May 24, 2018

Tradecraft: Universal to Distribute Next Bond Movie Internationally, Annapurna and MGM Domestically

Danny Boyle Confirmed as Director

Deadline reports that EON Productions and MGM have made a deal with Universal to distribute the 25th James Bond movie internationally and on home video. The news is something of a surprise, as Warner Bros. had widely been considered the frontrunners. Sony has distributed all four Daniel Craig Bond pictures to date. This deal adds another superspy to Universal's franchise roster. The studio also distributes the Jason Bourne movies. Outside of the spy department, the studio is home to mega-franchises The Fast and the Furious and Jurassic World, and they certainly know how to market and distribute huge blockbusters worldwide. According to the trade, "domestic distribution will be handled by MGM and Annapurna through the joint venture they signed last year," as had been expected by many in the industry. While this will be a far bigger release than Annapurna has handled to date as a distributor, this strategy makes sense from MGM's point of view, as they've been eager to return to the distribution business for a while. MGM will also retain digital and worldwide television distribution rights. Digital may soon be a bigger earner than home video, if it isn't already. And retaining television rights is key for MGM's premium cable channel, EPIX.

The studio confirmed Deadline's scoop to the trade, and EON principals Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson issued a statement expressing their excitement at partnering with Universal and confirming that Danny Boyle will, indeed, direct the next Daniel Craig-starring installment. "We are delighted to announce that the exceptionally talented Danny Boyle will be directing Daniel Craig in his fifth outing as James Bond in the 25th installment of the franchise. We will begin shooting Bond 25 at Pinewood Studios in December with our partners at MGM and thrilled that Universal will be our international distributor.” While Boyle was first reported to be the frontrunner to helm the forthcoming Bond adventure in February, his involvement was said to be contingent on Broccoli and Wilson approving of a script being written by Boyle's frequent collaborator, John Hodge (Trainspotting), from a story concoted by Boyle. Apparently, that approval has now come.

Production on Bond 25 is slated to begin on December 3 of this year, with release dates still on track of October 25, 2019 in the UK, and November 8, 2019 in the U.S.

May 23, 2018

Tradecraft: NBC Cancels TAKEN

Deadline reports that NBC has cancelled the Taken TV series after two seasons. The series, based on EuropaCorp's neo-Eurospy film franchise starring Liam Neeson, was retooled for its second season, but the new direction didn't boost viewership the way NBC had hoped. In recent weeks its Friday night ratings had become pretty dire. The network will, at least, air the final episodes that are already in the can. They'll be burned off on Saturday nights at 8pm starting this Saturday, May 26.

May 22, 2018

Full Trailer: CONDOR (2018)

Following up on March's teaser trailer, The Audience Network (yeah, that's a thing) has released the full trailer for their TV reimagining of 3 Days of the Condor entitled Condor. James Grady's novel Six Days of the Condor is one of the genre's all-time classics. Sydney Pollack then made it into one of the all-time classic spy films, Three Days of the Condor. Can lightning strike thrice? Can the same story now be successfully adapted once again, into a different medium? Well, it worked for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, so I suppose it's just possible... but obviously a long shot. Still, this full trailer looks pretty good, even if it seems clear that they've ditched the brilliant purpose of the CIA department Condor works for in both original versions.

As we first learned over a year ago, the series protagonist played by Max Irons (Crooked House) will be named Joe Turner, like Robert Redford's character 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. 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), and 20-year-old Israeli Arab actress Leem Lubany (Rock the Casbah) plays Gabrielle Joubert, a variation on the iconic role of the professional killer played so memorably by Max Von Sydow in the film. William Hurt, Mira Sorvino, Brendan Fraser, and Bob Balaban also star.

Condor premieres June 1 on The Audience network. My understanding is that the Audience Network was previously only available to DirecTV satellite subscribers, but now there is an app, DirecTV Now (similar to HBO Go, I think), that allows users to stream it on various set-top devices. I haven't done this myself, and can't vouch for it. But come June, I will have to figure out how to see it, and this seems the easiest way.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT Character Posters and International Trailer

Paramount has released nine new character posters for Mission: Impossible - Fallout with a really great tagline: "Some missions are not a choice." They showcase series regulars like Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, returnees from Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation like Rebecca Ferguson and Sean Harris, and new faces like Vanessa Kirby and Angela Bassett. There's also an international trailer that's slightly different from the second domestic one we saw last week, offering some alternative footage and more of certain characters. Check it out.


Two Connery Bond Movies on the Big Screen in 35mm This Father's Day in Los Angeles

Hollywood's famed Egyptian Theatre will show 35mm prints of From Russia With Love and Goldfinger on June 17 - Father's Day. Bond on film has become a relatively rare commodity in recent years (even the once ubiquitous Goldfinger!), as most revival screenings nowadays tend to be projected digitally. Personally, I find that no matter how sharp the transfer, a DCP just doesn't feel like film... and I'd always rather watch a Bond flick on film. So if you feel like I do, and you'll be in the Southern California area mid-June, you should definitely go! The double feature kicks off at 7:30, starting with From Russia With Love. Tickets ($12 covers both films) are available through Fandango, or at the Egyptian Theatre box office.

May 21, 2018

Tradecraft: Another Year, Another 24 Revival Rumor

It's a tradition that every year at the Fox upfronts (the event where networks unveil new series to advertisers), some executive teases the possibility of a 24 revival. Some years, that happens, leading to the excellent Kiefer Sutherland half-length reunion series, 24: Live Another Day, and the single season of "CTU: The Next Generation," 24: Legacy. But most years, nothing comes of such talk at all. (Like last year's rumors that the real-time format would be kept for another new incarnation, but the counterterrorism angle would be ditched altogether in favor of a female-driven legal drama.) This year was no exception to that rule. Deadline reports that, "during Fox’s upfront press call, chairman Dana Walden revealed that 24 executive producer Howard Gordon (Homeland, Legends) is working with 24 creators Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran on a possible new iteration of the real-time drama. The network and 24 producers 20th Century Fox, Imagine TV and Gordon had been discussing new ideas for a 24 series since the end of 24: Legacy last season, including a female-led legal thriller earlier this season. Walden would not elaborate what the new [premise] is, but noted that 'we are very excited about where the show would go.'" Make of that what you will. Most likely it means nothing, but it does remind you that it's very hard for a network to let a good idea go entirely. Sutherland has sworn that he'll never again play Jack Bauer... but spy fans know when to say "never again." (Sutherland made that definitive statement when he had another show, but Designated Survivor was just cancelled, so perhaps that will change things.) What I would love to see is for Bauer to return for another 12-episode season (which works so much better than the 24-episode format, which always sags in the middle) and team up with Corey Hawkins' next-gen CTU op from Legacy along with all the fan-favorite familiar faces (most essentially Chloe and Tony, the only original series cast member to show up on Legacy)... but each leaving their annoying family members behind. I just hope that Gordon, Fox, et. al. realize that 24's real contribution to the genre is not its real-time gimmick (which wore thin by Season 2, honestly), but the character of Jack Bauer, who belongs in the pantheon of the great spy heroes. Find a way to get Jack Bauer back in action, in whatever format Sutherland will agree to do!

May 20, 2018

Warner Archive Releases 1939 Joel McCrea Spy Flick ESPIONAGE AGENT

It's been a while since the Warner Archive has dipped into their spy library. But last week WB's MOD branch announced the first-ever DVD release of the historically notable 1939 spy film Espionage Agent, starring Joel McCrea (Foreign Correspondent) and the stunning Brenda Marshall. Espionage Agent is not a great film, but its historic significance makes it one well worth seeking out for scholars of spy cinema and espionage history.

Like McCrea's next (and far better) spy film, Foreign Correspondent (1940, review here), Espionage Agent is pure propaganda. But it's espousing the exact opposite sentiment of the later Hitchcock movie! While Hitchcock's film serves to warn America that the dawn of WWII is no time for complacency, and that America has an obligation to come to the aid of her allies in Europe and to stand up to the Nazi menace, Espionage Agent makes a case for isolationism. Yet it also makes a case that America needs a dedicated, international counter-intelligence service, which, of course, it didn't have at the time. So for students of spy history, it's a very interesting picture. The basic case is that if the U.S.A. has a spy agency along the lines of what the CIA would eventually become, then that will be enough to keep the country safe from overseas threats like Hitler's Germany, and there need be no more discussion about getting involved with the war in Europe - talk that's all stirred up by German agents anyway, according to the movie. (Why would Germany have wanted America to enter the war? Britain certainly had agents working that angle, but Germany was pretty intent on keeping us out....) Naive politics that have dated poorly aside, Espionage Agent is also worth watching for its place in film history when Hollywood was struggling with how to portray a heroic American "espionage agent." At the time, remember, spies were nearly always bad guys, and it was up to policemen and reporters (as in Foreign Correspondent) and costumed avengers (in the serials) and regular Joes to thwart their nefarious schemes. It wouldn't be until the Cold War and James Bond that we started to see proper, professional spy heroes on screen with any regularity, but Espionage Agent is a curious stepping stone worth checking out.

The Warner Archive made-on-demand DVD retails for $21.99 but can, as always, be found at a discount on Amazon. (Remember, purchases made through links on this blog benefit the Double O Section, which takes up far more of my time than any small commissions will ever compensate for, but every little bit helps!)

Read my full review of Espionage Agent, written in the early days of this blog, here.

Tradecraft: H Collective Activates COUNTER SPY Comedy

The H Collective, a global film finance and production company founded last year, has been building an aggressive production slate recently. As we learned last month, the focal point in their production slate is a fourth xXx film with Vin Diesel following The H Collective's acquisition of the rights to the extreme spy franchise from Revolution Studios. That fits in with their eye to the Chinese market, where the xXx: Return of Xander Cage made the bulk of its overseas money. Continuing the China-focused strategy - and, more importantly, continuing with the spy genre - The H Collective last week set the CIA comedy Counter Spy to be the first film of a three-picture co-production and distribution deal with Chinese streaming giant IQiyi. According to Deadline, "Counter Spy follows a barista at the CIA headquarters’ Starbucks in Langley, Virginia. He has the highest security coffee job in the world and loves being close to the action. However, when he’s accidentally tangled up in a secret mission with an old-school CIA agent and his Chinese counterparts, his fantasy of the spy life comes crashing down." David Rothenberg and Lionel Enns penned the first draft of the script; former Marvel exec Craig Kyle is currently doing a rewrite. The H Collective recently struck a distribution deal with Sony, so it seems possible that studio could handle domestic.

May 16, 2018


ABC announced this week that it had picked up the previously reported spy pilot Whiskey Cavalier to series. And they also unveiled a trailer! Bear in mind, this is one of those long, sort of cumbersome upfront trailers (designed with advertisers in mind, not audiences)... but it still looks awesome! This is exactly what I want from a network spy series. I really hope the show turns out to be as much fun as the trailer! Fulfilling the ancient prophecy that all the stars of Felicity would one day be spy stars (hey, Scott Speedman had his shot in xXx: State of the Nation, remember?), Scott Foley stars as a mostly by-the-book FBI agent just coming off a breakup who's assigned to partner up with a freewheeling CIA agent played by Lauren Cohan (who also stars in the upcoming summer spy movie Mile 22, whose trailer also dropped this week). Action, hijinks, and sexual tension ensue. And based on his memorable several seconds in the trailer, Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck) looks to have reinvented his career, brilliantly transforming himself from a ho-hum leading man to a scene-stealing character actor. I can't wait to see the show!

Trailer: MILE 22

While it's likely to be eclipsed by the new Mission: Impossible trailer, STX is eager to make us aware that intense spy action is not the exclusive domain of Tom Cruise. The first trailer (a red band trailer) has dropped for Peter Berg's (The Kingdom) CIA actioner Mile 22, starring his frequent collaborator Mark Wahlberg (2 Guns) and envisioned as a franchise kickoff. And it's got lots of shooting, running, and blowing shit up in it. Mile 22 is co-written by Jack Ryan showrunner Graham Roland, who's clearly having a very spy-ish summer, and Lea Carpenter. John Malkovich (RED), Ronda Rousey (Furious 7), and Lauren Cohan co-star. This is, in fact, one of two Lauren Cohan spy trailers to hit this week! She also stars in the new ABC series Whiskey Cavalier, which looks great.


As promised, Paramount debuted the new trailer for Mission: Impossible - Fallout today. And it certainly looks like another winner! Will this be three great Missions in a row? Check out the trailer and judge for yourself.

May 15, 2018

New Poster and Trailer for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT

Paramount has released a new poster for Tom Cruise's sixth Mission: Impossible movie, Mission: Impossible - Fallout. A new trailer will debut tomorrow. (If the waiting is killing you, you can still tide yourself over with the awesome first trailer!) Cruise once again stars as Ethan Hunt; the supporting cast including returnees Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, and Michelle Monaghan, and newcomers Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, and Henry Cavill. (No Jeremy Renner this time around.)  Christopher McQuarrie, who helmed the last entry in the series, Rogue Nation, returns to direct. (A first for the series, which has historically used a different director for each film.)

May 1, 2018

Tradecraft: John Cena Replaces Dwayne Johnson in Ludlum Movie THE JANSON DIRECTIVE

It's been a while since we've heard about any movement on the Robert Ludlum film front. After the success of the Bourne franchise, there were all sorts of reports of new adaptations of Ludlum bestsellers like The Chancellor Manuscript (at one point Martin Scorsese was supposed to direct Leonard DiCaprio), The Matarese Circle (once set to team Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington before the Cruise-run United Artists imploded), The Osterman Weekend (a remake once set to be Simon Kinberg's directorial debut, and later a vehicle for RED director Robert Schwetke), The Sigma Protocol (long in development with producer Irwin Winkle), The Parsifal Mosaic (Ron Howard and, tantalizingly, Zhang Yimou had both kicked the tires as potential directors), and The Janson Directive. That last one seemed the most likely to move forward, as the world's biggest star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was attached to topline, and because the Ludlum estate has kept a Janson book franchise going along the lines of the Bourne series, hiring other authors to pen continuation novels about Ludlum's sniper hero. (Even Ludlum's original Janson tale, The Janson Directive, was finished by another author, and published posthumously.) But it had been quite a while since we'd heard anything about this film, and I'd assumed it had gone the way of so many other projects (like Shane Black's Doc Savage) that Johnson attaches himself to but ultimately doesn't have room for on his busy slate. Apparently, that's not the case! Johnson must believe in the property, because he remains involved as a producer. But he's tapped a protege to take over starring duties on the Universal film.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, fellow wrestler-turned-actor John Cena will step in to star. Cena is hot right now, coming off of a major comedic success in Blockers after steadily building a mainstream comedy career with smaller roles in movies like Trainwreck, Sisters, and Daddy's Home 2 after first fizzling by following the typical wrestler path of paint-by-numbers action vehicles like The Marine (2006) and 12 Rounds (2009). He has, however, maintained his dramatic chops by appearing in Doug Liman's experimental Iraq horror movie The Wall. But most of all, he's proven himself to be an immensely charming and likable screen presence, much like Johnson. So it makes sense for the latter to anoint the former his successor. (Johnson first made the announcement on social media.)

In The Wall, Cena played a spotter for a sniper; in The Janson Directive he'll play a sniper himself - a former SEAL who now runs a private security firm and ends up taking on a younger female apprentice. The Ludlum novel (review here) saw Janson lead a team on a disastrous rescue mission that left him on the run from governments and terrorists alike. As he trotted the globe in an effort to clear his name, he ended up uncovering a conspiracy with ties to his own past military service and reaching (thrillingly) all the way to the highest levels of the U.S. government. Of course, in the post-Bourne Identity world there is no guarantee whatsoever that a Ludlum-based movie will actually follow much of the master plotter's plot. One key divergence is obvious already. The Janson of the book is the proverbial old gunslinger, a Vietnam vet now well past his prime and running form his past. That Janson would have been a great role for Liam Neeson. If any of Ludlum's plot is retained, presumably Janson's military service and the horrific incident that still haunts him will now take place in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The trade reports that James Vanderbilt (The Losers, White House Down) will pen the script from a story he and Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) adapted together. (John Hlavin penned a previous draft for Universal.) The pair will also produce, along with Ludlum rights holders Captivate Entertainment's Ben Smith and Jeffrey Weiner and Johnson's regular producing partner Hiram Garcia. Johnson and Dany Garcia will executive produce. No director has yet been named.

With Cena set to star, I'm a lot more hopeful that this movie will actually happen! (His dance card isn't nearly as full as The Rock's, and he's at the perfect stage of his career to launch a new spy franchise.) And I always welcome any new Robert Ludlum based movies.

Read my review of Ludlum's novel The Janson Directive here.
Purchase The Janson Directive on Amazon here.

First Glimpse of Two-Eyed Nick Fury in CAPTAIN MARVEL

Hollywood Pipeline (via Dark Horizons) has snapped some pictures and even video of Samuel L. Jackson on the set of Marvel Studios' upcoming Captain Marvel. As previously reported, Captain Marvel (starring the studio's first female film title character) will take place in the 1990s, decades prior to other Marvel movies we've seen. (Though perhaps around the same time as the opening of Ant-Man, which featured aged versions of Agent Carter characters Peggy Carter and Howard Stark running S.H.I.E.L.D.) That means we'll get to see a younger version of Marvel's resident ramrod superspy, Nick Fury. (Read my Fury/S.H.I.E.L.D. primer here.) But he's still played by Jackson, who is expected to be digitally de-aged. (Clark Gregg's fan-favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. agent of big and small screen, Phil Coulson, will presumably get the same treatment.) The younger Fury will still have both eyes, thus won't sport his famous eyepatch look. Though, as we can see, Fury is in civilian clothes, indicating he's already traded his stripes for spy suits. We saw the original Nick Fury maintain this state (as a two-eyed spy) throughout an entire issue only once, in Fantastic Four #21 (which is collected in the S.H.I.E.L.D. Omnibus). Other than that, you could easily tell his soldier comics (Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos) apart from his spy comics (Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) by counting his eyes. No doubt Jackson's Fury will lose an eye during his adventures in Captain Marvel. (In the comics, his missing eye has been explained several different times featuring several different circumstances.)

I have to admit, though, that I'm a little bit disappointed. I was hoping Marvel Studios would be cheeky enough to have Jackson replicate his most famous Nineties look, and sport Jules' Jheri curl from Pulp Fiction as the younger Fury!