Archive | February, 2015

Grunting at the Screen (173)

25 Feb

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Here is something I am partial to: The Mind’s Eye; a drifter with telekinetic powers targets a doctor trying to develop a synthetic telekinesis serum.

Cool.

Director is Joe Begos who made Almost Human, and it is in production now.

I’m rather fold of those 1970s movies with psychic prodigies; Carrie, The Fury, or Scanners; and they kept going into the eighties with films like Firestarter. They don’t really make those anymore; there have been things like Chronicle which took more of a superhero twist.

The Mind’s Eye looks like it could be The Fury meets Scanners. It could get crazy.

Sold but not yet made is The Quiet Hour: post-holocaust, a young girl must protect her brother and her farm from alien invaders.   Dakota Blue Richards   and Karl Davis are pencilled in to star.

Which sounds strangely similar to The 5th Wave, to star Chloe Moretz; a young girl (…and…) her brother (oh yes…?) must face alien attack against a post-holocaust backdrop (…really..?). The difference here is that they are seeking a young man who may have the ability to stop the invasion.

(Actually it sounds a bit Young Adult to me). Blakeson is directing, the screenplay is by Susannah Grant

Gore (Pirates of the Caribbean) Verbinski has been called in to direct a film about a race between self-driving cars for Sony Pictures. So far only called “the Driverless Car Race pic” it will be written by Steve Conrad.

They are doing it as a comedy, but fifteen years ago… this would have been science fiction

Predestination opens UK wide this week (UK wide apparently meaning Leicester Sq. and Slough only).

Almanac also opened, we shall forgo the pleasure for many reasons: it’s another found footage film, and yes it has had spotty reviews.

Coherence is out on disk in the UK, find it in all supermarkets

Here is a poster for the forthcoming Patlabor feature film

http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2015/01/09/poster-visual-for-next-generation-patlabor-live-action-feature-film

And here is a trailer

http://otakumode.com/news/544f9017a7fbfe9310d09ecd/Footage-from-Live-Action-Patlabor-Full-Length-Film-Releases-Shows-Gunfight-Between-Labors-and-Helicopter

Japanese release is on May 1.

It seems to be the season of Manga adaptations.

Sono Sion and Sometani Shōta are adapting All Esper Dayo! About an incident when ordinary townsfolk get superpowers.

It is due for release in Japan in September.

You will have heard the news that Neill Blomkamp is going to make an Alien movie.

Rumours have been flying for weeks, rumours I declined to repeat because of the implications.

In case you missed all of it happened like this. In between films Blomkamp messed around with ideas around his own take on an Alien sequel, he did a lot of conceptual art picturing Ripley, Hicks, the alien spaceship, xenomorphs. There was no studio involved and the project was unsanctioned.

A few months back Blomkamp shared his art on Instagram and this raised a furore and a call for Blomkamp’s vision to be realised.

Well this calls have been heard and contacts have been signed for Blomkamp to make this his next project after Chappie.

Fandom excitement is at an all-time high.

Not so much here, and you know why. The Alien franchise is crawling up to its fortieth birthday, and it is time the old guy slowed down. Time to let some of the younger guys take their chances. “Guys” being newer stories, newer characters, fresher ideas.

I can already see the implications falling like dominoes.

Already film blogs like CINEMABLEND are asking how the new film will fit into the current Alien mythology: here is my quick reply. It won’t.

Alien continuity is shaky as it is. The prequel Prometheus does not lock into the four Alien movies, Ridely Scott made it clear in interviews it was not meant to and that it would continue in its own direction and diverge from the Alien movies.

Which raised the next question; will we see a Prometheus sequel. Hell no! There has been no official announcement but look at it this way: the first Prometheus movie underperformed. A sequel would be seen as sending good money after bad, and when a fan-favourite director like Blomkamp is willing to make a regular Alien movie then no one needs to make a Prometheus film; with the same investment they will make more money because the fans will flock to the name of the franchise and director.

We can see from the conceptual art that he is bouncing off of the James Cameron era, which will mean bringing back old characters, old enemies, and old situations: Sounds familiar? This is the same tack the other reboots are taking: Star Wars will bring back the old planets and old actors,  Terminator brings back the old actor and uses the old story as an armature for … well I hesitate to say “new ideas”, let’s just say “more stuff.” Never was the term “Back to the Future” more applicable (When will they be rebooting that?)

And pulls up the final implication.

So goes the end of an era. What era? The era of original Blomkamp movies. Three original Science Fiction movies he gave us, (OK Chappie is not out yet, but it is right on the horizon) films from his own imagination: no adaptations, let alone rehashes. That is over. Expect him to be a director for hire. It was fine when it lasted.

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.

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Grunting at the Screen (172)

14 Feb

The information age isn’t finished with us.

The first images for Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise are out.

http://io9.com/first-image-of-tom-hiddleston-in-j-g-ballards-high-ris-1684249226

I’m hearing rumours of an imminent release for a couple of genre features: The Rendlesham UFO Incident and Coherence.

The Rendlesham UFO Incident (AKA Hanger 10) is a low budget British feature based the true story of some apparent UFO sightings.

Three metal detector enthusiasts capture a UFO on camera, later they have a dangerous encounter with an actual alien. Sounds like more found footage to me.

We have no direct date for release but early reports put it in February.

Coherence has attracted lots of critical enthusiasm, none of which tells us anything about what it is about, apparently they do not want spoilers.

It opens the week in the UK, I still have no idea what it is about other than it involves quantum physics.

Takashi Miike is in line to adapt a feature version of the Manga, Terra Formars: the earth is overpopulated, a centuries-long project to terraform Mars has come to completion, but just as mankind is ready to colonise the newly habitable planet they face a revolt of the giant cockroaches they used to transform the world.

Sounds like fun.

More news as it emerges.

Alejandro Jodorowsky just can’t slow down he is following up his autobiographical feature of last year with a sequel; Endless Poetry. He’s looking to Kickstarter to raise funds.

For some months there have been rumours of a deal between Marvel Studios and Sony that would allow Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This has now been confirmed.

The parties are declined to say jut which Marvel Studios project Spider-Man will be deployed in but I am guessing Captain America: Civil War. And I will tell you why.

The whole thrust of the Civil War story line in the comics was the US government mandating all superheroes reveal their secret identities and register with them.

Guess what? In the Marvel Cinematic universe there are no secret identities; think of it: iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America. No secret identities. Maybe the Black Widow, but she already works for SHIELD (Or whatever has replaced it). However Spider-Man, has a secret identity.

Late Breaking News

It has been confirmed: Captain America: Civil War is the film to host Spider-Man.

Predestination, the adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies” comes out on disk in the US this week.

Ken “Black Hawk Down” Nolan is writing the screenplay to the comic book adaptation “The Activity” it is the story of the special forces intelligence unit (although I’m not sure just how much resemblance it will have to the actual unit since they are pitching them as the unit who “repair botched operations” Hmm.

David (Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible film, Spider-Man) Koepp is adapting the Canadian Science Fiction novel The Themis Files, by Sylvain Neuvel: parts of a giant metal being have been discovered in America, Dr Rose Franklin leads a project to gather and assemble what is apparently an alien artefact. When the project is leaked to the public there is an uproar; is she assembling mankind’s own doom?

Reviews for android drama Uncanny are beginning to emerge and the news is largely good.

The setup is remarkably like Ex Machina: a computer magnate has developed an artificially intelligent android and has invited a journalist to spend some time with it.

There is a tiny cast. About four of them, and three of them dominate the drama.

The locations are restricted so this is all about the acting and story.

In this narrative the journalist, Joy Andrews is caught in an emotional triangle between the androids inventor David Kressen, and Adam, the android itself.

Crumbs sounds indescribably weird. Let me see if I can try this: after the end of civilisation, mankind grubs about for scraps in the dry and dusty environment.

Oh yes, aliens have arrived. But they are not doing anything, their ship is just floating in the sky and rusting (hey! Isn’t that District 9?)

Gagano (human) grubs about the earth like everyone else but dreams of better things, a dream which might be realised when the ship starts coming to life. But to achieve his goals he must battle neo-Nazis, Horse-borne knights and Santa Claus. Yes, I said it.

No it makes no sense to me.

This film is actually finished, done, in the can, and picked up for distributions. No doubt (incredulous) reviews will soon start appearing.

Our concerns about Jupiter Ascending have been confirmed, it has opened in the US with a Box Office of £19m, which is low for a major motion picture.

This will hurt the reputation of the Wachowskis. Worse it underlines the continuing problem with Original Science Fiction features.

This year we are set for releases of; Age of Ultron, The Force Awakens, Genisys,

Fury Road, and Jurassic World. What unites this group is they are all sequels, and most of them are expected to do well.

In addition there will be; Fantastic Four and Agent 47; reboots of film projects gone by.

If these features do well the message will be clear: original features do badly and are not worth embarking on. And that will be tragic for all sorts of reasons.

All is not lost: there are a few original Science Fiction features set for release this year, and some of them may even do well. If they do, the light Science Fiction novelty may yet remain unquenched,

So why has original Science Fiction done so badly over the last few years? There have been some marketing mishaps: Both John Carter and Edge of Tomorrow suffered late name changes. Jupiter Ascending got snowpierced into this year and then under-marketed. You can’t hope to score big if you undersell the product.

Transcendence was interesting but could not grab the attention of the audience. It had a big budget but fall short in the spectacularity stakes.

Oblivion maybe had too many lush landscape shots and not enough drama.

Prometheus suffered from a problem of expectations; the audience expected an Alien film and got Ridley Scott’s riff on Kubrickean themes of human origin and alien godhood.

After Earth was just not very good.

Actually these all sound like excuses: they didn’t hit because they didn’t.

A prime factor in how badly Science Fiction films have done has been their spiralling budgets. Some films have taken in fair amounts but still failed to break even. It seems that they have to control their outgoings, concentrate on story and think about delivering a good experience now rather than building a franchise for later

I’m just saying.

Jupiter Ascending

Review

It’s rollicking fun, loud, busy, delirious.

You know the basic plot: Jupiter Jones cleans toilets all day, but suddenly finds herself almost murdered by a group of aliens. It’s OK because another alien saves her and tells her about her remarkable inheritance.

She is the reincarnation of a galactic magnate who owns big chunks or existence including the Earth.

Unfortunately she has relatives who alternately want to kill her or use her in their power games.

In execution the Wachowskis do not put a foot wrong, in editing, cinematography and performances this is a very smooth production.

To be honest the premise is absurd and the action scenes are (as you may expect from the Wachowskis,) cut so quickly they confusing and go on just a little longer than is comfortable.

But these are minor concerns. There is a refreshing lack of cynicism, irony or anything you might call a subtext; it is what it is; rags to riches with flying and explosions.

It is beautifully shot; half the film consists of the kind of vistas more commonly found on Science Fiction book covers.

The action is more than reminiscent of old-school platform games.

It is also another joyous paean to the Wachowskis cinematic collection. The music is reminiscent of The Phantom Menace, there are echoes of Star Wars, Brazil, Blade Runner and a moment from Ghost in the Shell but the prevailing feel is that of the Fifth Element. It has that light-hearted science-fantasy air.

It is not about plot or character or even story; it is almost pure kineticism.

I don’t want to deceive you, it is a good film not a great one. It has themes of wealth and exploitation and personal fulfilment but it does not dwell long enough on them for them to get a grip.

A lot of people were turned off and did not go to see this film, but it is all a matter of managing expectations, don’t expect profundity (or even much sense) switch off your brain and prepare to be entertained.

And if you’re not. Huh. More for me.

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 (171)

7 Feb

The information age isn’t finished with us.

We are hearing that Elle Fanning and Diego Luna have been cast in IO, a post -holocaust set adventure to be directed by Clay Jeter.

Will Basanta, Charles Spano and Jeter wrote the screenplay.

Fanning plays one of the last survivors trying to find a cure for the dying earth.

Here is something, a film from Kris Renkewitz, Untot; Lt. Fredrick Hank takes a special unit behind lines in WWII Poland to raid a Nazi facility but they find more than expected. By the way “Untot” means Undead. Oh!

Kris Renkewitz used to be a director/producer in the videogame scene (he made the Tomb Raider, Ghostbusters and 007: Tomorrow Never Dies games.)

Hayden Christensen is to star. No word of start date.

Just sold at the Berlin Film Festival: Operation Avalanche. It is a bit of a mystery, it explores the involvement of the CIA in the US Space programme in the 1960s.

Director is Matt Johnson.

Now, we have already said this is the year of the robot, but it has just been pointed out to me that this is also the year of the spy:

Kingsman

Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Spectre

Spooks: The Greater Good

and even the comedy, Spy.

It will be a big year for the spy genre.

February sees a flood of straight-to-disk science fiction, we are drowning in supermarket product

Ejecta

(I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this…)

William Cassidy has been plagued with missing memories, hallucinations, and strange visions. It appeared he has been the subject of multiple encounters with alien visitors. Cassidy is kidnapped and interrogated by a strange militant sect and over the course of several sessions it is revealed what plans the aliens have for us.

Reviews suggest this one is actually pretty good

Starship Rising

John Worthy is made captain of the federations flagship; Starship One. But when he is commanded to destroy the Earth, he goes rogue.

I’ve looked this film up, it’s amateur. Made by a bunch of enthusiasts and apparently rough on all levels: writing, storytelling, acting.. except one; the digital FX are fine.

Alien Abduction

This one is a found-footage movie. Inspired” by a true story. the Morris family are camping in the Brown Mountains when they see mysterious lights in the sky, it is not long before half of them are sucked up into the sky by UFOs while they rest run for cover in the usual cabin on the woods.

Reviews suggest this one is pretty ordinary.

Sniper Elite

The cover of this one looks like a video game adaptation, which is funny, because it is.

A sniper from the World defence force has too survive against an armada of alien Cerullian solders.

Kevin Sorbo is starring. This disk appears to be a repackaged version of an earlier film called “One Shot”.

Official reviews are lacking, customer reviews largely negative.

One thing these disks have in common is they have no extra features. Not one.

Before Image Comics managed to sell a single copy of Descender, from Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, it has been optioned for a feature film.

The way it sits it sounds like an amalgam of Blade Runner and Star Wars;

anything with an artificial brain has been targeted for termination. On a far outpost a robot called TIM-21 has attained self-awareness, it knows bounty hunters are after it and it joins up with a rag-tag band to find somewhere where they can be safe.

The Studio is Sony, producer is Josh Bratman, it is still early days so there’s no word on script, director or any dates as of yet.

Project Almanac’s reviews have been mixed. But the verdict of the Box office has been crystal clear, it opened third in the US Box Office with a disappointing haul of $8.5 million. (This will be no Chronicle).

In retrospect it is not surprising; there were name changes and a big delay in the release and finally it was shoved out in winter.

Jupiter Ascending. Reviews are in. They are not the most positive, although most agree it is a fun ride, they largely admit it does not make a lot of sense. Despite messages to the contrary it does appear that the studio is giving it less of a push than would be expected on a film of this scale. In industry terms it looks like this film is being dumped in the quiet part of the year.

It bodes ill for the Wachowskis who have not had a hit in a while, and just as ill for us; it is rumoured that their next project will be a return to the guaranteed success of the Matrix universe. (Although the Wachowskis themselves deny it.)

The other opening feature held over from last year is Seventh Son. A fantasy about a witch, a witchhunter and his apprentice. Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore star.

Reviews are in and the news is not good. They say the story is poor, the characters undermotivated, Jeff Bridges phones his performance in but there are some good FX. Who knows… they could be wrong..

Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Review

I read the graphic novel, and it was good fun.

However the story has had a good working over from the screenwriter, Jane Goldman and she has refined it at every turn.

She really has shown her quality since Kick Ass and shown a facility with story not unlike Marco Pierre White’s artistry in the Kitchen; she has taken all of the original elements of the comic, tossed out some, enhanced others and re-ordered them to make it most cinematic.

The basic story is the same; neer-do well teenager Eggsey who encounters Gentleman spy Harry and gets chance to break out of his council estate life, become a super-spy himself and take on a villain who plans to annihilate most of the world’s population.

Director Matthew Vaughn has been around the block, and he shows his skill with cinematography and pacing. It looks great and it does not sag, Colin Firth works against type to provide class and sudden violence while newcomer Taron Egerton is cheeky, charming and sweet.

The set pieces are spectacular, on in particular: the fight in the church (original to the movie) is particularly well executed, if munch bloodier than the audience may be used to.

It has an updated “spy-fi” style; guns planes and gadgets, with a couple of twists but not consciously undermining the tropes.

I must be honest, there are no ideas here, but there is a theme: class war (not obviously highlighted in the original comic). However it is not heavily explored or even particularly coherent. It does not need to be, the plot is solid enough.

So, aside from a strange joke involving a Danish princess’ bottom (which seems to belong to another film) I have no trouble in thoroughly recommending this, it is better than expected.

Trailers

Jupiter Ascending, amazing, trending towards the most beautifully designed film of the year.

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