Dec 23, 2017

Tradecraft: Lionsgate Dates THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME

Deadline reports that Lionsgate has set an August 3 release date for the Mila Kunis/Kate McKinnon comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me. Late summer has proven a successful slot for R-rated, female-driven comedies like Bad Moms and Girls Trip. (I don't know if The Spy Who Dumped Me will be R-rated.) Directed by Susanna Fogel and written by Fogel and David Iserson (who, in the interest of full disclosure, is a friend of mine--which makes me very excited about this project!), The Spy Who Dumped Me follows a woman (Kunis) whose discovery that her ex is a spy plunges her and her best friend (McKinnon) into an international espionage adventure. Outlander standout Sam Heughan (who played Roger Moore's son in A Princess for Christmas), Charlies Angels: Full Throttle villain Justin Theroux (who cameoed as a very Bondian figure in a certain recent blockbuster) and Gillian Anderson (Johnny English Reborn) also star.

Dec 20, 2017

See DANGER: DIABOLIK on the Big Screen in Los Angeles New Year's Weekend

Los Angelenos have a rare opportunity to see one of the greatest spy movies of the Sixties on the big screen New Year's weekend. (Technically I suppose it's a caper movie, but I've always contended that Sixties spy movies are defined by imagery, sound, and tropes more than plot. And by those terms, this is perhaps the ultimate spy movie!) Mario Bava's 1967 masterpiece Danger: Diabolik will screen in 35mm at Quentin Tarantino's New Beverly Cinema as a midnight movie on Saturday, December 30. (That means it actually starts at 11:59pm on Saturday, playing into Sunday morning.) And I'm so jealous of anyone who will be in town! Sadly I will not. But if you'll be in L.A. that weekend, you are in luck. Danger: Diabolik stars John Phillip Law (Barbarella), Marisa Mell (Secret Agent Super Dragon), Adolfo Celi (Thunderball), and Michel Picoli (Topaz). Read why I love it so much in my review, here.

Tickets are $8, and available online from Brown Paper Tickets or at the theater box office.

Dec 19, 2017

First Trailer: SICARIO 2: SOLDADO

Sony has released the first trailer for Sicario 2: Soldado, the sequel to Denis Villeneuve's 2015 thriller Sicario, which emerged as one of the best spy movies in a year packed with spy movies. The follow-up is directed by Stefano Sollima (Gommorah), and once again written by Taylor Sheridan (Wind River). Benecio Del Toro (Licence To Kill), Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War), and Jeffrey Donovan (Burn Notice) all reprise their roles from the first movie, joined this time by Isabella Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight) and Catherine Keener (Get Out). From this trailer, it looks as if Sollima has done an incredible job maintaining the look and tone of Villeneuve's film while raising the stakes. Owing a clear debt to Clear and Present Danger, Soldado (as it was formerly known) looks more like a Tom Clancy movie than the new Jack Ryan TV series. Unfortunately, we've got to wait until June 29, 2018 to see if the film lives up to this glimpse.

Dec 18, 2017

Upcoming Spy Blu-Rays: Entertaining '80s Obscurities

Two cult Eighties spy flicks never officially available on Region 1 DVD are, in both cases rather surprisingly, making their way to Blu-ray early next year.

1982's The Soldier (tagline: "You don't assign him. You unleash him.") was among the first of the blisteringly gung-ho 1980s Cold War spy movies that made a resurgence with Reagan's presidency after all the paranoid, anti-CIA films of the scandal-ridden Seventies. Ken Wahl (Wiseguy) stars as the titularly code-named CIA super-agent tasked with thwarting KGB-backed terrorists threatening to unleash chaos in the middle-east by detonating a nuclear bomb in a Saudi oil field. The ultra-Eighties action jumps from West Berlin to Washington to Saudi Arabia as The Soldier teams up with the Mossad. The cast also includes Alberta Watson (La Femme Nikita, 24), Joaquim de Almeida (Clear and Present Danger), Jeffrey Jones (The Hunt for Red October), and Klaus Kinski(!) (Our Man in Marrakesh) as a KGB assassin. While it's never had a North American DVD release, Kino Lorber will release a Blu-ray on February 27, 2018, generously including trailers and an audio commentary by film historian Jim Hemphill... along with awesome cover art! Retail is $29.95, but that will likely go down on Amazon nearer the release date.

Maybe it should be classified as a guilty pleasure, but I really enjoy the early Jean-Claude Van Damme flick Black Eagle (1988). Coming on the heels of Bloodsport by only a month, Black Eagle hit theaters just on the cusp of JCVD's stardom. Van Damme (Maximum Risk, Jean-Claude Van Johnson) isn't the hero, but the antagonist, a brutal KGB agent. Japanese martial arts star Sho Kosugi (Ninja Assassin) plays the hero, a CIA agent deployed (against his will) to recover a laser weapon from an F-111 downed in the Mediterranean. Good fights and excellent Maltese scenery (as well as some underwater action) make the movie worth watching. For a movie that's never even had a regular DVD release in North America (that I'm aware of), Black Eagle is surprisingly getting the full 2-disc Special Edition treatment from the MVD Rewind Collection! The Blu-ray/DVD combo will, happily, include both the 93-minute theatrical version and the superior 104-minute uncut, extended version of the film. It also boasts a slew of special features, including deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer (which was awesome), the featurettes "Sho Kosugi: Martial Arts Legend" (HD, 21:26) (featuring new 2017 interviews with Sho Kosugi and Shane Kosugi and more), "The Making of Black Eagle" (HD, 35:50) (featuring new 2017 interviews with Director/Producer Eric Karson, Screenwriter Michael Gonzalez and stars Sho Kosugi, Doran Clark, Shane Kosugi and Dorota Puzio), "Tales of Jean-Claude Van Damme" (HD, 19:20) (Brand new 2017 interviews with cast and crew tell stories about working with the legendary action star), and "The Script and the Screenwriters (HD, 27:14) (new 2017 interviews featuring Michael Gonzales, Eric Karson and more)... as well as a "collectible poster." Whew!

To recap, someone made a 35-minute documentary about the making of Black Eagle. Did you ever expect to see that? I didn't, but I can't wait to watch it! Retail is a steep $39.95, but hopefully that price will drop on Amazon as we near its February 13 release date.

If you're interested in movies I blog about, please consider ordering or pre-ordering from the Amazon links included in the articles to support the Double O Section. Thank you!

First Trailer for the New, Rebooted STRIKE BACK on Cinemax

Cinemax has released the first full trailer for their upcoming, rebooted new season of Strike Back. This will mark the third distinct iteration of the action series, following the more cerebral, more espionage-oriented UK original (review here) starring Richard Armitage (Berlin Station) and Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead), and the sexier, more action-packed U.S. Cinemax continuation (review here) with Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton. The latest incarnation features a larger, four-person anti-terrorist team comprised of Daniel MacPherson, Roxanne McKee, Warren Brown and Alin Sumarwata, but clearly retains the focus on extreme military action familiar to fans of the previous Cinemax series. The new episodes (which debuted this fall on SkyOne in the UK) premiere Stateside on February 2 at 10pm. Take a look!

Dec 15, 2017

Tradecraft: Female Blaxploitation Agents Reactivated on Big and Small Screens

Blaxploitation heroines Cleopatra Jones and Christie Love are both making comebacks... with an espionage twist. Deadline reports that ABC is resurrecting the 1974 TV movie and subsequent series Get Christie Love!, but dropping the exclamation mark and adding spying. Christie Love, as played by Teresa Graves, was a police detective. But in the new version starring Kylie Bunbury (Pitch, Under the Dome), is, according to the trade, "an African American, female CIA agent who leads a highly trained elite ops unit. Beautiful and charismatic, Christie transforms into whoever she needs to be in order to get the job done especially when it’s down to the wire and the stakes are life and death." The new "action-packed, music-driven" hour-long drama hails from Power creator/showrunner Courtney Kemp and producers Vin Diesel, Debra Martin Chase and Shana C. Waterman.

This news comes on the heels of an earlier Deadline story reporting that sexy, karate-chopping government agent Cleopatra Jones (one of Christie Love's inspirations) is also making a comeback--on the big screen. Jones travels the world smashing drug rings under the cover of being an international model with a gloriously flamboyant wardrobe that would make Fatima Blush jealous. According to the trade, "the studio has set Misha Green (Underground, Lovecraft) to write the script and produce a film that will present the heroine very much as the female answer to James Bond." Deadline points out that "those comparisons were made when the original hit film was released, partly because Jones was so adept at martial arts and drove a Corvette Stingray fully equipped with automatic weapons." Tamara Dobson (Amazons) starred in the 1973 original (opposite Never Say Never Again's Bernie Casey) and its less successful 1975 sequel Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. The Cleopatra Jones movies stood out from many of their grimmer blaxploitation brethren thanks to their sharp comedy. No one has yet been cast to fill Dobson's shoes.

Dec 8, 2017

Quartet Releases Two Expanded Spy Soundtracks: CASINO ROYALE and THE RUSSIA HOUSE

Quartet Records have announced half a quartet (sorry) of newly expanded spy scores. And the two movies are about as far apart as you can get within the same genre: Jerry Goldsmith's somber, intimate, jazz-infused score for the 1990 John le Carré adaptation The Russia House, and Burt Bacharach's infectious, iconic score for the bloated 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale.

Fred Schepisi’s film of The Russia House starred Sean Connery as one of le Carré’s most memorable characters, Barley Blair, a publisher who becomes unwittingly entangled in East/West spy games and a dangerous romance with Michelle Pfeifer’s Katya. James Fox, Roy Scheider, Michael Kitchen, and Klaus Maria Brandauer co-starred. Besides a romance between two of the screen’s most popular stars, the film was notable for being one of the first Western movies to be shot in Russia, and makes an excellent time capsule of the late Soviet era. Goldsmith’s score was atypical for him in that era (coming right after the more bombastic Total Recall), and remains controversial among fans of the composer and le Carré. The decision to go with a sax-driven, romantic jazz sound reflects Blair’s own musical taste. The original MCA album contained 61 minutes of music, but Quartet have dug up an additional 15 minutes’ worth of previously unreleased material including what they call “some key suspense cues.” According to the label, “the new edition was produced by Mike Matessino, with tracks prepared by Neil S. Bulk (Die Another Day) and mastered by Matessino from the original mixes by Bruce Botnick. The package includes a 16-page full color booklet with [le Carré fan] Dirk Wickenden providing in-depth liner notes and musical analysis of this masterful Goldsmith score.”

As for Casino Royale, you're probably asking, "Hasn't that score already been reissued twice in time this blog's been around?" And you would be right. (Or at least partially right, because you don't seem to be counting the Varese Sarabande reissue which was pretty much identical to the original Varese release, and apparently a subsequent reissue of one of the legitimately expanded versions.) The famous score, long sought after on LP owing to its reputation among audiophiles as the ultimate demonstration record, was first released in an expanded edition by Kritzerland in 2010. The original master tapes were allegedly damaged or destroyed, so they set about repairing the issues caused by that damage. They also attempted to replicate the vaunted sound of the LP by including as a bonus program a direct transfer of the record itself. Then in 2012, Quartet put out a 2-disc release with lavish packaging and a stellar, 60+ page book of liner notes by Gergely Hubai in honor of the film's 45th anniversary. That release was motivated by the discovery of a quarter-inch stereo tape copy of the original album in the vaults of Sony Music Spain, and new access to MGM's DVD elements which permitted a complete film score release (albeit reflecting the sound mixer's dialogue-motivated volume shifts) for the first time. Both of those releases were limited editions, and both sold out. Apparently there was even a second printing of the Quartet one. And now they are releasing a brand new 50th Anniversary edition with completely different audio. Here's the label's reasoning:
This edition is an important landmark for this legendary score, and we can proudly say that it now sounds better than ever. This new edition has been produced, restored and mastered by wizard engineer Chris Malone, rebuilding the score from the ground up. Malone’s work has focused on addressing unintended technical anomalies (such as filling dropouts and covering analogue splices) rather than broadly applying a modern sound palette. He has eschewed dynamic range compression and retained the brilliance of the original recording. Because the LP program derived from the original film recordings (with some edits made for a more pleasure listening), we have included it on our CD and added all the music composed by Bacharach that was not on the LP to make a 77-minute CD. The bonus tracks are in mono (music stems are still the only available source to date), but Chris has worked them in a very different mood from our previous edition, respecting the mono without adding any stereo reverb and carefully restoring each track in a very warm way. We can say the sound is day and night compared with our previous edition. Live and learn.
So they seem to be, sort of, apologizing for their previous version? Understanding its less than ideal sources, I never had any issues with it and appreciated its completeness. Though I still preferred the sound on the Kritzerland version, and it sounds as if Malone may have approached this new one along the same lines they did. The new Quartet release appears to be just one disc as opposed to the 45 Anniversary's double-disc version, and does not include the original booklet. It does, however, boast all-new liner notes (20 pages of them!) by film score expert Jeff Bond. It's kind of strange that this odd-duck step child of the Bond saga as by now proven to be the title most frequently revisited on CD, but they've got me curious. I'll definitely be buying this one, as I have all the others. They always sell out, so my advice is to act quickly if you've missed out on the previous limited editions.

The discs can be ordered now directly from Quartet, or pre-ordered from Screen Archives Entertainment:

Casino Royale
The Russia House

Coming on the heels of La-La Land's recent expanded Die Another Day score, this winter is proving a boom time for collectors of spy soundtracks!

Dec 1, 2017

New JACK RYAN Trailer

Amazon has offered fans another glimpse today at their upcoming Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan TV series. John Krasinski (13 Hours) stars as Clancy's famous CIA analyst hero in an original storyline not based on one of the books. Carlton Cuse (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.) and Graham Roland (Lost) run the show and executive produce along with Mace Neufeld, Michael Bay, Brad Fuller, Andrew Form, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross. Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan will premiere sometime next year on Amazon Prime. (And it's one of the spy events I'm most looking forward to in 2018!)