Sep 27, 2012

Tradecraft: Ghost Protocol Line Producer Options True Story of WWII "Spy Princess"

Deadline reports that producers Zafar Hai (The Perfect Murder) and Tabrez Noorani (whose line producing credits include Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Zero Dark Thirty and Slumdog Millionaire) have optioned the film rights to the 2007 book Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu. According to the trade blog, "Spy Princess tells the remarkable story of a heroic woman, Noor Inayat Khan. Under the code name Madeleine, she was trained by Britain’s Special Operations Executive and became the first female wireless operator to be flown into occupied France during World War II. She infiltrated into the Paris area, where within days of her arrival almost her entire circuit was arrested by the Gestapo, making ‘poste-Madeleine’ the last radio link between France and England." The producers will hire a screenwriter soon. If this story sounds familiar, that's because a few years ago a pair of British producers tried to tell the same story with the same title, working from a script by Happy Feet's Judy Morris. At that point, Aishwarya Rai was rumored to star. Evidently, that version fell apart.

Sep 26, 2012

New Spy DVDs Out This Week: Bond, Special Branch and S.H.I.E.L.D.

This week sees the biggest, most anticipated spy Blu-ray release of the year: the massive Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection from MGM and Fox Home Entertainment. This 23-disc collection collects all 22 official EON James Bond films (rogue productions Never Say Never Again and Casino Royale '67 are already separately available on the format) in two attractive hardcover book-style disc holders, both of which slide inside a larger, durable slipcase. Nine of those Bond movies are making their high-def debut, never having been available individually on Blu-ray.  On top of all that, there's an extra slot reserved for the Skyfall Blu-ray, when that comes out, and another containing an exclusive bonus disc. If you don't already own all these movies and you read this blog, then this set is an obvious must-get. But if you are reading this blog (and there's really no question; you are), then chances are you do already own most of these movies. Then things become a bit stickier. If you've bought all the 007 movies on DVD multiple times over the years and you already own half th contents of this set on Blu-ray, do you really want to shell out yet again to get the rest? Well... why not, exactly? While the list price is a not insignificant $299.99, the set is currently listed on Amazon for half that: $149.99. Assuming you do already own 11 of the films in the collection, that means you're still getting ten brand new Blu-ray discs (including the bonus disc, which is something most Bond fans would likely pay for on its own) for just $14.99 apiece. And were they released individually, that would be a bargain! Individual titles would probably retail for closer to twenty bucks. And that logic ignores the lavish new packaging, and the other eleven movies. Counting all 22 titles, that works out to just $6.81 per top-notch spy movie. And that's unbeatable! So go ahead and treat yourself: buy the new set. (And, better still, use this link to do so and support the Double O Section!) You can then sell off your old Blu-rays (unless you're dangerous completists like me who can't ever give up anything with a 007 logo on it), and offset the cost even more. And for your troubles, you end up with the best Bond movie ever, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, on breathtaking Blu-ray for the first time ever, along with other fantastic, previously-unreleased high-def essentials like The Spy Who Loved Me, The Living Daylights, GoldenEye and You Only Live Twice! And you want those, don't you? I know I do. In fact, I've just talked myself into pulling the trigger on this pricey purchase. I can't wait for Christmas to see that stock car chase in HD! Bond 50 is also available on DVD (SRP $199.98; currently $99.99 on Amazon), but surely everybody in the world already owns all of these movies on DVD, right?

But as major a release as it is, Bond 50 is not the only spy title out this week. From Acorn Media comes the gritty Seventies UK cop/spy show Special Branch: Set 1, marking the Thames Television series' Region 1 DVD debut. It may be called Set 1, but rather confusingly, it's not the show's first season. Acorn are following the same strategy they did with Callan: they're beginning with the first color season from the Seventies, which is actually the show's third season. However, that decision works a little better for Special Branch than it did for Callan because whereas that show plunged viewers confusingly into the middle of an ongoing, serial plotline, Special Branch was completely rebooted when it switched to color. Even the stars are different. Derren Nesbitt led the cast of the black and white series; the color episodes star George Sewell and Callan's Patrick Mower. I actually prefer the monochrome episodes (though they have a rap for being "slow" compared with the more action-packed color seasons), but hopefully Acorn will get around to releasing them eventually. Despite the very conspicuous "Classic British SPY Drama" tag on the packaging (which I certainly think looks cool), I'd say that Special Branch leans more toward a cop show overall. (The first episode won't give you any hint of espionage.) But there are plenty of spy-oriented episodes down the line, and while nothing could be the equal of CallanCallan fans will be attracted to the similar gritty tone, as well as the presence of Mower.

And finally, you might have heard of a little movie that made some money this summer called Marvel's The Avengers. Now, obviously it's not the Avengers that spy fans think of first, but this relentlessly enjoyable superhero hullabaloo is still noteworthy for espionage aficionados. In addition to costumed adventurers like Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, some Marvel's The Avengers puts the spotlight on the comic book spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and its agents. Readers of Steranko's classic 1960s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic will thrill to see the impossible S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier brilliantly realized in live action, not to mention Fury himself (in his Ultimate guise of Sam Jackson) and Marvel's Number 2 secret agent, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Other popular S.H.I.E.L.D. agents like Maria Hill and Phil Coulson also play significant parts. Marvel's The Avengers is available in a wide array of configurations, including a single-disc DVD, a 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD combo, a 4-disc Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D/DVD/Digital Copy combo (that also includes a free download of the soundtrack album), and an exclusive 5-disc combo at Target that includes all that stuff plus a new 90-minute documentary about building the cinematic Marvel Universe. (The 2-disc version at Target also comes with that bonus disc, offering a 3-disc variation just to cover the spread.)

Sep 24, 2012

Dr. No Back on the Big Screen Tonight, For One Night Only!

Nearly fifty years after Dr. No first opened, James Bond fans in America have the opportunity to see the movie that started it all on the big screen once again, for one night only. Tonight, AMC Cinemas across the country will show James Bond's big screen debut, starring Sean Connery. Find out which theaters near you are playing it and get tickets on AMC's website. Also, attending fans will receive a free James Bond 50th Anniversary print while supplies last!

Sep 20, 2012

Tradecraft: MacGruber Director Pitches Spy Guys Comedy

Deadline reports that New Line has bought a pitch from the writer of Due Date for MacGruber director Jorma Taccone to helm. Adam Sztykiel's action-comedy pitch, Spy Guys, follows a young CIA agent attending a wedding in Europe. When he becomes disavowed and forced to go on the run, he enlists his non-agent buddies to aid him and they all go on the run together to clear his name. Accordin to the trade blog, "This is a big fun movie in the vein of Ocean’s 11 meets Mission: Impossible, and the hope is that Taccone will attract a hot young ensemble cast." Sounds good to me. I thought MacGruber was funny (read my review here), and I was also a fan of most of the digital shorts Taccone created for Saturday Night Live with his fellow Lonely Island Boys Akiva Schaffer and Andy Samberg, who will also produce Spy Guys.

Sep 19, 2012

Tradecraft: TNT Picks Up Legends to Pilot

Legends, the TV show based on Robert Littell's acclaimed novel, has taken a long and winding road to production, but it's finally getting there! The show 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 2011) said as much in an interview last year. But then, in May, it came back to life thanks to cable network TNT, who continued to develop the pilot script with Gordon, Mark Bomback (Agent Zigzag) and Jeffrey Nachmanoff (TraitorAmerican Assassin). Now Deadline reports that they've ordered the pilot to production, inching the show that much closer to your television screens. According to the trade blog, David Semel, who's previously helmed such spy shows as Person of Interest and My Own Worst Enemy, will direct the pilot. According to TNT's previously released synopsis, "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." TNT's 2007 miniseries The Company was also based on a Littell spy novel. In addition to his ongoing commitment to Homeland, Howard Gordon also has a recently announced spy pilot in development for Fox.

Sep 18, 2012

Upcoming Spy DVDs: Mission: Impossible: The Complete Series (UPDATED)

Forget about that "complete series" bundle on Amazon that just amounts to the individual seasons shrinkwrapped together. TV Shows On DVD reports that Paramount is plotting the ultimate Christmas gift for spy fans this season with the lavishly packaged Mission: Impossible - The Complete Television Collection Giftset. Normally I'm opposed to bulky novelty packaging, but even I have to admit... this dynamite container, evoking the show's iconic lit fuse opening, looks incredible! Incredible enough to re-buy all those seasons I already have, though? Probably not. Unless, of course, there's actual bonus content, like that Diagnosis Murder episode, "Discards," with Barbara Bain reprising her Cinnamon Carter role. The website reports that this is a 56-disc set, and I count 55 amongst all the seasons I've got. So it does sound like there's a bonus disc... meaning serious Phelps fans may indeed be forced to buy again. If you don't already have all these seasons, however, then this is a no-brainer: it should be the number one item on every spy fan's Christmas list this year! Besides that mysterious extra disc, it already includes not only all seven seasons of the original Sixties and Seventies classic, but also both revival seasons from the late Eighties! [UPDATE:No price has been announced yet, but Even at the ridiculously steep SRP of $379.99 (discounted to $265.99 on Amazon), I'm still going to say it's worth it if you don't already own this series. Mission: Impossible is one of the best spy shows of all time, with probably the second most instantly recognizable spy music of all time to boot. It's certainly my favorite American spy series of its era. But I'm not going to get into all that here. Instead, why don't you check out my extensive reviews of the individual seasons below?

UPDATE: In a subsequent post, TV Shows On DVD has confirmed that there is indeed a bonus disc. Curses! My wallet is recoiling. The contents remain somewhat mysterious. All they report so far is "special bonus features such as brand-new featurettes, episodic promos, a photo montage with a vocal version of the Mission: Impossible Theme (performed by The Kane Triplets), 'and more!'" A lot is going to depend on that "and more" and the nature of the featurettes. If they actually got the surviving cast members to do new interviews, or included some of those reunions they did on various TV shows over the years (or the M:I segment of last year's PBS documentary about crime dramas), or, of course, the Diagnosis Murder episode, then it could yet prove well worthwhile. But episodic promos (much as I enjoy them) alone are not enough to whet my appetite, to say nothing of a photo montage with a vocal version of the theme...

Man, I love Mission: Impossible!

And I miss Peter Graves. I sure wish he were still around to participate in these featurettes.

Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Seventh TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Sixth TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Fifth TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Fourth TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Third TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Second TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The First TV Season here.

Tradecraft: NBC Explores Serious Spying With M.I.C.E.

Fox isn't the only network scooping up spy scripts this pilot season. NBC's last major dalliance with primetime spies was the light and fluffy, escapist 80s throwback Undercovers. Now they seem keen to launch a much more serious espionage show, and they're following the Homeland playbook. Deadline reports that the network has made a deal with Peter Berg (The Kingdom) to write and direct a pilot based, like Homeland, on an Israeli format. The NBC show is called M.I.C.E., and I hope they decide to change that. When I saw the headline, I assumed it was going to be something along the lines of G-Force, featuring silly animal agents. But M.I.C.E. stands for "Money, Ideology, Coercion and Ego," motivations that lead spies to betray their countries. It's a fascinating concept, but a terrible title. Hopefully they'll realize that before it goes to series, and won't doom a potentially gripping spy series with a title bound to keep audiences from discovering it! The Israelis knew better; they're version was called The Gordin Cell. Here's how the trade blog describes that series:
Gordin Cell revolves around the Gordin family and centers on Israeli-born Eyal Gordin, a decorated Israeli Air Force officer in a high-security post who loves his country and family. His parents Michael and Diana, Grandmother Nina and elder sister Natalia emigrated from the USSR in 1990. Eyal has no idea that his parents were Russian spies. When Miki and Diana’s former handler appears one day, demanding that they recruit their son into espionage activity (watch the scene below with English subtitles), Eyal faces an impossible dilemma: his cooperation with Russian intelligence determines his family’s fate, while his dedication to Israel’s homeland security tests his family allegiance. His country, or his family… who will he choose to betray?
It sounds amazing to me, and evidently it did to Berg, too, who told Deadline that he was "instantly mesmerized" by it. "I thought it was really smart, widely  original, and it worked as a complex family drama and a very authentic, high-stakes espionage thriller.” So original that the feature director was inspired to write and direct his first TV pilot since the critically acclaimed Friday Night Lights. But while Berg left that show to Jason Katims to run (who recently sold his own spy pilot to Fox), the trade blog reports that "he plans to stick around [this time], spending the first season working in the writers room and being involved with production." Berg points out that Russian spies are still topical (as evidenced by that spy ring the FBI rounded up a few years ago), and I tend to agree. I'm very much looking forward to FX's upcoming 1980s-set Soviet spy drama The Americans, and I'm equally keen on seeing a suspenseful contemporary take on the subject. I just hope NBC can do right by a show like this, which sounds more naturally suited to cable. And I also hope they do something about that title!

Sep 17, 2012

Upcoming Spy DVDs: Special Branch

Acorn will release Special Branch: Set 1 on September 25, marking the Region 1 DVD debut of the gritty Thames Television police/spy series that ran from 1969-74. It's called Set 1, but rather confusingly, Acorn are following the same strategy they did with Callan: they're beginning with the first color season from the Seventies, which is actually the show's third season. However, that decision works a little better for Special Branch than it did for Callan because whereas that show plunged viewers confusingly into the middle of an ongoing, serial plotline, Special Branch was completely rebooted when it switched to color. Even the stars are different. Derren Nesbitt lead the cast of the black and white series; the color episodes star George Sewell and Callan's Patrick Mower. I actually prefer the monochrome episodes (though they have a rap for being "slow" compared with the more action-packed color seasons), but hopefully Acorn will get around to releasing them eventually. Despite the very conspicuous "Classic British SPY Drama" tag on the packaging (which I certainly think looks cool), I'd say that Special Branch leans more toward a cop show overall. (The first episode won't give you any hint of espionage.) But there are plenty of spy-oriented episodes down the line, and Callan fans will be attracted to the similar gritty tone, as well as the presence of Mower.

Tradecraft: Howard Gordon Teams With Shaun Cassidy for Family Spy Pilot

Here's the third spy pilot script ordered by Fox in the course of a week: Deadline reports that spy TV veteran Howard Gordon (24, Homeland, TNT's Legends pilot) and Shaun Cassidy (Cover Me, American Gothic) have teamed up to create an "adrenalized" adventure drama about a "dysfunctional" family of spies for Fox. According to the trade blog, "the untitled project centers on two former CIA operatives — now married with teenagers — who are forced to face their past when their identities are exposed and they’re nearly killed. Now they’ll need to start over, under new cover, this time with their children in on the secret as they tackle cases, come together as a family, and elude those who would rather see them dead." Cassidy will pen the pilot, and he and Gordon will executive produce. This is the third spy script Fox has ordered in a week, following Anonymous (which also pairs two veteran producers with different specialties) and The Prodigy.

Tradecraft: And Another Fox Spy Script Order....

Well, hopefully one of these sticks eventually! Fox seems, rightly, determined to have a spy series on the air again. (24 was a huge hit for the network for eight seasons, but they haven't had another spy show since.) The latest candidate (following last week's order of Anonymous), according to Deadline, is The Prodegy, from Life creator Rand Ravich. (I'm talking about the acclaimed 2007 TV series Life, which starred a pre-Homeland Damian Lewis, not equating Ravich to one of Ridley Scott's life-creating "engineers!") According to the trade blog, The Prodigy "centers on a young CIA officer who has to infiltrate the New York City field office of the FBI on the hunt for agents who are working with enemies of the U.S." I like that log line, and personally, this sounds to me like the most interesting of Fox's three espionage-oriented script orders (though of course that's hard to tell from single sentence synopses). I love inter-agency bickering in spy fiction, and this set-up would seem to provide for a lot of it. Ravich will pen the pilot, and produce along with Far Shariat. Also contending for a slot on Fox's line-up are the spy series Anonymous and an untitled one from Howard Gordon and Shaun Cassidy. Is there room on the schedule for more than one espionage show? I sure think so...

Tradecraft: Fox Tries Spies Again

After ordering two spy pilots this past season (The Asset and one from Karyn Usher that never got a title) and then failing to book either one to series, Deadline reports that Fox is trying again to get a spy show on their schedule. They seem pretty determined, as they've ordered three spy pilots in the past week! Hopefully one sticks. The first order is for Anonymous, which is described as a "character-driven action dramady" and comes from Emmy-winning character-driven dramady specialist Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) and action veteran Simon Kinberg. Anonymous "follows a rebellious, hot-shot wunderkind who is plucked as the CIA’s latest recruit and teamed with a seasoned handler with whom he forms an unlikely father-son relationship." The last network spy dramady about a hotshot wunderkind plucked as the CIA's latest recruit was CHAOS, and that one didn't work out so well. But with Katims and Kinberg, this one at least has the DNA to succeed. (Then again, so did that one.) Kinberg's most recent spy movie, This Means War (review here), may have been a misstep, but his genre debut, Mr. & Mrs. Smith (written while he was still in college), was a very impressive script in a surprisingly difficult hybrid genre, the action romcom. (Try writing one if you don't believe me!) For that alone, I'll always be interested n his projects. Kinberg's extensive spy resume also includes xXx: State of the UnionKnight and Day (as a script doctor), X-Men: First Class (as a producer), the Robert Ludlum remake The Osterman Weekend and a TV version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith that never aired. He will serve as executive producer on Anonymous along with Katims, who will write the pilot. According to the trade blog, Katims "expressed interest in the CIA arena, which he had never tackled before." He was introduced to Kinberg, and teamed up with him because of his expertise in the genre.

Sep 15, 2012

Final U.S. Skyfall 1-Sheet Poster

The final U.S. 1-sheet poster for Skyfall has been unveiled on the official James Bond Facebook page, using the same artwork as the UK quad, but configured slightly differently. (I prefer the quad—though it is interesting how little of the gun barrel is required after so many years to convey the 007 logo.) The more prominent dust (free from a credits block) on this one does make the reclining Daniel Craig seem more in action than at rest, which is good. All in all, it still strikes me a an odd pose to go with for the film's main campaign, but I do like how it recalls one of the silhouettes used in the 1980s Berkley paperback line of Bond books (the one used on Goldfinger).

Sep 14, 2012

Tradecraft: Dead Spy Running Becomes Dead DJ Running?

I've been intrigued about the movie Dead Spy Running ever since Jon Stock's novel was first optioned by Warner Bros. in 2008, prior to publication, for McG (This Means War) to direct. I've been excited for it ever since I read the book (read my review here), which I though would make a great film. So I'm always happy to see news on this project, because I like to see that it's still alive in some form after passing through the hands of McG (who is still attached as a producer), Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) and Jonathan Levine (50/50). But, this time... I'm afraid I'm less happy. Because the story itself (and the main character) appear to have morphed in such a way as only Hollywood can do. In fact, it sounds like the current incarnation of the film has very little in common with the book at all. I liked that Dead Spy Running's hero, Daniel Marchant, presented a new kid of MI6 agent to anchor a franchise--decidedly different from Bond, but not Bourne, either. A spy for this generation, in the employ of a government. Since Bourne (and his successor) are always running from their government instead of working for it, this was an opportunity to start a new spy franchise built around a secret agent who was actually an active secret agent. But no more. Now, in a ridiculous twist that turns the whole movie (and, sadly, probably the book by association) into a punchline, he has become an electronic dance DJ. Here's how the trade blog describes the plot of the film at this juncture, no doubt in a synopsis provided by the studio:
Dead Spy Running follows Danny Marchant, a young DJ on the rise in the international world of electronic dance music. Danny is forced to go on the run with a beautiful secret agent assigned to watch him after he is framed for his MI6 agent father’s murder. As Danny tries to clear his name and avenge his father’s death, he gets deeper into the world of espionage while never forgetting his background and skills as a DJ. Danny must ultimately rise up and defeat a terrorist intent on destroying western civilization in an adventure that takes him through the world to London, Paris, Corsica, New York, and Mumbai.
That's right, "while never forgetting his background and skills as a DJ." Sigh. This is an awful development. I can see the appeal of an Everyman hero as opposed to a trained secret agent... but that's not this story! Write your own movie about a DJ caught up in espionage, Warner Bros., and adapt the freaking novel that Jon Stock wrote and you optioned! Not only is the lead character's profession changed (and quite preposterously, at that), but the plot details described here differ significantly from that of the book as well. Even the locations are different. I hate to see a good book become something totally different in the adaptation. Sure, The Bourne Identity strayed wildly from Robert Ludlum's (superior) plot, but at least the basics of the premise remained more or less intact. This is something else, and a huge mistake for the studio, who have a trilogy of books on their hands with the potential to make a blockbuster franchise on their own merit. I suspect all of the intelligent inter-agency squabbling that I enjoyed even more than the action in the novel will be gone as well. Suddenly, this project has gone from being one I was most looking forward to to one that I hope doesn't actually get made--at least in this incarnation.

All that said, assuming that this ludicrous change of direction came from the studio or production company rather than the new creative team, I'm certainly happy to see a writer and director successfully shift from an all-horror filmography to spy movies. The project's latest scribe, Simon Barrett, and director, Adam Wingard, previously collaborated on well-received shockers like A Horrible Way to Die and You're Next, as well as contributing to the anthology titles V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. I look forward to seeing their take on the espionage genre, but I hope that the first thing they do is read the book, and steer the project back in that direction. Can it be improved upon? Sure! I'd welcome that. But not by making the spy a DJ. The basic blueprint is all there in Jon Stock's novel, and the hero as written has all the franchise potential a studio could hope for.

Sep 10, 2012

Tradecraft: A Most Wanted Man Cast Confirmed

There's been a lot of speculation over the cast of Anton Corbijn's John le Carré adaptation A Most Wanted Man, largely stemming from a pair of Variety stories that implied that newly cast actors were replacing previously cast actors. As I suspected all along, that was definitely not the case. Following an official announcement at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Hollywood Reporter confirms that Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright and Willem Dafoe are all starring in the film. Dafoe's not replacing Hoffman or McAdams or anyone else; he plays an entirely different part! Presumably that part will be Tommy Brue, who is still described in the trade's synopsis as a "British private banker," but could conceivably have been reimagined as an American. (Or, perhaps, Dafoe will be doing an accent. Hoffman, after all, is playing a German spy.) Demerest Films has come aboard to co-finance the film. I'm glad it's all coming together! I'm always excited for new le Carré adaptations, and this is certainly one of the major upcoming spy movies on my radar right now.

Tradecraft: Universal Plots a Second Safe House

Normally, I'm totally behind any and all new spy movies. There are very few that I don't look forward to, even if some of them end up letting me down. But according to Deadline, Universal's managed to find one that really doesn't need to be made: a sequel to this year's Safe House. That's right, the bland Bourne imitation that killed off the only remotely interesting character, thus rendering any sequel pretty pointless unless it cops out and undoes the events of the first film. (Which would also be dissatisfying.) And which then had the primary remaining character make a kind of idiotic decision that further precludes any sort of sequel. But I'm sure they'll come up with something since the first film managed to make a buck off of audiences who fell for that poster, which recycled imagery from The Bourne Ultimatum. They've hired David Guggenheim, who penned the first flick, to give it a try, anyway.

Sep 9, 2012

Tradecraft: Bruce Willis to Mentor Mitch Rapp?

Variety reports that Bruce Willis is in talks to join the cast of CBS Films' inaugural Mitch Rapp thriller, American Assassin. The studio has been trying to bring Vince Flynn's CIA hero to the big screen for quite a while now, initially aiming to adapt Consent to Kill, but later opting to begin with the prequel novel American Assassin, which tells Rapp's origin story. That's similar to Paramount's strategy with Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, a character the studio plans to reintroduce to the viewing public via an original origin tale. In that movie, Kevin Costner will play Jack Ryan's CIA mentor; in this one, that's the role Willis is circling: Rapp's CIA mentor. Rapp himself has yet to be cast. As previously reported, Traitor's Jeffrey Nachmanoff will direct. Mike Finch penned the script, which, according to the trade, "revolves around Mitch Rapp, a former Syracuse grad student who joins the CIA after his girlfriend his killed by a terrorist attack. Willis will play a CIA operative who serves as a mentor to Rapp."

Sep 8, 2012

Tradecraft: Doug Liman to Direct Adaptation of Olen Steinhauer's Tourist Written by Covert Affairs Duo

Last time we heard about a movie version of Olen Steinhauer's The Tourist, the novel had been snapped up at the manuscript stage by George Clooney and Grant Heslov's production company with Clooney looking to star in and/or direct. That was in 2007. Now five years have passed and a whole other spy movie called The Tourist (bearing no relation whatsoever to Steinhauer's novel) has come and gone and pretty much ruined the title for this movie, while Steinhauer has penned two excellent sequels about secret agent Milo Weaver, The Nearest Exit and An American Spy. And the rights have changed hands. Today, Deadline reports that Sony has acquired the rights to all three Milo Weaver novels for Doug Liman to direct at least the first one. That's a great match! Steinhauer's novels have cemented his reputation as being the closest thing there is today to an heir to John le Carré. (The Nearest Exit is the cleverest mole hunt novel I've read in a long, long time—or is there a mole after all? The books must be read in order, though.) They've got more action than the average le Carré yarn, but they share the master's ingenious twists, rich characters, and cynical outlook on the espionage business. And Doug Liman is one of the best espionage directors working today, having helmed The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Fair Game, and produced the USA TV series Covert Affairs. This should prove a perfect match, with the material falling somewhere between Bourne and Fair Game, taking Liman into somewhat new spy territory. And he's got good help tackling it! The trade blog reports that his Covert Affairs collaborators, series creators Matt Corman and Chris Ord, will pen the script. Again, that seems like a perfect match for the material as they've proven week after week that they're capable of telling mature, exciting spy stories grounded in reality. The writers will work on the script while Liman directs the Tom Cruise sci-fi movie All You Need is Kill, and then hopefully the director will move on to Milo Weaver. Whatever this ends up being called (since it surely can't be The Tourist now, sadly), it's just shot to the top of my list of spy projects to be excited for in the next couple of years! Steinhauer's books are the real deal, and, handled correctly, should make great movies.

Sep 5, 2012

Sky Movies HD Promo Cuts All the Bonds Into One Spectacular Car Chase

This is just an ad for the UK's new Sky HD 007 satellite channel (which is, admittedly, a pretty cool thing, since it collects all the Bond movies in HD in the same place), but it's really well done. Sky's editors have cut together several classic Bond car chases to create one massive cliffside car chase involving all six official James Bonds! The opening Aston Martin chase from Quantum of Solace proved an especially good framework to cut the other pieces into since it itself was so nonsensically edited to begin with! I particularly like the exchange created between Brosnan and Moore:

Expanded Dr. No 50th Anniversary Soundtrack on the Way

The excellent spy music site Spy Bop Royale provides the heads-up that there's an unexpected treat coming this fall for fans of James Bond music! The Harkit label (who have put out such spy essentials as Modesty Blaise and Fathom) will release a special 50th Anniversary Edition of the soundtrack to Dr. No in October. According to the intriguing copy in their newsletter (reprinted verbatim), "we have assembled what we believe is the DEFINITIVE edition of the music from the soundtrack of this genre-changing movie with many previously unreleased cues. Long a contentious issue of who actually wrote and/or scored the movie (John [Barry] finally revealed on British radio that it was he who wrote the famous guitar-led theme.) This album seeks to put many myths to bed. With a brand new essay by noted and respected film music writer, Randall Larson, we hope you will enjoy this outstanding release." Sounds wonderful! And potentially controversial! But is it authorized by Danjaq? There is no official Bond logo anywhere on the cover (which looks a bit more Tomorrow Never Dies than Dr. No), adding to the mystery. But the CD is real. The catalog number is HRKCD 8395.

Sep 4, 2012

New James Bond Coke Zero Commercial

Once again, Coke Zero is a promotional partner for the new James Bond movie. There's no new footage of Skyfall in this new Coke Zero commercial, and there's no sneak preview of the new theme song (the last one utilized an instrumental version of Jack White's song prior to its official debut, much to the singer's annoyance), but I kind of love this ad. It's for more creative than the Quantum of Solace-era tie-in, and it succeeds better than most that have gone this route in celebrating Bond fandom rather than Bond.
(via MI6)