Archive | January, 2014

Grunting at the Screen (142)

30 Jan

The information age isn’t finished with us.

The Hobbit has confirmed that there is good money in the elf business. 20th Century Fox has optioned Magic: The Gathering, Simon Kinberg is producing and writing the screenplay.



Is it me or are there a lot are there a lot more documentary features around? And a lot of them relate to genre as well. Just up is DOOMED: The Untold Story Of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four directed by Marty Langford; back in 1992 Corman made a Fantastic Four feature, but it never got a release, since then it has taken on a legendary status, not so much for its quality, no one argues it being a lost classic, but for its shear rarity.
The story of how it was made and then buried can now be told. There will be interviews and behind the scenes footage.




Here is something, plans are afoot for a film based on Ted Chiang’s short story “The Story of Your Life”; a linguist is recruited by the army to determine whether aliens actually come in peace.
Pencilled in as director is Denis Villenueve.



Ok we’ve got some New DVD Releases
Ender’s Game, February 11
Hellbenders, February 18
and The Last Days on Mars, March 4.
This last one is interesting. it had no theatrical release in the UK and pretty terrible reviews: like zombies on Mars? But. Who knows?




Comic Book Movies

Here is something else, a comic book move not from Marvel or DC. It’s based on the graphic novel Sparks by written Christopher Folino who also co-directs with Todd Burrows.
It’s a pretty unusual thing where the comic book creator also directs the movie.
A quick peek tells us we are in familiar territory; with a meteorite that gives people power, some crime-fighting, some supervilliany etc.
It’s out on DVD in the US on March 18
Check it out at Twitch
http://twitchfilm.com/2014/01/key-art-and-stills-from-graphic-novel-adaptation-sparks-gallery.html




I Frankenstein

TV spots are coming out for I Frankenstein, it looks cheesy as all hell and a whole lot of fun.
(Reviews however and not as kind).



I haven’t seen any yet but I have been keeping an eye on the proliferation of Vietnamese films. And at last we have the development I have been waiting for:

Vietnamese Science Fiction. This year we have the completion of Nước by Nghiêm-Minh Nguyễn-Võ. It’s a post global warming drama with rising sea levels and farmers retreating to growing veg on floating fields, in the mist of this Global Corporations swing in to take advantage. Hmme, sounds a lot like Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl.
Nuoc debuts at the 64th Berlinale festival in February.

Here’s a link to the trailer
http://io9.com/vietnam-gets-flooded-in-the-disaster-epic-nuoc-2030-1510723311



Reviews of science-fiction western, Young Ones are emerging and the word is not good. In fact they are universally negative, despite the considerable talent assembled here (including Michael Shannon and Dakota Fanning) the story is said to be unfocussed and the characters lack direction.
Oh dear.




Kevin Eastman has sold Heavy Metal magazine. He has kept an interest in it plus his position of executive editor but he’s basically no long controlling it.
Significant here because the new owners, David Boxenbaum and Jeff Krelitz, intend to monetise the property to the max, with films, TV smart-phone apps and merchandise.
Interesting because I thought the film rights to Heavy Metal had already been sold (a bunch of times) and the present owner was Robert Rodreguez.
When I come to think of it, Rodreguez bought the animation rights… if the live action rights are still with the magazine…who knows.




There’s a new science fiction film project in the offing. “Vice” . It’s written by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore. Attached to it are Bruce Willis and Ambyr Childers. No director as of yet.
Basic plot: in the resort of the future you can get any pleasure you like served to you by absolutely lifelike androids, however one female android malfunctions and remembers every atrocity perpetrated on her… as you can imagine from there things get violent. It has potential; Blade Runner as a revenge thriller….
Shooting is scheduled to commence in March.




Now here is something a movie project called Animus they are calling it “Event Horizon meets Alien,” seriously.
Rufus Sewell is pencilled in to star, and it is to be written and directed by Thomas Konkle.
First of all “Event Horizon meets Alien”? Since Event Horizon originally had an actual monster which was written out because it resembled Alien too much, that would make Animus … “Alien” (well that has never happened before).
Second of all, there is no second of all. Let’s just hope the comparison means Mr Konkle and associates will at least make the movie look good.
Thirdly (let’s just imagine there was a second), Why rip an eighties film and a nineties film at all?
No date for shooting to commence yet.


The live-action adaptation of Attack On Titan is underway, I have seen some footage and it is fuffing insane, no rally, giant naked monsters on the fraxing rampage.
http://twitchfilm.com/2014/01/get-your-first-taste-of-the-live-action-attack-on-titan.html



Do you remember the great summer of Arthurian epics? There was one just about Merlin, one about Lancelot and Arthur a remake of Excalibur…Of course not? None of them got made.
One of the projects back in 2010 was to be helmed by Guy Richie.
Like all of the rest we thought it has been shelved. But yes, it is back.
Actually it is more than back. Warner Brothers is planning a six film Arthurian series (yes six) with Richie directing and Joby Harold writing the first instalment’s script.
Very ambitious.
Seeing that Warner’s last Arthurian project was canned over budget wrangles, it would not be advisable to get too excited yet.



I haven’t told a lot of people this but I am a great admirer of Arthur C. Clark’s Childhood’s End.
I knew there was a film project floating around. I just hadn’t realised how many times film makers had attempted to develop the novel.
IO9 did a little recap, nicely illustrated.
http://io9.com/overlords-among-us-amazing-artwork-of-clarkes-childho-1511000496




And Vin Diesel has announced that Universal are ready for a fourth Riddick feature.



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 (141)

28 Jan


The information age isn’t finished with us.


Cyberpunk Special: New Year.



Original Science Fiction is a hard sell, for every Avatar there are several John Carters or Ender’s Games. These films do OK at the box office, but the massive budgets needed for Science Fiction means each film cannot just do OK, they have to knock it out of the park every single time, and that is unsustainable.
This lends a culture of conservatism.
And conservatism does not blend well with cyberpunk.
But we can hope.



Blade Runner 2

We do a half-assed job of following the progress on Blade Runner 2. If you want to see it done right, try these guys:

http://www.bladerunner2-movie.com/

Deus Ex


The press is still holding out for a Deus Ex movie this year, but I don’t see how it will fit into the director’s busy schedule.




Who is Laeta Kalogridis?
From time to time I do a trawl though my files just to find out if I’ve missed something.
I think I have.

Who is Laeta Kalogridis?
She’s a UCLA, graduate who sold her first script, Joan of Arc, before leaving college; co-writer on Alexander, sole writer of Shutter Island.
She also worked on many scripts both filmed and uncompleted; “Pathfinder” “Scream 3.”, “The Dive,”,“Demonkeeper, Among many others.
She’s been lucky in working with and for major directors at the height of their powers: Jim Cameron, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

She’s done so much more in so many different genres, but I noticed something.
She’s worked on a bunch of cyberpunk projects. Nothing that’s actually been produced but it’s interesting.
First the peripheral stuff. With Patrick Lussier She’s co-written the screenplay for the next Terminator sequel Terminator: Genesis. Terminator with its cybernetics always had that feel.

She first worked with Jim Cameron on Battle Angel Alita, a project (still unmade) which she still cannot say much about. Battle Angel involves the relationship between an inventor and a female fighting robot, against a background sharing aspects of both urban- and post-holocaust science fiction. You could call it “Terminator meets Rollerball meets Real Steel”- if you wanted to be reductive about it. I’ve read the Manga and it’s spectacular.
Jim Cameron has been faffing around with Battle Angel for neigh on two decades to don’t look for it anytime soon.

Laeta Kalogridis is best known as James Cameron’s co-writer on Avatar.
Their collaboration left Kalogridis with a ton of experience and led to her working with Scorsese on Shutter Island.
She refuses to confirm or deny whether she is working again with Cameron on Avatar 2, 3. etc.

She seems to have a thing for manga adaptations because she also worked on Spielberg’s abortive attempt to translate Ghost in the Shell to a live action feature.
Now property is the real deal, 100% authentic; an information society with people brain-linked to their computers against a background of scheming intelligence agencies, hackers, terrorism, and rushing technological change. What is clear from interviews is that she was familiar with the material before she was approached. It seems that Dreamworks sought her out because of her enthusiasm and perhaps her previous experience adapting manga. She had a certain amount of respect for the material calling it; “ground-breaking” and “seminal”. in the adaptation she went back to Masamune Shirow’s original manga rather than the anime. But In her opinion western cinematic culture has been drawing closer to anime aesthetics for a while.
She also displayed familiarity with William Gibson and said Ghost in the Shell was as significant a work as Neuromancer.
However the Ghost in the Shell live action project had to be shut down, Spielberg didn’t think it was ready yet.

Back in 2010 Serbian animator Aleksa Gajić made Technotise: Edit & I; a unique artefact of Serbian Anime. We are talking flying cars, hoverboards, the classic megalopolis backdrop. we are talking stolen military brain-chips, men in black trying to get their property back. It sounds like a gas. Producer Scott Glassgold acquired the remake rights and pulled in Laeta Kalogridis to develop the project as an action Science Fiction feature.
Kalogridis is a producer as well as writer. With her production company Mythology she acquired Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon. This novel had previously been optioned by Joel Silver. Kalogridis is developing the screenplay with David Goodman. She called it “seminal post-cyberpunk” and “dark and complex” and she shows particular interest in its theme of the mind as a piece of information (a theme shared with Ghost in the Shell).

Morgan himself would dispute that the body-hopping action noir was in fact “cyberpunk” but no one can argue that the isn’t a deep vein of classic Mirrorshades DNA in the story.

So the question is, is it deliberate? After all she has written all kinds of screenplays from Young Adult to psychological thriller. She keeps returning to material with that buzzes with cyberpunk ideas and imagery.
What unites these properties (aside from being rough to adapt) are gritty urban backgrounds, highly visual information-technology and lots of attitude. Some are near future, some far future.
With so many projects on her slate, I’m hoping at least one actually gets made, with all of her experience… it should be a good one.




Elysium

Elysium wasn’t as cyberpunk as we suspected. The ingredients were there; wealth disparity, a technological bohemia, information tech, cyborgs both physical and neurological, yet it doesn’t add up to the real deal. And I am not sure why.
Anyway, while reading the Elysium art book I stumbled into an account from Neill Blomkamp where he claimed Elysium wasn’t originally going to be a space station, he had another idea… but he’s saving that for a future project.
Of course I concluded; originally Elysium was a virtual space, a digital heaven…
Of course I have no confirmation on that. But it is a thought.




Nexus

We previously mentioned the adaptation of Ramez Naam’s Nexus.
The novel is not being sold as cyberpunk, not even as science fiction. If anything the marketing sways towards “technothriller” but it is clear that both it and its sequel Crux, run with cyberpunk themes: transformative technologies, transnational corporations, shifting geopolitics and most of the entire thinning boundary between man and machine.
For these reasons we are slotting it into our cyberpunk film section.
The film project is being overseen by Darren Aronofsky, (who has experience with fast moving urban SF in his debut Pi) but it has yet to announce a director.
I am not expecting to hear of one any time soon. The novel is pretty new and the film industry is slow to adopt new ideas (even though some aspect of the plot: nanotech enabled networking of minds) have been seen before in films like Gamer.




True Skin

I located an interview with Stephan Zlotescu: he said he was working on the script for True Skin and would probably shoot in 2014. Probably.



Nerverackers

Through the years there was one project I’d heard of that I could not let go of. It brought me both chagrin and fascination. That project was Robert Rodreguez’s
Nerverackers.
Let’s do a recap.
way back in 2009 Rodreguez started talking about a project. It had an urban future set in 2085 and focussed on an elite cop fighting crime in the perfect society.
The thing is he started comparing it to Blade Runner, even suggesting that classic SF film was a little … slow in pace.
Brothers…he called it “Blade Walker”.
So he got right up the nose of some science fiction fans. But still, Robert Rodreguez, doing an urban science fiction movie and amping up the pace? Sounds pretty exciting.
So it was all laid out, the script was written, the costumes were designed, and it was set to shoot in June 2009.
It even had a release date.
Nothing happened. Why, is anyone’s guess. But over that period 2009 to 2014 Robert Rodreguez tried to start a bunch of science fiction and fantasy projects without success; Barbarella, The Jetsons, John Carter (which eventually was made by a different studio and a different director), Conan (also made by a different studio and director combination) and Red Sonja.
He really wanted to expand beyond his repetoir of thrillers, horror and kids’ features… but they would not let him.
His business set-up is very different now. He has his own studio, his own FX facility and has created a way of financing his projects (not exactly clearly defined) which gives him a ton of independence; most significantly independence from film executives who have the power to greenlight production.
This is the long-winded way of telling you Nerverackers is back on. There was a long interview on Collider website covering his new El Rey network, the From Dusk to Dawn TV series and Sin City 2, and finally he mentioned his long delayed urban SF feature.
It will be Rodreguez’s next project after Sin City 2.
And yes, I’m still pumped.




The Zero Theorem

There is more good news, it was rumoured we’d have to wait until 2015 but we have a new date for Terry Gilliam’s latest feature; The Zero Theorem is now set for release on March 14.




Ghost in the Shell

There were projects I thought deader than socialism* but 2014 is proving that you can’t discount anything.
For big example, when Spielberg shelved Ghost in the Shell for… actually I am not sure what he is doing at the moment… anyway, it was assumed this Anime adaptation would have no chance of a start in the next two years.
Buy guess what? It has a brand new director and a brand new start.
Pencilled in is Rupert Sanders who did Snow White and the Huntsman.
news broke on deadline
http://www.deadline.com/2014/01/rupert-sanders-set-to-helm-ghost-in-the-shell-for-dreamworks/


It’s got a new screenplay from William Wheeler.

No shooting date yet so I would not get excited. Especially since Rupert Sanders has been linked to a ton of unmade projects since Snow White.

So things are on the move again, and I’m cautiously optimistic.




*hey, I can’t say “deader than disco anymore..”

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 (140)

14 Jan

The information age isn’t finished with us.

It’s a new year and that means between holiday exhaustion and Oscar buzz
there will not be a huge amount of news,
I, Frankenstein opens in January and from February things really pick up.
The first review for Hercules: The Legend Begins has appeared; the news is not good (but not expected).


It is impossible to ignore the TV spots popping up for the RoboCop reboot.



Let’s start the year off with a review.

47 Ronin
Review.
47 is the new 300.
First a whole bunch of caveats;
it has attracted almost universally negative reviews.
It did rather badly at the US Box office.
It did very badly in Japan (more on that later)

And I even got to the cinema late.

This is not the best beginning to a review.
Furthermore, I have to confess I have little familiarity of the source material (although I am assured that this version is a really loose adaptation).

OK the story, Feudal Japan, Lord Kiri is covetous of Lord Asano’s lands. So Kiri hatches a plan to kill Asano and take his lands.
With their lord dead Asano’s retainers become Ronin or masterless Samurai, however they remain loyal to their dead master and are determined to avenge his murder.
In this version we also have a half-breed (Keanu Reeves), a romantic sub-plot and spectacular magic (achieved by a ton of CGI); all superfluous to the original plot.

Again, not encouraging.

But you know what? It works.

Another confessions; I love Mortal Kombat, I love Big Trouble in Little China; what I am saying is I love “Orientalism”, I love to see elaborate and fantastical recreations of oriental culture through western eyes. These depictions tell us almost nothing of eastern culture, but everything of how the west sees them.

And 47 Ronin is a prime slab of classic western orientalism, they hit all the clichés; Monsters taken straight of Ukio-e prints, women in combs style makeup and hair combs, samurai in demonic masks, Seppuku, honour and lots of stoic expressions. Perhaps the fox spirit is more Chinese than Japanese and the Tengu scene more Tibetan, but what the hey.
It is everything you expect from a film about old Japan… made in America (up to and including the cultural anomalies).

What makes it work is it had a solid template in the original story and sticking to the beats means it does not bog down.

Keanu is his usual expressionless self and the Japanese (and Japanese-American) cast ham it up a bit (especially Rinko -Pacific Rim- Kikuchi who is hot little witch.) None of this stops the story from powering though.
The visuals are spectacular, I keep saying there is no excuse for even the cheapest film to look bad (not in the 21 century) and this one is lush, great landscapes, wonderful set design and immaculate cinematography… some reviews compared it to a Japanese Lord of the Rings (with all of the intricate scheming I see it more as a Japanese Game of Thrones…meets 300.)

So yes, I liked it. I recommend it, I’m buying the DVD.

Do not despise the snake for not having horns.. no wait! It does.



So after many years and many false starts Carl Rinch finally has a feature out. He was famous for his short films but 47 Ronin broke a long run of abandoned feature film projects.
Now that we can actually see what he is capable of , what is the verdict? He did an OK job, and his work puts him in the top twenty western cinematic visualists. Not quite up there with his father-in-law Ridley Scott or even the heir in waiting Zack Snyder, but well on his way to establishing a solid reputation.
Unfortunately the abysmal box office performance of 47 Ronin suggests it is a rocky road ahead. Before, he was an unknown quantity, and he was liked to major films with major budgets.
I fear his next project may be a horror sequel.
The best outcome will be if he comes under the wing of a powerful creative godfather like Peter Jackson or Guillermo del Toro. Rinch has strong visual chops, all he needs is a great story (and a little forgiveness from the audience) and he has every ability of delivering a genre classic.





Armistice

A Royal Marine awakes in a house with no idea of how he got there, then he has to fight a series of monsters. Such is the plot of Armistice from Luke Massey. It is being compared to Cabin in the Woods, but I suspect it may actually be good; it opens in US cinemas January 31st.




DVDs!
A whole bunch of films which we blogged over 2013 have just snuck out on DVD.

Big Ass Spider
Big Ass Spider is thought to be weak on the story, strong on the visuals (even accounting for the decidedly unserious intentions of the film makers) here’s a review from Starburst.
http://www.starburstmagazine.com/reviews/dvd-and-blu-ray-home-entertainment-reviews/7337-dvd-review-big-ass-spider

Battle of the Damned
Thank God for Starburst because they have a review of the robots vs. zombies feature Battle of the Damned.
http://www.starburstmagazine.com/reviews/dvd-and-blu-ray-home-entertainment-reviews/6878-dvd-review-battle-of-the-damned
Their verdict is actually positive, sure it’s cheap and sags a little in the middle but otherwise moves along nicely.
I saw the debut feature of director Christopher Hatton: Robotropolis. It was cleanly made with above average CG for the budget, the only thing betraying it was the suspicion that Hatton didn’t really have the feel for feature length storytelling. It looks like he may be on track with this one.

Vikingdom
We mentioned Vikingdom a while back, it has attracted a ton of reviews in some very respectable places (though the word has not been universally positive). No Starburst review yet, but a poll of the mainstream reviews (it seems to be quite absent from the genre blogs…) runs from “bad” to “so bad it’s good” my guess is it is exactly what you might expect from a mid-budget Viking movie made in Malaysia.



And now for some good news…
Riddick is now out on Disk, the Blu-Ray has an extended cut on it.



John Dies at the End
John Dies at the End at last has a DVD Release Date: February 17th, cool.







Looks like 2014 is getting off to an early start after all. There are a number of new SF projects being mooted and frankly we are surprised (but only at the timing, it usually takes months for the industry to get back into gear.)

Influx
Influx purports to answer that age-old question, where is my flying car? Actually it has nothing to do with flying cars but it does ask, why did the future forecast since the 1930s fail to appear? The answer is it did, but THEY are keeping it from us. All of the disruptive (and deeply cool) technologies from fusion power to longevity- are being hidden from us by a shadowy organisation called the Bureau of Technology Control.
The film project is based on a forthcoming novel by technothriller writer Daniel Suarez (Daemon) due to be published on February 20, 2014, and optioned by 20th Century Fox. No screenwriter, director or cast are attached as of yet.





Extinction
Long in development project Extinction written by Spenser Cohen may at last have a director in Joe -Captain America- Johnston; it has been described as
“The Sixth Sense meets Cloverfield” and involves some sort of alien invasion





Selling Time
Will Smith’s time travel feature Selling Time now has a director: DJ Caruso of Disturbia fame.
Basic plot involves Smith giving up seven years of his future life to relive just one day. It has been described as “Science Fiction”, although the set-up sounds strangely supernatural.

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.