Nov 25, 2017

Expanded DIE ANOTHER DAY Soundtrack

La-La Land Records, the company behind such spy fan favorites as the Mission: Impossible television soundtrack box set and this year's fantastic Wild Wild West TV soundtrack, has announced the first authorized, expanded release in fifteen years of any James Bond score that isn't called Casino Royale. And it might seem at first like a surprising title to get that treatment: the 2002 Pierce Brosnan movie Die Another Day, scored by David Arnold. While relatively few fans would put forth Die Another Day as one of the series' best entries, I've always enjoyed Arnold's score in the film. The original soundtrack album, however (issued on the Warner label), was disappointing, as it left off many of my favorite pieces, instead squandering precious data space on "enhanced CD" frills like two music videos, a music video making-of, and a "James Bond Poster Gallery." So, personally, I welcome an expanded Die Another Day score! Especially since this one contains the track I've most wanted ever since crashing the movie's Los Angeles premiere: "Cuban Car," Arnold's spectacular, Cuban-tinged take on the James Bond Theme that plays when 007 drives a 1957 Ford Fairlane out of Havana. But La-La Land's 2-disc release contains a lot more new music than just that track.

Featuring more than an hour of never-before-released score music, the whole album runs over 148 minutes (48 tracks compared to the original release's 15)--longer than the run time of the film itself. This is because it includes alternate versions and different mixes, and even orchestra-only versions of tracks that were originally fortified with a lot of 2002-appropriate electronica. The mixture of "the time-honored romance and swagger of classic Bond," as the press release puts it, and "cutting-edge electronics" (a mixture first brought to the series by John Barry on his final Bond score, The Living Daylights) was a particular specialty of Arnold's at this time, and for those of us steeped in the electronica of the era (the sound of my college years!), it was thrilling. He first tantalized us with the Propellerheads collaboration "Backseat Driver" in the largely traditional Tomorrow Never Dies, then fully committed to the electronica sound in his second score, The World Is Not Enough and its signature instrumental "Ice Bandits." Die Another Day was probably his most even balance of traditional and electronic, before (appropriately) taking the series back to its more classic sound with the 2006 Daniel Craig reboot Casino Royale. One of Arnold's particular skills is the ability to create a score that completely captures its time (in this case 2002), but in a timeless manner that doesn't sound instantly dated (like the aural cocaine of Bill Conti's disco-infused For Your Eyes Only).

Produced by David Arnold and Neil S. Bulk (a dyed-in-the-wool Bond fan as well an expert in his field), and mastered by Doug Schwartz from new transfers of analog stereo tapes provided by the composer, La-La Land promises, "this 2-CD deluxe presentation showcases Arnold’s score in a revelatory fashion that’s sure to leave listeners shaken and stirred in the best possible way!" It also features in-depth liner notes by Tim Greiving, "including new comments by the composer." Strictly limited to 5,000 units and retailing for $29.98, the double-disc album will be available to order from the La-La Land website as of noon Pacific Time on Monday, November 28--just in time for the holidays and making the perfect stocking stuffer for the Bond fan in your life. ("I thought Christmas only comes once a year!" Sorry; wrong Brosnan movie.)

Here's the full track listing for La-La Land's 2-disc, expanded Die Another Day:

Disc 1 (Score Presentation)
1. On the Beach (extended version)**† 3:56
2. Bond Meets Moon* / Hovercrafts* 2:16
3. How Do You Intend to Kill Me Now, Mr. Bond?* 2:02
4. Hovercraft Chase† 3:48
5. Bond to Jail* :49
6. Some Kind of Hero? 4:32
7. Kiss of Life*† 4:46
8. Peaceful Fountains of Desire* 1:05
9. What’s In it For You?* / Cuba* 1:21
10. Cuban Car*† :50
11. Jinx Jordan 1:28
12. Jinx & James 2:03
13. Wheelchair Access*† 2:22
14. Jinx, James and Genes* 5:14
15. Gustav Graves’ Grand Entrance*† 1:34
16. Blades*† 3:12
17. Bond Gets the Key* / Virtual Reality*† 2:01
18. The Vanish* / Bond Goes to Iceland*† 2:10
19. The Explanation* 1:36
20. Icarus 1:23
21. Ice Spy*† 3:00
22. A Touch of Frost 1:50
23. Laser Fight 4:36
24. It Belongs to His Boss* / Double Agent* 2:34
25. Whiteout† 4:55
26. Bond Kidnaps Skidoo*† 2:29
27. Iced Inc.† 3:08
28. Ice Palace Car Chase*† 4:57
Total disc 1 time = 76:47

Disc 2 (Score Presentation Continued)
1. Switchblades*† 3:23
2. Antonov 11:51
3. Antonov Gets It*† 3:20
4. Moneypenny Gets It* 1:11
5. Going Down Together 1:32
Total score time = 98:04

Additional Music
6. On the Beach† 2:50
7. Hovercraft Chase (film version)**† 3:47
8. Some Kind of Hero? (film version)** 4:32
9. Peaceful Fountains of Desire (alternate ending)* 1:06
10. What’s In it For You? (orchestra only)* :41
11. Welcome to Cuba 2:07
12. Jinx Jordan (orchestra only)** 1:28
13. Jinx & James (film version)** 2:07
14. Wheelchair Access (original version)*† 2:22
15. Party Trick (source)* 1:37
16. A Touch of Frost (film version)** 1:50
17. Laser Fight (film version)** 4:38
18. Whiteout (full mix)**† 4:55
19. Antonov (film version)** 11:51
20. James Bond Will Return*† 3:54
Total additional music = 49:45
Total disc 2 time = 71:43
Total album running time = 148:30

* Previously unreleased
** Contains previously unreleased material
† Contains “James Bond Theme” written by Monty Norman

Not included, you'll notice, are the dreadful title song by Madonna (my personal least favorite of the series... which isn't to say I don't own the single, with its six club remixes!) or "Bond Vs. Oakenfold," Paul Oakenfold's remix of The James Bond Theme (somewhat lacking in comparison to the awesome Moby "re-version" of just five years earlier), so you completists may want to hang onto your original Warner Bros. soundtrack album as well. (The music video making-of is actually pretty good, too, as much as I disapprove of such content on CDs, and I don't believe it's included on the Die Another Day Blu-ray.)

Nov 6, 2017

Tradecraft: Ed Brubaker's Comic Book VELVET Coming to Television

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount Television is developing a series for its corporate sibling The Paramount Network (as Spike TV is soon rebranding) based on Ed Brubaker's acclaimed Image Comics series Velvet. After their historic, espionage-tinged run on Marvel's Captain America (a run which saw the introduction of the Winter Soldier and the death of Steve Rogers, and largely shaped the cinematic Cap), writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting reunited at Image to create the Cold War-era female spy series Velvet. The premise is basically, "What if Moneypenny was really a badass secret agent in her own right?" posed before Dynamite Entertainment decided to take the actual character in that direction in their own comics. Only Brubaker's premise continued "...and she had to solve/avenge the murder of 007?" It's an interesting starting point, and it fuels an exciting story rich in the conventions of the genre while also subverting them.

Kyle Killen (Lone Star, Awake) will pen the pilot script, while Brubaker and Epting themselves will serve in producing capacities. Velvet is a great comic that would make a great TV show. I really hope this makes it to series, and I really hope Paramount keeps the comic's period setting.

Want to get caught up on the comic before it comes to television? Every issue of Velvet to date has been collected in a massive (yet affordable!) deluxe hardcover edition, available from Amazon.

Nov 5, 2017

Tradecraft: Munn Replaces Saldana on Assassin Pic HUMMINGBIRD

We heard back in February that Columbiana's Zoe Saldana would be taking another crack at the assassin genre with John Tyler McClain's Black List script Hummingbird. But now Deadline reports that due to a scheduling conflict with the Avatar sequels, Saldana has had to bail out. Now Olivia Munn (Mortdecai) will replace Saldana as a "black-ops assassin whose latest mark forces her to confront her true identity." Videogame veterans Marcus Kryler and Fredrik Akerström will direct.

Park Chan-Wook to Direct le Carré Miniseries THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL, According to Daily Mail

Bart Forbes' frontispiece for the 1983 Knopf limited edition
I don't normally post news items originating in UK tabloids, but this is too dynamite to let pass. And besides, it comes from The Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye, who has proven time and again to be the exception to the tabloid rule, and provided many solid scoops in the past. His track record with spy movies (and particularly James Bond) is especially good. According to Bamigboye, the next BBC/AMC John le Carré miniseries production following the enormous success of The Night Manager will be The Little Drummer Girl, based on the author's 1983 novel. Once again, The Ink Factory (le Carré's sons' production company) will produce, and once again they've proven to have impeccable taste when it comes to directors. Bamigboye reports that legendary Korean director Park Chan-Wook will helm! For those of you familiar with the auteur's work, let that sink in and bask in the sheer awesomeness of the possibility. For those of you who don't know, Park, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy helmer Tomas Alfredson, is a master visual stylist. While he has directed a spy-themed movie before, 2000's Joint Security Area, he is better known for his Vengeance Trilogy, which includes his most famous film, Oldboy. He also helmed the stellar and unique vampire tale Thirst, the Hitchcockian English-language suspense film Stoker, and the sublime 2016 erotic con artist thriller The Handmaiden, based on the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith. (For my money, that one's his masterpiece to date.) I would be excited about any Park Chan-Wook miniseries. And I would be excited (obviously!) about any John le Carré miniseries. Put together, I'm ecstatic! I really, really hope that Bamigboye is on the money this time.

According to the report, British actress Florence Pugh, who shot to fame with this year's Lady Macbeth and will next be seen as Cordelia to Anthony Hopkins' King Lear in a star-studded BBC production, will take on the lead role of Charlie, a naive young actress recruited by Israeli Intelligence into the "theatre of the real"--to infiltrate a Palestinian terror organization. She soon finds herself seduced by both sides and caught in the middle. Bamigboye reports that the 6-part miniseries will shoot in 2018 and retain the novel's late Seventies/early Eighties setting (though the subject matter obviously still rings topical today). The Little Drummer Girl was previously filmed by George Roy Hill as a feature in 1984, starring a notoriously miscast Diane Keaton.

Locations in the novel include London, Mykonos, Munich, Vienna, Bonn and Tel Aviv, but there's no way of knowing at this stage which ones will be used in the miniseries. (Key book locations were changed and omitted from The Night Manager.) Bamigboye does report, however, that Park "intends to make good use of locations."

This is a very, very exciting project that I'll certainly be keeping a close eye on. Let's hope for some official announcements soon!

Thanks to Casey and Clarissa for the heads-up on this one!

Nov 2, 2017

Trailer: J.K. Simmons' New Berlin-set Spy-Fi Series

Starz has premiered the first trailer for Counterpart, their upcoming Berlin-set, Cold War-inspired spy series with a sci-fi twist. And it looks, frankly, pretty freaking awesome! J.K. Simmons (Burn After Reading) stars–in dual roles, no less!–along with Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer), Ulrich Thomsen (The World is Not Enough), Stephen Rea (The Honourable Woman), and Sarah Bolger (Stormbreaker). Justin Marks (The Jungle Book) created the series, and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) directs the first two episodes. Simmons plays a low-level bureaucrat at a Berlin-based U.N. intelligence agency whose life changes when he receives a walk-in defector from "the other side"–his own doppelganger. Counterpart premieres January 21, 2018.

Nov 1, 2017

Batman Drives Bond's Aston

In issue #2 of Sean Murphy's Batman: White Knight miniseries, on shelves today, a tuxedoed Bruce Wayne is shown arriving at a party in a car instantly familiar to James Bond fans. And, should there be any doubt, Murphy has given it the license plate "DALTON007." The car, of course, is the Aston Martin Vantage driven by Timothy Dalton as Agent 007 in The Living Daylights (1987). And Murphy, who is best known for Vertigo titles like American Vampire, Joe the Barbarian, and Punk Rock Jesus, sure draws it nicely! (Man, I would love to see him do a Bond comic for Dynamite....) Bond himself was drawn driving this car by John M. Burns in the 1993 Dark Horse miniseries James Bond: A Silent Armageddon.

Of course, this is far from the first Aston Martin originally made famous by Bond to be driven by Bruce Wayne. In fact, Batman's playboy alter-ego has a fairly extensive history with the marque. He's been drawn driving Astons in several comics, most notably when artist Jim Lee put him in a Vanquish in the third issue of his and Jeff Loeb's landmark Batman story, Hush. That was in 2002, the same year that Pierce Brosnan drove a Vanquish in Die Another Day. But the association has also been present in movies. I think it was James Bond screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz who first put Bruce Wayne in an Aston Martin in his unfilmed 1983 Batman movie script. Zach Snyder finally realized that ambition onscreen in his (otherwise abysmal) 2016 movie Batman vs. Superman, in which Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne drives a classic 1950s Aston Martin DB Mk III, the very car that Ian Fleming had 007 drive in his novel Goldfinger! (By the time the story was filmed, it made sense to update it to the then-current DB5, and thus history was made.) The same type of car might also be familiar to spy fans from appearances in the premiere episode of Danger Man,  and in the Man From U.N.C.L.E. Season 2 episode "The Children's Day Affair."

For more on Batman/Bond connections, check out this 2008 article, "His Name is Wayne, Bruce Wayne."