Tagged: Warner Bros

I Am A Man - Ray Fisher


I Am A Man - Ray Fisher

Ray Fisher is out at Warner Bros.

From what I take from his writings, he loved playing Cyborg, and it showed. But Ray called attention to what he claimed was at times discriminatory treatment on the Justice League sets.

From the start, this was no-win for Ray. He knew the risk and still went on. He’s taken a lot of, ” let it go, don’t rock the boat, shut up, sit down.” The comments about how he’s going to lose millions because of his big mouth are partially harsh. Those remarks come with attacks on his intelligence and race.

The “dumb darkie” stereotype is always a reason when a Black person draws attention to an injustice that may stop all that money coming in.

Orlando Jones knew the risk when he shined a light on an American Gods director. He was “rocking the boat, and better stop” was a typical post across all social networks.

Ray Fisher knew the risk, and yeah, it may be a dumb move to put at risk your seven-figure income for a purpose for some— but what Ray and Orlando did wasn’t stupid, dumb, or crazy.

Yeah, the “crazy” tag is likewise standard when Black people put their bank on the line. The perfect example is Dave Chappelle. When he walked away from $50 million, he was called crazy and stupid.

Dave, Ray, and Orlando are only doing what the great men and women who died to give us what freedoms Black people have today did.

They are calling attention to the discriminatory behavior of those in power. They did so at significant risk to their careers and bank accounts.

The entertainment industry produces thousands of underdog stories annually. The business is built on good beating evil. Reading some of the negative comments, perhaps there is a market we are missing:



CYBORG: He called you a Democrat. 


I believe Ray; I know a guy in a similar albeit lesser-known situation with a comic company.

Let’s do some conjecture.

Assume there is no claim of wrongdoing by Ray; he hasn’t said anything to anyone. But two WB employees claimed Ray was loud and rowdy and called the company racist during the Emmy Awards. So bad was the outburst, the two WB representatives signed affidavits swearing to this explosion of racist hate from the actor.

If that happened, he SHOULD lose the Cyborg gig. WB would have every right to let him go. Having that kind of energy around is toxic and will most certainly lead to a bigger disaster.

Let’s change it up a bit.

Suppose Ray created Cyborg and wasn’t a relatively new actor but a well-established actor and producer. Oh heck, let us say Ray also founded the Actors Studio and the WB made millions off his students who honed their skills under Ray.

Hey, let’s go ALL OUT, shall we?

For shits and giggles, let’s imagine Ray created Cyborg, was a well-established actor and producer who founded the Actors Studio and the WB made millions off his students.

Let’s pretend he’s so accomplished his independent productions are in markets not even the WB or any other major studio is in, leading to an honor no one else in Hollywood has ever achieved.

A Nobel Peace Prize, plus his name on a school, and he rescues kittens!

Should Ray be still be fired if he accomplished all of the above?


Hating a giant corporation is the right of every American. It is not a “do what you want” card. Being loud at one of the industry’s quintessential events, calling prominent studio racist— yes, he should be terminated and banned from working with said company and their related companies and subsidiaries. Whatever he achieved in life, no matter how much money he may have, offensive conduct has consequences.

Now, let’s say Ray had IRON CLAD proof he was 2000 miles away. To save themselves from a PR nightmare, WB would move quickly to issue an apology, hire him to be Cyborg again, and the two liars would be fired, perhaps even arrested.

Now imagine if WB knew the truth but BANNED HIM ANYWAY.

That’s what happened to Ray.

He raised an issue that everyone is aware of now. Joss Whedon was fired after an investigation, and people will now tread lightly.

But why punish Ray?

There’s no way Whedon, who made Hollywood MILLIONS, was let go unless something dreadful happened. Why was Ray punished for bringing light to dark deeds?

It doesn’t matter if Ray was an entry-level actor (he’s not) or had won the Nobel Peace Prize, founded the Actors Studio, etc.— he was wronged, and at significant risk to himself, he fought to do the right thing.

The right thing cost him millions, as it did Joss Whedon.

Some think both careers are over. I hope both can return to their craft, but I’m certain Joss will make a comeback, absolutely.  Not so sure Ray will, and you know why.

Hollywood takes their power to treat people like shit seriously. As evidenced by the following true story:

A major studio is aware of a director who intentionally set out to destroy a actor’s career. A career that mimics the fictional one created above, no Nobel Peace Prize but a similar resume.

Would you care that someone with power decided your fate as if you were Eddie Murphy in Trading Places?

Is there a statute of limitations on evil? Would your advice be to let the devil have his due? Would your opinion be ‘move on?’

The director let criminal treatment go, and for years he took the hit. His peers offer no help because they still have a relationship with the studio—their advice; move on, shut up, sit down. He tries, then the studio calls, they want to make his dream project!

They make it without him after giving him false hope.

He’s got a damning paper trail proving that’s his work, but they ignore him.

How DARE he call them out on their theft!

What should he do?

What would you do?


Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara ousted after sexual misconduct allegations

Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara ousted after sexual misconduct allegations

As we continue to add to the chaos at the top of DC Comics…

Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara has been ousted after an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations….

Tsuijhara, 54, had been with Warner Bros. for more than 24 years. He became CEO in early 2013 and became chairman position later that year. Tsuijhara, the first executive of Asian decent to head a major Hollywood studio, led Warner Bros. to have its most profitable year ever in 2017.

However, also under Tsuijhara’s tenure, Warner Bros. struggled to produce DC superhero films at the same caliber of its counterparts at Disney and Marvel Studios. It wasn’t until 2017’s “Wonder Woman” that the studio found true success, taking in $821 million in ticket sales worldwide. A year later, “Aquaman” became the first DC film to cross the $1 billion mark.

Originally at www.cnbc.com

No word yet on how this will impact DC. A successor has yet to be named.

Marc Alan Fishman and the Rise of the Meninists

Meninist: A (satirical) belief showing the hypocrisy of first world feminism by flipping the sexes and complaining about men’s rights in a similar way to what first world feminists do.

Tip of the hat to ComicMix’s Adriane Nash for introducing me to the term via her always well-observed, vitriolic Facebook posts where she often denotes an active war being fought against stupidity – not just against meninists, but idiots from all genders and persuasions. And a polite nod to my comic book compatriot Danny Limor for the inspiration this week.

Is there something in the water these days? With DC finally enjoying both fan praise and box office dollars with the release of Wonder Woman, there’s been a definitive rise in the empowerment of women – if not in actual practice certainly at least via mentions and discussions on all the social feeds I frequent. And everyone is rightfully justified in the celebration of women. Wonder Woman was a phenomenal accomplishment – not because it is a well-written movie that is helmed stem to stern by a woman, but because it was finally a DC release that didn’t rely solely on gritty destruction and seething angst. It was a celebration of compassion and love – two concepts missing from anything else produced by the studio to date.

In our post-modern world, what is loved must also be reviled by the counter-masses. Hence the coined term at the beginning of this article. My feed has been popped here and there with “WTF” posts linking to articles that complain about Gal Gadot’s minuscule paycheck, screeds that posit Warner Bros installed some kind of glass ceiling to prevent the movie from succeeding, to backlash for having the utter gall to offer a presser of the movie to just women. It’s enough to drive me to carve out my Y chromosome in disgust.

Wonder Woman aside, the meninist agenda even crept its way into professional wrestling. At the Money In the Bank pay-per-view not a week back, a history-making titular ladder match specifically booked with just female performers was won by a man. The goal, clearly, to elicit heel heat – unabashed anger against the villains – but transparent enough to be unaccepted by smart fans. It was evident from the finish of the match that Vince McMahon’s creative team sought to be protective of their female talent, but in doing so missed the very point they celebrated with a video package pre-match! To have specifically called out that this was the first time the Money In the Bank Ladder match would have all female participants… only to cause the victor (The Queen of Staten Island, Carmella) to claim her prize by way of a male manager, reduces history to something fans will pray for retconning.

For those following along, the WWE heard the backlash loud and clear and stripped their superstar of her newly-acquired briefcase of doom. But much like the butthurt bloggers denied access to the all-lady Wonder Woman screening, it comes as too little, too late.

So, what gives? For every victory, there is defeat. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but seemingly everyone these days feels compelled to take a side – creating these now more vocal outliers who decry things that need no opposition. Wonder Woman was fantastic. The WWE’s female divisions – that’s right they have enough talent to field no fewer than three decent rosters full of femmes fatale – have literally never been more capable and captivating. To see a group of men who actively shun these things puts a knot in my stomach right next to the one formed by Trump supporters.

Women writ-large face a tougher time garnering the same riches (be it fame, fortune, or good old-fashioned respect). It’s a proven fact. One so well documented, I need not even provide you with an errant Google link’s worth of response. It doesn’t matter to a select few idiots, who thanks to the internet whose voice now carries louder and larger than ever necessary.

To proclaim the victories of women as an unbalancing is as absurd as electing a four-time bankruptee to the highest position of governing…

Nevermind. This is why we can’t have nice things, my fellow nerds.

Box Office Democracy: Kong: Skull Island

It’s probably a good thing that I’m not in charge of which movies get made and which ones don’t.  While we would certainly get fewer third-rate horror movies and lazy animated movies (and like three more Crank movies, what happened to that franchise?) there’s just so many movies that must sound terrible at the log line phrase that end up being good movies.  For example, if I had been in charge when someone came and said, “Hey, we want to make a new King Kong movie but it’s going to be what if King Kong met Apocalypse Now!” I probably would have passed. But someone at Legendary Pictures said yes, and we got Kong: Skull Island—a delightful, odd, horrific monster movie.  It’s a better movie than I expected, a better movie than it probably should be, and a worthy opening salvo in the 2017 action movie wars.

The second act of Kong: Skull Island was the whole movie for me.  The first act is an endless parade of set-up that I did not need, made only barely tolerable by the frequent use of John Goodman.  I don’t particularly care how or why anyone ends up on Skull Island, just that it happens— and while I appreciate that different sets of characters need to be briefed on the nature and the history of the island, I don’t need to hear everything three times.  I just need them to get to the part of the movie where there’s a giant monkey.  Similarly, the end doesn’t feel like it’s the end result of the build of the movie, more like the movie needs to wrap up— and so a bigger, badder, version of the kind of fight we’ve already seen is whipped together and done in full view of all the remaining characters.  It didn’t work for me.  The middle of the movie is where I got my money’s worth.  The characters are all split up, and each scene is them uncovering some new horror or another as the color temperature shifts on a dime.  It’s stressful, terrifying, and relentless just like Mad Max: Fury Road. It puts you on the edge of your seat waiting for the next giant spider or terrible bird or whatever and Kong himself is a rare, seemingly random, participant in the action.  When he appear on screen he’s riveting (he’s King Kong— he’s been doing this since 1933) but he doesn’t drive the action per se.  It’s a wonderful segment, some of the best filmmaking I’ve seen in years… they just couldn’t keep it up.

I understand that everything needs to be a franchise these days and that shared universes are the new hotness, but we might be expending too much effort to lead up to a crossover movie with Kong and Godzilla.  We don’t need six years and four films to connect the rebooted Godzilla with the rebooted Kong.  Either audiences are smart enough to not need their hands held the whole way to get them interested in the monster showdown, or they’re so dumb you risk losing their attention entirely. I refuse to believe that people fall in to the narrow band of needing all this exposition to understand that they what to watch two giant creatures level a city.

You can never quite tell what’s going to work in a movie.  The B plot of Kong: Skull Island is essentially Moby Dick retold with Samuel L. Jackson playing Captain Ahab (and with Kong playing the whale, of course) and it’s ludicrous and a bit predictable and it steals shots from a dozen other movies and it’s delightful.  One of the reasons the third act didn’t work for me is that this plot has run its course and we’re given a less satisfying antagonist for the finale.  I might have just been in an uncommonly good mood, or maybe I was blinded by the spectacle of an IMAX screen but I found all the ridiculousness in Kong totally charming.  I also liked the 2005 Kong Kong more than my peer group at the time, so maybe I have a soft spot for giant apes.  Kong: Skull Island is, at its best, an oppressive, horrifying film and it’s a triumph.

Mike Gold: Do Comics Belong In Comics?


I am not a sociologist, although I’ve known a few. But let’s assume the fact that “superheroes” (in the broadest sense) fill a need in our lives. They started out in folk lore, they appear in most if not all bibles, they were popularized in the “penny dreadfuls” which evolved into pulp magazines which evolved into comic books.

Blackhawk movieTarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Zorro and others helped populate the movie theaters going back to its earliest days back to the silent era. When talkies came around, superheroes became the backbone of the short movie serials that were geared to bring patrons back week after week. Flash Gordon, Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman, Blackhawk, Captain America, Spy Smasher and others joined Zorro and Tarzan in this venue. When network radio came along, comics characters from older media (Superman, The Shadow) joined original creations (The Lone Ranger, Green Hornet) and flourished in the just-home-from-school time slots.

And television – well, television saved the superheroes’ collective ass. The Adventures of Superman, produced by what is now DC Comics, hit the boob tube before most families had teevee sets. At that very time, comic books were branded by the media as a source – perhaps the source – of juvenile delinquency. Comics outlets were disappearing, either from clerks no longer handling the product or from being squeezed out by chain stores and shopping strips and malls.

Captain Marvel movieBut Superman was right there in our living rooms every week using his cape as a placeholder for 75 years of tradition. Over a decade later, as comic book sales were at a comparative low, the Batman teevee series kept the print medium alive. In 1978 Superman led the way into high-budget motion pictures, not only proving a man can fly, but an old man can extend his life by deploying whatever “new media” is burgeoning at the time. Radio, television, motion pictures – Supes was there first.

Today we have more superhero movies and television series than the average person can absorb. Even the average comics fan: most of us do triage. Their popularity is massive, perhaps 20 times bigger than the comic book audience. This has been going on for about a decade and there’s no sign of it slowing down. It will, of course, but history tells us the cinematic comics universes will never go away. Not completely.

(Probably. There haven’t been a lot of successful westerns in the past several decades.)

So I think it is reasonable for me to infer that for most people the superhero story fills a need, probably an emotional, cathartic need.

But there is no washback onto the mothership. Average comic book sales have never been lower, even with the supplemental release of trade paperbacks and hardcovers. The latter has helped, but, you know, Borders went blooie and it’s not as easy to find good general bookstores anymore. It’s even harder to find a well-stocked magazine rack. And harder still to find one that carries more than a handful of comics, if that many.

Back in the day, that day being an hour before the release of the first Star Wars movie, we in the comics business could produce stories where, for example, we can destroy an entire universe on one page, do the Greek chorus bit on the next page, run a full-page cosmic ex Machina on the third, and restore that destroyed universe on the fourth page. Movies simply could not do that.

Well, not only can they do so today, but computers and artistic technicians have brought their gifts to the television screen in a cost-effective manner. And to home computers.  And tablets. And smartphones.

So I humbly ask this question: has the comic book outlived its usefulness?

As you consider this, keep in mind that since the turn of the century Warner Bros. and Disney, two of the largest media empires, took control over DC Comics and Marvel Comics, respectively. They are best known for making movies and television shows. They are not known to have a major presence in the lumberjack game.

Will there always be a comic book publishing industry? Of course not. There won’t always be anything. But will comic books live another ten or twenty years?

Ask me after Warner Bros. and Marvel each release a couple of big-budget superhero bombs.

Review: Supernatural Season 10 Blu-ray/DVD Box Set

Supernatural_S10_BLUEven though Supernatural has been on for 10 seasons, I only started watching last August.  Though I quickly became a devoted Supernatural fan and by June I wrapped up Season 9.   I figured, “Hey, I’ll just wait until season 10 comes out on Netflix,” but when they announced that the Season 10 DVD would be coming out in the Fall at the Comic Con panel, I was like, “No!”  And when I got the Blu-Ray (which was released on September 8th), I watched it all in like, a week, because that’s what I do.

The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Blu-ray, Digital HD and DVD release of Supernatural: The Complete Tenth Season is well worth owning. It contains 23 episodes and over four hours of bonus content.  It picks up after Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) was transformed into a demon and cursed with the Mark of Cain.  And of course, Sam (Jared Padalecki) & their angel buddy, Castiel (Misha Collins) must help his brother. This is the detour on the Road to Recovery.  Well the scenic route on the road to curing the Mark of Cain.  We also get family drama with Crowley, the King of Hell. You probably need to watch Season 10 a couple times. There’s a lot to little stuff in there that you notice after you KNOW the episode.  It’s the stuff the internet is filled with.  You can’t properly fill the world with Tumblr gifs without watching these episodes many times.  This is why you need to own the Season on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Plus the quality is great.  In HD, you can see each and every one of Jensen’s freckles.  And some might enjoy seeing how silky and soft Jared’s hair looks.  Not me, necessarily, but I did notice the Impala changing from a 2-door to a 4-door periodically.  What the what?  Though maybe you could see that on the regular DVD too.


For those who want to watch on their phones or laptop (out of habit, maybe or because you don’t have a Blu-Ray player in your room and you need to watch with your door shut so your family doesn’t bother you), there is a code with the Blu-Ray to get the episodes on Ultraviolet. You can then watch on all compatible devices & take the Winchesters with you on the road. Yay!

There are lots of bonus features on the discs, like the much awaited gag reel, unaired episodes, episode commentaries, the ComicCon 2014 preview for the season, stuff on mythological influences this season, and more. I was most excited about the behind the scenes for the 200th episode. You should most definitely buy this on Blu-Ray or DVD if you are caught up and start watching the show if you are not. The 11th Season will start this Fall on The CW, so you might want to hurry up. Remember these are the Winchesters, not the Losechesters, so you can’t lose with Supernatural: The Complete Tenth Season.

Maddy’s Commentary & Synopsis of Season 10: For those not afraid of some potential Spoilerishness

Okay,  as far as a Season, this one was so amazing!  We picked up where we left off in Season 9 with the Mark of Cain turning Dean into a demon after his run-in with Metatron (where he died again), so now Demon!Dean and Crowley are living it up singing karaoke in bars. Meanwhile, Sam’s going nuts and torturing demons, trying to find his missing brother, not knowing he’s a demon, so there’s that. Once Sam finally gets to Dean after being kidnapped by some dude, he locks him up in the Bunker and cures him of his demon-osity. And while all this is going on, our angel buddy Castiel’s stolen grace is fading and his fellow angel, Hannah, hunts down rogue angels while she tries to get Metatron to reveal where the rest of his grace is, but to no avail.

After an episode of regular hunting, we reach my favorite episode: “Fan Fiction”. This is the fabled episode where my two favorite things, theatre and Supernatural, come together.  An all girls school performs a musical version of the Supernatural books by Carver Edlund (a.k.a Chuck Shurley) and people who try to shut it down are captured by Calliope. Also in this episode, Sam and Dean are introduced to the popular concept of Destiel (if you read The Tweeks’ column on shipping, you know it’s the Dean/Castiel ship).  By the way, you can download the Supernatural: The Musical soundtrack!  I also really enjoyed the the next episode, “Ask Jeeves” which is like Clue meets Pretty Little Liars. Everyone is a Liar and they’re solving a murder in a mansion with a bunch of rich people, it’s rad.  All the old rich ladies love Sam. 

Let’s move on to “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Enter Rowena, a ginger witch who has enemies in high places in Hell’s monarchy, as shown when there are loads of demons chasing her and eventually taking her to Hell’s dungeons. At the end of the episode it is revealed that she is Crowley’s mother and she abandoned him as a child.

In “The Hunter Games,” The Winchesters and Cas attempt to torture the cure for the Mark of Cain out of Metatron who agitates everyone and leaves a cryptic message—“The river ends at the source”. Well, okay, crazy angel scribe. But then next up is an episode where Charlie, my fave, has returned from Oz after fighting a war. She had split her soul in two, good and bad, and she teamed up with the boys to help defeat her rogue bad side.

Then we get some regular hunting episodes, but I want to mention one of them, “About A Boy”.  The witch from Hansel and Gretel turns Dean into a teenager, which is very funny. But the fun doesn’t last for the next ep. Castiel discovers that Cain’s been killing people and Crowley,  Cas, Dean, and Sam work together to kill Cain. This is when things start to get rough. Sam can tell that the Mark is overpowering Dean and that he’s trying hard to fight it.

The stories move on with more hunting and a continuation of the Rowena sub-plot. Rowena has been banned from practicing magic by the Grand Coven, so Crowley captures Olivette, the High Priestess of the Grand Coven so Rowena can make her case to practice magic. After, she turns Olivette into a hamster and puts her in one of those hamster cages with the wheel that they run around in. Sam decides that he and Cas should sneak around behind Dean’s back to try to find a cure. YOU GUYS DO THIS EVERY SEASON! Can’t you ever learn that none of the Winchesters like being kept from things?  But still, they decide to go try and torture the information out of Metatron who reveals that he doesn’t know how to cure the Mark and his message before was utter nonsense. Thanks a lot, Metatron. The only thing he was good for was leading Castiel to his grace, which had a good and a bad side. Cas got his grace back, but Metatron got the angel tablet. Booooo.

After that, Charlie is back, and she has found The Book of the Damned, a book that is believed to hold a cure for the Mark of Cain, but apparently it belongs to the Styne family and so they track Charlie down. I won’t spoil it, but what happens is what drives the rest of the season.  There’s some drama about the Book. Dean wants it destroyed, but Sam wants to keep it because he’s still trying to find a cure for Dean even though his brother has given up.

In the midst of all this, Crowley has kicked Rowena out of Hell. Sam brings the Book of the Damned to her and asks if she can read it. She says yes, but in return she wants Crowley dead.  She also says that she needs Nadya’s codex. She said that the Men of Letters took it from the Grand Coven’s archives and it’s in their archives. Easy, right? Nope, this is Supernatural. The codex is locked in a box which is protected by a very powerful spell. When you open the box, everyone else in the vicinity starts to hallucinate and is driven to suicide. Creepy. Sam doesn’t know this and so he opens the box. Guess who’s in the house with the box in it? You guessed it: Dean. Also the owner of the house who opened the box when she was a teenager and killed her family. Dean starts to hallucinates that he’s in Purgatory with his vampire friend Benny. Ah, Purgatory. Season 7 was nuts, man, with all those Leviathans.

In the next episode, Sam gives the Book to Rowena who says that Nadya was a very selfish witch and encoded her codex. Sam decides to bring in the big guns to help crack the code. Welcome back, Charlie! The boys have captured one of the Stynes, Eldon, and are trying to get information out of him. He reveals that Syne is not their real name, they are actually the Frankensteins. They had to change their name after Mary Shelley discovered them and wrote a book. Rowena eventually drives Charlie nuts, so she asks Cas to let her out. He says no, but she sneaks out anyway, because she’s Charlie. She cracks the code, but Eldon escapes the Winchesters and starts to attack Charlie.  R.I.P Charlie. You were my favorite ginger to ever grace my television, except for Amy Pond, but I’m sure she’s your favorite too.

Dean and Sam give Charlie a proper hunter’s funeral and Dean orders Sam to stop searching for a cure for the Mark of Cain. Sam calls Castiel to tell him of Charlie’s grim end but discovers that her last act on this earth was emailing the code to Sam. He decides to keep going behind Deans back (?????) now that Rowena can read the book. Dean has vowed to kill the entire Frankenstein family and slaughters most of them, then returns to the bunker to find the last three raiding the archives. He kills two of them and listens to the youngest plead for his life, then kills him. This shows that the Mark is truly changing him because the Dean we have gotten to know for ten years would have spared his life. Castiel then shows up and tries to talk to Dean but Dean beats him up and comes very close to killing him while simultaneously breaking my fragile nerd heart. Here we are, the end of the line. The last episode is honestly the best one. There’s this one part where Dean feels like he’s trapped in a place where he doesn’t feel guilty for hurting his friends and after a vampire kill he washes his hands. He does a whole insane Lady MacBeth “Out damn spot” thing. I love Shakespeare so I recognized it immediately. He looks up into the mirror and sees his friends that he’s hurt all bloody and scrubs his hands harder and harder for each person. God bless the writers. He then summons Death, whom I love, and demands that he kill him. Death says that he cannot but he can send him away so he can’t hurt anyone ever again. He then decides to kill Sam so he doesn’t try to rescue him from this far away place. Death hands Dean his scythe to kill Sam, but he kills Death instead. Who knows what this means for people? Is everyone immortal? Rowena then casts the spell to cure the Mark of Cain, which unleashes the Darkness, a pre-Biblical force that is released when the Mark is removed. End of season. Major cliffhanger here, people.

What is the Darkness?


The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Great Spy Movie, Lousy U.N.C.L.E. Movie

We all know how it works. A movie company gets a hold of a classic property like a TV show or even another movie, and proceed to “improve” it for a new audience by largely removing almost everything that made the property good in the first place.  It takes a singular talent to perform such surgery on a concept and successfully replace the gaps with quality entertainment is a rare accomplishment.

Luckily, Guy Ritchie is a singular talent, and while there is effectively none of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement in the film, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a perfectly entertaining period spy movie, a fine film about two men named Napoleon and Illya, much in the same way his Sherlock Holmes films were about two clever fellows name Sherlock and Watson, just not the ones we’re acquainted with.

In this iteration, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is a former master burglar; captured but pardoned in exchange for working for the CIA, and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) is the KGB’s best man, but prone to fits of violent rage. So clearly this is not your father’s (or in my case, my) U.N.C.L.E. agents.  Cavill plays Solo with a smooth charm that works perfectly, and while he’s not the cool emotionless Russian that sent hearts aflutter in the 60s, Hammer plays Illya as a semi-traditional Russian brute with a soft side.

Also missing is U.N.C.L.E.’s nemesis Thrush – here an unnamed “international criminal organization” is behind the plot, headed by Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), a classic brilliant femme fatale, played to the hilt. The organization has obtained the means and the scientific expertise to manufacture nuclear weapons, still the hotly guarded secret in the sixties, forcing the US and USSR to team up and send in their best men, the aforementioned Napoleon and Illya, who have by now met once, before the were asked to play nice. Napoleon had just completed a tactical extraction, pursued by Illya, of one Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander), daughter of the scientist believed to be working for Victoria. She is recruited to make contact with her…um, father’s brother, who is believed to have been the one to facilitate the arrangement, in the hopes of revealing their treasonous scheme.

The film hits all the points you’d like a period spy movie to hit— fast-paced split-screen editing, the stealth incursion into the bad guy’s lair, some staggering costumes for the ladies (none of which were particularly revealing, but still a retro joy to behold) and the requisite turncoat moment or two (to say who did it to whom would be telling). The soundtrack is a delight, a combination of Ritchie’s traditional amazing skill for picking existing songs, and a score chock fill of pan flutes and hammer dulcimers, the source of much of the music found in spy films in the sixties. But the film rises and falls on the chemistry between the stars.  Cavill and Hammer plays against each other perfectly, and both work well with Vikander.

As mentioned at the beginning, the only complaint one could have for the film is exactly how little a role U.N.C.L.E. itself actually plays in the film. Hugh Grant arrives in the third act as Alexander Waverly, here a member of British Intelligence, and it’s only at the very last moment of the film that the eponymous acronym is ever used, and even then, it’s made to sound like it’s going to be nothing more than a code name for the pair, um…team. I pretty much knew going in that we were going to be saddled with a “When they first met” movie, and we would have to sit there and wait for them to become the team we know with the same impatient frustration of sitting through Popeye, and just waiting for Robin Williams to eat the gorram spinach.  We didn’t get cameos by Robert Vaughn or David McCallum, I didn’t even see the U.N.C.L.E. special Walthers I thought I’d spied in the trailer.  I sat through the credits, hoping against hope they’d give us ONE tip of the hat, that iconic title card that made sitting through the TV show’s credit worth it every week.

Throw me a frikkin' BONE, here!

Throw me a frikkin’ BONE, here!

Happily, this was one of the few cases where I was able to put my feeling about missing what we didn’t get aside and just enjoy what we did get, because what we got was cherce.

John Ostrander: Profit, Loss, Publishing and DC Comics

ContractYears back, I was negotiating a contract with DC. I read the contract and there was something I didn’t understand so I asked around the office as to what it meant. Most of the people there didn’t know either but the consensus was, “Just sign it. It’ll be okay.” One person actually said, “We’re all family here.”

My response then was that we were not. I had family and DC wasn’t that. I had friends who worked at DC but DC itself was not my friend. It was a corporation and the relationship I had with it was based on that contract and the business practices of the company. Despite what Mitt Romney claims, corporations are not people, too, except in the legal sense. I’m not saying that was or is bad or good; it’s simply recognizing differences.

Recently, DC announced a change in how it will run its participation program or what used to be called “royalties.” They pay you for the work you do but if the corporation gets a second bite of that same apple, the theory is that those who created the work should get a taste as well. It wasn’t always thus in comics; it was fostered and pushed by the independent comics (such as First Comics) and has occurred during my professional life time.

Many of the changes sound good. Colorists will now get cover credit and a share in the participation pool. I’ve long spoken and noted that colorists are major contributors to graphic work; I’ve compared them to soundtrack composers in movies and TV, heightening and guiding emotional reactions to the story. This change recognizes their importance to the work.

There are other small but useful changes. The opportunity to have one’s participation check directly deposited into a bank account is a good and useful change.

One change gets my Spidey-sense tingling. (I know, wrong company. There isn’t a corresponding DC metaphor. Bat-tinglies maybe?) The memo says: “There are a few significant differences between this new plan and what DCE has offered in the past.  Perhaps the biggest difference is that all participations will now be calculated based upon DCE’s net revenue from a book’s sale rather than on the cover price.”

“Net revenue” is the question mark here. One of the Hollywood jokes is there is no such thing as net profit. Without much effort, you can find a list of Hollywood blockbusters that, according to the accountants, somehow never showed a profit. The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Nope. Didn’t make a profit. The Batman film with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton? Ledger shows a deficit, according to the numbers folks. If one division of a company uses another division of a company for something, they pay them. It’s all the same company or conglomerate but it gets billed. The money keeps flowing around internally.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say I think I have benefited from the system. Warner Bros movies and DC Entertainment both belong to the same parent company. If Warner Bros makes a movie and uses Amanda Waller in it, they have to pay DCE a fee for that use. And some of that comes to me.

That said, if we’re dealing with a process involving net profit, the only chance the artist might have to get some of it may be to have a clearly defined definition of net although some might argue with even that. Some percentage of gross is more likely to give the creators some money than net. Working off the cover price was and is more likely to give the creators some money.

There are also new thresholds “which triggers participation payments.” Translated: the amount of sales and/or money taken in. Participation kicks in after the threshold reaches a certain point. Will that threshold be for each individual issue or an aggregate for an arc (usually five to six issues)? Do foreign sales figure into that threshold?

By Hollywood standards, the revenue that comics bring in is chump change. What gets paid to creators is really nickel and dime. So why deny it them? As I said, the principle should be if the company gets a second bite off the same apple, the creators should get a taste. That seems fair.

I haven’t yet seen any definition of net or what the thresholds will be. I have written to DC and asked; I’ve been promised a phone call wherein they will try to answer my questions. A clear definition of net versus gross would cool down my Bat-tinglies.

To be clear, this isn’t an attack against anyone at DCE. I know and like and respect many people there. They work at DC, but they aren’t DC. DCE is a corporation. It’s not my family; it’s not my friend. It’s not my enemy. I expect those inside DCE to do what they regard to be in their own best self-interests and that means in the corporate self-interest.

To paraphrase Mel Brooks, they have to protect their phony baloney jobs. That’s why I’m not certain that the new way of figuring participation is in my best interest. I would be delighted to be wrong.

We’ll see.


The Originals: The Complete First Season Arrives September 2

The OriginalsBURBANK, CA (June 12, 2014) – Ready to get sucked in? Just in time for the Season Two premiere on The CW, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group will release The Originals: The Complete First Season on DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack on September 2, 2014. Season One is also available to purchase on Digital HD. Averaging nearly 3.1 million viewers weekly, The Originals is The CW’s #2 show among Adults.* Fans can feast on all 22 one-hour episodes from Season One, plus over two hours of gripping extras — including commentary, the 2013 Comic-Con panel, the 2014 PaleyFest panel, featurettes, and deleted scenes. The Originals: The Complete First Season will be priced to own on DVD at $59.98 SRP and on Blu-ray Combo Pack at $69.97 SRP.

This sexy and thrilling new series from The Vampire Diaries’ executive producer Julie Plec centers on the Original vampire family and the dangerous vampire/werewolf hybrid, Klaus (Joseph Morgan), who returns to the magical melting pot that is the French Quarter of New Orleans — a town he helped build centuries ago. Acting on a mysterious tip that a plot is brewing against him, Klaus’ questions lead him to his diabolical former protégé, Marcel (Charles Michael Davis), a charismatic vampire with total control over the human and supernatural inhabitants of the city. Determined to help his brother Klaus find redemption, Elijah (Daniel Gillies) follows Klaus and is soon forced to side with Marcel’s enemies. Meanwhile, Klaus and Elijah’s sister, Rebekah (Claire Holt), must decide if she’ll join her brothers in New Orleans and help them to reclaim their hometown and all its extraordinary offerings.

With Blu-ray’s unsurpassed picture and sound, The Originals: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release will include 1080p Full HD Video with DTS-HD Master Audio for English 5.1. The 9-disc Blu-ray Combo Pack (4 Blu-ray discs, 5 DVD discs) will feature a high-definition Blu-ray, standard definition DVD and a Digital HD copy of all 22 episodes from Season One.

Season one of The Originals stars Joseph Morgan (The Vampire Diaries, Ben Hur), Daniel Gillies (The Vampire Diaries, Saving Hope), Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars), Phoebe Tonkin (The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle), Charles Michael Davis (Grey’s Anatomy), Danielle Pineda (Homeland), Leah Pipes (Sorority Row), and Danielle Campbell (Prison Break), with Plec executive producing along with Leslie Morgenstein (The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars) and Gina Girolamo (The Lying Game) Created by Plec, the series is based in part on the character Klaus from The Vampire Diaries novels by L.J. Smith. The Originals has been renewed for a second season on The CW for Fall 2014.
*Source: Nielsen Galaxy Explorer, Live+7, US ratings (10/03/13-04/22/14)


• Pilot Commentary – With Creator Julie Plec and Director Chris Grismer
• 2013 Comic-Con Panel – Executive producer Julie Plec and the cast discuss the origins of The Originals, and what you can expect in this spin-off of The Vampire Diaries.
• 2014 PaleyFest Panel – Cast and producers discuss the creative process in these highlights from the panel at PaleyFest 2014
• The Originals: Origins – In this featurette, creator Julie Plec leads us on the journey of creating The Originals and continuing through to the production of the pilot in New Orleans.
• The Originals: Re-mixing History – In this featurette, the writers of The Originals will describe how they were able to blend fact with fiction, generating strong roots in New Orleans for the Mikaelson family.
• The Original Vampires: A Bite-sized Backstory – A dynamic and stylized montage featuring key storylines and scenes of the original family. Including scenes from The Vampire Diaries, this piece will depict where the originals came from.
• Deleted Scenes


1. Always and Forever
2. House of the Rising Son
3. Tangled Up in Blue
4. Girl in New Orleans
5. Sinners and Saints
6. Fruit of the Poisoned Tree
7. Bloodletting
8. The River in Reverse
9. Reigning Pain in New Orleans
10. The Casket Girls
11. Après Moi, le Déluge
12. Dance Back from The Grave
13. Crescent City
14. Long Way Back from Hell
15. Le Grand Guignol
16. Farewell to Storyville
17. Moon Over Bourbon Street
18. The Big Uneasy
19. An Unblinking Death
20. A Closer Walk with Thee
21. The Battle of New Orleans
22. From a Cradle to a Grave


Street Date: September 2, 2014
Running Time: Feature: Approx 928 min, Enhanced Content: approx 141 min
Blu-ray & DVD: Presented in 16×9 widescreen format

Price: $59.98 SRP
5 DVD-9s
DVD Audio – English (5.1), Portuguese
DVD Subtitles – ESDH, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Thai
Catalog # 1000437527
UPC# 883929374557

Price: $69.97 SRP
9 Disc Elite (4 BD-50s/5 DVD-9s)
DVD Audio – English (5.1), Portuguese
DVD Subtitles – ESDH, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Thai
Blu-ray Audio – 1080p Full HD Video, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 – English, Portuguese, French, Castilian Spanish
Blu-ray Subtitles – ESDH, French, Danish, Latin Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Dutch, Norwegian, Castilian Spanish
Catalog # 1000437689
UPC # 83929374540