Jan 30, 2016

New xXx Cast Shapes Up; Will Ice Cube Join Vin Diesel in Extreme Sequel?

The cast for the third xXx movie (Vin Diesel's second, representing a return to the franchise he originated) is firming up. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Toni Collette (who will next be seen spying in Michael Apted's Unlocked) is the latest actor to join a cast that already includes Diesel, Jet Li (The Expendables), Tony Jaa (the awesome The Protector), Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), Ruby Rose (Orange Is the New Black), Bollywood beauty Deepika Padukone (Chennai Express) and Samuel L. Jackson, reprising his pre-Nick Fury role as Fake Nick Fury Augustus Gibbons. On top of those confirmed players, Moviehole (via Dark Horizons) has a very interesting rumor. It's possible that xXx 2: State of the Union star Ice Cube might also be back, joining Vin Diesel's Xander Cage (who was reported dead in the Cube movie) for the third film in the series. The website reports that "the plan seems to be for the xXx franchise to take it’s cue from the later Fast & Furious movies – acknowledge what’s come before, but make sure the characters from the earlier, weaker movies have something more to do this time around." That notion could jibe with the scant story details provided in the THR story: "insiders say it involves two teams of badasses that go head-to-head." Could we end up seeing the two extreme athlete agents (Cube's Darius Stone was chosen to succeed Cage because he had "even more attitude," a quality the NSA seemed to think made for good operatives) facing off against one another – and presumably ultimately teaming up to square off against a bigger threat? D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye) is at the helm of xXx3: The Return of Xander Cage, which has a script by F. Scott Frazier (The Numbers Station). Shooting is expected to get underway soon, with locations including Toronto, Iceland and the Dominican Republic.

Jan 29, 2016

Tradecraft: Purvis and Wade Working on Refn's Spy Movie?

Deadline reports that frequent James Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who have had a hand in every 007 script since 1999) are teaming with Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) on a movie set in Asia "with both thriller and action elements." Last summer it was reported that Refn hoped to make a Tokyo-set spy movie called The Avenging Silence, which would be thematically linked with his previous films Drive, Only God Forgives and Valhalla Rising, featuring a similarly stoic and violent male protagonist to those films. Could this be the Asian-set project Purvis and Wade are boarding? Their spy cred (which in addition to 007 includes Johnny English and the forthcoming Len Deighton miniseries SS-GB) would make them ideal candidates, especially given that they have previously collaborated with Refn on a new Barbarella script he is attached to direct. And if it is indeed The Avenging Silence they've come aboard, their involvement would seem to indicate that Refn is going for a more mainstream feel again with this one (like Drive, which was written by Our Kind of Traitor scribe Hossein Amini), as opposed to the almost oppressively esoteric Only God Forgives (which I liked, but I seem to be in the minority), which the director penned himself.

New Bourne Title, Trailer Expected February 7 During Super Bowl

According to Dark Horizons, Bourne continuation novelist Eric Van Lustbader (who took over after Robert Ludlum's death even though the original author had very neatly tied up his trilogy about the amnesiac assassin) posted on his Facebook page that the first trailer for the new Jason Bourne movie, re-teaming Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Supremacy), will air during the Super Bowl on February 7. There's no sign of any such post on his page now, so this shouldn't be taken as gospel. But it does seem likely that he let the cat out of the bag early and tried to stuff it back in. With the trailer will come the reveal of the film's title, which hasn't yet been announced. Tony Gilroy's Damon-less (and Bourne-less) spinoff movie The Bourne Legacy utilized a title (but not plot) from one of Van Lustbader's continuation novels, so if Van Lustbader is teasing the new one it seems logical to assume that the new movie will as well. (It would be hard not to. Van Lustbader has written about a billion Bourne novels by now, compared with Ludlum's three, so he's already put just about every espionage-related word that one can after the name "Bourne!" His latest, due out this summer, is called The Bourne Enigma.) Whatever it's called, the next Damon/Greengrass Bourne movie is probably my own most anticipated spy movie of 2016, and I can't wait to get a glimpse of what they've got in store! Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel and series veteran Julia Stiles co-star.

Jan 28, 2016

Tradecraft: Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins, Martin Freeman, Natalie Dormer and Paul Bettany Join Ensemble Spy Drama Official Secrets

Quite a cast has come together for the fact-based ensemble spy drama Official Secrets, about GCHQ whistleblower Katherine Gun. Deadline reports that former Jack Ryan Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) will again play a CIA agent; Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind) and Martin Freeman (Sherlock) will play journalists; Anthony Hopkins (Mission: Impossible 2, The Looking Glas War) will play a retired British General, and Natalie Dormer (Elementary) will star as Gun, a linguist working for GCHQ (the UK's equivalent of the NSA). Directed by Justin Chadwick (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), a veteran of the hit UK TV show Spooks (known to Americans as MI-5), Official Secrets is based on the 2008 book The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell. The title pretty much says it all, but Gun (who actually does kind of resemble Game of Thrones star Dormer) leaked an email to The Observer exposing an illegal U.S./UK intelligence operation designed to influence U.N. approval of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The intersection of espionage and journalism (explored to perfection in the 2003 miniseries State of Play) should be extremely fertile ground for contemporary films, though we've seen some misfires like The Fifth Estate (about Julian Assange) and ultimately, despite a thrilling first hour, Shoot the Messenger (about Gary Webb, who first reported on the CIA's involvement in L.A.'s crack epidemic). Let's hope that Chadwick manages to combine spies and conspiracy with the journalistic thrills of Oscar contender Spotlight. He's certainly got an impressive cast to work with!

There is no distributor yet, but according to the trade, "The Solution Entertainment Group’s Lisa Wilson and Myles Nestel are executive producing the feature film and handling financing and international sales beginning next month at EFM."

Delroy Lindo Joins S.H.I.E.L.D. Spinoff as Dominic Fortune

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff Marvel's Most Wanted (is that whole thing the actual title, or can we leave off the "Marvel's" like we do with AOS and just call this thing Most Wanted?) has added another cast member... a Marvel character fairly beloved by a loyal cult of comics fans. Joining S.H.I.E.L.D. stars Adrianne Palicki (as agent Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird) and Nick Blood (as agent Lance Hunter), Deadline reports that Delroy Lindo (Broken Arrow, Get Shorty) will play Dominic Fortune, a character created by Howard Chaykin in the Seventies (based on his previous Atlas Comics character the Scorpion). Chaykin's Fortune was a Jewish freelance costumed adventurer (or "brigand for hire"), seeking thrills and, er, fortune, in the 1930s. His adventures appeared (often as backups) in various Marvel comics in the late Seventies and early Eighties. An elderly version of the character also popped up in various contemporary Marvel titles, interacting with the likes of Spider-man and Iron Man. In 2006 he was re-introduced to the Marvel Universe miraculously de-aged in modern times in Sable and Fortune, the first three issues of which were drawn but legendary Modesty Blaise and James Bond artist John M. Burns. (Sadly that book suffered the fate of all Burns books, meaning the issues trickled out late, the artist was changed, and the series was ultimately truncated.) It was the de-aged Fortune (now sporting a mustache) who encountered Mockingbird in the comics, appearing in the series Hawkeye and Mockingbird (which seems to serve as some sort of template for Marvel's Most Wanted, albeit with Lance Hunter as Bobbi's paramour instead of Clint Barton, who's tied up in Avengers movies in the person of Jeremy Renner, who seems quite unlikely to turn up in a TV series).

More recently, however, the Fortune of the comics has aged again overnight (it all has to do with serums and formulas, as you would expect from Marvel), and the elderly Fortune showed up in an especially fun recent issue of S.H.I.E.L.D. drawn by Chaykin (issue 11), teamed up with TV's Phil Coulson. At 63, Lindo is neither old enough to play this version of the character, nor young enough to play the adventurer of the original 1930s-set comics, so presumably they're doing something different with the TV Fortune. (Will he be a Nick Fury surrogate?) Chaykin seems to approve of the casting with one caveat, which he posted in the comments on Deadline's story: "Just as long as he’s still Jewish." Personally, I was really hoping to see the young, vital Dominic Fortune appear on Agent Carter, where his incessant womanizing would have surely rubbed Peggy the wrong way. But perhaps he's too similar to the Howard Stark character played by Dominic Cooper.

Jan 25, 2016

Real Trailer for The Night Manager

After last week's false alarm, which turned out to be clips from the general BBC winter preview stitched artlessly together, here is the real trailer for the BBC/AMC co-production of The Night Manager. Based on John le Carré's 1993 novel, the Susanne Bier directed miniseries stars Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Colman. The Night Manager premieres in America on AMC on April 19, and is expected to air in the UK next month.

Jan 21, 2016

London Spy Starring Ben Whishaw Premieres Tonight on BBC America

London Spy, Tom Rob Smith's 5-part romantic spy drama that we first heard about nearly two years ago, premieres tonight on BBC America at 10/9c. It aired in the UK in November. Episodes will also be available on the cable network's website after it's premiered. Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, SPECTRE) stars as Danny, an ordinary civilian and romantic hedonist who gets caught up in a web of espionage and intrigue when he falls in love with the enigmatic Alex, played by Kingsman's Alex Holcroft. Just as the two of them realise that they're perfect for each other, Alex disappears and Danny, utterly ill-equipped to take on the complex and codified world of British Intelligence, must decide whether he's prepared to fight for the truth. Charlotte Rampling (The Avengers) and Jim Broadbent (Any Human Heart) round out the impressive cast. Smith won the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award in 2008 for his novel Child 44. Check out the trailer for London Spy below, and tune in tonight for the first episode.

Jan 20, 2016

New Night Manager Trailer (UPDATED)

After offering a few tantalizing glimpses in their general winter show reel, the BBC have released (UPDATE: or maybe not... see comments below) a brief and somewhat strangely edited new trailer for the upcoming BBC/AMC co-production The Night Manager, a miniseries based on John le Carré's 1993 novel. Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Colman star. The Night Manager premieres in America on AMC on April 19, and is expected to air in the UK that same month. I experienced some audio dropouts when I try watching this trailer. I don't know if that's just my computer, or an issue with the video. At any rate, until I find a better version, rabid le Carré fans can feast their eyes on this one:

Jan 10, 2016

Tradecraft: ABC Officially Orders S.H.I.E.L.D. Spinoff Pilot

The saga of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff series focusing on romantically entangled secret agents Bobbi "Mockingbird" Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood), has been going on for long enough to warrant a Stan Lee level of hyperbole. It was first rumored in April of last year, but by May we'd learned that it wasn't going forward. At that time, anyway. Perhaps ABC was concerned at the time (as I was) that they would neuter the flagship series by removing the two most interesting new characters, who had almost singlehandedly elevated Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in its second year. But the network must have liked the pilot script by Agents executive producers Jeffrey Bell and Paul Zbyszewski, because according to Deadline, ABC President Paul Lee told reporters at the TCA conference yesterday that the network has given a pilot order to the spinoff, now titled (somewhat lamely) Marvel’s Most Wanted, The trade reports the pilot had been quietly greenlit in August, but only officially acknowledged by the network now. As originally conceived, the project was said to be Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the Marvel Universe (which sounds like a great premise to me), but it has since been retooled. Lee told reporters,“We are making [the pilot] in the next few months. It’s a really good script.” Spinning off Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. standouts Palicki and Blood no longer seems like such a bad idea to me. The flagship series has gotten further and further away from spying this season, focusing too much on the sci-fi antics of the deathly dull Skye (sorry, Daisy) and her Inhuman pals. So a more espionage-centric spinoff focusing on Lance and Bobbi would probably appeal to me more than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in its current incarnation.

Jan 9, 2016

First Photos, Airdate for le Carré's The Night Manager

AMC announced at the TCA conference in Pasadena yesterday that Susanne Bier's eagerly anticipated John le Carré adaptation The Night Manager (first announced back in 2014) will premiere in the U.S. on April 19. (It's expected to air in the UK on BBC One that month as well.) They also released a cast photo, showcasing stars Hugh Laurie (as the silkily loathsome arms dealer Richard Onslow Roper), Tom Hiddleston (as hotelier-turned-field agent Jonathan Pine), The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s Elizabeth Debicki (as English Rose Jed, the object of both men's affection), Olivia Colman (as Pine's pregnant handler Angela Burr, changed from the novel's Leonard Burr) and Tom Hollander (as Roper's sinister majordomo "Corky" Corcoran). David Harewood (Homeland), Tobias Menzies (Casino Royale) and Katherine Kelly (Mr. Selfridge) also star. EW premiered a heroic portrait of Hiddleston on his own a little over a week ago, accompanying a short but interesting article about the miniseries.

Additionally, the third season of AMC's Revolutionary War spy series Turn: Washington's Spies, will premiere the following week, on April 25.

Jan 8, 2016

Tradecraft: Ridley Scott Ponders Prisoner Remake

That feature film Prisoner remake we've been hearing about off and on for years is still in development at Universal, and now it's attracted one of the biggest directors in the world, Ridley Scott (Blade Runner). Coming off of a huge success with the awards favorite The Martian and about to film a new Alien movie, Scott is as hot now as he's ever been. His involvement would be enough to make this movie finally happen (for better or for worse). According to Deadline, the director is in early negotiations to direct the movie version of the classic, surreal 1968 Patrick McGoohan spy series, considered by many (myself included) to be among the greatest TV series of all time. William Monahan (The Departed) has penned the latest version of the script, which Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) had previously worked on. Monahan and Scott collaborated on the Leonard DiCaprio/Russell Crowe spy movie Body of Lies in 2008, and Monahan is no stranger to adapting beloved British television cult classics to the big screen having written the feature version of Martin Campbell's Edge of Darkness. Scott got his start working on British television in the Sixties (including directing several episodes of the fabulous BBC spy series Adam Adamant Lives!) at the same time that McGoohan was starring in Danger Man and creating The Prisoner.

According to the trade, a number of A-list actors are eagerly circling the project upon Scott's involvement.

Christopher Nolan had at one time considered directing Universal's long in development Prisoner movie, but ultimately moved on. In 2009 AMC remade The Prisoner as a miniseries starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen, with highly disappointing results. Last year's Wayward Pines incorporated many elements of the original series rather more successfully. Personally, I'm not a kneejerk anti-remake reactionary, but I also can't bring myself to be more than cautiously optimistic. I think many of the themes of The Prisoner are even more relevant today than they were in 1968, and I think Ridley Scott is well equipped to handle the material, both intellectually and visually. I wish him the best; I really hope this movie turns out to be good!