Archive | November, 2013

Grunting at the Screen (137)

18 Nov

The information age isn’t finished with us.




New from the Gringhouse
Straight to video SF is popping up everywhere; new in HMV is Alien Metamorphosis. Former title “Chrysalis”; this one comes bearing claims of being a Ray Bradbury adaptation and actually being good.
We have some information. Director is Tony Baez Milan
It’s actually been hanging around since 2009.
Don’t get too excited about the strap-lines on the cover. I’ve seen a few reviews on this, none of them good; they say its cheap, crude amateurish and talky.
On the plus side they say it’s faithful to the original story.
http://www.chrysalismovie.net




Appleseed XIII
And how did I miss Appleseed XIII? Well it’s on the shelves now.
What can we tell you?
It’s A thirteen episode television series by Production IG who did Ghost In The
Shell: Stand Alone Complex and so many other things. It is fully CG (of course, who does hand drawn animation anymore: remember the days when CG Anime was some kind of exciting innovation?).
So I went on line and did a little research. It begins to make sense now, this has a low key release, and I suspect no-one involved wants the series looked at very closely.
Production IG farmed out the work to a bunch of other animation houses; understandable, they have so much else on their plate.
They also revamped the story line.
I have read a bunch of reviews and no one is happy with the series. The weird thing is that each reviewer has problems with different aspects. They all agree that the animation is not working; the motion capture, so effective in may CG productions here is described as painfully unrealistic, like string puppets, on critic said. Some reviewers liked the story; others thought it inauthentic to the original Manga and three previous Animes. Some liked the Art design, others thought it veered to far from the successful Aramaki films and looked comical. They all though the series was inconsistent (a by-product of the several different animations houses working on different episodes.
So there you go. I haven’t seen it myself, but if you must complete your Appleseed collection, it’s out there.


XX
Horror anthologies are a dime a dozen, which one you want? The latest of so many Asian anthologies, the edgy indie anthology, the reality horror anthology? We got ’em all.
Here’s something different. It’s called XX.
It has all-women directors. And they are heavy hitters
Mary “American Psycho” Harron
Jennifer “Boxing Helena” Lynch
Karyn “Girlfight” Kusama
The Soska Sisters (American Mary)
Jovanka “The Captured Bird” Vuckovic
(OK, so I don’t know who Vucovic is.)
And it has framing sequence from stop-motion animator Sofia Carrillo.

I genuinely hope this will be great


47 Ronin
I’ve become more interested in 47 Ronin. Now I’ve heard of the original story and I know its basic outline: 47 masterless samurai take revenge on the lord who murdered their master. But I can hardly say I have familiarity here.
The Keanu factor gives me pause. His work veers from the remarkable to the remarkably bad.
Marketing has kicked in and we are beginning to see images from the finished film. They look good. But that means nothing; of you are making a genre film in the 21st century: fantasy or science fiction, you had better look good; come strong with cinematography, art design, and FX or go home.
But even this is no guarantee of quality.
What has grabbed my attention has been the comments of its neophyte director, Carl Rinsch. He gave an interview with Coming Soon site. He first admits that he is not making an authentic 47 Ronin. Then he speaks of the huge barriers the project faced: shooting in 3D, a non-native English speaking cast, a story unfamiliar to most of the west and you know what? He relishes it. He’s throwing himself into it.
And that’s what I’m intrigued with, Rinsch has real balls, he’s willing to bet the farm on his first feature. And maybe that means something.


Apokalips X
How about a Malaysian Post-holocaust action movie? Yeah?
Try Apokalips X. from director Mamat Khalid; chemical warfare has wiped out most of the world’s population leaving violent gangs of teenagers in conflict with each other. We are promised that this will be epic.


“The Juliet”
How did I miss word of “The Juliet” from director Rupert Sanders? Well it’s not made yet for one.
So what of it? First it’s Science Fiction, of course; second it’s an Alfred Bester adaptation. Say what! They are calling it a science fiction romance and keeping the details close to their chest (but Bester wasn’t the most prolific short story writer, so it may be possible to locate the story it is based on)




The Montauk Chronicles
Generally I don’t blog found footage films, let along found footage horror, but this one has aliens. Grey Aliens. The Montauk Chronicles; there is an army base below Montauk. Three men are brainwashed and forced into a series or experiment. Experiments involving aliens.
Christopher P. Garetano is the director
It’s on US DVD in January.




Riddick
Word has come through on Riddick (hey! It wasn’t that bad!) When it goes to DVD there will be an alternate ending and extra footage.
http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=111310



Good news everybody; Caradog James’ unstoppable killer robot movie The Machine will get a UK theatrical release. They are looking at March 2014.




Gravity
Review

This has been a critical and commercial triumph. Reviews have been effusive.
So how is it? The visuals are pin sharp and utterly convincing. I am aware that most of what I was looking at was CG, but at no time did that become apparent, let alone obtrusive.
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney give convincing and affecting performances.
In fact Bullock largely carries the film herself.
There has been considerable debate as to the accuracy of Gravity’s science. I can only say; in comparison to what? It is fiction, so the only viable comparison is with other fictional films.
As for story, it works, it is very simple and straight ahead ad shows the power of not complicating a narrative which is strong enough to stand on its own.

It’s a thrill ride, but also intellectually satisfying.

One thing no other review has mentioned is that it contains a strip scene reminiscent of both the opening titles of Barbarella and the underwear scene in Alien. And I believe both references are absolutely conscious.

However the entire film s not about Sandra Bullock remarkable legs, it is mediation on survival and the awful, beautiful, terrible majesty of space.

Go See it.






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.

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Grunting at the Screen (136)

9 Nov

The information age isn’t finished with us.


Autumn Cyberpunk Special

And this Cyberpunk Special will be called: what are your favourite directors doing instead of leading the cyberpunk revolution?

Blade Runner 2
Ridley Scott’s Biblical epic Exodus started shooting in September. The sharp eyed will realise this means there is no chance of him helming a Blade Runner sequel until 2015 at the earliest. Why 2015? It will be a year of shooting and post production at least, plus all that accompanies a big release putting it after winter 2014.
With this in mind I view with scepticism renewed talk that negotiations are continuing between Scott and Harrison Ford. This talk first started up in early 2012 and it seemed pretty spurious at the time but it has recently been confirmed. It seems Ford is not entirely against participating in a Blade Runner sequel.
Since the very possibility of such a sequel is in doubt I would not get me hopes up, but of you insist on considering the possibility then consider this: Ridley Scott has recently confirmed that in his opinion Deckard was a replicant, would Ford be willing to return under such circumstances? Scott may well want to reboot the idea just as he rebooted Alien with Prometheus, would Ford even have a place in such a production? Any such production is at least two years away, considering Scott’s other commitments and a lot can change in that time.

Ridley Scott has actually commented on the likelihood of his various projects being made:
He says the Prometheus Sequels are ready to go but cannot be squeezed in before 2016.
He also fully intends to make the Forever War, he has a script but no idea when it will shoot.
As for Blade Runner 2, there is a screenplay but as for shooting, that is on the far horizon.




Not Neuromancer
Hme, Canada is getting its own Horror anthology TV show called Darknet. Its adapted from a Japanese series called Tori Hada what is interesting is that harnesses the power of the web by having on-line fans contribute scripts or even upload their own filmed (well videoed ) segments for transmissions.
That’s new.

But none of this is why I’m mentioning it. Darknet is a partnership between Steven Hoban, and Vincenzo Natali, yes, Natali will be writing, producing and directing this instead of directing Neuromancer …like he should be.
Segments are available on the Super Channel and Darknet websites
http://www.darknetfiles.com/about/

I earlier reported that Ben Wheatley would be directing High Rise. This of course means Vincenzo Natali is off the project. This may mean nothing, he has other projects lined up including Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams’ Tunnels, and a movie for Slasher films called Theorem. (Unrelated to any other Theorems.)
Of course what we hope it means is that he is clearing the slate to direct Neuromancer.

Meanwhile we have actual Neuromancer news.

http://www.empireonline.com/news/story.asp?NID=39171

The gist of it is that the Neuromancer film is still in play, the pieces are in position except for the money. So the news is… There is no real news.




The Zero Theorem
At the end of August Terry Gilliam released what could be called a manifesto for The Zero Theorem. He says it is about a “complex modern man” in a connected constricted world” and that fundamentally it is out our own world, as Gilliam sees it.
He says it is unlike any film we’ve seen lately. And he’s very happy with how it turned out.
Ooh what a tease! He makes it sound good and we should caution ourselves not to raise our expectations.
Oh yes, we hope this will stand next to Brazil and 12 Monkeys but we’ll be happy if it doesn’t fall flat on its face.



Johnny Mnemonic
There has been zero news about the Johnny Mnemonic TV series.
But let’s consider, maybe it is not a bad thing at all. For decades Television was where story went to die. It was the inferior cousin to film (and poor distant relative to theatre, and relative stranger to literature and the epic poem). But lately the smaller screen has been the destination for quality.
I just read that the talent which used to gravitate to independent film is now drawn to cable TV. They can do everything wanted to do on film, but have a larger pallet to draw upon.
Television has been the location of some of our great cultural moments: the Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Spartacus.


There is every opportunity for Johnny Mnemonic to expand into the medium, exploring the character, his origins, the world he lives in.

Could Johnny Mnemonic become the Game of Thrones or Walking Dead of the Science Fiction world?



Scott “Deus Ex” Derrickson is off doing Beware the Night and probably will go on to Postmortal before he ever gets to a cyberpunk project.




Hero Punk…no seriously, Hero Punk?
I don’t know how to report this. Hero Punk is a project still in production, a very independent feature describing itself as a cyber-punk superhero film. The phrase makes my teeth grate, but I’m trying to keep my mind open; there is no video to see yet, so what stands out is its method of production; it is shot on digital video and seventy percent of it will be green-screen.
Greenscreen has attracted a lot of criticism in the last decade, very much for the artificiality of the environments it is associated with. But it’s just another technique, and I have long thought low budget productions could squeeze a bit more bang for the buck by leveraging digital technology. Even more interesting is that the film makers are farming the FX out to multiple artists across the world. Something like thirty artists across the globe that they contacted over social media will be creating the backdrops and FX to bring the production to life.

Like I said, we know almost nothing; no scenario, no preproduction art, no trailer, I suspect this is not even our kind of film.
Anyway, production is due to be wrapped in October and we will see then.

Hero Punk brings to mind a whole bunch of other independent film makers we’ve noticed.
Many of them produced stylish short films, (which you can see at Grunting at the Screen 110) and almost all of them disappeared without a trace. Pity that.



Otherwise I am disappointed. 2013 has not turned out to be the hoped for renaissance, the large scale productions have failed to get in the motions, the small ones have disappeared without a trace. The most likely candidates like Deus Ex, Blade Runner 2 and Neuromancer are circling the drain as the creators pursue different goals.



Of course Watch Dogs has been added to the roster of Ubisoft projects; this is a different more contemporary take (I doubt they could call it cyber-punk at all); cyberspace and skull jacks are out, smart phones and hoodies are in. In practical terms what all this means is yet another project on the long development merry-go-round, heading eventually for development hell.




What is Ridley doing?
Well late-breaking news. You can take all of the dates for Ridley Scott’s calendar and move them up one year at least because word has come down, he has chosen his project post Exodus.
It’s an untitled feature about sports injuries.



Other News…
And it is coming thick and fast.
Image Comics’ adaptation Savage has a director; James Cotten,
and what is the unique selling point of this one? Bigfoot verses Werewolves. Yes, you heard right (personally I thought they were natural allies who would unite to hunt man… but what do you know?)
Comic was co-written by Jeff Frank and Steve Niles and it sound ever so slightly insane.

Australian global holocaust drama “These Final Hours” almost slipped by me, but it seems to be done, it even has a Trailer. Like many recent holocaust movies it is concerned less with the disaster itself than with the social implications of life at the end of the world.
No word yet on a release date.




American Ultra
Where the heck did this come from? American Ultra. I keep a close eye on what
Max “Chronicle” Landis is writing but this one slipped me by. Director is Larry Charles and it is Starring Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg.
A stoner becomes the target of a government assassination bid. It has possibilities.




SEAL Team 666
Hollywood presently has a love affair with the Navy SEALS, there are a raft of films in production or development at the moment.
So no surprise to find Dwayne Johnson attached to the latest one, SEAL Team 666.
Except this, as you may guess, is out of the ordinary. Yes, it is SEALS vs. demons. As I said, the military-horror genre is well and truly back.

Sin City 2
The Sin City sequel has a subtle subtitle change: A Dame to Kill For is now A Dame to Die For. Just a small shift, but I think Frank Miller knew what he was doing when he named it.
It opens on August 22, 2014.
Robert Rodriguez is a busy man because he is also directing the pilot for the small screen adaptation of From Dusk to Dawn.


Convention
Hoo. Just found out about the Leeds comic art festival. Of course I’m not going (never leave London) but it did alert me to the new documentary about the making of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. It has a screening there.
Masterpiece: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns features interviews with the author, as well as many of the publishing team. Narration is by Malcolm McDowell

Checkout the Festival at http://www.thoughtbubble.com.



Thor: The Dark World.

Review

Epic. This is film-making on an absurd scale.
And it works.
Basic plot, before the dawn of the universe there were the Dark Elves, they warred with the Asgardians they were banished and their doomsday weapon the Aether was hidden where it would never be found (yeahright!)
Shock horror, Jane finds the Aether (it fills her body). The Dark Elves return. Thor has to battle the Dark Elves and their Leader Maleketh lest both Jan and the nine realms are lost, and he has to unite with his frenemy Loki to succeed.

What distinguishes this film from other comic book epics this year (Iron Man 3, I mean you) is despite its casual disregard for scientific logic, it does not stint on story logic or story values. It builds from simple story blocks that relate well and comes to a satisfying conclusion.
There is a lot for fans of the Thor comic as well, many of the regular characters get their own moments: Sif, Fandral, Volstag; even Heimdall manages to get his battle on. We have an appearance in flashback of Odin’s father, Bor.

Besides this there are several spectacular action set-pieces that miraculously do not dwarf the story. There is humour too, but not so much as to derail the drama,
So, all in all recommended; sure it has no deeper resonance, just think of it as a last gasp of our vanished Indian summer.

Ah yes. The mid credits scene. This links up with Guardians of the Galaxy and also gives hints of the battle to come with Thanos (perhaps in Avengers 3.)









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 (135)

1 Nov

The information age isn’t finished with us.




DVDs
Here we go again.
New low-budget Science Fiction seldom turns up, I was surprised to see it turn up on the shelves of (not broke yet) HMV. Time Warriors is… I have looked this one up and It is hard to describe just what it is, it has cover like Tron but a plot like Star Fighter.
A couple of kids get a new console game, They play it and find they have been recruited to fight for a sinister character called The War Lord.
I found a couple of reviews for it and predictable it sucks (three stars out of ten in one review). The problem is almost everything, poor writing, bad acting an unoriginal story. Surprisingly the CG is not bad for a cheap movie.
Oh dear, that is saying something, when the best thing about a movie is its cheap CGI.


Also out on DVD this month is Dylan Dog Dead of Night, we’ve covered it in the past, unfortunately it attracted very poor reviews. It’s your basic supernatural investigator in a world infested by Vampires, werewolves, etc. It is a late entry in the Action-horror subgenre.




Upcoming
There are whole crop of Science Fiction movies planned.

What Happened to Monday
Tommy “Hansel and Gretel” Wirkola is prepping “What Happened to Monday”, a dystopian tale in the mould of ZPG, where extra children are forbidden, so what happens when Septuplets need to be hidden (the clue is in the title).

Beyond
I have always wondered why the Syfy channel didn’t buy up some of the innovative shorts scattered across the web and make good films out of them rather than Syfy movies.
Well they have started doing just that. They just picked up Raphael Rogers’ Beyond and are partnering with Universal to make it a feature.




Infini
Shane Abess broke out with the visually arresting Gabriel back in 2007, although he has been linked to a bunch of other films, Most notably Source Code, he hasn’t quite followed through.
His luck has changed with Infini: a rescue team is bringing a cargo from a distant space mining station back to earth, only problem is it’s got a lethal biological weapon on board.
Has potential.




And finally David Cholewa is a French director Known for his Dead Shadows feature. He has now teamed up with Richard Stanley to write Black Gate. They are selling this as horror, but the pre-production posters look very much like 80s style Horror Science Fiction in the zone of Alien.




Hellraiser
The long running saga of Hellraiser keeps running. Latest news is that Clive Barker himself his writing the script to the remake. And Douglas Bradley is returning as Pin Head.



Reviews of Ridley Scot’s The Councillor are out, on the whole they are negative, but a strange kind of negative; apparently it is original, unpredictable, dialogue heavy, it does not work in terms of plot, but is strangely compelling.
Hme.
Ridley Scott is already working on his next project.




Reviews are also coming out for Thor: the Dark World. The word is largely positive although most reviews note that the humour is heavy handed and excessive.




Selling Time
You may be done with Will Smith but Will Smith isn’t done with you. The latest project he has initiated is the time travel film Selling Time, smith is given a chance to relive the worse day of his life in exchange for seven years of his life (am I reading this right? Why would anyone want to do that?)
The script has been rewritten seven times so you know it’s good* and it is now looking for a director.




11A.M.
Time Travel is in the air with Korean feature 11A.M. A science team attempt to demonstrate Time Travel by shooting forward 24 hours to 11 A.M. tomorrow, when they get there they find their lab wrecked and themselves hunted men. Cool. and it already has a trailer.


The Passengers
Dyamn! I thought Keanu Reeves vehicle The Passengers was deader than disco, but like white suits and platform boots it has returned.
It is now casting. Just in case you forgot about it, it’s about the jerkiest man in space.
No seriously. Keanu plays a repairman on a long space ship; the rest of the crew is in hibernation, so he wakes one up so he can have company. Of course it means that she (yep it is a she) will get old and die before the space ship arrives. Like I said; first class knob.





Ender’s Game
Let’s start of with an admission. I read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. I didn’t like it. It seemed to slight. To light weight of an award winning novel, and to be honest I never read another Scott Card Novel after.
But here I am. Why. Well you have to walk the walk. I can’t kvetch that there are no original science fiction moves If I don’t go see them when they come out. Besides, I live by another principal: The film is not the book, when my mundane friends would come back from the movies with derision for the latest SF adaptation (and well deserved it often was) I would tell the “The film isn’t the book”. and that is so often true. By the time everyone from the director to the caterer has thrown in their opinion of what a film should be it generally has very little resemblance to the literary project that inspired it (Try World War Z for an instance….) So it is with this in mind that I approach Ender’s Game. perhaps this time it will work in our favour.
and then there is the way it is being sold; “Harry Potter meets Star Wars” or “Harry Potter meets Starship Troopers”. I certainly hope this is just hype.



Ender’s Game
Review
I admit I came in with a truck load of expectations.
And happily they were unfulfilled.
I haven’t read the book for many years, so I am unqualified to say how faithful the feature is, but it feels very respectfully assembled.
Ender’s Game is a deft, well executed work.
It is underpinned by very fine performances from Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and a young, very able Asa Butterfield as the Ender Wiggins.
You know the story: fifty years ago the ant-like Formics attacked the earth and almost overwhelmed their defences, since then Earth has been preparing a mighty war machine to see of the Formic threat once and for all.
Earth military have discovered that children have the mental flexibility to understand and fight the Formic, thus Ender and his adolescent friends are pushed into endless military training.

This is some very nice work, a keen balance of well handled action and deft characterisation.
Asa Butterfield plays Ender as cold, distant and strange; as he should. he is contrasted by empathetic sister and sociopathic brother, Ender is the perfect combination that allows him to understand and fight the Foirmics.

The Special Effects are well handled, perhaps not as spectacular as some features this year, but they fit the drama.

What is surprising is what is absent from the story; superfluous romances, irrelevant sub plots and attempts to skew the tone towards the audience of any of the recent teen fantasy sensations. A very brave production team decide to make this film its own animal.
In fact any reviewer who made the Harry Potter comparison was guilty of lazy thinking.

I don’t recognise the coda is from the novel (although it could easily have been inspired by the sequel Speaker for the dead, which I have not read), and it is the only part that sits uncomfortably with the rest of the film.

If there is any concern it is the premise of the story itself. Essentially it is about character: the question is, can a killer be moral. Not just can killing be moral, but can someone whose nature is that of a killer be also moral. We abhor Ender’s actions but applaud his reasons.
Should we? Can we?
Are we trying to have our cake and eat it?
That is for you to decide.
In the meantime this is a solid addition to a very fine year of cinematic Science Fiction and, unexpectedly, the most thoughtful entry.


As I have said before the northman is rising.** The latest project proposed is Viking Vampires. yes, you heard me. With Teeth. It’s a Norwegian Reality-style horror where a group of contestants have to stay overnight at Erik Bloodtooth’s burial ground. Guess what comes up from the earth?
It’s still in development. with a tentative start date in 2014.









*Ahh… maybe?
** Hme, still sounds wrong…

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.