Archive | June, 2014

Grunting at the Screen (155)

27 Jun

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Tales from the Black List
Now is the summer of our discontent, we find ourselves temporarily without films to review, well we could if we wanted to go see rehash.
It is at this time that the mind starts musing; what are we not seeing, what is that alternate universe were the original films got made and not franchise crap?

This year has screened a surplus of rehashed product, whatever excuse the studios have, it is not a lack of original material.
The Black List is a rundown of unproduced scripts, chosen as the favourites of Hollywood studio readers. Some of them have gone on to become feature films, some have been use as screenwriter’s calling cards, and some have lingered for years in movie limbo.

We’ve been deprived of new visions for good or bad. Here is a taste of what we’ve been missing.

The Days Before By Chad St. John. Aliens have invaded again. This time the sneaky Extraterrestrials have slipped back in time and plan to wipe us down before we are every born our human hero has to stay a day ahead of (or rather behind) the enemy to keep from being erased.

Renko Vega and the Jennifer Nine by John Raffo it’s got everything, a disgraced cosmonaut, an intelligent space ship, and space pirates. Will Renko Vega save the passengers from the space pirates, or will he just save himself?

Year 12 by Edward Ricourt. We blogged this one back in Grunt 51, but not at any detail. Twelve years after an alien invasion, an underwater miner (?) has a plan to blow up the alien mothership, (and presumably win the conflict..) director Fredrik Bond is attached.

What Happened to Monday by Max Botkin. We also blogged this one back in in Grunt 135. It’s one of this overpopulation science fiction movies (hmme haven’t seen the likes of this since the seventies); in a world where population is strictly controls, what do you do when you have sextuplets? The clue is in the title; you trot out just one per day. Tommy “Dead Snow” Wirkola is attached as director.

Hovercar 3D by Blaise Hemingway, this one has languished at Disney for years, considering how hard it is to get them to pull the trigger on Tron 3 I don’t know why they bother with science fiction. From experience, don’t hold your breath.

Ground Control to Major Tom by Jason Micallef. Another Disney Movie, so you can whistle for it. An astronaut has been missing for nine years then a NASA communication expert gets a signal from him… she thinks she can save him. Pity Disney is not in the Gravity rip off business.

Replay by Jason Smilovic. Based on the seminal Ken Grimwood novel, some would compare it to Groundhog Day but the book came first, you might call it “groundhog life” the project has languished for years. Time loop movies are now a sub-genre in itself. In the light of modest performers like Source Code and Edge of Tomorrow it is doubtful anyone will every make this. Good book though.

On A Clear Day – by Ryan Engle. Family man Peter Fox has a tough life, he has a spouse and two daughters to provide for, a tin of bills and, oh yes, and an enemy hunting him down relentlessly. Jaume Collet-Serra was attached to direct but not much has been heard in a while.

Hyperdrive – by Alex Ankeles, Morgan Jurgenson
Of the many films Tom Cruise was developing was Our Name Is Adam by T.S. Nowlin. It the wake of Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow it is unlikely we will see him in this. A tough cop teams up with a geeky science fiction writer to when they find themselves in a space opera scenario.

Somacell by Ashleigh Powell. There is a whole subgenre where the mind itself, conscious or otherwise, becomes a battlefield for antagonists who navigate it like a physical territory. Somacell is of this variety (I just hope it is not related to that J Lo movie, the Cell…)

Director Justin Lin is at present making Terminator whatever, Genesis or something. Oh joy. Instead he could have been making Hibernation by Will Frank and Geneva Robertson-Dworet; wrongly convicted of a crime (I hate it when that happens) a prisoner volunteers for a sentence where he is placed in hibernation and awoken for just one day of freedom every five years- on this day he seeks out his daughter and tries to prove his innocence. Very high concept.

Sovereign by Geoff Tock and Greg Weidman. To be honest this sounds like 2001 meets Deathwish, where a husband is on a quest to kill the AI that murdered his wife.

Americatown by Ben Poole. This is interesting, a flip on China town. In a future where America has declined in power behind China, a slumtown ex-cop battles from poverty to pre-eminence. Not a lot to go on, but has potential.

Now very few if any of these films will even get beyond script stage, but this goes to show, there are ideas out there, there are scripts out there and there could be quite easily a bunch of fresh(ish) films rather than the ragged parade of photocopy films we have this summer.

Not every Black List film is a great one, some have gone on to critical acclaim. Others, not so much so. Previous filmed scripts from the List include: Transcendence, Edge of Tomorrow, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.
But we deserve a chance to see something just a little new.

One Misstep
Here is a strange alternate history thing, In the Event of a Moon Disaster; what if Apollo 11 had run into trouble? Neil Armstrong doesn’t walk on the moon, what happens then? (Completely and totally not related to Gravity) And this one is moving towards production. The Black Listed script was written by Mike Jones, director is Tate Taylor and it is scheduled to shoot early 2015.

Horror Comic
The tide of comic book adaptations continues. James Wan is take on his own comic Malignant Man.
The original comic is about a hero who gets his powers from his tumour (!) which is actually an alien parasite (Phew! For a moment I thought it might be…weird)

The interesting thing (as if you needed more drama) is that the comic originally came from Boom! Studios (yes the exclamation mark is in the middle of the name), which has been moving aggressively into film for some time with films like 2 Guns.

Because of the Boom! first look deal, Fox will be producing.

Wan has previously been known for directing horror films like Insidious, his present project is Fast and Furious 7.

It’s About Time
Snowpiercer opens on limited release from June 27th 2014 in the US. It has been highly acclaimed and, keenly anticipated.
(Still no UK date).

Cult of the Future
Also opening in June is The Signal. I am loath to blog this film, because every report, every review even claims it cannot go into specific detail because that would spoil it for us. Well the last time we heard something like this was for Cabin in the Woods, a film that was severely overhyped.
What we do know. a group of students are on a road trip tracking a hacker, a man who has exposed security weaknesses at MIT, they are lured into an isolated area and they lose consciousness, when they awake they find themselves in a sterile holding area, they are told nothing but they are interrogated by a hazmat-suit wearing Lawrence Fishburne.
And that is about it.
It sounds contrived to me. If it floats your boat, you can try it. To me it sounds like one of those cult movies, much hyped by the underground but later proving deeply disappointing, like Looper or Cloverfield.

Also getting the mysterious treatment is Coherence, from director James Ward Byrkit. Eight dinner party guests on the night a comet appears, the reviewers are cagy about what happens next but it is suggested there is a reality break.
What they all say is they don’t want to spoil it for you. Again. (These are the same guys who cannot wait to going into excruciating detail on the latest Transformers or Star Trek sequel).
I’m filing this one in the same place as the other cripplingly disappointing “fan favourites like “Time Crimes”.

Local Hero
British Science-Fiction thriller The Anomaly from Noel Clarke, is set to open in the U.K. on July 4th. Now I demurred Clarke’s last Science-Fiction offering (Storage 24, why couldn’t it be about selling aliens found in a storage facility, I would have gone to see that…) but this one I’ll try. An article in Total Film magazine calls it “cyberpunk” but we are not taking that too seriously.
A review has appeared from Hollywood Reporter, it is negative but intriguing. They say it is Clarke’s most action heavy piece yet, that the plot is complicated and frustrating, and Clarke takes his cues from The Matrix trilogy. There are some heavy biotech themes involved. This only increased my interest.
A more positive review appeared from Quiet Earth. They agree that there is a lot of action and claim it is a mix of Source Code, Adjustment Bureau and Equilibrium. They also have problems with it; it’s cheap. The CG is low grade, and some of the techniques are hackneyed. However they said they had fun.
This sounds like exactly the kind of film that interests me; something different enough to confuse critics, but not obviously dumb and boring, I may well try it.

That 80’s Show
Earth to Echo is opening July 25, I saw the trailer, looks cute and not unlike a 1980s Spielberg film (or perhaps one of the Ambling films that he produced but didn’t direct…)
I honestly thought I’d blogged it; apparently not.
Directed by Dave Green, it has been compared to Super 8 and
Goonies; a bunch of kids start getting mysterious messages on their cellphones, they follow the messages to the source and find an alien in desperate need of their help. Hmme to me it sounds like ET meets Explorers. Whatever.
Anyway, too cute for me, but I’ll report reviews and reactions when they turn up.

Bringing it back to Earth
With two Tom Cruise Science Fiction films in a row under-performing (Edge of Tomorrow made $293M worldwide which is still less than anticipated) it looks pretty bleak for his next one, Yukikaze. No negative buzz has popped up yet, but I would not be surprised if the project was quietly shelved.

Playing Dead
Latest game to be put forward for cinematic adaptation is Capcom’s Dead Rising, it’s a zombie game, there are some issues here; a glut of zombie film has raised the level of scepticism in the film going audience (or is it just me?) What is more this is a game adaptation, of which there have been few successful examples. Will the film follow the track as a game adaptation or a zombie film? And in respect to the zombie elements, can it bring something fresh to the table?

…Afro Samurai next?
Just noticed that anime adaptation KITE from director Ralph Ziman and staring
Samuel L. Jackson is finished, done, and in the can and it will be screened at the
Fantasia International Film Festival, as soon as reviews arrive, I’ll let you know.

Game on
Zak Penn has been pulled into re-write the screenplay for Ernie Cline’s novel Ready Player One. The original script was by Cline and Eric Eason. It’s the tale of Wade, a gamer who hunts the key to eternal wealth, problem is he is racing against the most powerful corporation in the world.
No director or star is attached.

Is this what Ridley is doing?
We are hearing reports that Ridley Scott has chosen his next project, this would be the project he was scouting locations for in Australia, the mystery project, and the candidate is… The Martian, the adaptation of Andy Weir’s science fiction novel.
This may be disappointing to a lot of fans who were hoping for Prometheus 2, (or Blade Runner 2) for that fact.
Matt Damon is to star and Drew Goddard wrote the screenplay.
Some commentators have raised the red flag of caution; films set on Mars have not done well lately John Carter and Doom both underperformed and they are not the only ones: Red Planet, Mission to Mars, Ghosts of Mars were all box office disappointments.
For one I am shocked that he is doing another Science Fiction film. Shocked and turned on.
Of course with it being a space survival film it looks like we have another candidate for “the next Gravity”. Let the games begin.

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 (154)

16 Jun

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Dagnabbit they snowpierced Jupiter Ascending! ‘Snowpiercing’ is the term I just invented to describe a science fiction film release that has been inexplicably delayed.

It was due out on July 18th now it has been kicked back to February 6, 2015.

I’m not saying I’m angry but this has left me with a couple of glowing blue Infinity Stones. And it has ruined the chance of 2014 being as significant a Science Fiction movie year as 2013.

Warner Bros. claimed the delay is to finish the special effects in the movie. They emphasise the shift should not be interpreted as lack of confidence in the commercial potential of the release.

But honestly, it sounds like a crock of bull.
Jupiter Ascending has shifted date three times; it was previously scheduled for; January 10, 2014, July 25 2014 before settling in July 18th.
Given the spotty history of previous Wachowski releases only one conclusion can be drawn: Warner Bros. are dumping it.
It will be quietly released with little to no marketing and allowed to die.

Well you can forget everything I said about Marvel’s director choices because they have just announced their selection of Dr. Strange: it’s Scott Derrickson.
Derrickson has previously been known for his low budget horror films like Deliver Us from Evil and Sinister, but he has long harboured dreams of bigger budget project, and it looks like his ship has come in.
(Derrickson had planned to make the Deus Ex adaptation after his current project, Deliver Us from Evil, but that obviously is off the table as is When Gravity Fails.)
It’s not characteristic of Marvel, but some bloggers are suggesting that Derrickson’s strong horror credentials are hinting at a new direction for the studio.

I’ve been pretty reticent about Dr. Strange. Why? Because Marvel Studios diddled around it for years before committing.
Out in the world of blogs there was a certain amount of enthusiasm, and I am not sure why, it wasn’t one of Marvel Comics top selling titles, I haven’t even seen an issue on the shelves recently.
I suspect the appeal to the childhood of “bloggers of a certain age” rather than present day interest.
Now That the studio has pulled the trigger I am hearing a nervous shuffling coming from the on-line world.
They are asking if it will fit, can Marvel score with a movie about a sorcerer?

In the high tech world of Iron Man and Captain America is there room for thinks that go bump in the night?

Well, I’ve read Kevin Feige’s interviews and reading between the lines I suspect he plans to handle it very much like he did Thor: Magic is a kind of science.

It might work.

What’s Ridley Not Doing?
Will Smith has signed up for Ridley Scott’s brain injury sports film… except Ridley is not doing it. Smith will not play one of the football players, no he plays a Neurologist.
The feature is still untitled.
It will now be directed by its writer Peter Landesman

Interesting. It would have been typical for Ridley to follow his biblical epic Exodus with something more intimate and actor based. Perhaps he is clearing his slate for another big one…

The other trailer I saw belonged to the Disaster movie Into the Storm (formerly titled Black Sky,) Directed by Steven Quale this one rather snuck up on me, a mystery since I specifically keep a folder for disaster movies.
Looked like the usual Emmerich fodder; planes falling out of the sky, water rushing in, collapsing real estate (one cool moment involved a fire tornado, my favourite kind)
Thing is this feature had very low profile in the movie blogs.
Not hugely surpassing, it has a kind of generic plot (father seeks to rescue his family in the face of a huge storm.)
It’s another found footage film (another good reason to avoid coverage).
You know, this is the kind of thing that would merit a paragraph if I’d first found it in the blogs, but it got all the way to a theatrical trailer, and I wonder, where was hiding?

At last Marvel has picked a new director for Ant Man. Last week we suggested Marvel might want a real visionary to calm the fears of fandom.
Well the new director is Peyton Reed.
Who, you ask? Only the director of the dance movie Bring it on. OK he has done some other things but I get the distinct impression he is a journeyman director rather than a genius.. but you never know.
Adam McKay is to doctor the script
No fan reaction as of yet.
Let’s assume we are right . It seems Marvel Studios are happy with directors it can control. The question is , does it matter. Already Marvel films are drifting towards a house style, and I would argue the crucial factor in all of them has not been any individual director but Marvels very visionary head Kevin Fiege. In that case it might not matter who is in the director’s chair… much.

Box Office has come out on Edge of Tomorrow and it is not great.

It made just shy of thirty million dollars in the US and came in third. Not exactly turkey but far from the major hot it needs to be..
And this was despite the glowing reviews it received.
It is clear this is a part of the ongoing trend in recent Science Fiction films.
John Carter
Pacific Rim

All underperformed in the US. It is clear that original Science Fiction is just not working out. And worse you can’t blame low quality, Pacific Rim and Edge of Tomorrow were well reviewed.

I think we are looking at a gradual pull back from big budget new SF. In its place the usual: reboots and sequels.

As I predicted the Machinima movement is producing feature film directors… of course it took fifteen years to get there.
Machinima is the art of making narrative films using video game engines. The record and playback functions of games like Unreal allowed creative player to act out their own in game drams, and with some additional software they could edit their clips into short films.
Rooster Teeth was responsible for the Red vs Blue, series made using the Halo 2 engine. It was an enormous web hit and episodes continue to made into 2012
Rooster Teeth is no stranger to live-action having created webisodes from 2009
Their first feature project is Lazer Team ; a science fiction story about the aftermath of the fist radio message received from aliens. They are raising the budget though Kickstarter.

Here is something; 400 Days, a science-fiction thriller starring Brandon Routh,
written and directed by Matt Osterman. A four man team is put in an extended experiment simulating lengthy space travel, as the days go on, they psychologically deteriorate, are they in a simulation or are they actually voyaging to a distant planet?
And the good news is that it is in production right now.

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 (153)

4 Jun

The information age isn’t finished with us.

You may have heard that director Edgar Wright has left Marvel’s Ant Man project.
A lot has already been written on this cinematic earthquake, Collider covered it far more thoroughly that I could. I urge you to read it.

This represents a sea change at Marvel Studios. Marvel generally works well with its directors. If it has become the same as every other major studio and now dictates creative direction down to its film makers then we will see a corresponding change in the quality of its films.
A series of questions remain. What were the actual circumstances surrounding Edgar Wright’s departure. Where will Marvel go from here? But most relevantly; who will they find and a replacement?

This goes to Marvel’s reputation and reflects on its policy of casting directors in the past. Previously Marvel Studios have gone for unobvious choices. They have come from Television, dramatic film, the theatre, even comedy.
James Gunn
Joss Whedon
Russo brothers
Alan Taylor
Jon Favreau
Shane Black
Kenneth Branagh

Where they have not come from is the pool of big budget action film directors that you might expect: the have been no Roland Emmerichs, no Michael Bays, and no Ridley Scotts. In fact they have even shied away from the pool of wannabe action film directors.
With just one exception. Louis Leterrier on The Incredible Hulk, and we know how that went.
For Ant Man, Marvel needs to restorer the trust of the audience that made the Avengers such a hit, they need to find a visionary; someone who will have the instant confidence of fans and erase Edgar Wright from their minds.
The clock is ticking.

It must be a bad week for Marvel because they have just lost Drew Goddard from their Television division. Marvel signed up with Netflix to provide them with five new series: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke
Cage, and The Defenders.
Drew Goddard was to run the whole caboodle.
Well he has left. I wonder which hack they have drafted to replace him. I am hearing it is someone called Steven S. DeKnight … wait a second! This is the Steven S. DeKnight we have been keeping half and eye on because he was developing a Military Science Fiction series named Incursion. But he is best known for the very bloody, very sweary, very randy Spartacus series. This was one of the most outstanding cable series of the past decade. It looks like marvel have come up smelling of roses.

DeKnight seems to have hit the ground running because, after some quiet months we have some movement on the TV front. Charlie Cox (Boardwalk Empire) has been cast as Matt (Daredevil) Murdock for the Netflix series

What’s Ridley doing in Australia?
Ridley Scott has been in Australia, looking at Fox Studios and scouting locations.
The blogs have been all over this and the speculations are wild: he’s prepping The Martian, no he’s going to make Prometheus 2, no, it’s Blade Runner two.
I’m not even going to try to guess.

What the “Captain America: The Winter Solder” directors did next.

Or how the Russo Brothers showed their assassin.
Hollywood is obsessed with professional killers. Don’t think so?
Check this raft of killer pics in development: American Assassin, Black Phantom, For The Dogs. That is not half of them.
The Russo brothers have come off the dazzling success of The Winter Soldier with a contract to direct Grey Man the story of a CIA operative-turned-assassin who must use his talent to save the Daughters who don’t know he exists (I suppose they know they have a father somewhere, just they don’t know it is he.
Anyway, I’m still on a quest to smack this assassins and I have to ask: Why do they all have hearts of Gold? (And by that I don’t meant hard shiny and listed on the metal exchange.) No really, it takes nothing to make one of these steely killers abandon their mission and start protecting some kid or vulnerable female (it’s hardly ever the other way around, if you are middle aged male, forget it, He’ll but a long range cap between your eyes!)
With this universal cliché knocking around one day I expect to see a movie about an assassin and a retired stripper on the run; may be they could compete to see which one is more unnecessarily sentimental.

As we said, reviews for Edge of Tomorrow have been positive.
They say it is exciting and delivers on its premise.

You know the routine. Earth has been invaded (again!) Tom Cruise is in defence. He fails and dies, but he loops back in time to repeat the day of battle over and over, dying over and over again, but learning what is needed to beat the invaders.

Some reviewers lazily compare it to Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day.
We’d prefer to think of it as say… Blackhawk Down meets Fifty First Dates… just for the hell of it.

Here’s something from Film School Rejects comparing Edge to videogaming.

Edge of Tomorrow.

First of all the title sucks. Marketing changed it from All You Need Is Kill, (from the original Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka) but all they did is make it sound more generic. I mean what does it mean?
Beyond this it is good news.
This is great fun.
First of all you see Tom Cruise having the worst day of his life, over and over again.
He starts off very un-Cruise like. Daring do? Saving the world? He wants none of it. At least at first (of occurs this all eventually changes).

Earth has been invaded by an alien entity we are calling the Mimics. They are fast, deadly and learn quickly how to fight and beat the human military.

After the first military victory a united earth force plan a counter attack to finally turn the tide of battle.

An unwilling Cruise flounders across a chaotic battle field until he stumbles into an alien attack and is covered in its blood.

The fun and games begin. Cruise finds himself returned to the beginning of his day repeatedly until he starts trying to take control of the process and learn what the Mimics are, what has happened to him, and how to beat them.

This is a tightly told, smart story. We see the alternatives systematically explored as Cruise gains allies explores dead-ends and finally gets on the right track.

Of the supporting cast I particularly like Bill Paxton who is playing outside his usual range as the sort of Sergeant Lee Emory usually plays.

It’s a stylish looking film, the effects are solid with just one sequence of poor CG.
The action is never less than thrilling, although in the set-pieces you get a sense of (if you forgive me) Deja Vu: there are resemblances to numerous films: Saving Private Ryan, Aliens, even The Matrix.
There are drastic shifts in tone, but unusually this seems to work.

Of course, as in all attempts of the mainstream film industry to do science fiction, there are some logic lapses (including one really large one right at the end.) But if you can live with them, this is worthwhile experience.

It’s not the greatest science fiction movie ever made, but it is my favourite Tom Cruise one, if only because of the hell he is put through.

Today’s trailer was from Earth to Echo, looks like Chronicle only pitched younger.

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.