May 31, 2012

New Bourne Legacy Trailer

This brand-new trailer for The Bourne Legacy makes it clear exactly how the new spin-off film starring Jeremy Renner (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) dovetails with the existing Matt Damon Jason Bourne movies... and it's interesting. There are actually quite a few clips from The Bourne Ultimatum (review here) in this trailer (and presumably in the movie, too), making it pretty clear that at least part of the new film takes place concurrently to the events of the final Damon movie. Renner plays another Treadstone assassin, which potentially opens up the franchise to any number of future possibilities. It's as if On Her Majesty's Secret Service had focused on a different Double O agent; once you do that, you can potentially make films about everyone in the department. Except, of course, if you kill them all off in the first spin-off, which seems to be a possibility based on this trailer. I was kind of looking forward to seeing a Treadstone agent actually working for the U.S. government this time out, since Bourne himself was always rogue, but it looks as if Bourne's high-profile exposure in Ultimatum causes the CIA honchos from that film (Albert Finney, David Straihthern and Scott Glenn, all returning) to order the termination of all existing Treadstone assets, which makes Renner's Aaron Cross another highly-trained man on the run rather than an active field agent. Oh well. While my overall preference still would have been for Renner or another actor to just take over the role from Damon the way so many have for Bond, this seems like a good alternative route to go in terms of expanding the Bourne universe. And, of course, it sets up the potential for a possible Renner-vs-Damon follow-up, which would be pretty cool to see. The action looks great in a non-shaky way, and even if the motorcycle chase seems derivative of Tomorrow Never Dies, it still looks awesome! I've very excited for this sequel/spin-off/whatever, opening in August. See for yourself:

May 30, 2012

New Spy Music Out This Week: Henry Mancini's Complete Score From Charade!

It can be frustrating being a fan of Henry Mancini's scores. Few of them have ever been released in their original versions. Most of the Sixties ones, including Stanley Donen's fantastic Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn spy movie Charade, were cut down and re-recorded as easy listening albums, which often meant leaving out some of the better action queues. This week, however, fans of that particular film have a lot to be happy about. Intrada has released the complete 77-minute score, in its original recording, for the first time ever on a new CD celebrating Universal's 100th anniversary and tying in with the studio's recent Charade DVD reissue. The 28-track disc can be purchased from online soundtrack specialists like Buysoundtrax or Screen Archives, or directly from Intrada. Now if only Intrada would follow this up with complete scores for Arabesqe of Return of the Pink Panther...

Thanks to Collin for the alert.

May 27, 2012

See Every Bond Movie on the Big Screen in Los Angeles This Summer!

I've seen a lot of James Bond retrospectives at a lot of different Los Angeles area revival theaters over the years, but I've never seen one on this scale before! The American Cinematheque, in conjunction with BAFTA-LA, will celebrate the cinematic 007's 50th Anniversary by screening every single official Bond film this June between their Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. That's right: all 22 movies, from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace, will be projected on 35mm film prints! (Not a dreaded DCP to be found according to the Cinematheque's listings, thank goodness.) The movies will be spread out over ten nights and two theaters, parsed out in double and triple features. Tickets, which can be purchased on Fandango, are $11 for the general public or $7 for members. (That means that if you're planning to attend every screening, the savings almost pay for the membership.) While most of the Connery films screen fairly regularly at revival houses, some of these titles, like A View To A Kill and The World Is Not Enough seem unlikely to ever play except during a complete retrospective! The full schedule is:

Friday, June 8 Dr. No and From Russia With Love at the Egyptian, 7:30*

Saturday, June 9 Goldfinger and Thunderball at the Aero, 7:30

Sunday, June 10 You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty's Secret Service at the Aero, 5:00

Thursday, June 14 Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die at the Aero, 7:30

Friday, June 15 The Man With the Golden Gun/The Spy Who Loved Me/Moonraker at the Egyptian, 7:30

Saturday, June 16 For Your Eyes Only/Octopussy/A View To A Kill at the Egyptian, 7:30

Sunday, June 17 The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill at the Aero, 7:30

Friday, June 22 GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies at the Aero, 7:30

Saturday, June 23 The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day at the Egyptian, 7:30

Sunday, June 24 Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace at the Aero, 7:30

*Author Bill Desowitz will be signing his book James Bond Unmasked preceding this event.

May 25, 2012

New James Bond Installation Coming to LACMA in June

This is a very cool surprise. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is celebrating the 50th anniversary of James Bond in the cinema with an installation exhibit called " James Bond" running from June 9 through September 9, 2012. The exhibit will present the opening credits sequences from all the 007 movies arranged thematically on six monitors while the full set of sequences is looped and projected with audio in large format on one of the gallery walls. That sounds awesome! I'm thrilled to see Bond credit sequences (pioneered by the great Maurice Binder) recognized and legitimized as the works of art they are at an actual art museum, and I love the idea of standing in a room with them playing all around me, so I can't wait to experience it this summer. Here's the official write-up:
Over the course of twenty-two films covering the life of 007, James Bond, one element has remained constant: the opening credit sequence. Beginning with Dr. No, the opening credits, created by Maurice Binder, have functioned as separate and unique works of art—a ground-breaking exercise of cinema as daring as the title character, calculated to immerse us in the sensibility of 007.

This exhibition was co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Loyola Marymount University's School of Film and Television. The organizers are grateful for the special collaboration of Danjaq LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.
I hope LACMA screens some of the Bond films in their fantastic theater to accompany the exhibit!

A big thanks to Phil for the alert!

May 23, 2012

Vote For Your Favorite New Burn Notice Opening Titles

USA is conducting a poll in which fans vote for the title sequence that will accompany the upcoming sixth season of its flagship spy series Burn Notice, and today is the last day to vote. You can choose between an updated version of the classic opening (adding Coby Bell's Jesse Porter as "a down-and-out spy you met along the way," per Michael's narration) or an all-new one. I like change (well, sometimes), so I voted for the all-new opening. It's more spyish, and besides I'm sick of that old intro calling Sam (Bruce Campbell) "an old friend who used to inform on you for the FBI." That's not a great intro for Sam, and it's five seasons out of date anyway! Vote here and vote today, before it's too late! Burn Notice returns on June 14.

Peter Graves ITC Series Whiplash Comes to Region 1 DVD

Nearly 30 years before Peter Graves headed down under to film the Mission: Impossible revival series, the actor journeyed to Australia to shoot a Western for ITC, Lew Grade's famed UK production company responsible for such classics as The Saint and The PrisonerWhiplash has been available on DVD from Network in Region 2 for a few years (I reviewed that set here), but TV Shows On DVD reports that the U.S./UK/Australian co-production will soon make its Region 1 debut as a complete series from Timeless Media Group (recently acquired by Shout! Factory). There's no release date yet, but there is cover art for the 4-disc set and a link to order it from the TMG website. The future Jim Phelps played American entrepeneur Christopher Cobb (loosely based on a real person), who founded Australia's first stage coach line on the 1860s outback armed with a bullwhip instead of a pistol. It's a good show, and well worth checking out for Peter Graves fans.

May 21, 2012

The Real Avengers Return in All-New Comics!

Those other Avengers (and they're good ones, too... just not the real ones!) might be getting all the media attention right now, but Boom! Studios is taking advantage of that attention to reintroduce comics readers to the original Avengers, John Steed and Emma Peel, heroes of the fantastic, classic Sixties spy series during its most popular incarnation. When Boom! began reprinting Grant Morrison's Steed and Mrs. Peel comic from the early 90s, I hoped aloud that those reprints might lead into a series of new Avengers comic books. (Well, not New Avengers comics... not yet, anyway; for now all I'm hoping for is new comics about the old Avengers! Then maybe Purdy and Gambit down the road.) Well, it looks like that's happening! And with some major talent on board. Boom! released this teaser image this morning, and a product listing at Midtown Comics (via Bleeding Cool) fills in the details.

As in the 90s, the title is again Steed and Mrs. Peel so as to avoid confusion with Marvel's product. (Even though the TV Avengers came first.) That information alone tells us something: Steed's partner will apparently be Emma Peel rather than Cathy Gale, Tara King, Venus Smith or someone else. (Of course it doesn't rule out the possibility of other partners appearing as well, as they did in the Morrison run.) And (here's the big news!) the listing confirms that this Steed and Mrs. Peel is an ongoing series, not just a mini! As the teaser graphic reveals, the writer is comics superstar Mark Waid, who previously gave Steed and Emma a one-panel guest appearance in his Kingdom Come epic for DC. (Or perhaps artist Alex Ross was responsible for that unauthorized cameo.) The Avengers TV show inspired more than one title in the Marvel universe. As I've blogged about before, the X-Men's nemesis the Hellfire Club and its White Queen, Emma Frost (as well as founder Jason Wyngarde) all come from a particularly memorable Avengers episode called "The Queen of Sin." (See visual comparisons here.) Teased in the graphic and confirmed in the listing, the original version of the Hellfire Club will feature prominently in Waid's first issue, a #0 special. It's unclear from the copy if this is a direct adaptation of the TV episode or a sequel, but I would bet the latter. What the copy does make clear is that the new series takes place "in the continuity of the original TV series," so presumably that means a Sixties setting. Steve Bryant (Athena Voltaire) will handle art chorse, while Joseph Michael Linser provides a variant cover. Additionally, Boom! will collect the 90s Grant Morrison series in a trade paperback this December.

Wow! An ongoing Avengers comic! I can't wait. What a great day today is for spy fans.

Follow this link to read my opinions of some previous Avengers comics.

Tradecraft: Duncan Jones to Direct Ian Fleming Biopic

Deadline reports that Moon and Source Code director Duncan Jones (who, as a child, played the part of Bill Roach in the BBC version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) will next helm a big screen biopic of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The still untitled film will be based on Andrew Lycett's 1997 biography Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond, with a script by Matthew Brown.

There have been so many Fleming projects in the works these last several years (including two that came to fruition on TV: Age of Heroes and Any Human Heart) that it's hard to tell, but as best I can figure out this is the same one that caused a brief flurry of press a few years ago when James McAvoy was erroneously connected to the lead, and not the one that Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way and Andrw Lazar's Mad Chance production companies have been developing on and off since

I think Jones is a pretty amazing director and, if the quotes he gave to Empire are anything to go by, he's quite passionate about the project! So I can't wait to see what he comes up with.

The Skyfall Trailer is Here!


This is the big one, 007! This is what Bond fans have been waiting for! The first teaser trailer for the 23rd official James Bond movie, Skyfall, has just been posted on! Feast your eyes.

Wow! That teaser has done its job. I definitely consider myself teased. I'm left craving more... but that's exactly how MGM and Sony want me to be left. I'm intrigued and excited. We don't see much, but what we do see looks great to me. I particularly love that shot of Bond on the boat in Shanghai. But also the one of him and M next to the Aston in Scotland, the silhouette with the gun against the blue background... There are lots of beauty shots here. It looks like Roger Deakins is indeed shooting a beautiful Bond movie for Sam Mendes. I like the palette. I can't wait for November 9! (Lucky Brits will see Skyfall a few weeks earlier, on October 26.)

Of course, I thought the trailer for Quantum of Solace looked great too, and that movie didn't pan out. But I still have a good feeling about this one!

May 19, 2012

Tradecraft: David Tennant to Star in BBC's Spies of Warsaw

There's a very exciting spy project on the horizon that I've been meaning to write about forever, but keep getting sidetracked. So, apropos of nothing, here's some rather late but undeniably cool news. Last summer the BBC announced that they'd hired Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (Otley, Never Say Never Again) to adapt Alan Furst's The Spies of Warsaw for television in two 90-minute episodes for BBC Four. Personally, I've never read any Furst, but I always see his interconnected historical spy novels compared favorably to John le Carre, so I've always meant to read him. I can profess more familiarity with Clement and La Frenais, as the pair penned one of my very favorite spy movies of the Swinging Sixties, Otley (as well as the equally enjoyable Swinging London caper movie The Jokers). Otley and The Spies of Warsaw would certainly appear to be at opposite ends of the spy spectrum, but I have no doubt that Clement and La Frenais (who have also written incredibly solid serious spy fare like The Bank Job with Jason Statham and Archangel with Daniel Craig) are up to the task.

Things got even more interesting last month when Deadline reported that former Doctor Who star David Tennant had signed on to star in the project along with Human Target's Janet Montgomery (Ames on Season Two). Furthermore, BBC America has come on as a co-producer which is great news for American spy fans because it guarantees that we'll get a chance to see this program, as part of the network's Dramaville. David Tennant in a Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais spy show? I'm totally sold! (And maybe I should finally read the book before this airs...)

This image comes from the Tenantnews blog. I don't think it's actually an official still for The Spies of Warsaw, but it certainly seems appropriate!

May 18, 2012

Tradecraft: Philip Seymour Hoffman Confirmed For A Most Wanted Man

Deadline confirms today that Philip Seymour Hoffman, first connected to the project in February, has officially signed on for Anton Corbijn's John le Carré adaptation A Most Wanted Man. The trade blog also confirms which role he will be playing, as there was some confusion recently: Hoffman will, as originally reported, be playing maverick German spy boss Günther Bachmann, which is a good role and a good fit. Last week it was reported that Rachel McAdams would be playing activist lawyer Annabel Richter; that leaves the key roles of middle-aged Scottish banker Tommy Brue and young Chechen mystery man Issa still unfilled. Filming is scheduled to commence in Hamburg this fall.

Tradecraft: USA Developing Pierce Brosnan Assassin Show

USA unveiled their latest development slate at the cable network's upfront presentation this week, and Deadline reports that it includes a hitman drama from Pierce Brosnan's Irish DreamTime Productions. Here's the plot description for Bang Bang: "An unlikely partnership is formed when veteran hitman Danny is saved by rival novice hired gun Marco, while executing a target. This dynamic duo pair up to execute contracts, if they don’t kill each other first. Based on the French television series, Doom Doom." I can't quite picture assassins working in the lighthearted USA buddy formula, but then again Brosnan has had his own success in exactly that area in The Matador (which he produced as well as starred in), so hopefully his know-how will translate to TV. The former 007 will executive produce Bang Bang along with his regular producing partner Beau St. Clair. With this announcement coming hot on the heels of the recent news that the actor's years-in-development passion project November Man is finally getting underway, it looks like lots of birthday wishes are coming true for Brosnan this week! (He turned 59 on Wednesday.)

May 17, 2012

Tradecraft: Tim Roth Spies on Jean Dujardin

Variety reports that Tim Roth has joined the cast of Mobius, the previously reported new spy thriller from Eric Rochant (The Patriots) starring freshly minted Oscar winner Jean Dujardin (who sent up the genre so perfectly in his two OSS 117 movies) and Cecile de France. According to the trade, "Roth plays a Russian oligarch suspected of laundering money through his bank." Produced by Luc Besson's neo-Eurospy factory EuropaCorp, Mobius will shoot in Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Russia and the Ukraine. Hopefully Dujardin's Oscar will guarantee this film a U.S. release, because I can't wait to see Dujardin topline a serious spy movie!

First Skyfall Poster!

The first teaser poster for Skyfall, the 23rd official James Bond movie, was released today on Personally, I love it! I can't wait to see that hanging in a theater, or see pictures of it adorning the Carlton Hotel at the Cannes Film Festival. It's not quite as original as the previous two Craig teaser posters, and it's certainly not as beautiful as the classic Bond posters (but as much as we might regret it, we all know that the days of McGinnis and McCarthy style artwork is sadly long past), but I like what it says... or what it seems, to me, to be saying, anyway. It's saying this is the Contemporary Bond, Daniel Craig, but he's in a classic Bond movie now. And after promising it on the teaser poster, Skyfall sure as hell better deliver on a classic gun barrel opening up front following the harsh disappointment of Mark Forster's inane decision to put it at the end. (It will also be interesting to hear a new composer's take on gun barrel music for the first time in 15 years.) also promises that the teaser trailer will debut on the site on Monday at 8:30am BST prior to airing before prints of Men In Black III in theaters.

May 16, 2012

Tradecaft: Legends Still Alive at TNT

Deadline reports that TNT’s current development slate contains two spy shows that we’ve heard about before... but not for a while. Legends, based on the Robert Littell novel, was first announced in 2010 when it was on NBC's development slate, but the network passed and it looked dead. Producer Howard Gordon (whose spy experience includes 24 and Homeland, the latter of which was my favorite new spy show of last year) said as much in an interview last year. But, apparently, it's not dead after all! It's in development again at TNT, and here's how the cable network describes it: "The story follows a deep-cover operative named Martin Odum, who has an uncanny ability to transform himself into a different person for each job. But his own identity comes into question when a mysterious stranger suggests that Martin isn’t who he thinks he is." The novel got good reviews, and I'm on board for anything Gordon puts his name on after being blown away by Homeland. He's joined on Legends by Mark Bomback (Agent Zigzag) and by his Homeland collaborator Jeffrey Nachmanoff (TraitorAmerican Assassin).

Also still in active development at TNT is the Tom Clancy drama we first heard about last fall, Tom Clancy's Homeland Security, but Clancy is no longer listed as a writer as he was when the story first broke... just an executive producer and part of the title. According to the network, "this event-based procedural written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and set in Tom Clancy’s world of espionage pits a select team of domestic intelligence operatives against enemies within and without, from narco-traffickers and nuclear terrorists to cyber-criminals and human smugglers." Not spy-related, but still probably of interest to readers here, is another series on the slate based on Ross McDonald's Lew Archer novels from The Closer creator James Duff and Close to Home creator Jim Leonard. Tying it in to spies, Peter Graves played Archer in a 1974 pilot, The Underground Man, which failed to go to series. Bear in mind, of course, that not all of these TNT shows in development will even make it to pilot, let alone series. Still, I'm rooting for them! Especially Legends.

New 007 Book: James Bond Unmasked

This year we'll see a whole lot of new non-fiction books looking behind the scenes of the James Bond films in honor of the series 50th anniversary and to tie in with Skyfall's fall premiere. (The fall titles I'm most looking forward to thus far are Roger Moore's Bond On Bond: The Ultimate Book on 50 Years of Bond Movies, George Lazenby's autobiography, Jon Burlingame's The Music of James Bond and Jon Gilbert's authorized, exhaustive limited edition Ian Fleming bibliography.) But the floodgates have already opened! Getting a jump on the rest of the pack is film journalist Bill Desowitz's James Bond Unmasked from Spies, publisher of Charles Helfenstein's truly remarkable tome The Making of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. While there have been dozens of books on the Bond phenomenon over the years, Desowitz managed to find a fresh and potentially fascinating approach: he interviews each of the six actors to have played 007 in the official series. I can't wait to read what they have to say!

New Spy Comics Out Today: The Coldest City and Others

It's a big week for spy comics. First and foremost, today sees the release of a new spy graphic novel by one of my favorite comics writers, Antony Johnston (Three Days In Europe). After doing a great job with Greg Rucka's Queen & Country (in fact, Johnston is the only author besides Rucka to ever pen a a Q&C story story) and Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider, Johnston introduces the world to his own spy creation, Lorainne Broughton, in The Coldest City from Oni Press. Years in the making (I first blogged about it back in 2009 when the title was "Cold City"), The Coldest City is a rare spy comic in the cerebral Len Deighton tradition set in Berlin during the final days of the Cold War and told in stark black and white, appropriately reflecting both the time and the place. On the eve of the fall of the Wall, there is one last spy story to be told, and Johnston tells it as a labor of love. I know that he's a huge fan of the genre, and that comes through in his comic. Johnston provides the twists and turns you'd expect from any spy comic, along with the wall crossings and the requisite corpses, but he also provides panel after panel of MI6 honchos at desks yelling at each other--and regular readers of this blog will know that I enjoy that sort of office politics in a spy story every bit as much as a bout of gunplay! (More, actually.) Fans of Greg Rucka and Len Deighton won't want to miss this. Here's the trailer:

Also out today from Marvel Comics is the second issue of Garth Ennis's new Fury MAX series (first announced a year ago), also set during the Cold War. I was not a fan of Ennis' last attempt at a Nick Fury MAX miniseries (MAX is Marvel's mature readers imprint), and therefore went into this one with diminished expectations. But man did it blow me away! The first issue was everything I could possibly hope for from a serious Nick Fury espionage comic. Taking a cue from both The Ugly American (one of my favorite books ever) and The Quiet American, the promising series looks much closer in spirit to Ennis' serious historical war comics than his previous over-the-top MAX material. If the premiere issue is indicative of the issues to come, then I very much want to see this miniseries turn into an ongoing series, because the is exactly the sort of Nick Fury story I'd gladly tune in for month after month. (And the Cold War lasted a long time, in a lot of theaters...)

And finally, also from Marvel, and also from a maverick creator well known for his mature readers work (but decidedly not set in the Cold War), is issue 2 of Mark Millar's The Secret Service. This is the series he dreamed up with X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn, and which Vaughn is mulling as his possible next movie after the X-Men sequel. The first issue was wildly uneven, but the artwork by Watchmen's Dave Gibbons was phenomenal and the premise of a delinquent London hoodie kid training to be the next James Bond is sound, so I'm definitely planning to sample the second issue.

May 15, 2012

New Spy DVDs Out This Week: Odessa Blu

Image this week released Ronald Neame's 1974 Frederick Forsyth adaptation The Odessa File on Blu-ray. It was previously available on DVD. Jon Voight stars as a crusading German journalist hot on the trail of a Nazi war criminal (Maximillian Schell) who holds the key to Odessa, a powerful secret organization that's the legacy of the SS. That trail of espionage and conspiracy leads from Hamburg to the tension-filled middle east. The film is also notable for featuring a rare score (his sole effort in the spy genre) by Broadway's Andrew Lloyd Webber. The only special features on Image's Blu-ray are trailers. Retail is $17.97, but it's only $10 on Amazon right now.

Tradecraft: Brosnan Spies and Spies Some More in The November Man

Just last week it was reported that Pierce Brosnan would soon be playing a “mysterious government operative” again in the action thriller The Coup opposite I Spy’s Owen Wilson and Mission: Impossible III’s Michelle Monaghan. In the comments on my post about that, someone mentioned that Brosnan had at one point been attached to play the hero of Bill Granger’s series of spy novels, Devereaux, aka “The November Man.” Since ditching the Walther PPK, Brosnan has been attached to a number of spy movies that didn’t go anywhere (and some that did, like The Ghost Writer), but I hadn’t heard of that one. A little Googling revealed that the first trade announcements were made in 2005… and there’d been no word since. It certainly looked like the project was dead, like so many others that are announced but eventually fall apart or fail to find funding… until today. Today (sadly less than a month after Granger’s untimely death at the age of 70), Deadline reports that “Brosnan’s production company Irish DreamTime has signed a multi-picture financing and distribution deal with Solution Entertainment Group. The first film in the arrangement will be the espionage thriller November Man, starring Brosnan and Dominic Cooper and directed by Roger Donaldson.” Well, what do you know? Oddly, the trade blog reports that the movie will not be based on Granger’s 1979 novel of that title (the first in the Deveraux series), but on his 1986 series entry There Are No Spies. Screenwriters Michael Finch (Predators) and Karl Gajdusek (ABC’s upcoming Shawn Ryan-produced Last Resort) penned the adaptation. According to Deadline, “the film is scheduled to start shooting in October on location in Berlin.” Solution plans to sell the U.S. distribution rights at this month’s Cannes Film Festival.

I’m afraid I’ve never read any of Granger’s books myself (though they have a stellar reputation), but from what I gather they’re definitely of the le  Carré-esque “serious” spy school than the more fantastical Fleming school Brosnan’s most closely associated with. (Though he’s always been excellent in serious spy fare, too, like The Fourth Protocol, The Tailor of Panama and The Ghost Writer.) There Are No Spies finds Devereaux (presumably Brosnan, though that’s not entirely clear from the article) lured out of retirement when his old boss, Hanley, is hauled off to an insane asylum for used-up agents. Devereaux’s search for the truth leads him to a highly placed Soviet mole operating within the U.S. intelligence establishment. I don’t know if Donaldson will make this a Cold War period piece along the lines of the recent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which would be awfully cool), or if the story will be updated, but I hope the former! Donaldson, whose spy credits also include The Recruit, pulled off a successful period setting for The Bank Job. He and Brosnan previously worked together on Dante’s Peak in 1997.

Tradecraft: Pierre Morel Plots Another Paris-Set Spy Movie

Taken's Pierre Morel directs the story of a young American living in Paris who teams with a washed-up CIA agent to thwart a terrorist plot in the City of Lights. You're thinking you've seen that, right? It was From Paris with Love (review here). But that's not what I'm talking about here. According to Deadline, the French director has signed on to direct another film with a similar plot... though I'm sure the two will prove different in many ways, and who am I kidding? I'd be happy to see Morel keep making movies along those lines forever. This one is called Bastille Day, and it's scripted by Black List screenwriter Andrew Baldwin.

May 14, 2012

Upcoming Spy DVDs: Strike Back, American Style, This August

TV Shows On DVD reports that the first U.S. season of Strike Back will finally hit DVD and Blu-ray in North America on August 7. The excellent true first season of Strike Back (reviewed here), produced for the UK's Sky satellite network, never aired in America. But the show that ended up on Cinemax, that American viewers know as the first season of Strike Back, functioned as Season Two of the series in Britain. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray there last fall as Strike Back: Project Dawn. While the superior original series still has yet to be seen here, HBO Video has come up with a pretty good, not too confusing way of labeling their release: Strike Back: Cinemax Season One. I really hope that down the road they also give U.S. viewers a chance to see the "UK Season One" or however they decide to label it, but for now this isn't a bad consolation prize. (Spy fans with all-region players can get the Region 2 DVD of the original show fairly cheaply from Amazon.) I only saw the first two episodes of the Cinemax version (reviewed here) during the cable channel's free preview weekend, but they were packed with fun, exciting, over-the-top spy action of a sort rarely seen on American television, and I'm very much looking forward to following the rest of the adventures of Section 20 operatives Stonebridge and Scott (Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton) on home video. The violent hunt for an elusive terrorist mastermind named Latif takes the two agents around the world to locations including New Delhi, Capetown and Darfur. There's a standard DVD version and a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack to choose from, retailing for $49.98 and $59.96 respectively. Both versions include audio commentaries.

Upcoming Spy DVDs: Leverage: The 4th Season

Although Paramount released the first three seasons of TNT's fun, Mission: Impossible-like series Leverage on DVD (Season 1 review here), Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertaiment will take over distribution with The 4th Season. That doesn't really mean any changes for the consumer, though. We'll still get the same copious special features that we're used two from the previous seasons. Extras this time out include audio commentaries on every episode, a gag reel, lots of deleted scenes and the featurettes "Behind the Scenes of The Long Job Down" and "Writers' Room Job." Leverage: The 4th Season comes out July 17 with an SRP of $39.98, but it's available to pre-order for significantly less than that on Amazon.

May 13, 2012

Nikita Renewed; Missing Cancelled

Good news for Nikita fans! Deadline reports that despite low ratings, the CW has renewed the Maggie Q assassin drama for a third season. I'm very happily surprised. The pick-up comes despite the fact that Nikita has averaged lower ratings than Ringer and Secret Circle, two shows the network did cancel. Additionally (and far less surprisingly), CBS has renewed the hit J.J. Abrams/Jonah Nolan Equalizer-meets-Batman drama Person of Interest, starring Jim Caviezel as a former CIA operative now using his specialized skill set in the private sector (for eccentric billionaire Michael Emerson) to prevent violent crimes and atone for some of the damage he may have caused during his spy career.

Unfortunately, with the good news comes bad news for fans of current spy television: TV Line reports that ABC has cancelled Missing, arguably the best network spy show since Alias. That's really too bad, because Missing has only gotten better since its pilot (reviewed here), and I've been thoroughly enjoying the top-notch action and fabulous European locations week after week. On top of that, Ashley Judd made a much better spy than I ever would have guessed, and the supporting cast is also first rate. Hopefully the first (and only) season will wrap up with a satisfying resolution of some sort. At least the DVDs have already been announced, so spy fans will be able to enjoy this single season for years to come. It's definitely one I'll re-watch from time to time. ABC has also officially cancelled its Sixties-set spying stewardess drama Pan Am. There had been some hope that show might live on despite low ratings in America (which led to it being pulled from the schedule a while ago) because it's very, very popular overseas. (In fact, it just received the coveted Rose d'Or award in Switzerland!) That always seemed like a long shot though.

May 11, 2012

Tradecraft: Rachel McAdams Seeks A Most Wanted Man

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes) has landed the female lead in Anton Corbijn's John le Carré adaptation A Most Wanted Man. McAdams will play German activist lawyer Annabel Richter, who works for a Hamburg charity that helps Muslim immigrants. Her latest client, Issa, has a unique claim entitling him to inherit a fortune, but it doesn't help his cause that he entered the country illegally, or that the German, American, British and Russian intelligence services believe that he's a terrorist. The strong-willed Annabel strongarms a middle-aged Scottish banker, Tommy Brue, into facilitating the inheritance, but the various spy agencies have other plans for Issa--plans that end up ensnaring the hapless Annabel and Brue as well. Annabel, meanwhile, finds herself the object of different sorts of affection from both Issa and Brue.

A little Googling reveals that apparently The Tracking Board first broke this story back in April, when McAdams was competing with Carey Mulligan and Jessica Chastain for the role. I'm a big fan of McAdams, but honestly Mulligan seems like a much better fit for the young lawyer as depicted in the novel. Oh well. Interestingly, that site reports that Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who joined this project in February, is playing Brue. When he was first cast, Deadline said it was as maverick German spy chief Günther Bachmann. I'm not sure which is correct, as he could conceivably play either role, but I think Hoffman is a better fit for Bachmann. I'm not sure who I'd cast as Brue, because all I can picture is a Russia House-era Sean Connery. It's a good part, though, and I'll be curious to see who lands it if it's not Hoffman. The Tracking Board also reported in their April article that Corbijn may be leaving the project. I really hope that's not true, because his impressive work on The American (review here) leads me to believe he'd be a good fit for the material.

May 9, 2012

New Spy DVDs Out This Week: Chuck

The only major new North American release this week on the spy front is Chuck: The Complete Fifth and Final Season, available on both DVD and Blu-ray from Warner Home Video. After a recharged (and Dalton-powered) fourth season, the fifth season wasn't one of the show's best, but it still had its moments. And Warner Home Video makes the package even more appealing by including a wealth of special features, among them an extended version of the series finale, audio commentaries on the last two episodes, deleted scenes (or "declassified scenes" as they always call them on Chuck), a gag reel, full versions of the Buy More TV commercials with Big Mike and Captain Awesome and the featurettes "Chuck: The Final Episode - An Intimate Look at the Climactic Shooting of the Final Episode," "Sandwiches and Superfans: The Saving of a Show," "Spy Tunes: Scoring the World of Chuck," "Chuck: The Beginnings," "Chuck: Through the Years," and "Chuck: The Future." Retail is $39.98 for the DVD and $49.99 for the Blu-ray, though both are, of course, available for less on Amazon.

May 8, 2012

Tradecraft: Scribe Hired to Adapt Jeffrey Archer's A Matter of Honor

In 2010, production company New Franchise was set up with the express purpose of developing the novels of U.K. thriller writer (and disgraced politician) Jeffrey Archer for the screen. It was a model that had worked well for the Robert Ludlum estate, for whom Captivate Entertainment serves the same purpose. Last year, The Hollywood Reporter reported that New Franchise had lined up Bourne and Indiana Jones producer Frank Marshall to produce their inaugural project, a film version of Archer's 1986 spy novel A Matter of Honor. The Cold War thriller follows a former soldier named Adam Scott who opens a letter from his deceased father, the contents of which set off a chain of events that lead to Scott finding himself chased across Europe by the KGB, CIA and MI6. Today, Deadline reports further movement on that project. Blacklist screenwriter (that's a good thing nowadays; not like in the Fifties) Richard Regen has been hired to adapt the novel. New Franchise and Marshall hope to launch a Bourne-like franchise centered around the Scott character. The plan as outlined by The Hollywood Reporter last fall called for using Archer's novel Honor Among Thieves (which I haven't read, but don't believe features Adam Scott) as the basis for a second film. Meanwhile, Empire reports that Gale Anne Hurd is attempting to adapt another Archer spy novel, The 11th Commandment, for television. The 11th Commandment follows a CIA assassin who must clear his name in an assassination attempt on the Russian president in order to avoid WWIII.

Archer is suddenly very popular in Hollywood these days. Besides those two spy novels, Deadline reported last year that Bourne Identity director Doug Liman is interested in directing a film based on Archer's fact-based historical novel Paths of Glory, about explorer George Mallory's three attempts to scale Everest back in the 1920s. (Of course, they'd have to change the title for a movie.)

Argo Trailer

Here's the first trailer for Ben Affleck's Argo, the film based on CIA agent Tony Mendez's memoir The Master of Disguise, telling the true story of a secret mission to rescue American hostages in Iran by disguising an extraction team as a film crew scouting locations for a non-existent sci-fi movie. Totally befitting that plot description, this movie looks like exactly what I wanted it to look like since first hearing about it: a lost episode of Mission: Impossible. Sure, the setting's about a decade late, but the fashions and hairstyles are still enjoyably dated, and there's even a whole sequence of the Phelps-like mastermind Mendez (Affleck) assembling his team! I can't wait for this one. Unfortunately, it doesn't open until fall.

May 7, 2012

Tradecraft: Aussie Helmer Tackles le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor

Variety reports that Australian director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, aka The Snowtown Murders) will direct the film adaptation of John le Carré's latest spy novel, 2010's Our Kind of Traitor, for The Ink Factory and Potboiler Productions. (The latter company also produced Fernando Meirelles' 2005 le Carré adaptation The Constant Gardener and Anton Corbijn's upcoming one, A Most Wanted Man.) As we first heard back around the time of the book's publication, Hossein Amini (who wrote Drive, as well as the upcoming Jack Ryan reboot) penned the script. Le Carré himself will executive produce (with Tessa Ross), while his sons Stephen Cornwell and Simon Cornwell will produce along with Rhodri Thomas, Gail Egan and Andrea Calderwood. Our Kind of Traitor, one of le Carre's best novels in years (despite the irritatingly abrupt ending), tells the story of a young British couple, Perry and Gail, who meet a charismatic Russian gangster on vacation. He enlists them as go-betweens to contact MI6, claiming he has information vital to British Intelligence which he'll share if they'll relocate his huge family to England. There's a terrific role for Bill Nighy (he's not cast or anything; I'm just putting it out there that he has to play this part!) as Hector, a zealous, free-thinking spymaster who shares more than a few traits with George Smiley, and the gangster character, Dima, could easily earn someone an Oscar. On top of that, Gail  may be the author's best female character to date. According to the trade, the film is expected to take place in London, Paris, Moscow and Tangiers, which is a slightly different checklist from the book's locations. (Switzerland figures prominently, and I'm hoping it's just been left out here, and not written out of the story.)

Kurzel, who has overseen Amini's last few drafts of the script, seems well-suited to the material. I haven't seen Snowtown, but based on what the director told Variety, its sounds like he's on the right page. Besides being attracted to the surrogate father-son relationship between Perry and Dima, he told the trade, "I have enormous respect for John le Carré and the last few films [based on his work] have been of enormous quality. I'm more inspired than intimidated, honestly. Our Kind of Traitor is a different type of le Carré, it's more visceral than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Le Carré has been excited by and encouraging about our interpretation and where we want to take it as a film."

May 4, 2012

New Spy DVDs Out This Week: Covert, Invisible and Totally Haywire

Despite my attempts to get back on a weekly schedule for this spy DVD round-up, I've gotten way behind again. Lots of truly great spy DVDs came out in April, and I will go back to them very soon. But for now, in another effort to get back on track, I'm skipping ahead to this week, when we have three cool new spy offerings. A good field agent should be covert, invisible, and possibly just a little bit haywire. This week's releases have all three covered.

Steven Soderbergh's long-in-the-works action spy movie Haywire hit DVD and Blu-ray this week, and I truly hope it finds a wider audience at home than it did in theaters, because I really enjoyed this one. MMA fighter Gina Carano makes a star-making debut (thanks largely to Soderbergh, who tailored the entire movie to her talents) as Mallory Kane, a freelance secret agent hung out to dry by her superiors and caught up in an international conspiracy involving private security companies, the CIA, MI6 and Chinese dissidents, among others. The fact that the conspiracy itself doesn't ultimately make a whole lot of sense doesn't matter one iota, because this is not a Tinker, Tailor sort of spy movie. It's an action spy movie, in the school of Bond and Bourne. Actually, despite Soderbergh's citing the early Bond movies as his primary influence, it really plays like a 90s Cynthia Rothrock action movie as envisioned by a first rate director and packed with top shelf talent. And I mean that as a total compliment. Haywire a whole lot of fun, and Soderbergh concocts one action scene after another that you haven't seen before. Co-stars Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas and Antonio Bandaras are all fantastic, but it turns out Carano didn't really need that kind of back-up, because so is she. And unlike some other female action heroes, she's completely believable kicking the asses of men twice her size. The film left me with no reservationst hat Carano could lick all comers in the movie's cast which is no small feat when that cast contains the combined might of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Magneto, Jack Colton, Desparado and a G.I. Joe! The disappointingly scant extras on both versions include the featurettes "Gina Carano: From MMA to Haywire" and "The Men of Haywire" as well as trailers; the Blu-ray also has a digital copy. That's too bad, because I would have really loved to hear a Soderbergh commentary track discussing his spy influences, or seen all the deleted material generated by significant reshoots, or the original ending. Oh well. Retail is $29.95 for the DVD and $39.99 for the Blu-ray, but both are currently available for half that on Amazon right now. Read my full review of the film here.

Also out this week, from Universal, is Covert Affairs - Season Two, a 4-disc, 16-episode DVD set. This USA spy show starring Piper Perabo, Christopher Gorham, Kari Matchett and the great Peter Gallagher (though never quite enough of him) got even better in its second season, and one impressive Berlin-set episode made my Best of 2011 list. There are even more actual foreign locations in Season 2, from Istanbul to Paris to Stockholm, and their presence really elevates this series above other spy shows that dress up Burbank as whatever locale that week's script calls for. Like Season One, Covert Affairs: Season Two is packed with bonus material. Extras this time around include deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel, Piper Perabo's Comic-Con Intro (from last year's panel) and a featurette I'm particularly looking forward to called "Covert Affairs on Location." SRP is $39.98, but the set is nearly half that on Amazon right now!

Finally, this week also brings us the long-awaited and thrice-delayed 1970s spy version of The Invisible Man: The Complete Series starring former Man From U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum and co-starring former Man of the World Craig Stevens. McCallum plays the invisible agent of the private security think tank KLAE, who's also the inventor of the formula that rendered him invisible. The 4-disc DVD set from VEI includes all 13 episodes of the short-lived series and retails for $24.98. If you want to see Illya's Seventies Purdy bob in high definition, however, you may want to hold off. The Blu-ray release has been delayed even longer, but is still in the cards for a release next month at the same price.

May 1, 2012

Tradecraft: Pierce Brosnan Returns to Spying in The Coup

Deadline reports that former 007 Pierce Brosnan has joined the cast of The Coup, an intense action thriller in the vein of Taken in which an American family living in Southeast Asia find themselves embroiled in a violent coup as rebels take control of the city. Owen Wilson plays the dad who struggles to get his family to safety. Brosnan will play what the trade blog describes as "a mysterious government operative." Cool! I like it when Brosnan plays government operatives--and not just as James Bond. His best role to date (closely followed by The Matador) was as a far sleazier secret agent in The Tailor of Panama. Still, this sounds like a supporting part. I wish someone would cast Brosnan as the lead in a Taken-style mid-budget actioner. It would be nice to see him get the kind of career boost that film gave his countryman Liam Neeson. Until that happens, however, this will do nicely! According to Deadline, "Devil helmer John Erick Dowdle will direct [The Coup] from a script he co-wrote with his brother Drew Dowdle." Filming begins in October for Crime Scene Pictures, the company behind the upcoming remakes of Gambit and Suspiria.

Saintly Ian Ogilvy to Appear at L.A. Convention This Weekend

Return of the Saint star Ian Ogilvy will make a very rare U.S. convention appearance this Sunday, May 6, at the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention at the Shrine Auditorium Expo Center. Ogilvy, who also starred in Witchfinder General, And Now the Screaming Starts and From Beyond the Grave and made memorable guest appearances on The Avengers and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (among many other shows), will be a featured guest at the show and sign from 12-2pm. (There will be a charge for autographs, for which he will either sign your memorabilia or provide a photo.) I was fortunate enough to meet Ogilvy a few years ago at a West Hollywood Book Fair where he was promoting his latest children's book, Measle and the Wrathmonk (he's written a whole series of Measle titles), and found him to be very friendly and humble. He graciously signed my Return of the Saint and Amicus DVDs and told some funny and self-deprecating stories about being mistaken for Roger Moore. For any Saint fans in the L.A. area, this chance to meet the Seventies Simon Templar in the flesh is an unmissable opportunity! Admission to the Con itself, which runs from 10am-5pm, is $8.