Jul 24, 2017

Tradecraft: James Bond Returns November 2019; New York Times Reports Daniel Craig will be Back

Daniel Craig drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz
MGM and EON Productions have set a North American release date for the still untitled Bond 25. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 25th official James Bond movie will hit U.S. theaters on November 8, 2019. The only creative involvement included in the announcement was that Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who have had a hand in every Bond script since The World is Not Enough in 1999) will once again handle writing duties, and Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson will, naturally, produce. According to the statement, cast, crew (including a director) and a distribution partner will be announced "at a later date." The omission of one key cast member in particular is, of course, jarring. One might expect such an announcement to come only when the studio had a star nailed down, and if Daniel Craig was indeed on board to reprise the role he's played so successfully in four 007 films to date, it would be logical to think that information would be the leader in such a statement. But at least one outlet isn't worried. The New York Times is confidently reporting that "Mr. Craig’s return is a done deal, according to two people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid conflicts with Eon and MGM." I really hope they're right! Not only am I dying to see the actor back at least once more as the world's most famous secret agent; I am more than ready for the constant tabloid speculation of his possible replacement to end... at least until the next movie comes out!

Also essential to nail down is a distribution partner. Sony has partnered with MGM and EON to release the previous four Craig Bond movies. Their contract is up, but of course they are anxious to extend it as other studios vie for the prize. Personally, my money is on upstart Annapurna, Megan Ellison's boutique production company that will branch out into distribution next month, in partnership with MGM, with Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit. The two companies signed a multi-year deal (which currently does not cover James Bond titles) earlier this year.

It could be that MGM was just keen to stake its claim before the prime fall date filled up with more releases from rival companies. It's already been claimed by Disney for an untitled live action fairy tale movie. Hopefully we'll learn more soon!

Jul 23, 2017

S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Return to Marvel Movies

Ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was taken apart in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (one of the best spy movies of the decade), we've seen very little of its agents in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Apparently that's about to change. Two announcements earlier this month indicate that two of Marvel Comics' most famous agents will be making their way into upcoming MCU movies.

Deadline reports that Samuel L. Jackson will return as Nick Fury in 2019's Captain Marvel, where he will reunite with his Kong: Skull Island and Unicorn Store co-star Brie Larson (Free Fire). Jackson last appeared as Fury in a brief cameo in The Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2014. He is expected to reprise the role in The Avengers: Infinity War and its sequel. At first I assumed this news probably indicated that Fury will survive those films, which are expected to take a high toll on the MCU heroes. But yesterday Deadline updated their story, reporting that Captain Marvel will for some reason take place in the early 1990s, making it a prequel to all the other MCU films except for the first Captain America (which took place in WWII) and the Eighties-set opening scene of Ant-Man. Moreover, Marvel chief Kevin Feige revealed at Comic-Con that Fury will have two eyes in Captain Marvel. Does that mean he'll still be in the Army? (Presumably the MCU Nick also started out as Sgt. Fury, even if he came along long after the Howling Commandos.) Will Jackson sport his Pulp Fiction wig? (That I'd like to see!) We probably won't find out until closer to March 2019 when the movie opens. And in the meantime, Nick Fury is as precariously poised as anyone else when it comes to surviving the Infinity War.

Even more exciting, perhaps, is the news that first appeared on The Tracking Board (via Dark Horizons) and since been confirmed by multiple outlets that Randall Park (The Interview) will portray Agent Jimmy Woo in Ant-Man and the Wasp! Woo debuted in the late 1950s as an FBI agent in Marvel precursor Atlas Comics' The Yellow Claw before Jim Steranko brought him into his Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. stories in Strange Tales and ultimately made him a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent himself. Woo has sine been a fixture of the Marvel Universe, appearing in various comics over the years including Godzilla and Agents of ATLAS. Park is an excellent actor, but primarily a comedic one. (He stars on the sitcom Fresh Off the Boat recently made a scene-stealing cameo in Snatched.) I can imagine him fitting in very well with Paul Rudd and Michael Pena in a comic relief role, but I hope that's not the case. Jimmy Woo was the first Asian-American comic book hero, and was treated as a serious member of the team in the Sixties. I would hate to see him reduced to a joke. That said, the part could of course be both comedic and completely competent, which is what I'm hoping for. Either way, it will be cool to see Woo make his MCU debut.

Jul 20, 2017

Dynamite Reveals Art from Upcoming CASINO ROYALE Graphic Novel

When it was first announced back in 2015 that Dynamite had landed the license to produce James Bond comics, part of that announcement was that the publisher would release period-set graphic novel adaptations of the Ian Fleming novels. The first, Casino Royale, was originally set for publication last year with a different artist, then delayed several times. Now, at least, it is almost here! Dynamite will release the 160-page graphic novel Casino Royale, adapted by Van Jansen and illustrated by Dennis Calero, on October 17, 2017, under a stunning cover by Fay Dalton. Dalton's involvement is a nice bit of synergy for Ian Fleming Publications, as she also illustrates the beautiful slip-cased Folio Society editions of the Bond novels. (Indeed, her slipcase art for Folio's Casino Royale, below depicts the same characters as her comic cover!) This week Dynamite provided a first glimpse at Calero's interior artwork in Previews. The final art will be in color.




Jul 12, 2017

Tradecraft: Blake Lively to Star in Spy Movie THE RHYTHM SECTION for EON Productions

EON Productions, producers of the James Bond movies, are going from the Double O Section to The Rhythm Section. The Hollywood Reporter reports that 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, along with IM Global, will produce a film adaptation of Mark Burnell's 1999 novel The Rhythm Section starring Blake Lively (Age of Adeline). The Rhythm Section is the first in a four novel series about a woman named Stephanie who, through both self-preservation and the training of the intelligence agency that recruits her, lives many lives in many identities. (In this respect, it sounds somewhat similar to J.J. Abrams' Alias, or the Robert Littell novel Legends, and should afford Lively a good opportunity to play many different roles in one.) The publisher's blurb describes it as a tale of a massive identity crisis. Stephanie embarks on her journey of multiple identities and revenge after her family is killed in a terrorist bombing. It would certainly be interesting if EON manages to launch a successful series about a female agent alongside their Bond films!

Jul 10, 2017

Tom Cruise Posts Team Photo from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 6

We've gotten a few paparazzi shots of filming in the streets of Paris and a bunch of great on-set portraits shot by the film's director, Christopher McQuarrie, via his Instagram feed. Now we have what I assume must be the first official still from Mission: Impossible 6, a great shot of the whole IMF team in costume and in character posted jointly on McQuarrie's Instragram and Tom Cruise's Facebook page. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'm glad that the first official still is a team shot. Hopefully it portends that the sixth movie in the series will still be team-oriented, like Ghost Protocol and, to a slightly lesser extent, Rogue Nation (and of course like the TV show, most importantly), despite telling a more personal story for Ethan Hunt. The occasion for this photo's release is the crew's departure from New Zealand (which in the film doubles for Iraq at least part of the time), where they're pictured. They now head back to London for the final stretch of principal photography.
Thanks to Craig Arthur for the heads-up on this one!

Jul 1, 2017

WILD WILD WEST TV Soundtrack Coming Next Week!

It was rumored earlier this year, but today La La Land Records officially announced on their Facebook page that they will release a 4-disc soundtrack for the classic Sixties spy Western The Wild Wild West on July 11! (Which makes this a very good summer for Wild Wild West fans, as the two TV reunion movies were just released on a standalone DVD for the first time a few weeks ago.) The set will be produced by Jon Burlingame, renowned not only for his immeasurable soundtrack knowledge at large, but particularly for his spy music expertise. Burlingame wrote the book The Music of James Bond and previously produced four excellent volumes of music from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the amazing 6-disc Mission: Impossible TV soundtrack. He also provided extensive liner notes for each of those releases, and this one will be no different, coming with a lengthy booklet.

According to a post from Burlingame, the set includes "excerpts from 26 scores representing all four seasons. Composers include Richard Markowitz, Robert Drasnin, Richard Shores, Dave Grusin, Fred Steiner, Harry Geller, Walter Scharf, Jack Pleis -- plus the never-before-heard Dimitri Tiomkin theme that was rejected early on." Burlingame asserts that there were three rejected Tiomkin themes (at least one a vocal), but it's unclear if all three will be included in the set or not. The tapes that made this release possible were found in an exhaustive two-year search of the UCLA Film and Television Archives, which also contained alternate, unused versions of Markowitz's iconic main theme. The set contains over an hour of music by Shores.

Limited to just 1,000 units, Music From the Television Series The Wild Wild West will be available to order from the La La Land website starting at noon Pacific on July 11.