Dec 21, 2013

Bethlehem Trailer

American distributor Adopt Films have released an English language trailer (via Deadline) for Bethlehem, a stunning le Carré-esque spy movie set against the present day Israeli-Palestinian conflict that examines the psychological toll of espionage on its practitioners. Bethlehem, which already bagged six Ophir Awards (the Istraeli Academy Awards), was Israel's official submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, but shockingly didn't make the final cut. Directed by first-time helmer Yuval Adler and co-written by the Israeli Adler and Palestinian journalist Ali Wakad, Bethlehem tells a very Cold War type of spy story set in the titular city, about an agent of Israel's Shin Bet and his Palestinian asset torn between two masters and two worlds, the teenage brother of a wanted terrorist with ties to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Hamas. And it's a truly fantastic movie, one of the best serious spy films in years. I saw a festival screening earlier this year, and in a Q&A afterwards the director cited le Carré as an inspiration - and when I say the influence was obvious, regular readers will know that I mean that as high praise indeed! U.S. spy fans should definitely check this one out when it's released in limited markets on February 21, 2014.

Another Teaser For AMC's Turn

AMC has released the another teaser trailer for their Revolutionary War-era spy series Turn. This one reveals more of the show's espionage aspects. Turn is based on the book Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose. With a pilot directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Turn tells the story of The Culper Ring, America's first spy network. It stars Jamie Bell (Tintin), Kevin McNally (The Contract), Burn Gorman (Torchwood), Seth Numrich, Heather Lind, Meegan Warner, Angus MacFadyen, J.J. Field, and Samuel Roukin. It airs this Spring.

Dec 20, 2013

Archer Season 5 Poster, and Another Teaser

After a series of highly entertaining "ISIS training film" viral videos, FX has released a more substantial teaser for the upcoming fifth season of Archer. Instead of revealing a lot of new footage, however, it's mostly comprised of stuff we've already seen, but rehashed in a typically hilarious manner. The season poster, which has been online for a few weeks, takes its queue from Miami Vice this time around instead of James Bond or Burt Reynolds. Archer returns Monday, January 13.

Dec 18, 2013

Trailer For 3 Days to Kill

Here's the first trailer for 3 Days to Kill, Kevin Costner's bid for a Liam Neeson-like late career revival as an action hero in a Luc Besson-produced neo-Eurospy movie. This is another riff on Besson's successful Taken formula about an ex-CIA agent with a teenage daughter, but this time the agent (Costner) has been pulled back into his dirty business, and he's trying to keep it a secret from his daughter in order to foster a normal relationship with her. Adding another twist, the way the Agency lures him back in to kill for them again is by giving him an experimental drug that might cure his life-threatening condition - at the expense of hallucinogenic side effects. Besson co-wrote the script with his From Paris With Love collaborator Adi Hasak. Charlie's Angels director McG seems like the perfect orchestrator for Besson's brand of over-the-top spyjinks. I was let down by Besson's last effort, The Family, but I think this trailer looks very promising! And Costner looks a hell of a lot more invested in the role than Bruce Willis does nowadays in this sort of thing.

Dec 14, 2013

Two Teasers for the New Season of The Americans

Last year's best new spy drama, The Americans, doesn't return to FX until February, which still seems forever away! But the network has released two conceptual teaser spots (via Vulture) to whet our appetite. (Neither one seems to contain any actual footage from the upcoming second season.) Until February, though, we'll have to rely on ABC's Americans-inspired true story miniseries The Assets to slake our thirst for 1980s Cold War espionage and wigs.

Dec 13, 2013

Tradecraft: The Missionary Dead at HBO

This is some bad news. I was looking forward to the prospect of a Berlin-set Cold War spy series from (in part) Malcolm Gladwell, but apparently it's not to be. Deadline reports that the cable network has decided not to move forward with its pilot The Missionary, which has been in the works since 2010. C'est la vie. At least we've got a lot of other Cold War spy series on the way right now to keep us preoccupied, what with The Americans returning to FX, The Assets debuting on ABC, The Game on BBC One, Legacy on BBC Two (which has already aired in the UK as part of their fall Cold War season), and of course that epic 18-part adaptation of Len Deighton's Bernard Samson series that's in the works! (If that one happens, it will eclipse all others anyway...)

BBC Plots Cold War Spy Dramas Set in the Seventies

It's not just American television that's getting swept up in the Cold War these days. (See yesterday's news.) The success of FX's 1980s period spy drama The Americans on TV and Tomas Alfredson's 2011 feature version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in theaters have also spurred the BBC to revisit the era of its greatest ever spy series, the original miniseries version of Tinker, TailorDeadline first reported last July that BBC Two ordered a one-off spy drama entitled Legacy from the team behind the 2009 Nelson Mandela telefilm Endgame. Written by Paula Milne (who also scripted the upcoming Sean Penn neo-Eurospy contender The Gunman) and directed by Pete Travis, Legacy is based on a 2001 novel by Alan Judd. Charlie Cox (Stardust) stars as fledgling MI6 agent Charles Thoroughgood, who is ordered to reconnect with Viktor, a Russian diplomat he knew at university (played by Sherlock's Moriarty Andrew Scott) in order to turn him. Both the mission and Viktor prove to be more than they appear, and soon, according to the BBC Two blurb, Charles "is catapulted into a dangerous personal odyssey to uncover the truth but finds himself drawn into a lethal KGB plot to mount an attack within the UK." Meanwhile, he's conducting an affair with the wife of a fellow agent (The Hour's Romola Garai) as his own family history comes back to haunt him. Christian McKay (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Simon Russell Beale (BBC Radio's Smiley) co-star. Legacy aired in the UK last month as part of their Cold War season, and there is no news yet about a U.S. airdate. Endgame was broadcast stateside on PBS' Masterpiece, so I hope they run Legacy as well. Here's the trailer:

But that's not the only period spy drama cooking at the BBC. Late last year, BBC Cymru Wales announced The Game, a six episode Cold War spy drama from Being Human creator Toby Whithouse (who also penned one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who, "School Reunion"), and this summer casting was firmed up. Filming is underway and the series is scheduled to air in 2014 on BBC One. Tom Hughes (Page Eight), Brian Cox (The Bourne Supremacy, RED), Paul Ritter (Quantum of Solace), Shaun Dooley (The Woman in Black), Chloe Pirrie (Black Mirror), Victoria Hamilton (What Remains), Jonathan Aris (James Bond videogames) and Judy Parfitt (The Avengers) star. According to the BBC, "when a defecting KGB officer reveals the existence of a devastating Soviet plot, codenamed Operation Glass, the charismatic but paranoid head of MI5, known simply as Daddy (Cox), assembles a secret committee to investigate." In the tradition of such shows, each team member has a unique specialty. Every week the team uncovers a new traitor, another piece of the puzzle that is Operation Glass. I like it! More than just a period version of Spooks, it sounds like something in the vein of Mr. Palfrey of Westminster, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, or possibly even Mission: Impossible. Once again there's no information yet on a U.S. airdate, but I'd be surprised if BBC America doesn't pick this one up.

Dec 12, 2013

Trailer for ABC's Cold War Spy Miniseries The Assets

The Americans won't be the only 1980s Russian agents on the small screen this winter. The success of FX's incredible Reagan-era spy series (review here) has caused ripples on both sides of the Atlantic, resulting in new serious Cold War spy dramas in the works from ABC and the BBC. And more Cold War spy dramas is nothing but a good thing, no matter what the networks' motivations in buying them. In July Deadline reported that ABC greenlit The Assets, an 8-part miniseries (or "limited series" as they now call them) based on based on the book Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed by Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille, the CIA counter-intelligence officers who caught Ames. Aldrich Ames was one of America's most notorious and damaging traitors of all time, a Soviet mole who fed valuable intel to the KGB that led to the deaths of at least ten CIA assets. And like The Americans, The Assets also stars an Englishman named Rhys doing an American accent. Not Matthew Rhys, but Paul Rhys, who once played Simon Templar in a series of Nineties BBC radioplays and also guest-starred on Spooks (aka MI-5). Paul Rhys plays Ames, while Jodie Whittaker (who was truly excellent in BBC's Broadchurch earlier this year) plays Grimes and Harriet Walter (who also guest-starred on Spooks, and happens to be the niece of Bond villain Christopher Lee) plays Vertefeuille. Foyle's War's Julian Ovenden also stars. The Assets premieres Thursday, January 2 on ABC. Morgan Hertzan, Rudy Bednar and Andrew Chapman executive produce. Here's the trailer:

Interestingly, this isn't the only project in the works based on Circle of Treason. In October Deadline reported that the screen rights to the book (evidently separate from the television rights) had been acquired by Focus Features. While the trade blog (oddly) didn't mention The Assets in its story, it did offer a nice summary of the movie's approach to the story:
The movie is a dramatic thriller based on real events in the late 1980s and early ’90s in which sounds like Zero Dark Thirty-like dogged hunt for a CIA traitor. The authors methodically took down America’s most notorious traitor, and had to battle against the CIA’s institutional hierarchy and chauvinism to do it. Vertefeuille, who passed away, rose in the CIA from the position of typist to taking foreign postings in places like Ethiopia, Finland the The Hague before working in counterintelligence. That’s where she met Grimes.
After seeing how a coterie of agents and assets — some they knew personally — were assassinated or imprisoned in the Soviet Union, they became convinced there was a mole in their midst. The movie is the methodical hunt that brought down Ames, who received millions of dollars for  his treachery and nearly got out of the country before he was caught.
Barry Josephson is producing, Adam Schneider is co-producing, and Anne Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel are writing the script. Personally, I'm eager to see both versions of this deadly real-life mole hunt! If the film version is anywhere near as good as Billy Ray's Breach (which told the story Ames' equally damaging contemporary mole in the FBI, Robert Hanssen), then it will really be something to look forward to.

Dec 10, 2013

Tradecraft: A Most Wanted Man to Premiere at Sundance

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Anton Corbijn's John le Carré adaptation A Most Wanted Man (a movie I've been eagerly anticipating and following for 2 1/2 years now) will debut at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in January. As previously reported, Lionsgate will release the film in America. Here's the official capsule from the festival line-up:
A Most Wanted Man / Germany, U.S.A. (Director: Anton Corbijn, Screenwriter: Andrew Bovell) — Based on John le Carré's bestselling book, Anton Corbijn directs this modern-day thriller with Academy Award–winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, and two-time Academy Award nominee Willem Dafoe headlining an ensemble cast. Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright.

Trailer For AMC's Revolutionary War Spy Series Turn

AMC has released the first trailer for their upcoming Revolutionary War-era spy series Turn, based on the book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose. Directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Turn tells the story of The Culper Ring, America's first spy network. It stars Jamie Bell (Tintin), Kevin McNally (The Contract), Burn Gorman (Torchwood), Seth Numrich, Heather Lind, Meegan Warner, Angus MacFadyen, J.J. Field, and Samuel Roukin. It airs this Spring.

Tradecraft: Fast and Furious Director Justin Lin Takes On Bourne Legacy Sequel

Deadline reported last month that Justin Lin, the man who turned the lackluster and flailing The Fast and the Furious series into a stellar, unmissable international heist and car chase action franchise, is turning his attention to Jason Bourne. Er, sorry, to Aaron Cross, the Jeremy Renner character who inherited the Bourne mantle (but not name) in the disappointing 2012 spinoff The Bourne Legacy. After that one, the Bourne series could really use some of what Lin injected into the Fast and the Furious movies. He's probably also the most traditionally mainstream action guy (despite his indie roots with Better Luck Tomorrow) to land a Bourne gig to date. Will this mark some sort of weather change for the franchise? Personally I think the director of Fast Five (a way, way better action movie than it ever had any right to be) can probably craft a top-notch Bourne movie (or faux-Bourne movie anyway), but we'll have to wait until 2015 to see. A subsequent Deadline story added that the new film is slated to open on August 14, 2015, which means that in 2015 spy fans will be treated to new entries in the Bond, Bourne and Mission: Impossible franchises all in the same year! What a year that will be...

Trailer: The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box

No, it's sadly not a new feature version of the hilariously risible 1970s ITC series starring Gene Barry, but there is a new movie on the way called The Adventurer. The full title of this Adventurer is The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box. It seems to be a sort of Alex Rider-meets-Indiana Jones period teen fantasy spy movie, and it's got a surprisingly stellar cast for this sort of thing including Sam Neill, Michael Sheen, Keeley Hawes, Lena Headey and Ioan Gruffudd. The film opens in limited release January 10, when it will also become available on iTunes.

Dec 8, 2013

Great Deals On Spy TV

When Paramount first released The Wild Wild West: The Complete Series back in 2008, many fans were upset because it included the two reunion movies Wild Wild West Revisited (1979) and More Wild Wild West (1980). The problem was that neither of those had been included with any of the individual season releases, and the disc they were on was never released on its own, so their inclusion on the pricey complete series was seen as a slap in the face to fans who had diligently bought each season as it was released. But now as part of their Cyber Monday Deals Week (yes, they made up a day and then they made that made-up day a week), Amazon is offering the all-inclusive box set for a truly affordable price. What originally retailed for $100 is now just $29.99 for this week only! For that money, it's worth finally making the upgrade for fans who bought all the seasons but always wanted the reunion movies as well. I'm sure you can make back thirty bucks by selling off your single-season sets and break even. And if you never bought any of the individual sets, this bargain is a no-brainer. The Wild Wild West is one of the best spy series of the Sixties, and The Wild Wild West: The Complete Series is an essential part of any spy library.

Speaking of essential parts of spy libraries, there's another must-have complete series set on sale today (and this one is today only at this price): Foyle's War: The Home Front Files Sets. The Homefront Files collects seasons 1-6 (that's all but this year's post-war seventh series) of Anthony (Alex Rider) Horowitz's espionage-heavy and completely fantastic WWII mystery series starring Pierce Brosnan's Bill Tanner, Michael Kitchen, and today the set which regularly retails for $150 is just $39.99! Buy it for yourself or give someone an awesome Christmas gift... or send a strong hint to someone who's buying you a Christmas gift. Foyle's War is great stuff.

Dec 3, 2013

Tradecraft: Transporter Director Boards Sacha Baron Cohen Spy Spoof

Looks like Paramount is serious about that Sacha Baron Cohen spy spoof we first heard about in August. According to Variety, the project now has a title and a director. Louis Leterrier, who made his name directing the first and best of the neo-Eurospy wave with The Transporter (co-directed with Corey Yuen) and Transporter 2, will bring his action experience to the action-comedy Grimsby. Baron Cohen wrote the script with Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids), and the story follows a Bondian supserspy forced to go on the run with his long-lost brother, a moronic soccer hooligan. As far as I know Baron Cohen has not yet committed to star, but I think it's a safe assumption he means to play at least one of the two brothers if not both. Leterrier most recently directed Baron Cohen's wife, Isla Fisher, in Now You See Me. Apparently Baron Cohen was insistent on landing a director with serious action experience, which would seem to indicate that this action comedy will be heavy on the former, which should separate it from other spy spoofs like Johnny English or Austin Powers. I absolutely love Transporter 2, and I'm excited to see Louis Leterrier return to the action-comedy spy genre.

Another Archer Training Video: How Lana Deals With Ninjas

Here's another one of those great Dharma Iniative-style ISIS human resources training videos (this time courtesy of Vulture) promoting the upcoming fifth season of Archer on FX! Last time Sterling Archer taught us about gun safety; this time Lana shows the correct way to handle ninjas in the office: