Archive | July, 2014

Grunting at the Screen (157)

26 Jul

The information age isn’t finished with us.

What the f*** is Ridley doing now?
I just heard that Ridley Scott optioned Marco Pierre White’s autobiography, “The Devil in the Kitchen.”
Now I’ve read this, White has an interesting life story, it has potential for drama.
But that is beside the point, what the f*** is Ridley doing? Is he hoovering literary properties off the floor because they are causing a mess?
I just cleaned up my Ridley Scott folder, there was all sorts of stuff he optioned but didn’t make: Conspiracy of Paper, Fishing Fleet, Red Riding;
do you even remember any of these, do you? And there thirteen others in the sub folder. Not including the twenty or so other’s he claims he really wants to direct.
Now we know he is doing The Martian next. Where he goes from there is anyone’s guess.
But to be honest I would not bet on him getting around to any of those high profile sequels everyone is so hot to see.

Now this is special.
We are hearing That Darren Aronofsky is interested in Moonfall, a script by David (“Half Heard in the Stillness” from The 2013 Black List,) Weil described as “Fargo on the Moon”, (hmm).
Now it hasn’t been acquired yet so this can go anywhere.

Unknown Error
Computer horror is almost as old as the information age itself, films like Ghost in the Machine and Brainscan go back to the eighties and nineties, they expose our anxiety over new technology and fear that its unknown quality represents. Recently horror has spread to social networks and smartphone aps.
But we are hearing of a new take on this subgenre.
It seems Timur Bekmambetov is more active as a producer than a director because the name attached as overseeing eye on Cybernatural is his.
Basic plot a bullied teenager kills herself (there are some online videos involved) her bullies cannot remove the evidence from the cloud and… actually that’s all I’ve got. Being that it is a horror movie I suspect something like horrible is involved.
This style is that much abused area “reality horror” as the whole thing is assembled from faux online video.
Reading between the lines this seems to be about cyberbulling and its dark consequences with a supernatural twist in there. What that element is… who can say?
Actual director is Levan Gabriadze. If it actually seems worthwhile, I will report more as it develops.

The DVD of The Zero Theorem is out, there are some nice extras on it (not as many as on the Blu Ray, but enough). If you missed it at the cinema it is worth seeing it at home.

Reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy have come out, they are extraordinarily positive. The performances, the comedy and characters have been particularly cited.
Big things are expected by the press, a huge opening and a sequel.

Fragments of Cyberpunk Film.

GI Joe Comic book writer and artist Larry Hama director Mark Cheng have teamed up to create a low budget Kickstarter project. Ghost Source Zero. They are calling it “Cyberpunk” but I think it looks like a GI Joe Knock-off.

Take a look for yourself

Although William Gibson famously did not see Blade Runner on release, he now thinks it is a classic

The revival of the cinematic Cyberpunk genre has hit an impasse.

Neuromancer is stalled in casting. Vincenzo Natali has very definite ideas about casting the lead, ideas not shared by the production company.

Neuromancer executive producer Peter Hoffman has been charged with fraud. It has been alleged that he received money from the Louisiana’s tax credit system which was not disposed of as promised.
How this affects the production of Neuromancer I cannot say, but it cannot be good.

Harrison Ford’s injury on the Star Wars 7 set may or may not cause delays but if you seriously think he will go from Star Wars to Blade Runner 2 with that injured leg, you are kidding.

Scott Derrickson is ramping up to direct Dr Strange; this ties him up for two years, there is no chance he will be making either Deus Ex: Human Revolution or When Gravity Fails any time soon.
But bite my tongue! We had no sooner written off Deus Ex when a strange development arose.
Scott Derrickson is indeed off the project… of course. But the project is still in play, a new writer has been announced; Michael Finch (wrote the recent reboot “predators”).
There has been no new director announced, but hiring a new screenwriter indicates real intention to make this film.

All of this is against a background where the attitude to original science fiction is very mixed. On the pro side we have had films like Avatar and Gravity which each made a ton of money. On the con, efforts to replicate the success have been mixed; John Carter, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow, even Pacific Rim, all underperformed (at least in terms of their budgets).

This is not the best atmosphere in which to launch a major, original science fiction film… especially in a subgenre which has a sketchy history.

The only hope is that some smaller, lower budget films will step forward; at this moment that is not looking likely.

There are some dark horses which still have possibility:
Antonio Banderas’ Automata; we know it has been shooting, we think it was expected to be completed in 2014, other than that nothing has leaked: is it in post-production? Is it stalled, will it hit the festivals soon? No one knows.
There have been unconfirmed suggestions that it will get a 2015 release.

Robert Rodriguez may fulfil his promise and shoot Nerverackers after Sin City: A Dame to Kill For opens. His previous reason for delay was he was waiting for a specific actor. Me, I think it was about the money (because it is always about the money.) This project has been hanging around for years without progress, so I would no hold my breath.

The good news is that Alex Rivera is trying to relaunch Sleep Dealer on Disk.

Director Duncan Jones has tweeted that he is going to have one last try to get his Mute project going after he wraps Warcraft.
Now it has been a while since Mute was announced let’s get you up to speed.
He first mooted it in 2009 after his debut, Moon. It was to be a near future thriller very consciously influenced by the visuals of Blade Runner.

We last blogged it back in Grunt (53), when Jones was touting it as a graphic novel (still not done).

With the latest news we have a synopsis. Previous news only suggested it was based in a near future Berlin. Now we are hearing it is about a mute bartender who has to descend into the city’s criminal underground in pursuit of an abducted woman.

My thoughts are, if Ridley Scott can’t get Blade Runner 2 going there is no chance for this knock-off.*

I think I threw up a little in my mouth. Now I told you about the Power Rangers remake. I didn’t? Maybe it is because I care little for power rangers and less for remakes.
Well I just read something from executive producer Roberto Orci, this is great. He said it’s OK, his take on Power Rangers is not a ‘reboot’ it is a ‘refresh’.
Now you get the bad taste in my mouth?

Back in the day when people started disliking the term ‘remake’ because to be honest, ninety percent of remakes suck lemons** someone came up with ‘reboot’. Yeah! That is entirely different, and so very ready for this thrusting new age (actually about a decade late for the information age, but who’s counting?)
So years have gone by and ‘reboot’ is now about as cool as … well ‘cool’ and we now need a sick new term or the way film makers ruin our cinematic heritage. Could ‘refresh’ be it?
So what does Roberto ‘Star Trek’ Orci mean by ‘refresh’? He tells us that he does not want to remake PR and introduce a lot of unfamiliar elements, he is working from the original playbook and giving the fans the thing they know and love. (They apparently warrant more respect that Trek fans, but let’s not go there, please, let’s not.) You would hope remade properties would be treated with respect as a matter of course.

Well let me know. Yeah let me know if films suck less if they are refreshed rather than rebooted.

I’m not against remakes. Often they represent real opportunity: the possibility to take an idea and running with it. To fulfil what may have been a less than satisfactory original. Or take it in an unforeseen direction.
If only that was all they were for.
Anyway, one remake I was indifferent to was Mad Max Fury Road.
One: it is well worn territory, they had three chances to fully explore that world and that should be enough.
Two: it has had man imitators from the “Mad Max on water” that was Waterworld, to post plague dramatics of Doomsday (and many, many others). You may wonder if there is any possibility left unexplored.
Three: well it got it right. Unlike some so called classic science fiction films Mad Max: The Road Warrior was nothing short of perfect. JG Ballard loved it, it is revered by genre directors across the science fiction fantasy and horror spectrum, it is unimprovable (as Beyond Thunderdome proved.

But the latest incarnation has me intrigued: George Miller spent ten years trying to make it and he has a secret weapon. No script. It is being made from three and half thousand storyboard images, there is very little dialogue and it is in the form of a single extended chase.

I’m not yet recommending this, but I am hoping this is a refinement of the idea of mad Max to its most essential components. For the time being I am keeping a keen eye on what emerges.

Thanks to our friend Patrick for the heads up.

Warner Bros. is planning a seven film series based on the Arabian Nights. screenwriter is Zack Stentz. No director for the first instalment has been announced.

*Please note, I have been wrong before.
**and there is a euphemism for you.

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 (156)

18 Jul

The information age isn’t finished with us.

The opening of Guardians of the Galaxy is rushing up on us.
By the end of July it will be here.
Marvel’s choice to make a movie of this title is something of a mystery. Some call the original comic a fan favourite, but in truth it was never more than a middling selling title. In any of its incarnations
The middle aged generation of fans will remember it as a team of heroes from the year 3000 constantly swinging back from the future to save history and running into characters like the Defenders and the Avengers. (Personally I remember them through the Korvac Saga in Avengers- I actually skimmed a collection from that era, it was quite mediocre.) It didn’t even have an animated series, (hell even the Sub-Mariner had an animated series.)
Well this isn’t that incarnation.
It was reinvented in the twenty-first century and written by Dan Abnet to be a contemporary cosmic group lead by Star Lord. And even this incarnation is not the precisely what has reached the screen: where is the talking dog? Where is Quasar?
So neither the popularity nor the quality can explain why it has crawled onto screen.
So how come?
I have a theory. Kevin Feige and his ex boss Avi Arad met at the cross roads one midnight; Kev bets he can take any Marvel supergroup and make a hit movie, heck he says “I can make the Inhumans a hit”
“To easy” says Avi “Do Guardians of the Galaxy”. Feige blanches and says OK. The devil was probably there and a solid gold fiddle was involved too, I don’t have all of the details.
But the Guardians movie can only be explained as some kind of crazy bet because there was no demand for it.

In some ways it is Marvel’s most important opening. Why?
Well as I mentioned back in Grunting (96); the world has been asking “just who are the Guardians of the Galaxy?” (Actually I put it more colourfully…)
A lot of marketing has gone under the bridge since then, but marketing can only do so much…
And this is an era hostile to fresh material.
Like most Marvel debuts this one has no big star in the lead.
Unlike the Marvel debuts so far Guardians has not had a presence beyond the page:
Iron Man had several animated series
As did the Avengers
As has Thor
As has Captain America plus a TV series and a low budget movie.
The Hulk had a TV show and a couple of TV Movies.

And to be honest, Guardians has not even had a particularly illustrious comic career. It has never been a top selling title, it has never been a critically acclaimed title and until Brian Michael Bendis took over it did not have a heavy hitter writing it.

If among the fans Guardians is minor property, what does this say for the wider film audience? They don’t know the property; they have heard nothing but the marketing which has been aimed at them.

Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel’s most important opening because it will answer the question: why does the audience come to Marvel Movies?
The answer they hope to get is “because of that Marvel Logo at the beginning of the film”. If they succeed Guardians it means the way is clear for Ant Man, Dr Strange and all of the other less familiar Marvel characters, it will mean viewers don’t come to see, say an Inhumans film or a Ms. Marvel film. They come for a Marvel film.

But that all depends, Doesn’t it?

There has been a marketing blitz. If the public didn’t know who the Guardians were before, they have a fair idea now.

But that is neither here nor there. Marvel Studios have been gathering momentum; it came to a head with the release The Avengers, which worked exactly as intended.
Since then Marvel sequels have done better at the box office than their originals.
And in fact Guardians is on track to open big.

Can I suggest it has happened? The Studio is the brand. In a few weeks millions of movie goers will not be going to see a Guardians or the Galaxy film. They will be going to a Marvel Studios film.
Perhaps bloggers will start speaking of “The Marvel Effect.”
And I imagine if that happens the studio will have unprecedented leeway; it will give them an opportunity to make still more adventurous films…if they take it.

The first TV spot for Guardians has hit. Interestingly it tells nothing.

Late breaking news; I am hearing through this imaginary thing in my ear that Cosmo the dog is in fact in, I repeat the talking dog is in.

A lot of people don’t like Brett Ratner. I get that, the Rush Hour films were… questionable. But they also don’t like X-Men Last Stand. Or they claim they don’t. Last Stand was the biggest selling X-Men until Days of Future Past happened by.
But all of that is neither here nor there. His latest offering Hercules (AKA Hercules: the Thracian Wars,) is imminent.
The second Hercules movie this year, this one comes with 100 percent less gladiator fights and a little more awareness of the actual Greek myth.
Despite the well worn material, I think there is still some life in it. I have no idea what Ratner’s take on it will be, but I am hoping for something a little dark, to do with the monster battles and hand to hand mayhem.
The TV spots have already begun and they are looking very encouraging – except is that Dwayne Johnson pulling a Samson move with the pulling-down-the-temple-walls trick?

As we move towards the release of Ridley Scott’s Exodus word has arisen of another biblical epic from the Scott Free production house. It’s King David. Scott is expected to produce rather than direct, Jonathan Stokes will write the screenplay and it will cover the King’s reign rather than his giant-slaying days.

This might not amount to much but there are feelers out for a proposed feature from German ad directors Steffen Hacker and Alexander Kiesl, it’s named BotWars. As you can guess it is a robot revolution movie. Now Speilberg tried and failed to do this kind of thing in Robopocalypse.
This thing looks a little cheap, and I hope they throw a couple of bucks more at the CG if it does go to-feature. However the teaser trailer is pacy and fun.

In case it does get off the ground, we’ll keep one eye on it.

The Robot Chicken team have been building a loyal following on cable and home video for years. They are now set to explode onto the big screen with Superbago. A pair of wannabe superheroes find themselves transported from the stop motion world into the live action universe.
Robot Chicken’s John Harvatine IV and Eric Towner will direct and Sony Pictures Animation will co-produce.

Anna Friel has signed up for the body horror movie “The Master Cleanse”: a spiritual cleansing ritual releases more than just toxins. I gather they are playing this one for laughs and it has been described as “Cronenberg meets Amblin”: Huh? I am not seeing that.

Looks like post-holocaust drama The Rover, will get a British release, it is due out August 15 2014.
The Rover, is an Australian production starring Guy Pearce and directed by David Michôd; in the outback Eric has lost almost everything when a gang take his remaining possessions he goes on the chase after them.
Reviews suggest this is a stark post–holocaust western with a similar atmosphere as Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”

Bryan Singer scored big with X-Men and …er Superman Returns (well maybe not so much) he is betting on the comics again with Age of Heroes a comic originally written by James Hudnall; the Gods have abandoned the land and a group of heroes much step to halt the resulting chaos.

IDW is quietly creeping up the ranks of comic publishers breaking into the movie business; 30 Days of Night was one of theirs, and Locke & Key has been slowly wending its way to the screen.
They have now teamed up with Radical Studios (Oblivion, Hercules: the Thracian Wars)-who I’d see as their rivals- to adapt Alan Robert’s comic book The Shunned One: an angel of death refuses to take innocent life, his rebellion sets off a chain of disaster and now his own life is forfeit as a flock of death angels seek him out. Cool. Jack Reher has been tapped to write the movie script.
I hope this one gets made- I like naughty angels.

We have a preliminary release date on Alex Garland’s Ex Machina; apparently it is 23rd January 2015. Of course like everything else this could be subject to change.

It’s obvious that the boycott campaign against Orson Scott Card has… utterly failed, because his short story “Unaccompanied Sonata” has been optioned for production as a feature called Sonata. I’ve read a synopsis but I can’t be bothered to repeat it. Yaron Zilberman is set to write and direct.

Horror studios have been itching to get onto the science fiction business; it’s true, Blumhouse (Paranormal Activity) have been working on an Untitled SF feature for a while. Well now Darren Lynn Bousman from the Saw franchise is diving headfirst into the genre with Apex, a science fiction action film described as “Predator meets Call of Duty” (I don’t get it. Predator was an Alien verses Soldiers, so Apex will be….) Anyway the plot goes: special forces team goes to North Korea in search of Weapons of Mass Destruction, instead they abducted away to an alien world where they must fight extraterrestrial foes. Wait, that sounds like Warworld from DC comics, or Sakaar from World War Hulk; in fact it sounds like that straight-to video movie from the eighties, Arena.

Oh look, another “Untitled Science-Fiction feature” this one written by Joe Gazzam and snapped up by Relativity Media. As ever there are scant details except for a “father and son” aspect.
You know, I have a trailer full of Untitled Science Fiction announcements and you know how many of them have been made? One, it became Tomorrowland, and that isn’t finished yet.
These scripts get thrown in a draw and you don’t even get the consolation of some preproduction art to know what they would have been like if only that had been made.
But to be fair Relativity Media just made Earth to Echo, she we know they are capable.

We think what Shaun Rana is doing is cute; we’ve blogged him before; he has been pushing his various projects; Warren Lich, Days of Victory, with very little effect, he’s very enthusiastic and not without skill.
His latest, ELECTUS: Days of Enlightenment, is looking for funding. Here is a look.
I’ve got to say, he has perfected the art of making bluescreen shot humans look every bit as artificial as fully CGed characters. He’s within a hair of dipping humans themselves into the uncanny valley, and that’s a kind of achievement.
Like I say, we think what he is doing is cute.

First Trailer for anime adaptation Parasyte is in.

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.