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.

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SEASON 7!!!

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!

May 16, 2016

Tradecraft: Thrilling Cities TV Series in Development

Sharp-eyed agents at MI6 (the mega-Bond fansite, not the spy agency) noticed a very interesting item buried within a Hollywood Reporter story about actor Michael Weatherly's departure from the hit TV series NCIS. Musing about future prospects, Weatherly told the trade that his production company, Solar Drive Productions, is working on adapting Ian Fleming's 1963 non-fiction travelogue Thrilling Cities into a possible TV series. That's a very exciting prospect! Evidently, Weatherly thinks so too, telling the trade, "All of it is so exciting, but I'm really not allowing myself to get too excited about it until the final episode of NCIS airs." No further details are provided. Would this be a travel/reality series, or a drama? Would it be set in today's most thrilling cities, or the same ones Fleming found thrilling in the early 1960s? Would it be a period piece? All of these prospects are intriguing. Weatherly founded Solar Drive in 2014, strking an overall development deal with CBS Television Studios on a mission to create  "inventive, adrenalized, powerful hit series in every platform"... which doesn't seem to narrow down the possibilities. It seems unlikely, however, that Weatherly would star in a drama version; he's already committed to another new CBS show, Bull, so most likely he'll be involved only in a producing capacity. Whatever they ultimately come up with, it's important to note that development is a long way from being on the air. Fingers crossed though! I would love to see another Ian Fleming property on screen, even if the final product bears only a nominal relationship to its original inspiration. The property someone really needs to develop, though, is The Diamond Smugglers! Imagine posters touting so-and-so as "John Blaize, the other hero from the creator of James Bond!"

May 1, 2016

Tradecraft: Paul Rudd to Play Moe Berg

Variety reports that Paul Rudd (Captain America: Civil War) will play the legendary baseball player/spy (more legendary as the former than the latter) Moe Berg in The Catcher Was a Spy for Palmstar Media. Since it has the same title, I'm assuming this film will be based on Nicholas Davidoff's 1995 book, and I honestly can't believe it's taken so long for that to make it to the screen. There have been many books on Berg, however (ESPN calls him "the only utility player to be the subject of three biographies"), so it's possible that the movie has other source material. Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan) wrote the screenplay and Ben Lewin (The Sessions) will direct.

Berg was perhaps the ultimate Renaissance man. With degrees from Princeton and Columbia Law (as well as studying at the Sorbonne), he was a polyglot and an athlete. During a fifteen-year career in the major league he bounced around between multiple teams including the Chicago White Sox, the Washington Senators and the Boston Red Sox. An undistinguished record didn't stop him from accompanying the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Japan in the years before WWII, where he covertly photographed Tokyo for the U.S. government, taking films that were supposedly used in planning the Doolittle raid. He went on to serve in the OSS and the CIA, taking on numerous perilous wartime assignments.

Apr 26, 2016

SPECTRE Returns in Warren Ellis' Second James Bond Comics Arc

According to the solicitation copy for Dynamite's James Bond 007 #7, in stores June 15, Warren Ellis's second 007 arc will see the return of the villainous organization SPECTRE to the pages of comics. Indeed, as the comics are licensed from Ian Fleming Publications and based on the Fleming novels rather than the films, the storyline "EIDOLON," also marks the first appearance of SPECTRE in print (in the world of the literary Bond) since John Gardner's tenure as the official continuation author back in the 1980s! Here's the description:
After World War Two, army intelligence groups created ghost cells called "stay-behinds" across Europe in the event of a Warsaw Pact surge. “EIDOLON” is the story of a SPECTRE stay-behind structure – ghost cells of SPECTRE loyalists acting as sleepers until the time is right for a SPECTRE reformation and resurgence. The time is now.
Ellis gave an interview with Comic Book Resources, revealing slightly more about the story. "SPECTRE is over as a threat at this time in Bond's life, and Blofeld is gone," he tells the website, promising, "This is something new." The inspiration for "EIDOLON" (a Greek word meaning "ghost," "phantom," or... "specter"), he reveals, draws as much upon current events as it does on those WWII stay-behind units. "I'd been looking for a way to introduce asymmetrical warfare and modern combat conditions into Bond without being too clunky about it -- AQ, Daesh, the movement of money, all the stuff that didn't necessarily pertain when Fleming was writing," he told CBR.

And while we might not be seeing Ernst Stavro Blofeld rise from the ashes, Ellis does promise one figure from Bond's past. Fans can look forward to CIA agent (or former CIA agent, depending on which part of Fleming's timeline Ellis ends up drawing from) Felix Leiter popping up in "EIDOLON."

Meanwhile, Ellis's first James Bond 007 storyline, "VARGR," will be collected in hardcover this summer, in stores June 28 and available for pre-order on Amazon.

Apr 25, 2016

New Trailer and Posters: Le Carré's Our Kind of Traitor



We saw the British trailer a couple of months ago; now we get our first American trailer for Our Kind of Traitor, courtesy of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions—along with the rather uninspired U.S. (above) and UK (below) posters for the John le Carré adaptation, based on his highly entertaining 2010 novel. Ewan McGregor (Stormbreaker), Naomie Harris (Skyfall), Damian Lewis (Homeland), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) and Stellan Skarsgård (The Hunt for Red October) star. Our Kind of Traitor opens July 1 in the United States, and May 13 in the UK.


New Poster: Jason Bourne

Here's the second teaser poster for Jason Bourne, the fourth movie starring Matt Damon as Robert Ludlum's amnesiac superspy, and the third directed by Paul Greengrass. Jason Bourne opens July 27, 2016 (two days earlier than previously announced). Watch the latest trailer here. View the first poster (same slogan, full body) here.

Apr 21, 2016

Trailer: Jason Bourne

We got our first glimpse in nine years at Matt Damon in action as Jason Bourne during the Super Bowl spot for the eponymous new movie. Today, Universal has released the full trailer, and it looks pretty spectacular! Damon re-teams with his Bourne Supremacy, Bourne Ultimatum and Green Zone director Paul Greengrass, and the results are exactly what you'd expect of that team. Jason Bourne (which bodly abandons the traditional Robert Ludlum title structure) opens July 29.  Alicia Vikander (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Vincent Cassel (Agents Secrets), Tommy Lee Jones (Criminal) and Julia Stiles (reprising her role from previous Bourne movies) co-star.



Read my review of Paul Greengrass's The Bourne Ultimatum here.
Read my review of Tony Gilroy's The Bourne Legacy here.
Read my review of the 1988 miniseries of The Bourne Identity here.
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Identity here.
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Supremacy here.
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Ultimatum here

Apr 19, 2016

The Night Manager Debuts Tonight in America

I've been covering this miniseries with much excitement since it was first announced in 2014, and tonight it is finally here! After it aired in the UK last month and in various other territories since then, American audiences at last get to tune in to the six-part BBC/AMC miniseries The Night Manager, based on John le Carré's 1993 novel, starting tonight. Hugh Laurie (House), Tom Hiddleston (Marvel's The Avengers), Olivia Colman (Broadchruch) and Elizabeth Debicki (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) star in Susanne Bier's contemporary take on le Carré's much loved thriller. Laurie has long been a fan of this novel, having attempted to secure the rights back in his Jeeves & Wooster days hoping to play the role Hiddleston now takes on, and written his own fantastic parody of it (and the spy genre at large) in The Gun Seller. (And according to Adam Sisman's recent le Carré biography, Laurie has actually known the author personally since the Nineties, having met him through Stephen Fry.) Attempts to film The Night Manager date back nearly to its original publication. As recently as 2009, Brad Pitt hoped to star in a feature version. But in many ways le Carré works best on the small screen, where there is plenty of room to explore all the nuances, twists and turns of his complex plots. (The BBC's miniseries versions of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People starring Alec Guinness remain high water marks of the genre to this day.) Amazingly, it's been 25 years since the last small screen le Carré adaptation, 1991's A Murder of Quality (review here). After the success The Night Manager has already enjoyed in Britain (where, like the Guinness miniseries before it, it was a bona fide cultural phenomenon), it's unlikely we'll have to wait so long again. The Ink Factory, the production company founded by two of le Carré's sons behind The Night Manager, is already cooking up a three-part adaptation of the author's 2003 novel Absolute Friends.

The Night Manager debuts tonight, Tuesday, April 19, at 10/9c on AMC.

Apr 4, 2016

Blue Ruin Director to Helm Robert Littell's Defection?

This project was first reported back in 2014, but things have been quiet since then. I'm glad to learn it's still progressing! According to The Tracking Board (via Dark Horizons), Jeremy Saulnier, who helmed the acclaimed 2014 indie feature Blue Ruin and the upcoming Patrick Stewart white supremacist thriller Green Room, is in talks to make his studio debut with 20th Century Fox's Defection. As previously reported, Defection (scripted by Black Hawk Down's Ken Nolan) is based on The Defection of A.J. Lewinter, the first novel by spy stalwart Robert Littell, whose works have also served as the basis for the TNT series The Company (with Michael Keaton) and Legends (with Sean Bean). Here's how The Tracking Board describes the project:
Cut from the same cloth as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy but set in an Edward Snowden era, Defection tells the story of Leo Diamond, a broken down CIA case officer who uses his calculated Cold War training to go after a mid-level CIA intelligence contractor who has defected to North Korea and has taken a mysterious suitcase with him.
Littell's novel is a bona fide classic, but very, very much seeped in the Cold War period in which it was written. Relocating it to North Korea wouldn't be nearly as simple as doing a find/replace swapping "Pyongyang" for "Moscow;" it would require considerable research into the ins and outs of North Korean politics and power structures (which I'm presuming are just as internecine as they were in the Soviet Union in the Seventies). And changing the defector from a scientist to an intelligence contractor, while timely in the wake of Snowden, will also create major ramifications in the novel's plot—possibly even affecting one of the all-time great final twists in spy fiction. Just making the very play-like, talky novel cinematic would be a major challenge, so I look forward to seeing how Nolan pulls it off. Saulnier is an expert at creating tension, so I have no doubt he'll pull off this difficult page to screen transition.

At one point Brad Pitt was attached to star in and produce Defection. He's not mentioned in this report, so I'm not sure if he's involved any longer.

Mar 21, 2016

Tradecraft: Edward Holcroft Returns for Kingsman 2

At least one seemingly dead character from Kingsman: The Secret Service will be back for the sequel. Deadline reports that British actor Edward Holcroft (who went on to play a much more dramatic spy role opposite Ben Whishaw in London Spy) will return as Eggsy's (Taron Edgerton) snobby Kingsman candidate rival turned antagonist, Charlie. Though Charlie presumably perished in the mountain bunker at the end of the first movie, I don't think we actually saw it on screen. Does his reappearance open the door for another, much more popular, character who was killed off far more definitively? While the official word is no, many fans are still hoping director Matthew Vaughn has a surprise in store regarding that character. Kingsman 2 is set to shoot this summer, from a script by Vaughn and Jane Goldman (not, this time, working from a Mark Millar comic book). According to the trade, Halle Berry (Die Another Day) and Julianne Moore (Laws of Attraction) are also in talks to star in the sequel, with Berry as the head of the CIA and Moore as the villainess. As previously reported, Vaughn will once again direct.

Mar 11, 2016

Tradecraft: Michael Keaton to Costar in Flynn's American Assassin

The long, long gestating Mitch Rapp movie seems to finally be gaining some traction and moving towards production. First set up at CBS Films for producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura way back in early 2008, actors like Gerrard Butler, Matthew Fox and Chris Hemsworth have all at one time or another flirted with playing Vince Flynn's counterterror hero in what's hoped to be a franshise based on the late author's 13 novel series. It was reported a while ago that Homeland veteran Michael Cuesta (Kill the Messenger) would direct, but we haven't heard anything new since then and I wondered if he was even still involved. (Legends' Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Legends of the Fall's Ed Zwick had previously been linked to the project in that capacity.) Evidently he is. In the first casting announcement of this particular incarnation, Deadline reports that Michael Keaton (The Company) will play the supporting role of Stan Hurley in American Assassin, Rapp's CIA mentor, a shadowy veteran of Cold War Black Ops. Bruce Willis had been attached to this role in a previous incarnation of the Rapp movie. American Assassin isn't based on Flynn's first book, but on the chronological first story in the series. (Originally it was CBS Films' plan to adapt Flynn's Consent to Kill first.) Published in 2010, the novel was a prequel telling the origins of the fearless Rapp, who joined the CIA hungry for revenge after his fiance was killed in a terrorist attack and came under the tutelege of Hurley.

Feb 17, 2016

Tradecraft: Kingsman Sequel Gathers Steam With Julianne Moore as Villain

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the sequel to last year's Kingsman: The Secret Service is gearing up for a June shoot, and Julianne Moore (The Fugitive) has been tapped to play the main villain. The trade reports that Matthew Vaughn will direct again (I was kind of hoping he'd tackle his other percolating spy movie, the adaptation of Terry Hayes' I Am Pilgrim, next) and Taron Egerton (now starring in Eddie the Eagle) will once again star as Eggsy. Not returning is Colin Firth. Last year it had been rumored that Vaughn was looking for ways to bring his character back. Personally, I'd still love to see two franchises grow out of Kingsman: a series of sequels starring Egerton, and a series of prequels starring Firth.

Read my review of Kingsman: The Secret Service here.

Tradecraft: Sony Shops Salt for TV

Screen Daily reports (via Dark Horizons) that Sony is developing a television version of their 2010 spy film Salt. The original starred Angelina Jolie (after a lengthy development process that saw the protagonist's gender changed after Tom Cruise left the project), was directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games) and written by Kurt Wimmer (The Recruit). According to the trade, "The Hollywood studio is pitching the adaptation to broadcasters and co-production partners at this week’s European Film Market, which runs alongside the Berlin Film Festival." Diego Suarez joined Sony last year as Senior Vice President of International Television Production with a mandate "to develop local and international TV around the world. Suarez told the trade,“We want to bring [the Salt series] to Europe in a completely different way." Transporter: The Series was a European TV show based on a European movie property; NBC's upcoming Taken series a U.S. TV show based on a European movie property. "If successful," the trade notes, "Salt would mark one of the first Hollywood pictures to be turned into a television series in Europe."

Last we had heard, Sony was still keen on a theatrical sequel to Salt, and had set Becky Johnston to write. (Wimmer had worked on a previous draft.) That was back in 2012, however, and things have been pretty quiet on the Salt front since then. It's unclear what a prospective TV series means for the movie sequel.

Feb 16, 2016

Trailer: Idris Elba Neo-Eurospy Movie Bastille Day

StudioCanal have announced an April 22 UK release date for the Idris Elba neo-Eurospy movie Bastille Day, and released the first trailer. Variety reported last November that the distributor was re-evaluating their release schedule in the wake of the shocking real-life Paris terror attacks. (It was originally due out in February.) Bastille Day will open in France on, appropriately, July 13, just in time for the real Bastille Day celebrations. Focus Features has yet to set a U.S. release date. Directed by James Watkins (The Woman in Black), Bastille Day stars Elba (The Gunman) as a CIA agent who teams up with a pickpocket (Richard Madden) to stop a terrorist attack from being carried out in Paris in the next 24 hours. The premise seems pretty similar to another neo-Eurospy movie, From Paris With Love, but the execution and tone look sufficiently different. Check it out:

Feb 13, 2016

More Trailers for Le Carré Miniseries The Night Manager

What a week of treats for John le Carré fans! Yesterday we finally got to see the first trailer for Susanna White's summer movie of Our Kind of Traitor, and today we get another look (or two!) at Susanne Bier's spring miniseries of The Night Manager! A few weeks ago we saw the BBC's trailer; today brings us a 30 second Hugh Laurie-centric spot from American production partner AMC... along with a completely different minute-long trailer from AMC Asia, which for my money is the best one yet. The Night Manager stars Laurie (MI-5, The Gun Seller), Tom Hiddleston (Marvel's The Avengers), Elizabeth Debicki (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), David Harewood (Homeland) and Tobias Menzies (Casino Royale).

According to an article in today's Guardian, "Laurie said at a recent screening of the drama that many years ago he had unsuccessfully tried to buy the rights to the book. His aim had been to play the hero, Pine, because the story was 'so romantic, noble, stirring and thrilling.'" More than twenty years later, Laurie is now playing the antagonist, Roper, instead. I could have seen him as Pine in the Nineties, but honestly, I think he'll make a much better Roper! Laurie was actually such a fan of le Carré's 1993 novel that he's credited it as the inspiration for his own rather wonderful spy novel, The Gun Seller. While it gently sends up the genre in general, The Gun Seller is mainly a comedic version of The Night Manager. (And The Gun Seller would still make a great movie! I've wanted to see that filmed ever since first reading it when it came out. Unfortunately Laurie is probably too old now to convincingly play the hero, but it could still be great with the right casting.)

The 6-part event series The Night Manager premieres Tuesday, April 19, in the United States. I cannot wait!

Feb 12, 2016

New Red Band Trailer for The Brothers Grimsby

Sony has released a new Red Band NSFW trailer for the raunchy Sacha Baron Cohen/Mark Strong spy comedy The Brothers Grimsby, directed by Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2). It looks quite funny indeed.


They've also released a clip of the late night audience on Jimmy Kimmel Live! watching a clip from the movie. That's right, a clip of an audience watching a movie clip... but not the movie clip itself. That's because the scene in question is way too offensively raunchy to be shown on TV... or even the Internet, apparently. But it's probably better publicity to show this great reaction instead! Trust me, this clip really is worth viewing. Watching the absolutely appalled looks on the faces of the audience as they veer between disgusted and hysterical is funny in itself... and will likely make you very curious to see the movie and find out what on earth could make them all react that way!

Via Dark Horizons

Trailer: Criminal

Criminal is a weird one with a great cast that we've been hearing about for a while now. (It was first announced in 2013, the cast firmed up in late 2014, and it was originally supposed to be released in August of 2015.) Here's the first trailer. It has an odd tone, but it's certainly very cool to see powerhouses Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Tommy Lee Jones (Jason Bourne) and Kevin Costner (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) in the same room together! The plot, as best I can make out, finds the CIA putting the mind of a deceased agent (an oddly un-billed Ryan Reynolds, despite being the first name mentioned in the studio's synopsis on YouTube) into the body of a hardened criminal (Costner) in order to access his memories and, presumably, complete his mission. Why they would choose a criminal as the vessel I still can't parse out, but hopefully the movie explains it. I'm glad, at least, that this time it's Reynolds' character being put into the body of a more interesting actor (because I'd certainly rather watch Costner in this kind of movie) rather than vise versa, as in last year's Self/Less wherein Ben Kingsley's mind or soul was put into Reynolds' body. (I think Reynolds is excellent in Deadpool. I just don't tend to like him in more serious roles, like Safe House.)

Criminal opens April 15, from Lionsgate. Alice Eve (Men In Black 3), Gal Gadot (Fast Five), Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire), Scott Adkins (The Bourne Ultimatum) and Robert Davi (Licence to Kill) round out the impressive cast. Ariel Vroman (The Iceman) directs from a script by the team behind The Rock (1995), David Weisberg and the late Douglas Cook.

Feb 11, 2016

Our Kind of Trailer

At long, long last, we finally have a trailer for the new John le Carré movie Our Kind of Traitor! This movie has been in the works for a looong time, from when it was originally rumored to be directed by Justin Kurzel (Macbeth) and star Mads Mikkelsen and Ralph Fiennes, to its final cast of Ewan McGregor (Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker), Naomie Harris (Skyfall), Damian Lewis (Homeland) and Stellan Skarsgård (The Hunt for Red October) under the direction of Susanna White. This trailer also finally confirms that Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) is indeed in the movie! His involvement was rumored early on, but subsequently put in question. He was first touted to play Luke, but it's clear from the trailer that that isn't the case. (Readers of the book will realize quickly what role he is playing.) Luke is played by Khalid Abdalla (Green Zone). This UK trailer is kind of an odd watch because there seems to be a very short teaser for the trailer on its head, and lines like "based on the novel by John le Carré" and "You betrayed your country!" are repeated in the main body of the trailer. Overall, despite some changes of location (like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and a younger Hector than I ever imagined, the trailer makes the movie look pretty faithful to the novel. Between this in theaters and The Night Manager on television and The Pigeon Tunnel in bookstores, 2016 is shaping up to be an excellent year for le Carré fans!

Our Kind of Traitor opens May 6 in the UK and in America later in the summer.

Feb 9, 2016

SPECTRE Blu-ray Retailer Exclusives

As seems to be the norm these days (infuriatingly, for consumers), SPECTRE hit Blu-ray today in North America in several different retailer exclusive configurations. This guide is not intended as an endorsement of this frustrating practice, but more of a consumer alert, a buyer beware, so you can make sure you choose the version that's best for you. First, there's the standard Blu-ray edition available from most retailers (including Amazon). The special features are annoyingly scant, but do include the excellent 20-minute featurette "SPECTRE: Bond's Biggest Opening Sequence," covering the Mexico City shoot of the movie's breathtaking pre-credits sequence and the film's premiere. This is the best James Bond Blu-ray special feature since the excellent Cloverland documentaries on the Casino Royale Special Edition. Besides that, all there is in the way of value-added material are the video blogs that ran on 007.com throughout production (all short EPK pieces), three trailers, and a rather disappointing gallery consisting solely of publicity stills and no production artwork or advertising campaign material.

Target offers their own exclusive edition that includes a bonus DVD (that's right, standard def) containing three additional special features totally over 20 minutes (a nice addition given the dearth of extras on the regular disc). "From Title Song to Title Sequence" (06:27) is a featurette about the making of the title sequence (which Mendes aptly describes as "a whole other film, a piece of art") and the song (and also the music video, complete with BTS footage), including interviews with title designer Daniel Kleinman, singer Sam Smith and director Sam Mendes (who praises Smith's controversial falsetto). "The Shadow of SPECTRE" (10:15) features writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade discussing SPECTRE's history within the film series, past films in general, and Ian Fleming. It's basically a recap of things fans will already know. There's also a little bit at the end addressing how they tackled the villainous organization in the new movie. (Purvis: "Everyone was aware that if we're going to do SPECTRE, you've got to make it very different to how it was.") Finally, there's the music video for Sam Smith's somewhat lackluster theme song "Writing's On the Wall" (04:45). The video itself is quite good, and certainly should have been included on the standard Blu-ray.

Finally, Best Buy is offering their own exclusive edition in an attractive steelbook design featuring the octopus/bullet hole teaser artwork (pictured). The features are the same as the regular version. So if you value bonus material (like I do), you should opt for the Target disc to get maximum extras. If you value aesthetics and packaging, the Best Buy one might be right for you. And if you don't really care and just want the movie itself in an admittedly stunning HD transfer, just go for the regular version.