Archive | December, 2013

Grunting at the Screen (139)

27 Dec

The information age isn’t finished with us.

You’ve heard me rant at sequels, remakes and reboots, repeatedly.
There is one variety of cinematic unoriginality I have not addressed: “me too”
This year there were two Whitehouse invasion films, next year two jungle books.
This does not happen by accident. Los Angeles is like a small village everyone knows everyone else and they all know who is developing what picture.
We had two Snow White’s and next year will bring several Frankenstein films and two Hercules films.

There are film executives out there who act as if they never had a thought in their heads that someone else didn’t put there.

Is that in itself a problem? Inherently no. in fact it might be a blessing. Competition (healthy or otherwise) brings out the best in film makers.
But philosophically? It’s just another symptom of the LA film industry’s brain dead conformity, its fear of originality or even the appearance of originality, and in the end it will kill the art of film making.


Jesse Wigutow is adapting Brian Michael Bendis’ comic Fire, Zac Efron is attached but there is no director yet; a young political science major is recruited out of college by the CIA but quickly finds out he is being set up as a sacrificial pawn in a deadly game.


Mark Millar does it again.
He’s just sold an option on Starlight; the tale of a retired superhero called back into service.
Millar describes the tone as “Buck Rogers meets Dark Knight.” (Huh?)
Simon Kinberg is to write the script.
Millar has been selling just about everything he writes, everything he thinks up, even before it hits the shelves. He is on a monster of a roll.
Of course not everything he sells is being made…
and that is the thing.

The Scribbler

This is new, XLrator Media have acquired The Scribbler, a graphic novel written and illustrated by Dan Schaffer and published by Image.
It’s directed by John Suits and written by the original author.
Interesting premise: Suki is locked in a mental facility, she has multiple personalities, but that’s OK the Siamese Burn machine is snuffing out the alter personalities one by one, except one of the remaining ones is getting more and more dominant, in fact , it says it is the real Suki, and what if it is right?

Welcome to Yesterday

They are calling the “reality” time-travel feature “Welcome to Yesterday” this year’s Chronicle. The debut feature of Dean Israelite, it is produced by Michael Bay.
We find out what happens when a teenager builds a time machine.
We’ll see how that plays out.
It gets a release on February 28th 2014

And at last….

We finally have a release date for Eli Roth’s latest atrocity, The Green Inferno; it’s Sept. 4 2014. And about time too.


The Live-Action Patlabor Trailer has arrived.

The year has dragged to its close. 2013 is done, embarrassing the hell out of all those dweebs who hid out in the hills expecting the Mayan Holocaust by the end of 2012 (and incidentally anyone who actually went to see the movie 2012)

So this gives me exactly the opportunity to segue into..

This Year in Science Fiction

It’s been a good year for Science Fiction, even including the dismal performance of After Earth.
Look at what we’ve had just this year:
Cloud Atlas
Pacific Rim
Dark Skies
Ender’s Game
World War Z

It would have been the year of Snowpiercer as well, if it hadn’t been for the Weinsteins. Who are apparently still trying to shorten it and (would you believe) add a Blade Runner-style voice over.

And this does not even include the Young Adult movies, let alone the comic book movies.

We had major original Science Fiction successes.
We’ve also seen big sequel success.

The immediate future promises more big- budget original Science Fiction features. How long will it last? Only as long as they make money.

There will also be sequels such as we have never seen before, because sequels have outpaced originals at the box office. I also predict reboots that shock and dismay more than ever.

In years to come 2013 may be hailed as the same kind of Science Fiction golden era as the 1950s, or the 1980s.

But I suspect the boom in Science Fiction, both original and rehashed, will not last long and the funding they now command will go into things like Biblical and historical epics.

And what about the quality of the product? I’m in two minds here. I love action movies, I love action scenes, I love action, full stop.
But it has become a little ridiculous hasn’t it, I didn’t bother with the majority of blockbusters this year, but I did see Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel, and like many comic book movies of years gone by, they ran a little long, and the action scenes were extended to the point of tedium.
More is definitely not more.
Thor: the Dark World however was a breath of fresh air.
So far as action was concerned my favourite movies were the low budget movies., Kick Ass 2 and Riddick. (Coincidentally both courted ‘R’ ratings in the US). They gave us focussed set-pieces embedded in narratives far more concerned with character and story than spectacle. Now that is innovative.

In story terms many of the year’s films came apart. This wasn’t the only problem.
The film industry tends to be casual with matters of scientific and technological logic. And it was no different this year. Oblivion, and Elysium were pretty good, but even they suffered from plot lapses. After Earth was a story disaster at every level.

But it is easy to be over critical. Oblivion was far better than say War of the Worlds and far less sentimental than Minority Report, it marked a high point in Tom Cruise’s Science Fiction output.
The surprise of the year for me was Ender’s Game, pacy, well characterised, good story. From any other director Elysium would have been a revelation, and Pacific Rim is a love letter to all of our childhoods.

So what does the future hold?
More Giant Robot movies. Really? Well Pacific Rim made only 100m in the US, but it made $400m in the rest of the world, and that is before a single home disc has been sold, before special editions, before downloads or streaming. It made real money. It indicates there is a market out there.
And there are projects out there ready to fill demand: Robotech, Voltron, Patlabor.
So expect big things one to two years from now.

More Space Movies. Gravity broke the poor run of original space movies, it did indecently well and I expect some of the films long languishing in turn-around to be greenlit for a 2015 release: Doug Liman’s Luna is a candidate as are any of the many of Jon Spaihts’ written projects.

Low and mid budget Science Fiction has a future, but it will be a rough one, for every success many will fall by the wayside.

I am not holding out much hope for films developed from short films, as exciting as the prospect is to see innovative, and visually exciting shorts expanded for the big screen, experience shows this happens rarely.

As I said the immediate future looks very bright. That is because next year’s and 2015’s films are already in production.

Look out for:
Jupiter Ascending; July 18th 2014
Welcome To Yesterday; February 28, 2014.
Transcendence; April 25, 2014
Edge Of Tomorrow; (All You Need Is Kill) May 30 2014
Interstellar; November 7th 2014
Ex Machina

in 2014

Selfless February 27th 2015
Chappie March 27, 2015
Tommorrowland May 22nd, 2015

in 2015

These are just the original films, they do not include the remakes, reboots and sequels, and not the big ticket comic book movies either.

Some are a good bet; Interstellar comes from Chris Nolan who has a reputation for delivering. Jupiter Ascending is the Wachowski’s epic project, I guess the world has forgiven them for the Matrix Revolutions and they promise something special.
Edge Of Tomorrow is by Doug Liman, I liked Jumper although many people don’t, and advance images look promising.
Transcendence comes from Wally Pfister and he is trailing a bag full of goodwill from the fact that he is Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer of choice; I’d rather think of him as his own man and therefore an unknown quantity, the subject matter is encouraging (looking into the rapid future evolution of man and machine), but who knows how it will be tackled?
Tommorrowland comes from Disney; Disney has a poor record with Science Fiction, their attempts have either been critically unsuccessful (Escape from Witch Mountain, Tron Legacy) or financially unsuccessful (John Carter). They took a very obvious pass on Oblivion and missed out. I don’t think they have the balls to give a bold SF vision, I think they play safe. Late in the day I discovered Disney have just delayed the release of Tommorrowland until 2015. Perhaps their recent live action bombs has forced caution on them.
Chappie comes from Neil Blomkamp; now this is a bold visionary, he is a visualist on par with Ridley Scott, but he is not the strongest on story logic. My fear is his worst excesses may be emphasised as he grows more experienced and his visuals may get more elaborate but the stories get worse. If this happens Science Fiction fans may pray for Blomkamp to turn to sword and sorcery.

There are a few smaller films waiting in the wings Caradog James’ The Machine has done well at festivals, but it remains to be seen if it will get a cinematic (or any ) release.
Alex (28 Days Later) Garland’s own robot movie Ex Machina is in production and will likely get a 2014 release.

Few documentaries cause this much excitement but it looks like Jodorowsky’s Dune will be well worth catching.

These are just the sure things, the films that will appear whether we want them or not.
There are a whole bunch of other films in development, films hovering on the end of production waiting for that vital greenlight.

What can I say? Let the good times roll.

But now for the bad news.
A lot of the Science Fiction movies did not do very well. Ender’s Game, Oblivion, did not exactly tank but did only middling numbers.
Elysium did OK but made less than District 9 (and the backers will no doubt be thinking District 10 would have done better)

Because the big winners were the franchise films: Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2, The Hunger Games 2.
The box office is sending a message and the film industry will listen; originality does not pay.
So, despite the rosy picture painted of 2014, there are troubles ahead. I see a narrowing of variety in film releases.
So in two years when we are bored out of our brains with the latest threequel or fourquel of a revived, rebooted and rehashed franchise you might think of how we bought and paid for this future ourselves.

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 (138)

14 Dec

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Hammer House of Horrors

I don’t blog a lot of remakes but this one is from Hammer Studios; since they were revived a few years back they have been awfully polite, with their civilised ghost movie and critic favouring vampire drams. This one sounds a whole lot meatier; Abominable Snowman. It follows an illegal ascent of an unclimbed Himalayan peek that revives the titular cryptozoid. Screenplay, is Matthew Read and Jon Croker.

We’re off to Outer Space

Takashi Yamazaki, director of the Space Battleship Yamato live action feature is back. It’s another adaptation this time of the manga Parasyte. During an alien invasion a teenaged boy gets infected in the hand and uses his link with the parasite to fight the invasion.
Shota Sometani will star as the alien infected hero.

Lupin the Third
The tide of anime/manga live action adaptations continues, now attracting major Japanese directors.

First up is Lupin the Third, (the debut anime of Hayao Miyazaki.) This is being taken on by Ryuhei Kitamura, (one of my favourite directors).

Next up As God Says from Takashi Miike. I don’t know the manga myself but I am informed it is about a gang of teens forced into a deadly game.

I haven’t said much about Schwarzenegger lately despite the new films he has been involved in; The Last Stand and Escape Plan.
They just didn’t seem very interesting.
On the other hand I have a lot of respect for him. Sure he’s going to do some sequels, but he relaunched his career with original films.
His latest project is a film with Director David Ayer. I’d tell you what it was but it keeps changing its name first it was “Ten”, then “Breacher” and now it’s going by “Sabotage”. Schwarzenegger is part of a DEA strike team, but they are up to no good, instead of raiding a drug dealer they are planning a heist. Soon though they are running for their lives as they are being picked off one by one by a mystery assailant. Hme, sounds like Predator… without a predator.

Now here is something. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are producing an adaptation of the comic Sleeper. This independent book is by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and it is something rather special.
It is a take on the spy genre except it is with super powers. An agent is put in deep cover inside of an international terrorist organisation, he is constantly in danger from both the terrorists and members of his own agency, unaware that he is their double agent.
I’ve read it, it is great, and dark as all hell.
Shawn Ryan and David Wiener are writing the screenplay.

OK, I said we’d get more info on “The Juliet” and we have.
When I heard it was based on an Alfred Bester short story I recalled what I knew of knew. Bester wrote about fifty short stories but was better known for his novels. The only short piece that stood out for me was “Fondly Fahrenheit”, the story of an android who goes a little serial killer.
First Showing Website has more information. Apparently it’s based on… “Fondly Fahrenheit”.
It’s been a while since I read it but I remember a little, and it wasn’t noticeably a romantic piece so I guess there have been some adjustments.
Charles Roven is producing and he’s been responsible for many genre films. They are hoping to get into production in spring 2014.

Now here’s some actual news. Jeff Nichols’ untitled science fiction movie now has a name; it is Midnight Special and it has a lead, Adam Driver.
Basic story; a father discovers his some has a special power and has to go on the run with him. Nichols and Co. are keeping the rest under wraps so you can speculate for yourselves just what this special power is.
Cool, it is not often that one of those unnamed movies escape anonymity, now all it has to do is get made.

What’s Ridley Not Doing?
You may recall Ridley Scott contracted with YouTube’s Machinima Channel to provide 12 short science fiction films? (Grunting 116.) Well, apparently it’s all off. No more shorts.
On the whole this is a good thing. Less on his plate means more chance of him making features, at this point it look like they will not be Science Fiction features but what the heck, whatever he makes will be beautifully shot.

What the F- is Ridley doing?
Apparently he’s now pursuing a Young Adult adaptation.
Very trendy, after all in the wake of Twilight and Hunger Games no one can fail to notice that YA is (at least commercially) the way to go.
He’s just optioned Fae, by authors Colet and Jasmine Abedi.
(Let me guess, it’s about werewolves…) no seriously this is about a young girl caught in the conflict between dark and light Fae (which I assume are Fairy Folk… which they could have just said).

This is a considerable advance in Young Adult originality, distinguishing itself from the legion of other book-to-film projects like: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
(angels,) or, Personal Demons (angels and demons) The Immortal Rules (vampires), House of Night (more vampires,) and The Mortal Instruments” ( er. Fairies warlocks, vampires, demons).
in fact Colet and Jasmine Abedi and are not even the first YA writers to use the term “Fae”, Karen Marie Moning’s “Fever” series claims prior use and who knows how many else?

Here’s a humble suggestion. One film blog analysing the current rush gush or YA movies noted this: the successful ones were the once that tried to be different. If you try to emulate Twilight or Hunger Games you will be on a hiding to nowhere.

In the larger sense I am all for YA movies: they will pull more young people into reading fantasy and science fiction and young readers become the next generation of genre lit fans.
They are our future.
As for watching them? No thanks.

I’m kind of disappointed in Ridley.. not just because I never watch YA’s (I’m fricking forty, do you know just how creepy id look in a cinema line with a bunch of fifteen year old girls! Jeez!)
No, I have always seen Ridley as a film leader. Just to see him fall in line with the wannabees makes me shrug.
On the upside, Ridley has a slate so full there is a waiting line for his waiting line, so it is very unlikely he will get around to this one.

Damn, I was looking back through Grunts of days gone by when I noticed the Biblical epics in the works (Exodus, Noah, the movie version of The Bible, David and Goliath) It got me thinking (Duck!) When will Marvel’s first biblical epic be? Now they already have a Doc Samson so that is out… How about Joshua! Featuring Iron Man? With the strapline “No Wall Is Safe!” It could happen. (Someone do the poster).

Jodorowsky’s Dune
Jodorowsky’s Dune has a US theatrical release date, it’s March 7th, 2014.
Unfortunately I am hearing rumours about the release of The Zero Theorem; 2015. Yes… that long.
I hope they are only rumours.

The Young Ones
This science fiction movie slipped right under my radar, if I hadn’t been skimming Total Film magazine I would have missed it all together.
The Young Ones, directed by Jake Paltrow.
In the future water is scarce and a farm boy fights to protect his family.
It stars Michael Shannon and Kodi Smit McPhee. Unlike most of the films I blog it’s been shot and is due for a 2014 release.

The Anomaly
Noel Clarke’s debut as a science fiction director back in 2012, Storage 24 wasn’t received warmly, but that hasn’t discouraged him. He is back in the game again with The Anomaly: an ex-soldier wakes up in a van with only moments to figure out how he got there. I am thinking the answer will be stranger than usual. (Maybe something in the order of the Cube movies).
I haven’t been paying attention to Spike Jones’s latest feature “Her”, well basically because I don’t much like Spike Jones. I liked being John Malkovitch but since then he has not interested me.
However “Her” is attracting attention from the critics. They call it science fiction but I am not sure if it is. Basic plot is a man falls in love with his digital assistant. (a Siri type application).
Ad far as I can discern the near-future background is well very near indeed and I am doubting if there are any real points of futurity.

Ooh, here is something. Now, unlike a lot of film fans I don’t particularly rate Hideo Nakata’s Ringu, however I know Nakata gets a lot of respect. His next project may just change my opinion of him.
Monsterz. It’s a remake of a Korean film called Haunters (which entirely passed me by) with an action filled psychic scenario,
A young psychic uses his powers for criminal gain, but he finds himself up against an enemy immune to his power.

It may well be in the zone of Death Note or Chronicle and that cannot be a bat thing.
I might well try this one

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.