warners originally scheduled the Guy Ritchie-directed film for mid-January, usually seen as a studio dumping ground for movies.

Warners later switched U.N.C.L.E. to August and kept it there, even after Paramount moved up Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation to July 31 from Dec. 25. The M:I movie features star/producer Tom Cruise, who had been courted to play Napoleon Solo in U.N.C.L.E. but opted against it. That paved the way for Cavill’s selection.

UPDATE (June 30): A writer for the Reuters news service put out a tweet after the screening. No other details provided.

Fact checking TCM’s To Trap a Spy presentation

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

TCM on July June 13 showed To Trap a Spy, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot during prime time, part of a evening featuring films with actor Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo.

The cable channel has showed the film before but usually in off hours. The 10:15 p.m. eastern time presentation meant it’d get an introduction from TCM host Robert Osborne, a one-time actor (he makes a brief appearance in the pilot for The Beverly Hillbillies) who has written extensively about movies for decades.

However, there were a few errors. Most of these are old hat to long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans. But with a new U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out in August, potential new fans may have watched. With that in mind here’s some fact checking.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was an immediate hit. No. It originally aired on NBC on Tuesday nights against The Red Skelton Show on CBS. U.N.C.L.E.’s ratings struggled, but rallied after a mid-season change to Monday nights. The show’s best season for ratings was the 1965-66 season when it aired at 10 p.m. eastern time on Fridays.

The show was “created by producer Norman Felton.” The situation is a bit more complicated. Felton definitely initiated the project. He consulted Ian Fleming, who contributed ideas but the one that stuck was naming an agent Napoleon Solo.

The vast bulk of U.N.C.L.E. was created by Sam Rolfe (who wrote the pilot and gets the “written by” credit on To Trap a Spy), including the character of Illya Kuryakin. The show had no creator credit and Rolfe had a “developed by” credit.

Felton’s “inspired idea.” Osborne said Felton always intended to turn some of the episodes into feature films released internationally (true). He then said the films were actually two episodes of the series edited together along with extra footage. (Not 100 percent true).

The first two movies, To Trap a Spy and The Spy With My Face, were based on first season single episodes: the pilot, The Vulcan Affair, and The Double Affair, with additional footage.

Starting with the second season, the show did two-part episodes that were edited, with some additional footage, into movies for the international market. That was the case for the rest of the series, including the two parter, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, that ended the series in January 1968.

Osborne also made it sound as if all of the first season were filmed in color, even though it was broadcast in black and white on NBC. Not true.

Both The Vulcan Affair and The Double Affair were filmed in color, as was the extra film footage with each. The rest of the season, however, was filmed in black and white.

One oddity is the first season episode The Four-Steps Affair. Ever efficient, Felton took some of the extra footage from the first two U.N.C.L.E. movies (including Luciana Paluzzi in To Trap a Spy) and had a new story written to incorporate it. Sexy scenes for To Trap a Spy between Vaughn and Paluzzi were toned down for Four Steps.

Some of Four Steps is a black and white print from a color negative. The same applies to the broadcast versions of Vulcan and Double. But the new material for Four Steps was filmed in black and white, like most of the first season. There’s a slight change in contrast as the story goes back and forth between the two sources of footage.

Meanwhile, in Osborne’s closing remarks after the movie, he worked in a plug for the Guy Ritchie-directed U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out in August. TCM is owned by Time Warner, also the parent company of Warner Bros., the studio releasing the August film.

The comic book movie ‘glut’ of 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Over the past few months, we’ve been reading various comments on social media such as, “I’m tired of all of the comic book movies!” Or “Comic book movies are ruining the cinema.”

We’re not quite five-and-a-half months into the year. How many have there actually been?

Well, most prominently, there’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers. As of June 8, it had worldwide box office of $1.35 billion, ACCORDING TO BOX OFFICE MOJO.

That’s less than the $1.5 billion for the 2012 original and the $1.51 billion for this year’s Furious 7. Still, most studio executives would kill for box office exceeding $1 billion. Also, Avengers: Age of Ultron’s budget still came in $50 million cheaper (with location shooting in South Africa, South Korea and Italy) than SPECTRE and its $300 million (or more) budget.

Other comic book-based films released so far? Well, there’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, which based on a limited series of comics and revamped significantly from the original. After that, not so many.

What’s coming in the second half of 2015? There’s Marvel’s Ant-Man in July and Fox’s new attempt at a Fantastic Four movie in early August. After that….not so many.

Granted, movie goers have been seeing a teaser trailer for Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice. But that won’t be out until March 2016. Granted, Marvel/Disney and Warner Bros./DC have announced slates of comic book-based films going out to 2020. But they’re not out this year.

A half-century ago, James Bond films were dismissed by some critics as little more than comic books. Older Bond fans seethe at the memory. At the same time, some of those same fans look at comic book-based films the same way those 1960s critics looked at Bond. The more things change, they more they stay the same.

Should 007 and Batman share the same cinema universe?

NOT an actual comic book cover

NOT an actual comic book cover

It was reported this week that Warner Bros. may be in a good position to replaced Sony Pictures as the studio that releases James Bond movies. That got some fans to wonder whether 007 and Batman (and Superman and the Justice League) could share the same cinema universe.

Necessary background: 007’s home studio is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But, after emerging from bankruptcy, it’s a relatively small company and cuts deals with other studios to release its films.

Sony Pictures’ current two-picture deal with MGM for Bond expires once SPECTRE is released in November. Sony wants to strike a new deal, but the studio knows it’ll have competition for post-SPECTRE 007 projects.

Variety reported Warner Bros. is a leading contender because its executives have a good relationship with MGM’s top executive, Gary Barber.

Anyway, on THE SPY COMMAND’S FACEBOOK PAGE, a reader asked if Warners really does secure the 007 releasing deal whether Bond could be included in a planned two-part Warner Bros. Justice League movie, even if it’s just a cameo.

For the uninitiated, the Justice League is a group of DC Comics heroes, headed by Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. DC Comics has long been part of Warners’ parent company and the comic book company now is actually part of the studio. Next year’s Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice will help set up the even bigger Justice League project.

It seems like a stretch that Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the co-bosses of Eon Productions, would go along with such a concept. In AN INTERVIEW WITH COMING SOON.NET, Broccoli and Wilson did not warm up to the idea of Bond sharing a fictional universe with any other character.

Q: The notion of cinematic shared universes are increasingly popular in Hollywood these days. Any chance of seeing the Bond franchise go after something like that?

Broccoli: I think Bond lives in his own universe. I don’t think he wants to share it with anyone else.

Wilson: Like Bond and Mission: Impossible? I think that’s the stuff for comic books. More power to them.

Beyond the Eon leadership, there’s the question of 007 fans.

It’s hard to know how many, but — via Internet message boards and social media outlets — there are a lot of vocal 007 fans critical about “comic book movies.” For these fans, Bond is above that sort of thing. For them, “comic book movies” are glorified cartoons. Except, of course, when director Sam Mendes acknowledged that The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, INFLUENCED 2012’s SKYFALL.

Humility is not part of the 007 fan’s DNA. Bond is the best. Any other spy entertainment that has been created since 1962 is merely a “James Bond knockoff.” Bond in the same universe as Batman and Superman, even if it came via a cameo? Untold billions of brain cells around the world would explode.

Meanwhile, a note about the illustration with this post. It APPEARED ON THIS WEBSITE. The actual cover The Brave and The Bold No. 110 LOOKED LIKE THIS.

MGM may end ties with Sony for 007, Variety says

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer may seek another studio as a James Bond partner when MGM’s current deal with Sony Pictures expires after the release of SPECTRE, VARIETY REPORTED, citing people it didn’t identify.

Sony has released the last four 007 films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. The current MGM-Sony deal was for two movies after MGM emerged from bankruptcy.

Variety’s Brent Lang’s story includes this passage:

However, insiders speculate that the close relationship between MGM chief Gary Barber and Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara could result in the super-spy shifting addresses to the Burbank studio. MGM and Warner Bros. have partnered on several films including the “Hobbit” trilogy, the May box office dud “Hot Pursuit” and the upcoming Rocky Balboa spin-off, “Creed.”

In an exclusive sit-down interview, newly-minted Sony Pictures Entertainment motion picture group chairman Tom Rothman acknowledged that the fight for the Bond rights will be fierce.

“The reality is that Sony’s had a fantastic run with the Bonds,” said Rothman, adding, “Sure we’re going to compete for (the rights), but let’s be honest, so is everybody in the business.”

The deal isn’t as financially rewarding for Sony as fans might suppose. The New York Times, IN A MAY 2013 STORY detailed how Sony was third in line behind Eon Productions and MGM for its cut from Skyfall. According to that story, the Wilson-Broccoli clan took its cut and then MGM got 75 percent of what was left over.

Still, 007 films come as close to a sure thing in the movie business so studios naturally would still be interested.

Robert Rodriguez to direct Jonny Quest movie, Variety says

Race Bannon about to rescue Jonny Quest

Race Bannon about to rescue Jonny Quest

Robert Rodriguez will direct and co-write a live-action Jonny Quest movie, VARIETY REPORTED.

Here’s an excerpt:

Rodriguez has made a name for himself for his violent action pics, but his most successful films to date have been the family-friendly “Spy Kids” movies. That franchise comes from the same mold as “Jonny Quest,” making him seem like the perfect fit for the adaptation.

There are have been three versions of the cartoon, but the most popular among fans is the original, The Adventures of Jonny Quest. That consisted of 26 episodes that aired in prime-time on ABC during the 1964-65 season. Jonny Quest was the only son of important scientist Benton Quest. As a result, U.S. intelligent agent Race Bannon was assigned as combination tutor and bodyguard.

The cartoon was created by cartoonist Doug Wildey for producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. It was Hanna-Barbera’s answer to James Bond and development began after Barbera saw Dr. No. Hanna-Barbera initially intended to adapt the radio program Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, but went with original characters instead. The Hanna-Barbera cartoon brand was later absorbed by Warner Bros.’s animation unit.

UPDATE (8 p.m.): If you want to check them out, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD have stories on this subject.

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