May 25, 2014

Trailer: The Equalizer

The first trailer is out for the big screen remake of The Equalizer. Denzel Washington steps into the role made famous by Edward Woodward on the Eighties TV show, that of Robert McCall, a former intelligence agent who uses his unique skill set to help people with the odds against him. At least that's what the show was about. The movie looks a little different. And while it does have a shot of a car's headlights turning on (albeit a wide shot from afar), the classic Stewart Copeland theme is nowhere to be heard.

May 21, 2014

Tradecraft: Focus Features to Distribute Bastille Day

Deadline reports that Focus Features has come aboard to distribute the Idris Elba neo-Eurospy thriller Bastille Day in North America. This one's been in the works for a while. We first heard about it back in 2012 when Taken director Pierre Morel was attached. He moved on (to The Gunman, another neo-Eurospy title), but even down a director the film gained a great lead last fall when Elba (Luther) signed on to star. Now James Watkins, who did an excellent job conjuring scares for Hammer in The Woman in Black, is attached to helm from Andrew Baldwin's script. (Baldwin is currently writing the next Bourne movie.) Additionally, French actress Adèle Exarchopoulos, who was electrifying in Blue Is the Warmest Color (one of my favorite movies of last year), is attached to co-star. According to the trade, the Paris-set thriller follows "a rogue CIA agent forced to team with an unsuspecting American con-artist to thwart a terrorist attack on French soil." Production is scheduled to get underway this summer.

Trailer: TNT's Transporter TV Series

We've seen other trailers for Transporter: The Series when it originally aired in Europe and Canada (and some of us have even seen the first season of the series itself, if we imported a DVD set from Australia or France), but here's the first official TNT trailer (incorporating their new "Boom!" slogan) since the cable network scooped up the U.S. broadcast rights for the existing first season and upcoming second season. Originally conceived for Cinemax, the European series was full of excessive nudity that will obviously have to be trimmed out for TNT. Other than that, though, the series and network seem like a good fit.

May 20, 2014

First Trailer for the Kurtzman/Orci/Robert Rodriguez Spy Series Matador

Today's bringing a wealth of new spy trailers! Here's our first look at El Rey's upcoming spy series Matador (no relation to the Pierce Brosnan movie of the same name), about a CIA agent whose cover is an international soccer star. (Shades of I Spy!) The show, originally pitched as a "Latino James Bond," comes from the prolific minds of spy veterans Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Alias, Mission: Impossible 3), and the pilot is directed by Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids). Gabriel Luna, Nicky Whelan and Alfred Molina star.

Matthew Vaughn's The Secret Service Gets New Title, Poster, Trailer: Kingsman

Matthew Vaughn's (X-Men: First Class) adaptation of the Mark Millar/Dave Gibbons comic book The Secret Service has undergone a title change—for the better, I think. The Secret Service was always a pretty generic title for a spy movie (or comic, for that matter), but Kingsman, which was the title of the first arc of the comic, has a real ring to it. The new full title is a bit clunkier, but I suppose it's necessary to let readers of the comic know what it is, so movie is officially Kingsman: The Secret Service. And it's got an extremely cool poster, and a very promising trailer! The teen spy movie (a favorite subgenre of mine) stars relative newcomer Taron Egerton as a London street thug recruited into the secret service by his dapper Uncle Jack, a superspy played by Colin Firth (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Mark Strong (Body of Lies), Samuel L. Jackson (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and... drum roll... Michael Caine (Billion Dollar Brain) co-star. (All-time spy movie vet Caine plays the head of the secret service.) Check out the trailer:


May 15, 2014

A Eurospy-Inspired Wendy's Commercial?

This is kind of weird, but worth noting. If you've visited the IMDb lately, you've no doubt noticed some odd ads for what fast food chain Wendy's is calling their "first ever short film," something called The Star of Tuscany. While the main purpose of this short is to advertise the chain's Tuscan Chicken on Ciabbata sandwich, I find it fascinating that they've chosen a Eurospy template to do so. The gimmick is that users create the film's dialogue by providing their own subtitles for the spoken Italian, but the plot of the black and white film is clearly inspired by the Italian spy and caper films of the early Sixties. I had no idea that Eurospy had seeped so deeply into today's public conscious that it would ever even be considered as the basis for a major American ad campaign! If you're so inclined, you can check out the trailer and several parts of the film (which is being posted in installments) here, and even contribute your own silly subtitles, What's Up, Tiger Lily-style. Or you can watch Part 1 below:

Tradecraft: Forthcoming Olen Steinhauer Novel Optioned for the Screen

Olen Steinhauer's next novel, All the Old Knives, isn't due out until next year, but it's already been optioned for a film. Deadline reports that Chockstone Pictures partners Steve Schwartz and Paula Mae Schwartz have teamed with Nick Wechsler (The Counselor) to acquire the film rights to the book, and set Steinhauer to pen the script. That's exciting! Steinhauer, for my money, is one of the best contemporary spy novelists out there, and it's kind of shocking that his books haven't yet been discovered by Hollywood. (The most obvious one to start with is the first of the Milo Weaver trilogy, The Tourist. Last we heard, after a period of development with George Clooney's company, that was in the capable hands of The Bourne Identity director Doug Liman and Covert Affairs writers Matt Corman and Chris Ord... but there's been no news since 2012.) Here's how the trade describes the plot, which Wechsler describes as "an extraordinary two-hander that will attract extraordinary talent."
The book takes place in the idyllic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, where two ex-lovers–one CIA spy and one ex-CIA spy–meet for dinner and to reminisce. They relive their memories of the disastrous hijacking of Royal Jordanian Flt 127, which ended in the death of all onboard. It’s a failure that haunts the CIA’s Vienna station to this day. The question is whether Henry has come to dinner to rekindle the romance or get to the bottom of a conspiracy. It also becomes clear that one of the ex-lovers may not survive the meal.
Sounds good! The book won't be published until early 2015, but in the meantime Steinhauer has just released The Cairo Affair.

May 14, 2014

Anthony Horowitz on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson Tonight!

There's a reason why Craig Ferguson has become my favorite late night host in the last couple of years. (And why I'll be devastated when he goes off the air at the end of this year.) It's because he has impeccable taste. Not only is he a huge Doctor Who fan, but lately he's become a huge Foyle's War fan as well. See what I mean? Impeccable taste! Foyle's War is of course the excellent period mystery series created by Anthony Horowitz starring Michael Kitchen (Tanner in the Pierce Brosnan Bond films) as a detective solving cases in the seaside town of Hastings during WWII. Naturally, given the wartime setting, lots of his cases involve espionage. And in the latest series, set after the war in the early days of the Cold War, Foyle has gone to work for MI5 and the show has become a full-time spy show. You can watch Ferguson's entertaining musings about Foyle's War during his opening on 4/22 and 4/23; middle on 4/21 and 4/22 and 4/23; and ending segments on 4/18 and 4/21, as well as with guests like Eddie Izzard.

Anyway, the upshot of Ferguson's infatuation with DCI Foyle is that tonight Horowitz will appear as a guest on his show! (The Late Late Show airs at 12:35 Eastern/Pacific, so I'm sorry this notice comes a bit late for East Coasters.) Spy fans know Horowitz not only as the creator of Foyle's War, but also as the author of the hugely successful teen spy novels featuring Alex Rider. Hopefully Ferguson will ask him about those, too. (He's also written for Poirot.) And hopefully Horowitz will drop some hints on the future of Foyle's War! At any rate, it's a pretty rare occurrence to see the creator of a great British spy series interviewed on American TV, so it should be worth tuning in.

The entire series of Foyle's War can currently be streamed on Acorn TV.

Tradecraft: Disney Channel Orders Spy Comedy

It's not just the primetime networks who are getting in on the spy action this season. Deadline reports that Disney Channel has ordered a half-hour spy comedy called K.C. Undercover. According to the trade, the live-action, multi-camera series "focuses on K.C. Cooper [played by mononymous Disney star Zendaya], a high school math whiz who’s training to be an undercover super spy, following in the footsteps of her parents. Each episode finds the Coopers balancing typical family issues while performing undercover missions to protect the country." I'm on record as being a fan of the teen spy genre (and Disney Channel was home to one of the best teen spy shows ever a decade ago, the animated Kim Possible), so I'm definitely curious to check out this family series when it premieres in early 2015.

May 13, 2014

Tradecraft: Bourne and Mission: Impossible Sequels Get New Writers

Two major spy franchises (both of which starred Jeremy Renner in their most recent entries) hired new writers in the last week. The Hollywood Reporter reports (in separate stories) that Justin Lin's Bourne Legacy sequel and Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible 5 have each gained new scribes. Andrew Baldwin, who wrote the forthcoming Idris Elba neo-Eurospy movie Bastille Day, has been brought on to rewrite Anthony Peckham's draft of the sequel to the Jeremy Renner spinoff of the Matt Damon trilogy. (Yup, it's a sequel to a spinoff, at least two degrees removed from the terrific Robert Ludlum source material, but presumably it will still have the name "Bourne" in the title... which is just kind of awkward at this point. They should just go ahead and call it what it is: The Bourne Continuation.) It was previously reported that Justin Lin, the man who revitalized the Fast & Furious franchise, would helm the movie. Hopefully he, Baldwin and Peckham will manage to improve on Tony Gilroy's lackluster Bourne Legacy.

Meanwhile, Will Staples has been tapped to do a pass on Mission: Impossible 5, on which Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) had previously done a draft. According to the trade, Staples' background is mostly in scripting videogames, but he's also got several film scripts in development, including King of Heists, to which Jeremy Renner is attached to star. (Does the Renner connection indicate that the actor will reprise his William Brandt role from Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol? That's probably reading too deeply into Staples' hiring, but I'd certainly like to see Brandt return.) McQuarrie signed on to direct the fifth entry in the long-running Tom Cruise film series last year. He, Pearce and Staples have their work cut out for them if they hope to top Ghost Protocol, which was by far my favorite Mission: Impossible movie to date. Here's a hint, Will: do what Brad Bird did and look to the TV show for inspiration! Mission: Impossible 5 is set to open on Christmas Day next year.

Tradecraft: CBS and CW Pass on Spy Pilots

While ABC greenlit Agent Carter and NBC picked up two new spy pilots, CBS and its sibling network the CW both passed on their spy pilots. (I don't believe Fox had any in contention.) Deadline reports that CBS passed on Nikki Toscano's Red Zone (although drama Scorpion sounds like it might possibly have some espionage overtones), and the CW passed on the Kurtzman/Orci spy show Identity. Identity sounded very similar to Allegiance, which was picked up at NBC. Identity followed a young woman who reconnected with long-lost family members when she needed an organ transplant, only to be recruited by the CIA to be their eyes and ears inside the family, who they suspected of ties to terrorism. Allegiance is about a young man working for the CIA whose family is revealed to be Russian sleeper spies. I was particularly looking forward to Red Zone because of its stellar cast, which included Anthony Lapaglia, Kim Dickens and Aimee Garcia. Lapaglia played a former CIA operative now working as a high school football coach pulled back into action after a deadly terrorist attack in Washington D.C. According to the network's synopsis, he was "forced to investigate closer to home," which makes Red Zone sound a bit similar to Identity and Allegiance as well.

Both networks also lost existing spy series. Nikita ended its run on the CW this season, while CBS cancelled freshman drama Intelligence.

First Footage of Pierce Brosnan in November Man

The Solution Entertainment Group, who's handling international sales on the film, has offered us our first look at Pierce Brosnan's return to spying in the eagerly awaited November Man, based on the Bill Granger novel There Are No Spies. Bear in mind that this is a sizzle reel and not a trailer or a teaser, so it highlights action rather than story. Despite the terrible choice of music (I recommend watching on mute; there's no dialogue so you won't miss anything), the action looks pretty great. I can't wait to see a real trailer! That should be pretty soon, because, as previously reported, Relativity releases November Man in the United States on August 27. Olga Kurylenko, Luke Bracey and Will Patton costar. And speaking of music, Marco Beltrami provides the real score, and I look forward to hearing him do spy music!

Thanks to Jack Christian for the alert and MI6-HQ for the video!

Tradecraft: ABC Picks Up Marvel's Cold War Spy Series Agent Carter, Renews Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (UPDATED)

I'm afraid I fell behind on last week's flurry of network pickups. I was working all weekend, and now I'm catching up. But NBC isn't the only network to greenlight new spy series. According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC not only renewed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but also picked up another Marvel espionage series, Agent Carter starring Hayley Atwell. Set in the early days of the Cold War in 1946, Agent Carter follows Atwell's Peggy Carter, Captain America's unrequited love interest from Captain America: The First Avenger as she works for the covert agency SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), the Marvel Cinematic Universe's equivalent of the OSS and predecessor to S.H.I.E.L.D. Presumably over the course of the series, we'll witness the birth of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well, since it was revealed during Atwell's old-age makeup cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that she was one of the founders of the organization (in its MCU incarnation, anyway). Ensuring tight continuity with the Marvel movies, Captain America and Winter Soldier screenwriters Stephen McFeeley and Christopher Marcus wrote the first episode and will executive produce the series along with Marvel's Jeph Loeb (author of such classic comics as Batman: The Long Halloween and Spider-man: Blue). Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, creators of the short-lived but highly entertaining Reaper, serve as executive producers and showrunners. (Another promising sign!)

If you've seen the Marvel One-Shot short Agent Carter (available on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray and DVD), then you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the show, which was ordered straight to series without a pilot... and the short is really pretty great! While the official synopsis says that "Peggy must balance doing administrative work and going on secret missions for Howard Stark all while trying to navigate life as a single woman in America, in the wake of losing the love of her life -- Steve Rogers," I've seen nothing so far to indicate whether or not Dominic Cooper (Fleming) will reprise his Howard Stark role from the movies and the short. What the trade does offer is that "sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Agent Carter will be a short-order series and likely used as a 'bridge show' to air during the second season hiatus of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with both series ultimately being tied-in together."

After a promising start, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. disappointed me for most of its first season, but finally started to live up to its potential following the closely tied in events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. (I was delighted when we finally got an action scene with Coulson's flying Corvette, but it still wasn't the full-blown chase scene I so desperately crave...) I look forward to seeing it come into its own in Season 2. But even more, I look forward to seeing the irrepressible Hayley Atwell in a period spy series! While what I'd love to see most would be a S.H.I.E.L.D. series set in the Sixties (the Golden Age of Steranko's Nick Fury comic book), I'll settle pretty happily for the combination of one set now and (even better) one set in the late Forties! Atwell was excellent in a similar role in another 1940s-set spy miniseries, Restless (based on a novel by recent James Bond author William Boyd), playing a British agent operating in the United States on the eve of America's involvement in WWII.

UPDATE: Hayley Atwell confirmed that the Agent Carter series order is for eight episodes, which will bridge the two halves of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season.

Read my S.H.I.E.L.D. primer here.

Fox and M. Night Shyamalan Offer New Twist on The Prisoner

I had heard about M. Night Shyamalan's new Fox series Wayward Pines, and I knew it was being billed as his homage to (or ripoff of, depending on your point of view) Twin Peaks, but I didn't realize until watching this trailer unveiled today that it would be equally inspired by The Prisoner. Or so it looks. I'm honestly not sure if that makes me want to see it, or especially keen to avoid it. We've already had one bad remake of The Prisoner (though at least that introduced us to Hayley Atwell) and Shyamalan hasn't impressed me since Unbreakable. But for better or worse, here's a look at Shyamalan's tale of a "secret agent" (as everyone keeps calling Matt Dillon's Secret Service agent) who wakes up to find himself sequestered as a prisoner in a mysterious village full of eccentric characters.

May 12, 2014

State of Affairs Trailer

NBC has released a long-form trailer for one of the spy pilots the network recently ordered to series. Here's an extended look at State of Affairs, the Washington-set Katherine Heigl CIA drama. Alfre Woodard, Adam Kaufman, Sheila Vand, Cliff Chamberlain, Tommy Savas and Leslie Odom, Jr. costar, and Joe Carnahan (The Blacklist, The A-Team) directed the pilot. The network is still searching for a showrunner. State of Affairs will air in the Blacklist slot, Mondays at 10pm following The Voice, starting November 17. I think this looks pretty good! Clearly taking some cues from Zero Dark Thirty, I like that this series looks to keep its analysts in Langley (or Washington), while SAD or special forces carry out the missions overseas. And from the looks of things, it does so in a pretty thrilling manner! (I would expect no less of Carnahan.) How far into the season do you think we'll get before Heigl's out in the field herself? I hope the writers resist that urge. We already have Sydney Bristow and Annie Walker.

May 7, 2014

Tradecraft: NBC Goes Spy Crazy With Pilot Pickups

With network upfronts coming next week, a number of pilot pickups are already being announced. This season saw more spy pilots in contention for series orders than I can ever remember, so it will be interesting to see how many actually make it to the air. NBC is the first out of the gate with spy orders, and amazingly they've picked up both of their spy pilots, plus an international conspiracy thriller that sounds sure to include an espionage angle. Deadline reports that NBC has picked up State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl and Alfre Woodard, and Allegiance (formerly known as Coercion), starring Hope Davis and Gavin Stenhouse.

In State of Affairs, Heigl plays CIA analyst Charleston "Charlie" Tucker whose duties include briefing the President (Woodard) daily on developing crises around the world. Charlie also has a personal relationship with the President, having once been engaged to her son before he died in a terrorist attack. According to the trade, "Charlie survived that attack and now is determined to bring the perpetrators to justice."

Allegiance was developed by Bourne series veteran George Nolfi, who wrote and directed the pilot based on the Israeli format The Gordin Cell. No doubt its series order has something to do with the success of The Americans on FX, because like that show Allegiance focuses on a Russian sleeper cell operating in the United States. But while the cable show is a Cold War period piece, Allegiance is very much contemporary. Stenhouse plays Alex O'Connor, a young, idealistic CIA analyst on the Russia desk, who learns that his affluent parents, Mark (Scott Cohen) and Katya (Hope Davis), are really deep cover Russian sleeper agents freshly reactivated with the goal of turning him as well. NBC previously explored a series based on The Gordin Cell last season, when Peter Berg developed it as M.I.C.E. That version didn't go anywhere.

Additionally, the network has also greenlit the international conspiracy thriller Odyssey, starring Anna Friel and Peter Facinelli. Odyssey follows multiple storylines around the globe all building to one massive industrial military complex conspiracy involving a multinational corporation secretly funding Al Qaeda terrorists. Although the main characters are a soldier, a lawyer and a hacker, a series with that premise seems bound to eventually dip into the Intelligence alphabet as well.

May 4, 2014

The Avengers Return to Comics With New Boom! Series

Boom! Studios may have wrapped up their ongoing Steed and Mrs. Peel comic, based on the greatest spy series ever The Avengers, but that doesn't mean they're done with the classic characters! They've just solicited a new six-issue Avengers miniseries, Steed and Mrs. Peel: We're Needed, written by Ian Edginton and drawn by Marco Cosentino. I'm very excited to hear this, because Edginton is one of my favorite comics writers. He's shown that he can be very faithful to source material in his four excellent Sherlock Holmes adaptations (and one equally excellent John Carter one) with I.N.J. Culbard. (I'm sure Cosentino will be great, but I can't help wishing Culbard were illustrating this one too.) Let's hope he brings that same fidelity to The Avengers. It sounds like he will from this interview on Bleeding Cool, in which he says that he grew up with The Avengers and also name-checks his favorite ITC shows. According to the plot description in Boom!'s solicitation, it sounds like Edginton's Steed and Mrs. Peel will also reference one of those ITC series pretty directly: "When an old associate of John Steed is killed, a grand conspiracy is suspected. This will take Steed and Peel to a strange village, where one of the spies finds themself a prisoner." The Avengers originally sent up The Prisoner and his Village in the classic Tara King episode "Wish You Were Here," but I look forward to reading Edginton's take. Steed and Mrs. Peel: We're Needed #1 is solicited in the current (May) Previews for a July release, so place a pre-order now at your local comic book shop.

I've been a fan of all of Boom!'s Steed and Mrs. Peel comics so far (as well as their reprint of the 90s Grant Morrison miniseries, "The Golden Game"), so if you're a fan of the show and you've missed any, check out the collected editions. (Obviously the name "The Avengers" couldn't be used for comics since Stan Lee blatantly stole it for that other comic back in the Sixties!)

Order Steed and Mrs. Peel: The Golden Game here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel Volume 1 here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel Volume 2 here.
Order Steed and Mrs. Peel Volume 3 here.

Read my review of Steed and Mrs. Peel #0 here.
Read my interview with Steed and Mrs. Peel writer Caleb Monroe here.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service Radioplay Now Streaming On BBC Site

BBC Radio 4's fourth James Bond radio drama starring Toby Stephens (Die Another Day, Cambridge Spies) as 007, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," is now available streaming on the BBC website. It will be available for six days, so be sure to listen to the 90-minute radioplay sometime this week! Alfred Molina (The Company, Raiders of the Lost Ark) plays Bond's arch-enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and Joanna Lumley (The New Avengers), a veteran of the feature film version of this story, plays his consort Irma Bunt.  Alex Jennings (Ashenden, Smiley's People) co-stars as Marc-Ange Draco, Lisa Dillon (Cambridge Spies) as Tracy, and Joanna Cassidy (The Fourth Protocol) as Ruby. John Standing, Julian Sands and Janie Dee reprise their roles as M, Q and Moneypenny, respectively. Martin Jarvis again plays Ian Fleming in a narrator role. The previous BBC radio adaptations starring Stephens have been "Dr. No," "Goldfinger" and "From Russia With Love."

May 1, 2014

Tradecraft: Statham/McCarthy Movie Gets a Title, More Stars

Bridesmaids director Paul Feig's Melissa McCarthy/Jason Statham spy comedy has gotten a title: Spy. Yes, that title's already taken by a UK sitcom (an American remake last pilot season didn't make it to series), but that doesn't seem to be a concern to Feig and distributor Fox. The movie has also gained a few more stars, beefing up an already impressive cast. In separate stories, Deadline reports that spy veteran Morena Baccarin (Homeland) and former White House staffer Alison Janney (The West Wing) have come aboard. They join an international all-star cast including McCarthy, Statham, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Bobby Cannavale, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz, Bjorn Gustafsson, and Verka Serduchka. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Baccarin will play a deadly CIA agent named Karen Walker, while Janney will play what Deadline describes as "top CIA agent Elaine Crocker." I'm not sure if by "top agent" they mean that she's at the top of her game or at the top of the Agency, as the M of this world. The latter would make sense given Janney's formidable resume. McCarthy plays a CIA analyst drawn into the field for the first time. While that's the same logline as the Steve Carrell version of Get Smart, Feig has insisted in the past that his film takes place in a realistic world and is closer in character to Casino Royale than Get Smart or Johnny English. The comedy presumably comes from McCarthy's fish out of water situation rather than the world. Spy began filming last month in Budapest and opens next May.