Sep 29, 2016

The Kevin James Mistaken for an Assassin Movie Has a Trailer

Remember that movie we heard about where Kevin James gets mistaken for an assassin? Well, it's got a trailer now, and a poster, and a release date. The Netflix original movie will premiere on November 11. James (You Don't Mess With the Zohan) plays an author of a ridiculous Gray Man-type super assassin who gets mistaken for his fictional character and ends up on an adventure. Rob Riggle (Killers) plays a CIA agent tracking him, and Andy Garcia co-stars (which is always a good thing). Will it be another Le Magnifique... or more of a Paul Blart: Mall Cop? Take a look at the trailer and judge for yourself.

Sep 20, 2016

New Allied TV Spot

Today Paramount and GK Films released a new TV spot for Robert Zemeckis's upcoming WWII romantic spy epic Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Though it largely flew under the radar until the first trailer dropped last month, I firmly believe that Allied may be the spy movie of 2016. I can't wait to see it!

Sep 16, 2016

Tradecraft: NBCUniversal Developing NSA/U.S. Cyber Command TV Series

Deadline reports that NBCUniversal International Studios, Participant Media, and the production company behind Downton Abbey, Carnival Films, are developing a TV series based on Going Clear director Alex Gibney's incredibly compelling documentary Zero Days. The trade reports that Gibney will direct (it's unclear if they mean the whole series or just the pilot) and Stephen Schiff (The Americans) will write, and the two will produce along with Marc Shmuger. Zero Days will form the basis of the first season. The documentary tells the true story of a joint U.S.-Israeli operation to create a computer virus, known as Stuxnet, to damage Iran's nuclear program. But the virus gets out of control and, Skynet-style, takes on a life of its own. The thriller series is "tentatively titled" Stuxnet, but since that is obviously one of the worst titles ever bandied about for a television series, presumably that will change. (What's wrong with the enigmatic Zero Days?)

According to the trade, "Season 1 of Stuxnet will focus on what happens when a self-replicating computer virus developed by the West to disable and destroy nuclear facilities in the Middle East starts to spread beyond its intended targets, threatening the security of those it was intended to protect. The drama will tell a tale of hackers, spies, nuclear secrets and how one clandestine mission opens the Pandora’s box of cyberwarfare forever – a new era of global conflict without rules." Presumably, like the documentary, it will offer a glimpse inside the ultra-secretive worlds of the NSA (a more or less defensive SIGINT agency) and America's offensive cyberspook outfit, U.S. Cyber Command. Definitely fertile ground for a spy show!

Sep 13, 2016

First Look at Dylan O'Brian as Mitch Rapp in American Assassin

Summit/Lionsgate have released (via Dark Horizons) a synopsis and the first still of Dylan O'Brian (Teen Wolf, The Maze Runner) as Vince Flynn's CIA assassin Mitch Rapp in American Assassin. The studio hopes the film will kick off a new spy franchise based on Flynn's Mitch Rapp books. (The series has continued in the hands of other authors since Flynn's death.)

Though it wasn't the first novel in the series, Flynn's American Assassin was a prequel and served as Rapp's origin story, in which the young CIA Black Ops recruit (O'Brian), hungry for revenge after losing his fiance in a terrorist attack, is mentored by Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Per the studio's synopsis, "The pair are enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Teaming up with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar), they must stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on starting a World War in the Middle East."

Mitch Rapp has taken a long, winding road to get to the screen, and it's unfortunate that his creator didn't live to see the results. First set up at CBS Films for producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura way back in early 2008, actors like Gerrard Butler, Matthew Fox and Chris Hemsworth all at one time or another flirted with playing Vince Flynn's counterterror hero. Legends' Jeffrey Nachmanoff and Legends of the Fall's Ed Zwick were both linked to direct at one time or another, before the job eventually went to Homeland veteran Michael Cuesta (Kill the Messenger). Originally it was CBS Films' plan to adapt Flynn's 2005 novel Consent to Kill first, and at one point Bruce Willis was attached to the Hurly role Keaton eventually filled. Whew!

Sep 11, 2016

Donald E. Westlake's Sort-of James Bond Book Coming Out Next Year

Hard Case Crime announced recently (via Birth. Movies. Death.) that they will release a "lost" novel by the late, prolific crime writer Donald E. Westlake next year entitled Forever and a Death. And it's sort of a James Bond novel. But not really. After GoldenEye, EON Productions hired Westlake, who was probably most famous for his Parker novels (written under the pseudonym of Richard Stark) to develop a script for the next Pierce Brosnan 007 movie. In addition to having had many of his books filmed (most famously John Boorman's Point Blank with Lee Marvin), Westlake himself was also an accomplished screenwriter, and received an Oscar nomination for his script for Stephen Frears' 1990 film The Grifters, adapted from the Jim Thompson novel. (Frears would have his own brush with Bond at the end of Brosnan's tenure, when he almost directed Jinx, a spinoff about Halle Berry's Die Another Day character... but that's neither here nor there.) No actual Bond script emerged from Westlake's efforts, but he did produce two different treatments along with 007 producer and frequent screenwriter Michael G. Wilson. While it's likely that some of their ideas ended up in some form shaping the film that became Tomorrow Never Dies (that's just how the development process works), the final film written by Bruce Feirstein was a totally different animal, and Westlake did not receive a story credit. Since Westlake's passing in 2008, the magazine MI6 Confidential reported that the author (never one to let a good idea go to waste, according to Hard Case) had turned one of these treatments into a novel, never published. In 2017, that will no longer be the case when Hard Case releases it as Forever and a Death (words you can even sing to the tune of Sheryl Crow's "Tomorrow Never Dies" theme song!).

Obviously, the protagonist of this novel will not be James Bond, but I think it's probably a decent assumption that he will share some traits with Ian Fleming's secret agent. I suppose Westlake's estate could have gone with a Canadian publisher, as Bond is in the public domain in that country, and published it as a Bond novel, but then they probably couldn't have gotten Wilson to pen the afterward. (Birth. Movies. Death. indicates that "one of the Bond producers" has done just that, and I would assume that producer is Wilson.) According to Hard Case's synopsis, "the plot Westlake dreamed up—about a British businessman seeking to destroy Hong Kong after being kicked out when the island was returned to Chinese sovereignty—had all the action and excitement, the danger and the sex appeal, of a classic Bond film—but for whatever reason, the Bond folks decided not to use it." So next year Bond fans will get a taste of a Bond film that might have been, and collectors will acquire an interesting oddity to shelve adjacent to their legit 007 titles.

Tomorrow Never Dies has already inspired two great theme songs. (David Arnold's brilliant, rejected title track, performed by k.d. lang, ended up playing over the end credits as "Surrender.") Could it now, in a sort of circuitous fashion, also inspire two great novels? (Raymond Benson's official novelization of Feirstein's screenplay is one of the best Bond novelizations.) We'll find out next June! In the meantime, you can read a sample chapter on the Hard Case Crime website.

The cool, decidedly Bondian, McGinnis-inspired cover artwork is by Paul Mann.

Sep 5, 2016

More Matt Helm on the Big Screen in Los Angeles Tuesday Night

Following the August screening of The Wrecking Crew (which turned out to be an absolutely beautiful 35mm print!), Los Angeles' New Beverly Cinema will show two more Dean Martin Matt Helm movies in 35mm on Tuesday, September 6. This double feature will consist of The Ambushers (1967, in an IB Technicolor print) at 7:30, and my own favorite in the series (the closest to being a "real movie"), Murderers' Row (1966), at 9:40. The Ambushers co-stars prolific Sixties spy babe Senta Berger (The Spy With My Face, To Commit A Murder), and Murderers' Row co-stars Ann-Margaret (The Swinger) and Karl Malden (Billion Dollar Brain). Tickets for the double bill are $8, available at the theater box office or online.

Sep 2, 2016

Tradecraft: Zachary Levi Re-Enlists in the CIA for NBC's Unidentified

Zachary Levi must like being a CIA agent more than his last spy character, Chuck, did, because the actor is re-enlisting. According to Deadline, NBC is developing a new spy series for Levi to star in called Unidentified. "Written by Sean Finegan (feature spec Free Fall), Unidentified is described as a high octane thriller with sci-fi elements, which centers on a CIA operative trying to protect his family from an unimaginable secret," the trade reports. Unidentified comes from Universal Television and Levi‘s Middle Man Productions.