Oct 31, 2008

Big Bond Day In Britain

Even though it's nothing more than Halloween here in America, it seems inappropriate to let this day pass by without making note of all the cool stuff the Cousins have going on today across the pond. For starters, there's the first "new" Ian Fleming James Bond hardcover first edition since Octopussy and The Living Daylights came out in 1966! (Well, Amazon actually lists it as having come out at the beginning of this month, but I think it was originally supposed to be today.) That's right, the new collection Quantum of Solace: The Complete James Bond Short Stories, first published in paperback in Britain and the United States this past summer, gets a hardcover release in the UK today from Penguin Classics. Of course, the true first was the Penguin paperback, but most collectors like to have all their titles in hardcover anyway. And it's a pretty neat hardback, with a stamped brown "field report" mini dust jacket and very nice looking boards. I'm not generally a fan of half-sized jackets (and of course I would have preferred a Richard Chopping style cover like next week's Black Butterfly), but this one looks cool. The same book is also out in a smaller format, mass market paperback this month as well, sporting yet another cover (right). I'm surprised the mass market version isn't a movie tie-in, given that the whole point of the book even existing is to tie the books in with the films!

Second, and no less essential, is the paperback debut of Samantha Weinberg's final entry in her "Moneypenny Diaries" trilogy, Final Fling. This was a stellar conclusion to a truly phenomenal series, and every Bond fan should read it. Really, these books are much closer to the spirit of Fleming than that Centenary pretender Devil May Care, or even Charlie Higson's excellent Young Bond spinoff series. Weinberg's "Diaries" are continuation novels even Fleming purists will enjoy, which can't be said for many of them. The paperback sports the same amazing Stina Persson artwork as the hardcover. Here's hoping the first volume in the series gets rejacketed to match...

And on top of those enticing book releases, there's also a movie of some sort in UK theaters today... one we won't get Stateside for another two weeks. Lucky limeys. Enjoy, guys!
Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It: Complete Six Levels Of Side-Scrolling Mayhem!

Ad for a 1990 Mission: Impossible Nintendo game based on the '88-'90 revival series. The copy makes it sound as if it had more to do with Duke Nukem-type side-scrollers than any familiar incarnation of the famous TV show. Apparently players contended with villains like Slash Stiletto, Blitz Blizzardski, the Iron Claw and the Sinister Seven with rifles, firebombs and remote control cluster bombs. "Remember," the ad warns, "should you choose to accept this mission and fail, you, your Nintendo, and the world will self-destruct in five seconds."
Sir Sean Connery's New Louis Vuitton Ad
Tradecraft: Quantum Of Blogging

All the trade blogs have something to say about Quantum of Solace these days.

Steven Zeitchik of the Hollywood Reporter's Risky Biz Blog examines the movie from an interesting environmental aspect. Does the new Bond film point the direction toward the next generation of action movie villainy?

Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood seems to have a new story everyday about the anticipation factor for Daniel Craig's second 007 outing. Earlier this week she reported that with three weeks still to go (now two), Sony's own tracking indicated that Quantum of Solace had double the "wannasee" factor going for it than Casino Royale did. Could be be looking at a Bourne Supremacy or even The Dark Knight scenario of a sequel vastly outgrossing its predecessor? I hope so! And I'm sure Sony does too, because the same story goes on to reveal that some rival studios are pinning the new Bond movie as the priciest film of all time, dollars-per-minute.

Today Nikki adds that Quantum is currently leading MovieTickets.com's online advance ticket sales, ahead of heavy hitters like High School Musical 3 and Twilight!
Bond Girls Make Bad Fashion Blog

Uh-oh. The London Quantum of Solace premiere proved to be one of those weird British fashion occasions, where female stars show up in odd get-ups sure to get them coverage in tabloids and bad fashion blogs. And a blog I'm told is pre-eminent among such blogs, Go Fug Yourself, has taken umbrage at the outfits of both Bond babes Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton. They describe Arterton's attire as "a dress that resembles nothing so much as the product of an unholy union between Bai Ling's creative team and Torvill and Dean's legendary 1984 'Bolero' ice-dance routine." Ouch! Head on over there to read more snarkiness, see the pictures and vote on which Bond Girl's dress is less awful. Or just to admire two women so lovely that their beauty defies fashion anyway.

Oct 30, 2008

BLOGIVERSARY CONTEST: Win Bond On Set: Filming Quantum Of Solace!

Want to win a copy of DK's impressive new Greg Williams photo book, Bond On Set: Filming Quantum of Solace (reviewed here)? All you have to do is send an email with the subject heading "BOND ON SET," including your name and full mailing address, to the Double O Section by midnight, Pacific Time on Wednesday, November 5, 2008. Winners will be announced in one week's time, next Thursday. Good luck!

One entry per person, please. Double entries will be disqualified. One winner will be drawn at random and announced in on Thursday, November 6, 2008. The winner's name will be posted here and he or she will be notified via email. All entries will be deleted immediately after the contest’s close, and no personal information will be retained or transmitted to any third parties. The contest is open to anyone, in any country. Unfortunately, the Double O Section cannot assume responsibility for items lost or damaged in transit.
Second Blogiversary

I really can’t believe it’s been two years. It feels like I only started this blog yesterday, and yet it feels at the same time like I’ve been doing it forever. Sometimes I can’t wait to post something new; sometimes maintaining it feels like a chore, but it all feels natural. It’s just part of my life now. And it’s opened some amazing doors for me, done some things that I never dreamed would happen two years ago if I just started writing about how much I like spy stuff. At this point, I can’t imagine not writing it.

But there would be no Double O Section at all without loyal readers, so I want to take a moment to thank everyone who comes here for a daily dose of spy news, reviews or general ranting. And to those of you who comment or send me emails, please know that I appreciate that too. I have a limited amount of computer access throughout the day, and I have to choose how to use that time. Often, using it to post new items means that I don’t always have a chance to reply to every comment or email, and I feel bad about that. I hope that one day my schedule will open up and I will be able to stay in touch with everyone better, but in the meantime, I just wanted to assure readers that I do appreciate your news tips and opinions. And what better way to thank readers than with another contest... or three. That’s right, on top of today’s James Bond Blu-Ray giveaway, I’ll be running another three thrilling contests throughout the coming week to celebrate two years of blogging about secret agents. Please be sure to check back and enter for a chance to win some really cool prizes.

Thanks, everyone, for two great years on the Internet!

Click here to read the very first post on the Double O Section, from two years ago today.
Click here to read the Six Month Blogiversary Post.
Click here to read the One Year Blogiversary Post.

And be sure to check out my seven personal favorite posts from the past two years:

Bond Blu-Ray Contest Winners

Today marks the Double O Section's Second Blogiversary. It's hard to believe it's been two whole years now since my first post. To celebrate, let's give away some Blu-Rays! Here are the winners of last week's contest:

From Russia With Love - Stuart Paul of California

Thunderball - David Foster of Victoria, Australia

For Your Eyes Only - Christopher Mills of Maine

Dr. No - Chris Wright of Ohio

Live And Let Die - Phil Hansen of California

Die Another Day - Matthew Weston of Alberta, Canada

If you read your name on that list, expect a Blu-Ray disc heading your way in the mail any day now. If you didn't, take heart: the Blogiversary Celebration continues, and there will be another exciting James Bond contest posted later today! Be sure to check back...

Oct 29, 2008

24 Season 7 Trailer

The Hollywood Reporter has posted a trailer for the upcoming seventh season of 24, which will start airing in January a whole year after it was supposed to begin and almost two years since the sixth season concluded. And, after all the unprecedented behind-the-scenes turmoil happening on the show over those two years, it looks... awesome! I know I've been very critical of 24 on this blog, but I always desperately want it to regain its former glory with each new season. Here's hoping this is the one that finally does it! I'm rooting for it. I have to say, just shifting the location to Washington and getting rid of CTU looks like a huge improvement...

Remember to enter by midnight Pacific time tonight if you want to win one of six James Bond titles on Blu-Ray! Winners will be announced tomorrow, on the second Blogiversary of the Double O Section. Stay tuned for even more great contests coming up in celebration!
Tradecraft: High Spy

The Hollywood Reporter's headline is "Ifans smoked out as pic's drug-dealing spy," but the movie in question doesn't actually sound like the comedy that (or my own title, for that matter) implies. It's not Agent 420: The Movie. It's a potentially quirky British independent biopic. The film is Mr. Nice, Bernard Rose's (Immortal Beloved) adaptation of a memoir by real life spy and international drug dealer Howard Marks. The trade elaborates: "[Rhys] Ifans will play a late-'60s-era Oxford grad and teacher who turned to drug smuggling to impress his future wife Judy (Chloe Sevigny). While enlisting the help of an Irish Republican Army boss (David Thewlis) for a job, he was recruited by a British intelligence officer for a loose network of informants." The memoir includes encounters with the Mafia and the CIA. Apparently the book has quite a cult following, and Rose directed one of my favorite indie biopics of recent years, Ivansxtc, so this could be quite good!

Oct 28, 2008

New Spy DVDs Out This Week

This week's sole new spy DVD comes bundled with a CD full of music most readers are likely to already have... but it still sounds pretty cool. The newest iteration of EMI's frequently reissued The Best of Bond... James Bond CD comes in two versions: a regular CD and a CD/DVD combo. The CD contains all the Bond themes that the last one did, plus Chris Cornell's awesome "You Know My Name" from Casino Royale and Madonna's "Die Another Day." (Listening to that one without earmuffs is as bad as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of thirty-eight degrees Farenheit.) It's also got a previously unreleased version of "The James Bond Theme." The DVD includes five Bond music videos (all of which are also included on the DVDs of the respective movies), a 1974 Shirley Bassey concert performance of "Goldfinger," and the documentary "The Music of James Bond." I assume the latter is the same one featured on the A View To A Kill DVD. So you don't get all the videos (neither of the hilariously cheesy Licence To Kill videos is included, nor the excellent Garbage one or a few others), and the only thing you're not likely to own already is the Bassey performance. But a disc full of Bond music videos is still a pretty cool idea in my book, so I'll probably pick it up anyway! Plus, the cover art's an improvement over the last version.

Oct 27, 2008

Upcoming Spy DVDs: Traitor

DVDActive reports that Anchor Bay will release this summer's post-9/11 Don Cheadle spy thriller Traitor on DVD and Blu-Ray on December 19. The movie co-starred Guy Pearce as an FBI agent on the trail of a mysterious quarry (Cheadle) whose appearance in European cities always happens to coincide with a major terrorist incident. Is he the next Osama bin Laden, or is he a deep cover agent? The answer to that question actually comes pretty early on, but is clearly apparent even earlier. (Like, in the trailer.) Luckily, there are other gripping questions that keep driving the story forward, as well as plenty of fabulous locations all over the world. The twist-filled story (co-written by Steve Martin) isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is, but those globehopping locations go a long way toward making the movie a very entertaining diversion for a couple of hours. One of the disc's featurettes covers the movie's thrilling locations; others deal with stunts and special effects. There's also a commentary track, but Anchor Bay's advertising doesn't reveal who's on it.
Book Review: Bond On Set: Filming Quantum of Solace

Bond On Set: Filming Quantum of Solace is Greg Williams’ third "Bond On Set" photography book. He started with Pierce Brosnan’s final 007 outing, Die Another Day, for which he produced a rather haphazardly-assembled collection of candid photographs of the actors and crew on set. (Flipping through it six years later, in fact, it’s easy to forget that the movie is a dud. In still images, it looks fantastic!) Williams is definitely a gifted still photographer, and has a knack for capturing little moments that tell big stories about day-to-day life on a film set. He’s also good at capturing quintessentially Bondian moments (often involving guns or beautiful women), a talent which has earned him the poster shoots for both of Daniel Craig’s Bond movies to date. The best pictures come from subtle juxtapositions of the two: Brosnan or Craig in full Bond attire, but relaxing between takes; Halle Berry pointing a pistol at someone, but smiling broadly at an off-camera joke instead of looking serious; or Eva Green looking gorgeous in one of her Vesper dresses, but instead of posing like a model, clowning for the photographer, throwing punches at the camera.

The Casino Royale book was better organized, generally progressing chronologically through sets and locations in the order they appeared in the movie. Daniel Craig himself provided some insightful and sometimes humorous recollections on the individual stills in a dialogue with Williams at the end of the book. Bond On Set: Filming Quantum of Solace is the best organized book yet in the series, laying out the photos behind chapter headings beginning with "Pre-Production" and continuing with pictures grouped by shooting location. Again, it’s an assortment of color and black and white images, every one of them pretty outstanding. Whereas the first two volumes were very heavy on the candids, there’s a lot more portraiture this time, but even posing his subjects are clearly relaxed and at ease with Williams’ presence. There is sadly no dialogue with Craig this time out, but instead Marc Forster provides some lengthy bursts of commentary throughout the book.

As you might imagine in a making-of photo book of this nature, spoilers abound, so even if you pick it up today, I’d recommend waiting until you’ve seen the movie to really dig into it. The spoiler shots include some very striking photos of one of the film’s female stars (sans costume–at least in the traditional sense) that have already appeared on the Internet. Every male fan will definitely want to at least flip to these pages once he’s seen the movie! In the meantime, you can pretty safely flip through the first chapter or two without ruining much. Enticingly, you’ll get a glimpse in the first couple of pages of how Daniel Craig will look in his first official gun barrel firing pose (since Casino Royale’s variation on that was incorporated into the action). 007's till firing one-handed as opposed to two (in the last volume, Craig discussed how real life law enforcement personnel always use two hands), but in a much more military looking pose than some of the previous Bond actors. (I have to say, inaccurate though it may be, I still think Dalton and Moore created the best silhouettes, with their guns aimed high and their other hands swung out far to the side.) You’ll also see Craig putting the Aston Martin DBS through its paces on a test track in preparation for filming the film’s chase scene, which is pretty neat.

Regular readers will be familiar with my occasional "Judging a Book by Its Cover" reviews, in which I rate books based solely on their physical attributes. Well, for a photography book, wherein you pretty much know what you’ll find inside, and enjoyment thereof is entirely subjective, that’s a big part of what a reviewer can offer, so I’ll lump it right in with the regular review.

Collectors who seek uniformity in their series will not like the "Bond On Set" designs. The only constant among the three volumes is that each one is completely different from the others. The first "Bond On Set" book (published in hardcover by Boxtree) was under a foot in height, and about nine inches across. The second volume, from DK, jumped to just over twelve inches tall, and almost as many wide. This one retains that height, but drops down to ten inches in width.

Both previous volumes featured dust jackets and boards that bore the same images as the jackets. This one eschews the jacket altogether, with winning results. As a collector, I’ve been conditioned from my earliest days scouring used bookstores for Fleming firsts to value a dust jacket above all else, and in many cases, that’s appropriate. But with illustrated boards, it’s simply not necessary–and sometimes gets in the way. From a purely tactile standpoint, DK has fashioned the most satisfying of all three books in Bond On Set: Filming Quantum of Solace. The matte finished boards, bearing a terrific, moody, black and white photograph of Daniel Craig near some railroad tracks, don’t need a dust jacket. They’re much handsomer without one, and I like the way the bare book feels in my hands. It’s uncomplicated. It’s a hefty slab of Bond photos, and that’s exactly what I want from it. Furthermore, it has sharp, well-defined corners and a totally flat spine, which works excellently for an un-jacketed book. Bond On Set: Casino Royale had this too, but you couldn’t tell because of the dust jacket. My first reaction to a book is always based on how it feels when I hold it, and I very much like the way this one feels in my hands. At 160 pages (slightly longer than the previous two) and with thick, solid boards and glossy, heavy stock pages, it’s got a satisfying weight to it. To put it in terms Jason Bourne could appreciate, you’d certainly get a reaction if you hit someone over the head with this book. Despite all that, DK has managed to keep the price point down to a very reasonable $22.00, which is considerably cheaper than previous volumes. It’s a lot of value for your dollar.

I still miss the in-depth, text-heavy making-of books we used to get for Bond films like GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, but to be honest, Williams’ photo books tell the behind-the-scenes story nearly as well. You certainly get a sense of being on set, and he captures all aspects of the filmmaking. You see hard work and fatigue, and you see moments of levity. You see the production process from start to finish. In fact, the still images sometimes manage to tell more in that single, captured moment than a whole DVD making-of featurette. Like its predecessors, Bond On Set: Filming Quantum of Solace is essential reading (if that’s the word) for James Bond fans–and a nicer coffee table item than either of those ones.

Click here for the latest Double O Section contest!

Oct 24, 2008

Tradecraft: McG Running, Bond Reviewed

Dawn of a New Spy Franchise

Charlie's Angels director and Chuck producer McG has signed on to direct Dead Spy Running for Warner Bros., based on the forthcoming novel by Jon Stock. The studio is hoping to launch a spy franchise of their own to compete with MGM's Bond and Universal's Bourne. "While story details are under wraps," The Hollywood Reporter reports, "the book, the first of a trilogy, aims to reinvent the spy genre. It tells the origin story of newly trained spy in a tone that mixes The Bourne Identity with the works of John Le Carré." The book will be published in 2009 by HarperCollins, who won it in a bidding war.

Ludlum and Le Carré would seem odd bedfellows at first–given the former's trademark action sequences and the latter's trademark lack thereof–but both share a generally bleak outlook on the business of spying, and that might give us a clue as to the tone of this book and film. It's a tone that seems at odds with McG's over-over-the-top style on the Charlie's Angels pictures, but he's shown himself capable of more restrained direction as well. Either way, I think the guy's talented, and I look forward to seeing what he does with a spy franchise.

Bond Reviewed

Both major trades have published their Quantum of Solace reviews, and it's an even split: The Hollywood Reporter is quite positive (and spoiler-free) while Variety is fairly negative (and leaden with spoilers in the second half, at which point I only skimmed). Both can agree, however, that Craig is again impressive.

Oct 23, 2008

CONTEST: Win Bond On Blu-Ray!

MGM's marketing slogan for the new James Bond Blu-Rays is "Blu-Ray was made for Bond..." and I have to agree. Who says there's no truth in advertising? If there's one franchise deserving of the best video technology available, it's James Bond. And I just happen to have a full set to give way, one of each movie just released on Blu-Ray. That means there are six prizes, and six chances to win. The mostly stellar selection includes Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only and Die Another Day. Names will be selected at random, and prize titles will depend on the order in which the winners' names are drawn. All you have to do to win one is to simply send an email with the subject heading "BLU-RAY BOND" including your name and mailing address to the Double O Section by midnight, Pacific Time on Wednesday, October 29, 2008. Winners will be announced in one week's time, next Thursday. Please bear in mind that you will need a Blu-Ray player to play these discs. Good luck!

One entry per person, please. Double entries will be disqualified. Six winners will be drawn at random and announced in on Thursday, October 30, 2008. Winners’ names will be posted here and they will be notified via email. All entries will be deleted immediately after the contest’s close, and no personal information will be retained or transmitted to any third parties. The contest is open to anyone, in any country, although these Blu-Ray discs are Region A (North America), so please make sure that you have a compatible player. Unfortunately, the Double O Section cannot assume responsibility for items lost or damaged in transit.

Oct 21, 2008

New Spy DVDs Out This Week

Well, this is it, spy fans. This is the week you empty your wallets. This is a huge week for spy DVDs!

Casino Royale (2006): 3-Disc Collector's Edition and Blu-Ray

In a week filled with great releases, this is the real prize. Anyone disappointed in the rather threadbare two-disc special edition of Casino Royale put out by Sony back in 2007 will be more than placated by this fantastic three-disc version (also available on Blu-Ray), brimming with extras, that really earns its special edition status! In addition to all the features included on the initial release, this collector's edition also includes scores of all-new documentaries produced by John Cork, one of the men behind the wonderful documentaries on all the classic Bond DVDs and more. Cork has promised documentaries that go beyond Casino Royale alone into the wider Bond mythos, and told me that every one of them will feature information that even the most die-hard Bond fan has not heard before. Highlights among these tantalising documentaries are:

o Ian Fleming’s Incredible Creation – A remarkable look at the birth and continued success of James Bond, including never-before-revealed information about Bond’s creator and the origins of 007.

o The Road to Casino Royale – The story of why it took over 50 years for the Bond filmmakers to bring Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel to the big screen, featuring the amazing behind-the-scenes stories of the many attempts to make the film.

o James Bond in the Bahamas – A fascinating examination of the links between the the cinematic Bond and the Bahamas, with never-before-told behind-the-scenes stories from Casino Royale, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, For Your Eyes Only and The World Is Not Enough.

o Ian Fleming: The Secret Road to Paradise – A revealing exploration of the world of James Bond’s creator. In this documentary, discover why Ian Fleming was drawn to the Bahamas , and learn the cinematic Casino Royale’s unique link to an important chapter in 007’s secret history.

The press release promises that even the "Filmmaker Profiles" (usually the boring, texty part of a DVD menu) will include "in-depth conversations" and "never-before-seen footage!" Showcased are director Martin Campbell, Director of Photography Phil Meheux, Stunt Coordinator Gary Powell, composer David Arnold and others.

Fans complained that the original release neglected deleted scenes; that's made up for here with "Rescue & Recovery,” "Squandering Government Funds," "Cricket Pavilion," and "Gettler Raises Bond’s Suspicions."

Beyond that, you also get storyboard sequences, storyboard-to-screen comparisons, Chris Cornell's music video and a commentary with Martin Campbell and other key creative talent. The Blu-Ray also includes a picture-in-picture video commentary, and an interactive Bond trivia game called "Know Your Double-O." Whew! And it's all wrapped up in a much cooler cover than the original release, utilising the film's awesome teaser artwork. Obviously, this one's a no-brainer for Bond fans.

Casino Royale (1967) 40th Anniversary Edition

All that, and it's not even the only Casino Royale DVD coming out this week! We also get the oft-delayed 40th Anniversary Edition (one year too late) of the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale, starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen and Orson Welles (among many, many others). This release includes a documentary on "The Making of Casino Royale" and the featurettes, “Bond James Bond,” “A 3 Ring Circus,” “More Directors, More Stars,” “The Big Climax,” and “It’s a Wrap!” The long-awaited special edition is produced by Steven Jay Rubin, a name justifiably familiar to Bond fans as the author of The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia and The James Bond Films. Rubin and Cork provide what's sure to be an informative audio commentary. Apparently not included, however, is the 1954 Barry Nelson TV version of Casino Royale, which was part of the last DVD release (albeit in a slightly truncated version). So while the new features make this disc a must, you might want to hold onto your old copy as well.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - The Complete Series

This is the long-awaited retail edition of the sublime set TimeLife put out last year as an online exclusive. It's still expensive, but not at least you can buy it at a heavy discount now from retailers like Amazon and DeepDicount. And it's worth every penny. This is an amazing set, packed with extras. Discs' and discs' worth of extras, with everything from new interviews with the likes of Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Richard Donner to U.N.C.L.E.-related clips from Emmy Award shows and the like. Plus, of course, every episode of a fantastic spy series. Prior to getting this set, I'd only ever seen some of the later, campier, color episodes. I was really surprised at the tone of the first, black and white season, which seems more in keeping with Danger Man than with Bond or The Avengers. It's great spy adventure, and generally more on the serious side. The later seasons get bigger and more Bondian (and beyond) with gorgeous Sixties colors and great guest stars. (Vincent Price! Herbert Lom! Terry-Thomas! Nancy Sinatra!) And if you want camp (and I admit, sometimes I do), the third season delivers camp. The series covers the same spectrum as the Bond movies; from its four season run you can choose a From Russia With Love-serious episode like "The Terbuf Affair" or Moonrakerishly over-the-top ones like the notorious "My Friend, The Gorilla Affair." And they're all great in their own way, and they all come bundled in a cool attache case package (though Tim Lucas warns that you must be careful with the handle; it's prone to breaking). This set is a must-own for all spy fans.

The James Bond Collection on Blu-Ray

If you've still got any money left after all that stuff, there's still more Bond releases out today. Six classic Bond titles make their high-definition debut in The James Bond Blu-Ray Collection, Volume 1 and The James Bond Blu-Ray Collection, Volume 2. The titles (Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only and Die Another Day) are also available individually. Special features are the same as on the previously-released two-disc special edition DVDs, but picture and sound are better than you've ever seen them. In fact, they're pretty much better than you've ever seen any movie from the 1960s!

Individual Two-Disc James Bond Special Editions

Finally, if you never managed to pick up the four sets of two-disc Bond Special Editions in the past two years, you can now buy the two-disc versions individually with slightly better cover art. Previously, only single-disc versions were available on their own.

Oct 20, 2008

Daniel Craig Interview In November Playboy

There's a marked change in Daniel Craig's interviews between 2006 and now. When Casino Royale came out, he came off as guarded, defensive and generally grumpy. Granted, this was after being assaulted in the press for a year over his hair color and purported inability to drive stick shift (not true, claims the actor). He seemed cagey on the subject of Bond, and didn't particularly want to discuss his future as the character, even insinuating that he couldn't wait to be done with him. Well, now things have changed. Casino Royale was a huge success, and Craig was a critical sensation in the role. And he couldn't seem more different from those early, standoffish interviews than in a breezy, conversational and engaging new interview in the November issue of Playboy. Gone is the apparent disdain for the character that made him a household name; now he claims to enjoy being Bond, and discusses the character with affection and impressive insight. "I'm still quite enjoying myself playing James Bond," he admits, which is good to hear.

He's also got some interesting things to say on the spy genre as a whole, demonstrating a commendable knowledge of it beyond 007. When asked what his cinematic influences were, Craig responds, "The psychological thrillers of the 1960s and 1970s. British spy movies like those with Michael Caine and the early Bonds like From Russia With Love. They have a huge amount of style but are tense and taut and deal with emotion. To make it interesting I had to bring those emotions [to Bond]. Otherwise I'd go insane."

He also knows his more recent spy movies. "Now a pun's a bad joke," he asserts. "In fact in [Casino Royale] we had to be careful of them. They've been sent up in such a way that they almost ring like parody. Austin Powers did them in the extreme. So in making a Bond movie, you have to keep that in mind. As soon as you go that way you're making a parody of a parody. It looks like you're doing Mike Meyers." If only someone had pointed that out to Halle Berry while filming Die Another Day! (Yes, I blame the actress more than the writers; she couldn't deliver a double entendre to save her life.)

Craig, on the other hand, was especially cautious of doing Austin Powers. "I had an Austin Powers alarm," he says. "On set I'd say, "That's Austin Powers. We can't do it."

He also provides some interesting insight into Fleming's Bond's relationships with women, pointing out that, "One thing that remains from Fleming is that the women always leave Bond--as opposed to his leaving them. It's the opposite of the way we think of him, that he beds a woman and says bye-bye and flies out the window. In the books he has relationships and occasionally is nearly getting married when she dumps him because he becomes moody and dark." That's a very good point I'd never really considered.

When asked about the lack of hardware in Caino Royale, Craig insists, "I've got nothing against gadgets," so that's refreshing to hear. As much as I loved Casino Royale, I would like to see the return of gadgets (and Q) down the road. Not invisible cars, mind you, but the occasional trick watch wouldn't go amiss. Those are only a few brief hints of what this lengthy, in-depth interview has to offer. Be sure to check out the issue (or buy it digitally) for the actor's own favorite Bond movies and Bond girl (he has good taste), his views on American politics, his introspective views on stardom and a rather shocking discussion of the merits of owning an Aston Martin!

The November issue also features five pages of lavishly-illustrated "Bond Facts" (a couple of which were actually news to me) and a further six pages of photos of Bond Girls Past from the pages of Playboy (recalling the similarly illustrative spread in the 1987 issue celebrating the 25th Anniversary of 007, with Maryam D'Abo on the cover).

Oct 19, 2008

Persuaders News Bites

The October issue of Total Film Magazine (on newsstands now in the US and featuring a reversible poster of both Quantum of Solace teasers on pack; Britain's already got the November issue with Daniel Craig on the cover) features an interview with Steve Coogan ("The Confessions of Steve Coogan") in which they ask him about the status of film version of The Persuaders, set to star Coogan and Ben Stiller in the roles originated by Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. Coogan first says it's in development hell, then, when they follow up and ask if that means the project is dead, he says no. The actor seems confident that The Persuaders will still find its time; that time just hasn't come yet. He says you've always got to have lots of different projects in development. I'm glad Total Film asked about that, because there's been very little news on The Persuaders movie of late. Last we heard, it was rumored to star Hugh Grant and George Clooney, but from what Coogan says it seems pretty clear that the movie is still in development with himself and Stiller as Lord Brett Sinclair and Danny Wild.

The original Wilde, meanwhile, has just written a new book (as has the original Sinclair, of course). Tony Curtis's brand new autobiography, American Prince: A Memoir, devotes just a few pages to The Persuaders, but does pack a few good stories into those pages. Among them are the oft-told tale of how he was detained at Heathrow for having marijuana and a handgun in his luggage (funny to hear from the actor's own perspective) and an amusing anecdote about filming the episode "Five Miles To Midnight" in which Curtis himself doesn't come out in the best light. Apparently while filming a scene with guest star Joan Collins, Curtis became frustrated with her and called her an extremely unkind word that starts with a "C." (Which, by his account, she was being.) When they finally did the shot, instead of playing her part Collins jumped out of the truck they were in and announced to everyone what he had called her, then ran off to her trailer. Curtis had to apologize in order to get the temperamental actress back on set. He still had to get the last word in, of course, and it's worth picking up the book to see what that last word was...

Oct 17, 2008

New "You Only Live Twice" Cover

Yesterday morning, Los Angeles public radio station KCRW played a version of "You Only Live Twice" that I'd never heard before, immediately preceding "Another Way To Die." Turns out it's a new cover by the band The Postmarks, and will be including on their upcoming covers album, By-The-Numbers. It was a good cover, with a softer-spoken female vocalist than Nancy Sinatra or Bjork. The orchestration seemed to owe more to David Arnold's arrangement for Bjork and Natacha Atlas than John Barry's original, and that worked well. If the album's on iTunes, I'll definitely download the song, but I may even buy the CD for it. The band sounded good, and there are some other cool covers on there like Mick Ronson's "Slaughter On 10th Avenue." And, that's a pretty cool cover. The second square seems to represent "You Only Live Twice," and it does so well!

This is the second new recording of a classic Bond song due out this fall, following Duffy's previously announced cover of "Live And Let Die."

Oct 16, 2008

Tradecraft: Bourne Again Scribe

Variety reports that Universal has tapped George Nolfi to write the untitled fourth Jason Bourne film. Nolfi co-wrote The Bourne Ultimatum with Scott Z. Burns and Tony Gilroy, from a story by Gilroy. "Though the series is based on the Robert Ludlum novels, the new film won't be based on a Ludlum title, but rather an original story," says the trade. That's hardly surprising, since the last two weren't even based on the Ludlum novels from which they took their titles! As previously reported, Frank Marshall, Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon all reprise their respective Ultimatum positions of producer, director and star. Variety succinctly summarizes the studio's motives by saying, "The studio intended to stop at the third installment, but the film grossed $227 million domestically and $215 million overseas." Whatever their reasons, if they can reproduce the same level of excellence as Ultimatum, then I'm all for it!
Tradecraft: Paramount Developing New Matt Helm Movie

In a sidebar to the print version of an article about Paramount streamlining its slate to produce only twenty films in 2009 (bad economy, sign of the times, etc.), The Hollywood Reporter lists how Paramount and former partner DreamWorks will divide custody of properties formerly in development as part of the partnership. They say, "Paramount will develop another group of films that DreamWorks will have the option to co-finance and co-distribute, such as Matt Helm and Imaginary Friends." That's it. That's all the info. But it's interesting, because this is the first we've heard in a while of this project being alive at all!

DreamWorks optioned Donald Hamilton's series of Helm novels way back in 2001, aiming to develop a film closer to the books than the Dean Martin spoofs of the Sixties or the Anthony Franciosa TV series of the Seventies. At that time, Legally Blonde director Rober Luketic was attached to the project. He was still involved as late as early 2004, when he touted his Win A Date With Tad Hamilton star Josh Duhamel as a possible Helm. By the following year, however, that version of the project was dead, and Variety reported that DreamWorks had hired Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (the same guys who are now adapting Robert Ludlum's The Matarese Circle for MGM) to write a new Helm film "in a high six-figure deal." That was the last I'd heard anything about the project until today, so I'd assumed it was dead. I'm glad to hear that it's not, and to see that Paramount cares about the potential franchise enough to wrest it away from DreamWorks in the split! Hopefully that means it will actually become one of those twenty films they're planning to make...
Tradecraft: Nick Nack Biopic And Smart Sequel

Da plane, boss, da plane!

One of James Bond's most unusual adversaries will soon be the subject of a big budget Hollywood biopic: Variety reports that My Dinner With Hervé chronicles the wild, tragic life of diminutive superstar Hervé Villechaize, who played Scaramanga's henchman Nick Nack in The Man With the Golden Gun and went on to star as Tattoo on Fantasy Island. Schindler's List writer Steve Zaillian will produce, and Terminal writer Sacha Gervasi will write and direct. Gervasi conducted the last interview with the actor days before his suicide in 1993. The trade quotes Gervasi as saying, "Hervé wasn’t just a pop culture icon; he was one of the most charming, cultured and dangerous people I’ve ever met. His is the story of a unique misfit trying to find his place in the world." No word yet on who will play Villechaize (though I bet Leonard DiCaprio is trying to think of ways to appear smaller), or who will play Roger Moore. (I nominate Steve Coogan!)

This is a very exciting project, and one I can't wait to see come to fruition. Villechaize, a notorious ladies' man, was an amazing, larger-than-life personality, and Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland and others have all related hilarious stories in the past about working with the actor on The Man With the Golden Gun.

Smart Writers

In a story about Steve Carell signing on to play Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Brigadier Gerard in a Napoleonic comedy (which sounds as potentially delightful as it does weird, doesn't it?), Variety mentions in passing some new information about Warner Bros.' Get Smart sequel. The trade reports that it will be written by the same scribes as the first film, Tom Astle and Matt Ember, and that Carell is still mooting the second Smart movie as one of two he'll try to fit into his next Office hiatus.

Oct 15, 2008

Spy Stars Do Horror

Hot on the heels of Code Red's release of Avengers and New Avengers star Patrick Macnee's 80s horror movie Sweet Sixteen comes another one of Macnee's forays into the macabre, Dead of Night. In this 1977 TV movie follow-up to Trilogy of Terror, Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis directs three eerie yarns adapted by Richard Matheson. The middle one, "There's No Such Thing As A Vampire," stars Macnee in a Victorian tale of household vampirism. DVD Sleuth has all the details on the upcoming Dark Sky release, due out on January. Another Seventies TV spy, Ian Ogilvy (the second TV Saint), also made plenty of top-notch horror movies, and the same site reports that one of those, Michael Reeves' The She-Beast (also starring the great Barbara Steele), will come to DVD early next year, also from Dark Sky.
Tradecraft: From Europe With Love

I love spy stories with great European locations, and two are in the news today: a TV show and a movie.

Ronin: The Series

According to The Hollywood Reporter, MGM is developing its 1998 spy hit Ronin into a television series--and it will be shot in Europe! (Probably.) The series will be co-produced by the BBC, which is also good news. Says the trade: "Ronin is being produced in the U.K. with Steven Garrett and Jane Featherstone's Kudos Prods., and MGM exec vp Chris Ottinger said the partners are looking for an American lead. 'Jean Reno would be great, too,' he added, referring to the iconic French actor who co-starred alongside [Robert] De Niro in the 1998 movie, which grossed about $93 million worldwide." Kudos are, of course, the producers of Spooks (known here in the U.S. as MI-5), so that's good news. John Frankenheimer's film united several ex-Bond villains (Jonathan Price, Sean Bean and Michael Lonsdale) in a plot about masterless spies (hence the title, referring to masterless samurai) wandering post-Cold War Europe. It's best remembered for its tight pacing, gritty filmmaking, fabulous European locations and impressive car chases, all of which would make for an excellent TV series, in my opinion.

Travolta's Eurospy Flick Delayed

Variety reports that production has been shut down on the latest Luc Besson-produced neo-Eurospy movie, From Paris With Love, following arson. Ten stunt vehicles for the film, parked in a stadium parking lot, were torched in the economically-deprived Montfermeil suburb of Paris. The trade says, "According to a EuropaCorp spokesman, production has been 'postponed, but not abandoned for the moment.'"

Oct 14, 2008

New Spy DVDs Out This Week - Updated

It's a big week for DVDs, with another one hot on its heels as next week sees the release of the James Bond Blu-Rays...

Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection

Today sees the release of that awesome new Hitchcock box set from MGM, The Premiere Collection. This one includes new versions (with different extras) of the long out-of-print (and very pricey) Criterion titles Notorious, Spellbound and Rebecca, as well as The Lodger, The Paradine Case, Young and Innocent, Sabotage and Lifeboat. Complementing these fantastic titles is a slew of new extras, including "audio commentaries, featurettes, screen tests, still galleries, vintage radio interviews, an AFI Tribute to Hitchcock, a 32-page notebook with trivia, production notes and more about the legendary director and more." Every film also has at least one commentary track. The specific spy movies included here are Sabotage (adapted from Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent) and the masterpiece Notorious. The latter boasts two commentaries by film historians, an isolated music and effects track, "The Ultimate Romance: The Making of Notorious" featurette, "Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Spymaster" featurette, an AFI Tribute to Hitchcock, a 1948 radio play starring Joseph Cotton and Ingrid Bergman, a Peter Bogdanovich audio interview, a second audio interview with François Truffaut interviewing Hitch, a restoration comparison, a still gallery and a four page booklet. Whew! This set makes the ideal companion to Universal's and Warner Bros.' Hitchcock sets.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

While they're all indebted to (and often one-up) the James Bond series, Crystal Skull is the first Indy movie that can really be called a spy movie, since the antagonists are KGB agents led by Cate Blanchett's ice-cold Agent Irina Spalko. No, it's not as good as the original trilogy, but it's still a great adventure movie in its own right, and Harrison Ford doesn't miss a beat stepping back into his famous fedora-ed role almost two decades after The Last Crusade. The late fifties time period will also appeal to fans of classic spy flicks, best showcased in a stunning car and motorcycle chase through New Haven. The two-disc version is loaded with extras, as expected.

Additionally, Best Buy is offering all three sets of Young Indiana Jones DVDs (in which Indy spends much of WWI as a spy) for just $49.99 each to tie in with Crystal Skull's debut. This is a considerable discount over their $100+ retail price.

The Unit

Fox releases The Complete Third Season of its covert ops drama The Unit today, loaded with extras. This series, masterminded by David Mamet and Shield creator Shawn Ryan is an interesting look at the military side of spying.

Sweet Sixteen

Fans of The Avengers will also want to be on the lookout this week for the 1983 horror movie Sweet Sixteen, in which Patrick Macnee plays the father of a promiscuous teenage girl, all of whose male conquests suddenly turn up dead immediately after sleeping with her. The new director's cut DVD comes courtesy of Code Red.

Oct 10, 2008

Quantum Poster

Here's something I should have mentioned weeks ago. As I'm sure everyone's seen by now, the final one sheet for Quantum of Solace has been revealed. There's also a cool variation of it with just Bond walking in the desert appearing at bus stops and train stations around metropolitan areas. I don't think that this poster is as good as the teaser, but I do like the image. It's a variation on a previously released publicity image from the film, which is itself (and presumably the scene it's taken from) a bit of a tribute to a classic scene (and classic still) in The Spy Who Loved Me. I like the reference, and I'd guess it's courtesy of director Marc Forster who's confessed a particular affection for that movie.

As things really heat up on the James Bond front with Quantum of Solace just around the corner, I can't possibly keep up with all 007 developments, so now more than ever, be sure to check out CommanderBond.net on a regular basis as they're on top of everything! Do beware, though, as you scour the web for Quantum stuff, because some major spoilers are already out there and U.S. audiences will be exposed to far more in the two weeks between the movie's worldwide release and its late domestic arrival. CBn is great about labelling anything potentially spoilery, but another one of my favorite websites was much more careless recently, posting their faint warning only after the offending headline and picture... so use caution!

Oct 8, 2008

Tradecraft: More Matarese

Today's Hollywood Reporter offers a few more details on yesterday's news that David Cronenberg is in negotiations to direct The Matarese Circle. They also reiterate that "a fourth Bourne film is in development at Universal with returning director Paul Greengrass" and do a roundup of other Ludlum bestsellers currently lined up to get the big screen treatment. "Several other Ludlum properties are in development at Paramount (The Chancellor Manuscript) and Universal (The Sigma Protocol). And Summit is developing a remake of Ludlum's early work The Osterman Weekend, which Sam Peckinpah turned into a film in 1983."

Interestingly, though there have been surprisingly few Ludlum film adaptations over the years (especially given the late author's prolific output, even after his death), those that have been made have all attracted top tier directors. Peckinpah, John Frankenheimer, Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass have all tried their hands at Ludlum, and Martin Scrosese is said to be circling The Chancellor Manuscript.

When The Matarese Circle was first announced with Denzel Washington attached, I wondered who would end up playing the Russian agent, Vasili Taleniekov. Ain't It Cool has also picked up this story from the trades, and some of the Talkbackers there point out that Cronenberg has a favorite actor to work with who's already pulled off a Russian accent very successfully for the director: Viggo Mortensen. Don't know why that didn't occur to me! I'd love to see Washington and Mortensen team up for such an impressive director on a Robert Ludlum movie.

Oct 7, 2008

Tradecraft: Smart And Circle

Matarese Moves Forward

Variety reports that David Cronenberg is in talks to direct Denzel Washington in the Robert Ludlum adaptation The Matarese Circle for MGM. Michael Brandt and Derek Haas were previously announced as the screenwriters on the project. Former Warner Bros. topper Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing. The novel, which follows an American agent and a Russian agent forced to team up to thwart a plot to topple both their governments, is considered one of Ludlum's most ripe for filming. There's no word on whether the story will take place in its original Cold War setting or be updated, but given the current chilly climate between America and Russia, it wouldn't be too difficult to update. I'd imagine that's the path they'll take, following the success of the contemporary Bourne movies. I'm really glad to get an update on this project, because there hadn't been much public movement since early April despite the high price the studio paid for the property. I think Cronenberg is a fantastic choice. His recent Eastern Promises was a terrific, adult action thriller, and I think he'll bring a very interesting, smart point of view to the Ludlum material.

Get Smarterer

Unsurprisingly given its success, Warner Bros. is moving forward with a big screen sequel to its summer spy hit Get Smart, according to Variety. The Steve Carell update of the Sixties television classic earned the studio $130 million domestically and $230 million worldwide. Says the trade, "The studio is mobilizing a sequel for Carell to return as Maxwell Smart." I was disappointed with the movie (which never seemed quite sure of its own comic premise: was Smart overconfident and inept or was he a good agent, but misunderstood?), but I liked the cast and if they all come back, perhaps the second time will be the charm. The article doesn't mention anything about the involvement of Anne Hathaway or Alan Arkin, but of course this sequel is in its earliest stages. There was already a direct-to-DVD sequel of sorts, the spinoff movie Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of CONTROL.
New Spy DVDs Out This Week: Mission & Zohan

Mission: Impossible: The Fifth TV Season

Dig that groovy purple cover! Now solidly rooted in the Seventies (following the occasional fashion hints in Season 4), Season 5 introduced Lesley Ann Warren as the show's first female regular since Barbara Bain left after the third season) and a young, mustacheless Sam Elliot. Leonard Nimoy returned for one more season, as well as all the other regulars from Season 4. Season 5, which ran from 1970-71, is the last season to retain the series' original overseas espionage focus, with nearly half the episodes already turning toward the American "Syndicate" who would prove the IMF's enemy for its final years. So, needless to say, Mission: Impossible: The Fifth TV Season is an essential purchase for spy fans!

You Don't Mess With the Zohan

The intriguing premise for this Judd Apatow-produced comedy was "Adam Sandler as a top Mossad agent who quits to become a hairdresser." Unfortunately, in the final product Sandler's Zohan is more superhero than super-agent, trading gravity-defying blows with John Turturro’s surprisingly amiable Palestinian terrorist the Phantom. The opening generates some good, over-the-top sight gags as it parodies chase scenes in Bourne and Bond movies, but once Zohan arrives in New York, the film is far more concerned with his having sex with old ladies (a regular Sandler fixation) than with spying. I'm actually kind of afraid of what the "extended and unrated" DVD might add, but usually that's just a publicity gimmick that doesn't add much at all. Still, the DVD is loaded with special features, and completists might want to Netflick it for the opening, at least.

Oct 2, 2008

Young Bond Graphic Novel Out Today

Today marks the long, long-awaited return of James Bond to the medium of comics. While he made an unofficial (and altogether unflattering) appearance last year in Alan Moore's spectacular League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (drawn by Kevin O'Neill), Bond makes his first official comic book appearance since Topps' ill-fated GoldenEye adaptation way back in 1995. Although Topps had announced an ongoing 007 series following GoldenEye, they didn't even make it to issue 2 of their movie adaptation before cancelling it, thanks to their delayed schedule. Bond's last complete comic book appearance was a two issue miniseries at Dark Horse called Shattered Helix. Dark Horse also had their share of unfinished Bond stories, including the promising A Silent Armageddon and the serialized short story "Minute of Midnight." (But they had their share of successes, too, the best being Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy's Serpent's Tooth.) I'm not sure why James Bond has had so much trouble in the comics medium in America; he seems like a natural fit. Alan J. Porter will provide a few answers in his definitive book on the subject of Bond in comics due out any day, James Bond: The Illustrated History of 007.

But back to the news at hand: today sees the UK release of the first new licensed Bond comic in over a decade, a 160-page graphic novel adaptation of Charlie Higson's first Young Bond novel, SilverFin, illustrated by Kev Walker. As usual, the Young Bond Dossier has all the details--including a signing opportunity for lucky UK fans! I can't wait to dive into my own copy--whenever it finally arrives from Amazon.co.uk.

Young Bond, of course, is not the first teenage spy to make the leap from Young Adult novels into comics. There have been two graphic novel adaptations of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider novels so far, with a third due out this winter.