Oct 22, 2016

Kino Lorber Brings Dimension 5 to Blu-ray and DVD

Wow! I honestly never thought we would see Franklin Adreon's ultra-low budget 1966 spy movie Dimension 5 get a legit DVD release, let alone a brand new high-def master on Blu-ray. But that's exactly what's happening, thanks to Kino-Lorber, according to a post on their Facebook page! In my review of the film, I called it "an American Eurospy film," and I stand by that geographically shaky claim today. It's got next to no budget, but makes up for that with beautiful babes, recycled James Bond gimmicks, and the requisite loathsome hero played by original Star Trek captain Jeffrey Hunter. Best of all, it's got a genuine Bond baddie in the person of Oddjob himself, Harold Sakata, as the villainous "Big Buddha!" Read my full review to get an idea of whether or not this is a movie you would appreciate. It's appeal is certainly limited to a certain type of cinephile, but anyone who enjoys Eurospy movies, Sixties spy TV, or Bond knock-offs in general is likely to find something to enjoy. Dimension 5 is so obscure it's never been released on any home format before, and now we're getting a Blu-ray! What a world!

Tradecraft: Nineties Surveillance Movies Become Modern TV Shows

Two fun and fairly beloved Nineties caper movies about surveillance experts are being rebooted as rival TV series. Deadline reports that NBC is developing a hacker drama inspired, no doubt, by the timely post-Wikileaks success of USA's Mr. Robot, but ostensibly based on Phil Alden Robinson's classic 1992 movie Sneakers. The film starred Robert Redford as master hacker Martin Bishop (though I can't recall if it actually used the word "hacker"), who leads a Mission: Impossible-style team of surveillance experts as they conduct fake heists to test companies' security. They become embroiled in spyjinks when they're blackmailed into recovering that favorite espionage MacGuffin, a "black box" for the NSA. Bishop's arch enemy turns out to have a personal connection to his past, a set-up that lends itself well to a network series. The movie's producers Walter Parkes (who also co-wrote it) and Laurie MacDonald will executive produce the series along with Mentalist executive producer Tom Szentgyorgyi.

Meanwhile, according to Variety, ABC is taking a crack at Tony Scott's 1998 action movie Enemy of the State. The film's producer Jerry Bruckheimer is on board to produce the show, which will be written by Morgan Foehl, who mined similar territory in the 2015 movie Blackhat. The trade reports that the series is conceived not as a remake, but a sequel to the film. "Based off the movie, the show is set two decades after the original film. When an elusive NSA spy is charged with leaking classified intelligence, an idealistic female attorney must partner with a hawkish FBI agent to stop a global conspiracy that threatens to expose dark secrets and personal mysteries connecting all three of their lives." Other than a thematic similarity, it's difficult to see from that description how exactly the series relates to the movie, which starred Will Smith as a labor lawyer who becomes embroiled in a spy conspiracy involving the NSA, an assassination, and a reclusive surveillance expert played by Gene Hackman. Just as the fun of the Bruckheimer-produced The Rock was seeing Sean Connery unofficially reprising his James Bond role, the main attraction in Enemy of the State was seeing Hackman unofficially reprise his role from Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 classic The Conversation.

In addition to capitalizing on the success of Mr. Robot, shows about hacking and domestic surveillance are also obviously quite topical in the current climate. It will be interesting to see if one or both of these reboots ends up making it to series!

Oct 10, 2016

Clive Owen Returns as The Driver for BMW Films

He's not quite a spy, but Clive Owen's enigmatic character The Driver from the series of BMW Films in the early 2000s is certainly spy-adjacent. And he (somewhat circuitously) inspired an even more spy-adjacent character, The Transporter. The Driver first appeared in a series of eight short films produced in 2001 and 2002 known collectively as The Hire. It was an innovative idea. BMW approached top international directors including John Frankenheimer, Wong Kar-wai, Guy Ritchie and Alejandro González Iñárritu, to helm short films (or long, plot-driven commercials) featuring Owen driving various BMWs in various action/adventure scenarios ranging from comedic (Ritchie's) to downright surreal (Tony Scott's, which featured Gary Oldman as the devil). The shorts were collected on a now out of print DVD, and beloved by many fans. In 2005, Dark Horse published a less successful comic book version, which also tried the strategy of recruiting industry superstars like Kurt Busiek and Matt Wagner (and, oddly, Bruce Campbell, who is a superstar... but not as a comic book writer!), but kind of missed the mark by using concept cars instead of actual BMWs on the market. That was the last we had heard from The Driver. Until now.

Now, fifteen years later, The Hollywood Reporter reports that Owen is back in the role! Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) directs a new 11-minute short entitled The Escape, and intended, according to the trade, as "an homage to the original series." Does that mean it's not an actual sequel? Unclear, for the moment, but it certainly looks like a new entry in the franchise we're familiar with. Also unclear is whether this is simply a one-off, or if this is the first of a new series of Hire shorts. I'm certainly hoping for the latter! In addition to Owen, original series creative director Bruce Bildsten, executive producer Brian DiLorenzo, producer Steve Golin, and creative consultant David Carter all return. The latter co-wrote the new short with Blomkamp. Jon Bernthal (The Accountant), Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring) and Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire) co-star.

The Escape will premiere October 23 on the BMW Films official website.

Here's a teaser:

...and a short behind-the-scenes video:

Trailer: Incorporated

Here is the trailer for Syfy's upcoming futuristic industrial espionage series Incorporated, from producers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The series, which we first heard about two years ago, takes place in 2074 when governments have fallen and corporations have taken control. A deep cover operative penetrates one such corporation to bring down the system from the inside. Incorporated premieres November 30.

Oct 4, 2016

Lost First Season Avengers Episode Discovered!

Wow, there is a lot of truly exciting spy news breaking today! In addition to the announcement of a new James Bond novel from Anthony Horowitz comes some fantastic news for Avengers fans.My wishful thinking 2010 April Fool's post has come partially true. (Reading that all these years later, I'm kind of astonished at the amount of time I must have spent on that constructing a narrative of so many trivial details!) Not the whole season, sadly, but one more episode of the mostly lost first season of The Avengers has been discovered! Most of the first season has been considered lost for decades thanks to the unfortunate UK practice of "wiping" tapes. Videotaped series, seen at the time (so long before DVD or streaming media) as ephemeral, were simply recorded over to make room. Other notorious victims of wiping include (sadly) many of the monochrome episodes of Callan, most of the second season of Adam Adamant Lives! and, most famously, many early Doctor Who serials featuring the first two Doctors.

Avengers scholar extraordinaire Alan Hayes, co-author of the definitive book on the show's first season, Two Against the Underworld (a must-buy for any curious fan!), provides most of the background in a post on his wonderful Avengers Declassified website, but it was Spyvibe's article on the subject that first caught my attention. A 16mm film print of the 20th episode, "Tunnel of Fear," was discovered by Kaleidoscope's Chris Perry. "Tunnel of Fear," set at a seaside funfair, was one of the highlights of the most recent volume of Big Finish's excellent audio recreations of the lost episodes, so I very much look forward to seeing how close they got it! The episode features both Patrick Macnee's John Steed and Ian Hendry's Dr. Keel, and Steed goes undercover in a harem, which sounds wonderfully appropriate.

For those lucky enough to live near Birmingham City University, "Tunnel of Fear" will be shown in November at this year's annual Missing Believed Wiped festival. As for the rest of us, apparently rights holders StudioCanal have been contacted, so hopefully they will find a way to get it onto DVD for the masses before too long. And hopefully more believed lost first season episodes will continue to turn up as dedicated TV scholars continue to tirelessly search for them!

Anthony Horowitz Returns for Another James Bond Novel

Ian Fleming Publications announced today that Alex Rider and Foyle's War creator Anthony Horowitz, who penned the well-received 2015 James Bond continuation novel Trigger Mortis, will write another 007 novel for publication in Spring of 2018. The project will also mark the return of Bond to the publisher most associated with the series, Jonathan Cape. Cape published all of Ian Fleming's original 007 novels, and more recently William Boyd's 2013 one-off continuation Bond novel Solo.

Like Trigger Mortis, Horowitz's next, still untitled Bond novel will again be a period piece set during the timeline of Fleming's original novels, and will once again, according to The Bookseller, "feature previously unpublished material by Fleming." (Trigger Mortis incorporated a racing sequence based on an unused Fleming outline for an episode of a never-made James Bond television series.) Horowitz will be the first continuation author to pen more than one novel since Raymond Benson ended his tenure as Bond's official chronicler in 2002. While Benson and John Gardner before him each wrote many entries in the series, Since 2008, the Fleming Estate has instead (until now) opted to hire big name authors on a single book basis for the main series of adult James Bond novels. (Spin-offs, however, like Young Bond and the wrongfully forgotten Moneypenny Diaries--both excellent series--saw the same authors pen multiple titles.) If you ask me, Horowitz is an excellent choice to take of the mantle of Bond's official chronicler! Trigger Mortis was excellent, as was his series of Bond-inspired teen spy novels featuring Alex Rider. And Foyle's War (starring Brosnan-era Bill Tanner Michael Kitchen) was simply one of the best TV dramas ever. I look forward to reading Horowitz's next James Bond novel, and hope it's only the next of many more to come!

Sep 29, 2016

The Kevin James Mistaken for an Assassin Movie Has a Trailer

Remember that movie we heard about where Kevin James gets mistaken for an assassin? Well, it's got a trailer now, and a poster, and a release date. The Netflix original movie will premiere on November 11. James (You Don't Mess With the Zohan) plays an author of a ridiculous Gray Man-type super assassin who gets mistaken for his fictional character and ends up on an adventure. Rob Riggle (Killers) plays a CIA agent tracking him, and Andy Garcia co-stars (which is always a good thing). Will it be another Le Magnifique... or more of a Paul Blart: Mall Cop? Take a look at the trailer and judge for yourself.

Sep 20, 2016

New Allied TV Spot

Today Paramount and GK Films released a new TV spot for Robert Zemeckis's upcoming WWII romantic spy epic Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Though it largely flew under the radar until the first trailer dropped last month, I firmly believe that Allied may be the spy movie of 2016. I can't wait to see it!

Sep 16, 2016

Tradecraft: NBCUniversal Developing NSA/U.S. Cyber Command TV Series

Deadline reports that NBCUniversal International Studios, Participant Media, and the production company behind Downton Abbey, Carnival Films, are developing a TV series based on Going Clear director Alex Gibney's incredibly compelling documentary Zero Days. The trade reports that Gibney will direct (it's unclear if they mean the whole series or just the pilot) and Stephen Schiff (The Americans) will write, and the two will produce along with Marc Shmuger. Zero Days will form the basis of the first season. The documentary tells the true story of a joint U.S.-Israeli operation to create a computer virus, known as Stuxnet, to damage Iran's nuclear program. But the virus gets out of control and, Skynet-style, takes on a life of its own. The thriller series is "tentatively titled" Stuxnet, but since that is obviously one of the worst titles ever bandied about for a television series, presumably that will change. (What's wrong with the enigmatic Zero Days?)

According to the trade, "Season 1 of Stuxnet will focus on what happens when a self-replicating computer virus developed by the West to disable and destroy nuclear facilities in the Middle East starts to spread beyond its intended targets, threatening the security of those it was intended to protect. The drama will tell a tale of hackers, spies, nuclear secrets and how one clandestine mission opens the Pandora’s box of cyberwarfare forever – a new era of global conflict without rules." Presumably, like the documentary, it will offer a glimpse inside the ultra-secretive worlds of the NSA (a more or less defensive SIGINT agency) and America's offensive cyberspook outfit, U.S. Cyber Command. Definitely fertile ground for a spy show!

Sep 11, 2016

Donald E. Westlake's Sort-of James Bond Book Coming Out Next Year

Hard Case Crime announced recently (via Birth. Movies. Death.) that they will release a "lost" novel by the late, prolific crime writer Donald E. Westlake next year entitled Forever and a Death. And it's sort of a James Bond novel. But not really. After GoldenEye, EON Productions hired Westlake, who was probably most famous for his Parker novels (written under the pseudonym of Richard Stark) to develop a script for the next Pierce Brosnan 007 movie. In addition to having had many of his books filmed (most famously John Boorman's Point Blank with Lee Marvin), Westlake himself was also an accomplished screenwriter, and received an Oscar nomination for his script for Stephen Frears' 1990 film The Grifters, adapted from the Jim Thompson novel. (Frears would have his own brush with Bond at the end of Brosnan's tenure, when he almost directed Jinx, a spinoff about Halle Berry's Die Another Day character... but that's neither here nor there.) No actual Bond script emerged from Westlake's efforts, but he did produce two different treatments along with 007 producer and frequent screenwriter Michael G. Wilson. While it's likely that some of their ideas ended up in some form shaping the film that became Tomorrow Never Dies (that's just how the development process works), the final film written by Bruce Feirstein was a totally different animal, and Westlake did not receive a story credit. Since Westlake's passing in 2008, the magazine MI6 Confidential reported that the author (never one to let a good idea go to waste, according to Hard Case) had turned one of these treatments into a novel, never published. In 2017, that will no longer be the case when Hard Case releases it as Forever and a Death (words you can even sing to the tune of Sheryl Crow's "Tomorrow Never Dies" theme song!).

Obviously, the protagonist of this novel will not be James Bond, but I think it's probably a decent assumption that he will share some traits with Ian Fleming's secret agent. I suppose Westlake's estate could have gone with a Canadian publisher, as Bond is in the public domain in that country, and published it as a Bond novel, but then they probably couldn't have gotten Wilson to pen the afterward. (Birth. Movies. Death. indicates that "one of the Bond producers" has done just that, and I would assume that producer is Wilson.) According to Hard Case's synopsis, "the plot Westlake dreamed up—about a British businessman seeking to destroy Hong Kong after being kicked out when the island was returned to Chinese sovereignty—had all the action and excitement, the danger and the sex appeal, of a classic Bond film—but for whatever reason, the Bond folks decided not to use it." So next year Bond fans will get a taste of a Bond film that might have been, and collectors will acquire an interesting oddity to shelve adjacent to their legit 007 titles.

Tomorrow Never Dies has already inspired two great theme songs. (David Arnold's brilliant, rejected title track, performed by k.d. lang, ended up playing over the end credits as "Surrender.") Could it now, in a sort of circuitous fashion, also inspire two great novels? (Raymond Benson's official novelization of Feirstein's screenplay is one of the best Bond novelizations.) We'll find out next June! In the meantime, you can read a sample chapter on the Hard Case Crime website.

The cool, decidedly Bondian, McGinnis-inspired cover artwork is by Paul Mann.

Sep 5, 2016

More Matt Helm on the Big Screen in Los Angeles Tuesday Night

Following the August screening of The Wrecking Crew (which turned out to be an absolutely beautiful 35mm print!), Los Angeles' New Beverly Cinema will show two more Dean Martin Matt Helm movies in 35mm on Tuesday, September 6. This double feature will consist of The Ambushers (1967, in an IB Technicolor print) at 7:30, and my own favorite in the series (the closest to being a "real movie"), Murderers' Row (1966), at 9:40. The Ambushers co-stars prolific Sixties spy babe Senta Berger (The Spy With My Face, To Commit A Murder), and Murderers' Row co-stars Ann-Margaret (The Swinger) and Karl Malden (Billion Dollar Brain). Tickets for the double bill are $8, available at the theater box office or online.

Sep 2, 2016

Tradecraft: Zachary Levi Re-Enlists in the CIA for NBC's Unidentified

Zachary Levi must like being a CIA agent more than his last spy character, Chuck, did, because the actor is re-enlisting. According to Deadline, NBC is developing a new spy series for Levi to star in called Unidentified. "Written by Sean Finegan (feature spec Free Fall), Unidentified is described as a high octane thriller with sci-fi elements, which centers on a CIA operative trying to protect his family from an unimaginable secret," the trade reports. Unidentified comes from Universal Television and Levi‘s Middle Man Productions.

Aug 29, 2016

Fathom Comes to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber

Hot on the heels of their impressive Modesty Blaise Blu-ray, Kino Lorber will be releasing the 1967 Raquel Welch spy caper Fathom in high definition. Fathom ("starring Raquel 39-22-33 Welch," as the trailer voice boldly declares) is one of the more entertaining female-driven spy films of the era. While journeyman TV director Leslie Martinson (Mission: Impossible) doesn't aim as high from an artistic standpoint as Modesty's Joseph Losey did, he concocts a far superior film thanks to a fairly straightforward and, crucially, coherent plot, a charming, indefatigable leading lady, and lots of game supporting turns from the likes of Tom Adams (The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World), Ronald Fraser (Sebastian), Richard Briers, Greta Chi (Coffin from Hong Kong), Anthony Franciosa (Matt Helm) and Blaise's Clive Revill in a stupendous, scene-stealing turn as the villainous Serapkin. That's not to say that Lorenzo Semple, Jr.'s (Never Say Never Again, 3 Days of the Condor) script (which is extremely loosely based on Larry Forrester's considerably grittier novel) doesn't eventually devolve into expositional voiceover over endless shots of a small airplane flying above European scenery, but it's got enough great setpieces to make up for that in spades. Modesty Blaise turned out to boast quite a few extras. Sadly there aren't that many announced for Fathom, but at least it will include a commentary track by film historians David Del Valle and Steve Peros and a trailer gallery (presumably including the one I quoted above). I really hope it also ends up having a gallery of promotional imagery, because Welch's bikini inspired a number for fantastic posters for this film (including the Japanese one they cribbed for this disc cover).

Kino's Fathom Blu-ray hits shelves October 25 with a suggested retail price of $29.95, but you can currently pre-order it on Amazon for just about half of that.

Aug 16, 2016

Tradecraft: Amazon Greenlights Jack Ryan TV Show Starring John Krasinski

After Paramount's last attempt at a film franchise faltered, Tom Clancy's CIA analyst hero Jack Ryan will get a new lease on life in a TV show. Deadline reports that Amazon has given a straight-to-series order for a 10-episode first season of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, starring John Krasinski (13 Hours, The Office) as Ryan. Krasinski follows in the footsteps of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine. Personally, I think he's a great choice! The new take on Clancy's hero comes from writer/producers Carlton Cuse (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.) and Graham Roland (Lost), Paramount TV, SkyDance Media, and Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes. (Bay also serves as a producer.) Like the most recent film, this take will also be set early in Ryan's career, when he's still a CIA analyst. Here's how the trade describes it: "A reinvention with a modern sensibility, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan follows Ryan (Krasinski), an up-and-coming CIA analyst, as he uncovers a pattern in terrorist communication that launches him into the center of a dangerous gambit with a new breed of terrorism that threatens destruction on a global scale."

I find this news hugely exciting. Jack Ryan is one of the great heroes of spy fiction, but has been underserved since his heyday in the 1990s. I think television may prove a better format for Clancy's brand of technothriller than feature films. I would love to see this first season lay the groundwork for season-long adaptations of Clancy's dense novels, including many of the subplots and fascinating details that the movies had to leave out. Maybe we could even, finally, get a screen version of The Cardinal of the Kremlin! Cuse, an avowed fan of Clancy's books, and Roland, a former Marine, seem like an ideal team to finally do right by the late author, and Bay seems like such an obvious match for this material that I'm frankly shocked it's taken this long to happen. I really hope he manages to wriggle free of giant robots long enough to direct the pilot, because his fetish for military hardware is a perfect match for Clancy's own.

Aug 15, 2016

Red Sparrow Movie Casts its Nate Nash

Red Sparrow, the debut novel from former CIA officer Jason Matthews, was one of the best spy novels of recent years. Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) has long been attached to play Russian double agent Dominika Egorova in the movie version, but now the other lead is close to being cast. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Joel Edgerton (Zero Dark Thirty) "is in early talks" to play CIA agent Nathaniel Nash. Hm. Edgerton is a talented actor, but in my opinion all wrong for that role. He's 42, which seems too old to be playing a young CIA hotshot on his first tour of duty, and, with 16 years on her, too old to establish a credible chemistry with Lawrence, which will be crucial to the movie's plot. Frances Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) directs.

Trailer: Allied

One of the potentially biggest spy movies of the year has been going largely under the radar until now. That would be Allied, Robert Zemeckis' WWII romantic spy thriller starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. The trailer for the lavish period drama recalls not only (obviously) Casablanca, but also Pitt's previous spy hits Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Inglourious Basterds, as well as Cotillard's stunning performance as a sexy WWI-era assassin in A Very Long Engagement. All this with a script by rumored Bond 25 scribe Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Hummingbird) and a supporting cast including Lizzy Caplan (The Interview), Matthew Goode (Imitation Game) and Jared Harris (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) makes Allied a movie I'm very much looking forward to! Check out the trailer:

Aug 1, 2016

Lots of Los Angeles Sixties Spy Screenings Coming Up in August

There are a lot of very stylish Sixties spies playing on the big screen in Los Angeles this month.

First up, on August 7 and 8 (a Sunday and a Monday), Quentin Tarantino's New Beverly Cinema will screen the fourth and final Matt Helm movie, The Wrecking Crew (1968) on a Sharon Tate double fill with Roman Polanski's wonderful Hammer spoof The Fearless Vampire Killers. Besides Tate, The Wrecking Crew stars Dean Martin (The Silencers, Murderers' Row), Nancy Kwan (Wonder Women), Tina Louise (Fanfare for a Death Scene), Nigel Green (The Ipcress File, Deadlier Than the Male) and my own very favorite Sixties Spy Girl, the stunning Elke Sommer (Deadlier Than the Male, The Prize). Sure, the silly, spoofy Helm movies are very poor representations of Donald Hamilton's terrific, hard-hitting, and very serious novels, and sure, they're not very, er, good (in the conventional sense), but they are certainly entertaining! It's rare to see any of them play the revival circuit, and when one does it's usually one of the first two. I don't think I've ever seen The Wrecking Crew playing in a theater during the 16 years I've lived in L.A. The Wrecking Crew will screen in 35mm. Tickets are just $8.00 for both films, available at the box office or online.

Then, on Sunday, August 21, the American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre in Santa Monica will present a double feature of two particularly pop art spy movies, Our Man Flint and Modesty Blaise (both 1966) as part of their series "The Groovy Movies of 1966.") The first of the Derek Flint spy spoofs stars the inimitable James Coburn as the suave, know-it-all superspy, along with Lee J. Cobb, Gila Golan and Charlie Chan regular Benson Fong. But the film belongs, 100%, to Coburn. It simply wouldn't work without him, and because of him it's a must-see.

Joseph Losey's Modesty Blaise has about as much to do with Peter O'Donnell's series of novels and comic strips as the Dino Matt Helm films do with those books... and also like the Helm movies, it can't really be called good. But it's still an eye-popping miasma of glorious Sixties design excess with a wonderfully infectious score by Johnny Dankworth (The Avengers). In fact, it boasts by far the best production design of any of these three films, and would be well worth seeing on the big screen for that reason alone... except that there is another reason. And that reason is Dirk Bogarde (Hot Enough for June) as Gabriel--positively the greatest Sixties spy villain trapped in one of the decade's otherwise weaker mainstream genre entries. Bogarde is an absolute treat in this film. Every line delivery is exquisite, and surely this role ranks among the all-time great camp performances. Terrence Stamp (Chessgame), Harry Andrews (The Deadly Affair, Danger Route), Clive Revill (Fathom) and a hopelessly miscast Monica Vitti in the title role also star. These films will be shown on DCP. Tickets to the double feature (which kicks off at 7:30pm) are $11.00 for the general public and may be purchased online or at the theater box office.

L.A. spy fans, don't miss the rare opportunity to see any of these campy Sixties spy spoofs on the big screen!

Jul 31, 2016

First Trailer for Olen Steinhauer's Berlin Station

Richard Armitage (Strike Back, MI-5) returns to spying in the upcoming EPIX series Berlin Station, but this time he's not working for MI5 or Section 20, but for the CIA. Berlin Station was created by acclaimed spy novelist Olen Steinhauer, whose trilogy of Milo Weaver novels (starting with The Tourist) are pretty much the benchmark for modern espionage fiction. Steinhauer outlined for Deadline at the TCA Conference this week what sets Berlin Station apart from "lone wolf" spy series like Homeland, 24, or Bond movies. “A crucial difference,” the author pointed out, “is that in Homeland, you’re following Carrie. She is the focus. It is her drive that gets things done.” In the real world, however, he claims that's “not how intelligence works. Intelligence is networking. Intelligence is multiple people working together.  [Berlin Station] was always suppose to show ... normal people with an abnormal job. They have to work together. There are no superheroes. Intelligence is an ensemble.” That mantra is apparent from the trailer above (which is really more of a clip), in which Armitage's character, a case officer newly assigned to the titular posting, meets his new colleagues. The contemporary spy drama from Paramount TV debuts on EPIX on October 16.

Jul 23, 2016

Tradecraft: FX Renews Archer for Three More Seasons; Details on Season 8

FX are committed to their spies. After handing out a two season renewal to The Americans last month (which will be the series' final two), the cable network then ordered three additional seasons of its still-fantastic animated spy spoof Archer. According to The Hollywood Reporter, FX has renewed Archer for seasons 8, 9 and 10, which will keep it on the air through at least 2019. The next three seasons, however, will be shorter than previous ones at just eight episodes apiece. After a 10-episode first season, fans grew accustomed to 13 episodes of Archer a year. Season 7, which just ended, was back down to 10.


Those who have watched all of Season 7 are probably wondering where the show will go next year. Season 5 was a slight detour from the show's overall spy premise, finding the gang dabbling in the drug trade in Archer Vice. Then Season 6 was back to spying, and then Season 7 was another detour, relocating to Los Angeles and fashioning itself after 1980s P.I. shows. Will Season 8 be back to spying again, establishing an every other formula? Apparently not. At Comic-Con yesterday, reports IndieWire, the producers revealed their plans for next season. Those wondering what would become of the show when its titular character ended up apparently shot dead need only (as is, gloriously, often the case with Archer) looked to Magnum PI for a clue. When it looked like Magnum was dead at the end of what was supposed to be the show's final season, it turned out when CBS gave it a surprising renewal that he was actually just in a coma. So is Sterling Archer, apparently, and like Magnum he's solving a murder in his coma. Also like Magnum (in a different episode), he's fantasizing about himself and the rest of the cast in slightly different roles in a 1920s Dashiell Hammett milieu. (Simon and Simon also did an episode along these lines.) You can read details about what new roles each of the regular character will inhabit in what's being called Archer: Dreamland at IndieWire.

Jul 20, 2016

Tradecraft: Smiley Returns to the Small Screen in New The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Miniseries

In an introduction to a paperback edition of The Looking Glass War, John le Carré joked that what the public wanted from him at the time he wrote that book was "Alec Leamas Rides Again." Unlikely as that prospect seemed, it looks like Leamas, the titular Spy Who Came in from the Cold, will indeed ride again! This is certainly exciting news. The success of The Night Manager miniseries (or "limited series," to use the preferred term du jour) in both Britain and America guaranteed we'd be seeing more le Carré adaptations on the small screen, but I honestly didn't expect a new version of what's probably his most famous novel (and one of the best spy novels of all time). Yet that is in the works! Deadline reports that Paramount TV and The Ink Factory (the production shingle run by le Carré's sons with a mandate to develop film and television projects based on his works) are developing the property as a limited series with Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) writing. Le Carré will serve as executive producer, as he did on The Night Manager. No network is involved at this stage, though one has to imagine that both of Night Manager's partners, the BBC (in Britain) and AMC (in the United States), will bid hard for a follow-up of this magnitude.

Though it was his third novel (and also third featuring George Smiley), it was The Spy Who Came in from the Cold that put le Carré on the map. Upon its publication in 1963, the book garnered excellent reviews and became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. Martin Ritt made an excellent film of it in 1965 starring Richard Burton and Claire Bloom and co-written by Goldfinger scribe Paul Dehn. But as good as that film is, I don't see it as the last word on the story. In fact, I've long harbored dreams of a Spy Who Came in from the Cold remake. Making it in a new format (as a miniseries) will afford Beaufoy the opportunity to make different choices from Ritt and Dehn, and to flesh out certain aspects of le Carré's novel that got short shrift in the film, just as the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy feature proved a fresh take on that material from the famous BBC miniseries that came before.

No casting has been announced, and it is probably a long way off at this stage. But I would guess that, like The Night Manager, this title will attract high caliber stars. Personally, my dream cast for a Spy Who Came in from the Cold remake has long been Daniel Craig as Leamas (I think he'd be perfect!) and Keira Knightly as Liz (who can now use her actual name; in the film it was changed to Nan because of Burton's famous wife named Liz). Craig, however, is committed to another TV series, and sadly unlikely to be available. Even more important, though, are the supporting roles. I really, really hope that The Ink Factory's producers Stephen Cornwell and Simon Cornwell will manage to lure their Tinker Tailor actors back in the roles of Smiley and, more crucially, Control. While it seems somewhat unlikely that Gary Oldman would want to reprise his film role on television for what basically amounts to a cameo, I have trouble picturing anyone other than John Hurt in the role of Control. He was utterly fantastic in Tinker Tailor. (Spy would be a prequel to that story, which was adapted from a later book.) And Hurt certainly does television.

The only thing I'm slightly disappointed about regarding this news is the fact that they're not doing Call for the Dead first. Though Call for the Dead (which was filmed in the Sixties as The Deadly Affair, also adapted by Dehn) features Smiley front and center and Spy does not, Spy is very much a sequel to Call. I wonder if Beaufoy will be able to incorporate certain aspects of that novel into his adaptation? Depending on how many episodes the miniseries turns out to be, that could be a very interesting approach.

What this news means for the Ink Factory's previously announced follow-up to The Night Manager, a 3-part adaptation of le Carre's 2003 novel Absolute Friends, remains to be seen. Hopefully that is still on track as well. (It may even materialize before The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.)

Read my book review of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold here.
Read my overview "George Smiley: An Introduction" here.

Trailer: xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

This trailer is hilarious. It audaciously dares to proclaim that "the world has changed" (recalling the Dunston Checks In trailer more than the GoldenEye trailer of that same year, which itself claimed "It's a new world...") and "the war we're fighting today needs a different kind of soldier." And then it gives us very much the same kind of soldier we saw in 2002's xXx--extreme athlete cum superspy Xander Cage (Vin Diesel). I mean, that's such a 2002 concept, right? I suppose the world of espionage cinema has in fact changed since 2002--quite substantially. But you wouldn't know it from this trailer!

2002 was a watershed year for the spy movie. It was the year of the last Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie, Die Another Day. And the year of the first Jason Bourne movie, The Bourne Identity. One was clearly a dinosaur, the last hurrah of the 90s spy movie. And the other was the quintessential post-9/11 paranoid action thriller that ushered in a whole new style of screen spying. And despite its corny attempts to differentiate itself from James Bond (a Bond surrogate found himself in over his head in the opening scene, wearing a tuxedo to a club full of grungy, tattooed Millennials), xXx was very much a remnant of that same Paleozoic era as Die Another Day. Since then, subsequent Bourne films and the reinvented 007 of Daniel Craig completely shook up the genre in the very way the original xXx so transparently, desperately wanted to. But this trailer for the latest xXx movie willfully ignores all that, willing audiences instead to accept that it's still 2002. (The only indication that this Xander Cage movie takes place in contemporary, post-Daniel Craig times is a shot of Vin Diesel coming out of the water in the same pose as Craig did in Casino Royale.) And you know? You've kind of got to respect it for that. Part of me does, indeed, yearn for a return to those 90s dinosaur spy movies. (Note to studios: dinosaur spy movie! Make it happen.)

"We need people with the skills and the attitude to take on threats we don't even know exist," says Samuel L. Jackson's NSA honcho Augustus Gibbons in this trailer, echoing exactly what he said in the first two movies. Threats like extreme athletes bent on world domination. Threats requiring a grown man in diaper-white Capri pants to skateboard, and, we're told (though I remain dubious based on the evidence provided) "look dope doing it." Basically, the sort of threats you saw in Mountain Dew commercials aired during the X Games circa '02.

But ludicrous as it all is, I can't help get kind of excited about it... precisely for that ludicrousness. As I did for the previous two xXx movies--and ended up disappointed both times. But maybe, just maybe, the same magic that transformed Diesel's Fast & Furious movies into great entertainment will rub off on his other franchise. Maybe. Because, come on! Skiing through the jungle is actually a pretty damn cool basis for a setpiece! And it's been nearly three decades since we've seen a cool ski sequence in a real Bond film.

Jun 23, 2016

New Jason Bourne Poster

Universal has released a new international poster for Jason Bourne, Matt Damon's eagerly anticipated return to the titular Robert Ludlum character. Frankly, it's a pretty boring poster, if you ask me. (Especially compared with the simple, but exciting, teaser.) It looks like someone Photoshopped Damon's head onto a Taken poster... or lazily rehashed the worst James Bond campaign, from Die Another Day. That said, the movie itself (which also heralds the return to the franchise of director Paul Greengrass) looks characteristically fantastic! And it's nice to see Oscar winner Alicia Vikander getting a more prominent spot in the film's advertising than she did for her last spy movie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Jason Bourne opens July 29 in the United States.

Feig Talks Spy 2, Statham Returning

When director Paul Feig's hilarious secret agent send-up Spy made more than $200 million last year, a sequel seemed inevitable (especially since the movie had been originally conceived as a franchise opener), but things have been surprisingly quiet on that front ever since. This week, out doing press for Ghostbusters, Feig finally spilled some details on the follow-up to Empire (via Dark Horizons). "It's the first thing I did that I set up to be a possible franchise and Melissa [McCarthy] is dying to do it. I have a story for it, and a funny idea that will kick it off that involves [Jason] Statham." Statham proved a scene-stealer in Spy, delivering an absolutely hilarious monologue of his espionage accomplishments sending up both James Bond and the action star's own image. ("I watched the woman I love get tossed from a plane and hit by another plane mid-air. I drove a car off a freeway on top of a train while it was on fire. Not the car; I was on fire.") It wasn't just audiences who were in stitches with Statham's hitherto under-explored comedic chops; he also impressed the director. "Susan Cooper [McCarthy] is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever come up with," Feig went on, "but Rick Ford is possibly the one I’ll take to the grave with me. Will he get any more self-aware in the sequel? No, god no. He’ll get less self-aware." I can't wait to see more of Ford's antics in Spy 2!

Trailer: Keeping Up With the Joneses

It's been more than two years since we first heard that Jon Hamm and Zach Galifianakis would be teaming up for a spy comedy. To be honest, I'd kind of forgotten about it, which makes the trailer for Keeping Up With the Joneses that Fox dropped this week all the more of a pleasant surprise! Galifianakis (Birdman) and Isla Fisher (Now You See Me) play a suburban couple who discover their new, seemingly perfect neighbors (Hamm and  Criminal's Gal Gadot) are superspies. On what side is unclear, but as the trailer demonstrates, hijinx ensue. Greg Mottola (Superbad) directs, from a script by Michael LeSieur. Patton Oswalt (Archer) and Matt Walsh (Veep) provide A-list comedic support. Keeping Up With the Joneses opens on October 21.

Tradecraft: Sicario Spawns Spy Series

We already knew that a sequel was in the works to what might well have been the best spy movie of 2016 (a year literally packed with spy movies), Sicario. But now it looks like that film might spin off a whole series, or at least a trilogy. Italian director Stefano Sollima (Gomorrah), who is set to helm the second film, Soldado, told The Independent (via Dark Horizons) that that was the plan. "The reason that I love [Soldado] is because it's not exactly a sequel; it's something you can catch and enjoy even if you haven't watched the first one. The idea is to make three anthology movies with some of the core actors and in the same world." The core characters returning for the second movie will be Josh Brolin's shady CIA agent Benicio del Toro's nebulous assassin. "It's absolutely a standalone movie," the director states, "a completely different story with just two of the characters that you met in Sicario." Taylor Sheridan wrote Sicario and Soldado, and seems like a likely bet to pen this third film as well. Personally, I'd sure like to see Jeffrey Donovan's special forces operator return as well.

Jun 21, 2016

Exclusive Interview With James Bond Comic Book Writer Warren Ellis

This is a big week for James Bond fans. Tomorrow sees the release of both the collected edition of the first new 007 comic book storyline in more than twenty years, VARGR, and the first issue of Dynamite's second storyline, EIDOLON, both written by comics superstar Warren Ellis (Global Frequency, RED). The gorgeous VARGR hardcover (which includes a gallery of all of the series' beautiful variant covers as well as some stunning concept art by series artist Jason Masters) will look great on the shelf alongside all your other Bond continuation novels.

With British author Warren Ellis, Dynamite seemed to land the perfect writer for a new generation of contemporary 007 comics. Ellis achieved great acclaim for his original series like Transmetropolitan and Planetary, as well as his work on mainstream superhero titles like Iron Man and Excaliber. But it was his previous forays into the paranoid world of spies and espionage in series like Global Frequency, RED (which was turned into a 2010 movie starring Bruce Willis which in turn spawned a sequel) and Reload (with former James Bond artist Paul Gulacy) that made Ellis ideally suited for Ian Fleming's superspy.

He recently took a moment for a brief exclusive interview with the Double O Section to answer some deep-cut, hardcore Bond nerd questions, and to discuss his work on "VARGR" and what we can expect from "EIDOLON" (which reintroduces SPECTRE to the world of the literary 007!).
00: You've taken on the Bond myth before in some other guises. How is your Bond different from the Bond/Nick Fury analogue in Planetary, John Stone? 
Ellis: Well, that character was much more of a specific riff on Marvel's Nick Fury character from the 1960s -- its only relationship to Bond was in the things that Nick Fury's writers and artists took from Bond. My Bond is the Bond of the books, by design and agreement with the Ian Fleming estate, and there's not, to my eye, a lot of connection there beyond the superficial. 
00: Obviously you re-read a lot of Fleming to prepare for this series. Since you're now an official 007 continuation author, working with the Fleming estate, did you delve at all into the work of any previous continuation authors, like Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, Raymond Benson, or William Boyd? Or is it necessary to consciously avoid that? 
Ellis: I decided to consciously avoid that. The remit was very much to live within the Bond of the books, and my decision was to only read the Fleming. Going in, I was terrified of pastiche or dilution, and to read the continuation books would put me at a remove from the central texts. The only non-Fleming reading I did was Amis' non-fiction appreciation of Bond [The James Bond Dossier], just to complement my own notes.

I never really thought of myself as an "official" 007 continuation author before. I quite like that. Thank you. 
00: You're welcome! It's a great group to be in. There are some elements very much present in Fleming, but which have become exaggerated in the films – notably the gadgets (attaché cases with hidden weapons as opposed to invisible cars) and humor (wry observations rather than puns). How do you walk that line between the book and film takes on those things, and will we see more of either in EIDOLON? 
Ellis: There were one or two gags I couldn't resist, just as I couldn't resist opening VARGR with a movie-style cold open. I'm never going to get another opportunity to write one of those, after all. But, in general, I cleave much more towards the more reserved tone of the books. Not perfectly, I know -- I leaven the text when the opportunity presents itself, not least because it opens up Bond's personality. I don't have access to the ease of interiority that prose provides, so I take advantage of dialogue interplay and body language, the affordances of comics.

EIDOLON might be a little "lighter" than VARGR, as I allow myself a few Fleming-isms that I avoided in VARGR. "Dharma Reach" was a fun name in VARGR, for instance, but there's a female character in EIDOLON with a far more full-on Fleming-y name.  As in Fleming, it's the little details that make it live.
Be sure to pick up the collected edition of VARGR if you haven't already to revel in those little details, and check out James Bond 007 #7, in comic shops June 22, to read Ellis's latest Bond adventure. Thank you to Warren Ellis for taking the time for this interview and to Dynamite Entertainment for making it happen.

Read my review of James Bond 007 #1, the premiere issue of VARGR, here.
Read about the recently reissued 1960s James Bond manga collections here.
Pre-order James Bond 007: VARGR from Amazon here.

Jun 17, 2016

Tradecraft: Netflix Orders Spy Kids TV Show

The Spy Kids are returning, this time on TV. Variety reports that Netflix will debut Spy Kids: Mission Critical, a series spinoff of the Robert Rogriguez theatrical kids' films, in 2018. According to the trade, "the show follows brother-and-sister team Juni and Carmen Cortez as they attend Spy Kids Academy, a top-secret spy school for kid agents. They must train and lead a team of fellow Spy Kids cadets against the forces of S.W.A.M.P. (Sinister Wrongdoers Against Mankind’s Preservation) and their leader, Golden Brain." It's unclear from this article whether this is an animated or live-action kids' show, but the head writer is FM DeMarco, who previously worked on Netflix's animated show Dragons: Race to the Edge, so that might be a clue. Bob Weinstein and The Weinstein Company will produce. No mention is made of any involvement from Rodriguez, who has directed all four installments of the film series, most recently the quasi-reboot Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 2011. In that film, Juni and Carmen (the child heroes of the original trilogy) were young adults who had passed the torch on to a new generation of Sky Kids.

Jun 4, 2016

Roach and Myers Still Contemplating Fourth Austin Powers Movie

Dark Horizons reports that director Jay Roach (whose LBJ biopic All the Way recently premiered on HBO) and star Mike Myers (Inglourious Basterds) are still kicking around ideas for a fourth Austin Powers movie. "You know, we talk about it every time we get together," the director told Larry King Now. "It ebbs and flows, and I would say it's in a latent phase right now, but someday if we find the right idea that seems to have it earn itself, for sure." Asked by King if they had a specific idea for the sequel, Roach replied, "We've had a whole bunch. It's been many years of kicking around, and we've had so many, but there's no one that's kind of stuck yet." So it doesn't sound like anything very concrete is happening on this front. That's probably for the best. While the first film (which will be two decades old next year, if you can believe it) was brilliant and hilarious, the sequels proved the law of diminishing returns. Still, they managed to shine a spotlight on Sixties spy movies, which is always a good thing. It was in the run-up to the third Powers movie that Fox released Our Man Flint and In Like Flint on DVD for the first time (with a weird cover blurb on the sequel attributed to Austin Powers himself proclaiming it, "My favorite movie!"), along with Fathom and Modesty Blaise (the latter of which makes its Blu-ray debut this summer via Kino Lorber). So if another Austin Powers movie meant more obscure spy titles making their way to home video, then I'd be all for it.

Digging into the Double O Section archives, I see that I've already written this blurb virtually verbatim (right down to the Fathom reference) at least twice before, and probably more. Rumors of another Austin Powers adventure tend to pop up every couple of years. Back in 2011, New Line was reported to be "close to a deal" with Myers for a film focusing on the villainous Dr. Evil and his son Scott. More recently, The New York Times reported that Myers was planning to resurrect the character on Broadway instead. Neither ultimately panned out.

May 24, 2016

Batman Meets Avengers Steed and Mrs. Peel For Real This Summer

DC Comics' Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel, uniting the Adam West incarnation of the Caped Crusader with the original Avengers, was first announced at Comic-Con last summer. But after that news on the project was frustratingly scarce. In the fall came the surprising news that Batman would next team up with another pair of Sixties tube spooks, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin in Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Again, details were scarce, and spy fans were left to ponder whether the U.N.C.L.E. series had precluded the previously announced Avengers crossover, or merely preceded it. Thankfully it now seems clear that DC is intent on a series of Sixties Batman TV crossovers, the issues of which appear to have replaced the ongoing monthly Batman '66 comic, which came to a close just before the U.N.C.L.E. crossover began. The publisher officially announced Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel last month (as reported on Comic Book Resources), with the first issue hitting comic shops July 6 (after debuting digitally on June 8) and the second slated for August 3.

The 6-issue series will be a co-publication with BOOM! Studios, who have held the license to publish Steed and Mrs. Peel comics since 2012, and have done so intermittently since then, along with reprinting Grant Morrison's early Nineties run on the title. BOOM!'s most recent stab at Steed and Emma (for my money, bar none the greatest characters in all spy television) came in 2014 with "Mrs. Peel, We're Needed" by Ian Edginton and Marco Cosentino. That series was originally solicited as being six issues, but was alarmingly truncated to just three (and never collected in trade), presumably owing to poor sales. (A pity, too, because Edginton delivered a great story chock-full of amusing references to The Prisoner, James Bond and other Sixties pop culture spies.) Hopefully a meeting with Batman will give The Avengers the higher profile they need to sell more comics of their own, and Boom! will at least allow Edginton to finish out his 6-issue run and then publish a collected edition to match their previous three volumes of original comics. That seems like a possibility because, happily, Edginton is the writer on Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel! Matthew Dow Smith (whose previous TV-based comics include Doctor Who and The X-Files, and who also drew the very first solo adventure of Mike Mignola's Lobster Johnson) provides the art, and the great Mike Allred (Red Rocket 7) continues his cover duties from Batman '66 and Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Additionally, Cat Staggs will provide a variant cover for the first issue.)

Some fans complained about the artwork because the publisher apparently didn't obtain likeness rights for Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, but I thought DC really knocked it out of the park with Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which will be collected in hardcover in September. I sincerely hope that Batman Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel maintains that high level of quality and fun, and with Edginton (who also penned a quartet of outstanding Sherlock Holmes graphic novel adaptations) at the helm, I'm confident that it will. Furthermore, if I may dare to dream a moment, I hope that the two miniseries are successful enough to warrant follow-ups. I would love to see more U.N.C.L.E. from DC (and I suspect the only way that will happen is with Batman along for the ride), and I would love even more to see some sort of jam-packed hullabaloo with Batman, Steed, Emma, Napoleon and Illya all together! (While I'm dreaming big, such an epic event should definitely be drawn by Allred. He loves hullabaloos.) At the very least, it will be nice to have a pair of Batman '66 superspy crossovers next to each other on my bookshelf by early next year. (The hardcover volumes DC has done with Batman '66 are very attractive indeed.)

I have no doubt that this series will yield an umbrella fight between John Steed and the Penguin, and a catsuited cat fight between Emma Peel and Catwoman. And obviously (judging from the cover for #2), Cybernaughts show up too. And I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Hellfire Club make an appearance. But here's what we know for sure, in the form of DC's solicitation copy for the first two issues.
BATMAN ’66 MEETS STEED AND MRS. PEEL #1England swings and so does the Dynamic Duo in this historic pairing of two of the hippest shows from 1960s television. DC Comics and BOOM! Studios join forces to bring these iconic characters together for the first time!
As Bruce Wayne shows the beautiful head of a UK electronics company the sights of Gotham, they are interrupted by the felonious feline Catwoman! Unwilling to leave Miss Michaela Gough unprotected, Bruce resigns himself to the fact that Batman cannot save the day. But some new players have arrived in town—though even as the lovely, catsuit-clad Mrs. Peel and her comrade John Steed take control of the situation, nefarious plots continue apace!  
BATMAN ’66 MEETS STEED AND MRS. PEEL #2Gotham City’s police headquarters have been besieged by mysterious metal men, and our heroes are put in an unlikely position: as Catwoman’s saviors. And when even Batman’s best efforts falter, John Steed’s trusty umbrella plays a key role in the rescue! Co-published with BOOM! Studios.
Like Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel will be a digital first comic. This means that the comic will be published digitally on a bi-weekly schedule in advance of its print publication. Each digital issue contains half the contents of each print issue, so digitally it will amount to twelve parts total.

Pre-order Batman '66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel: The Golden Game here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel Volume 1 here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel Volume 2 here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel Volume 3 here.

Read my review of Steed and Mrs. Peel #0 here.
Read my interview with Steed and Mrs. Peel writer Caleb Monroe here.

May 17, 2016

See the First Mission: Impossible On the Big Screen in L.A.

James Bond movies play the revival circuit all the time, but the opportunity to see early entries in other continuing blockbuster spy franchises in the theater is much less frequent. Los Angelenos, however, will get just such an opportunity next week when the Arclight Hollywood presents the first Mission: Impossible on the big screen. No, I'm not talking about Mission: Impossible vs. The Mob, the film assembled from two episodes of the TV show to play overseas in the Sixties (though that would certainly be cool to see in a cinema!); I'm talking about the first Tom Cruise movie, which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary--almost to the night. Brian DePalma's Mission: Impossible opened on May 22, 1996; the Arclight screening (presented digitally) happens just a day late on May 23, 2016 at 7:30pm. Tickets are available from the Arclight website. It's kind of amazing that Cruise has been playing the role of IMF agent Ethan Hunt for so long. No actor ever played James Bond continuously for so many years (though Connery returned to the role for Never Say Never Again 21 years after his first outing as 007), though the Mission: Impossible movies have never appeared with the regularity of Bonds, making that feat somewhat easier to, er... accomplish.

When I first saw Mission: Impossible in high school, I came home very disappointed by what screenwriters William Goldman and David Koepp had done to Jim Phelps, beloved hero of the TV show (played there by the great Peter Graves and in the movie by Jon Voight), who I knew at that time only through the late 80s/early 90s revival. But over the years, I've learned to let go a little. Plus, the high quality of the recent entries in the film series has earned some good will on my part toward the first one. While the Phelps twist will never sit right with me, I can now appreciate DePalma's film for the many things it does right. He directs an honest-to-goodness spy movie, homaging the genre far outside of just the Mission TV show or the Bond movies at a time when many believed it to be dead after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His canted angles of twisty European streets recollect Carol Reed, Sidney Furie and Martin Ritt with the same gusto that his expertly constructed setpieces tribute, as always, with DePalma, Alfred Hitchcock. (Though of course the film's most memorable moment, with Cruise dangling from the ceiling of the CIA, actually comes directly from Jules Dassin's Topkapi.) And Danny Elfman's score is utterly fantastic from start to finish, like DePalma taking its musical cues as much from Hitchcock collaborators like Bernard Herrman as from original Mission: Impossible composer Lalo Schifrin. For open-minded spy fans, I think seeing the 1996 Mission: Impossible on the big screen again could prove revelatory.
Thanks to Neil for the heads-up!