Oct 30, 2015

First Trailer for Grimsby, Now Called The Brothers Grimsby

Sony have released the first red band trailer (which means NSFW) for the Sacha Baron Cohen/Mark Strong spy comedy we first heard about way back in 2012, when it was set up at Paramount. Spy veteran Mark Strong (Kingsman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) plays a British superspy saddled on his latest adventure with his idiot soccer hooligan brother, played by Cohen (Borat). Louis Leterrier, whose Transporter 2 remains one of the very best neo-Eurospy movies to date, directs, so hopefully we can expect some good action along with the comedy. (Though I have to say, I'm not at all impressed with the slightly nauseating first-person shooter-style footage in this trailer. Hopefully there's not too much of that.) Up until now this project has been known as Grimsby, but evidently it's now called The Brothers Grimsby, which is a better title, even if Grimsby is the name of the town the brothers come from rather than their family name. The film was originally set to come out this past summer, but ultimately fled the crowded 2015 spy marketplace for a February 2016 berth. That was probably a smart move as another spy comedy, Spy, ended up as a huge success this summer. Now The Brothers Grimsby is poised to be an early spy highlight next year - one I'm certainly looking forward to!

Spooks/MI-5 Movie Finally Gets a U.S. Release Date, Trailer, Poster

Americans been waiting anxiously for the 2015 movie version of the BBC TV series they know as MI-5 and the rest of the world knows as Spooks. Spooks: The Greater Good opened last May in the UK, but failed to materialize Stateside during the summer. But just as fans were starting to give up hope and think they'd have to import Region 2 DVDs, last month Deadline reported that Saban Entertainment would release the film, under the title MI-5 (no "Greater Good"), in the United States this December! And today we have a trailer and a poster for that release. And it's very different from the UK trailer we saw in March. Check it out below.

Last spring I speculated rather cynically that if I were the U.S. distributor, I would try to get the movie out before Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (the fifth in that series) to capitalize on audience confusion over the title MI-5 (which is of course derived from the name of the British Security Service, and has nothing to do with Mission: Impossible, which it pre-dates by more than five decades). From the poster, which uses imagery, colors and fonts similar to the various Mission: Impossible campaigns, it looks like Saban are doing just that. But coming well after Rogue Nation's hit theatrical run, it seems like they're trying to capitalize on that film's home video release instead. (Rogue Nation hits Blu-ray and DVD on December 15, and MI-5 hits theaters December 4.) I hope that scheme doesn't rub people the wrong way, because MI-5/Spooks was a fantastic TV show and therefore I am certain that the movie will be much, much better than the sorts of similar title cash-ins like Transmorphers released by The Asylum with the specific intention of confusing Grandma during her Christmas shopping.

Peter Firth (The Hunt for Red October) and Lara Pulver (Fleming) return as spymaster Harry Pearce (the only star to remain through all ten seasons of the TV show) and agent Erin Watts (introduced in the final season), respectively, and Tim McInnerny reprises his recurring role as Oliver Mace. The rest of the cast is filled out by newcomers to the franchise, led by Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones). Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty), David Harewood (Homeland), Elyes Gabel (Exit Strategy) and Tuppence Middleton (The Lady Vanishes) round out the ensemble. The strategy of bringing in Harrington as the new star instead of bringing back one of the few survivors of the series (which had a remarkably high mortality rate among its leads!) is clearly designed to make the film accessible to new audiences, while still rewarding seasoned viewers. From this trailer, it really looks like the film manages exactly that! I can't wait for the opportunity to finally see this movie!

MI-5 opens theatrically on December 4, but will be available on DirecTV in an exclusive window beginning a month sooner, on November 5. Watch the trailer below:

Read my review of MI-5: Volume 1
Read my review of MI-5: Volume 2
Read my review of MI-5: Volume 3
Read my review of MI-5: Volume 4
Read my review of MI-5: Volume 5

Oct 29, 2015

Covers for Dynamite's James Bond #3, Plus One More for #1

Midtown Comics has revealed an exclusive Robert Hack cover for Dynamite's James Bond 007 #1 comic book, kicking off the "VARGR" storyline by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters. And, in my opinion, it's the best one yet! Don't be fooled by the throwback look though. That's just this retro cover. Ellis's take on Agent 007 is thoroughly modern, though based on the character as portrayed in Ian Fleming's novels, not the movies. The writer has spoken extensively about what to expect from his run on Bond, which will last at least twelve issues. The Robert Hack cover is available only from Midtown Comics, and can be pre-ordered through their website. James Bond 007 #1 comes out next Wednesday, November 4.

Meanwhile, on Dynamite's own website they've revealed two covers and a story synopsis for issue #3, due out January 6. According to the solicitation, "Bond is on his way to break up a small, agile drug-trafficking operation in Berlin. The truth about what he's walking into is bigger, scarier and much more lethal. Berlin is about to catch fire, and James Bond is trapped inside. Dynamite Entertainment proudly continues the 'VARGR' storyline, the debut chapter of the ongoing James Bond saga as written by industry legend Warren Ellis and illustrated by Jason Masters!" The main cover is by Dom Reardon (below), with a variant (right) by Gabriel Hardman.

Oct 28, 2015

Big Finish Announces Prisoner Voice Cast

Big Finish, the production company behind the excellent audio dramas based on the lost first season episodes of The Avengers, has officially announced the voice cast of their upcoming Prisoner project, which the company is now referring to as an "audio revival." The identity of the actors, in particular the star, had been kept under wraps when the company released the teaser last month. Mark Elstob, a stage actor best known for his performances in Sir Peter Hall’s "Hamlet" and Octopussy villain Steven Berkoff’s "Salome" (as well as a stint on Emmerdale), will play the lead role of Number 6, the character originated on the classic Sixties TV show by Patrick McGoohan,

Writer/director and producer Nicholas Briggs claims to have "looked further and wider than [he'd] ever done for any Big Finish casting" to find the right man to step into McGoohan's shoes. I hope he's right in his ultimate decision! I was unconvinced by the snippets we heard in that teaser, but I'd like to be proven wrong. Julian Wadham set the high water mark with his performance as Steed in The Avengers, which was simultaneously fresh and respectful of Patrick Macnee's legacy. I hope Elstob manages the same feat. According to Briggs, Elstob is a massive fan of the original series.

Following the template established by the TV show, the audio series will feature a series of different actors taking on the authority figure in The Village of Number 2. In the first batch of episodes, Number 6 will match wits with John Standing (V for Vendetta), Celia Imrie (Highlander), Ramon Tikaram (My Spy Family) and Michael Cochrane (The Iron Lady).

According to the Big Finish announcement, "Other inhabitants of The Village include Sara Powell as Number 9, Kristina Buikaite as Number 8 and Jez Fielder as Number 17 — with Helen Goldwyn as the Village Voice, Jim Barclay as Control and Barnaby Edwards as Number 2’s diminutive butler. Sarah Mowat plays the role of Zero-Six-Two, a former accomplice of Number 6."

The Prisoner: Volume 1 comes out in January 2016 and is available to pre-order now on the Big Finish website as a CD set or digital download. The debut set contains four one-hour episodes, a Behind-the-Scenes audio documentary, and (in the physical version) a lavish color booklet.

Oct 21, 2015

Massive International Spy Film Encyclopedia Coming from Kiss Kiss Kill Kill Archive's Richard Rhys Davies

The Kiss Kiss Kill Kill Archive (found under spy links on the right) is one of the very best resources on the whole web for Cold War spy movies - especially Eurospy titles. And its founder, Richard Rhys Davies, is one of the most knowledgeable authorities on the genre that I know. Next year we'll all be the beneficiaries of that knowledge and his years of collecting espionage posters. Davies has announced that in Spring 2016 he'll release the massive, two-volume, fully-illustrated, full-color tome The International Spy Film Guide 1945 - 1989.

1100 pages spread across two hardcover volumes, The International Spy Film Guide will be the ultimate resource for students of Cold War spy cinema, spanning from the end of WWII to the fall of the Berlin wall and covering 2,211 Films from 65 Countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Each film covered will get a short review, a rating, and, perhaps best of all, a representative piece of color artwork from the exhaustive Kiss Kiss Kill Kill Archives. All this will be rounded out by a glossary, an index of co-production titles, alternative English titles, a film series appendix and a list of 200 missing films.

The website sums up the book as "an essential reference book for spy film fans, James Bond aficionados, genre enthusiasts, film academics, cult film specialists, cinema historians and lovers of Eurospy, Mexispy, Bollyspy, Blaxspy, Bossaspy, Asiaspy, Arabspy and Sovietspy."

What will this tome cost, you may be wondering? Well, it ain't cheap. The two-volume set will run you a cool £125... but all it takes is a glance at these sample pages to realize it will be worth every penny! Head over the the Kiss Kiss Kill Kill Archive for a closer look at even more beautiful interior pages. And start saving up now!

Oct 19, 2015

R.I.P. Christopher Wood, 007 and Remo Williams Screenwriter

I was very saddened to read on The Book Bond that screenwriter and author Christopher Wood passed away over the weekend at the age of 79. Wood's contributions to both the cinematic and literary James Bond are sometimes overlooked, but tremendous contributions nonetheless.

After poor sales doomed his early ambitions as a serious novelist, the Cambridge-educated Wood turned his talents to penning humorous erotic potboilers under the name Timothy Lea. In this realm, he found great success, creating the popular "Confessions" series. Beginning with Confessions of a Window Cleaner in 1971, Wood wrote 19 pseudonymous "Confessions" paperbacks during the Seventies (selling in excess of 3 million copies) and helped launch that decade's odd genre of British sex comedies (a craze that also kick-started the career of future Bond director Martin Campbell). Under his own name, Wood penned the screenplays for four popular Confessions movies (the first helmed by former Bond director Val Guest) which made an unlikely sex symbol out of shaggy star Robin Askwith. He also wrote the Michael York comedy Seven Nights in Japan (1976) for director Lewis Gilbert. (For Bond fans, this was Gilbert's second Japan-set film to feature Charles Gray, following You Only Live Twice.) This led to Gilbert bringing him to EON Productions' attention, and he was hired to write Gilbert's next Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me.

While Bond scripting was always a team effort (Richard Maibaum also received writing credit on Spy, and the writer of the previous three films, Tom Mankiewicz, did a lot of uncredited work), there is no question that Christopher Wood was at the very center of that team in the most formative period of Roger Moore's tenure as 007. While Moore had already had two outings as the famous secret agent, it was The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) that really defined his incarnation of James Bond. Wood and Lewis also stuck around for the follow-up, Moonraker, in 1979. While it's not difficult to believe that the Confessions screenwriter coined some of the series most egregious double-entendres, Wood contended that Moore himself deserved substantial credit for those. Whoever was responsible, it was the right formula for the time, and arguably saved the franchise, which had flagged early in the decade. Moonraker became the highest grossing entry to date.

From Adrian Harrington Rare Books
But Wood's contributions to James Bond weren't limited to celluloid. Because Ian Fleming had stipulated that the movie producers could only use the title The Spy Who Loved Me and not the plot of his novel (an experimental outing narrated by the Bond Girl, with Bond himself absent until its final third), the resulting movie bore no resemblance to the book. Consequently, it became the first Bond movie to get a novelization - and Christopher Wood wrote it, making him the third official continuation author, after Kingsley Amis (Colonel Sun) and John Pearson (James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007). To differentiate it from the Fleming title, Wood's novelization was titled James Bond, the Spy Who Loved Me. Moonraker, reinvented as a space story to cash on the Star Wars craze, also deviated completely from Fleming's novel (rather a pity, since it was one of his best) other than the villain's name. So Wood once again wrote a novelization, James Bond and Moonraker. Despite the vast disparity between the over the top adventures of the Late Seventies cinematic 007 and Ian Fleming's more grounded novels, Wood managed the neat task of reconciling the two takes in his books. (Even Kingsley Amis praised him for this feat.) The results were two continuation novels with a very Fleming feel, much more successful pastiches than Sebastian Faulks' later attempt to capture Fleming's style. As such, they've long been held in high regard by Bond fans, considered among the best of the numerous continuation novels. The UK hardcover first editions, from Jonathan Cape, are also highly collectible, since they had a very limited print run geared mainly towards libraries. Paperback editions from both the UK and USA are easy to come by and worth tracking down.

While he didn't continue to work on the James Bond films in the 1980s, Wood did collaborate with a former Bond director to bring another famous fictional secret agent to the big screen in that decade. He wrote Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins in 1985 for director Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger). Adapted from the popular Destroyer series of paperback Men's Adventure novels by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy, the Fred Ward/Joel Grey movie was sadly not successful enough to ever make good on the promise of its title, and we never got to see the adventure continue. But Wood brought to the table all of the fun of his Seventies Bond movies, and the results are enormously entertaining.

Wood continued to work throughout the Nineties and early 2000s as a screenwriter (writing scripts for Roger Corman) and novelist (including the well-received autobiographical showbiz satire California, Here I Am, which was praised on its publication by future Bond novelist William Boyd). Wood's final published work was a 2006 memoir of his time spent with Agent 007, entitled James Bond, The Spy I Loved. Candid, humorous, and informative (though direly in need of a better proof-reader!), it's a must-read for any fan of Seventies James Bond, and a fitting celebration of the indelible mark that Christopher Wood left on the world of 007.

Oct 16, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Movie Hits Blu-Ray November 17 With No Commentary, but Plenty of Extras

Guy Ritchie's 2015 feature film version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. hits stores as a Blu-ray/DVD combo on November 17 (still ingrained in my mind twenty years later as "GoldenEye Day"). The disc includes an Ultraviolet HD digital copy and a number of special features... but sadly no audio commentary. I was looking forward to hearing what Ritchie and his stars had to say, scene by scene. Happily, the release is far from bare-bones, with a number of special features. These include:

- The Guys From U.N.C.L.E. - a part-making-of, part-travelogue, all-attitude look behind the curtain.
- Spy Vision: Recreating '60s Cool: The music, the clothes, the design, the cars... the '60s have always been the coolest era.
- A Higher Class Of Hero
- Metisse Motorcycles: Proper - And Very British
- A Man of Extraordinary Talents
- U.N.C.L.E: On-Set Spy
- Don't Swim Elegantly
- You Want to Wrestle?
- Heli Restored
- A Family Thing

I like that the cover art incorporates the globe design from the TV series logo, and I like that it doesn't use the subpar theatrical 1-sheet artwork. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Combo Pack comes out November 17 and retails for $44.95, but of course you shouldn't have to actually pay that much anywhere. It's available for pre-order on Amazon much cheaper.

Pre-order The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) here.
Read my review of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015) here.

Oct 14, 2015

Tradecraft: Greaney's Gray Man Gets a Sex Change for Film

This has been a somewhat slow moving project. We first heard word of a movie version of Mark Greaney's debut novel The Gray Man back in 2010, at which point New Regency had the rights and Adam Cozad was scripting. In 2011 James Gray was attached to direct, and Brad Pitt was attached to star. Then nothing for a few years, then last year came the news that Captain America: The Winter Soldier writer/directors Anthony and Joe Russo were penning the script, this time for Sony. Now, in news that's sure to infuriate fans of Greaney's novels, delight those books' detractors, and leave most readers entirely indifferent, Deadline reports that Charlize Theron will play the title character. The Gray Man will become The Gray Lady. (I doubt that will really be the title; it sounds more like a ghost movie than a spy movie to me.) This will make it Theron's second spy movie in a row, following her starring role in the Oni Comics adaptation The Coldest City. (Another one she'd been attached to, however, Agent 13, appears to be dead.) Now neck-deep in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Russo brothers are no longer attached to direct.

Sony has employed the protagonist sex change effectively before, when Salt was rewritten for Angelina Jolie to replace Tom Cruise in the lead role. The nominal plot of Greaney's novel follows an assassin racing across Europe to evade all the world's intelligence services and save the kidnapped family of his handler, but in reality it's yet another spin on Robert Ludlum's genre-defining classic The Bourne Identity. And, in my opinion (as I've written before), it's one of the weakest retreads of that formula. But the formula itself is sound. So if the movie rejects as much from the book as Doug Liman's film The Bourne Identity did (unfortunately) from Ludlum's book, that story kernel combined with great European locations could still make a really good movie. And obviously changing the sex of the lead character is a fairly major step away from the text. So I'm curious to see where this one goes! I do hope, though, for the sake of Greaney's fans, that they change the character's name completely rather than feminizing the improbably named "Court Gentry" to "Courtney Gentry." That would leave room for future Gray Man adaptations that stay true to the character.

Oct 12, 2015

John le Carré to Publish Memoir in 2016

According to an announcement on his official website, spy novelist extraordinaire John le Carré will publish his memoirs in September of next year. The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life will be le Carré's first non-fiction book, though he has dabbled in that field with articles, opinion pieces, numerous forwards and introductions, and an enthralling afterward to Ben Macintyre's A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. Le Carré's life, of course, has comprised not only an astonishing writing career, but also an earlier career in espionage. Whatever he can reveal will no doubt make for fascinating reading!

According to the publisher's copy, The Pigeon Tunnel "opens up this extraordinary writing life for the first time. It is an exhilarating journey into the worlds of his ‘secret sharers’ – the men and women who inspired some of his most enthralling novels – and a testament to the author’s unique and personal engagement with the last half-century."

Beyond that, the author's literary agent Jonny Gellar of Curtis Brown promises "insights into the creative mind, tales of adventures in the movie trade, encounters with the great and the not-so-good, [and] intensely moving stories drawn from over 50 years of observing the world – told in prose other writers would envy," while Penguin Random House UK CEO Tom Weldon says, "The Pigeon Tunnel is the story of our times as seen through the eyes of one of this country’s greatest novelists."

The Pigeon Tunnel will be published in September 2016 in the UK in Viking Hardback and simultaneously in the USA and Canada by Penguin Random House. The audiobook will come out at the same time and be read by the author, which should be good. Le Carré is a gifted narrator, having demonstrated as much with abridged recordings of some of his novels and the unabridged audiobook of his most recent one, A Delicate Truth (which The Telegraph auspiciously selected earlier this year as the best audiobook of all time).

The timing of this announcement is somewhat curious, as it would seem to deliberately steal the thunder of Adam Sisman's John le Carré: The Biography, a nearly 700-page tome due out next month from Harper which had previously received the fiercely private author's official blessing. (Le Carré has famously sued to prevent other such publications in the past.) Le Carré has said before that the semi-autobiographical elements of A Perfect Spy were the closest he would ever come to penning a memoir (though The Naive and Sentimental Lover has also been described as a fictionalized accounts of events from the author's own life), so this decision is clearly a fairly recent one. I wonder if it was inspired by Sisman's manuscript – either because the author liked it and felt encouraged to go further, or didn't like it and felt the need to set the record straight himself?

Amazon Sale on Mission: Impossible

Today's Amazon Daily Deal offers huge savings on Mission: Impossible - both the TV show and the movies. You can get Mission: Impossible - The Complete Series, which includes all seven seasons of the original TV show, plus both seasons of the late Eighties revival series, in cool packaging shaped like a stick of dynamite with a familiar fuse, for just $99.99, saving a whopping 71%! If you don't have these seasons (especially now that they aren't streaming on Netflix anymore), or if you know a spy fan who doesn't have them and want to get a jump on your Christmas shopping, this is far too good a deal to pass up! The show is a classic, and definitely my favorite American spy series of the Sixties. (To be honest, even owning all the seasons already, I find myself tempted by this set just for the space-saving packaging which, unlike other gimmick packaging I can think of, is actually both appropriate and cool!) You can also enjoy great savings on DVD and Blu-ray collections of the first four Mission: Impossible movies starring Tom Cruise, and catch up before Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation hits home video on December 15. Hurry though! These prices are good for today, October 12, only.

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.

Oct 6, 2015

Tradecraft: Follett's Code to Zero Becomes Miniseries

Ken Follett's novels have proved fertile ground for miniseries in the 21st Century, but it's always his sprawling historical epics that get adapted rather than his spy novels. (The last Follett spy adaptation was the 1994 Timothy Dalton miniseries Lie Down With Lions.) That changed today when Tandem Productions, the company behind the hugely successful Follett miniseries The Pillars Of The Earth and World Without End, announced that they would next tackle the author's 2000 spy novel Code to Zero. Deadline reports that the StudioCanal subsidiary will make some changes to the source material, however, in adapting it into a limited series. The novel is set in 1958 and hinges on a Bourne Identity-like set-up, in which a man awakens on the ground at a train station with amnesia. Piecing his life together through detective work, he uncovers a conspiracy tied in with the launch of Sputnik and the early days of the space race. As regular readers know, I love Cold War spy stories, so I would certainly enjoy a faithful adaptation set in the same time. Unfortunately, according to the trade, Tandem will update the story to the present day, against the backdrop of a U.S./China battle for space supremacy. Well, it could still be cool! The company has a good track record with Follett adaptations, and also produces the gripping international crime series Crossing Lines. Studiocanal will handle world sales, but I have no doubt this will be snapped up by a U.S. cable network.

Oct 5, 2015

Writing's On the Wall Music Video

The music video for Sam Smith's SPECTRE song "Writing's On the Wall" was released today, and contains some new footage from the upcoming James Bond movie not seen in trailers. (There are also much longer shots from the film than we ever get in the quick-cut trailers.) Unlike Adele's "Skyfall" video, there doesn't appear to be any material here from Daniel Kleinman's title sequence.

Oct 4, 2015

Sutherland Says He's Done With Jack Bauer

Although notoriously fickle on the subject, Kiefer Sutherland's latest stance on another outing for his signature character Jack Bauer is decidedly unpromising. The actor told the BBC (via Dark Horizons) this week that "24 is definitely over now for me. It's one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given as an actor, but it's moving on without me. I want to do other things." He goes on to say that he'd like those other things to also be on television. If he sticks to this resolution, I'll be sad. 24 is great not because of its real-time format (which was groundbreaking at first, but had become tiresome already by the third season), but because of the Jack Bauer character, undoubtedly one of the greats in the pantheon of spy television. As he mentions, Fox is currently exploring options to continue the franchise on television without Sutherland or Bauer. That's a shame, because last year's "event series" 24: Live Another Day proved to be one of the show's most rewarding installments. The 12-episode season suited the material so much better than the previous 24-episode seasons, which always sagged in the middle, forced to employ lame subplots to eke out an entire day's worth of real-time episodes. But what I'd really like to see would be for Jack Bauer to return on the big screen... and then keep returning every few years until Sutherland, 47 (and already a grandfather on the show), becomes too old to shout, "Dammit, Chloe!" Fox put a lot of effort into developing a 24 movie in the years between the regular series going of the air and the miniseries comeback, but they ultimately amounted to nothing. If the hangup was figuring out how to make the real-time format work well in just two hours, I say they should just drop it. What I want to see in movies is that character, not that format. Jack Bauer could sustain a whole series of features without any storytelling gimmicks needed.

Tradecraft: James Wan is MacGyver Reviver

According to Deadline, Furious 7 director James Wan is teaming with R. Scott Gemmill (NCIS: LA) and original series executive producer Henry Winkler on a television reboot of MacGyver for CBS. The new series will be a prequel of sorts (though, of course, set today) focusing on a twenty-something Angus MacGyver. It's unknown if it will be set prior to his days with intelligence agency DSX or The Phoenix Foundation, but it will show how he acquired his knack for making bombs out of Bic pens and binder clips. (Do we really want to see him acquiring that knowledge? The fun of MacGyver was that he just knew how!) The new series grows out of Wan's previous attempts to get a feature off the ground focusing on MacGyver's college years. It would be nice if a MacGyver revival led to a second MacGruber movie!

Oct 3, 2015

Tradecraft: Lietch to Direct Coldest City Solo

Variety reports that John Wick co-director David Leitch will tackle the Oni Comics adaptation The Coldest City solo after the project was originally announced last May as a joint venture between him and his Wick partner Chad Stahelski. It was recently announced that Leitch had left the Keanu Reeves sequel, and now we know why. John Wick 2 will begin shooting next month in Budapest and Berlin, and that would have conflicted with the schedule for The Coldest City, so the pair decided to divide and conquor. The Coldest City was written by Kurt Johnstad, adapted from the graphic novel by Antony Johnston (Queen & Country, Alex Rider). Charlize Theron, fresh off a riveting performance in Mad Max: Fury Road, will star in the spy story set at the close of the Cold War in late 1980s Berlin. I'll be curious to see if the Focus Features movie maintains the tone of the gritty, black and white comic, which owed more to the serpentine, double- and triple-cross-filled plots of Len Deighton and John le Carré than to the more action-packed side of the spy genre typified by Fleming and Ludlum, or if the movie will have more action, since that's exactly what Leitch proved himself to be a master of in John Wick.

Oct 2, 2015

The Final SPECTRE Trailer is Here!

Today Sony released the final trailer for SPECTRE, which opens in just a little over a month in North America—and even sooner in the UK. I love it. It's short, but this might be my favorite one yet. Or the combination of that great, action-free first teaser with this one which mixes the menace of that teaser with the spectacle of the most recent trailer. I particularly love that this trailer highlights the combination of hot and cold locations. That mixture seems to be a key element of many of my favorite Bond movies. It hasn't occurred to me before, but SPECTRE's hot and cold partly mirror The Living Daylights' hot and cold locations—Morocco and Austria. And Daylights is one of my favorites. I can't wait for it to be November!

Tradecraft: Potential for Even More xXx Sequels and Spinoffs

The xXx franchise began life as a 2002 movie starring Vin Diesel as an extreme sports athlete turned spy. Diesel didn't return for the 2005 sequel xXx: State of the Union, but co-star Samuel L. Jackson did in his proto-Nick Fury role as eye-patched spymaster Augustus Gibbons. This time around Gibbons recruited Ice Cube as an agent with even more attitude than Diesel's Xander Cage. (Because everyone knows that the number one factor making a good agent is attitude!) So that movie could qualify as either a sequel or a spinoff. But since it underperformed at the box office, the xXx franchise has nestled itself nicely into a happy existence as a relic of the early 2000s. Now, after a decade of exactly no one clamoring for any further sequels or spinoffs... we suddenly find ourselves facing the prospect of both! In August, Vin Diesel announced that a sequel, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, would start shooting in December. (He reiterated that intention this week, though there have still been no director or supporting cast announcements.) On top of that, Deadline reported on Thursday that "Revolution Studios has entered into a multi-project agreement with Universal 1440 Entertainment, the production arm of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, to create new, non-theatrical productions based on properties in Revolution’s film library." Among the properties included in the pact... you guessed, it xXx! So we could potentially be seeing new theatrical xXx movies with Xander Cage and new direct-to-DVD (by which, of course, now I mean direct to multiple platforms) xXx spinoff movies featuring other extreme athletes or spies with attitude. (If they are all about original xXx co-star Asia Argento, I will suddenly become a lot more interested!) It should be noted, of course, that just because they can make direct-to-DVD xXx spinoff movies (akin to their very successful Scorpion King franchise) doesn't mean that Universal will make them. The Mission: Impossible franchise was once in contention for the direct-to-DVD treatment from Paramount (during the period of Tom Cruise's falling out with the studio), and of course that never happened.

Toby Jones Stars in BBC's New Joseph Conrad Adaptation The Secret Agent

Late last year we heard that the BBC was brewing up a new 3-part miniseries version of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent. Now the cast has finally come together, and filming is slated to begin this month. The Guardian reports that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's Toby Jones will step into the shoes of Bob Hoskins (1996), David Suchet (1992), Nigel Green (1967) and, most famously, Oskar Homolka (in Alfred Hitchcock's 1936 adaptation Sabotage), as family man and sleeper terrorist Mr. Verloc. Vicky McClure (Broadchurch) will play his wife, Winnie. Joseph Gilgun (Harry Brown), Ian Hart (The Bridge) and Jones' Tinker Tailor co-star Stephen Graham round out the cast. Adapted by Tony Marchant (The Whistleblowers) and directed by Charles McDougall (The Office), The Secret Agent is, as Jones aptly puts it, "a startlingly relevant" tale of a foreign spy posing as a British citizen ordered by his Russian handler to set off a bomb in order to provoke the government into cracking down on anarchists.