Saturday, November 16, 2019

'OSS 117: Red Alert in Black Africa' Goes Into Production

The last time we've seen Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath - better known by his codename OSS 117 - in action was ten years ago where he scavenged across and the outskirts of Rio to track down a microfilm containing the names of Nazi collaborators and their numbered Swiss bank accounts, while attempting to adapt to an ever-changing modern world and maintaining his self-appointed wisecrack attitude at the same time.

A perfect parody of the sixties James Bond films and EuroSpy pictures, along with taking inspirations from the respective eras of each period piece, a character originally created in a serious series of thriller novels by Jean Bruce is revived as a comedic spy thirteen years ago by writer Jean-François Halin and director Michel Hazanavicius. Along with actor Jean Dujardin in the lead role, these men forever immortalized Bruce's fictional secret agent albeit with a twist, fully reinventing him as a Frenchman working for DGSE rather than an American OSS operative of French descent as conceived in the books. But, despite all the wait and anticipation of a third film, the project has been in development hell for quite a few years now.

This year, however, proved rather successful for this production, having Dujardin and Halin set to reprise their roles as lead actor and writer, respectively. Hazanavicius, on the other hand, opted out of directing due to creative differences and was replaced with Nicolas Bedos. The film received the title OSS 117: Alerte Rouge en Afrique Noire (Red Alert in Black Africa in English), only this time its sets the period in the 1980s, skipping a decade as the last one took place in the sixties, and its predecessor in the fifties. What was reported originally by French outlets was that the original plan was to age the French spy which Halin refused to do, keeping the character forever young in possibly a floating timeline akin to the pre-reboot Bond films.

Yesterday, Dujardin and director Nicolas Bedos posted on their Instagram social media accounts that the film has officially started production and the cameras rolled in. This was an exciting news that fans of the franchise never thought would see after ten years too many when the character went absent from the screen. Actors Wladimir Yordanoff and Pierre Niney joined the cast as the new head of French Intelligence and the rookie agent to be tutored by Hubert, respectively. Filming will continue in France till the end of the year before moving to Kenya early next year.

But, before we delve away from the subject, can we also expect the return of Ken Samuels as CIA field officer Bill Tremendous? It would feel very empty without him!

"Sacre Hubert! Toujours le mot pour rire!"
For those who don't know much about the OSS 117 franchise, as we've covered before, its roots trace all the way back to 1949 when author Jean Bruce published his first book featuring the secret agent, who, since then, appeared in over 250 novels up until 1992. After Bruce's death, his wife took over the writing duties, who herself was succeeded by their daughter and her husband. Very few of them were translated to English and most of them only exist in their native language form - French.

The first film adaptation starring the character was released in 1956, played by Ivan Desny in OSS 117 is Not Dead, characterized as a detective-like intelligence officer on the trail of a conspiracy plot. Unfortunately, the film is very rare to find and copies hardly exist anywhere. The second production of an OSS 117 film launched a brief series produced by Paul Cadeac and most of them were directed by Andre Hunebelle. Just as when the James Bond film series started changing the concept of spy fiction on film, as well as the public view of a secret agent, OSS 117 is Unleashed was released in 1963, followed by OSS 117: Shadow of Evil a year later, both of which starred Kerwin Matthews as the titular character.
Frederick Stafford with co-star Marina Vlady in a still
from OSS 117: From Tokyo with Love

Changing leads with the next film, inexperienced but surprisingly talented Frederick Stafford took over the role of OSS 117, debuting a year later in OSS 117: Mission for a Killer, which was also set in Rio (the 2009 parody film even went as far to reuse some of the footage from its 1965 predecessor). At this point, when there were numerous Italian imitations of the Bond films, thus creating the subgenre EuroSpy, this series fell under that label, as well. Stafford received a lot of comparisons with Sean Connery and even looked the part of what could be "France's equivalent of James Bond".

The next film was the first not to be based on any of an existing material, but instead brought an original story on board penned by three-time Bond director Terence Young. A film which would later inspire both You Only Live Twice and The Spy who Loved Me. Stafford returned as the suave French secret agent in OSS 117: From Tokyo with Love, sharpening his skills as an actor, his performance was even better received than before. It is also the only film in this series not to be directed by Hunebelle.

John Gavin with co-star Margaret Lee in
a still from OSS 117: Double Agent
OSS 117: Double Agent saw another change of actors as Stafford was unavailable to reprise his role, having been noticed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring in his spy drama, Topaz. John Gavin replaced Stafford as OSS 117, and Hunebelle was once again at the helm. This film featured many Bond alumnus, including Luciana Paluzzi (Thunderball) and Curt Jurgens (The Spy who Loved Me), as well as using plot devices that were both considered and used in the Bond film that was to come out a year later, bearing many similarities and coincidental events that parallel with that of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, one of which had submitted OSS 117 to "plastic surgery" to explain the change of actors. An element that was actually considered but dropped at the last minute to explain the transition from Sean Connery to George Lazenby. Another parallel scene had the spy rescue a dame from assailants at a beach, even going as far to using a similar time setting and clothing. Too much coincidence. This film also had Gavin come to producer Albert R. Broccoli's attention who considered casting him as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever when the series was touted to be Americanized. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

The Cadeac/Hunebelle series of OSS 117 films stopped producing further installments when the rights were sold to Pierre Kalfon, whose only production starring the character proved to be an unsuccessful film. Another effort to bring the character back to the screen, albeit for television, was made with the intention of starting a TV series which lasted only for a pilot episode. The rest is history as we know, when three decades later the franchise was reinvented as a clever spy comedy series of films, starting in 2006 with the successful OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and followed by 2009's OSS 117: Lost in Rio. Now, after years of waiting, we'll finally be getting our well-deserved third film. Here's hoping time goes rather fast, because one can hardly wait for it.

OSS 117 will return...
An official premise of OSS 117: Red Alert in Black Africa is yet to be issued to the public. The film will be released in France on the 3rd of February 2021. Though, it is unknown at this point when would it be coming out in North America and the rest of the world. Let's hope it's very soon!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

'I.G.I. - Origins' Gets A Teaser Trailer

A career in government intelligence requires a proper level of violence, a talent for discretion, and an aptitude for war. Exceptional performances in expectation with the finest weapons and our newest technology. Our greatest secrets are in your hands.

Eight months after the game was officially announced with a brief first-look trailer, publisher Toadman Interactive released a teaser trailer for I.G.I. - Origins that gives us a peek at the heart of the game that serves as a prequel to the franchise.

The trailer depicts a mission set in Poland on the 10th of March 1980, an operative only known by his codename "Regent" in service of MI-6 on active duty is seen maneuvering behind enemy lines and military bases, engaging in firefights and maintaining stealth at the same time, crossing borders as well as hacking computers, all of which are absolute reminiscent of the original installments. However, as it is set at the beginning of the eighties, it's safe to say Regent is in no way David Jones - the protagonist of the first two video games - as he happened to be a rookie during the events of the first entry, which was set in 2000 - the year it was released. The official synopsis states the following:
The prequel to 2000's Project I.G.I.: Experience a high octane thrill ride through a spy fantasy world of gadgets and guns against the vivid, sumptuous backdrop of the 1980s. Unravel a mystery that threatens to plunge the world into a new era of nuclear annihilation. You're going in.
The game also promises to offer an extravagant experience of unthreading mysterious twists and turns where the player's actions will determine the place of friends and enemies. A globetrotting adventure in what the official website describes as a "dramatic, filmic experience" that will eventually explore the origins of Institute for Geotactical Intelligence - otherwise known by its acronym, I.G.I. - as Regent seeks to uncover the truth behind events leading to world-shattering ramifications.

Developed by Antimatter Games for publisher Toadman Interactive, the engine is seemingly that of Unreal Engine 4, as the company's name was listed in the credits that appear in the trailer. A release date is still unclear apart from the previously stated 2021 as the year the game will be available to purchase. It also isn't clear whether it will be available on optical discs, but Valve Corporation's Steam online video game service will provide a digital release of the title at an unspecified date.

A first look at our protagonist codenamed "Regent", armed with a suppressed Browning Hi-Power
While it retains the features the original fans embraced, the latest entry is sure to deliver an experience that will introduce the franchise to a new generation of fans. Stealth fans as well as those enjoying Ubisoft's Tom Clancy titles - Splinter Cell in particular - shouldn't shy away from giving this video game a try. It is something Hitman fans themselves would also enjoy, provided it is of a very similar format, albeit played from first-person perspective.

“Think your way in. Shoot your way out.”
For more information, visit the official website.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

'No Time To Die' - Teaser Poster revealed

EON Productions has revealed today the official teaser poster artwork for the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die. The poster, which can be seen in full on the official James Bond site here, features a photograph of Daniel Craig in tuxedo as agent 007 taken by photographer Greg Williams, who has collaborated with the series since 2002's Die Another Day with the exception of SPECTRE in 2015. Over this image of Bond against the turquoise wall of a place known as Palacio Velázquez in Cuba (we have yet to see what relevance has this scene into the movie), the film's logo is overimposed. The logo, created by Empire Design using the 1929 typography Futura Black, is notably huge in the US one sheet versions. International variations show it considerably smaller, with the title translation assigned to each location.

No Time To Die will be released worldwide from April 3, 2020. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, the film will include Rami Malek, Ana De Armas, Billy Magnussen, David Dencik and Lashana Lynch. Coming from previous Bond films are Léa Seydoux, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes  Rory Kinnear and Jeffrey Wright playing CIA agent Felix Leiter for the third time.

Friday, October 4, 2019

On The Lookout for the Perfect James Bond Video Game

We haven't had a James Bond video game since 2012, if we don't count the James Bond: World of Espionage mobile game fiasco from 2015. Lately, everyone agrees that no 007 video game could beat the uniqueness of GoldenEye 007 and maybe the original stories Nightfire and Everything or Nothing came quite close to let us live in the world of Bond and being more than just a guy with a gun shooting enemies.

I've been asked lately what could make a video game that makes justice to the Bond legacy and, while I'm not a programming expert and I'm not properly a "gamer", I had a few ideas that I hope however comes after Activision takes into account. It would be quite complicated, I admit, and probably a developer would let me know I'm idealizing things way too much, but either way, after studying most of the Bond games for my book The Bond of The Millennium and their reviews I made a few conclusions based on what critics and gamers seemed to hope for a Bond game.

My first idea would be some kind of a mash-up between GoldenEye 007, Nightfire and Everything or Nothing with the free-world feeling of the Grand Theft Auto series by Rockstar. In a way or another, these three games let us live in the world of James Bond, but the Nintendo 64 classic was limited to the action missions and the other two were too scripted and linear, making us feel inside an interactive movie. The point is: we have to live in the world of James Bond - in that vast and luxurious world that includes shootouts, gambling, fast cars and seduction - but with a little bit of more freedom.

Why if, instead of being given a "movie" where we know who the villain is, as well as the good girl or the bad girl, we discover the story as we go along? Better still, we "make" the story. We are thrown with a mission and we interact with our world. Anyone could be the girl. Anyone could be the villain. Anyone could be an ally. Anyone could betray us and we have to "think Bond" and know that by ourselves.

I know of some games that give you the chance of interacting with dialogues. We could be given three possible replies, one of them could lead us to our objective, another one gets us in trouble and we are blown. Remember how important the dialogues are in Bond films. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond is discovered by Blofeld when he (posing as Sir Hillary Bray from the College of Arms) mistakenly points out that the Bleuchamp tombs are in Ausberg instead of St. Anna Kirsch. In Tomorrow Never Dies, he provokes Carver by slipping up he has doubts of the "global positioning" of his satellites. That makes Carver send a few goons to "soften him up" yet he discovers the Media Mogul wasn't innocent. Just like in GoldenEye 007, we are given the option to complete the mission as we want with different techniques and by interacting with different people: one of the allies may die or may not, the main villain may meet his end in different ways, etc.

Imagine having the freedom of driving the Aston Martin DB5 throughout the streets, but using the gadgets or speeding may cause us trouble with the law, compromise the mission and affect our reputation with MI6. We can also talk and seduce any woman, who may or may not be relevant to the mission and/or the job in hand. That could cause us an important waste of time or a huge advance in gathering information to foil the enemy plan. 

Bond is a sharp dresser and he knows what to wear depending on the occasion. Why don't we explore that a little bit? Knowing how to dress is part of "being Bond", what a Bond video game is meant to offer us. From Russia With Love by Electronic Arts allowed us that, although it was pure "make up" and the way we dressed Bond had little to no relevance in the game. Anyway, suppose you have to go to a casino or a party or the opera. You are not allowed to enter until you change into a dinner jacket. You get your debriefing at MI6, and a disclaimer reminds you to go properly dressed, then you go and pick a business suit. Same if you infiltrate an organization or the enemy troops as Bond does in Moonraker, wearing the yellow jumpsuits of Drax's forces. Picking up a disguise on a sticky situation may even help you to avoid the pursuers for a while, as Bond did with the clown suit in Octopussy.

The gambling section is another chapter. A Bond gamer should know (or learn during the game) how to play card games such as Blackjack, Baccarat, Poker Hold'Em or the Roulette. As in Casino Royale, part of your job would be beating a villain on a casino table to hurt his finances and his image before his superiors. Now, what if you beat him and then decide to keep playing and spending your money. You may win a fortune trying your luck or you can lose it all and compromise MI6. In Ian Fleming's novel Diamonds Are Forever, Bond infiltrated the Spangled Mob organization and for his diamond smuggling job he was paid by betting a certain number on the boss' casino. After winning the arragned amout, he decided to try his luck and kept betting, doubling his money. That, however, aroused suspicion on the enemy side. But still, that could be yet another "live like Bond" offer.

On a few Bond games, pulling out your gun in public endangered the mission. That should be kept in mind for future Bond games - the player should be wise enough to know when he should pull his gun out and shoot an enemy down and when he shouldn't. That's something Mission: Impossible for Nintendo 64 did brilliantly (remember what happened if you neutralized that woman on the red dress that was sent to kill you in the middle of a party at the Embassy?).

Most gamers don't pay attention to the FMV sequences, but what if you have important details there? You are posing as Mr. Robert Sterling from Universal Exports, but you introduce yourself as James Bond or by any other name while on a mission. That jeopardizes the assignament. Or not. Remember how 007 ditched the "Arlington Beech, professional gambler" masquerade in Casino Royale and for a good reason? Bottom line: you never fail the mission until the mastermind succeeds with his plan and there's nothing else you can do.

Most people would probably tell me this is extremely unlikely to happen. Either way, those were some ideas for the next publisher, developer or screenwriter of a future and (yet unexistant) James Bond game many of us would like to play and would hook us for hours. We don't have to just live in Bond's world. We need to be free on it.

Nicolás Suszczyk

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

OFFICIAL: Bond 25 title confirmed as 'No Time To Die'


James Bond Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the official title of the 25th James Bond adventure, No Time To Die. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios (MGM), and Universal Pictures International is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation, True Detective) and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fifth film as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. Written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (SPECTRE, Skyfall), Cary Joji Fukunaga, Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Bourne Ultimatum) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Killing Eve, Fleabag) No Time To Die is currently in production. The film will be released globally from April 3, 2020 in the UK through Universal Pictures International and in the US on April 8, from MGM via their United Artists Releasing banner.

No Time To Die also stars Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, Rory Kinnear, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah with Jeffrey Wright and Ralph Fiennes.

In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology. 

Other members of the creative team are; Composer Dan Romer, Director of Photography Linus Sandgren, Editors Tom Cross and Elliot Graham, Production Designer Mark Tildesley, Costume Designer Suttirat Larlarb, Hair and Make up Designer Daniel Phillips, Supervising Stunt Coordinator Olivier Schneider, Stunt Coordinator Lee Morrison and Visual Effects Supervisor Charlie Noble. Returning members to the team are; 2nd Unit Director Alexander Witt, Special Effects and Action Vehicles Supervisor Chris Corbould and Casting Director Debbie McWilliams.

Friday, August 16, 2019

'The Bond of The Millennium', a book covering Pierce Brosnan's James Bond adventures, is released

For many of us, Pierce Brosnan was our first James Bond. We loved all of his big-screen adventures long before we heard that four actors have previously portrayed the secret agent and that 16 films have preceded GoldenEye, the 1995 blockbuster that placed agent 007 once again as a popular action hero as critics thought he was no match for the modern action heroes. Nicolás Suszczyk was one of those kids that grew up with Brosnan's Bond and he dedicates this book to defend this era, making a thorough exploration of these four films by analyzing the characters and the sociopolitical background of the time in which these productions were released, much as he did with The World of GoldenEye back in June. There is also a chapter focused on the video game adaptations of the Brosnan films, particularly the three original adventures developed by Electronic Arts: 007 Racing, 007 Nightfire and Everything or Nothing. As you wait for the 25th James Bond adventure to arrive, this may be a good reading to remember such an important era in the timeless world of James Bond.

The first time Pierce Brosnan went to the cinema, aged 11, he watched a James Bond film. At the age of 27, he married a James Bond girl. He had the chance of playing James Bond himself at the age of 33 but lost the role due to contractual obligations. He was 41 when he was formally announced as the fifth actor to play James Bond on June 8, 1994, playing the role for a decade in four productions and three original video games. One could say that it was written that at some point of his life Brosnan would play Ian Fleming’s secret agent, and this happened during a particular time where the world was going through many cultural, technological and political changes.

Featuring interviews with stunt performers Sarah Donohue (The World Is Not Enough) and Jean Pierre-Goy (Tomorrow Never Dies), actor Daz Crawford (The World Is Not Enough), screenwriter Danny Bilson (007 Nightfire, Everything or Nothing) and percussionist Pete Lockett (Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day), among many others, this book offers an in-depth look to the era that took the franchise to new heights from the 1990s to the first years of the new millennium, remarking the importance that Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of James Bond has had to guarantee the continued success of 007 into the 21st century.

Nicolás Suszczyk became a James Bond fan when he first watched GoldenEye at the age of 7 on his native Buenos Aires. As a freelance writer he has contributed in magazines like MI6 Confidential and Le Bond and sites like Ultimate Action Movie Club, From Sweden With Love, Archivo 007 and The Spy Command. He is the editor of the web sites The GoldenEye Dossier, Bond En Argentina and The Secret Agent Lair, which he co-admins with Jack Walter Christian. In 2019 he published his first book, The World of GoldenEye, also available on Amazon stores.

The Bond of The Millennium is now available on Paperback and Kindle formats on the Amazon store.