Mar 29, 2013

2 Guns Trailer

2 Guns stars Denzel Washington as a DEA agent and Mark Wahlberg as a Naval Intelligence officer who cross paths when they're each undercover, neither one knowing the other is an agent, and end up stumbling into a CIA operation. From this trailer, it looks like a lot of fun! The all-star cast also includes Bill Paxton (True Lies), Paula Patton (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol), Fred Ward (Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins), Edward James Olmos and James Marsden. 2 Guns opens August 2.

Mar 28, 2013

Tradecraft: Matthew Vaughn's Secret Service Lands at Fox

We've known for some time that Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn planned to re-team with comic book creator Mark Millar for an adaptation of Millar and Dave Gibbons' comic The Secret Service. Today, Deadline reports that Fox will distribute the film, and is aiming for a November 14, 2014 release date. Vaughn directed the excellent X-Men: First Class for Fox (review here). Before we get to the material itself, this news has a few ramifications for Bond fans to consider. First, it effectively takes Vaughn out of the running to helm Bond 24, something many fans had hoped for following Sam Mendes announcement that he wouldn't return for the franchise's next entry. (Vaughn previously directed Daniel Craig in Layer Cake.) Second, though no date has been announced for the next 007 movie (all MGM has promised investors is within the next three years), if EON is able to get the movie made in time for a 2014 release, then November 14 would likely be its target date (following the pattern of recent Bonds, anyway). Would that put two spy movies head to head? Or would Fox back down and move their upstart out of the way of the Daniel Craig juggernaut coming off of a billion dollar series best? Probably the latter, I'd imagine.

As for The Secret Service, the comic book book follows a hoodie-wearing London street thug who's plucked from his dead-end life by his Bondian secret agent uncle and given a second chance in Her Majesty's Secret Service. I love the teen spy subgenre, and thanks to his stellar work on Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, and most especially X-Men: First Class, I'm a big fan of Vaughn's. I like the premise of the comic, and indeed there's a lot to like within its pages as well. But there's also a lot that frustrates the hell out of me. Despite its wonderful art, the comic feels like a first draft. Despite Deadline's assertion that the film "closely follows the comic," I'm hoping that Vaughn and his frequent co-writer Jane Goldman will once again elevate the material far above Millar's comic book, as they did very ably with Kick-Ass.

Mar 27, 2013

Daniel Craig Unveils New Range Rover Sport

Evidently James Bond's association with Range Rover didn't end with the use of a Land Rover Defender in Skyfall. Or, at least, 007 star Daniel Craig's didn't. Craig drove the all-new Range Rover Sport into its unveiling event in New York City this week, and though there's no official 007 association here, Range Rover cut a suitably Bondian video to introduce the new SUV.

Mar 22, 2013

Tradecraft: Robert Redford Joins S.H.I.E.L.D.

Never one to yield, film legend Robert Redford (Spy Game) is backing S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier, according to Deadline. Robert Redford as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent? That's pretty awesome! (Come to think of it, he might have made a great Nick Fury, though that never occurred to me.) The trade blog doesn't mention what character he'll be playing, reporting only that "Redford is in talks to play a senior leadership role in S.H.I.E.L.D., the superhero collective run by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury character." Of course, Double O Section readers are well aware that S.H.I.E.L.D. is not a "superhero collective" (that's the Avengers), but a powerful high-tech spy agency. Since Jackson is in The Winter Soldier and Fury's in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D., it seems likely that Redford's character will be clashing with him. Otherwise, what's the point of adding another agent in the "senior leadership?" Unless... Is it maybe possible that Redford will play a modern-day version of Fury's best friend, Dum Dum Dugan? Neal McDonnough played Dum Dum in the first Captain America movie, set during WWII. No, the ages don't work out, but Hollywood always fudges that when it comes to WWII veterans. (Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer have both played them in recent years, despite being too young.) Plus, they could always say Dum Dum got a few drops of Infinity Formula over the years to slow the aging process. (S.H.I.E.L.D. junkies know what I'm talking about.) And it would make sense to include one elder character who Cap knew in his former life. Could it be? Probably not, but it's fun to speculate! I'd love to see Dum Dum turn up in a modern S.H.I.E.L.D. capacity!

UPDATE: I guess he's not Dum Dum, but closer to my first guess. Latino Review reports that Redford's character is named Pierce, and The Hollywood Reporter adds that "one source describes the role as similar to the one played by Ralph Fiennes ... in last year’s James Bond movie Skyfall."

Mar 18, 2013

Tradecraft: Tom Cruise Circles U.N.C.L.E.

Will Ethan Hunt open Channel D? The Hollywood Reporter reports that Tom Cruise is "in early talks" to star in Warner Bros.' looooong-in-the-works feature remake of the classic Sixties spy show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Following a lengthy period of development by Steven Soderbergh (in which many actors were approached, from George Clooney to Channing Tatum), director Guy Ritchie and producer Lionel Wigram (the duo behind Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes franchise) are attached to the current incarnation. Like Soderbergh before them, they've already been through a long list of actors, none of whom have stuck. (Most notably, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were approached to play series heroes Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.) According to the trade, "Sources have said that if the Cruise casting doesn't gel, Ritchie would be forced to move on to a new movie project." (His name frequently comes up as a directorial candidate for the next James Bond movie, but only in rumors.) On the one hand, I really want to see this movie made, so I'd like to see Cruise accept this mission if that's the only way it can happen. On the other, though, Cruise already has a popular movie franchise based on a Sixties spy series! Should the same guy topline both Mission: Impossible and Man From U.N.C.L.E. film franchises? He can't be all the spies! Or can he? One thing I find encouraging about this prospect is that it might indicate that Ritchie's U.N.C.L.E. movie, like Soderbergh's, remains a Sixties period piece. I didn't think that anyone else but Soderbergh would attempt a Cold War action spy franchise. The OSS 117 movies have recreated that era of filmmaking so well as parody, but we have yet to see a serious contemporary action spy movie set then (though X-Men: First Class did it very successfully with superheroes), and, personally, I'd love to see that. I have no knowledge that this is actually the case (I don't even know who's writing Ritchie's version; Scott Z. Burns penned the Soderbergh script), but it just seems unlikely that Cruise would pursue two franchises so potentially alike unless there were a big difference between them... like the period in which they were set. And I could actually see Cruise looking good decked out in Mad Men attire. But I can't quite see him as Napoleon Solo. Like George Clooney when he was attached in 2010 (early in the Soderbergh process), Cruise is now closer in age to Robert Vaughn when he reprised the role in the reunion telefilm Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair than when he originated it in the Sixties!

Mar 6, 2013

Tradecraft: Cinemax's Hunted to Return in Movie Form?

After the BBC cancelled the Melissa George spy series Hunted, a co-production with U.S. cable channel Cinemax, Cinemax announced that they were working with creator Frank Spotnitz to find a way to continue the show in a slightly different format. (Continuing it in its existing incarnation was impossible without the BBC's involvement.) All that was clear was that George's Sam Hunter character would return. Last November, a Cinemax representative told Deadline, "We are making plans with creator and executive producer Frank Spotnitz and star Melissa George to present a new chapter in the Sam Hunter mythology." At the time, I interpreted that to mean another season, completely overhauled and possibly with a new title. But apparently the format change is more radical than that. In a story about George being cast on ABC's new series Gothica, Deadline reports that "While the series ended when BBC opted not to renew it, Cinemax and Sportnitz have been plotting two-hour movies centered on George’s character, which has developed strong fan following." Presumably these movies will incorporate some of the ideas Spotnitz was reportedly already developing for Season 2.

Lamborghini Unveils the Perfect Spy Hunter Vehicle

Now this is the car they should use in that new Spy Hunter movie! (For the uninitiated, Spy Hunter is a videogame that centers much more on a gadget-filled supercar than Angleton-style mole hunts. Ruben Fleischer is directing a movie adaptation for WB.) At the Geneva Motor Show this week, Lamborghini unvelied the new space-age Veneno... and tell me that's not the pixelated G-6155 Interceptor come to life? I've previously pitched the Jaguar C-X75 and the new Lotus Esprit for this crucial role, but now my heart is set on this wicked looking Lambo.

Of course, the top and rear views are the most important in determining a good Spy Hunter vehicle... and this crazy vehicle doesn't disappoint from those angles. Just think of the weaponry and gadgetry you could load onto this thing! It looks like a submarine already, without even undergoing a Lotus-like transformation. Or a jet.

Bond on the Big Screen in Los Angeles

Angelenos have been blessed with an abundance of opportunities to see James Bond movies on the big screen in the past year. (Personally, I couldn't be happier!) Their next opportunity comes next month in Glendale. All throughout April, the Alex Theater will screen a different Bond film every Tuesday night with an array of exciting guests lined up. The series kicks off on April 2 with Licence to Kill accompanied by a Q&A with David Hedison. Octopussy follows on April 9 with Bond Girls Maud Adams and Kristina Wayborn in attendance. On Her Majesty's Secret Service screens April 16 followed by a George Lazenby Q&A. (If you've never had the distincnt pleasure of hearing the remarkably candid Lazenby speak, by all means make this a priority!) Films proceed in order from there. April 23 is Diamonds Are Forever, with Lana Wood and Trina Parks, and Live and Let Die closes out the month on April 30 with an encore appearance by Hedison (the screen's only two-time Felix Leiter before Jeffrey Wright), this time joined by Gloria Hendry. All showings begin at 7:30. That's a great line-up of movies and stars, and a real treat for SoCal Bond fans! Series subscriptions can be purchased at a discount online here. Individual tickets can be purchased here for $10 per film.
Thanks to Neil for the heads-up on this!

Mar 5, 2013

New Spy DVDs Out This Week: The Great Spy Chase

Today sees the release, from Olive Films, of the 1964 Eurospy classic The Great Spy Chase (aka Les Barbouzes - French slang for "secret agents" as Frederick Forsyth readers are no doubt aware) on DVD and Blu-rayLes Barbouzes, directed by George Lautner, is one of the all-time great Eurospy movies. And I don't mean that in an insular way, like it's one of those low-budget slices of cheese that we fans of the genre enjoy so much, but which your average modern movie viewer might scoff at. No, Les Barbouzes is the rare Eurospy film that you can show to your film snob friends and impress them with, too. It's a genuinely great satirical comedy, irrespective of its genre. It's also, unlike a lot of terrific Eurospy movies, not a James Bond imitator. If anything, Les Barbouzes plays more like a parody of the Dr. Mabuse movies, or of the espionage genre as a whole. Full disclosure here: it is a black and white, French language film that takes place mostly in one big house. (Well, a chateau.) While those elements might not sound like the ingredients for a top-shelf Sixties spy spoof, let me assure you that they all gel perfectly. (And just because it's set mainly in one location doesn't mean there isn't any gadgetry or kung-fu fighting!) The premise finds spies of all nations descending (under preposterous covers) on the home of a recent widow who inherited the patent to a new, top secret weapon when her scientist husband died suddenly. Each secret agent wants to secure the weapon for his own nation, and all are pretty much aware of who their competitors really are. Soon people in the house are dying at an alarming rate, frequently in rather hilarious ways. It's a great send-up not only of the spy genre, but also of Cold War politics at large—and America's role in a rapidly changing Europe. Lino Ventura leads the cast as the French agent vying for the widow's affections. Olive's DVD and Blu-ray present the film in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, in French with English subtitles. It's truly amazing that we're getting a Region 1 release of this overlooked gem, so buy it; support Olive, and maybe they'll put out more Eurospy treasures! Retail is $24.95 for the DVD and $29.95 for the Blu-ray. Both are available from Amazon for slightly less and other online vendors for even less than that.

Olive is also releasing an earlier Lautner/Ventura collaboration on DVD and Blu-ray today. Monsieur Gangster (aka Les Tontons Flingueurs) spoofs the gangster genre and apparently laid the groundwork for Les Barbouzes. I haven't seen it, but it's well regarded.

Mar 4, 2013

Neo-Eurospy Trailer: Erased

Wow! In the new Aaorn Eckhart neo-Eurospy movie Erased, Eckhart reenacts not one but two recent Liam Neeson entries in that genre: Taken (review here) and Unknown (review here). Regular readers will no doubt register no surprise when I share that not only am I okay with that... I'm excited for it! The Eurospy genre at large, after all, is built around the basic tenet that imitation is the sincerest form of... well, commerce, I guess. While that title may sound unfamiliar, this is actually a film we've been tracking for a long time... quite a long time, as a matter of fact. Eckhart's involvement was first announced in 2010 when the movie was called The Expatriate, and in late 2011 we learned that Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko (herself no stranger to the neo-Eurospy movement) would co-star. Oh yes: did I fail to mention that? Yet another reason to be excited for this movie! Olga Kurylenko, car chases, European streets, and heaping dollops of Taken and Unknown. Does all that equal a winning formula? Check out the trailer and judge for yourself. Erased opens in theaters on May 10 after premiering on demand a whole month earlier, on April 5. I'll be seeing it in a theater.