Sep 24, 2019

Trailer for EON's New Spy Movie THE RHYTHM SECTION

On Friday Paramount dropped the trailer for the second most anticipated EON Production of 2020, The Rhythm Section! The Rhythm Section has been delayed several times (first when star Blake Lively suffered an on-set injury), but here's proof that it's finally really coming... and it looks great! While an adaptation of Mark Burnell's 1999 spy novel would be something for spy fans to be seriously excited about anyway, it's even more exciting because it hails from Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson's EON Productions, the producers behind the James Bond movies. While EON has been venturing outside the realm of 007 lately, this marks their first new foray into the genre that defined them—and that they defined, under the auspices of first-generation Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. And it's not only a new EON spy movie; it's potentially the start of a new, female-fronted EON spy series! (Burnell wrote four Stephanie Patrick thrillers.) Will Lively end up being the Sean Connery of a long lasting Stephanie Patrick film series?

The books are quite good, and remind me of a female Callan. Like Callan, Stephanie ends up working as an assassin for a particularly unpleasant boss in an ultra-secret branch of British Intelligence. And like Callan, she doesn't do this work by choice. Instead she's forced into it by that unpleasant boss. But she's also got very personal motivations (motivations he ruthlessly manipulates) for her initial mission: an opportunity to get revenge on the terrorists responsible for the death of her parents and siblings. Burnell's book is very dark and very serious, and judging from this trailer the movie will be true to that tone. In fact, the movie (directed by Reed Morano and scripted by Burnell himself) looks quite faithful to the book overall, though it's obvious that the ending has been changed, which was pretty much a given. (The villains' plot in the '99 book had eerie similarities to 9/11, which simply wouldn't play in today's world.) And it looks great!

The first of two major EON spy movies coming out next year, The Rhythm Section opens on January 31, 2020. It stars Blake Lively (The Age of Adaline), Jude Law (Spy), Raza Jaffrey (Spooks/MI-5), and Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther).

Sep 16, 2019

Movie Review: SAIGON: YEAR OF THE CAT (1983)

UK TV movie Saigon: Year of the Cat might be most notable today for what many of its key personnel went on to do, but it’s worth a watch as a sad historical spy movie, and does a good job conveying a strong sense of its titular time and place on a low budget. Frederick Forrest (The Conversation) plays CIA officer Bob Chesneau, stationed at the U.S. embassy in Saigon during the final weeks before the city fell to the North Vietnamese. Judi Dench (a decade before GoldenEye) plays the English bank employee, Barbara Dean, who falls in love with him at this inopportune time. The versatile Stephen Frears (who has a strange Bond connection, in that he was attached to direct the Die Another Day spinoff movie, Jinx, that ultimately fell apart) directs, from a script by playwright David Hare (who went on to write the excellent Page Eight spy thrillers). Frears frames the film as a star-crossed love story, opening with a retro-style title card and dramatic music that seem intended to evoke Casablanca, but the spy plot is far more interesting.

Chesneau receives intelligence from a good local asset, whose past record is unblemished, that the North will invade the city within three weeks. He tries desperately to convince his boss of the intel’s validity, but the station chief toes the line of official U.S. policy, insisting that an invasion is not imminent and refusing to make obvious evacuation preparations for fear of setting off a panic in the city. When the invasion does, inevitably, come, the evacuation is rushed and haphazard. Chesneau tries desperately to arrange to get all of his assets out of the country, which he had promised in good faith to do. Since the evacuation is a matter of historical record, it doesn’t seem too much of a spoiler to say that that doesn’t happen, and scenes of file cards with agents’ photos on them left in the embassy for North Vietnamese soldiers to discover, or bands of loyal South Vietnamese assets waiting nervously at their pre-appointed rendezvous points for American helicopters that will never come carry a heartbreaking, le Carré-esque sense of doom. 

The love story, of course, is similarly doomed, as Barbara does what she can to get her own local bank employees out before the Communist influx, even attempting to offer up her own spot on a helicopter. While the movie is mainly talky and stagey (not totally surprising, coming from a playwright and made for Thames Television), it becomes surprisingly exciting in its final act. Hundreds of extras swarm the streets as Vietnamese refugees try in vain to gain access to the U.S. embassy, escaping personnel pack themselves onto helicopters, and embassy staff furiously push as many documents as they can into industrial shredders and furnaces. There is nothing groundbreaking in Saigon: Year of the Cat, but it’s still a fairly compelling drama set against a fairly unique historical backdrop. Roger Rees (If Looks Could Kill), Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride), and E.G. Marshall (The Poppy is Also a Flower) round out the impressive cast.

Saigon: Year of the Cat is available on a quality DVD from Network in the UK, and in America, where it seems to be in the public domain, on various budget DVDs and compilations, as well as streaming on Amazon (free for Prime members).

Sep 11, 2019

Expanded Score CD for Danny Elfman's MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1996) Out this Week from La-La Land

Years in the making, La-La Land Records finally made the announcement today that Mission: Impossible fans have been craving: an expanded score CD featuring Danny Elfman's amazing music from the first Tom Cruise Mission movie! The 2-disc limited edition soundtrack to the 1996 Brian De Palma film (review here) will contain the original score album assembly, mastered by Patricia Sullivan, on Disc 1, while Disc 2 (per the label) "showcases the remastered film score, expanding the original album release by more than twenty minutes. Produced by Dan Goldwasser and Neil S. Bulk and remastered by Mike Matessino, this powerhouse 2-CD set is limited to 3000 units and features exclusive liner notes by writer Jeff Bond. The sleek art direction is by Dan Goldwasser." It should be noted that, like the original score album, this release will not contain the version of Lalo Schifrin's "Mission: Impossible Theme" by U2's Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, which was originally included on the entirely different album Mission: Impossible - Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture (remember those annoying "From and Inspired by" albums so popular in the late Nineties?), and also issued as a single. Elfman's music, however, frequently incorporates Shifrin's theme, too, as well as his distinctive cue "The Plot" from the Sixties TV show. Missing from the track list for the new release are the three Elfman tracks originally included on that "From and Inspired by" album, but my guess is that that those tracks contain music already inclued in other tracks on the original score album. (Can anyone confirm or refute that?) Last year, Mondo released Elfman's Mission: Impossible score on vinyl, but that release contained no extra music.

Strictly limited to 3000 units, La-La Land's Mission: Impossible - Limited Edition soundtrack retails for $29.98. It's available to order now, and starts shipping later this week on September 13.

Here's the full track listing from the La-La Land website:

1. Sleeping Beauty(†) 2:33
2. Theme From Mission: Impossible(§) 1:07
    Composed by Lalo Schifrin, arr. Danny Elfman
3. Red Handed(§) 4:23
4. Big Trouble 5:37
5. Love Theme? 2:24
6. Mole Hunt 3:05
7. The Disc(†) 1:58
8. Max Found 1:05
9. Looking for “Job”(†) 4:40
10. Betrayal 2:59
11. The Heist(†) 5:49
12. Uh-Oh! 1:31
13. Biblical Revelation 1:37
14. Phone Home 2:28
15. Train Time(§)(†) 4:15
16. Ménage à Trois 2:57
17. Zoom A 1:54
18. Zoom B(§) 2:58

1. Sleeping Beauty**(†) (Film Version) 3:03
2. Theme From Mission: Impossible(§) 1:07
    Composed by Lalo Schifrin, arr. Danny Elfman
3. Red Handed** (†/§) (Film Version) 6:21
4. Big Trouble** (Film Version) 7:01
5. Lonely March* 0:54
6. Mole Hunt** (Film Version)/Escape* 3:35
7. Looking For “Job”(†) 4:44
8. Max Returns*/Max At Last* 1:30
9. Max Found 1:05
10. The Disc(†) 1:59
11. Disavowed*/Worse Than You Think** (†) 2:48
12. Langley*(§) 1:01
13. The Heist** (†) (Film Version) 5:05
14. Uh-Oh! 1:31
15. Biblical Revelation 1:36
16. Phone Home 2:28
17. Betrayal** (Film Version) 3:01
18. Love Theme? 2:24
19. Train Time** (Film Version)/Is He?* 5:33
20. Ménage à Trois 2:57
21. Zoom A** (Film Version)/Zoom B**(§) (Film Version) 5:21

22. Red Handed**(†) (Alternate Ending) 1:46
23. Disavowed* (Alternate)/Worse Than You Think*(†) (Alternate) 2:59
24. Zoom A** (Alternate)/Zoom B**(§) (Alternate) 5:19


* previously unreleased
** contains previously unreleased material
§ contains “Theme From Mission: Impossible” by Lalo Schifrin
† contains “The Plot” by Lalo Schifrin