Sep 21, 2014

McQuarrie Tweets First Team Photo from Mission: Impossible 5

Director Christopher McQuarrie has Tweeted (via Dark Horizons) a candid shot of the latest iteration of the IMF team from the set of Mission: Impossible 5. Comprising a sort of all-star roster from the previous film entries, Jeremy Renner, Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames would be the 8x10s on Jim's desk if the movies ever did that classic TV "team selection" scene... and if the film series hadn't stupidly made Jim Phelps a traitor. (Come on, McQuarrie, please undo that misstep with a throwaway line about how the agent who assumed Phelps' name after his retirement turned out to be a real asshole or something... ideally delivered in a cameo from Martin Landau or Leonard Nimoy or Peter Lupus!) Notably absent is Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol's female lead, Paula Patton. I guess the film series is emulating the TV show's fourth season, when rather than replacing Barbara Bain with another female regular, the producers opted for a guest actress each week. But the important takeaway here is that in his first photo from the set, McQuarrie has chosen to focus on the team, and not on Cruise alone! While the first three movies were mostly solo Cruise vehicles, Brad Bird's Ghost Protocol made huge strides in steering the films back in the direction of the classic show—which was always team-oriented. I hope this is a sign that McQuarrie intends to continue along a similar course. His caption would seem to indicate so!

Sep 20, 2014

Tradecraft: Ben Whishaw to Star in BBC's London Spy

Last February we heard that BBC Two had commissioned a five episode spy series from Ian Fleming Steel Dagger winner Tom Rob Smith (Child 44) called London Spy. If it wasn't already among the most promising upcoming spy television, it certainly is now, because The Hollywood Reporter reports that Q himself, the great Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, The Hour), has signed on to star! Whishaw will play Danny, a "hedonistic romantic" drawn into the dangerous world of espionage when his new boyfriend, Alex, disappears. The drama starts filming next month, with further casting expected to be announced soon. Then, in December, Whishaw begins filming Bond 24.

Billy Joel Covers "Live and Let Die" on New McCartney Tribute

Surely "Live and Let Die" must be the most covered James Bond song ever? Guns'n'Roses probably did it most famously, but the Paul McCartney and Wings tune (probably my own favorite Bond song) has also been covered over the years by Chrissie Hynde, Ginger Spice and Duffy to name just a few. For me, however, the version to beat remains this crazy cover by Brazilian Band Pato Fu performed on children's instruments. This fall, Billy Joel will throw his hat into the ring in a high-profile way when he covers the song (along with "Maybe I'm Amazed") on the forthcoming all-star Paul McCartney tribute album The Art of McCartney. Other artists in the line-up include Hynde (performing "Let It Be"), Bob Dylan (performing "Things We Said Today"), Willie Nelson (performing "Yesterday"), Jeff Lynne, Brian Wilson, Roger Daltrey and Yusuf (aka Cat Stevens). No more Bond songs though, obviously. Still, it sounds like a pretty cool album!

Read more about the sometimes surprising connections between The Beatles and James Bond over the years in my post "The Beatles vs. James Bond (or Blond)."

Sep 16, 2014

Tradecraft: Matt Damon to Reprise His Bourne Identity After All?

Matt Damon has long maintained that he would only return to the role of Jason Boune if Paul Greengrass returned to direct. And Greengrass has been saying for just as long that he would never return to direct, a self-sustaining loop which seemed to preclude ever seeing another Bourne movie starring Damon. Eventually even Universal gave up on hoping to extend their blockbuster spy franchise with its original star, and hired Jeremy Renner to star in a weird placeholder spin-off movie, The Bourne Legacy, directed by series scribe Tony Gilroy. Since Gilroy and Greengrass had famously fallen out during production on The Bourne Ultimatum, and Damon sided with Greengrass, Gilroy's increased involvement in the spin-off seemed to dash further any hopes of a Damon return. Even so, however, The Bourne Legacy was carefully scripted so as not to alter Bourne's universe in any way. That decision effectively neutered the spin-off, but left the door wide open for a Damon return, however unlikely that seemed. Spy fans, of course, learned three decades ago to never say never, and now it looks like just such a return is finally in the cards!

Deadline's Mike Fleming broke the story earlier today that the studio "has begun making deals with Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to reunite" for another Bourne movie! While this is hugely exciting news, it's important to note that no one at Universal nor reps for either key player has yet gone on the record. Still, Fleming seems confident that a deal is underway. And a little later, The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit corroborated Fleming's story with his own sources. And Kit brought another piece of the puzzle to the table; he reports that Greengrass will not only direct, but also script the next Bourne movie. While he hasn't had a writing credit on either of his previous Bourne films (The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum), the director is no stranger to writing or to the spy genre. As a journalist back in the Eighties, he co-wrote one of the most notorious espionage tell-alls of all time, Peter Wright's Spy Catcher. And as a screenwriter he penned the critically acclaimed 9/11 drama United 93, the equally acclaimed Irish Troubles picture Bloody Sunday, and numerous TV projects. Now he'll take a crack at a story conundrum he once said was insurmountable: where do you take the Jason Bourne character now that he's regained his memory? I have a tip for Greengrass on that one. Do what Gilroy annoyingly (and loudly) refused to do, and return to Robert Ludlum's novels. There are several movies' worth of great plots in those books that remain untapped by Hollywood. (The first film really only used the book's premise and opening, while the second two were basically adaptations in name only.) Sure, the previous films have changed a lot of stuff from the books, and killed off a couple of crucial characters, but they haven't done anything that Greengrass couldn't work around. I'd also love to see Damon's Bourne in the Hong Kong and Macau locations of Ludlum's second novel, since we've really only seen him in action in Europe so far. (And briefly in New York, India and North Africa.)

So where do these latest developments leave Renner's Aaron Cross character from The Bourne Legacy? Only months ago it was announced that Fast and Furious director Justin Lin would be helming a second Cross "Bourne" movie. (And I'm still quite keen to see him do it; I think his action sensibility is just what's needed to course correct from the first spin-offs missteps.) Andrew Baldwin was slated to script. But now Lin is attached to direct the second season of True Detective for HBO, and Fleming reports that Universal is eager to slot the Damon/Greengrass reunion about the "real" Jason Bourne in the July 16, 2016 berth previously allotted for Aaron Cross. That doesn't mean, however, that the studio is giving up on Renner's character. Rather, reports Fleming, "Universal intends to continue that series and to broaden its franchise base" along the lines of the interconnected franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That's a smart move, in my opinion, and a win/win scenario for spy fans. One that means we may well continue to see new movies set in the Bourne Universe, focusing on different agents, for a long time to come. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll even see Gilroy's dream of having the two spies cross paths come true. But, given these new developments and old rivalries, probably not with Gilroy himself involved. Personally, I welcome the return of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. It's true that The Bourne Ultimatum was a satisfying send-off for the character, but Greengrass and Damon managed to top it in terms of tour de force action setpieces with their very next collaboration, Green Zone. So I enthusiastically look forward to seeing whatever they come up with next for Bourne.

Aug 26, 2014

New Spy Novel Out From Permission To Kill's David Foster

This is exciting! David Foster, proprietor of my fellow COBRAS spy blog Permission To Kill, has gone from spy blogger to spy author, and he's just published a new spy novel! The Danakil Deception (published under Foster's cover name of James Hopwood) is available now from Amazon. It's actually Foster's second story about secret agent Jarvis Love; the character first appeared in the novella The Librio Defection. (Foster's other fiction includes the Fight Card novel King of the Outback and the boxing short story "Bushwhacked.") But The Danakil Deception is a full-length novel. Here's the official description:
When archaeologists at the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia – the hottest place on Earth – discover a ruby measuring six feet in diameter, the world's scientific community is thrown into a spin. But it's not only scientists who are interested in the discovery. In the wrong hands, the ruby could be used to power a terrifying weapon – a weapon that could change the fate of the world. Meet Jarvis Love, the young operative assigned to investigate the find. Thrown into a harsh unforgiving environment, Love finds himself battling a neo-Nazi with a diabolical plot to assassinate the top world leaders in one massive attack... ...the clock is ticking, and only Love can stop the madman. Filled with hair-raising action and wild chases, The Danakil Deception is an edge-of-your-seat adventure that harks back to the great spy novels of the sixties, but infused with the high-octane punch of a modern thriller. The HOTTEST place on Earth just got HOTTER!
Sounds awesome! I can't wait to read it.

Rare Connery and Moore Movies Coming to Blu-ray This Fall

Michael Caine isn't the only superspy coming to Blu-ray this fall from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. You'll also be able to trace the gathering age lines on Roger Moore and Sean Connery in high definition in some of their post- (or nearly post-) Bond best non-spy roles. Perhaps most excitingly, the company will release the 1984 Golan Globus action thriller The Naked Face, starring Roger Moore, on both DVD and Blu-ray on October 24. Why is this the most exciting? Because the Chicago-set, Bryan Forbes-directed Sidney Sheldon adaptation (which co-stars Rod Steiger, Elliott Gould, Anne Archer and Art Carney) has never before been available in the United States on DVD! And it's one of Moore's best non-Bond actioners. So Moore fans should definitely check this one out.

On September 16, Kino will release a pair of Seventies Sean Connery movies that have previously been on DVD (though are now out of print and quite pricey), but never before on Blu-ray: Michael Crichton's 1978 Victorian caper The Great Train Robbery (co-starring Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down) and Ronald Neame's 1979 all-star disaster spectacle Meteor (co-starring Natalie Wood, Karl Malden and Martin Landau). The latter may not be considered a Connery Classic, but it is one of my own favorite guilty pleasure movies of that era. Then on December 2, the company will release Connery's own career-favorite performance in Sidney Lumet's The Offence (opposite Trevor Howard). The Offence has previously been available in America only as an MOD title. Finally, spy fans may also be interested to know that Kino will put out Hickey and Boggs on Blu-ray the same day. While not a spy movie, the 1972 private eye tale is notable for reuniting one of the most famous spy duos of the Sixties, I Spy's Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. Whew! It's going to be an expensive fall!

Billion Dollar Brain Coming to Blu-ray!

Harry Palmer is finally coming to Blu-ray in the United States! And somewhat surprisingly, not in The Ipcress File* or Funeral in Berlin, but the much more divisive third film in Harry Saltzman's other spy series, Billion Dollar Brain. (Which, on any given day, could easily be my own personal favorite of the three.) Kino Lorber will release Ken Russell's brilliant and beautiful Len Deighton adaptation Billion Dollar Brain in high definition on October 7. (There will also be a DVD edition, as the old MGM release is long out of print.) If you've never seen this Michael Caine masterpiece, read my review here to understand why this is such great news! And if you have, then why not go ahead and pre-order it now on Amazon? So far the only extra announced is the theatrical trailer, but the real question on spy fans' minds is will this version contain the half minute or so of footage excised from previous DVD editions in all regions? Probably not, since the footage in question contains a clip of the Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night along with its prohibitively expensive music. But perhaps Kino has found a way to clear this music? Even if they haven't, it's still well worth owning Billion Dollar Brain in high definition--especially with such pretty cover art! Spy fans and fans of Sixties capers might be interested to know that the company will also release Topkapi on Blu-ray the same day.

*Though it's never been officially released in America, The Ipcress File is available on Blu-ray as a region-free import.

Aug 25, 2014

First Dangling Photos From Mission: Impossible 5; First Official Still From U.N.C.L.E.

It's been a big few days for images from upcoming spy movies based on classic TV shows. Last week we saw some pictures of Tom Cruise familiarizing himself with Mission: Impossible 5's Vienna locations prior to shooting beginning this week, and yesterday various news outlets have provided our first glimpses of Ethan Hunt's latest dangling exploits from that shoot! That's right, the second question everyone always asks when a new Mission: Impossible movie starts shooting (after what hairstyle will Cruise sport) is what will Cruise dangle from? And, thanks to Dark Horizons, we've now got a pretty idea that at least one thing he'll dangle off of this time around is the Vienna State Opera House. (As far as I can tell, these images originated on The Daily Express.) Cruise's partner in dangling here is actress Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules). Presumably the first image is just practice in comfortable clothes, and the gown in the second one is what she'll be wearing in the scene.

But those weren't the only spy images to debut in the last few days. The Comic Book Movie (via HMSS) has a picture from the new issue of Empire billed as the first official still from Guy Ritchie's Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie. While unofficial behind-the-scenes shots have been all over the Internet since shooting began, it's cool to finally see an officially approved image of Armie Hammer (as Illya Kuryakin), Alicia Vikander and Henry Cavill (as Napoleon Solo) in the Sixties-set spy movie. And I think it looks great! The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was recently pushed back from January 2015 to August 2015, so we've got a while to wait yet. But the second half of next year will bring us U.N.C.L.E., Mission and Bond all in a period of a few short months!

Aug 22, 2014

Mission: Impossible 5 Sets Cast, Begins Filming in Austria

The cast is coming together for Mission: Impossible 5, and we've got our first notion of what Tom Cruise's hair will look like (always the biggest question as an M:I movie gears up for production) thanks to a photo of the actor scouting locations. Austrian paper The Local (via Dark Horizons) published this picture. They report that the age defying star/producer was up on the roof of Vienna's State Opera House, where he'll be shooting an action scene at night. (Austria is fast becoming the location for spies to attend operas; James Bond also spent a night at the opera in that country in Quantum of Solace's most memorable scene.) Cameras start rolling on Saturday.

In his fifth outing as IMF superspy Ethan Hunt, Cruise is joined by returning team members Jeremy Renner (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, The Bourne Legacy), Simon Pegg (Mission: Impossible III and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) and (per Dark Horizons) Ving Rhames (veteran of all the Mission: Impossible films to date), along with newcomers to the series Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen) and Alec Baldwin (The Hunt For Red October). Deadline reports that Baldwin will play the Director of the CIA. Swedish actress Ferguson is still a relatively fresh face, but I was quite impressed by her in this summer's Hercules and look forward to her spy debut! Her role is as yet unknown.

Mission: Impossible 5 will also shoot in London, where the Houses of Parliament themselves are rumored to be a possible filming location. As previously reported, Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) is directing, and he's got his work cut out for him if he wants his film to live up to the benchmark set by Brad Bird with the fourth film, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (by far the best entry in the film series to date). Personally, I'm hoping McQuarrie continues in the promising direction Bird pointed the franchise, making the films more like the classic television series. While the first three films were largely star vehicles for Cruise, Ghost Protocol truly felt like a team movie, a hallmark of the series. It was also packed with clever references to the show, and even established the TV IMF's longtime nemesis The Syndicate (re-dressed as a terrorist organization instead of the mob) as a potential enemy in the fifth film. I hope that comes to pass! While previous films in the series have gone by the shorthand "M:I-2" or "M:I-iii," this one will have to find a different moniker. (Hopefully it will get its own subtitle like Ghost Protocol.) Not only is MI5 the name of the British internal Security Service, but in America it's also the title of the TV series about that service that was known as Spooks in the UK. And Spooks has its own movie coming out soon, which will also presumably utilize the MI-5 title on this side of the pond. None of that, however, has stopped McQuarrie from hashtagging his Tweets "#MI5Diary."

Aug 1, 2014

Tradecraft: Paul Greengrass Returns to Spying for Agent Storm

He may have forsworn any further Bourne movies (causing Matt Damon to do the same, saying he won't return to the role without his director), but Paul Greengrass will be returning to the spy genre. Deadline reports that Sony has acquired the forthcoming non-fiction book Agent Storm: My Life Inside al Qaeda and the CIA by Morten Storm, Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister, for Greengrass to direct and Scott Rudin to produce. (Greengrass and Rudin previously teamed on last year's Best Picture nominee Captain Phillips.) According to the trade, Agent Storm follows follows Storm, a member of a Danish motorcycle gang turned Islamic radical as he becomes a double agent for the CIA and British and Danish intelligence. (Storm penned the memoir blowing his own cover because he felt betrayed by his handlers.)

Tradecraft: Winter Soldier Directors Tackle Greaney's Gray Man

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best big budget spy movies in years, and its sibling directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, are looking to stay in that genre. Variety reports that the duo are attached to write and direct an adaptation of Mark Greaney's 2009 novel The Gray Man for Sony and producers Joe Roth and Palak Patel. My initial reaction is that they're better than this material. The Gray Man is one of the worst spy novels I've ever read. Then again, it's not the premise that's faulty; it's Greaney's execution. The Russos are just the guys to take the barest shred of that premise (a former CIA operative turned private assassin races across Europe to evade all the world's intelligence services and save the kidnapped family of his handler) and retrofit it into a far better film. It's a little alarming, however, that Joe Russo told the trade, “we found the material to be very compelling and ultra realistic.” Perhaps the series gets better, but one trait not found in the first novel of the four book series is ultra-realism. The book's climax beggars all belief as the hero catches more bullets than Butch and Sundance combined and still proceeds to single-handedly take on an army. That's the sort of thing I hope the Russos end up improving upon.

Roth told Variety, "We think this could be the next Bourne Identity movie series," which, of course, is exactly what he, and readers, and now viewers, are meant to think. The novel is a shameless retread of Robert Ludlum's bestselling tour de force. Hopefully the producers will continue to follow the Bourne movie template, and stray as far from the literary source material as the Matt Damon movies did.

Sony aren't the first studio to see Bourne-like potential in Greaney's series. Way back in 2010, New Regency had the rights and hired Adam Cozad (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to script. In January 2011 James Gray became attached to direct, and later that year Brad Pitt flirted with starring. That incarnation, evidently, fell apart. Which is too bad, because I really would like to see Brad Pitt topline a potential spy franchise.

It's unclear where The Gray Man will fit into the Russos' schedule, as they're slated to direct Captain America 3, which is set to open on May 5, 2016. Before that, however, their next espionage assignment will be helming the second and third episodes of Marvel's upcoming period spy series Agent Carter on ABC.

Tradecraft: Jeffrey Donovan and Josh Brolin Play Agents in Sicario

Now that his Burn Notice has been rescinded, Jeffrey Donovan is free to spy again unimpeded. But he's switching agencies. Donovan will play "a no-nonsense DEA agent" in Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, according to Deadline, opposite Josh Brolin (No Country For Old MenW.) as a maverick CIA agent. Deadline reports (in a separate story) that Brolin's CIA agent runs a task force out to bring down the kingpin of a powerful drug cartel. He recruits Emily Blunt’s (Charlie Wilson's War) character, a Tuscon SWAT officer, to help him. Benecio Del Toro (Licence To Kill) plays a mysterious character working with them to the same end. The trade reports that Donovan's Steve Forsing becomes involved "in an all-out firefight at the Juarez border while transferring a prisoner." Maximiliano Hernandez (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Americans) and Daniel Kaluuya (Johnny English Reborn) round out the cast.

Jul 12, 2014

Second Trailer and Poster for The Equalizer

Well, it doesn't look much like the classic Eighties TV series, but the latest trailer for the feature film version of The Equalizer does look pretty good! (I can't say the same for the new poster, however, which isn't nearly as good as the advance one.) Denzel Washington stars as former intelligence operative McCall in this update of the Edward Woodward TV show. In a startling difference from Woodward's McCall, Washington's McCall doesn't use guns. But he's clearly still plenty deadly. The Equalizer opens September 26 in theaters and IMAX.

Jun 26, 2014

DVR Alert: Rare Eurospy Movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die Airs on GetTV Tonight

The rare 1966 Eurospy movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (review here), starring Mannix's Mike Connors (along with Raf Vallone, Dorothy Provine and Terry-Thomas), will air tonight on the Sony-owned cable channel GetTV at 11:05pm Pacific. This isn't a channel I was familiar with, but you can find out if it's available in your area here. It seems to have pretty wide coverage. They've been showing a lot of relatively obscure Eurospy movies lately, including Assignment K and the wonderful Hammerhead (review here). (Both of those films have been airing a lot, so check your listings. Hammerhead, in fact, will screen immediately following Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die.) But both of those titles are available on DVD through Sony's MOD program. To date, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, frustratingly, is not. Since this is a Sony owned station, apparently programmed largely from the Sony library, I hope this means that the studio still owns the rights to this film... and more importantly that they might have plans to release it on MOD. It's a real classic, and I've often expressed surprise that it hasn't been made available by now. If you haven't seen it, be sure to set your DVR! And Bond fans may be particularly interested to see how much its plot foreshadows the movie Moonraker.

Another spy movie (also available on Sony MOD) that they've been playing a lot is Who Was that Lady (review here) with Dean Martin and Tony Curtis. Speaking of Matin, the Matt Helms also seem to be a fixture in the GetTV rotation.

Read my review of Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die here.

Thanks to Bob for the alert!

Jun 23, 2014

Covert Affairs Returns Tomorrow Night

The new season of Covert Affairs (the fifth) kicks off tomorrow night at 10pm on USA. Though it's had its ups and downs, Covert Affairs remains strong after so many years. It's followed the trajectory of most modern spy series that start off fairly serious. (I'm thinking of you, MI5!) After more grounded early seasons in which CIA agent Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) engaged in fairly realistic spying and didn't carry a gun, by last season she had transitioned into a full-on female James Bond, not only armed but deadly, and when last we saw her engaging in some Jack Bauer-style shenanigans in Shanghai. But the good news is Perabo and the series have handled that transition well, and while the overall tone has changed a bit (even the office politics, which remain my favorite part, have become soapier... though still not as soapy as 24), Covert Affairs is as much fun to watch as it ever was! I'm looking forward to seeing where the fifth season takes Annie. Covert Affairs: Season 4, meanwhile, is now available on DVD, with extras including deleted scenes, a gag reel, an action reel, and the prequel minisodes series Sights Unseen: Auggie Undercover.

Jun 22, 2014

ABC Quietly Reactivates The Assets

ABC tried to capitalize on the success of FX's 1980s-set Cold War spy hit The Americans with a period spy drama of their own last winter, the ambitious 8-part miniseries The Assets. Based on the book Circle of Treason, The Assets told the true story of the hunt for the most damaging Soviet mole in the CIA's history, Aldrich Ames. Unfortunately, none of the success of The Americans rubbed off on The Assets. With little or no advertising behind it, the miniseries netted the lowest ratings in the network's history, and got pulled after just two episodes. Which was a shame, because the viewers who did tune in found that after a rocky pilot, The Assets was becoming pretty compelling in its second episode. And those of us who liked it were left hanging as to how we might ever be able to see the remaining eight episodes. Now, six months later, with as little promotion as accompanied its inauspicious debut, ABC has quietly snuck The Assets back into its schedule. The third episode, "Trip to Vienna," aired Saturday night at 9. The fourth, "What's Done Is Done," is currently scheduled for next Saturday at the same time. Hopefully it won't be pulled from the summer schedule as well, and we'll get to see the whole series. And hopefully the network will put it On Demand as well, so that fans who missed the unpromoted return last night can still catch it. And while we're hoping all these hopes, I also still hope that a DVD set eventually materializes. For now, though, I'm just grateful that it's back on the air.

Jun 12, 2014

New Matador Trailer

El Rey Network has released a new, longer trailer for their upcoming spy series Matador, from writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Alias, Mission: Impossible III) and director Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Machete Kills). I'm excited about this series, about a secret agent whose cover is an international soccer star, but I'm worried that the title may throw off potential audiences. After all, he's a spy and he's a soccer player, so a title pertaining to one of those two professions might make sense. One thing he isn't, as far as I can tell, is a matador. Seems confusing. Gabriel Luna, Nicky Whelan and Alfred Molina star. Matador debuts July 15 on El Rey.

May 25, 2014

Trailer: The Equalizer

The first trailer is out for the big screen remake of The Equalizer. Denzel Washington steps into the role made famous by Edward Woodward on the Eighties TV show, that of Robert McCall, a former intelligence agent who uses his unique skill set to help people with the odds against him. At least that's what the show was about. The movie looks a little different. And while it does have a shot of a car's headlights turning on (albeit a wide shot from afar), the classic Stewart Copeland theme is nowhere to be heard.

May 21, 2014

Tradecraft: Focus Features to Distribute Bastille Day

Deadline reports that Focus Features has come aboard to distribute the Idris Elba neo-Eurospy thriller Bastille Day in North America. This one's been in the works for a while. We first heard about it back in 2012 when Taken director Pierre Morel was attached. He moved on (to The Gunman, another neo-Eurospy title), but even down a director the film gained a great lead last fall when Elba (Luther) signed on to star. Now James Watkins, who did an excellent job conjuring scares for Hammer in The Woman in Black, is attached to helm from Andrew Baldwin's script. (Baldwin is currently writing the next Bourne movie.) Additionally, French actress Adèle Exarchopoulos, who was electrifying in Blue Is the Warmest Color (one of my favorite movies of last year), is attached to co-star. According to the trade, the Paris-set thriller follows "a rogue CIA agent forced to team with an unsuspecting American con-artist to thwart a terrorist attack on French soil." Production is scheduled to get underway this summer.

Trailer: TNT's Transporter TV Series

We've seen other trailers for Transporter: The Series when it originally aired in Europe and Canada (and some of us have even seen the first season of the series itself, if we imported a DVD set from Australia or France), but here's the first official TNT trailer (incorporating their new "Boom!" slogan) since the cable network scooped up the U.S. broadcast rights for the existing first season and upcoming second season. Originally conceived for Cinemax, the European series was full of excessive nudity that will obviously have to be trimmed out for TNT. Other than that, though, the series and network seem like a good fit.

May 20, 2014

First Trailer for the Kurtzman/Orci/Robert Rodriguez Spy Series Matador

Today's bringing a wealth of new spy trailers! Here's our first look at El Rey's upcoming spy series Matador (no relation to the Pierce Brosnan movie of the same name), about a CIA agent whose cover is an international soccer star. (Shades of I Spy!) The show, originally pitched as a "Latino James Bond," comes from the prolific minds of spy veterans Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Alias, Mission: Impossible 3), and the pilot is directed by Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids). Gabriel Luna, Nicky Whelan and Alfred Molina star.

Matthew Vaughn's The Secret Service Gets New Title, Poster, Trailer: Kingsman

Matthew Vaughn's (X-Men: First Class) adaptation of the Mark Millar/Dave Gibbons comic book The Secret Service has undergone a title change—for the better, I think. The Secret Service was always a pretty generic title for a spy movie (or comic, for that matter), but Kingsman, which was the title of the first arc of the comic, has a real ring to it. The new full title is a bit clunkier, but I suppose it's necessary to let readers of the comic know what it is, so movie is officially Kingsman: The Secret Service. And it's got an extremely cool poster, and a very promising trailer! The teen spy movie (a favorite subgenre of mine) stars relative newcomer Taron Egerton as a London street thug recruited into the secret service by his dapper Uncle Jack, a superspy played by Colin Firth (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Mark Strong (Body of Lies), Samuel L. Jackson (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and... drum roll... Michael Caine (Billion Dollar Brain) co-star. (All-time spy movie vet Caine plays the head of the secret service.) Check out the trailer:


May 15, 2014

A Eurospy-Inspired Wendy's Commercial?

This is kind of weird, but worth noting. If you've visited the IMDb lately, you've no doubt noticed some odd ads for what fast food chain Wendy's is calling their "first ever short film," something called The Star of Tuscany. While the main purpose of this short is to advertise the chain's Tuscan Chicken on Ciabbata sandwich, I find it fascinating that they've chosen a Eurospy template to do so. The gimmick is that users create the film's dialogue by providing their own subtitles for the spoken Italian, but the plot of the black and white film is clearly inspired by the Italian spy and caper films of the early Sixties. I had no idea that Eurospy had seeped so deeply into today's public conscious that it would ever even be considered as the basis for a major American ad campaign! If you're so inclined, you can check out the trailer and several parts of the film (which is being posted in installments) here, and even contribute your own silly subtitles, What's Up, Tiger Lily-style. Or you can watch Part 1 below:

May 14, 2014

Anthony Horowitz on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson Tonight!

There's a reason why Craig Ferguson has become my favorite late night host in the last couple of years. (And why I'll be devastated when he goes off the air at the end of this year.) It's because he has impeccable taste. Not only is he a huge Doctor Who fan, but lately he's become a huge Foyle's War fan as well. See what I mean? Impeccable taste! Foyle's War is of course the excellent period mystery series created by Anthony Horowitz starring Michael Kitchen (Tanner in the Pierce Brosnan Bond films) as a detective solving cases in the seaside town of Hastings during WWII. Naturally, given the wartime setting, lots of his cases involve espionage. And in the latest series, set after the war in the early days of the Cold War, Foyle has gone to work for MI5 and the show has become a full-time spy show. You can watch Ferguson's entertaining musings about Foyle's War during his opening on 4/22 and 4/23; middle on 4/21 and 4/22 and 4/23; and ending segments on 4/18 and 4/21, as well as with guests like Eddie Izzard.

Anyway, the upshot of Ferguson's infatuation with DCI Foyle is that tonight Horowitz will appear as a guest on his show! (The Late Late Show airs at 12:35 Eastern/Pacific, so I'm sorry this notice comes a bit late for East Coasters.) Spy fans know Horowitz not only as the creator of Foyle's War, but also as the author of the hugely successful teen spy novels featuring Alex Rider. Hopefully Ferguson will ask him about those, too. (He's also written for Poirot.) And hopefully Horowitz will drop some hints on the future of Foyle's War! At any rate, it's a pretty rare occurrence to see the creator of a great British spy series interviewed on American TV, so it should be worth tuning in.

The entire series of Foyle's War can currently be streamed on Acorn TV.

Tradecraft: Disney Channel Orders Spy Comedy

It's not just the primetime networks who are getting in on the spy action this season. Deadline reports that Disney Channel has ordered a half-hour spy comedy called K.C. Undercover. According to the trade, the live-action, multi-camera series "focuses on K.C. Cooper [played by mononymous Disney star Zendaya], a high school math whiz who’s training to be an undercover super spy, following in the footsteps of her parents. Each episode finds the Coopers balancing typical family issues while performing undercover missions to protect the country." I'm on record as being a fan of the teen spy genre (and Disney Channel was home to one of the best teen spy shows ever a decade ago, the animated Kim Possible), so I'm definitely curious to check out this family series when it premieres in early 2015.

May 13, 2014

Tradecraft: Bourne and Mission: Impossible Sequels Get New Writers

Two major spy franchises (both of which starred Jeremy Renner in their most recent entries) hired new writers in the last week. The Hollywood Reporter reports (in separate stories) that Justin Lin's Bourne Legacy sequel and Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible 5 have each gained new scribes. Andrew Baldwin, who wrote the forthcoming Idris Elba neo-Eurospy movie Bastille Day, has been brought on to rewrite Anthony Peckham's draft of the sequel to the Jeremy Renner spinoff of the Matt Damon trilogy. (Yup, it's a sequel to a spinoff, at least two degrees removed from the terrific Robert Ludlum source material, but presumably it will still have the name "Bourne" in the title... which is just kind of awkward at this point. They should just go ahead and call it what it is: The Bourne Continuation.) It was previously reported that Justin Lin, the man who revitalized the Fast & Furious franchise, would helm the movie. Hopefully he, Baldwin and Peckham will manage to improve on Tony Gilroy's lackluster Bourne Legacy.

Meanwhile, Will Staples has been tapped to do a pass on Mission: Impossible 5, on which Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) had previously done a draft. According to the trade, Staples' background is mostly in scripting videogames, but he's also got several film scripts in development, including King of Heists, to which Jeremy Renner is attached to star. (Does the Renner connection indicate that the actor will reprise his William Brandt role from Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol? That's probably reading too deeply into Staples' hiring, but I'd certainly like to see Brandt return.) McQuarrie signed on to direct the fifth entry in the long-running Tom Cruise film series last year. He, Pearce and Staples have their work cut out for them if they hope to top Ghost Protocol, which was by far my favorite Mission: Impossible movie to date. Here's a hint, Will: do what Brad Bird did and look to the TV show for inspiration! Mission: Impossible 5 is set to open on Christmas Day next year.

Tradecraft: CBS and CW Pass on Spy Pilots

While ABC greenlit Agent Carter and NBC picked up two new spy pilots, CBS and its sibling network the CW both passed on their spy pilots. (I don't believe Fox had any in contention.) Deadline reports that CBS passed on Nikki Toscano's Red Zone (although drama Scorpion sounds like it might possibly have some espionage overtones), and the CW passed on the Kurtzman/Orci spy show Identity. Identity sounded very similar to Allegiance, which was picked up at NBC. Identity followed a young woman who reconnected with long-lost family members when she needed an organ transplant, only to be recruited by the CIA to be their eyes and ears inside the family, who they suspected of ties to terrorism. Allegiance is about a young man working for the CIA whose family is revealed to be Russian sleeper spies. I was particularly looking forward to Red Zone because of its stellar cast, which included Anthony Lapaglia, Kim Dickens and Aimee Garcia. Lapaglia played a former CIA operative now working as a high school football coach pulled back into action after a deadly terrorist attack in Washington D.C. According to the network's synopsis, he was "forced to investigate closer to home," which makes Red Zone sound a bit similar to Identity and Allegiance as well.

Both networks also lost existing spy series. Nikita ended its run on the CW this season, while CBS cancelled freshman drama Intelligence.

First Footage of Pierce Brosnan in November Man

The Solution Entertainment Group, who's handling international sales on the film, has offered us our first look at Pierce Brosnan's return to spying in the eagerly awaited November Man, based on the Bill Granger novel There Are No Spies. Bear in mind that this is a sizzle reel and not a trailer or a teaser, so it highlights action rather than story. Despite the terrible choice of music (I recommend watching on mute; there's no dialogue so you won't miss anything), the action looks pretty great. I can't wait to see a real trailer! That should be pretty soon, because, as previously reported, Relativity releases November Man in the United States on August 27. Olga Kurylenko, Luke Bracey and Will Patton costar. And speaking of music, Marco Beltrami provides the real score, and I look forward to hearing him do spy music!

Thanks to Jack Christian for the alert and MI6-HQ for the video!

Tradecraft: ABC Picks Up Marvel's Cold War Spy Series Agent Carter, Renews Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (UPDATED)

I'm afraid I fell behind on last week's flurry of network pickups. I was working all weekend, and now I'm catching up. But NBC isn't the only network to greenlight new spy series. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC not only renewed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but also picked up another Marvel espionage series, Agent Carter starring Hayley Atwell. Set in the early days of the Cold War in 1946, Agent Carter follows Atwell's Peggy Carter, Captain America's unrequited love interest from Captain America: The First Avenger as she works for the covert agency SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), the Marvel Cinematic Universe's equivalent of the OSS and predecessor to S.H.I.E.L.D. Presumably over the course of the series, we'll witness the birth of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well, since it was revealed during Atwell's old-age makeup cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that she was one of the founders of the organization (in its MCU incarnation, anyway). Ensuring tight continuity with the Marvel movies, Captain America and Winter Soldier screenwriters Stephen McFeeley and Christopher Marcus wrote the first episode and will executive produce the series along with Marvel's Jeph Loeb (author of such classic comics as Batman: The Long Halloween and Spider-man: Blue). Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, creators of the short-lived but highly entertaining Reaper, serve as executive producers and showrunners. (Another promising sign!)

If you've seen the Marvel One-Shot short Agent Carter (available on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray and DVD), then you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the show, which was ordered straight to series without a pilot... and the short is really pretty great! While the official synopsis says that "Peggy must balance doing administrative work and going on secret missions for Howard Stark all while trying to navigate life as a single woman in America, in the wake of losing the love of her life -- Steve Rogers," I've seen nothing so far to indicate whether or not Dominic Cooper (Fleming) will reprise his Howard Stark role from the movies and the short. What the trade does offer is that "sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Agent Carter will be a short-order series and likely used as a 'bridge show' to air during the second season hiatus of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with both series ultimately being tied-in together."

After a promising start, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. disappointed me for most of its first season, but finally started to live up to its potential following the closely tied in events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. (I was delighted when we finally got an action scene with Coulson's flying Corvette, but it still wasn't the full-blown chase scene I so desperately crave...) I look forward to seeing it come into its own in Season 2. But even more, I look forward to seeing the irrepressible Hayley Atwell in a period spy series! While what I'd love to see most would be a S.H.I.E.L.D. series set in the Sixties (the Golden Age of Steranko's Nick Fury comic book), I'll settle pretty happily for the combination of one set now and (even better) one set in the late Forties! Atwell was excellent in a similar role in another 1940s-set spy miniseries, Restless (based on a novel by recent James Bond author William Boyd), playing a British agent operating in the United States on the eve of America's involvement in WWII.

UPDATE: Hayley Atwell confirmed that the Agent Carter series order is for eight episodes, which will bridge the two halves of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season.

Read my S.H.I.E.L.D. primer here.

Fox and M. Night Shyamalan Offer New Twist on The Prisoner

I had heard about M. Night Shyamalan's new Fox series Wayward Pines, and I knew it was being billed as his homage to (or ripoff of, depending on your point of view) Twin Peaks, but I didn't realize until watching this trailer unveiled today that it would be equally inspired by The Prisoner. Or so it looks. I'm honestly not sure if that makes me want to see it, or especially keen to avoid it. We've already had one bad remake of The Prisoner (though at least that introduced us to Hayley Atwell) and Shyamalan hasn't impressed me since Unbreakable. But for better or worse, here's a look at Shyamalan's tale of a "secret agent" (as everyone keeps calling Matt Dillon's Secret Service agent) who wakes up to find himself sequestered as a prisoner in a mysterious village full of eccentric characters.