Archive | August, 2014

Grunting at the Screen (159)

23 Aug

The information age isn’t finished with us.

At last we have some word on Antonio Banderas’ Automata. Banderas produced it and he considers it his “baby”, he says it is very conceptual, it is about ideas and has a European style. It’s probably near completion because it will be presented at the San Sebastian Film Festival in competition.

Oh yes, Banderas also said it was about the “Singularity.”

This marks it as one of number of films about the singularity, the recently screened Transcendence, Roland Emmerich’s “Singularity” (on hold)   and the Lithuanian project film Emergence.

Although the singularity (the notion that when the processing power of computers exceeds that of humans then something…interesting will happen), has faded in science fictional and political world, it seems to be a minor trend in the film industry.

You can check out the poster at

The Trailer is out too, it’s got robots, a lot of robots.

Michael Bay reportedly directing Daniel Simon’s art book Cosmic Motors, yes it’s an art book, I have seen it. It depicts a lot of cool futuristic racing cars.

I suspected at first this was a hoax, Bay has been known to adapt non-narrative intellectual property before, if he can do a toy, why not a book of paintings?

Daniel Simon himself is no stranger to the cinematic screen: he redesigned the cycles for Tron: Legacy (among other elements) and did extensive mechanical design for Oblivion.

News is coming in about Prisoner of War starring Lee Pace, he will be taking a last stand against an alien invasion. The detail is scant, and whether this is worth further consideration may depend on just what the aliens are like.

Now you know I like to do it in the style of the Greeks… Mythologically speaking (what are you like?) So it was with interest that I observed that two Greek mythology projects had been merged “Apollo Rising,” and “Eternal”. With even greater interest when I realised I had heard of neither of these projects.

“Eternal” was a spec script by Victoria Aveyard. “Apollo Rising,” a project developed by Stan Lee.

We can see why, the premises are parallel.

In “Eternal” the Gods and monsters of Greek legend come to our present times and in “Apollo Rising,” they live hidden among us. 

 When the film industry merges projects one project generally gets better treatment.

Since Sony purchased “Eternal” to keep it from competing with their Stan Lee project it does not look good for the spec scrip. We shall see which idea prevails (if either).

The Foundation, has been sold to 20th Century Fox. Not to be confused with any other foundation, this one is a comic book miniseries from BOOM! Studios

Scriptwriter is Evan Daugherty.

Nostradamus’s prophesies are coming true, unless they can be stopped (perhaps by that Foundation?)

BOOM! is one of a number of comic publishers angling to become the low rent Marvel (what? It’s true).

They have successfully placed projects with a number of film studios:

Malignant Man



Jeremiah Harm,



Day Men

They got a project all the way to the cinemas with the Denzel Washington starring feature, 2 Guns.

So where is BOOM!  at? Well you remember back when Dark Horse Publications were getting a bunch of their comics filmed; The Dentist, The Mask etc.? Well I think they are about there. They might soar or tumble, they are not yet the Indie Marvel Studios.

Ari Folman who gave us Waltz with Bashir to great acclaim is back with The Congress, a very loose adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s Futurological Congress, starring Robin Wright.

You can catch it in London at the ICA from August 15th.

Writing a film blog is a soul destroying enterprise*, especially when you have nothing to report because all the news is reboots and sequels. Occasionally it is all worth it. Like just now when I noted that Frank Herbert’s Soul Catcher had been optioned.

Herbert is better known for the massive Dune series but Soul Catcher was one of his best novels, a mainstream book about the crimes committed against Native Americans and a spiritual exercise in redressing the balance.

If Dune had not been so successful Herbert would have had a great career as a mainstream novelist.

It is an extraordinary novel and hope it gets a good adaptation.

Oh yes. Producer Dimitri Villand is the one who had optioned (actually re-optioned it, there have been previous attempts) the book, no Director or Screenwriter has been named,

Coming up is a new feature film called The Frame from director Jamin Winans who gave us Ink a few years back.

There is not a lot of information: it is Science Fiction and Winans is self-distributing it.


There are a few DC Comics based projects that I have deliberately not mentioned because these are the films surrounded by rumour and disinformation.

However clear information is emerging on some fronts.

Dwayne Johnson has admitted that his has been developing a Shazam movie with Warner Bros. He cannot say whether he will play the title character or his nemesis Black Adam.

In fact the film has not been greenlit yet. But at least we know it goes beyond smoke and mirrors.

One chapter in the saga of Ant Man has come to a close with the announcement that principal photography has commenced. For a while it did not look like this project was going anywhere but marvel Studios has proceeded with its accustomed doggedness.

The headline read “Avatar writer to work on Mack Bolan”. But the fact that Shane Salerno had been contracted to adapt the Executioner was less significant than … they are going to adapt the Executioner!

Well they have been trying for a while but somehow just couldn’t work it.

Maybe this time it will happen.

The press release described Bolan as a man who fights “terrorism”; which is a little different to what I remember.

I have to admit I have history. The Executioner isn’t a book, it is series, a massive series with nine-hundred volumes in it. Seriously, they would come out one per month and Don Pendleton wrote them until he handed it all over to a team of ghost writers.

Basic scenario was strangely familiar: a Vietnam Veteran’s life is shattered when the Mafia causes the murder of his family. He vows to use his military skills to get vengeance not just on his family’s killers but on mobdom in general.

Heard it before? Well believe it or not Pendelton and his Executioner series got there well before The Punisher. The Destroyer or all of these other antiheroes with similar monikers.

I read a ton of them, and they were bad, really terrible trash but great fun, in a deeply politically incorrect way.

Now I have lost touch with the series (nine hundred volumes dude? Who has that kind of shelf space?)  But I wikied it and yes, in later volumes (which would bring it up to date) Mack Bolan does in fact hook up with the government and fight Terrorist *(What? Run out of gangsters?)

Fair enough.

Of course by now he’d be pushing about seventy, and they would be a film I’d watch. Mack Bolan, pushing his walker and chasing down Al Qaeda…

Anyway, more news is emerging and the front runner to play this angel of vengeance…oh dear it is that project killer, Bradley Cooper. No wait, my legal repressive has informed me that I cannot suggest that Mr Cooper is in any way responsible for the demise of: Paradise Lost, Hyperion, The Crow or any of the several projects he dropped out of. We guess he didn’t drop out of Guardians of the Galaxy because he wasn’t really there. Maybe he can send his voice along to Mack Bolan and stay at home that would give it a fighting chance to get made…

Warner Bros. is producing and Todd Phillips is to direct.

What is is? Trash paperback day? That other mainstay of action literature Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s “The Destroyer” is also getting the screen treatment. Eager readers will realise that it already made the big screen as Remo Williams back in 1985. So this is… a reboot. Since pretty much no one saw it, and it pretty much sucked, I’m pretty happy to see it dusted off.

Shane Black is to direct, Jim Uhls and James Mullaney did the script.

I did not see that coming. So what is next? Movies of The Penetrator, The Death Merchant? Stay tuned.

I keep telling you I’m not the biggest fan of Nacho Vigalondo but a lot of people liked his Time Crimes debut; well his film (I cannot even say “latest film”, he has a couple in play)  Open Windows is finally crawling into the light of day.

It will get a Video on Demand release on October 2nd, plus a limited theatrical release from November 7th.

(By the way, this is the modernisation of Rear Window thing with the internet serving as the view point for all sorts of unclear mayhem rather than someone’s back yard view…)

Gaming company Activision Blizzard is forming an entertainment studio to produce Film & Television. Like Ubisoft it has taken matters into its own hand after varying results having its products adapted by regular film studies.

Activison is the second biggest game company in the world. Some its famous products include: “Call of Duty”, “Skylanders” and “World of Warcraft”



Reviews for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For have emerged. They are extremely mixed. How Mixed?

Well one complains that this one fails to meet the standard of the original, one claims it surpasses it. However they all agree that Ava Lord is great.

Its Box office has spoken clearly, it has spectacularly failed. Some blame it on the vast time since the original.



I Like Luc Besson, he made Leon and The Fifth Element. Recently he’s been a bit elusive: directing sporadically, largely known as a writer and producer, admirably he has shepherded in the careers of a generation of new French directors.

But, I like Luc Besson the director, and I’d like a new move from his own hand.

Just as well he’s made one.

He’s been threatening to make a Science fiction epic on the scale of The Fifth Element for more than a decade. His latest, Lucy, isn’t it.






How much money did this movie make?

It’s crazy, it’s silly, and yes fun.

I ask; how did this film make so much money, it does not feel like a block buster, it is just odd. The library footage that makes it look like a documentary. The portentous seriousness of Morgan Freeman’s lecturing on the potentials f man’s brain. This film should have fallen on its face.

But somehow it works.


I’m not going into the absurdity of the premise, other reviews have already mentioned that it is based on an outdated and fallacious premise.


What I can say is that it has crazy momentum and it is fun.


The plot is that plays Lucy a naive girl in china who gets involved with the wrong sort of man, this leads her to being cut open so she can duel a designer drug to Europe. the bag breaks open and it proves to be much more than a fun time out., It releases her inner potential so she can fight, influence people, change the real world and going into that area known as beyond.


Luc Besson has not forgotten how to direct. He knows where to put a camera and how get a performance out of an actor. Scarlett Johansson is convincing both as the ingénue at large in China, and the stone killing machine she becomes.


This is really a comic book movie, with an original comic book, or costumes.

Lacking either we come across the first problem. The ideas are startling but they hang unsupported; perhaps we accept that a person could control their own biological processes, given enough brain power; but the psychic and supernatural powers, the powers over time and space? The relatively realistic treatment of the visuals, begs greater articulation of these processes than is necessary in a costume hero movie. And it not so much strains as snaps our credulity.



So just treat it as a fantasy rather than science fiction and you will be fine.


The other problem, is not that  all of the visual choices are equally admirable,; there is a car chase down the wrong way of a road, not  so ,much reminiscent of the similar on in the French connection , so much as all of the imitations of that iconic chase since them.


I had fun, in fact I found it to be an intelligent patina with a though provoking underlying idea (albeit sandwiching a thick layer of hokum) but for many viewers it may be too absurd to take seriously.








*But the hours are good… what?

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 (158)

9 Aug

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Don’t get too excited, Director David Karlak is planning Rise; where the robots stage a revolution. He is first making a short but needs Kickstarter funds to finish it.
He intends to use the short to bootstrap a feature. Check out his footage;

Now here is something, The Remaining; a wedding is shattered by a series of cataclysmic events, the guests come to realised that what is happening is the biblical apocalypse.
Director is Casey La Scala.
Interestingly it is a hybrid of styles: Action horror and disaster. We are promised fallen angels and tornados. (If it isn’t Blade meets Legion meets Twister I will be miffed)

Warner Bros. has optioned the entire Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders of Pern series.
12 books I hear (but I think they’re holding out on us…) This likely has nothing to do with the obscene success of the Hobbit trilogy (Trilogy!) or the Game of Thrones TVTV series, neither of which have anything to do with Dragons.

So I read Andy Weir’s The Martian. It’s pretty good and you should read it. But this is a film blog.
My question here is, what will this be like to adapt as a movie?
My first impression is it will be pretty damned good.
In the story an astronaut is accidentally left behind during a Mars mission.
He has a pile or problems, he has supplies but not enough to keep him alive until the next mission, it is very realistic and orbital mechanics apply. There are other resources on the planet but they are miles away. And then there is the weather which might just kill him.
Over the next few months he solves the problems, encounters setbacks and has some spectacular disasters.
It’s very cinematic. There are even a bunch of explosions.
I predict there will be a bunch of changes, mostly reducing the number of incidents (it is fair sized novel) and simplifying (or dramatising) some of the technical issues.)
There is plenty of meat here beyond the action scenes, the character has a certain warm sardonicism to him and you genuinely root for him.
So yes, this is eminently filmable… if only there hadn’t very recently been a solo-hero-stuck-in-space movie…

David Michôd’s The Rover in UK cinemas from 15th August: it’s that Australian post-collapse movie; man gets his car stolen by roving bandits, he spends the rest of the film getting his car back. Somehow we are not hugely attracted,

Against all of the expectation of the critics who savaged it, Luc Besson’s latest, Lucy opened with $44 Million; cool.
I saw the trailer, it’s like Limitless, but with more guns.

They are comparing The Killer Robots! Crash and Burn! to Manborg (odd thing). But I think it resembles a cut-price Sky Captain (remember that? of course not).
It has that blue screen look which is utterly artificial yet still charming. The CG is cheap yet fun and it looks like it is enough fun to be worth a look.

Peter Chelsom is planning a science fiction film called Out of this World, written by Allan Loeb; a boy raised on Mars returns to Earth goes on a road trip to find his biological father. That don’t float my boat, but if it gets more interesting, I’ll let you know.

The last month has been quiet for me, you may have been having fun with mutants, monkeys and mechs, but I thought I’d hold tight until I could at least see the number one of something. Reviews of Hercules have been mixed but I thought I’d give it a try anyway.

Hercules, Review

I wanted monsters, well they are here but only of the two legged variety.
By the time I got to the cinema I knew this Hercules would attempt to put a human face on the hero and it would not be the beast-fest of the Titan movies.
Here is the set-up.
Years after the 12 labours, Hercules has become a mercenary and is travelling the Greek kingdoms taking gold for the skills of his small band of warriors, largely trading on his reputation as a monster killer and demigod.
He hides a dark secret, his wife and children have been murdered and he strongly suspects he himself is responsible.
It drives him to nightmares and hallucinations. Cool, I like a little PTSD in my heroes (and it so in vogue).
Hercules gets a call to come to the aid of Thrace; in danger of being overrun by rebels, the leader seems to be a sorcerer and employs centaurs.
When Hercules reaches the beleaguered nation he finds a throne about to be overturned and an army conscripted of farmers. “How I do turn these farmers into soldiers?” he asks. You need a montage (as anyone who has seen Team America World Police and heard the song “Gonna Need a Montage” knows)
No essential training montage follows and the army suffers horribly in its first battle.
“Give me time to train them ” begs Hercules. And then the required montage follows (he can only postpone the inevitable so long).
Yes, the film is full of clichés, but everything is so good hearted that I can’t condemn it.
Hercules trains the farmers, they fight their battle and win.
Then things get strange. I won’t say exactly how but there are a few surprises in here and the result is you get a Hercules a little different from any you have seen before.
The goal here seems to have been to give us Hercules the man rather than the Demigod, or the legend. In this they fail. Somewhere in the process, in the writing, in the writing, in the directing, in the producing it was decided to not go too far down that route. This is the “movies” and in particular it is
mainstream Hollywood movie; heroes are already larger than life; they can endure things no ordinary person can and perform feats beyond the ability of normal humanity. In this atmosphere you will never find the unvarnished truth, the person behind the tale.
At this point a straight critic would throw up his hands and decry the lost opportunities here: Hercules and a world weary soldier, burdened by his own legend, haunted by the blood on his hands and enmeshed in Greek politics, it could have been ground breaking.
But this is the real world and that movie would never have been made and if it had it would gathered the love only of critics and cineastes.
Instead we get what I am thinking of as a “posy-post-modernist” film, a deconstruction then reconstruction.
So we get Hercules who has bad dreams and visions and may not exactly be the hero of legend; but hey, he’s played by the Rock, who no one can hate even when he does a heel-turn.
There is something inherently likeable about Dwayne Johnson, he can’t shake it off. But what the hell. The film makers here have learned the lessons of directors before them, when you have a star of limited ability, surround him with great acting talent and don’t give him more than he can handle: with talent like Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and John Hurt the film is in good hands.
Best of all the story rockets along with a solid, pacy structure punctuated with effective action sequences. The CGI is not offensively bad.
Of course it has a sketchy relationship to both Greek mythology and bronze age history, some of the fighting techniques are Roman rather than Greek (nice Tetsudo there, dudes) and in one sequence the film makers (and I don’t know whether to put the blame of the writer director or producer) are not sure if they are doing Greek myth or biblical epic (the temple walls come down, it’s no spoiler, being right there in the trailer). But I forgive it all because it’s all a lot of straight-faced fun and the eight year old in me had a lot of fun. If you grew up loving everything from Jason and the Argonauts to Samson and Delilah you might like this a lot, and Dwayne Johnson is well on his way to taking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s crown.

Guardians of the Galaxy opened big, it made $94m at the box office, the best August opening and the third best opening of the year. So it is safe to say Marvel’s Gamble paid off, in spades.
Just stepping aside for a moment, it means the Marvel Studios label has become the Brand, when the cinema goers look of something to go see, they look not at director or star but that label. It is a huge opportunity for Marvel Studios and a huge risk. The opportunity is that they can be bolder. A built-in audience means Marvel can experiment with releases that other studios would balk at, it means they can be a little more innovative, a little more dangerous. If they choose so. It also means they may be tempted to be careless; a studio that can do no wrong, may end up doing nothing but wrong. It is their choice.
So where do we go from here? It is likely there will be an Inhumans movie (it has been mooted for years) but what other obscure Marvel properties are due for the feature treatment: Machine Man? Man-Thing? Strikeforce Moriturii? (I have to admit it, I have never read an issue, not one.) Not likely, but if they wanted to, they could.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Review

It’s OK, it’s entertaining.
You know the plot, as a boy Peter Quill is yanked off of the planet by aliens.
her turns up 27 years later as an explorer, scavenger… basically thief, exploring the ruins of the once great planet Morag looking for an Orb (OK, no kidding we know it’s an infinity stone)
Things go wrong as we learn the galactic supervillian Ronan the Accuser is also after the orb and from there it becomes a back and forth chase as the agents of Ronan (in league with Thanos) battle Quill for possession of the orb, in the process the Guardians are assembled (Gamora, Rocket Racoon, Groot, Drax the Destroyer) and they pledge to get the Orb to safety, or die in the attempt.
As for the post credit sequence, let’s say it is closer to that of Iron Man 3 than that of the Avengers. (You won’t find any big clues to future Marvel films in it..)
It’s fun, colourful quirky and spectacular. Everything you expect in a Marvel movie.
So why are you detecting something less than total enthusiasm.
I liked it, much more than the latest rebooted snoozefest.
However I detected the lack of “edge”, it is quirky, as I said. It has some great comic moments without being straight up comedy. Quill even dances. But there is a lack of danger here. In the first Iron Man film there was danger. This one, it’s safe.
So yes, it is perfectly good to go and see.

And finally the release of Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno has been delayed indefinitely. Apparently the distributor is not committed to fully fund the marketing.

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.