Aug 29, 2012

Comic Book Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel #0

Like a lot of spy fans, I’ve been waiting a loooong time for this. For the first time since 1998, we’ve got a new, officially authorized Avengers story! Not those title-stealing pretenders who did some work for S.H.I.E.L.D. this past summer; the real Avengers—the TV Avengers. That’s right, John Steed and Emma Peel. My favorite TV spies ever. But just because we’ve got a new Avengers story on our hands, in convenient comic book form, doesn’t guarantee it will be any good, of course. Not by a long shot. (See: 1998.) So it was with trembling hands that I opened this Boom! comic by Mark Waid and Steve Bryant. Would the creators do justice to the wonderful, inimitable characters immortalized by Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg? I’m elated to report that the answer is an unequivocal yes!

Steed and Mrs. Peel #0 is good. It’s very good, in fact. It’s better than the 90s comic of the same name written by Grant Morrison (recently reprinted by Boom!)—and that was a lot of fun itself. But Mark Waid gets the tone of the show and the specific crackle of the best Brian Clemens or Philip Levene banter between Steed and Emma. The cadence of the dialogue feels right in a way that few tie-in writers have ever really nailed before.

As far as I’m concerned, the banter is the number one thing to get right in telling a good Avengers tale, but the story matters, too, of course. This special zero issue is a self-contained one, and Waid manages to cram a proper Avengers episode (or mini-episode, at least) into these 22 pages. “The Dead Future” is a direct sequel to the famous (or infamous) TV episode “A Touch of Brimstone” (though, while it rewards a familiarity with the episode, none is required). The Hellfire Club is back in action, but has changed its focus from the past to the future—or at least a 1960s vision of what the future might look like. In the teaser that strikes the correct balance of stylish spy and impossible sci-fi, a doomed agent is aged beyond his years and “woken up” in the far-flung year 2000. Through trickery, a window displays flying cars and a Metropolis-like cityscape. The club members use this scenario to pick the agent’s mind and then eliminate him. It’s a premise right out of Sixties television, reminiscent to some extent not only of the Avengers episode “Escape in Time” (one of my favorites), but also numerous Mission: Impossible set-ups.

From the teaser, following the pattern of the color Emma Peel episodes, we cut to a brief “Mrs. Peel, we’re needed” sequence, and it was here that I knew I was completely on board with this take. The gimmick by which Steed contacts Emma (which I won’t divulge) is not one the show ever used—but very easily could have been. In a comic, though, this particular gag functions on a meta level that wouldn’t have come across on TV. (And it also manages to sneak in a subtle reference to “The Winged Avenger.”) From there, Steed leads Mrs. Peel to the site of an aged corpse in the clothes of one of their agents—and it’s not the first time they’ve seen this scenario.

The story that follows feels not only like a loving tribute to the TV episodes, but also to the Avengers TVcomics of the time. At one point, Steed battles a bearded “Father Time” wielding a scythe, which is exactly the sort of imagery that popped up in those two-tone comic strips in the Avengers annuals! But the writing here, as I already mentioned, is infinitely superior to most of those stories. 

The artwork is fantastic on a level of channeling Sixties pop art pop culture (in its best moments recalling the work of Mike Allred), but less successful in depicting the series’ stars. I’m guessing that Boom! were unable to clear likeness rights for the actors, because these Avengers look very little like Diana Rigg and (especially) Patrick Macnee. That’s a shame, because a sequence in which Steed is “aged” into his 80s would have been a great opportunity to depict Macnee as he looks today! (One panel comes close.) It also seems unfair that Marvel was able to get away with using Peter Wyngarde’s likeness in their X-Men comics that "borrowed" TheAvengers’ Hellfire Club (as a character named “Jason Wyngarde,” no less), but here in an official Avengers tie-in, a brief flashback of has “Brimstone” character, Cartney, bears little resemblance. Cartney is also at the center of my only real nerdy nitpick about this book, too, and that’s that no character played by Peter Wyngarde would ever “favor rather a D-class fragrance,” as described here! But Mark Waid was prepared for my gripe, and has Emma quickly explain, “Oh, no pinchpenny he. But, it must be stressed, the honourable John Cleverly Cartney did incline sharply toward the vulgar…” And perhaps that can be said of Wyngarde. Okay, Waid, you’re off the hook on that one.

I enjoyed the Hellfire out of Steed and Mrs. Peel #0 (sorry; I couldn't resist!), and heartily recommend it to all Avengers fans. It quenches a thirst long overdue of satisfying like a good champagne. (Another minor nitpick would be that there wasn’t quite enough of that signature beverage consumed in this issue, but again my churlish gripery was quickly abated… this time by the fact that bubbly appears to be Emma’s concession of choice in a movie theater! Nice touch.) I hope it sells well and spawns a long series that lives up to the high benchmark set here.

Follow the link here to read my reviews of some past Avengers comics.

NOTE: If the variant covers depicted here seem odd to Avengers fans, they won't to comic book fans. They're homages to classic X-Men covers from the era when that comic was homaging The Avengers, thus completing the circle of homage.

Daniel Craig to Host Saturday Night Live

Deadline reports that Daniel Craig will host the third Saturday Night Live of the new season on October 6 with musical guest Muse. That's... awesome! I've wanted to see Craig host SNL since he became Bond, but figured it was pretty unlikely. Will there be a Bond sketch? Pierce Brosnan didn't do a Bond sketch... but he did quite memorably fight a trident-bearing Will Farrell during a job interview. And for those doubting Craig's sketch comedy chops, remember this Catherine Tate sketch and his hilarious reading of the line "crazy" with regards to what kind of straw he prefers!

New Spy DVDs Out This Month: Homeland and The Looking Glass War

It's a good month for fans of the more cerebral side of the spy genre. This week sees the release of the best new spy series of the last season, Homeland, on DVD and Blu-ray from Fox Home Entertainment. Claire Danes stars as an obsessive CIA agent on anti-psychotics (a fact she's forced to hide from her superiors in order to retain her security clearance) who's convinced that a newly freed American POW (Damien Lewis) is not actually the war hero he's celebrated as but a turned Al Qaeda sleeper agent. Mandy Patinkin excels as her Agency mentor, who reluctantly turns a blind eye to her illegal surveillance operation. It's a thoroughly addictive, multilayered series not just about spies but spying itself, and the effect such a career and the responsibilities that go with it have on its practitioners. All of the characters are extremely well drawn, and all of the actors are compelling to watch. Homeland was fully deserving of its Best Series, Drama Golden Globe award (I hope it snags the Emmy, too), and I heartily spy fans who weren't able to see it on pay cable station Showtime to check out Homeland: The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-ray. Trust me, after watching the exemplary pilot episode, you'll be hooked. Extras include selected episode audio commentaries, deleted scenes, the featurette "Under Surveillance: Making Homeland," and "The Visit: A Prologue to Season 2." Retail is $59.98 for the 4-disc DVD set and $69.99 for the 3-disc Blu-ray edition, though both versions are, of course, considerably cheaper on Amazon. (Seriously! At the moment, the Blu-ray is just $24.99! A bargain you won't regret.)

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago Sony reissued the long out-of-print John le Carré adaptation The Looking Glass War as an MOD title. Frank Pierson's 1969 film takes some serious liberties with the source material (and eliminates George Smiley as a character altogether, likely due to rights issues), but it's still well worth watching for fans of more serious spy fare. Even those who own the OOP DVD might be tempted to pick up this new edition, because the cover is a whole lot cooler than the old one, which sported a really shoddy Photoshop job. Christopher Jones, Ralf Richardson, Pia Degermark and a very young Anthony Hopkins star.

Aug 28, 2012

Tradecraft: Joss Whedon to Write and Direct S.H.I.E.L.D. TV Pilot!

There's some news that you dream about your whole life and never expect to see come true. I've long dreamt of a TV series based on Marvel's spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Six years ago, when I first started this blog (and wrote of my love for S.H.I.E.L.D. and its director Nick Fury in one of my earliest posts), the very idea of such a show would have been inconceivable. Just as inconceivable would have been the notion that cult favorite Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (one of my favorite TV series ever) would write or direct it. Today, after Marvel scored hits with the Iron Man and Captain America movies, after Whedon turned their team-up concept, Marvel's The Avengers, into the biggest movie of the year, and after the company brilliantly integrated S.H.I.E.L.D. as the connective tissue linking all those films together... it's far easier to imagine. And it's happening! Deadline reports that ABC has ordered a pilot for a live-action S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show which Whedon will co-write and (schedule permitting) direct.

Okay, clearly this won't be the specific S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series I've long dreamed of. That S.H.I.E.L.D. would be set in the Sixties and look like Jim Sterenko's vision of U.N.C.L.E. on psychedelics. But I'm not going to turn down anything that Joss Whedon has to offer, especially after he delivered such a wonderful vision in Marvel's The Avengers. (And he wrote a great Nick Fury in his first arc on Astonishing X-Men, Gifted.) He realized the fantastical S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier and even made it believable in a fairly realistic superhero world, so I'm betting he can do just about anything. Still, it's hard for me to imagine a S.H.I.E.L.D. show (or an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show, as I hope they end up calling it) without Nick Fury and his original crew of Dum Dum Dugan, Jasper Sitwell, Gabe Jones and the Contessa Valentina Allegra di Fontaine. But if this show is set firmly in the world established by the insanely popular Marvel films (which would make sense), then Dum Dum and Jasper are stuck in the WWII era of Captain America, and Nick Fury is played by movie star Samuel L. Jackson, who seems unlikely to star on a TV show (though you never know!). So who are we left with? Cobie Smulders played S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill in Marvel's The Avengers. She's a TV star... but she's got a show already (How I Met Your Mother). So will Whedon create an original line-up of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, or will new actors step into roles established in the film universe? No info's available at this time. I suppose it's possible that Jackson could make guest appearances from time to time as Fury (and maybe even Robert Downy Jr. or Chris Evans or Scarlett Johansson could show up from time to time playing Iron Man, Captain America and the Black Widow respectively), and the show could meanwhile focus on his underlings. It's fun to speculate. Whatever the case, though, the idea of an ongoing TV show focusing on the espionage agency that patrols the Marvel Universe is very, very exciting!

S.H.I.E.L.D., by the way, stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division in the movies. Though that "Homeland" part doesn't make too much sense since it's apparently answerable to the United Nations! Whose Homeland is it referring to? (Originally, in the comics, it stood for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate, which didn't make much sense either.)

Tradecraft: Willem Dafoe Joins A Most Wanted Man

Variety reports that Willem Dafoe is in talks to join the cast of Anton Corbijn's John le Carré adaptation A Most Wanted Man. The trade doesn't, however, mention what character he's in talks to play. Can Dafoe do a Scottish accent to play the lead character of banker Tommy Brue? I would have expected a UK actor in that role, but Dafoe is about the right age. Or will he play one of the Americans who play a relatively small but crucial role at the end of the novel? As I recall, the primary CIA representative was a woman in the book, but that could easily be changed. Since Variety doesn't mention the part, this has caused rumor sites all over the Internet to interpret the story to mean that the actor is replaceing Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the role of German BND spymaster Günther Bachmann, just like they all assumed a few weeks ago that Robin Wright must be replacing Rachel McAdams. (Those rumors were proven false, of course; Wright is playing an entirely different role.) I don't get that logic. Do all these sites (including the trade) simply assume that the picture has only two roles--one male and one female? It's a given that most movies have more parts than that; why does this one prompt such wild speculation? Each time a new star was added to the large ensemble of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, everyone didn't immediately assume that meant that Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hardy would be replacing Gary Oldman as Smiley! Until I hear otherwise, I'm going to assume that Hoffman is still attached.

Aug 27, 2012

Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

The Bourne Legacy occupies a fairly unique place in the history of movie franchises. It’s not a direct sequel to the trilogy of Matt Damon Bourne movies, because the character Jason Bourne isn’t in it. It’s not a continuation of that series, either. (And it’s definitely not an adaptation of the Eric van Lustbader’s novel of the same name, which continued the story of the amnesiac spy beyond author Robert Ludlum’s trilogy.) Rather than moving forward in time and building on events of The Bourne Ultimatum (review here), it takes place concurrently with those events. That’s potentially a very cool idea. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t really take full advantage of that conceit. The trailers made it look like it cleverly interconnected with the events of Ultimatum, but it doesn’t. Bourne surrogate Aaron Cross’s mission has nothing to do with Jason Bourne’s. The connection is pretty tenuous, in fact. We’re asked to believe that Bourne’s exposure of the top secret Treadstone program (in which the CIA trained super-assassins) and the subsequent Senate hearings leads shadowy intelligence honcho Ed Norton (playing "Retired Col. Eric Byer, USAF," who I’m not sure is ever addressed by name on screen) to completely dismantle the similar Outcome program. Outcome does Treadstone one better because its agents aren’t just trained to be the best assassins they can be; they’re enhanced to be so via a steady regimen of pills that make them smarter, faster, better. The green pills increase their strength, and the blue pills enhance their minds.

Dismantling Outcome means not only erasing all records of its existence, but programming a scientist to shoot up the lab that developed the drugs, killing all of his colleagues but one, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz)—and eliminating every Outcome agent in the field. That rather extreme measure seems to stretch credulity even in the realm of the Bourne world, where it’s long been established that the CIA will readily deploy teams around the world to eliminate rogue agents. The absurdity of that overreaction is even raised in the movie itself, when one of Norton’s customers, a general, points out that they’ve never managed to penetrate the Pakistani intelligence service ISS before a particularly effective Outcome agent managed to do so. That actually sounds to me like a pretty effective argument for not terminating at least that particular deep-cover agent, but Norton believes firmly that all living evidence of Outcome must be eliminated. That also includes ace operative Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), who’s currently on a training exercise in Alaska where he manages to best the previous time on the survival course by two whole days. Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, he loses the pills, or “chems,” on which he depends for his enhanced abilities. (All Outcome agents store their pills in specially designed dogtags/pill holders… which doesn’t seem all that clever, really. If Q worked for Outcome, he’d outfit the operatives with everyday items like watches or jewelry in which to secret their chems, rather than risk the indelicate question of why the ISS’s latest recruit clings to American-issue dogtags!)

Thus getting ahold of new pills becomes Cross’s sole objective, the engine that drives him—and the film—for the ensuing two plus hours. While you might be asking yourself how badly he really needs super strength and super intelligence when he already seems to be in pretty amazing shape, that’s addressed in a reveal about halfway through the movie: Cross’s intelligence isn’t being increased to super-genius levels; it’s being raised to normal levels. He was previously a soldier with a very low IQ (his recruiter had to add points to reach the Army's "minimum standard") who volunteered for the Outcome program and earned himself a serious boost. Writer-director Tony Gilroy takes a page out of Flowers for Algernon (or, as I immediately thought of it, the various Simpsons take-offs on that premise in which Homer’s intelligence is increased by removing a crayon from his brain or Lisa thinks hers will be reduced when the Simpson Gene kicks in at her next birthday). Aaron Cross must find some chems, or else his mind will regress to sub-normal levels.

Cross’s quest first takes him to the secluded home of Dr. Marta Shearing, and not a second too soon, either. A hit squad deployed by Norton has just turned up at her abode, which leads to the film’s most impressive shoot-out during which Renner demonstrates that he’s got all the action chops of Matt Damon. The two Outcome refugees go on the run together, heading for Manila where the drugs are manufactured. We’re treated to some cool and very Ludlumy spycraft as Cross forges them fake passports and plots their egress from the country. Then we cut to the operations room where Norton’s got people searching every passenger manifest and airport security tape looking for the fugitives. It’s in these effective scenes that The Bourne Legacy feels most akin to its predecessors; audiences are used to teams of analysts staring at computer screens hunting for AWOL agents.

In Manila comes the film’s next major action setpiece. It’s kind of odd in a Bourne film (or a film with the name Bourne in the title, anyway) that there are really only two major action setpieces involving the hero (this and the shootout at the house), but Gilroy attempts to auto-correct for that by making this one a plus-size extravaganza. The final chase through the streets of Manila finds Cross first on foot—running across the rooftops, engaging in the Filipino martial art Kali, and pulling off the film’s signature stunt (which you’ve no doubt seen in the trailers) wherein he leaps from a rooftop into an ally, landing on a policeman and taking him out—and then on a motorcycle.

Once Cross and Marta are on the motorcycle, comparisons to James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies become inevitable. No, Bond wasn’t the first spy to ride a motorcycle (Coplan, Cotton and Helm all beat him to it back in the Sixties), but Tomorrow Never Dies really managed to define the motorcycle chase with a man and a woman on the same bike at once. When that concept popped up in Knight & Day (review here) with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, it was impossible not to recall the 007 film, and the same is true here—particularly given the somewhat similar setting. (Bond was in Saigon.) The Bond comparisons don’t end with Marta’s presence on the motorcycle, however. While Bourne chases have, in previous films, felt firmly grounded in reality, this one takes on the more over-the-top, credibility-straining tenor of a Bond chase as soon as Cross plants his motorcycle atop a railing to get around the throngs of people ascending and descending some public stairs. He then slides down, with the wheels straddling the rail. It’s a very Bondian maneuver. I mention this by way of observation rather than criticism. Obviously I enjoy a good Bond-style chase scene; I just think it’s worth noting this slight shift in tone for the Bourne series.

Overall, the Manila-set mega-chase is pretty impressive. For starters, the scenery is exotic, which I always want out of a spy movie. While there were some good spy chases in that city back in the Seventies when the Philippines had no safety laws governing film shoots (Wonder Women springs readily to mind), we haven’t seen a Western spy movie set there in quite some time. This is the kind of setting I want in a Bourne movie, in keeping with the clogged European streets of the first two films, or the bustling Tangier rooftops of the third. Furthermore, where Gilroy really breaks new ground in this chase is with the crowds. Sure, there were crowds in the Tomorrow Never Dies chase, but not this level of crowds! The streets Cross navigates are positively teeming with people, presenting near-constant obstacles for someone trying to make a quick escape. Every citizen of Manila must have been employed as an extra!

On the downside, the lengthy chase does overstay its welcome a bit as Cross and Marta are relentlessly pursued by an unstoppable Filipino Terminator. Actually, the pursuer is a sleeper agent from yet another Treadstone-inspired super soldier program even better than Outcome, Larx, which is described as “Treadstone without the inconsistencies” because it strips its agents of all emotion. But with his ever-present sunglasses, motorcycle and seeming invincibility, you fully expect to hear the strains of Brad Fiedel’s Terminator theme every time he’s shown! The chase also suffers, to some degree, from the overly-rapid editing that’s plagued any number of action movies in the post-Greengrass era. Greengrass himself required one film to practice this style (the flawed Bourne Supremacy) before honing it in Ultimatum and perfecting it in Green Zone (review here). Nearly every imitator (and there have been lots) has failed to replicate his urgent, immediate action scenes. Gilroy pulls it off with much greater success than Marc Forster did in Quantum of Solace (review here), but unfortunately there are still moments when potentially great stunts are wasted because the viewer isn’t oriented, and gets no sense of how they relate to the space around them. This is the result primarily of editing, however. Gilroy is remarkably restrained and for the most part doesn’t attempt to ape Greengrass’s patented shaky-cam photography, only his rapid-fire editing.

At the end of the day, The Bourne Legacy is an effective enough action movie that delivers in some crucial areas (Renner and Weisz are fantastic, the Manila locations are impressive, and the scenes of pasty bureaucrats and analysts yelling at each other about shutting down programs and tracking rogue agents carry enough urgency to propel the story even if you have no idea what’s actually going on), but fails in others. The Flowers for Algernon angle was an interesting idea, but didn’t ultimately work for me as the engine driving an espionage thriller. It also raises more questions than it answers. I can buy that Cross will cross oceans and battle enemy agents to keep his IQ from dropping back down to sub-normal levels, but I’m not sure why the government decided to use this medicine on a dummy to begin with. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to start with a fairly intelligent individual (or a bona fide genius, like Marta), and then jolt their IQ into the stratosphere instead of spending billions of taxpayer dollars making a somewhat challenged individual smart enough to calculate exit strategies? Ultimately, Cross’s quest to maintain his intelligence pales in comparison to Bourne’s search for his true identity.

The movie also fails in tying fully into what’s come before. Sure, a host of familiar faces from the earlier films (Albert Finney, David Straithairn, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn) are paraded briefly across the screen to do just that, but the actual connection is too flimsy to merit the Bourne Legacy title. In terms of ties to Bourne himself, I liked the subtler ones, such as when the camera nonchalantly moves past the name “Jason Bourne” carved in the bunk Cross is sleeping in on his training course, but not the overly obvious ones like when it then jerks back and focuses on that carving as the music kicks in big-time. I also felt like the Moby song “Extreme Ways (Bourne’s Theme)” was out of place when it kicked in at the end of this film. As the title says, that’s Bourne’s theme (even if this remix is cleverly subtitled "Bourne's Legacy"); shouldn’t Aaron Cross have his own? Besides that, however, the music is good. James Newton-Howard does a fine job providing bombastic action cues that feel of a piece with John Powell’s signature scores for the previous movies, yet different enough to set this one apart.

Ultimately, I think The Bourne Legacy is let down by the “Bourne” in its title—or perhaps it lets down that brand. It’s a fine action film in its own right with a compelling lead and some memorable moments, but it doesn’t live up to the thrilling brilliance of The Bourne Ultimatum. That said, I would welcome another installment that managed to team up Damon and Renner.

The Ludlum Dossier
Read my book review of Trevayne (1974) here.
Read my book review of The Bourne Ultimatum (1990) here.
Read my book review of The Parsifal Mosaic (1982) here.
Read my DVD review of The Holcroft Covenant (1986) here.
Read my book review of The Janson Directive (2002) here.
Read my book review of The Bourne Supremacy (1986) here.
Read my book review of The Holcroft Covenant (1978) here.
Read my book review of The Sigma Protocol (2001) here.
Read my book review of The Bourne Identity (1980) here.
Read my movie review of The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) here.
Read my movie review of The Bourne Legacy (2012) here.

Tradecraft: Jack Ryan Opens Christmas Day 2013

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount has set December 25, 2013 as the release date for their reboot of Tom Clancy's famed CIA analyst Jack Ryan starring Star Trek's Chris Pine. The film, which is not based on an existing Clancy novel, will be directed by Kenneth Brannagh and co-star Brannagh, Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley. Like Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter refers to the movie simply as Jack Ryan. I really hope they change that. Not only is Jack Ryan a dumb title that doesn't tell audiences anything about the film (just ask John Carter), but it's awfully similar to Jack Reacher, which is what Paramount is calling their adaptation of Lee Child's novel One Shot starring Tom Cruise which is also intended to launch a franchise. Does the studio really want two lamely titled "Jack" franchises on its hands? I'm sure their marketing department doesn't. But gripes about the title aside, I'm very excited that this looooong in development project is finally getting off the ground, and even has an actual release date!

Aug 24, 2012

Tradecraft: Jack Ryan Reboot Finally Getting Underway

It's taken a decade, but things are finally coming together on the new Jack Ryan movie. Deadline reports that the Chris Pine-led reboot will hit theaters in the fourth quarter of 2013. I was afraid we might not have a big spy tentpole next year with no installments scheduled for Bond, Bourne or Mission: Impossible, but now we've got the return of the biggest spy franchise of the 90s to look forward to! For now, Deadline is calling the reboot Jack Ryan. I hope that's just a placeholder, and not the actual title. (I am so glad that the first Bond movie did not end up being called James Bond of the Secret Service!) People's names alone do not make good titles. What it definitely won't be called, however, is The Cardinal of the Kremlin or Red Rabbit or any of the yet unfilmed Tom Clancy titles. This movie has always been planned as an original story detailing the Clancy hero's earliest days, prior to and including his recruitment into the CIA. It's based on background provided by the author in his novels, but other than that it's a fresh story designed to establish a young Jack Ryan in the recognizably modern world. Personally, I've got no problem with that. The Bond films started forging original stories long before they ever ran out of Fleming titles, and for the most part, the strategy worked. And Clancy's latest output has hardly been up to the standards of his terrific early novels. I'd still love to see some of the other novels adapted (particularly The Cardinal of the Kremlin, though that's rooted pretty firmly in the Cold War--but could be updated to work in modern Russia), but an original story is probably the best way to re-establish the franchise for a generation who, sadly, probably hasn't even seen The Hunt for Red October.

While a number of writers and directors have come and gone since Pine first became attached to the role (following previous rumors about Ryan Gosling, Sam Raimi and Fernando Meirelles), the trade blog reports that the film is now moving forward under the direction of Kenneth Brannagh working from a script by David Koepp and Adam Cozad. (There may well be other names on it once Guild arbitration is completed considering how many have worked on it over the years.) In addition to helming, Brannagh will play the film's Russian villain, who aims to destroy the American economy. Keira Knightley will play Cathy Muller (the future Mrs. Jack Ryan, portrayed by Anne Archer in the Harrison Ford movies), and, as reported earlier this week, Kevin Costner will play the spy boss who recruits Ryan into the CIA and mentors him. (This is an original character, not one from the novels.) I like that cast. The Costner character will carry over into Paramount's next Clancy film, a modernized adaptation of Without Remorse detailing the origin of "Jack Ryan's dark side" Mr. Clark. Besides that parallel franchise, the studio envisions this Jack Ryan movie as the first of a trilogy. Don't ask me why everything has to be a trilogy now; I would prefer a "series." But whatever; the plan is for more Jack Ryan movies to follow this one more quickly than the decade-plus gap that followed The Sum of All Fears. Clancy himself has been surprisingly quiet on all this, after expressing outrage over most previous film adaptations of his work. (He was never a fan of Ford or Baldwin, but said he liked Affleck.) Perhaps he just doesn't care anymore. Or maybe, like this fan, he's happy to see his creation live on.

Aug 21, 2012

Olympic Opening Ceremony Highlights Coming to DVD and Blu-ray; Will 007 Cameo Be Included?

While NBC's upcoming Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray of coverage from the London Olympics doesn't include the opening ceremony (and can probably be expected to be as lackluster overall as the network's coverage of the events was), the Region 2/Region B DVD and Blu-ray coming October 29 from BBC promise "highlights from Danny Boyle’s unforgettable opening ceremony and the [David Arnold-produced] musical extravaganza of the closing ceremony." Since most people seemed to consider Daniel Craig's appearance as James Bond escorting the Queen herself to skydive into the stadium as the highlight of the that opening ceremony, does that mean we can expect it to be included? Hopefully, but I'm sure the rights issues involved are complex. Personally, I'm really, really hoping that Sony negotiated the rights to include the excerpt on the eventual Skyfall Blu-ray, but if not, maybe this release will preserve the moment for posterity. The IOC has been very diligent about removing any clips from YouTube. And Bond completists like myself will need to own this on some format. Let's hope we don't have to resort to bootlegs!

Speaking of all things Bond and Olympics, there are two original David Arnold tracks available for individual download now as part of the MP3 album A Symphony Of British Music: Music For The Closing Ceremony Of The London 2012 Olympic Games: the chorale number "Spirit Of The Flame," and the very Bondian-sounding "Medal Ceremony." (Seriously, if you like Arnold's 007 music, definitely give that one a listen!) The physical album will be available in the U.S. in September, and is available now in the UK.

Skyfall UK Quad Revealed

Seenit has the first look at the new UK quad poster for Skyfall. It's not the best of the Skyfall posters we've seen to date, but it's still pretty cool. Personally, I prefer this artwork as a giant theater standee, which is also out there. As a flat poster, it kind of looks more like Daniel Craig is relaxing rather than in action. But I still like it, nonetheless.

James Bond Music Event at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in October

On October 5, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will host an event called "The Music of James Bond" at their Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. There's no info yet on their website, but mark your calenders. Academy events are usually open to the public, so I assume this one will be.

Tradecraft: Kevin Costner Confirmed for Clancy Flicks; Tom Hardy Courted for Clark

It was rumored a few weeks ago. Now, Deadline confirms that Kevin Costner has made a deal with Paramount to star in not one, but two Tom Clancy pictures. In a parallel universe, I could quite easily picture Costner as a contender for Jack Ryan. But this is a modern movie universe, and a reboot (again), and therefore Jack Ryan is much younger. That part was cast years ago; it's Star Trek's Chris Pine (an excellent choice, I think). Costner will be playing William Harper, the spy boss who recruits Jack Ryan into the CIA in the still untitled Jack Ryan movie, and John Kelly into the Agency in Christopher McQuarrie's previously announced Without Remorse. In other words, he'll be the Nick Fury of Paramount's rebooted Clancyverse, linking the two parallel franchises together. On top of that, according to the trade blog, "the deal coming together envisions Costner potentially headlining his own film" down the line. In the same story, Deadline also reports that the studio is now pursuing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's Tom Hardy to play Kelly, the man who will become "Jack Ryan's dark side" Mr. Clark, in Without Remorse. That's... really awesome casting. I like that idea a lot! Unfortunately, it means that when the two stars eventually cross paths (in an original film, or one based on an actual Clancy novel?), it will be a This Means War re-teaming minus Reese Witherspoon! Oh well. Those two deserved a better spy movie to begin with; hopefully this one will be it. While I would have loved to see Without Remorse made as a Seventies period piece in keeping with the novel, I do admire the synergy Paramount is applying to this nascent reborn Clancyverse. The planning is there. Now let's just hope the films themselves actually happen! The Pine-led Jack Ryan reboot has been in the works for years through numerous false starts, and Without Remorse has been in development for decades with various stars and directors coming and going. As of now, Kenneth Brannagh is set to do double duty as both director and villain in the Jack Ryan movie, and Keira Knightley is considered a frontrunner to play Ryan's love interest and future wife, Cathy.

Aug 20, 2012

Tradecraft: The Lady Vanishes Again

Deadline reports that there's another remake of Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes in the works at the BBC. Writer Fiona Seres is turning back to The Wheel Spins, the novel that inspired the highly enjoyable 1938 Hitchcock spy flick. Set in the Balkans in 1931, the new version will tell the familiar tale of a young British woman (Cleanskin's Tuppence Middleton) traveling alone abroad who befriends an elderly lady on a train (Selina Cadell) only to awaken later to find she's vanished without a trace. Spooks/MI-5 veterans Keeley Hawes and Gemma Jones, Casino Royale's Jesper Christensen, The Hour's Julian Rhind-Tutt, and Page Eight's Tom Hughes (as love interest Max) round out the passengers on the train. The big question, of course, is who will play the comic relief cricket lovers Charters and Caldicott? I suppose it's possible the pair won't be present, since they were original creations of Hitchcock's screenwriters Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat and not present in the novel... but can you really imagine The Lady Vanishes without them? (They turned up in the 1979 Hammer remake.) Assuming Fry and Laurie are too big for this sort of thing, I would love to see The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton in those roles, personally. The 90-minute adaptation is set to start filming later this month in Budapest, and to air on BBC1 at Christmas. I'd hazard it's got a good chance of turning up later in the US on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery.

Read my review of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes here.

Aug 17, 2012

Homeland Season 2 Trailer

Showtime has released an intriguing trailer for Season 2 of Homeland, the best spy show on television. I was a bit unhappy with the way last season ended for Claire Danes' character, but I'm very, very eager to see where they go from there this year!

Aug 16, 2012

Operation Kid Brother Comes to DVD... In its MST3K Version, Anyway

Operation Kid Brother may be the most famous Eurospy movie, mainly because of its notoriety among Bond fans. When series veterans Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell agreed to appear alongside Sean Connery's brother, Neil, in the 007 spoof, Sean was very upset. He thought they were exploiting Neil. Of course, as Maxwell personally explained it to me decades later, they weren't exploiting anyone. They were simply collecting a paycheck, as they were jobbing actors who didn't enjoy a Sean Connery level salary that afforded them the luxury of turning down work. And, to be honest, Neil looks like he's having so much fun in the movie that I kind of doubt he felt exploited, either! In fact, aside from the awful dubbing on the leading man, Operation Kid Brother (which also stars Bond vets Daniella Bianchi and Adolfo Celi) is an awfully enjoyable Eurospy movie. (And the killer score by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai may be my very favorite Eurospy music.) In fact, because it's relatively famous for its genre (even enjoying a cover story in Cinema Retro a few years ago), I've been surprised that it hasn't turned up on DVD or at least MOD. And, sadly, it still won't in its unmolested version... but the good news (according to Satellite News, via TV Shows On DVD) is that Shout! Factory is releasing the MST3K version in their latest DVD collection, Mystery Science Theater 3000 XXV! Because of rights issues, they just have to use the (better, in my opinion) Operation Kid Brother title instead of the alternate title Operation Double 007, which appears on screen in the episode. (The film is also known as OK Connery.) Of course, this doesn't do much for fans who crave a beautiful widescreen print uninterrupted by wisecracking robots. (There's a really good fandub floating out there to tide them over.) But it's still exciting.  Like the other Eurospy titles mocked on that show Secret Agent Super Dragon and Danger! Death Ray (which I really wish Shout! would release) and decidedly unlike the Mario Bava masterpiece Danger: Diabolik (which MST3K wrongfully maligned), Operation Kid Brother is ripe for some good-natured riffing. Eurospy fans with a sense of humor about the genre will likely find this version highly entertaining. But, of course, what this release really has me wondering is, does this possibly portend a straight release for this film down the road? I certainly hope so.

The other titles in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 XXV set are Robot Holocaust, Kitten With a Whip and Revenge of the Creature, which makes it a pretty darn good set. Shout! has routinely produced some good extras for some of these MST3K sets, so... dare we hope for a Neil Connery interview? That would certainly make this a must-buy for fans of the genre. It's a must-buy already for me. As far as I know, no date has yet been announced for this release.

Aug 15, 2012

Tradecraft: Robin Wright Joins le Carre Adaptatiot A Most Wanted Man

Variety reports that Robin Wright (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) is in talks to join Anton Corbijn's John le Carré adaptation A Most Wanted Man. Other sources, including the usually reliable IndieWire, are reporting that Wright will replace the previously cast Rachel McAdams as strong-willed pro bono lawyer Annabel Richter, but they all cite Variety as their source, and I can't find anything in the trade's story about McAdams leaving or about what role Wright will play. If she's replacing McAdams as Annabel, then clearly Corbijn (The American) and screenwriter Andrew Bovell have seriously altered the role from the novel, in which she is an idealistic young lawyer fresh out of law school. (Even McAdams was older than the role as le Carré wrote it.) I'd guess it's more likely that Wright will play either the wife of the still uncast Scottish banker Tommy Brue, or, more likely, the sidekick and sometime lover to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character, Erna Frey. That character seems pretty tailor-made for Wright, in fact.

UPDATE: Fansite went directly to the producers and confirmed that McAdams is still involved in the project. So that probably means Wright will be Erna.

Tradecraft: ABC Eyes Sky's Spy

Deadline reports that ABC is in negotiations with UK showrunner Simeon Goulden to adapt his Sky 1 spy comedy Spy (which we first heard about a year ago) for the American network. I haven't seen the original, but the trade blog points out that it's available to watch in the U.S. on Hulu (where it apparently does quite well), so I'll be sure to check it out now. Deadline compares the workplace comedy/family comedy hybrid to Get Smart, which sounds good, though the description always reminded me more of The Piglet Files. Spy follows a bumbling single dad (played by Darren Boyd in the original) eager to impress his 9-year-old. In his effort to do so, the hapless computer salesman is accidentally recruited to MI5. Then he has to balance his crazy work life with his crazy home life and struggles to keep secrets from his family and friends. My Family's Robert Lindsay plays spy chief The Examiner in the UK version. Hat Trick, the production company behind the original (and also behind Episodes, a comedy about UK writers attempting to adapt their popular Britcom for a U.S. network) will also produce the remake.

Olga Kurylenko Billed as "Bond Girl" in New Trailer

This is interesting. It has to have happened before in the Sixties, I would imagine, but I can't recall any recent instances where a former Bond Girl was actually billed as such in a trailer for another movie! But the tongue-in-cheek trailer for Martin McDonagh's (In Bruges) new film Seven Psychopaths does just that, touting Quantum of Solace's Olga Kurylenko as a Bond Girl! Take a look:

I don't know about you, but I'm prepared to watch the beautiful Ms. Kurylenko (who made her spy debut in Hitman) in just about anything! But especially something from the talented director of In Bruges.

Aug 14, 2012

Trailer For Transporter TV Show!

Despite myriad production difficulties, Cinemax's Transporter TV series (based on the Luc Besson-produced neo-Eurospy movies starring Jason Statham) is finally ready for a trailer. And it looks good to me! Chris Vance (Burn Notice) may have his work cut out for him living up to Statham in the badass department, but the car stunts and locations look on par with the hugely entertaining movies. Andrea Osvart, Delphine Chanéac, Rachel Skarsten and Francois Berléand (reprising his role from the film series as transporter Frank Martin's friend Inspector Tarconi) round out the cast. I think I'll add Cinemax to my cable package whenever this series actually premieres!

Aug 13, 2012

Star Cars Covers Bond Vehicles

The latest episode of Crave Online's highly entertaining Star Cars series profiles a quartet of James Bond vehicles that were on display at Comic Con last month. Spy fandom's favorite couple, Brad Hansen and Athena Stamos (organizers of last year's awesomely ambitious Bondathon), have put together a wonderful piece about these fantastic cars and boats and parahawk things! Check it out.

Aug 11, 2012

Tradecraft: Christopher McQuarrie Feels No Remorse

No, I don't mean that Christopher McQuarrie feels no remorse about casting Tom Cruise as the 6'5" Jack Reacher in the eponymous film version of Lee Child's popular hero (though he doesn't seem to); I mean that, according to Deadline, the Usual Suspects scribe has been hired by Paramount to take a crack at adapting Tom Clancy's seemingly uncrackable 1993 novel Without Remorse. This one's been in development for nearly twenty years now, with Shawn Ryan most recently givng it a go a few years ago. It's not clear if McQuarrie will rewrite Ryan's draft (which was said to be good), or start from scratch. McQuarrie will direct as well as write. Without Remorse follows Jack Ryan's "dark side" Mr. Clark (aka John Kelly) in his formative years during the Vietnam War on both a covert mission abroad and a personal vendetta in the United States. While McQuarrie's aesthetic would lend itself perfectly to a gritty 70s period piece, I doubt we'll see the studio go that direction. After all, they're rebooting the Jack Ryan franchise in a contemporary setting, so if they want to eventually integrate Clark into that series, it would behoove them to set this movie in the present as well.

Aug 10, 2012

Tradecraft: Cold War Spy Show The Americans Goes to Series at FX

There were so many spy pilots this past season, and the major networks didn't end up picking up any of them. (Fox alone passed on two!) Well, at least there's hope for espionage fans on basic cable. Deadline reports that FX has picked up the Joseph Weisberg/Graham Yost Cold War spy pilot The Americans with a 13-episode order. That's great news, because this (closely followed by Weisberg's other one) was the spy show I was most looking forward to out of the whole batch! Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell play the Jennings, a pair of deep-cover Soviet spies in the 1980s who are not actually American at all, but Russians posing as a suburban American family complete with children. Noah Emmerich (Fair Game) plays the couple's new neighbor, an FBI counterintelligence agent suspicious of the Jennings. Weisberg (author of An Ordinary Spy) and Yost (author of Spy Tech) both executive produce, with Weisberg serving as showrunner. Gavin O'Connor directed the pilot. According to the trade blog, production will begin in October for a premiere early next year.

New Skyfall Character Posters

Four new Skyfall character posters and a banner were revealed on yesterday... and they're awesome! I love this Daniel Craig image, because it's the closest thing we've ever gotten to a classic Bond pose from him. Sure, he's still in a typical Craigian stance (I would have loved to see him hold his gun up beside his face as every Bond before him did), but he's in a tuxedo with the collar buttoned and the tie tied and his hair combed and his face shaved closely. It's fantastic! I will definitely be acquiring this poster for the wall of my brand new apartment. The other character posters are good, too, but I do wish that the Javier Bardem one didn't remind me so much of the Zao character poster from Die Another Day, thanks to the billowing black coat. Bérénice Marlohe's pose (and, to some extent, her dress) also recalls a famous Paris Carver publicity image from Tomorrow Never Dies, but that doesn't really bother me.

Aug 8, 2012

New Spy DVDs Out This Week and Last: Saints and Liquidators

Finally! I've been waiting years for an official release of The Liquidator (1965), and this week, thanks to the Warner Archive, we've got one, on MOD. The Liquidator is Boysie Oakes, John Gardner’s pre-Bond anti-Bond. Gardner's Oakes books were sort of a direct response to Fleming’s Bond books, and parodies of them. Jack Cardiff's film version certainly latches onto that, firmly hitching its wagon to 007, but feeling more like Flint. (It's got that lavish, widescreen studio feel of a Sixties Fox movie, even if it was made by MGM... and now released by Warner.) It never quite lives up to its amazing Bob Peak poster, or its classic Lalo Schifrin-penned Shirley Bassey theme song, but it's nonetheless a real treat for Sixties spy fans! Rod Taylor (who also starred in the enjoyable Eurospy flick The High Commissioner) stars as Boysie, and Jill St. John’s along for the ride looking great and maybe even contributing just a little bit more to the plot than does her useless Tiffany Case character in Diamonds Are Forever. (The film, that is. Tiffany was actually quite an enjoyable character in the novel.) Warner's manufactured on demand release is completely remastered and anamorphically presented in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. It's available now directly from Warner Archive for $17.95, and beginning September 6 from Amazon.

Cinemax's first U.S. season of Strike Back finally hits DVD and Blu-ray in North America today. 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 (maybe when The Hobbit opens this winter and makes star Richard Armitage more of a household name?) 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.) So far I've only seen 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, and both significantly cheaper on Amazon right now. Both versions include audio commentaries. Be warned, though, that the packaging on the combo pack is annoyingly chunky. There's no reason in the world why a 10-episode cable season needs to be in thick gatefold packaging like the early seasons of 24!

And the rarest one for last! I honestly never thought I'd see this one get an official release... but here it is! A few weeks ago, Australia's Madman label released a Region 4 PAL DVD of the rarest of all The Saint's TV incarnations, the 1987 telefilm (and failed series pilot) The Saint in Manhattan, starring Australian Andrew Clarke as the infamous Simon Templar. This is the version that, true to its time, recast Templar in the Magnum mold, complete with mustache and Italian supercar (a Lamborghini Countach). Obviously it didn't go to series, but I personally think it's better than its reputation would indicate... and I like Clarke. (More than Simon Dutton, in fact.) But I've only ever seen it in a grainy, third generation VHS recording, so I look forward to watching it again on DVD as if for the very first time! This makes Australia the first country to get all the Saint TV shows on DVD. As far as I know, the 1989 Simon Dutton series has only been released there so far as well, on Madman's sister label Umbrella. You can watch a short clip from The Saint in Manhattan on the Madman website... but it's not totally indicative of the production as a whole. The cost is $14.95AU, which might seem steep for a single 50 minute TV episode, but for Saint completists it's definitely worth it. No if only someone would release The Saint Lies in Wait (which I also like)...

Aug 7, 2012

Tradecraft: Treadstone TV Show Officially Dead

In a lengthy and very interesting interview with Deadline's Mike Fleming, The Bourne Legacy screenwriter/director Tony Gilroy confirms that the Anthony Zuiker Treadstone TV series first mooted in September of 2010 is officially dead. In fact (as speculated that November), it was a condition of Gilroy's coming aboard Legacy. I suppose he didn't want anyone else messing up the mythology he was trying hard to craft. I can understand that, but I still think it's too bad. I would have loved a weekly dose of Ludlum-style action. Anyway, this seems to set the record straight after Zuiker gave some (evidently false) hope that the project might still be percolating in December of 2010.

Tradecraft: Paramount Buys Sacha Baron Cohen Spy Spoof

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount has bought a pitch for a spy spoof from Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen and Cedar Rapids writer Phil Johnston. The trade quotes the studio on a plot description, reporting that the untitled comedy project features "a James Bond-like spy who 'is forced to go on the run with his long-lost brother, a moronic soccer hooligan.'" While he's involved behind the scenes, it's unclear at this point whether or not Baron Cohen would take a role (or roles; I could easily see him playing both brothers, Peter Sellers-style) in the film; that depends on the in-demand star's availability.

R.I.P. Marvin Hamlisch

Numerous outlets today are reporting the death of film composer Marvin Hamlisch at the age of 68 following a short illness. Hamlisch is the only composer to date to receive a Best Original Score Oscar nomination for his work on a James Bond movie. In fact, 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me earned Hamlisch two nominations at the '78 awards—Best Score and Best Song (along with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager) for the Carly Simon classic "Nobody Does It Better." Both were also nominated for Golden Globes that year, and his score earned Grammy and BAFTA nods as well. (Hamlisch won the Oscar in 1974 for The Way We Were.) Looking back, it's a little hard to see how the music in The Spy Who Loved Me garnered all those accolades when none of John Barry's more timeless Bond scores were ever Oscar-nominated, but Hamlisch achieved exactly what he set out to do with the music for that film: he created a more contemporary sound for 007. Personally, I love his disco take on the famous James Bond Theme in "Bond '77." However, what was cutting edge contemporary in 1977 now sounds awfully dated compared to Barry's scores. But can you imagine The Spy Who Loved Me without its iconic music? I can't. "Journey to Atlantis," in fact, is probably one of my favorite individual cues in the entire series. It's playing in my head right now, and no doubt will be for at least the rest of the day.

While he only did one Bond film, that wasn't the end of Hamlisch's association with spy music. In 1989, he penned an equally of-its-time but far less memorable score for the John Travolta spy comedy The Experts. Twenty years later he made a triumphant comeback by providing an absolutely perfect score for Steven Soderbergh's Matt Damon spy comedy The Informant!, this time not by harnessing a contemporary sound but by revisiting the Seventies sound that earned him all those accolades for The Spy Who Loved Me. Deadline reports that the composer was set to re-team with Soderbergh on the HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra.

Hamlisch created a unique score for one of the very best James Bond movies. He also wrote the music for one of the best songs, which provides a fitting epithet which I suspect we'll see used today in many obituaries. Because when it came to that specific sound, nobody did it better. Marvin Hamlisch will be missed, but always remembered his unforgettable contribution to the James Bond legacy.

Tradecraft: NBC Buys Secret Service Show

Deadline reports that NBC has bought a Washington-set hour-long action drama project about a rookie Secret Service agent from Rand Ravich, creator of the short-lived series Life (which starred Homeland's Damian Lewis). According to the trade blog, the untitled series "follows an idealistic Secret Service agent who finds himself at the epicenter of an international crisis on his first day on the job. He will need to cross moral and legal lines as he navigates the highest levels of power and corruption on his search for the truth."

Aug 6, 2012

NBC Covers Bond Anniversary During Olympics

Last night NBC's Olympics coverage featured a surprising (and surprisingly long) segment on James Bond and Ian Fleming. Perhaps when Sony or EON or whoever agreed to let the IOC use 007 in their opening ceremony, the deal was that they'd get some free promotion during the games? That seems probably. Overall, reporter Mary Carillo's piece is pretty entertaining. Even if it's marred by a few inaccuracies (like the particularly glaring assertion early on that Fleming wrote a book called Goldeneye, which the slightest bit of fact-checking could have caught!), viewers are still treated to glimpses of famous Bond costumes and cars. Carillo even gets a high-speed ride in an Aston Martin! Take a look here.

Tradecraft: Kevin Costner Mulls Spy Roles

Deadline reports that Kevin Costner, riding high on the huge success of his TV miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, is choosing between two fast-tracked spy movies. According to the trade blog, he's been offered what they call "the co-lead" in Paramount's new Jack Ryan movie opposite Chris Pine. The role is described as "a new creation, but a close cousin to the role of CIA bigwig Admiral Greer that was played by James Earl Jones in [the 90s Jack Ryan movies]." Costner would play Jack Ryan's Agency mentor. Perhaps more interestingly, however, he's also being sized up by Luc Besson as the next potential Hollywood star to make a comeback in a EuropaCorp neo-Eurospy movie. Deadline further reports that Costner's been offered the lead in Three Days to Kill, a project first reported a few months ago. "Costner has been offered the role of Ethan Renner, a government assassin who is dying. Before he goes, he is determined to reconcile with his daughter, while taking on one final mission." The trade blog adds that like the Liam Neeson mega-hit Taken, Three Days to Kill (written by Besson and his From Paris With Love co-writer Adi Hasak) is "a contained cost drama that is set in France and is a kicking showcase for a male star." Could it do for Kevin Costner's flagging film career what Taken did for Neeson's? I think the actor would be ill-advised not to find out. According to Deadline, This Means War helmer McG is in discussions to direct.

Zero Dark Thirty Teaser

Sony has released a teaser trailer for Kathryn Bigelow's drama about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty. It's a very effective teaser that doesn't reveal too much about the actual story of the film, but certainly serves to whet audience's appetites. It also looks from the teaser like the film will cover the CIA contribution as well as JSOC's and the famous Seal Team Six raid that killed the terrorist leader.

Aug 4, 2012

Rare Eurospy Screening in Los Angeles Tonight

The New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles will screen the 1966 Mike Connors Eurospy movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die tonight at midnight (the evening of Saturday, August 4). Dorothy Provine and Italian Job baddie Raf Vallone co-star, but it's Terry-Thomas who steals the show as a Q-like chauffeur with an impossibly tricked-out Rolls Royce. This is one of several Eurospy movies that New Beverly owner Quentin Tarantino has called his favorite (perhaps this is his personal print), and with good reason. It's got a noticeably bigger budget than most, making it a great entry-level Eurospy flick for fans weened on Bond spectaculars. If you're in the area, definitely check it out!

Aug 2, 2012

Skyfall Trailers!

I've been in the midst of an apartment move these last few days with limited internet access so I'm a little behind on posting these trailers, but they're still worth sharing! Here's the new domestic U.S. trailer for Skyfall (coming in November) and the new slightly different new international trailer 9 (with the UK release date of October). I wish the MacGuffin weren't a list of agents (my least favorite spy MacGuffin, horribly overdone and not that realistic to begin with), but besides that, I think it looks absolutely fantastic! Looks like a return to classic Bond appropriately adapted to the Craig era... which is exactly what I want!