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MARTIN GROVE'S HOLLYWOOD REPORT -- ''U.N.C.L.E." UPDATE -- 8/10/15


 
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. - HENRY CAVILL

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. - HENRY CAVILL

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. - HENRY CAVILL (FRONT) & ARMIE HAMMER

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. - HENRY CAVILL (FRONT) & ARMIE HAMMER

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. - ELIZABETH DEBICKI

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. - ELIZABETH DEBICKI

"U.N.C.L.E." update: Everything old is new again this summer and that's been working nicely for Hollywood.

Last weekend'stop grossing film was Paramount, Skydance Productions and Bad Robot's "Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation"with $29.4 million in weekend two and a domestic cume of $108.7 million. It's the fifth episode in a franchise that started in May 1996. And the films are based on a hit TV series that was seen from 1966-73 on CBS and then revived in 1988 for two more seasons on ABC.

Marvel and 20th Century Fox's launch of "Fantastic Four"finishedsecond with $26.2 million.Its audience was 60 percent male and 51 percent under 25, according to Fox. Internationally, it pulled in another $34.1 million from 43 markets, bringing its first weekend global cume to $60.3 million.

"F4"reboots a franchise that began in 2005 and whose last episode hit theatres in June 2007. The movies' roots are evendeeper, going back to a Marvel comic book first published in November 1961.

This summer's top grossing film, Universal, Legendary Pictures and Amblin Entertainment's "Jurassic World," has grossed $635.7 million domestically after nine weeks in theatres. It's the fourth episode in a franchise that originated in June 1993 with Steven Spielberg's now classic blockbuster. The franchise's most recent episode hit theatres back in July 2001.

          More vintage inspired boxoffice action is in store this weekend with Warner Bros. and Davis Entertainment's PG-13 action adventure comedy "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,"opening at about 3,450 theatres.

          The classic TV series was produced by MGM and seen on NBC from 1964-68. Its first season aired in black & whitebecause although the episodes were shot in color, most viewers still didn't have color TV sets.

          Directed by Guy Ritchie ("Sherlock Holmes"), "Man"starsHenry Cavill as Napoleon Solo, Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki and Jared Harris. It should play best to adult male action movie fans.

          In this reimagination of the series, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill in the role Robert Vaughn originated on TV) and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Hammer in the role David McCallum originated on TV) join forces in anearly 1960s mission to stop a mysterious criminal organization from proliferating nuclear weapons.

          The series' title reference to U.N.C.L.E.stood for an unusual organization called United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. In contrast to national spy agencies like America's CIA or England's MI6, which employed Bond, U.N.C.L.E. was a global group with agents from various countries, including a Soviet agent (Kuryakin).

          While "Man" is the first major movie based on the TV show, two modesttheatrical spin-off features were created in the mid-'60s by shooting additional footage –scenes with sex and violence that couldn't be shownat the time on network TV -- to expand several of the TV episodes. The James Bond franchise was enjoying tremendous theatrical success at the time and MGM saw this as a low cost way to jump on the Bond bandwagon.

          There was, in fact, a link of sorts between the TVseries and the Bond movies in that Ian Fleming, who created 007 and wrote the books on which the Bond films were based,had contributed some concepts for the TV show – including the Napoleon Solo character -- prior to the start of production.

          At one point, the TV series was to have beencalled "Ian Fleming's Solo," but after legal skirmishes with the producers of the Bond movies,a title change resulted.

          Those early and now long forgotten spin-off theatrical features included "To Trap a Spy" (1964), an expanded version of the series pilot episode "The Vulcan Affair," and "The Spy With My Face" (1965), an expanded version of the first season episode "The Double Affair."  Six more two-part TV episodes were subsequently produced so they could easily be turned into theatrical features. These played in international theatres, but not in the U.S.

          A television movie spin-off, "The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.," aired Apr. 5, 1983 on CBS, reteamingVaughn and McCallum. Patrick Macnee replaced Leo G. Carroll, who died in 1972, as the head of U.N.C.L.E. A framed photo of Carroll was seen on Macnee's desk.

          The reunion film had its ownconnection of sorts with James Bond by including a cameo role of a secret agent known only as JB. The part was played by George Lazenby, who starred as 007 in the 1969 film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," the sixth episode in the Bond franchise and the only one with Lazenby.

          While the new "Man" movie is inspired by the TV series, the filmmakers have their own take on the material.

          "What we found so irresistible," explains director Guy Ritchie, "was taking these polar-opposite agents and forcing them together so that they start out trying to annihilate each other and end up cooperating, but maybe still not entirely trusting each other. The story is largely the evolution of their collaboration.

          "The fact that one represents capitalist America and the other represents communist Russia, and these two super powers have to team up to neutralize a threat with global stakes, is a great premise that you can have a lot of fun with, and that's really the spine of the story."

          "One of the ways we put our own spin on it was by making it an origin story about how U.N.C.L.E. was formed," adds Lionel Wigram, a producer of the film and its co-screenwriter with Ritchie. "In the series, U.N.C.L.E. already existed. So in the midst of the Cold War you had the CIA and KGB secretly teaming for the greater good at a time when East-West relations were at their absolute worst."

          What Ritchie says he remembers most about the series "was its tone. And when the opportunity arose for me to make the movie, that's what inspired me. The idea of 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' just rang a bell for me. I had an intuitive response to it."

          The '60s were, Wigram notes, "the coolest decade and 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'was a part of that. We were always keen on doing a spy story. We loved the early Bond movies, which really made an imprint on our young minds, and then the Italian and French films of the time, like 'L'Avventura' and 'La Dolce Vita,'that had a particular flavor we found so stylish and interesting. Whether it's the clothes, the cars, the movies, or the design, the '60s really marked the beginning of the modern age.

          "We both love the idea of taking a classic genre and putting a twist on it. And Guy is constantly trying to do something new with the action, to give audiences something they haven't quite seen before."

          What they found to be irresistible, Ritchie observes, "was taking these polar-opposite agents and forcing them together so that they start out trying to annihilate each other and end up cooperating, but maybe still not entirely trusting each other.

          "The story is largely the evolution of their collaboration. The fact that one represents capitalist America and the other represents communist Russia, and these two super powers have to team up to neutralize a threat with global stakes, is a great premise that you can have a lot of fun with, and that's really the spine of the story."

The only new wide release film going up against "Man" is Universal and Legendary Pictures' R rated music biographical drama "Straight Outta Compton,"opening at about 2,600 theatres.

Directed by F. Gary Gray ("Law Abiding Citizen"), it stars Dr. Dre, Easy-E, Ice Cube, MC Wren and DJ Yella. It's a strong urban appeal drama that should play best to under-25 males.

"Straight" isn't based on a vintage property, but it's set in the past, nearly 30 years ago, in the notoriously dangerous Compton district of Los Angeles in 1987. It's the story of five young men whose frustration and anger about life goes into their music.

          Bottom line:By reimagining the past, Hollywood's reinvigorating today's boxoffice.