Archive | July, 2013

Grunting at the Screen (128)

29 Jul

The information age hasn’t finished with us.

Let’s talk remakes. There are a few in long term development that are actually worth waiting for.
Yeah I know, shock, horror!
The rule with remakes is that you should not do them unless you can bring something to the table, the question is; can you make it significantly fresher? Can you make it better?
And with some you certainly can, because they were not very good to start with.
Now I am going to have to do violent things to some of y’all cherished childhoods because I am going to lay into some beloved films that were not, and still are not “all that”.
Let’s start with the Black Hole. This was Disney’s response to the Star Wars boom of the seventies, and a poor response it was too; crappy story, crappy fx, the one good thing the thing fans remember is the robot Maximillian, even the “Black Hole” itself was rendered sloppily.
This is a film where all aspects are capable of improvement.
It is gratifying to note that the director of the remake will be Joe Kosinski (who knows his way around a science fiction script). He is proposing a total reboot of the property, keeping the black hole and ditching everything else.

Next up is Logan’s Run, another remake years in development. When you look at the original there are aspects of the production design that point to later greatness like Blade Runner. Otherwise it’s a pretty ramshackle affair. It looks cheap, its plot is off-hand in the way that 1970s science fiction is famous for and the ending is ridiculous. What is more it is derived from a book that is actually pretty well structured and exciting. There is endless room for improvement.

Barbarella. Successive teams of creators failed to get this remade. It has now switched from film to television production, which is not a negative development; many of today’s best visual entertainment are now on the small screen.
As a film it starts with Jane Fonda stripping out of a space suit and goes downhill from there, I suspect the opening credits is all this film is famous for (and the fact that Duran Duran took their name from one of its characters). It has endless potential to be pared back, built on and upgraded; it ain’t the classic it’s touted to be.

Now, just because these films have every potential for improvement, it does not mean they will achieve it. There are formidable barriers; unsympathetic film makers, film executives looking to maximise audience, the pressure of schedule. Nostalgia for the flawed original. Any of these can waylay the revival of a project.
But we live in hope.

So Comic-Con is in effect, and you might as well call it Sequel-Con because all the film news is of twoquels threequels and sidequels.

Marvel put out an extensive slate:
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” will lead straight into Avengers 2.

Guardians of the Galaxy is now in production and Director, James Gunn is treating the characters with great seriousness especially Rocket Racoon..
Contrary to earlier reports Thanos will in fact have a part, although he will not be the main villain.

The biggest news was for Avengers 2. It has a title and a main villain;
Avengers: Age of Ultron. This kind of raises more questions than it answers; yes the robot Ultron will be the villain, no Thanos will not, and no, Ant Man will not have a part. (Interesting, because Ant man-Hank Pym- is in fact the creator of Ultron.)
The questions raised all start with “Why?” Why was Thanos trailed in The Avengers’ mid credits scene of he has no part in Avengers 2? Why are they excluding Hank Pym when he has a place in Avengers history, and most curiously the question arising from the fact that the Age of Ultron event is in fact still continuing in Marvel comics. It’s not finished yet, we don’t know how it will end, and we don’t know how the fan community will receive it (not a foregone conclusion; the previous Fear Itself Marvel event was very poorly received.) With Thirty-plus years of Avengers history why tap a virtually embryonic story?
Could this be Marvel Studio’s first major Misstep?
Joss Weldon has responded to the consternation of fans with notice that the Age of Ultron will not be the Age of Ultron, what he will be doing will be the origin of Ultron with nothing taken from the event series except the title. Well that makes… absolutely no sense at all.

On the DC side, Man of Steel 2 will feature.. Wait a second aaaarrr.. It will feature yeawwww. Look I’m having trouble staying awake here, so let me just tell you Man of Steel 2 will feature Batman, Zack Snyder to direct, David S. Goyer to write, and it will be very, very… interesting. Now I need a nap.

The most exciting news to come out of Comic-Con is of Terry Gilliam’s Zero Theorem. Footage has been screened and reporters are very positive.
No release date yet.

Talking of Terry Gilliam “12 Monkeys” is getting a TV series at the Syfy Channel.
Chuck Roven and Richard Suckle are to produce with Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett writing the script

The Syfy Channel has been commissioning shows left right and centre, just up is a TV Series based on the movie Legion (which I kinda liked) it will be called “Dominion” and based 25 years after Angels devastate the earth. Original feature helmer Scott Stewart will direct the pilot.

So what’s up with Syfy? Do they have too much money.

Snowpiercer has now had reviews, and the verdict is almost hysterically approval. They are amazed that a Korean director could make a large scale science fiction film in a language foreign to him and pull it off with flair.
They love everything about it: storytelling, performances, cinematography.
And now for the bad news. Distribution rights are held by The Weinstein Co; legendary for acquiring Asian films and then burying them. Snowpiercer has yet to get a release date and now I wonder if it will ever get one.

As promised we have details on Sharlto Copley’s next film, Hardcore; in this feature Copley stars as a cyborg who breaks out his lab and goes on a rampage, he isn’t seeking revenge, he’s looking for his girlfriend from his human days. Indications are it will be shot from Copley’s point of view and it will one extreme piece of film, the Russian director Ilya Naishuller is shooting for a hard “R” rating and promises wild ride with scenes never put on screen before.

Despite high profile failures it hasn’t prevented production companies from snatching up Science fiction properties.
Relativity just bought Continuum, (not to be confused with the Syfy series continuum) which has nothing but potential; a team of travellers from the future arrive on a one way trip to prevent nano-holocaust. Sounds like Terminator meets Michael Crichton’s Prey.

Bold Films bought Children of the Gun. Post-holocaust again, two people trying to survive while being pursued (very little detail again).
Fabrice Du Welz (Vinyan) is to direct.

Horizon Movies bought Pig. Unlike the previous two, this one is completed.
A man wakes up in the desert, tied-up, blindfolded and with Amnesia. Of course he has to find out what is going on.

Director Drake Doremus is making a science fiction romance called “Equals”.
Nathan ‘Moon.’ Parker wrote it.

First review of The Machine has emerged and the verdict is good.
When I first heard about this film I was guardedly enthusiastic; I like a Terminator rip-off and I own many of them (just don’t watch three consecutively, that will f*** your sh** up!)
The Machine was among a group if other robot movies which mostly remained unmade, and there was no reason to suppose this would be any different.
But it seems Director Caradog James has delivered.
Vincent is a scientist at an MOD lab, but he’s secretly working on his own project; an artificially intelligent robot. When his assistant Ava is horribly murdered, Vincent uploads her mind into his robot, and of course mayhem ensures.
The review suggests this is smart, fast-moving movie that transcends the boundaries of both Action movies, low-budget science fiction. It looks better than a cheap movie is supposed to and is more intelligent than action SF is allowed to be. As described it’s more like Splice than the Terminator, where we see the mental and emotional development of the robot Ava (before the requisite chaos.
And by the way, a lot of the cool FX is of the good old fashioned prosthetic variety.
A phrase hovers on my lip… I’m not going to say it. OK then: the next District 9?
OK, I’m ready, I’m willing.

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 (127)

18 Jul

The information age isn’t finished with us.


I’m glad to see the surge in original Science Fiction films; it’s a good thing.
It’s accompanied by a phenomenon not so positive; the fall of the original Science Fiction movie.

A lot of these films have commercially failed.
After Earth
Cowboys and Aliens
John Carter
Cloud Atlas (not strictly Science Fiction)
Storage 24
Adjustment Bureau

All had mediocre or worse box office.

Paradoxically World War Z did just fine, especially internationally, better than fine.

This may mean nothing, even reboots sometimes fail (Dredd,) even films based on Young Adult novels fail (City of Embers). It may just be that films occasionally fail.

The truth is, films often fail.
But it contrasts with the spectacular run of Comic Book Movie successes: Superman Returns, Green Lantern, Jonathan Hex. OK, so even CBMs fail, so maybe the run of Science Fiction under-performers doesn’t mean anything.

But the numbers of original projects are finally rising after they took a dip in the late nineties. No-one* wants that rise to falter.
The immediate future looks good, coming up over the next two years are:
Jupiter Ascending
All You Need Is Kill

Serious projects, with serious budgets attached to them. There are also a lot of low- budget projects, and some of the most satisfying films have come from this sector: Like District 9 and Chronicle. It is less certain which of these budget features will be worthwhile, or even get made (film is an industry that manufactures uncertainty.)
But there is good chance that continuing Science Fiction failures will discourage original features until all we have left will be sequels, remakes and reboots (and what is with that? What’s the difference between a remake and a reboot?)
The future of Science Fiction film is in our hands; specifically the hand that goes in our pockets. When we pull that hand out some cash and pay to see original Science Fiction, then they will make more of it.

Which neatly brings us to Pacific Rim.
I’ve been following this project since 2010. Legendary pictures snapped up Travis Beacham’s story idea in 2010 back when it was a twenty page treatment. But it wasn’t the only proposed film pitting giant monsters against giant robots. Back then Dreamworks was interested in adapting the game Monsterpocalypse, they even tried to draft in Tim Burton, and it came to nothing. This was precisely what I expect would happen to Pacific Rim, a project by writer Travis Beacham until Del Toro got involved.
Del Toro is a fanatic. His love of monsters and encyclopaedic knowledge of visual genre ensured that the film would happen.

It’s true that the Kaiju genre is a matter of taste. Some people just don’t get it. My only feeling is why hasn’t this happened before? Why aren’t all of the Godzilla movies on the shelves? Where is the rest of the revived Gamera trilogy? Why is the genre so neglected here? When I heard “giant monsters verses Giant robots” I was already there, nothing more was necessary. The notion appeals to the pre-adolescent in us. If we have any left.


Pacific Rim wastes no time, it commences with a swift prologue on how the Giant monstrous Kaiju came though a dimensional rift and terrorised the coast, and the swift response of humanity; giant robots called Jaegers.
We are into our first robot/monster fight before we know it and then we settle in for the story.

Years after the first Kaiju incursion and the frequency of attacks is increasing, Jaegers are becoming less effective and the governments of the world are considering shutting the program down.
Stacker Pentecost, the Jaeger’s Marshal has a daring plan that will halt Kaiju attacks, but he has no support and the sketchiest of resources.

What is most notable about the film is how clean the story is. Without the long tail of continuity remakes and sequels have to deal with Del Toro is able to just tell his tale. It is simple and boy it moves along.

Of course it pauses for character moments, but nothing is mawkish and it is all good (there are a couple of subplots about a Jaeger pilot who has lost his confidence and a father and son situation.)

And then there are the fights. If you think you’ve seen action adventure, you really don’t know jack, because this is, literally action on a whole different scale.
At times I cried out:
“Get the f*** out!”
“You have got to be kidding me!”
And “Jesus, it can fly!”

Prepare to welcome back your twelve year old self. Yeah.

Pacific Rim is smart, fast, entertaining and huge fun. So far, my movie of the summer.

Julien Mokrani has been tapped to direct an adaptation of Bande Desinee story, Les Sentinelles (written by Xavier Dorison and drawn by Enrique Breccia)
On-line information in English about Les Sentinelles is thin on the ground. What we can establish it is based during an alternate World War I. Enrique Breccia is Argentinean, and there have been at least three volumes of the story.

This just the latest in a string of Bande Desinee adaptations (Snowpiercer gets a Korean release this summer). It looks like European comics have finally arrived.

The latest Anime to get the live action treatment is Mobile Police Patlabor, and check it, Original Anime director Mamoru Oshii has an undisclosed role in the production. More as it arises.

Despite less than glowing early reviews, Magnet, a division of Magnolia Pictures has bought Ruairi Robinson’s The Last Days on Mars for Release later this year by Video On Demand.

Portuguese Science Fiction thriller RPG stars Rutger Hauer as …. Hey wait a minute. When was the last time we blogged a Portuguese film? Let’s look… it’s been like, never. We have records on seventy-five Spanish productions, but not one Portuguese. Well I’m glad the first one is Science Fiction.
Anyway Rutger Hauer is an ageing millionaire who gets a chance at a young new body, but he has to fight it out with another participant in a virtual arena. Director is David Rebordao.
It gets a Portuguese release on August 29. (No word on British or US releases).

Good news everybody; the Documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune has been picked up for distribution by Sony Classics. No word on release dates as of yet.

Sharlto Copley of District 9 fame has signed on for Russian Science Fiction film, Hardcore. Ilya Naishuller will write and direct, Timur Bekmambetov is producing.
Naishuller is the singer in a Punk band and has been noted for a string of well reviewed short films.
More details as they emerge.

Hme! Twentieth Century Fox is planning an X-Force movie. So long as it’s not a retread of their X-Men cra… er efforts.
X-Force (in the comics) was nominally the Black Ops end of mutant activity (I, myself, never saw the difference) but this would give the film makers the chance of taking all things mutant related in a new direction.
Jeff (Kick-Ass 2) Wadlow is writing and directing.

Although it’s only getting a DVD release in the UK there will be a theatrical release for Frankenstein’s Army check it out at theatres from July 26

Now this is news, Tom Cruise vehicle, All You Need Is Kill is getting a name change, it will now be known as Edge of Tomorrow.
The original Japanese novel was written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

*OK, no-one on my side of the fence.

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 (126)

5 Jul

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Now here is something. Frankenstein’s Army has gone straight to video, the irony is it’s been well reviewed over at starburst website; surprising, gory, CG free. We’d like to see more reviews but this is a positive outcome.

Fright Fest has published its full 2013 line up. Initially there was not much grabbed my attention. I did notice there were a lot of sequels this year. The opening gala is The Dead-2 India: a sequel to The Dead (based in Africa).
And there were also sequels to Child’s Play and Outpost (which review suggest is actually rather good).
Of interest to long-time grunters is Frankenstein’s Army (but this one definitely has a DVD release and soon too).

Ironically one feature grabbing my attention is Wither, a Swedish take on the evil dead. What? Isn’t it a bit hypocritical that I won’t go to the official
reboot but I want to try this Scandinavian knock off? Yah but….

Also up is the Demons Rook, a mad tale of boy taught magic by demons but then inadvertently leads a demonic trio to earth to wreak havoc. Ooh.

Quite exciting is Cannon Fodder from Israel; an Israeli security team infiltrates Lebanon to snatch a Hezbollah chief, instead of Hezbollah they find themselves against an “unknown enemy” (ooh. I’m hoping it’s a djinn. Please can it be a djinn?)

Most tempting is the Last Days (Los Ultimos Dias) from Spain. This one has been hanging around for years (since 2011 according to my files). In irrational panic has forced everyone to stay inside, to walk the street is to court death.
Marc wants to find his girlfriend, but he can’t go outdoors. What follows is a madcap series of adventures as he travels through sewers, cellars and basements in his quest.
Apparently it’s a fun and FX filled.

Woah! Roger Dean sues Jim Cameron!
I am Shocked! I am shocked it took so long.
Back in 2009 a lot of people suggested the floating islands in Avatar were related to the iconic paintings of Dean. One site io9 pointed out that art and fiction were full of flying islands that predated Avatar.

The question is why has it taken so long for Dean to file suit?
Since the opening Cameron has been sued multiple times on account of Avatar (and who wouldn’t want a chance of that 2 1/2 Billion dollar payday?)

So far all such attempts have been soundly rebuffed, and I’m pretty sure this one will be too; after all we have had flying islands in modern literature since Laputa in Gulliver’s Travels.

Looks like it’s time for another Horror Anthology, this one being
Phantasmagoria, a French-Italian co-production to be directed by Domiziano Cristopharo, Mickael Abbate and Tiziano Martella. I’m not familiar with these film makers, and there is no word on any theme but the producers promise it will be “hair raising.”

I’m beginning to think it’s a genre; team of guys verses category of things.
Speculative things not things in the real world.
Men in Black III got me thinking of it, but it wasn’t the first one, it goes back to Ghostbusters at least.
The rule is, you can’t take things too seriously.

This year we have a couple of entries; R.I.P.D. where a police force (themselves zombies) battle monstrous spirits loose in the world.
And B.O.O (Bureau of Otherworldly Operations) a government agency protecting us from hauntings.

Together with earlier entries, I say we have genre. Which got me thinking: what should we be protected from?
This is a tough one; we’ve already had aliens and Ghosts. (Alien ghosts…?)
I certainly don’t want to go down the vampire and werewolf route, after all werewolves aren’t funny… OK they are funny, but still…
Let’s do Greek style (what.. what?) I mean let’s go mythological; the next one should protect us from resurgent mythological gods, you don’t want Zeus or Hercules roaming the streets, Hera or Athena mixing it up in Central park, how could we have ignored we need a band of bad asses armed with the spiritual weapons capable of sending them; Back to Athens. (I copyright that!)

Next Up: Pacific Rim. Woah Boy!

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.