Nov 30, 2014

BBC Plots New Version of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent

The Guardian reports that the BBC will air a new 3-part adaptation of Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel The Secret Agent in 2015. Playwright Tony Marchant (The Whistleblowers, The Mark of Cain) is behind the new miniseries. Conrad's tale of a spy posing as a Soho shopkeeper ordered by his Russian handler to set off a bomb in order to provoke the British government into cracking down on anarchism is particularly relevant today. It's been adapted several times before, as a 1996 feature with Bob Hoskins, Christian Bale and Robin Williams, a 1992 miniseries with Peter Capaldi and David Suchet, a 1967 telefilm with Nigel Green, and of course Alfred Hitchcock's 1936 Sabotage (he'd already used Secret Agent as the title of his Ashenden adaptation) with Oskar Homolka, but not in the post-9/11 era when the turn-of-the-century tale of terrorism takes on new contemporary resonance. This commission comes in the same slate as the Len Deighton adaptation SSGB. No casting, airdate or U.S. broadcast partner have yet been announced.

Nov 27, 2014

New Agent Carter Promo

Celebrate Thanksgiving with a new promo for ABC's upcoming period spy drama Agent Carter...

Nov 20, 2014

Tradecraft: Purvis and Wade Adapt Deighton for BBC

Variety reports that James Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Skyfall, Casino Royale, The World Is Not Enough) have signed on to write a 5-episode miniseries for BBC One based on Ipcress File author Len Deighton's novel SS-GB. As much as I love Deighton, I have to confess I've never read that one because his alternate history novels never interested me as much as his Cold War spy thrillers. So I'll rely on the trade's plot summary. "It is set in an imaginary Britain controlled by the Nazis, if Germany had occupied the country. It centers on a police detective caught between the Nazis and the British resistance." But the alternate history setting doesn't mean that it's not a spy story! Speaking to The Guardian, Purvis and Wade called SS-GB "a brilliant tale of espionage that dares to think the unthinkable." I'll certainly have to read the book before this miniseries airs in 2015! I can't help but be a tad disappointed that this isn't news on the new television adaptation of Deighton's masterful Bernard Samson cycle that was first reported on last year, but on which there have been no updates ever since, but I guess I should just be glad that any Deighton is coming to television. And this sounds like fertile ground for a series, for sure! Besides their contributions to the last five Bond movies, Purvis and Wade's other genre credits include Johhny English and The Italian Job remake (on which they ended up uncredited).

Nov 19, 2014

Double O Section Classic: Encore Review: Espionage Agent (1939)

In the days leading up to WWII, Joel McCrea made near back-to-back spy films with polar opposite political agendas. Alfred Hitchcock’s genre-defining action masterpiece Foreign Correspondent warned of the chaos brewing in Europe and made the clear case that it would be impossible for America and Americans to avoid being caught up in it, so the U.S. should make a stand soon and come to the aid of its overseas allies. (As a Brit working in Hollywood, Hitchcock himself had an obvious patriotic agenda.) Prior to that role, however, McCrea played an American diplomat in Espionage Agent, a movie that dared to vilify Hitler’s Germany at a time when studios preferred to play it safe with international politics, yet at the same time advocated America’s neutrality. "If America, lacking the protective laws it needs, is drawn into another war," one mouthpiece character declares, "it will be because of those human ostriches who keep their heads buried in the sand." While advocating isolationism, the movie recognizes its drawbacks. "Isolation is a political policy, and not a brick wall around the nation," comments another character. "And fancy pants guys [meaning spies] walk right through political policies."

Espionage Agent blames nefarious foreign spies and saboteurs for warmongering in America, ignoring all the other factors that led to U.S. involvement in the Second World War, but at the same time makes the sound case that the United States badly needs a counterintelligence agency of its own to root out those spies. That, the film’s creators naively believe, will be the end of it. As long as U.S. authorities can round up all the foreign agents operating within the country, America need have no more involvement with the war in Europe. So while it’s heart may have been in the right place, the movie’s politics have dated badly. But how does Espionage Agent fare as pure entertainment? Sadly not so well. Director Lloyd Bacon and the four credited writers had not yet cracked the genre the way Hitchcock had.

At a time when Hollywood films weren’t supposed to stir up trouble by specifically identifying the foreign powers behind the spies and saboteurs creeping all over movie screens, Espionage Agent boldly opens with headlines about German agents operating subversively on U.S. soil and Congress’s need to take action. They get away with this by hiding behind a title card that identifies these events as occurring in 1915, but the implication is clear that they’re happening again. Once we flash forward to the contemporary setting of 1939, there’s no more specific mention of Germany, though all the foreign agents speak with German accents and have names like Muller and come from a country that borders Switzerland with soldiers whose uniforms closely resemble those of the SS.

McCrea plays Barry Corvall, a U.S. diplomat in Algiers. He helps a throng of American travelers escape the revolution-rocked nation, including the beautiful Brenda Ballard (played by the equally beautiful Brenda Marshall). When he sees Brenda, it’s love at first sight. Unfortunately, we’ve just seen her agreeing out of desperation to spy for the loathsome Herr Muller (Martin Kosleck) if only he’ll furnish her with an American passport so she can get home. Barry books Brenda passage on the same steamship he’s taking back to the States, and woos her throughout the voyage. Not wanting to drag him into her own unfortunate predicament, Brenda adamantly refuses his advances.

Back in America, Barry and his friend Lowell enroll in some sort of advanced diplomat school, and learn more about the dangers of foreign spies. This section plays out like the Top Gun of the diplomatic corps; it’s clearly designed to attract eager recruits for foreign service. Barry eventually completes his higher learning and gets posted to Paris. And he finally convinces Brenda to marry him. Of course, that’s when the snake Muller emerges from the shadows, reminding her of her debt of service to his organization. Here, the movie does something surprising. It doesn’t milk the drama of a wife coerced into spying on her husband. Instead, Brenda comes clean with Barry and tells him everything. He, in turn, reveals all this to his bosses in the State Department.

I don’t know if their response accurately belies the astonishing ignorance of the pre-war U.S. intelligence community, or merely the astonishing ignorance of Hollywood’s screenwriters at telling good spy stories. Either way, instead of using this newfound asset as a double agent to pass misinformation along to the Germans, the honchos at the State Department call Muller into their office and tell him exactly what they know, blowing their chances at running any sort of counterspy operation. Muller smiles and says it’s all true, but what can they do about it? He’s a foreign citizen, so under the current U.S. law they have no choice but to let him go. Way to go, State Department; way to accomplish nothing. Yes, that’s the movie’s point, but it makes for frustrating plot development.

So halfway through the movie, we’re robbed (twice) of what could have been the compelling espionage drama promised in the film’s title. Luckily, Corvall feels just as cheated as the audience, and vows to single-handedly bust up this spy ring. Of course Brenda won’t let him go it alone, so he reluctantly accepts her help. As a private citizen, he’ll fashion himself and Brenda into a two-person CIA. And so they head off together to take on all the espionage agents in Europe, trying to gather evidence of infiltration that will force Congress to act... somehow. This private mission leads to the good stuff we expect from Thirties spy movies, like secret codes, foreign embassies, listening to conversations through windows and–of course–crossing borders on trains. But still, Barry and Brenda are dogged by America’s general lack of preparedness to function as a superpower. When Barry tries to bluff that American agents are watching all the train stations, the head German (oops, I mean head "foreign") agent snidely gloats, "Ve know America has no counter-espionage service."

Things still manage to get exciting in a kind of third-rate way, and then wrap up very suddenly against the same conditions that end Foreign Correspondent, with the world on the verge of war. It’s not giving away too much about a movie of this era to say that Barry does something worthy of praise, but sadly America is in no position to offer it. "You helped forge the weapon the service so badly needed," says his former State Department superior. "And yet the service can’t show its gratitude for it." The age-old secret agent’s dilemma: there’s no public reward for secret service. Of course, the movie itself has managed to make its very public case for an American counterintelligence agency, so it’s undeniably successful to some degree, and of considerable interest to students of spy history. Yet its creators remain blissfully hopeful that such an organization will enable the country to maintain its isolationist outlook, and steer clear of the troubles in Europe.

Espionage Agent is a curious time capsule from that moment when Hollywood was first dabbling with the notion of a secret agent hero. Spies were still shadowy villains, aiming to do America harm, but what about a counterintelligence officer, protecting the country from such threats? Barry Corvall is still a private citizen, and a cinematic James Bond is still two decades away. Despite a few anomalies during WWII, the heroic counter agent wouldn’t emerge until the Cold War, but Espionage Agent is notable as an early experiment in that direction. It’s also worth seeing for solid performances from Joel McCrea and the truly stunning Brenda Marshall, whose career was sadly never as big as it should have been. But it’s far from top-shelf spy entertainment. For that, seek out McCrea’s next spy movie, Foreign Correspondent.

Rare U.N.C.L.E. and Vaughn Screenings in Los Angeles

Los Angeles spy fans can look forward to seeing some exciting, rarely screened Sixties spy movies on the big screen this weekend! Quentin Tarantino's New Beverly Theater will show a double feature of two Man From U.N.C.L.E. moviesThe Spy With My Face and One Spy Too Many, on Friday, November 21 and Saturday, November 22. The first film starts at 7:30, the second plays at 9:25. On Saturday there will also be a matinee program beginning at 3:15. Best of all, both films will be shown in 35mm IB Technicolor prints! The prints come from Tarantino's personal collection, and I doubt either one has played in L.A. since the Sixties.

The Spy With My Face (1965) is the feature version of the Season 1 episode "The Double Affair" padded out with newly shot material that eventually ended up (used differently) in other episodes. Eurospy vixen Senta Berger (The Quiller Memorandum, Our Man in Marrakesh, Peau d'espion) brings the va-va-va-voom. One Spy Too Many (1966) is the re-edited feature version of the 2-part Season 2 opener "The Alexander the Greater Affair," co-starring Rip Torn, Dorothy Provine (Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die) and Yvonne Craig (In Like Flint). Like The Spy With My Face, One Spy Too Many features some footage not seen on TV, mostly involving Craig. It also excises the worst subplot from the TV episodes, featuring Alexander's parents.

Perhaps even more exciting than the U.N.C.L.E. movies is another Robert Vaughn spy flick of that era (also an IB Technicolor 35mm print!), The Venetian Affair (1967), which plays on Sunday, November 23 and Monday, November 24 at 7:30pm. (There's also a Sunday matinee at 3:15.) Why is that more exciting? Well, if you read this blog regularly, then you'll probably know why I think so. Because it co-stars my favorite Eurospy babe of all, Elke Sommer (Deadlier Than the Male, The Prize)! And Luciana Paluzzi (Thunderball, OSS 117: Murder For Sale) and Boris Karloff (Black Sabbath) don't hurt either. It would have been great if that had been paired with the David McCallum vehicle Sol Madrid to continue the U.N.C.L.E. theme, but I guess Tarantino doesn't have that one in his collection. There is a Sixties spy show connection though, as it's paired with Hickey and Boggs (1972), the private eye movie that reunited the I Spy duo of Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. I guess the timing on that one isn't ideal (especially the promise of a "special bonus after [the] feature"), but it's still a good movie worth watching. Speaking of bonuses, the New Bev always plays a selection of themed trailers from Tarantino's collection accompanying the feautres, so these shows probably promise loads of cool Sixties spy trailers. All in all, it's an excellent weekend ahead for spy fans! Personally, I plan on hitting both screenings.

As always at The New Bev, the cost of one $8 ticket covers both features. Tickets are available for pre-order from Brown Paper Tickets, or at the door the night of the show.

Nov 18, 2014

Tradecraft: Brad Anderson to Direct Bourne-esque Shadow Run

Deadline reports that Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Transsiberian) has signed on to direct a "Bourne-esque" spy thriller called Shadow Run for Sony. (If you haven't caught on in years of reading this blog, every spy thriller is described as "Bourne-esque" at this stage. It's how they get sold. I wasn't alive or reading trades back in the Sixties, but I imagine back then they were all called "Bond-esque.") The studio snapped up Joe Gazzam's spec script back in February for Neil Moritz to produce. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "the action is put in motion when a viral attack puts lives in danger, forcing a CIA agent to enact a secret prisoner exchange of Russia’s most notorious spy for the American scientist who can create a cure. It has been described by one source as 'Safe House on a plane.'" I didn't care for Safe House, but I do like planes... so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt! (Plus, of course, I would never judge a movie by a studio source's pithy log line for the script.)

Nov 17, 2014

Tradecraft: New Mata Hari Miniseries in the Works with International Cast

French actress Vahina Giocante (Secret défense) will follow in the footsteps of Greta Garbo, Jeanne Moreau and Sylvia Kristel when she takes on the role of one of the most famous (if not particularly successful) spies of all time in a  new Russian-made miniseries Mata Hari. And The Hollywood Reporter reports that she'll be backed up by an impressive international cast including John Malkovich (RED), Rutger Hauer (The Osterman Weekend), Christopher Lambert (Fortress), Fedor Bondarchuk (The Spy), Kseniya Rappoport (The Double Hour) and, according to an IMDb listing, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's Svetlana Khodchenkova (who also memorably embodied Steranko's Madame Hydra in The Wolverine). American director Dennis Berry (The Saint: The Blue Dulac, Counterstrike) will helm the 12-part series, which is set to air on Russian state network First Channel and Ukraine's Inter in 2015. According to the trade, unsurprisingly, "an English-language version for the international market will also be shot, with Lisbon's well-preserved 19th- and 20th-century architecture providing locations along with St. Petersburg." With well-known names like Malkovich and Hauer in the cast, I would think this project will find the American distribution it's seeking. And if it does, I'll be sure to tune in!

State of Affairs Premieres Tonight on NBC

The next new spy series of the season, State of Affairs, kicks off tonight on NBC at 10/9c. Katherine Heigl (Killers) stars as Charlie Tucker, the CIA officer responsible for briefing the President on the intelligence issues of the day. Alfre Woodard plays the President in question. So far, that sounds like a good premise for a spy show to me, since we've never seen one focused on that particular level of the Agency, and even those exploring the intersection between espionage and politics are fairly rare. (And when they do come, it tends to be with spy storylines on political shows, like Scandal, rather than vice versa.) But that's not the end of NBC's premise. These two powerful women have something else in common besides a healthy interest in secret intelligence. Heigl's character was once engaged to the President's son, who was killed in a terrorist attack. And now both women want revenge. That's where things start to sound a bit dicey for me. Obviously you need a personal angle to hook viewers, but this particular one threatens to steer the show away from its potential as an intelligent desk spy saga into the realm of Alias and 24. Not that there's anything wrong with Alias and 24 (I loved both those shows), but they're shows that we've seen before. (To put it another way, it sounds like Covert Affairs if it had launched immediately with Season 4, rather than started out with the fresher, earlier seasons, which dealt more with CIA office politics than larger-than-life threats.) I'm crossing my fingers that State of Affairs proves to be something new instead. To help draw your own conclusions, here's a trailer:

Nov 12, 2014

Tradecraft: Bond Starts Shooting in December

Variety reports that production will officially begin on the still untitled Bond 24 on December 6. About time! My internal biological Bond clock is still somehow set to an era I was for the most part too young to every really know (except for a three film run during the Brosnan era) when Bond movies materialized every two years like clockwork. So last week as we hit the two year mark from Skyfall's release, I really started getting pangs badly. It's too bad we've got to wait three years for Sam Mendes' follow-up to that blockbuster (Bond 24 is slated to open in the U.K. on Oct. 23, 2015, and in the U.S. Nov. 6, 2015), but at least it won't be four again like that excruciating period between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall! A firm shooting date always makes me feel more at ease. Despite daily rumors in the tabloid press, no casting announcements have yet been made about villains or Bond Girls in Bond 24. (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol's Lea Seydoux is widely touted for a role.) But the returning MI6 support staff is known. In addition to Daniel Craig (obviously!) returning as Agent 007, Ralph Fiennes will be back as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner and Ben Whishaw as Q.

Not a Joke: Sony Planning Spider-man Spin-off About Aunt May as a Spy?

When I read the Latino Review headline about Sony, in obvious desperation, planning a Spider-man spin-off movie about Aunt May, I actually laughed out loud. (And wondered for a second if it was April 1.) Then when I read the actual article and saw that they wanted to make a Sixties-set spy movie with a female lead, I stopped laughing. I was torn. I love Sixties spy movies, especially with female leads. And both Sixties-set spy movies and spy movies with female leads are hard to come by these days, and hard to get made. So if somehow shoehorning one into the Spider-man universe is the only way to do it, then maybe I'm not so opposed as I thought I was to giving the Spidey bit player least likely to get her own spin-off an all-new background as a secret agent with no precedent in the Marvel comic books. Maybe.

Why, you might very reasonably ask, are we even talking about the possibility of Aunt May as a spy? Well, it's because Sony has to keep making Spider-man movies (or at least movies tangentially related to Spider-man, I guess) in order to keep the rights to the character from reverting back to Marvel (who would just love to see their flagship character return to the fold, and be able to add him to their ever growing Marvel Cinematic Universe). But unfortunately for Sony, their last Spider-man movie didn't do as well as they'd hoped it would. (Maybe, just maybe, audiences weren't ready to see a character rebooted barely a decade after his screen debut....) So they've started panicking about the future of the franchise. And rather than figuring out how to get their lead character back on track, they're trying to come up with spin-offs featuring every possible Spidey Universe supporting character, hoping against hope to build the same sort of shared universe Marvel enjoys with a bunch of third-tier heroes and villains.

They've long been mooting a Sinister Six movie (who on earth wants to see Spider-man villains teaming up as good guys in a movie without Spider-man?), they keep threatening to put out a Venom movie (yawn... another villain re-positioned as an anti-hero), they've reportedly considered a movie teaming up all the female characters from the Spider-man comics (the likes of Spider-woman, Black Cat and Silver Sable, any one of whom I'd actually like to see on the big screen in the right context, but probably not as a team)... and now they've perhaps sunk to hilarious lows by, if Latino Review is to be believed (and their track record is pretty solid) thinking about an Aunt May movie. (Sally Field played Aunt May in the two most recent movies.) And just like their Sinister Six idea kind of seems like a poor copy of Marvel's success with the superhero jamboree Marvel's The Avengers, this concept also sounds a little like a copy of something Marvel's doing. Marvel, of course, has their own period piece about a female spy on the way, the eagerly anticipated TV miniseries Agent Carter, starring Hayley Atwell.

Now, if I were Sony and I were desperate to both save my Spider-man franchise by giving it a new twist and introduce audiences to characters who could be spun off into their own films and potentially spawn new franchises, I think I would probably turn back to the comics—specifically Marvel Team-Up, which paired Spidey with another Marvel hero month after month. Do that. Make a movie teaming proven box office commodity Spider-man up with the mostly unknown Silver Sable, and then you have the basis to give her her own movie. Next time team him up with Black Cat, and so on. But that's just me. Sony is apparently intent on creating spin-offs from whole cloth based partly on characters that audiences who don't read comics have never even heard of. So of all the bad ideas they're mulling, the Aunt May one actually sounds the least bad to me. According to Latino Review, "the target mood [of the spin-off] is some sort of espionage story in the vein of AMC’s Mad Men." Well, honestly, as regular readers know a sort of espionage story in the vein of Mad Men is what I want most out of life, so I guess I'm all for an Aunt May spin-off. And I never thought I'd hear myself saying that before! Kudos to whatever writer thought of pitching his Sixties female spy movie as an Aunt May movie. Whatever it takes...

UPDATE: Sony has, unsurprisingly, denied any of this.

Tradecraft: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart Team Up For Spy Comedy

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Fast Five) has always been careful to balance his serious movies with comedic ones, and now he's doing that with spy movies too. While he's got a serious Robert Ludlum starring role in the pipeline (The Janson Directive), he's also just signed on to star in the New Line buddy comedy Central Intelligence opposite Kevin Hart (Ride Along). Last time we heard about this project (back in January), Ed Helms was attached to star. Obviously that's changed, but he's still attached as a producer. Variety reports that Rawson Marshall Thurber (We're the Millers) will direct and do a rewrite on the script by Ike Barinholtz and Dave Stassen, and Sean Anders and John Morris. Hart will play a former high school sports star who's now an accountant. Johnson will play a former high school wimp who's now a superspy. At a high school reunion, the latter recruits the former to help him foil a plot to sell classified military secrets.

Nov 9, 2014

Worricker: Turks & Caicos Premieres Tonight on PBS

American audiences finally get to see David Hare's long-awaited follow-up to 2011's gripping spy drama Page Eight tonight on PBS's Masterpiece Contemporary. Worricker: Turks & Caicos airs in most regions at 9pm ET, but local PBS stations are always unpredictable, so you'll definitely want to check your local listings to be sure not to miss it. Bill Nighy's veteran MI5 agent Johnny Worricker returns, materializing in the faraway islands of Turks & Caicos after leaving his government position (and London) at the end of Page Eight. But we all know spies never retire. This time, an order from the CIA puts Worricker back to work. Once again, Nighy is backed up by an all-star cast, this time including Christopher Walken (A View to A Kill), Winona Ryder (Star Trek), Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club), Dylan Baker (The Tailor of Panama), Rupert Graves (Sherlock) and, returning from Page Eight, Ralph Fiennes (Skyfall). David Hare (Saigon: Year of the Cat) again writes and directs the 2-hour feature. Next Sunday, PBS airs the conclusion of the Worricker Trilogy, Salting the Battlefield. Both Turks & Caicos and Salting the Battlefield are already available to pre-order on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon as well. They come out next week, on November 18.

Nov 7, 2014

Tradecraft: Bridget Regan and Lyndsy Fonseca Join Agent Carter

The cast for ABC's period spy drama Agent Carter is growing. In separate stories, Deadline has reported that Bridget Regan (Legend of the Seeker, John Wick) and Lyndsy Fonseca (Nikita) have joined Hayley Atwell in the Marvel Comics-based show. Though she played a deadly secret agent for four seasons on Nikita, Fonseca apparently won't be spying on Agent Carter. (Or will she?) The trade describes her role as "Angie, an aspiring actress who befriends Peggy Carter." Regan (one of my favorite actresses) won't be playing an obvious agent either. The trade enigmatically explains that "she will play the recurring role of Dottie, a small-town girl from Iowa who’ll have a huge impact on the life of Agent Carter." Dominic Cooper (Fleming), Shea Whigham (American Hustle), Chad Michael Murray (Fruitvale Station) and Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse) also star. Earlier this week ABC announced that Agent Carter will premiere on January 6.

Nov 6, 2014

Tradecraft: ABC Sets Premiere Date for Agent Carter

ABC's forthcoming period spy drama set in the Marvel Universe, Agent Carter, was commissioned as an 8-episode miniseries designed to bridge the gap between the fall and spring installments of the network's modern-day Marvel spy show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Today, ABC announced when that will happen. Deadline reports that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will air its mid-season finale on December 9, and then, after the holidays, Agent Carter will premiere in its timeslot on January 6, 2015, and air over consecutive weeks. Then Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns on March 3 for an uninterrupted spring run. Agent Carter stars Hayley Atwell (Restless, The Prisoner), reprising her role from Captain America: The First Avenger and (briefly) Captain America: The Winder Soldier as Peggy Carter, agent of S.S.R. (forerunner to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe). On the show, Agent Carter must contend with threats both earthly and otherworldly in the nascent days of the Cold War, as well as the systemic sexism in postwar America. Atwell should be well suited to the role, having previously played a secret agent in 1940s America in the miniseries Restless, based on an excellent spy novel by James Bond continuation author William Boyd (Solo). It was also announced this year that Atwell will cameo as Agent Carter in the 2015 Marvel feature film Ant-Man. That movie's prologue is said to take place in the 1960s and feature S.H.I.E.L.D. agents of that era, so presumably Peggy will be among them.

Nov 5, 2014

Tradecraft: EuropaCorp Prequel The Transporter Legacy Moves to Summer

Deadline reports that we'll have to wait a little bit longer to see the Statham-less prequel The Transporter Legacy. As previously reported, the neo-Eurospy reboot was set to bow in North America on March 6, but EuropaCorp USA has moved it back to June 19. A summer release date generally indicates that the studio has a lot of confidence in the movie, and that's probably more true than ever in the overcrowded marketplace of 2015. Ed Skrein takes over from Jason Statham as professional transporter Frank Martin, and Loan Chabanol is the franchise's latest neo-Eurospy babe. Brick Mansions' Camille Delamarre directs. As far as I know, The Transporter Legacy has no connection to TNT's Transporter TV series, though Delamarre did handle second unit duties on the show.

Reminder: Cold War Spy Series The Game Debuts Tonight on BBC America

BBC America's new Seventies-set Cold War spy show The Game debuts tonight at 10/9c on the cable network. We got our first inkling of The Game in Britain late last year, and found out America would be getting it too in January. Created by Toby Whithouse (Being Human, Doctor Who - for which he penned one of my favorite episodes), the series sounded like a mixture of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Mission: Impossible. The trailer, which hit last month, seems to bear that out. Though maybe "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (both versions, really) meets Spooks (MI-5)" would be more accurate, as it definitely seems to blend modern action sensibilities with a Seventies le Carré vibe. And that, to me, seems like an incredible combination! I will definitely be tuning in to BBC America's Dramaville this evening. Brian Cox (The Bourne Identity, RED) plays the Smiley-esque spymaster "Daddy," and Tom Hughes (Page Eight, The Lady Vanishes) provides the heartthrob appeal as his star agent Joe Lambe. They really seem to be going for the look of the 2011 Tinker Tailor film (with a conference room that could be the same set recycled), and for me that just adds to the appeal! Check out the trailer below, and read more on the BBC America website.

Tradecraft: Two Iran-Contra Scandal Movies in the Works

American Hustle chronicled the AbScam scandal of the early Eighties and ended up with an impressive box office and a slew of Academy Award nominations, so perhaps it was inevitable that the biggest scandal of that decade come next. Now there are at least two Iran-Contra Affair movie in the works just in time for the scandal's 30th anniversary. Deadline reports that Homeland director Michael Cuesta, who just helmed the Jeremy Renner journalistic thriller Kill the Messenger (which itself touches upon the fallout of one specific aspect of that scandal) will direct Code Name Veil for Black Label Media from a  Black List script by Matt Billingsly. The film deals with one of the most famous casualties in the history of the CIA, Beirut station chief William F. Buckley (no relation to the spy author of the same name). According to the trade, Code Name Veil follows a rookie CIA agent investigating the terrorist bombings of the American Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. "When his station chief and mentor is taken hostage, he must resort to desperate measures, unwittingly becoming part of the scandal that would become known as Iran-Contra." This story should make for a fascinating film, and based on his work on Homeland and Kill the Messenger, I'd say Cuesta is the perfect man to tell it.

Meanwhile, another prolific TV director, Mikael Salomon (whose spy credits include helming both The Company and The Agency, which is a kind of neat feat), will tackle the spy scandal from a different perspective in Angel's Paradise. In a separate story, Deadline reports that "the 1980s-set pic tracks the mysterious torture and murder of a wire service reporter during the Salvadoran civil war whose death leads to the uncovering of the Iran-Contra affair." This one is scripted by award-winning journalist and documentarian Paul VanDevelder. Between these two movies, it sounds like audiences should have a pretty good understanding of the events behind the Iran-Contra Affair in a few years.