Sep 30, 2007
Sep 28, 2007
USA’s summer spy show Burn Notice wrapped up its premiere season last week, and I have to say, it was a pretty stellar season. Burn Notice started out as an agreeable way to pass an hour, aided immeasurably by Bruce Campbell in a supporting role, Miami eye candy (of the scenic and bikini-clad varieties), and threat-of-the-week plots that resolved themselves in an hour and didn’t require the viewer to have seen everything that had come before to know what was going on. All the necessary ingredients for escapist summer fun. But as it ran its course, Burn Notice revealed itself to be more than just the sum of its very appealing parts. The fact that it’s the first episodic spy series in a long while that doesn’t dangle dozens and dozens of ongoing plot threads for the viewer to keep track of definitely helps. It’s not 24 or Alias, wrapped up in its own dense and impenetrable continuity. But unlike the mighty Eighties action hours it emulates so well (Magnum P.I., The Equalizer, Remington Steele, etc.), it does have an ongoing storyline, and in that paradox lies its genius. Creator Matt Nix managed to sustain the first season with a single serial aspect, the burning question of who "burned" ex-spy Michael Weston. This plot was doled out in manageable, bite-size nuggets all season long. In each episode, Michael got another small piece of the puzzle that got him closer to discovering the truth, but the pieces were so small that it didn’t matter if a viewer missed one or had never even seen another episode. Yet they were big enough to keep record audiences (for USA) tuning in week after week, eager for the next piece, but probably more eager to spend some time with a group of likeable characters.
As for Nix, he seemed to come out of nowhere. But a recent LA Times profile dispelled that notion: "After more than eight years writing feature scripts that may have sold but were rarely produced, Matt Nix learned this summer that it’s true what they say about Hollywood: It takes 10 years t to be an overnight success." The article goes on to reveal that he’s 36, and not 20 (which is about how old he looks), so frustrated screenwriters can stop hating him!
LucasFilm has released full press information on all three sets of Young Indiana Jones DVDs, including some promising glimpses at the episodes and extras on Volumes 2 and 3. It looks like Volume 2 (coming in December) will be a must for spy fans. Not only will it contain the bulk of Young Indy’s espionage adventures, but it also features Bond stars Daniel Craig and Christopher Lee and several exciting documentaries about spies. (Craig even features on the cover, despite the brevity of his role.)
The “episodes,” it should be noted, are not the original hour-long versions that aired on ABC from 1992-93, with bookends featuring George Hall as a very old Indy recollecting his adventures. They are re-edited ninety-minute movies, each one comprised of two of the original episodes, or, in some rare cases, one episode plus footage that was shot later and will be seen for the first time on DVD. The “Old Indy” narration is dropped altogether, and those segments are not even available as deleted scenes. Some of these movie versions were released on VHS in 1999, and others are making their debut in this format in these sets.
Volume 2's “Demons of Deception” finds Indy on leave from the Belgian army (which he joined seeking adventure prior to America’s entry into WWI) in Paris, where he falls in love with the most notorious spy of that era, Mata Hari. The episode was written by Carrie Fisher and directed by Nicolas Roeg. Two of the accompanying historical documentaries (which are said to be amazing, the culmination of almost a decade’s worth of work) should fascinate espionage aficionados: Flirting With Danger: The Fantasy of Mata Hari and Reading the Enemy’s Mind: Espionage in World War I.
“Adventures In the Secret Service” compiles two standout escapades from Indy’s spy career. In one, directed by frequent Bond second unit director Vic Armstrong and written by Frank Darabont, Indy is sent on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines into the palace of Emperor Karl of Austria in an attempt to bring about an early end to the war. Christopher Lee guest stars in the most typically “spy movie” entry in the series. In the other, Indy’s espionage work takes him into Russia, which is on the brink of revolution. He must infiltrate a Bolshevik group and ultimately choose between his friends and his duty. I remember this as being a particularly good episode.
In “Espionage Escapades,” Indy engages in a pair of more comic spy missions, going undercover as a ballet dancer in order to discredit German diplomats with the aid of three bumbling agents, and then finding himself thwarted in a very simple assignment by a Kafka-esque web of bureaucracy... with only Franz Kafka himself to assist him! His spy career continues in “Daredevils of the Desert,” in which he must again go undercover, this time with beautiful lady spy Catherine Zeta-Jones in Turk-occupied Beersheba. Future 007 Daniel Craig has a small part as a mustached officer.
Volume 3, due sometime next spring, presumably to coincide with the theatrical release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, contains two more episodes in Indy’s espionage career. “Tales of Innocence” offers up some more light-hearted cloak and dagger work in Italy and North Africa, while “Masks of Evil” contrasts that with two of the series’ darkest tales. Indy has a tragic love affair in an Ashenden-esque Istanbul-set adventure dealing with a plot ot assassinate French agents, and has his first encounter with the supernatural when he comes face-to-face with Vlad Dracula in the only story in the series to completely throw history to the wind. There are plenty of other good episodes in Volume 3, but they take place after WWI, and after Indy’s days as a spy are over. One, however, "The Mystery of the Blues," is notable for featuring future Felix Leiter Jeffrey Wright as jazz legend Sidney Bechet. (The same episode guest-stars Harrison Ford as a fifty-something Indy telling the tale.)
The sets progress chrono-logically, and Volume 2 contains most of Indiana Jones’ espionage adventures, but all three sets of this wonderful show should definitely be worth getting, not just for the series itself, but also for the new historical documentaries. I really can’t wait to have this show on DVD.
Sep 27, 2007
Robert Redford Spies Again
According to Variety, Robert Redford will direct an adaptation of former U.S. terrorism czar Richard Clarke's scathing memoir, Against All Enemies. The trade says "Jamie Vanderbilt penned the screenplay, which centers on Clarke, the counterterrorism adviser to three presidents, who charged in his book that the Bush administration prioritized Iraq above threats from Al Qaeda both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks." Casino Royale/Bond 22 co-writer Paul Haggis was at one point attached to this project.
New Bond Cinematographer
The Hollywood Reporter slips this nugget of information into an article about Bond 22 director Marc Forster's new film, The Kite Runner: Forster's frequent collaborator, director of photography Roberto Schaefer, will shoot the next Bond movie. The trade says this: "Schaefer is teaming with Forster again on the next film in the James Bond franchise. The cinematographer is location scouting for the tentatively titled Bond 22, for which shooting is being planned in the U.K., South America and Italy. Production is scheduled to begin on or around Dec. 10." Schaefer has shot all of Forster's features since Monster's Ball, including Finding Neverland and last year's Stranger Than Fiction, as well as Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration. Nothing on his filmography suggests he's ready to shoot 007, but hopefully a fruitful collaboration with Dan Bradley will result in a good-looking action film. Phil Meheux shot Casino Royale and GoldenEye, David Tattersall shot Die Another Day and Adrian Biddle lensed The World Is Not Enough.
Sep 26, 2007
AintItCoolNews noticed a blurb in Variety about a new Jerry Bruckheimer movie called G-Force. In it, actor Gabriel Casseus will play "an NSA agent tracking a group of genetically enhanced animal commandos." Has anyone noticed how the NSA suddenly replaced the CIA a few years ago as the go-to branch of the Intelligence community for movie agents to work for? There was xXx, Die Another Day, various other movies and TV shows, and now this. I was under the impression (largely due to James Bamford's excellent book on the subject, The Puzzle Palace)that the NSA spent a lot of time analyzing satellite intercepts and cracking codes, but apparently what they actually do is recruit extreme athletes and, um... track animals. All kidding aside, though, this could be a pretty fun movie. The folks at AICN have done all the legwork and also provide a link to another Variety story with more details: "G-Force's team of genetically enhanced guinea pigs working as spies for the U.S. government [looks] likely to bring home the bacon in this live-action/CG family adventure. Combining good clean fun with comedy and cutting-edge effects, this project puts former vfx supervisor Hoyt Yeatman (Crimson Tide) in charge of directing.
...And Commandos Named After Animals
Variety reports that 300 producer Gianni Nunnari will remake the cult favorite 1978 Roger Moore action epic The Wild Geese. The original packed near-toxic levels of testosterone with Moore, Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Hardy Kruger as mercenaries. It was made during - and largely responsible for - the brief strangely popular mercenary sub-genre of the late Seventies and early Eighties. Perhaps the recent Blackwater scandal in Iraq has put soldiers of fortune back in the spotlight. Commercial and video game director Rupert Sanders is attached to direct. Euan Lloyd, producer of the Andrew V. McLaglen-directed original, will exec produce the new version. There's no word on whether or not Daniel Craig is being sought to play the Roger Moore role, but how could he not be? Seriously, he might be more suited to play the Richard Burton part, but if you're making a new movie about very British manly men, you're gonna need Craig, right? Unless of course they're making the guys American this time 'round... I don't know, but to me mercenaries become a lot less appealing when they're American. Maybe it's the Blackwater taint.
Roger Moore contributed a typically entertaining commentary track to last year's Region 1 Special Edition DVD of the original, and for further Bond connections, OHMSS director Peter Hunt helmed the 1985 sequel.
I don't generally cover the personal lives of spy stars, but The Hollywood Reporter posits that Kiefer Sutherland's off-screen antics might affect the show, so that makes news. The trade says, "the show faces an uncertain future as the actor's arrest violates a five-year probation, something that might send him to jail for up to a year." Sutherland was arrested for DUI in West Hollywood earlier this week. Fox has picked up 24 through 2009, so a jailed star could unfortunately put a serious crimp in their long-term plans. The actor's arrest hasn't affected the current production schedule for Season 7, which will reportedly find his character, Jack Bauer, on trial for his sometimes overzealous methods in protecting America from terrorists.
Sep 24, 2007
Sep 23, 2007
Sep 21, 2007
FX Spies Uhls
The FX network has first-rate cop shows (The Shield is hands-down the best drama on television), crook shows, con-man shows and lawyer shows; isn't it time for a spy show? Fight Club writer Jim Uhls seems to think yes! According to Variety, Uhls is developing Paranoid, "an edgy thriller with themes of privacy and spying" for the cable network. The trade goes on to describe the series as "a modern-day The Parallax View centering on a surveillance agent who himself may be spied upon, all set against Patriot Act-America" and quote sources as saying, "a pilot deal is likely but has not officially been ordered."
Variety also reports that New Line has won a bidding war for the screen rights to the Ben Macintyre book Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal. Tom Hanks will produce. According to the trade, "it's the true story of Edward Arnold Chapman, a career criminal who spied on the Germans for the British in WWII."
The Horowitz Project
The Hollywood Reporter reveals the title of Alex Rider author Anthony Horowitz's previously reported American TV project: Raffik. The trade calls it "a character-driven one-hour" about "an Albanian detective sent to the US whose enthusiasm for everything American inspires and baffles his new Los Angeles police partners." Darren Star co-produces.
Sep 16, 2007
DVDActive has the rather nifty cover art for The Jason Bourne Collection, which will street December 11, 2007, the same day as the individual disc for The Bourne Ultimatum. Retail for the collection will be $49.98 (although it will, of course, be available much cheaper from most online retailers); pricing has not yet been announced for Ultimatum, which will also be available on HD-DVD. This news is sure to come as a blow to anyone who purchased The Bourne Files this summer, which included the first two films in the series plus a bonus disc. DVDActive says the new set is four discs, so presumably it also includes that bonus disc.
Now for the reading! I can’t wait to dig in... (Carefully, of course!)
Sep 14, 2007
Paul Haggis spoke at a screening of his new movie, In the Valley of Elah, in Los Angeles last night. He didn't reveal any details about his script for Bond 22 other than to say that he's up to page 30. So apparently the first act of the new Bond is done or nearly done! When the moderator asked if it was intimidating to write Casino Royale, seeing how there was a lot of pressure with the Bond franchise to always make them bigger and better, Haggis honestly said "No. Bond was just fun. Every other project has been intimidating in some sense, but Bond is just fun to write." CommanderBond.net, meanwhile, reports that call sheets for Bond 22 have gone out seeking "a Latina actress in her late twenties, preferably with South American roots" for a Bond Girl role in the movie. Head on over there for more details...
(Thanks to T-Bone for the Haggis report.)
Sep 12, 2007
Sep 11, 2007
Sep 10, 2007
After issuing Volume 1 of Samantha Weinberg’s “Moneypenny Diaries” trilogy of James Bond novels with a bland and misleading cover and more or less repeating that mistake with the hardcover edition of Vol. 2 (despite a half-hearted attempt to recall Richard Chopping's series of "gun still life" jackets for Fleming's originals), John Murray Publishers finally got creative with the paperback edition of the second book, Secret Servant. This time around they brought on designer Madeline Meckiffe and artist Stina Persson to create a vibrant and eye-catching illustrated cover. The result is both retro and modern at the same time: a Sixties throwback that sets the perfect tone for the story within, but stands out on the shelf. Whereas the initial covers made the books look like straight “chick lit," the paperback cover for Secret Servant perfectly captures the spirit of Ms. Weinberg’s books. Its combination of glamour and sophistication with a hint of sexy, Modesty Blaise-style danger should appeal to old and new readers, male and female alike. Ms. Persson, whose glam, Sixties-infused artwork has graced book covers, fashion magazines and galleries the world over, graciously took some time out of her busy schedule last month to chat with the Double O Section about her work on The Moneypenny Diaries.
00: How did you come to be involved with the cover to The Moneypenny Diaries Vol. 2 paperback?
SP: I was contacted by John Murray Publishers in [the] UK through my agent in New York.
00: What was the nature of your collaboration with designer Madeline Meckiffe? Were you involved in the decision to make this cover so radically different from the (much less attractive) cover to the paperback of Vol. 1?
SP: My first brief said that they looked for an illustration of a glam woman. And wanted me to capture classy 60s mood but also feel fresh and modern. Later I made sketches, and from then on I worked with Madeline Meckliffe, which was enjoyable. She wanted my ink style and the colors of her dress to be what stood out. Later it ended up being background and beaded necklace that were in color. I am doing the second cover this fall too, by the way.
00: Is that one for a new paperback edition of Vol. 1 (to make them match) or for the hardcover of next year's Vol. 3?
SP: I only know it as "the Next Moneypenny."
00: Prior to publication, another cover design appeared online depicting a woman with a gun and a prominent handbag. (You can see it here.) Were you involved in that? If so, why was the decision made to change it? (Good decision, by the way!)
SP: I have not seen this cover before.
00: Did you read Secret Servant, and had you ever read any other James Bond novels? Were you at all inspired by the artwork on the Sixties paperback covers or movie posters?
SP: I haven't been given the book, only “tear sheets” of the cover. (A reminder though that I should ask for a few samples.) I haven't read any James Bond novels either, but have seen the earlier movies many times and I really like the 60's esthetics in everything from hairdos to furniture and movie posters to music.
00: Have you had any conversations with Moneypenny Diaries author Samantha Weinberg?
SP: The book I've illustrated is by Kate Westbrook. And I have not have any contact with her. [Ed. Note: “Kate Westbrook” is the pseudonym of Samantha Weinberg. The publishers obviously didn’t feel the need to share this information with the design team!]
00: What's on the horizon for you? Where can fans see more of your artwork?
SP: I had a show with original art in New York this May, and the art work can be viewed at http://www.juniemoon.jp/eng/shop/artwork.cgi?c=2 (scroll down). I'm planning a second show at Gallery Hanahou in NY this coming May. And then I am working on a couple of different assignments ranging from CD covers to construction cladding!
And for updates and more work, please check out
http://www.stinapersson.com/ (is to be updated and fixed this fall).
00: Thanks for your time, Stina. I and a lot of other Bond fans look forward to seeing your next cover, and I’ll definitely be following your other work as well. I love your style.
Read my exclusive interview with Moneypenny Diaries author Samantha Weinberg (aka Kate Westbrook) here.
Sep 7, 2007
Read my review of Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Ultimatum here.
Sep 6, 2007
Britain's two biggest exports of the 1960s crossed paths on several occasions: among them when one rather rudely commented that the other should never be listened to without earmuffs whilst lecturing a lovely lady on the correct temperature at which to drink Dom Perignon '53, and when a member of the other composed and sang the theme song for a 1973 entry in the one's popular film series. But the ultimate synthesis of Bond and Beatles had to be the fab four's own 1965 film Help!, which sent up the whole spy craze going on around them (among other things). Help! featured The Prisoner's most famous Number 2, Leo McKern, as a Bondian baddie named Clang, leader of a vicious cult after the Beatles. Also chasing them were Victor Spinetti and Roy Kinnear, as mad scientists. (Naturally.) Regular Beatles producer George Martin composed the score, crafting a nice Beatley take on John Barry-like spy themes, and prefiguring his own score to Live And Let Die.
Director Richard Lester's follow-up to A Hard Day's Night is scheduled to be released November 6, 2007 (NOTE NEW DATE) from EMI Music as a two-disc set. Bonus features include a deleted scene, a 30-minute documentary on the making of Help! with "exclusive behind the scenes footage of the Beatles on set," "The Restoration of Help!," "Memories of Help!," trailers, radio spots, a written introduction by Lester, and an "appreciation" by Martin Scorcese. The press release goes on to reveal that "there will be 2 editions of the DVD - a standard digipack and a deluxe boxed set that will contain a reproduction of Richard Lester’s original annotated script, 8 lobby cards and a poster, plus a 60-page book with rarely seen photographs and production notes from the movie." Sounds like a great edition of a pop culture classic long sought after by music fans and spy fans alike!