Archive | November, 2012

Grunting at the Screen (107)

24 Nov



The information age has not yet finished with us.




Cyberpunk. Is. Back.*

Ubisoft have been announcing film projects with increasing frequency: Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell and now Deus Ex.

Apparently it is based on the third game, Deux Ex: Human Revolution, where Adam Jenson is a corporate security chief who has his body surgically augmented and fights against international terrorists.

They have hired Scott Derrickson to direct and Robert Cargill to co-write.

Derrickson has been linked to a number of high profile projects that failed to get off the ground including the adaptations Paradise Lost and Hyperion.

More significantly is the director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. He tends to have a lot of projects on the go at once.

When it was announced that Deus Ex was getting a feature, there was some concern as to just how cyberpunk it was going to be but Derrickson and writer Cargil immediately chimed in with their intentions. At IGN Filmforce website Cargill said “Scott and I love cyberpunk. I grew up on it. The way Deux Ex reinvented the genre was fantastic. It got us talking about movies like District 9 and Looper and Blade Runner and Inception…The way we’ve approached it is that we’ve decided not to make a video game movie. We’re making a cyberpunk movie.”




The announcement of Deus Ex is just the cap on a raft of announcements culminating in the conclusion that Cyberpunk films are coming, and coming in numbers.

In fact film projects are appearing across the budget range; from independent through midrange way into major motion pictures.

This year alone we have seen announcements for:

True Skin

Watch Dogs

Snow Crash


As well as this, Seven Arts is ploughing ahead with the Daddy of them all; Neuromancer.

And Blade Runner; the film which invented the cyberpunk look is due for a sequel.

In addition The Zero Theorem is due out in 2013.

And not even including projects like Elysium, The Repossession of Max the Companion Robot, and Automata with strong cyberpunk leanings.

This says nothing about projects announced last year which may or may not come to fruition.

It’s exhausting. The only question is; what took them so long?

I expected this explosion to happen say two years after the The Matrix.

2001 would have been the natural time for a cyberpunk explosion. By then it was obvious that there was a paying audience for cyberpunk. Instead it has taken a decade and a half for the other penny to drop.

Of course there are caveats. In fact they apply more here than ever before. Blade Runner 2, depends on Ridely Scott who is very reluctant to do science fiction. Neuromancer has come up to the start line-only to falter-so many times that even its ardent fans dare not think about the screen adaptation without crossing their fingers behind them. Both Watch Dogs and Deus Ex are videogame adaptations from Ubisoft is it likely both similar projects will actually shoot? And Videogame movies tend to crash and burn before lensing anyway.

In fact, some or all of these projects may be in tatters before the end of next year.

If I were a betting man (and I am not,) I’d put money on True Skin which has an excellent proof of concept short behind it and a budget small enough to be viable, even with a modest box office… and if we’re lucky… it could be next year’s District 9.**



This could be something or nothing.

Twitch film blog is treating Steven Ilous’ 2088 as a feature but the clip I’ve seen looks very much like either a part of a short or a teaser to sell a feature.

In any case it looks OK, the CG’s a bit crude but that’s nothing a little time or money cannot fix. To me it looks a bit like Blade Runner meets mecha-anime.


Ilous is a motion capture specialist with his own company, he’s worked on a bunch of films including The Matrix Reloaded and some music videos and video games.






Angels are back.***

Sam Raimi has optioned rights to Angelfall the first in a series of novels by Susan Ee set after the apocalypse. Penryn is a teenage girl who teams up with clipped-wing Angel in a mission to find her sister amongst a landscape of evil seraphs, roving gangs and the requisite cannibals.

We’ve had movies with Angels before but I suspect this acquisition has more to do with the teen characters and I suspect Raimi is positioning it for the Twilight market.

Raimi is producing only, there is no word on writer or director.


Spike Never Really Left 

I picked up the DVD of Spike Lee’s Miracle of St Anna, I should be happy, especially to get it as a budget disk. But the film never got a theatrical release, I never saw a full priced disk release and this month is the first time I noticed it in any form- and I check, I check a lot.

Is this any way to treat one of America’s foremost cinematic talents? Dropping off his work like it’s some straight to video crap? In fact even zombie movies are treated better than this.

The mitigating factor is that this disk actually has a couple of extra features which seem to have been slipped in by mistake (since Spike Lee films tend to come out stripped of everything.)





My favourite interview of the week is at Aint it Cool

Nothing on the theme of the week, but its revelations about directors are scurrilous.


*Grunting at the Screen Bog reserves the right to suggest cyberpunk may in fact be still waiting in the wings.

** God fricking dammit, why’d I have to say that?

***is there anything that isn’t back?


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

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


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


Grunting at the Screen (106)

16 Nov

The information age has not yet finished with us.

Daniel H Wilson has cemented his position as king of the robots. the news that his novel Amped has been optioned by Working Title as a feature puts him ahead of his blood rival Ashley Wood*. Amped concerns a nano tech future full of posthumans and follows the plight of a cyborg who has been “amped” by technology. I really liked his first novel Robopocalypse
so I am hoping this one will be as good.

We have a good news/bad news situation going on here. We like Max Landis, he wrote Chronicle so we think he has skills, so we’ve heard he’s just got his first directing gig. That’s good. The film is Me Him Her. The downside, it looks like the film is about three young people and their loves, lives and struggles with sexuality…
Yeah, I’m glad for him, real glad for him (maybe the next one can be about a young person and their struggle with some eight armed fire breathing alien ..)

I don’t generally cover remakes/reboots/sequels but I have a soft spot for Mortal Kombat (or any film that pits kung fu against monsters…)
Warner Bros. have finally put the greenlight on it.
No-one plays the game anymore but the property has its strange resonance and a strong mythology Kevin Tancharoen is to direct and the studio is hedging their bet with a modest $40m budget. That’s fine with me because less money means greater effort to solve problems with creativity rather than FX.

Military horror is not dead. Now you know this is one of my favourite subgenres, take soldiers, add the supernatural and it can fly.
Next up is Dead Sand, with the very hot Amber Heard**. Now make no mistake, this has nothing to do with the very similarly titled “Red Sands”.
Dead Sands mixes a bunch of soldiers, a captured terrorist and the requisite unspeakable terror, its set in an abandoned industrial complex out in the dessert. Has lots of potential.

I keep saying that Disney’s big science fiction movie “1952” is not going to get made, but it seems I am wrong. It has momentum, Damon Lindelof (Prometheus) wrote the script, Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission Impossible IV) is directing and George Clooney is in talks to star.
Reports say they are going for a kind of “Close Encounters” feel.
I’m astonished. Disney has crashed and burned on so many recent science fiction films you would have thought they’d have given up.

This has popped up from nowhere; THE EUROPA REPORT with Sharlto Copley (District 9) and Michael Nyqvist. They are two astronauts on their way to Jupiter’s moon. Inevitably it all goes wrong when something is revealed down on the moon. Oh boy it is another reality movie (everything is shown though the ship’s own cameras). Principle photography is done and it is in post-production
the director is Ecuadorian, Sebastian Cordero -better known for hard hitting social films like Ratas, Ratones, Rateros.
More information as it develops.

Ecuador. Interesting. This is a new one. In case you are interested, the ground zero for genre movies in Latin America appears to be Argentina (and by a substantial margin) after that it is Chile. Why? Who knows.

Paul W.S. Anderson is planning to revisit the destruction of Roman Pompeii but he wants to do it as love story
Kit Harington the slave escaping the cataclysm.
This should be all taken with a pinch of salt as Anderson has had trouble getting non game related films greenlit.

Joel Silver is back in the action game. Sanctuary is described as “Blade meets Wanted”; a possessed woman seeks church sanctuary where she is trained to control her inner demon so she can fight other demons. Very high concept.
No word on director writer or cast.

And here’s something from the newspapers. The Metro just reported on a film effort with a difference. Englishmen John Watts and Thomas Woods got together in the Peak District, Derbyshire to make a trailer for.. well it’s a historical Chinese action film.
Yeah. This is the kind of weirdness the internet makes possible. They put it on YouTube and the buzz it produced enabled them to negotiate funding for the whole feature. It’s called the Lost Emperor and the pair hopes to be off to China for principal photography.

Interesting. Joe Haldeman just got a short story optioned. “Seasons”; now if I remember this it’s about an encounter between a research team and an alien race with a disturbingly strange life cycle. Cool. I hope Haldeman has better luck with this one than with The Forever War (of course what we really want is for someone to make Mindbridge).
Yeah anyway.
Sebastian Gutierrez is adapting the screenplay. FX supervisor Tim Miller is to make this his directorial debut.

Despite promising to give us a Red Mars next, Iron Sky creators Tero Kaukomaa and Arnold Rifkin are going in a different direction. They are teaming up with Boom! Studios (2 Guns, Insurrection ) to make Jeremiah Harm. This one is your usual Interstellar Bounty Hunter story. A teaser trailer has already been made. More as it emerges.

Now this is interesting.
Mamoru Oshii, director of Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor has also been known for the occasional live action film.
He is returning to that arena with Druid: Garm Wars.
We have clone soldiers from three armies in a war without end. One clone deserts the battle in search of the meaning of her life.
Rumour has it that Oshii wanted to make this one right after Ghost in the Shell but lacked the technology until now. This would make it his “Avatar”.

*Actually this rivalry may in fact exist only in my head…
** well she is…

And if you want some real movie news you know what to do.
And if you want to walk the wild side of genre video try Starburst’s review section

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

Grunting at the Screen (105)

7 Nov


The information age has not yet finished with us.



I don’t quite know how to start with this. “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”. It only got reported because Elijah Wood is producing it but I think it is inherently interesting.

It’s a new horror movie filmed in Farsi (the national language of Iran). Director is

Ana Lily Amirpour, it is set in a fictional Iranian town plagued by a vampire who preys only on the most depraved. Hme Iranian vampire flic, makes a change.

She’s filming it in California.

Huh? Yeah; an Iranian vampire movie to be made in California. Cool.



I’ve been keeping an eye on the comic publishers who are making a run at film production, and they are a widening bunch. Latest to get my attention is Boom! Studios  (isn’t it cool to have an exclamation point in the middle of your name..?).

So far they have been responsible for Unthinkable (terrorist use anti-terror training scenarios to plan their attacks),

2 guns (A DEA agent and Naval Intelligence officer investigate each other, both hunters, both prey with a tone of dirty cash mixed in to the fray) which  is in production with Denzel Washington.

Station (Murder Mystery abroad the International Space Station.)

The latest project to leap from the comic book page to film development is Insurrection  a future scenario where corporations rule the world and enforce their will with Clone soldiers,  one of these Clone Troopers is no longer will to take orders. It has been described as a “Science fiction Spartacus”.

Two things strike me about Boom! They don’t promote very heavily, none of the current film projects have been exactly monster hits in the comic shops. They have quite a roster of comic creators from the film world.

Insurrection was written by screen writer Blake Masters who has done quite a lot of teleplays plus the script for 2 Guns. Boom! Also has James Wan (Saw, Insidious) and Walter Becker (Van Wilder, Wild Hogs.)

It looks like Boom! Is taking its place next to  Radical Publishing, Anomaly Productions, and Platinum Studios in vying for film studio business.



Eli Roth has emerged from Tarantino’s swimming pool to direct another movie.

He is now casting for Green Inferno, his take on the “Cannibal Holocaust”/”Cannibal Ferrox” genre.

I’m a big Roth fan, he reinvigorated the horror genre with his shocking and controversial Hostel films and he has an infectious enthusiasm for film. So Yes, I’m looking forward to this.



Good thing I just watched all of the Conan movies because Arnie is back. And this time he’s king.

Let’s pause a moment for the Lamentation of the Womenfolk…

OK, it looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger is keen on recapitulating all of his old glories first taking a run at a Terminator sequel before settling on   

Legend of Conan, which looks at the Cimmerian warrior after he becomes King of Aquilona. Rights holders Paradox Entertainment have made a deal with Universal Pictures to fund this major motion picture. Screenplay is by Chris “Wanted” Morgan, he is pitching it as “Conan’s ‘Unforgiven'” Hme; the film industry has a history of over-promising and under-delivering, but if he can deliver (and if they can get the right director), this could be something special.



This one came out of nowhere Patrick Wilson and  Liv Tyler in Space Station 76; seven astronauts confined with their suicidal captain and his trouble making first officer. Sounds worth a look, it’s been shot and is now in post-production.

Director is Jack Plotnick.



Filming is under way on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Robert Rodreguez is casting even as we speak, interestingly he has recast the part of deadly little Miho. In Sin City she was played by Devon Aoki, for this prequel she is played by Jamie Chung previously seen in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch.

Interesting. some blogs have noted that the part of Manute (previously played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan) will also need to be recast (I favour Kevin Grevioux myself) but few have noted that Shellie is also a character in the original comic and in the wake of Brittany Murphy’s passing she too may need to be recast.



So Disney has bought Lucasfilm and they will make a new Star Wars trilogy. Hme. So the death of film continues. I watched a news report casually note that Disney now owns; Jim Henson Inc, Pixar, Marvel Films and now Lucasfilm. These are not exactly indie outfits, but can this be any good?



Inevitably this was the cue the requisite Star Wars/Disney mash-up images including Mickey Mouse as Darth Vader, (I keenly await Pluto as Jar Jar Binks and Minnie as Leia -actually that could work… with ears and everything…)

Nearly everyone who has reported the news (including normally neutral news readers on mainstream TV) has reacted negatively to the idea of new Star Wars movies.

The only thing compelling about the idea is the revenue stream; the re-release of the most reviled prequel netted $100m. And that is a lot of money for an old and despised film. Just imagine what a new film with no burden of (known) mediocrity might fetch.


Looking through my files I noticed one glaring fact; two years ago George Lucas was vociferously denying there was any plans to make any new Star Wars films.

“This is, of course, completely false.” said Lucasfilm’s Josh Kushins, and he may well have been telling the absolute truth at the time…but what a difference 4.05 billion dollars makes…


I also realise that the Star Wars TV series Lucas has been planning for half a decade could benefit from Disney’s strong broadcasting muscle. This is synergy few of the other blogs have noted.


As the story developed I realised one thing; it solves Disney’s science fiction problem.

I don’t know why I am so interested in Disney’s efforts to make science fiction, they are so comprehensively bad at it. Their early efforts (Escape from Witch Mountain, Black Hole) are pretty desultory affairs; half-hearted attempts that are loved only by a tiny minority of fans. Their latter efforts (Witch Mountain remake, John Carter) are either commercially or critically under-performers, often both. I liked both John Carter and Tron Legacy, but I was in the minority.

In the past three years Disney’s core studios have developed over a dozen science fiction projects and released three.

On the face of it this is an unexpectedly poor performance both in numbers and box office. Disney is perhaps the premier producer of fantasy cinema in America, just about all of its animated output and a large chunk of its live action product depend on their expertise with the fantastical, yet they display incompetence in science fiction.

With the acquisition of Lucasfilm Disney can close down its stumbling efforts to make a mark on science fiction, or it may even sign-over its current futuristic projects to Lucas- where they have the core competence. (Before the Disney acquisition Lucasfilm’s chairwoman Kathleen Kennedy expressed a desire to get back into the feature film business and it seemed evident she meant non-Star Wars films.)


In practical terms it means (even of it was not evident already) the John Carter sequel is dead; it very directly competes with the Star Wars franchise and there is no room for both; perhaps it will be acquired by another, financially braver, studio.



What’s Ridley Doing? In the past I have expressed some cynicism as to Ridley Scott’s future science fiction activities. Will he make Blade Runner 2? Unlikely. Prometheus 2? Possible. Has he warmed to the idea of doing more science fiction? It would not be consistent  with his past statements or behaviour.

Now what does he do? He just made a deal to make six low budget genre films in Northern Ireland.

Hme. What’s Ridley Doing?

Focus Features International has signed a contract that will have Scott Free London making movies in Ireland for years to come. Let’s get real now. Scott Free makes television (the Good Wife, Numbers) as well as films. They can pull in directing talent from RSA, Scott’s advertising agency and they have Scott’s decades of experience in the film business to fall back on.  Although Ridley Scott knows how to do low budget, I have severe doubts he will be making any of the films on the Focus  slate. These are to be Science Fiction, horror, and fantasy pictures; it is not easy to make fantasy on a low budget and I do not See Ridley giving up the tools in his considerably cinematic arsenal.

So what is he doing? Sounds like a pretty good deal for Scott Free.


Reviews are coming in for The Rza’s Man with the Iron Fists and they are all over the place. It’s a martial arts picture starring Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu.

It’s all about a feud between the Lion Clan and the other clan’s and there’s something involving a blacksmith (I’m not sure, it gets complicated)

Anyway, it sounds utterly nutty with busy, violent action scenes, mad weapons and a vast cast.

One reviewer found it numbing, one found it chaotic fun. All admit it is not perfect.

A warning; even though it is a love letter to old school kung fu, it apparently has quite a lot of CG.


I don’t cover a lot of animation, but Wreck-It Ralph seems to be something special. The scenario is familiar Video game characters have a secret life of their own (in line with say Toy Story) One character (the eponymous Ralph) is going through a personal crisis; he’s a Video Game villain who wrecks everything while his enemy Fix-it Felix Jr. repair the mess but at heart he just wants to be appreciated. This is the story of his quest for redemption.

It’s full of homages to video games classic and recent but all of the reviews agree it’s a heartfelt film with rounded characters and solid story.



I’m not Nacho Vigalondo’s biggest fan, but for the rest of you who liked Time Crimes   he’s working on a new one. Yes I know his second movie Extraterrestrials has not even reached these shores yet. Anyway, next up is Open  Windows described as a technological thriller in realtime, I’m not sure but it seems to use internet technology as a central idea. Elijah Wood is starring and principle photography is in progress as we speak.  This may be Vigalondo’s first English language feature. More information as it develops.



For some time movie blogs have been boosting Transcendence the debut feature from Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer Wally Pfister.

It a science fiction move turning around some actual ideas: stem cell research and advanced computer tech.

It’s budgeted at a decent $120m and major stars Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.






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

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


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