Apr 28, 2017

The Hollywood Reporter Celebrates 20 Years of Austin Powers

Its reputation irreparably harmed by sequels of astonishingly diminishing quality and catchphrases done to death by a generation of frat boys and office drones in grating put-on accents, reduced as if by choice to the image of a discount Halloween costume consisting of bad teeth, a Union Jack Speedo, and a fecund chest merkin, it's sometimes sadly easy to forget that Jay Roach's Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was not only a bona fide comedy classic, but something of a minor masterpiece. And as much as Jack Ryan or Nikita might beg to differ, it certainly ended up being the defining spy movie of the Nineties. It's also somewhat hard to believe, at least for someone who came of age to a soundtrack of Britpop and trip-hop during the Clinton Administration, that it's twenty years old this week. But it is. It's been that long since Mike Meyers' singular creation managed to simultaneously send up and pay homage to everything Sixties and British from The Beatles to Jason King to Harry Palmer to, of course, Agent 007, in the process forever ruining puns for future Bond actors. Sure, there are plenty of people to this day unaware that their ringtone actually comes courtesy of Derek Flint, not Austin Powers, but there are also plenty of people who never would have discovered Flint or The Avengers or Casino Royale or just about anything covered on this blog had it not been for the Meyers movie. So it's a movie well deserving of the lavish and rather wonderful oral history devoted to it in The Hollywood Reporter this week. Check it out. It's definitely worth a read for spy fans!

Apr 26, 2017

Tradecraft: New Cast Set for STRIKE BACK's Fifth Cinemax Season

Strike Back began with a season on UK satellite channel Sky starring Richard Armitage and Andrew Lincoln (review here). Then Sky made a deal with American cable station Cinemax for further seasons (pilot review here), but Armitage had moved onto The Hobbit and Lincoln was starring on The Walking Dead, so Cinemax reinvented the counterterrorism drama with American Philip Winchester playing Brit Stonebridge, and Aussie Sullivan Stapleton playing his American partner, Scott. The series made stars of both actors. But it concluded after four seasons (not counting that original UK one), and both leads moved onto other shows. Then, last December, Cinemax decided to bring it back again. Now, Deadline reports, the all-new cast for the new season (once again a continuation, not a reboot) has been set.

According to the trade, British actor Warren Brown (Luther) stars as “Mac” McAllister, Australian Daniel MacPherson (The Shannara Chronicles) plays Samuel Wyatt, Roxanne McKee (The Legend of Hercules) is Natalie Reynolds, and Alin Sumarwata (The Diplomat) is Gracie Novin. Nina Sosanya (Marcella), Trevor Eve (The Interceptor), and Katherine Kelly (The Night Manager) round out the cast.

Filming on the third incarnation of Strike Back is already underway, with locations including Jordan and Hungary.

Apr 25, 2017


Last week we saw the weird, but kind of neat, "teaser for the trailer" for Kingsman: The Golden Circle; now we can watch the full trailer. I certainly enjoy that returning director Matthew Vaughn is unabashedly going full Roger Moore Bond here, because it's nice to have something filling that void while the actual Bond movies are doing something different. And who doesn't love a London cab sprouting a gatling gun? But I do wish Vaughn had been a little more creative in his take on Bondian classics. For example, did the car have to transform into a submarine in the exact same way Moore's Lotus does in The Spy Who Loved Me? I just fear that a generation unfamiliar with Seventies Bond might now grow up thinking of that as a Kingsman thing rather than appreciating the allusion. (Personally, that sequence in the trailer reminds me more of a similar one in a James Tont Eurospy movie, but I'm pretty sure that's not the actual reference Vaughn was aiming for.) Such petty gripes aside, though, it all looks pretty cool, and despite not caring for the first Kingsman movie I retain high hopes for the sequel! After all, it's obviously playing right to my interests with mountaintop lairs, submarine cars, physics-defying stunts, gadgets, and impeccably tailored suits.

Taron Edgerton, Mark Strong, Edward Holcroft (now sporting a Bionic Barry arm), and even Colin Firth (with a nod to Nick Fury) all return from the original Kingsman, joined this time by Michael Gambon, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, and Julianne Moore. In a recent schedule change reported by DeadlineKingsman: The Golden Circle now opens September 22, a week sooner than the previously announced September 29. Doug Liman's Tom Cruise spy movie American Made will open on that date, with Universal executives hoping a week is enough time to get out of the sure to be massive box office orbit of the Kingsman sequel.

Apr 19, 2017

Another Trailer for ATOMIC BLONDE

Last week Universal released a second trailer for the Cold Ware Berlin-set Atomic Blonde, and it's even more action-packed than the first one. Based on Antony Johnston's graphic novel The Coldest City and directed by John Wick co-helmer David Leitch, Atomic Blonde is clearly the spy movie to beat this year! Charlize Theron (Fate of the Furious) stars, alongside Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service), James McAvoy (State of Play), John Goodman (Argo), and Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

Apr 18, 2017

THE WILD WILD WEST Reunion Movies Finally Come to DVD on their Own

Back in 2008, CBS/Paramount put out The Wild Wild West: The Complete TV Series, which included all four seasons of the classic Sixties spy Western starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, along with a bonus disc including the two TV reunion movies from 1979 and 1980, respectively—The Wild Wild West Revisited and More Wild Wild West. Rather than a nice bonus feature, though, this proved a bone of contention with many fans who had bought each season as it was released individually and, understandably, did not wish to shell out for a large, annoyingly-shaped box set just to get one extra disc. At the time, it was hoped the two movies would be released on their own, but that never happened. Even worse, when the studio repackaged The Complete TV Series in a streamlined, more shelf-friendly version... the reunion movies were not included. I was therefore quite pleasantly surprised to read on TV Shows On DVD that nine years after their inclusion in the original Complete Series set, CBS/Paramount will finally be releasing a standalone double feature DVD of these two reunion films this summer! And fans who have clung to their individual season releases for all these years can finally complete their collections. The disc will be out on June 13 and will retail for $14.99. It can already be pre-ordered on Amazon. Wow, it gives me such a sense of nostalgia to write a DVD announcement for a Wild Wild West title! I duly reported on the original season releases as they were announced back in the early days of this blog—and the heyday of DVDs—and reviewed them as they came out.
Thanks to Jack for the heads-up!

Read my review of The Wild Wild West - The Second Season
Read my review of The Wild Wild West - The Fourth Season

Teaser for the Trailer for KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

I'm not really a fan of the new trend of teasers for trailers, but I do admire the fact that the Kingsman: The Golden Circle team have discovered a new approach. Rather than just showing a few seconds of action from the trailer, they've released a super high speed version of the complete trailer. So let your eyes imprint on brief snatches of what we can expect from the full version of the first trailer for the eagerly anticipated sequel when it drops in the coming days, or else go meticulously frame-by-frame through it to get glimpses of everything. Be warned, of course, that if there's such a thing as a spoiler for a trailer, this effectively manages to "spoil" the entire thing. Taron Edgerton, Mark Strong, and even Colin Firth all return from the original Kingsman, joined this time by Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, and Julianne Moore. Matthew Vaughn once again directs.  Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens September 29 opposite Doug Liman's Tom Cruise spy movie American Made. (Let's hope we get a trailer for that one soon, too!)


After an infinite development process including many false starts, Mitch Rapp is finally that much closer to the big screen with a trailer! And a release Deadline reports that Lionsgate and CBS Films have set a September 15 release date for the first Vince Flynn adaptation, American Assassin, starring Dylan O'Brien and Michael Keaton. September is shaping up to be a spy-heavy month, with Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle and Bourne Identity director Doug Liman's Iran-Contra movie with Tom Cruise, American Made (formerly Mena), both set to bow on September 29. (Expect trailers for those ones soon.)

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. (Though like Bourne and Bond, Rapp has outlived his creator with new books still being published by continuation authors.) 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 Flynn's counter-terror hero, and Bruce Willis was at one point up for the role that eventually went to Keaton. 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), working from a script by The Americans' Stephen Schiff. Originally it was CBS Films' plan to adapt Flynn's 2005 novel Consent to Kill first. But now American Assassin is a reality, and here's the trailer to prove it:

Trailer for SAS Drama 6 DAYS

The first trailer is out for 6 Days, an SAS thriller about the same 1980 hostage standoff in the Iranian Embassy in London that inspired the action classic Who Dares Wins (aka The Final Option). Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Kingsman), Jamie Bell (TURN: Washington's Spies) and Abbie Cornish (Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan) star, along with the late Tim Pigott-Smith (Quantum of Solace) in one of his final performances and, in a nice touch, Who Dares Wins star Lewis Collins' old Professionals cohort, Martin Shaw. While there's still no release date officially set, Deadline recently reported that Vertical Entertainment "is eyeing a fall theatrical bow in the U.S. for the pic." Netflix is distributing in a number of international territories.

Apr 13, 2017

Tradecraft: William Hurt Among Cast for CONDOR Remake Series

Variety reports that the cast has been set for The Audience Network's TV series version of 3 Days of the Condor. (All the trades refer to it as being "inspired by" Sydney Pollack's iconic 1975 film, rather than adapted from James Grady's 1974 novel Six Days of the Condor (itself a cornerstone of the spy genre). Indeed, the series protagonist played by Max Irons is named Joe Turner, like in the film, and not Ronald Malcolm, as in the book. But the movie was close enough to its source material (despite a few key differences) that if the TV series is at all faithful to either, it should at least resemble both.

Joining the previously cast Max Irons (Crooked House) as Turner are Hollywood heavyweights William Hurt (The Accidental Tourist), Bob Balaban (Best in Show), Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), and Brenden Fraser (The Quiet American). Anyone who's seen A History of Violence knows that Hurt would be a perfect choice to play the assassin originally portrayed so memorably by Max Von Sydow, a role it's absolutely crucial for the series to nail in order to succeed. (And a role that's actually much more interesting in the movie than in the book, where he is more of a generic hitman.) But... that's not who he's playing, unfortunately. That part will actually be played by 20-year-old Israeli Arab actress Leem Lubany. Lubany was very good in Rock the Casbah (2015) and scored great reviews for the Oscar-nominated Omar (2013)... but her casting in this part raises some alarm bells for me. I've got no problem with the gender flip, but the age is a different matter. Casting a sexy young star in the role certainly changes the part from Von Sydow's scene stealing elder statesman of murder for hire. And based on Deadline's description of her character, Gabrielle Joubert ("an elite Special Forces operative whose formidable physical talents are matched by a deep emotional imbalance"), the role sounds closer to the generic killer of the book than the fascinating enigma of the film. Which is too bad.

Hurt, meanwhile, will play what sounds like a variation on John Houseman's character from the film. Per Variety: "Bob Partridge [is] a decorated CIA field operative who is rusty and a little soft after 20 years behind a desk. He’s tried to make changes for the better while at the CIA, including recruiting a team of the country’s top young minds to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to some of the United States’ most intractable problems."

Balaban is career CIA administrator Reuel Abbott, a name I don't recall from either the book or the movie. Sorvino, according to a different Deadline story, "will play Marty Frost, an investigator who has come out of retirement to take over the investigation after an attack at Joe’s office." It sounds like her role may be inspired by Cliff Robertson's in the film.

Fraser, per yet another Deadline story, "will play Nathan Fowler, an unstable yet efficient central cog in an unholy alliance between the private military company that employs him and the CIA. He’s motivated by his hatred of radical Islam, but also by his inner child’s desire to win the approval of his war-hero father. Nathan is redeemed by his fierce love for his daughter, but that relationship and his fanaticism are on a collision course."

Katherine Cunningham (The Playboy Club) takes on the Faye Dunaway role of Kathy Hale (again using the character's movie name rather than book name), reimagined for our times as "a corporate lawyer who’s lonely and dissatisfied with her buttoned-up life." Kristoffer Polaha (Castle) plays another character from the movie, Turner's friend and colleague Sam Barber.

Apr 11, 2017

First Set Photos Emerge from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 6 Paris Shoot

This still untitled sixth Mission: Impossible movie began shooting this week in Paris, and inevitably set photos and videos have rapidly emerged. They depict Tom Cruise performing a motorcycle stunt (presumably part of a chase) where he rides into traffic, hits a car, and flies over the handles via a harness. Hopefully Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie have something really spectacular in mind to differentiate this motorcycle sequence from the one in the last movie, or the one in M:I-2... or the ones in other recent spy movies like Jason Bourne, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or Skyfall... or the one in Cruise's other spy movie Knight and Day. Perhaps that's not fair. After all, just about every spy movie has a car chase, and while there have certainly been good ones and bad ones over the years, I wouldn't say those ever got old. But it seems to me like spy movie motorcycle chases tend to do the same thing again and again. And a lot of the recent ones (especially Knight & Day and The Bourne Legacy) have felt like retreads of the one in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). But I do have faith in McQuarrie, and I have no doubt there will be plenty of other stunts in Mission: Impossible 6 as well!

While there are videos all over YouTube of Cruise filming the stunt, Dark Horizons has curated a good assortment of the best ones, along with a number of photos. Check them out! No cast members besides Cruise were spotted on set so far.