Archive | September, 2012

Grunting at the Screen (102)

19 Sep

 

The information age has not yet finished with us

 

 

When Comic Hits the Screen

At last we have movement on The Metal Hurlant TV series.

This is a series essentially produced by Les Humanoids, responsible for the Metal Hurlant magazine of the 1970s and inspirational to the Heavy Metal magazine, the Heavy Metal Movie, Blade Runner, the Fifth Element and a whole raft of stories.

 

The Metal Hurlant TV has been picked up for broadcast in France and Germany. Negotiations are in progress for The United Kingdom. Each episode is 26 minutes long and it follows the individual story format not unlike The Twilight Zone or Outer limits. I’ve seen the trailer and the visual style is not unlike the green-screen look of the Spartacus TV series.

 

 

DVD Review

I picked up the rather old DVD Immortal (AKA Immortal Ad Vitam)

What the hell happened here? I will not even start to describe the plot except to say it involves gods, mutants aliens in a future urban setting, there is a lot of ancient Egyptian stuff happening and it is visually rich.

It confuses me, the plot seems to make no sense but even so the underlying narrative is strangely compelling and the visuals so powerful they overwhelm the urge to just scream and give up.

I never read the original comic; a Bande Desinee called Carnival of the Immortals by Enki Bilial. And it is just as well, because I doubt I would have understood that either.

However, in the stakes of French science fiction; this is a better companion to Blade Runner than any I have seen including: The Fifth Element, Babylon AD and Renaissance. Of course I have to remember that Bilial and his colleagues at Metal Hurlant invented the whole Blade Runner look.

At one point I thought; all mid budget science fiction films should be as bold and risk-taking as this. There is just one thing comparable to this and it’s the Japanese film Cashern; it is the only other film to combine such a bold approach to visuals with an utter disregard for narrative conventions.

I don’t understand this film. But I like it and I’ll have to watch it over and over to know just what I have here.

 

 

 

And Now For Some Indie Action

Reviews are coming through for the indie science fiction film Branded. And the news is… not good. It’s not even mixed it’s all around negative. When we first heard about it seemed to have a lot of potential; a plot not dissimilar to They Live (with hidden aliens manipulating us.) There seemed to be a some real ideas in there about the power of marketing at its consequences, but we’re now hearing that there are problems in the structure, the story telling, that it has a couple of good ideas but its unfocussed, incoherent and both reviews are adamant that it’s unintentionally funny (which is seldom good news). When I saw the trailer (and I tend not to watch trailers on-line) I was concerned it looked cheap (specifically in the area of the FX), but I had no idea this lack of attention to detail would be carried through at every level. This is a great pity because we need more indie science fiction films that are not remakes, sequel or TV adaptations and I was hoping this could be one of the good ones.

 

 

It Ain’t The Matrix…

The first reviews have come out for the Wachowskis’ latest feature: The Cloud Atlas. They are very mixed.

 

Visually it impressed and it even conquered the one challenge we were most concerned about. It weaves the narrative (separated by wide historical periods) coherently.

However the critics don’t think it is as deep or important as it thinks it is.  They think it is an ambitious film that does not achieve its goals.

Based on that I think that’s interesting.

 

 

This is Not a Rock Video

I have to apologise to all of you. See I heard of the film called “Love” some time ago (hell, it was in last year’s Sci Fi Octoberfest!) but I said nothing. I had a whole lot of reasons; I thought it might be some kind of short (and I only do features…sorry) I thought it might be some kind of vanity project for the rock band Angels and Airwaves (some kind of long-form video), I certainly thought it would never reach the cinemas.

It reached the cinemas, and the critics love it.

I am not entirely sure just what it’s about; it involves an astronaut going up to the International Space Station and then getting stranded there, but it is also juxtaposed against the story of a Union soldier in the American civil war out in the desert. I am assured these narratives come together and make sense in the end.

Critics are comparing it to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Immediately that makes me cautious because 2001 is a hard row to hoe* and no film has come near to its quality. But there you go.

From what I hear the whole thing is somewhat leisurely in its pace, so it’s not for me, but don’t let that discourage you.

Love, a film by William Eubank now in cinemas in the UK.

 

 

This year’s “Moon”?

Reviews are coming thick and fast for Looper. The verdict is disturbingly positive. What we can tell about it is that it is not a heavily explained film of time travel, but one which uses the device to tell a character story, and apparently do it very well indeed. The action is well handled as well (which helps). It’s well written, well directed and has great performances by Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who are convincing playing the same character at different ages.

Multiple reviewers have raved over it: Total Film went batty over it, put it on the cover of the magazine and gave it a feature, Twitch Film called it a future classic, den of Geeks claims it transcends the usual Science fiction action feature…

Most extraordinary is that it has been compared to genuine science fiction classics: 12 Monkeys, even… Blade Runner itself.**

 

 

Comic Book Classic Returns

This seems to be the month for revivals, yet another film project seems to be back from the dead; this time the comic book adaptation Y The Last man, it had gone though writers and directors before going into turnaround. But it has a new screenplay from Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia, New Line Cinema are very excited about it, and they are looking for director.

 

 

Not Yet Our Robot Overlords

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the writers of Zombieland have been running rampant ever since that film’s success, penning movies across the fantastic genres: comic book films, Toy related, fairy tale, even straight science fiction and horror. In a word they have been coining it. And now they are working  on something close to my heart; robots.

And this one sound mad. The robots have revolted, and failed. The ragtag remainder of their force have retreated to a space station(!) where they plan their counterstrike using human drones raised on the station. But one of their human tools is just a little too human to get with the program.

What did I tell ya? Mad. it’s called Epsilon.

Sony Pictures is trying to buy the rights. I’d actually like to see this made.

 

 

God Damn!

It seems like just a few weeks ago I was reporting on the movie Hellbenders, now it actually has a review and it sounds like a hoot.

Based on a Graphic novel it follows a group of priests charged by the Catholic church with ridding the world of demons. The way they do this is inviting the demons to poses them then committing suicide, dragging the hellspawn back to perdition. Yeah, my jaw hit the ground too.

It gets better. In order to ensure each priest is truly hellbound they commit sins on a daily basis and swear like sailors.

This sounds like a screaming hoot. I’m keeping one eye out to see if it will have a UK release.

 

 

Going Underground

Russian  post-apocalyptic  novel Metro 2033 has been optioned by MGM, script will be written by F. Scott Grazier, the unique selling point is that it is set in the

Moscow underground rail system.

 

 

Dredd (review)

It’s unfortunate this is also the year of The Raid. There are a remarkable number of correspondences between that film and this one.

And If you’ve already seen The Raid, Dredd may suffer in comparison.

But even if you have there is a lot to admire here.

The look and feel of Dredd is like a reversion to the late seventies or early eighties, gritty concrete brutalism, blasted with graffiti and overlaid with urban grime. we are introduced to the sprawl of Mega City One, a conurbation without suburbs or green space, bordered by a radioactive wasteland called the Cursed Earth. This is no megalithic city, it looks more like a corbussian model gone horribly wrong with its spikes of kilometre-high housing towers jutting from the even less appealing shanty filled plain.

When is significant is what is missing: there are no flying cars (or flying motorcycles for that matter), it is not a neon saturated world, there are not even than many gadgets. This is not Blade Runner. It is grimly realistic.

 

Controlling this vision of the city as Hades are the Judges. a force empowered to enforce the law as judge jury and executioners in a world where crime is out of control.

Judge Joe Dredd and his rookie, Judge Anderson, enter Peachtree Tower in pursuit of a triple homicide but instead find Ma-Ma a major dealer in the designer drug slo-mo. Attempting to take a witness out of the tower they are trapped and hunted in the building by Ma-Ma’s forces.

And that is about it. Dredd and Anderson fight their way through the building until the climatic confrontation with Ma- Ma.

 

This is a tersely made thriller with scarcely any fat on it at all. Despite the grit it is  beautifully shot, there are some extraordinary scenes, especially during the slo-mo sequences; it almost feels like an art film, and the two aspects; the realistic thriller and the sumptuous cinematography somehow mesh and work.

So yes,  it is worth a look. Although I have to mention, it is as gory a science fiction film as has been seen in a decade and a half.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Don’t say that fast

**Hme..

And if you want some real movie news you know what to do.

Index Page

And if you want to walk the wild side of genre video try Starburst’s review section

http://www.starburstmagazine.com/reviews/dvd-and-blu-ray-home-entertainment-reviews

 

I’m Jack Eris and if you know me, you know Jack.

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Grunting at the Screen (101)

7 Sep

 

The information age has not yet finished with us

 

 

I remember Total Recall when I came around the first time, it was a great summer; Total Recall, RoboCop II, Dick Tracy. OK not so much Dick Tracy.

Total Recall was smart, violent stuff, a movie with action but also a brain in its head. It was inventive, funny and hugely enjoyable.

 

 

The original story “We Can Remember it for your Wholesale” was an iconic example of Philip K. Dick’s obsession with the nature of reality and identity: who are you, and what is real? It was one he would explore in multiple novels and short stories: Eye in the Sky, Ubik, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Saidand many others. In “We can remember it…” Quail, and working Joe discovers that he may have been a superspy operating off-planet. Both his world and his identity are thrown into contention. The original Total Recall minimally played with his double reality. There was a lot of unexplored potential there.

Nevertheless there was a giddy kineticism that carried the film, Paul Verhoeven was eagerly forgiven and Total Recall became one of his great Science fiction trilogy that included RoboCop and Starship Troopers.** 

But that, as Paul McCartney said, was yesterday.

 

Total Recall is back and this time no-one gets their ass to Mars.

 

When I heard of it, I didn’t think it was very good idea. There wasn’t anything so wrong with Total Recall that needed to be fixed with a remake. And it was already iconic enough that anything less than its first achievement would pale in its shadow.

On the other hand the creative team was solid; Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium, Salt) on the script Len (Underworld) Wiseman directing.

 

 

A ray of light emerged during a TV interview with Kate Beckinsale where the presenter admitted being baffled by the movie. When TV people can’t understand a Science fiction movie that’s hopefully because it has actual ideas in it.

 

But hope was dashed by Paul Verhoeven who weighed in with his own opinion, and it was no ringing endorsement. He said of the reboot “It was not good”. This is pretty mild by his usual ripe voiced standard, perhaps because he was speaking during a cinematic revival of the original Total Recall film at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, he decided to be a little less European.

 

 

So what did they make of the material?

The publicity materials were stunning, the TV spots had our heroes running and diving though a megalithic urban skyscape that looked like it had come off the cover of a Science Fiction novel, it looked like a Stephan Martiniere cover because Stephan Martiniere was the conceptualist, and he’s never looked better on film.

To be honest we expected the first Total Recall to look like this; soaring skyscrapers and flying cars. A detailed sleazy ground level. It seems all of this has come a little too late.

 

 

Total Recall (Review)

 

As expected it’s no classic, but it has moments.

The trouble here is the good moments are all borrowed and the new stuff is flashy but inconsequential.

First let’s get to matter of the original short story: this is certainly not an authentic adaptation of the story, if it had been it would be about half hour long. What is more there are no additional elements from the original short story here than were in the 1991 adaptation.

Any statement from the film makers to the contrary would be pure hogwash.

 

Moving on. There are a lot of elements borrowed straight from the first movie; the back and forth plot of a memory wiped Karl Hauser infiltrating the resistance, video messages from an earlier Karl Hauser before his mind wipe, Cohaagen’s eager-to kill-deputy, the sudden reality bending appearance of a person who challenges everything that is happening and claiming it is all delusion.

There are also gratuitous nods to the original; a three breasted prostitute,  the large woman at the port staying for “Two weeks.” the gag with a villain losing a limb due to a rising elevator.

These flourishes are Easter eggs for the fans but do no credit to the movie, because you know what? It’s a decent action movie and it does not need garnishing.

 

Vehoeven’s original is not the only place this film seeks inspiration. The scenes in the colony are basically Blade Runner with canals; we have the retrofitting, the darkness, the neon, the Asian extras. Once we get to the United Federation of Britain we also get flying cars. And the scene with Collin Farrel at the piano is so reminiscent f the similar scene of Rachel in Blade Runner it takes homage right to the edge. There are even some Vangellis-like flourishes on the soundtrack.

Most of the original features are trivial.

Though there are some cool little gadgets; a touch-screen refrigerator, luminescent tattoos and hand implanted phones I can see may happen in twenty years. a steering wheel that works for both front seats (I can’t help thinking I’ve seen this in another movie..)

The major new element is the Fall; an elevator drilled through the centre of the earth linking Europe and Australia. It’s ridiculous, an impossible engineering feat, and in plot terms, pointless. It does however provide a thrilling backdrop to two major action scenes.

 

It is not the only problem. We have a world affected by chemical warfare, but these are the magic kinds of chemicals that stay in their designated areas and don’t just leak over into the UFB or Colony.

 In the end it all goes on to long. the action scenes are too long and too tiring.

No disastrously but it makes you think. This is the product of a lot of high order expertise: brilliant conceptual visualisation, beautiful production design masterful cinematography. I only wish it had all been directed to making something original: something that wasn’t a shadow of a twenty year old original.

 

OK, trailers; Dredd 3D looks solid and realistic, Looper is again intriguing, I suspect they put every action scene in the movie into the trailer and the film itself will be way  more thoughtful.

 

 

 

I still refuse to suggest 2013 will be the year of cyberpunk movies. (I got burned in 1994).

 But with The Zero Theorem, Neuromancer and the Blade Runner sequel in the pipeline, it is hard not to feel a stirring.

 Of course Terry Gilliam has had projects collapse beneath him before, Neuromancer has lost a handful of directors in its long history and Ridley Scott is old.

 We may end up with nothing.

 Actually, if there was a year of Cyberpunk Movies it was 1999: The Matrix opened and suddenly everyone else said “Oh, we get it!” The war is essentially over, we don’t have to persuade people to think about an information society and ubiquitous technology; it is upon us… still.

We’d like to have something to justify our faith,

 

 

 

You wait around for an Israeli zombie movie and two come along at once. Following on the heels of Another World is Cannon Fodder In this one a security operative is chasing down a Hezbollah terrorist and finds Zombies instead. Very current. It is in Post production and as soon as it gets reviewed in festival I’ll get back to you (and yes, I’m only mentioning this zombie film because it’s Israeli.)

 

 

More details are emerging on the Horror Anthology, Profane Exhibit. Richard Stanley is not the only known element attached to it. Time Crimes director Nacho Vigalondo has contributed “Sins of the Father” and Jose Mojica “Coffin Joe” Marins, Yoshihiro Nishimura and …er Uwe Boll are also contributing.

 

 

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are the most successful writers in the science fiction movie area, make no mistake they are players: Star Trek and its sequel, Cowboys and Aliens, The Transformer films, are theirs) but their next, Dragonology will only be produced by them. Dragonology will be an adaptation of the series of illustrated books.

This is part of their continued transformations, they are on their way to becoming major players as film producers with reboots of both Van Helsing, and The Mummy on their slate.

 

 

 

 

I’ve earlier spoken of the companies Radical Publishing/Radical Pictures, Anomaly Productions, and Platinum Studios. All publishers or studios whose strategy is leveraging comic books or graphic novels to make movie deals. The latest company is ArcanaBenderspink who are lining up a raft of projects for the big screen. The first off the block is The Order, already optioned by Bluegrass Films (who just gave is the talking bear film, Ted). The Order is about a Vatican initiative to combat supernatural villains using a team of combat trained priests.

 

 

 

 Avi Arad is known for guiding the early days of Marvel films to successes, he has now turned to videogame adaptations, specifically Metal Gear. This 25 year old franchise has been in development for years. Does anyone still play it? Once again I have to note that the games in development are the ones furthest from current popularity. The film and game cycles are permanently out of sync. Anyway the studio developing this project will be Columbia Pictures.

 

 It seems to be the season of unlikely revivals because the God of War movie is back. This videogame revival went into turnaround back when Wrath of the Titans and Immortals threatened to monopolise the territory, but Kratos, bane of the gods is back. Patrick Melton (“Pacific Rim”) and Marcus Dunstan are delivering a new script.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Smith is about to get biblical on our asses; he is starring in a biblical epic based on the story of Cain and Able. It’s called The Redemption of Cain. By the way… there will be Vampires. Yes I’m serious. This is not some kind of sideways Abraham Lincoln joke.

 

 

 

Once a year I watch Blade Runner, actually I watch one version or another. This year I watched I watched The Final Cut. It’s extraordinarily beautiful. Colours and textures. The pace is also glacial. You could not get away with it in say… 2014…

Yes, my mind drifts to the putative and unlikely Blade Runner sequel Ridley is due to direct.

He has a task even thinking of it. he cannot repeat himself, all of his coolest moves have been stolen by films, music videos… videogames. I just heard of a Star Wars game, “1313” set in the Coruscant underworld, where the urban atmosphere is described as very similar to Blade Runner. The Fifth Element reaped generously from its look, Minority Report borrowed its feel, even smaller films like Repo Men was shameless in its “homage.” And of course the Total Recall remake has mined the Blade Runner look even more heavily than it reamed out Paul Verhoven’s storyline; with a decrepit future city, flying cars and cold mechanical police.

Ridley is a visionary, he will be inclined to do something else. Already I am hearing rumours he wants to start the film out in the countryside, that would distinguish it. Then who knows what surprises he might have in store?

 

 

 

 

 And if you want some real movie news you know what to do.

Index Page

And if you want to walk the wild side of genre video try Starburst’s review section

http://www.starburstmagazine.com/reviews/dvd-and-blu-ray-home-entertainment-reviews

 

I’m Jack Eris and if you know me, you know Jack.