Archive | December, 2012

Grunting at the Screen (109)

21 Dec

 

The information age has not yet finished with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah well Happy New Year.

I finally got around to watching Fire and Ice. Hme. This is problematic, It is well made and very watchable. What do we have here a highly developed pastiche of Burroughs and Howard, a bit of Conan meets Tarzan. Fair enough but it comes with  the cultural baggage of its source. To be clear it is full of laughable racial and gender stereotypes. The minions of the evil lord Nekron are all dark skinned and bestial. The heroic forces of King Jarol are all pink skinned (there is Darkwolf, a heroic Native American type, I suppose we all need a “Tonto” from time to time) and the heroine Teegra spends half of the movie with her ass in the air.

Oh dear.

All of this was very well back in the day (that day being 1983). But it won’t fly in the 21st century.

It has a ton of cool fantasy elements; monstrous amphibians, giant wolves, nasty giant bugs, an encounter with the dead, pterodactyl-riding troops, a sorceress queen and her wizard son, the requisite (almost) plucky princess and blond manly hero. There is a lot you can do with this.

Robert Rodriguez has bought this property outright, he has a huge undertaking to make this fit for purpose as a live action adaptation; he has to improve the character of Teegra so she does more than simper and act the victim. Either humanise or entirely eliminate the insensitive racial stereotypes while keeping the drama and momentum of the original narrative. Actually the background is kind of threadbare, some so development to deepen the mythology could help in both of the tasks.

And the question remains: is there a market for such a remake?

Both the jungle adventure of Tarzan and the heroic fantasy of Conan have fallen out of favour recently.  Can a hybrid of both reinvent itself for the age of High Fantasy?

 

 

Hah, your worst fears are realised!

Now I mentioned Transcendence (the debut feature from Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer Wally Pfister?) Well details have emerged. Well it looks like it’s going to be a full on extropian propagandafest: the themes will be the singularity, nano technology and artificial intelligence. Worst still it has a star and it’s Johnny Depp! And his mind will be uploaded onto a computer.

The “Black List” of unproduced screenplays was just published and it includes something called “Transcendence” written by  Jack Paglen here’s the summary; “a dying scientist is able to upload his

consciousness into the internet and fight the forces who are actively working

against the existence of a singularity.”

Too close for coincidence?

Johnny Depp, nano-tech and the singularity?

Can anyone remain unseduced?

Prepare to leave the cinema a true believer!

 

 

In my haste to apprise you of every cinematic fairytale adaptation going I missed one. It’s Spanish and in black and white:

Blancanievesis, by Pablo Berger, is a retelling of Snow White relocating the story to 1920’s Spain. Snow becomes a young girl who escapes her wicked stepmother to become a Matador. Well that’s different.

It opens in the US on January 25th 2013.

 

 

You saw The Total Recall reboot? No you didn’t. The Blu-ray is due out and guess what? There is a director’s cut? Oh yeah, and it has a whole subplot involving Ethan Hawk- yes an entire character absent from the theatrical version.. better go check it out…. Just kidding.

 

 

I’d almost forgotten about Kevin Grevioux’s second feature as a writer: I Frankenstein (you’d think after the success of Underworld they’d be all over him like Max Landis…I’m just saying) OK, Looks like I Frankenstein has not been shelved, it is set for a September 2012 release. We’ll be waiting.

 

 

Ah, as I foretold, the next generation of film makers is coming from the games industry. Kind of. Actually over the years the industry has proven so lucrative and film so chancy that there has been as still is very little cross over. Once in a while it happens.

Like Martin Brennan and Michael B. Jackson;  they wrote Hitman Absolution. Their planned feature The Mulbury Project is about a quest across plague and Zombi ridden landscape.

So far all they have is a trailer and concept art, but if an actual feature turns up, I’ll let you know.

 

 

Many Anime-to-live-action features have been proposed, few have been made. The latest up is rather unique. It is the pet project of Kim Jee-woon, the Korean director most recently responsible for The Good the Bad and the Weird. It’s Jin Roh The Wolf Brigade, the tale of an alternate history Japan after a WWII invasion by Germany. I somehow think that much of the original background will change during film making.

 

 

There must be something in the air because the anime Kite is also getting a live action adaptation.

Rob Cohen is to direct, Samuel L. Jackson is cast, but the central role is of a girl whose parents are murdered, of course this leads her to become an assassin. What separates this story from the usual “girl becomes an assassin” storyline is that the original is suffused with horrible abuse and controlling behaviour.

 

 

Last month it was all about the game movies, December it’s the Anime to live action feature. Latest up is Gaiking. It was a TV series in Japan during the late seventies.  It was your basic giant robot suit versus evil aliens narrative.

It came over to the US as the Shogun Warriors toy line (and comics as well).

There was an attempt to make a US live action version about two years ago.

This seems to have collapsed because a new deal has arrived with Gale Anne Hurd producing. So far no screenwriter, director or cast have been announced so this project is very much n its infancy.

I find it the development interesting especially in the light of Pacific Rim’s publicity ramping up.

Actually it is a bit of a pity. Gaiking (or Voltron or Robotech) could have had major motion pictures made any time in the last two years. If they don’t take the present opportunity, they may well too late.

 

 

What is this? Vietnamese Wuxia? Well that’s what it looks like Lady Assassin is movie in an old school Hong Kong style directed by Nguyen Quang Dung. He’s shooting it in 3d and I expect a lot of wirework and CG. More as it emerges.

 

 

I have not mentioned the next Riddick movie for very good reasons.  It took forever to get started, once started it came to a shuddering halt before it got moving again. For a while I was not sure there would even be one.

But I can now announce there will be another Riddick movie with Vin Diesel. It is called Riddick (which I suppose works) and it has a release date.   September 6th 2013.

I’m not usually one for sequels, but let’s give a cheer for a little movie that could.

 

 

The Best of the Year.

It’s been a pretty good year. I saw most of what I needed to see and I was happy with much that came my way.

It was a hell of a year for the comic book movie, The Avengers gave us the biggest comic book movie ever, outstripping the first Spider-man Movie, and the Dark Knight Rises gave us some class.

 

It was also the return of science fiction; in fact in years to come 2012 may be known as another golden age of science fiction; like the fifties or the early eighties, there was a massive resurgence of science fiction (perhaps presaged by Avatar) and not only did science fiction do respectable (if not always overwhelming) box office, it got respect as well.

 

And so for the list.

I saw more films that usual, but as usual I cannot in all conscience give you a top ten but I can manage five.

 

In no particular order;

 

Avengers. Without a doubt. It’s the bomb. Hell it shouldn’t be here; because a  structure which brings together seven characters from four films and gave each one their own space, their own moments while telling a coherent story should be impossible. But they did it, and did it elegantly, stirringly, entertainingly. I do hope this is not the high point of Marvel Studios because they have so many more movies to make and I think things can get even better.

 

 

John Carter. Take another look. This film didn’t get a lot of love on release and it is hard to imagine why; it delivered solid performances pristine FX and only overstayed its welcome a little  

 

 

The Raid. Astonishing. The best martial arts film I’ve seen in a decade. And it brings Indonesia into the arena too. A fresh director, and a fresh star.  Buy it.

 

 

Prometheus. Oh yes I did! So you’ll hated it. I hear yah. I realise it didn’t make sense but that doesn’t make a difference to me. The intensity of vision here, the refinement of Ridley Scott’s visual sensibility. The triumph of practical FX over CG. Like It? I got the book.

 

 

Chronicle. Could this have come out this year because it already feels like a classic. Perfectly judged performances, flawless FX and best use of the “found footage” conceit ever (and yes I mean that.) The start of two brilliant careers in Josh Trank and Max Landis.

 

Honourable mentions.

Dredd 3D (which I saw 2D). Very solid, authentic, with the right balance of dystopic science fiction to utter mayhem.  

 

The Dark Knight Rises. I will be the first one to say it did not match the Dark Knight. But it had scale, majesty and poignancy. It took the far from perfect Bane storyline and elevated it to art. I do believe the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy will be a mark against which all other comic book movies will be judged.

 

 

So what am I looking forward to next year?

Sadly a couple of sequels are on the cards. Even worse I will be seeing them.

On the more original front I’m looking to Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters from Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow), his debut was kind of cold and distant but well made and lively. He has potential.

Elysium; I saw District 9, I believe in Neil Blomkampf. Nuff said.

Pacific Rim. I have been longing for the return of the Giant Monster movie for ten years. Guillermo Del Toro has very potential to treat it with the gravitas and dignity it deserves.**

 

 

Future Trends:

 

The Avengers Effect.

When a film makes over a billion dollars it has an effect, oh lord it has an effect.

The first ones to in its sphere are Marvel Studios itself who are onto a good thing and trying to replicate The Avengers affect with Guardians of the Galaxy. Whether they can transfer the momentum from a team of well known heroes to a team of obscure ones, only time will tell.

The next most obvious ones are DC and the Justice League. On paper they have an even better team; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman; it should be a no-brainer. Rumours are they are having Darkseid as the villain (which I am sure has nothing to do with the suppositions that Thanos -see any resemblance?- will be the villain of Avengers 2).

Even outside of the big two The Avengers affect continues; Rob Liefield’s Bloodstrike has suddenly attracted film attention. It faces the same barriers as Guardians of the Galaxy, it will probably have a smaller budget so that may help.

And then there is the less obvious effect; X Men First Class 2. Perhaps you think I have mistaken the cause for the effect. X Men came first, Avengers next … in film terms. But the whole gravy train of individual characters who can have their own films then combine into a bigger feature was a Marvel Studios innovation.

Fox Studios control The X-Men franchise. They have contracted Mark Millar to create their own little Marvel Universe; The X-Men and the Fantastic Four will make it up (and I suppose all of their villains too.)

 

 

The Long Shadow of Avatar

When James Cameron’s Avatar became a monster hit I predicted a major paradigm shift in film making.

This, inevitably has like most of my predictions, failed to come to pass.

But Avatar has left a long shadow and it is now sweeping the world of film.

First of all look at Luc Besson’s current project Valerian, it an epic science fiction project that may well be made using bluescreen techniques.

 

Then there is Mamoru Oshii’s The Last Druid: Garm Wars. He says he is only able to make it because of recent advances in technology.

 

 

The Death of the Comic Book Movie

Oh I give up, it’ll happen when it happens. There are a number of big releases due in 2013; Man of Steel, Thor: the Dark World, The Wolverine, Kick Ass 2, Iron Man 3 …

I guess we’ll be trotting along to those like the cash-bearing robots we are.

 

 

I’d honestly like to things to move along and it look like it might; the film industry can only do so many big FX blockbusters and it looks like the energy is moving towards big science fiction films (many of which star Tom Cruise…go figure).

For 2013 we are looking at: Oblivion, Robopocalypse, After Earth, Elysium, and Pacific Rim…. and not a sequel, reboot or Television adaptation among them.

And there are even more scheduled for 2014 and beyond.

I didn’t think we’d every get here, but we seem to be entering an age of science fiction cinema unequalled since the 1980s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*not a word, not a word I tell you.

**Just kidding, I saw the trailer, it’s going to be a rip roaring fun-fest.

 

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

http://www.darkhorizons.com/

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.

Grunting at the Screen (108)

11 Dec

 

The information age has not yet finished with us.

 

 

 

 

 

Now here is something. Amidst all of the news about sequels, remakes and reboots a little portion of data slipped our way. In 2019 the rights to the Terminator franchise will revert to James Cameron.

Of course he will be smack in the middle of making the Avatar sequels at that time.

What would he do with the rights? Since he now has more money that Rockefeller at this moment the smart thing would be to retire the series. Yeah right. What is he going to do with them?

 

 

Pacific Rim is pretty much done and for once Guillermo Del Toro is not swinging in the wind. He has another project lined up straight away. It’s Crimson Peak. Described as a classic ghost story with the iconic kind of feel of the great 1970s horror movies.

 

 

When I’m wrong, I’m wrong, I keep on predicting Disney’s exit from the science fiction game, and they keep commissioning more scripts. (Commissioning, yes, green-lighting, no.) Latest one up is Terra Incognita to be written by Nicole Perlman, no details yet.

One more thing; if Disney insists on sending good money after bad they might as well make a sequel to John Carter, I actually liked that one.

 

 

I don’t mention sequels that much, but this one had a hard time with the critics and it looked like any chance of making it a franchise was dead in the water. But hell, I liked it and it looks like Tron Legacy will have a followup.

Cool. Jesse Wigutow will write it.

Here’s some heresy, I liked it better than the original Tron.

 

 

Oh, huh. How to put this. In the Sin City follow up Robert Rodriguez has found a replacement for Michael Clarke Duncan to play the mighty henchman Manute…it’s

Dennis Haysbert . We love Haysbert; he was great in 24 and President Palmer, great in The Unit. But…I’m not even starting on metaphors like “filling some large shoes..” He’s a great actor so I hope he can act himself like thirteen inches taller and a foot wider.

 

 

You may wonder why I haven’t mentioned the imminent adaptation of Ender’s Game. Well mostly because I am the only person on the planet who hates Orson Scott Card’s book.

In any case I’m still not mentioning it.  Screenwriter Ernie Cline wrote the well received paean to Star Wars fandom called Fanboys them slipped sideways to write the even more acclaimed novel “Ready Player One”. His latest endeavour is Armada which has just been optioned for a cool million.

It is about the players of a massive multimedia Roleplaying Game who are seconded by the government to fight in a real war… See where I am going here? Feels like a cross between Ender’s Game and The Last Starfighter.

Scott Stuber and Dan Farah are producing.

 

 

Angels are the new vampires. And I am so sorry for it. Becca Fitzpatrick’s series of angel novels, The Hush, Hush Saga, has just been optioned. Seeing that the protagonist is a sixteen year old girl who’s latched onto a fallen angel, I can only imagine this will be thrust temptingly at the Twilight generation.

Patrick Sean Smith is writing the screenplay

 

Now I’m not happy with this. It comes in the wake of Sam Raimi’s Angelfall, another project seemingly aimed at the tweenie generation.

I Like Angels, I like Fallen Angels even more. But as far as I’m concerned; you make an Angel movie you better put the fear of God into your audience,

And I’m not seeing this.

 

 

I last mentioned Tipping Point back in GATS’ Blade Runner Special Number 2. (Damned if I know why io9 compared it to Blade Runner, I can’t see the connection.)

Tipping point is a typical population dystopia; you remember those? Soylent Green, Zero Population Growth: ZPG and the like.

It’s the usual schtick; 100 years in the future with 10 Billion people on earth; a  population policeman finds out he’s chasing his own wife and kid.

Anyway there has been some progress.

It has a new screenwriter and director;  Ric Roman Waugh. Whether he can bring anything new to this dog and pony show is yet to be seen.

 

Since we have this blast from the past , it’s as good a time as any to see if any of the films from back then got made.

We also mentioned;

Robert Rodriguez’s Nervewrackers,

Brett Ratner’s Arcana 

Peary Teo’s War of the Bloodlines

Duncan Jones’ Mute,

and a little film called Inception.

It turned out Inception was not much like Blade Runner at all but it was superbly cool and startlingly intelligent.

Of the other’s…not a whisper.

 

Doing science fiction cinema is difficult; doing near future movies is all but impossible.

Something to think about as we look at the exciting new crop of cyberpunk projects currently doing the rounds.

 

 

I like a bit of sword and sandal,* and I like to dabble in the old Roman history. One aspect  that never gets a look in is the later struggles in the Germanic lands. Until now of course.

Arminius is the tale of a Roman trained solder who switches sides to fight for his native German peoples when the Roman army comes knocking on their door.

 Frank Moll wrote the script and Wolfgang (Das Boot) Petersen and Julie Yorn will produce.

 

 

I saw the first footage from Oblivion on TV. It looks clean. Very much the school of Prometheus and Total Recall (reboot) it also looks like the fusion of a space movie and a post apocalyptic epic. So far, so good.

 

 

Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral gets a UK release on February 8 next year. I’ll see it, hell I haven’t had a good chunk of body horror since Slither. And next year looks pretty good, since American Mary is also coming out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*not a word, not a word I tell you.

 

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

http://www.darkhorizons.com/

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.