Archive | May, 2015

Grunting at the Screen (180)

30 May

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Ex Machina, which had a theatrical release in January is now out on disk. If you have not seen it then it is well worth a look.

First Reviews of Tomorrowland have emerged. It is not entirely sure if we have a verdict. The reviews are mixed, but they agree there is something unsatisfying in the story. However the majority opinion is that it is not bad a quite watchable.

One theme emerging is that this is, very deliberately, a positive vision of the future. Among the dystopias and post holocaust visions this one throws a ray of light on Tomorrow.

However Tomorrowland has gone on to a less than stellar box-office performance. It opened in the US at $41.7 million, which was better than that of John Carter but still less than its budget required.

This performance underlines the ongoing problem Disney has with original science fiction (OSF) features and what is more the struggle OSF has in general.

Straight to disk SF is really coming into its own, among the latest releases Battle for SkyArk, a low budget Young Adult offering. In the future mankind has been forced to live on an orbiting ark, the earth below is left to the cannibals and monsters. I’ve seen some reviews and the news is not good: bad acting, unfocused writing, disastrous pacing, ropy CGI (actually they liked the CG, but I’ve seen it and its below Videogame level.)

More proof positive that Hollywood executives are not the only ones who can’t read. TV executives can’t read either.

Now I have a lot of respect for comic fans, I’m one myself. But some people can’t read a script and will only see a story once it appears in drawn panels.

Case in point. George Romero has been trying to get a project off the ground for years.

He turned one of his ideas into a comic called Empire of the Dead, and guess what? Demarest, The TV company who bought Tusk now want to buy it. Can’t read.

George Romero will write it and Peter Grunwald will produce.

Usually I do not get involved in the flame wars but something happened recently, and I’d like to have my say.

Simon Pegg’s, star of Shaun of the Dead, Paul, and….ah Star Trek 2, has been quoted as saying “Science Fiction infantilises Culture.” . Which is interesting.

The problem is he is wrong, and in fact he is more wrong at this time than he could ever have been.

Without a doubt there is a lot of infantile science fiction media (and I am sure he is referring only to SF Movies and TV here) There are a lot of sequels and reboots and comic adaptations, even adaptations of toys, Theme-park rides and Video-games which are running right at this moment.

And they are very popular.

There might be a basis on which to argue a case based on this. If this was all there was.

But it isn’t.

After I read a report on Simon Pegg’s comments, read another of a film called Advantageous. It is directed by Jennifer Phang and will be shortly making its first run on Netflicks: A woman must undergo a body swapping procedure necessary for her job, she has to ensure a future for her daughter. This film addresses all of Pegg’s concerns; it is thoughtful, philosophical, emotionally resonant. It is an adult’s movie.

Now it would be one thing if this was an anomaly, if this film popped up in the midst of nothing but giant robots, space captains and galactic knights. But it isn’t.

Over the past five to ten years there has been more serious, adult science fiction in film than the previous thirty years.

It is a “thing”. Really.


Another World

I Origins




Ex Machina

And we have not even started on the apocalyptic films. The growth in serious cinema about the end of our culture has been greater here than anywhere else.

Z for Zachariah

These Final Hours

Les Derniers Jours du Monde

4.44 Last Day on Earth

Take Shelter

After The Dark

The Last Days of the World,

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Beasts of the Southern Wild

But what of it. These films are not breaking the box office.

Well that is because the audience chooses fifty year old space captain franchises, UFO comedies and giant animated toys. It isn’t Science Fiction that has infantilised culture, it is culture that has infantilised the Science Fiction film. It can’t succeed for trying. This years the Wachowskis tried to release a film that was both entertaining and had some themes. They crashed and burned. Serious SF film Snowpierceer was shuffled onto disk before it could have an impact at the box office (despite being a big hit in Asia and Europe).

What is happening is that the audiences are choosing infantile features. They have a choice, they have made it.

No point in blaming Science fiction for that. Might as well blame candy for being sweet.

So, if you are a Science Fiction fan and you get uncomfortable about standing in line next to someone in cosplay for the revival of a reboot of a fifty year old TV show. Leave the line, get onto Netflix or Amazon (other steaming and retail organisations are also available), rent or buy yourself an inelegant SF movie, you will be able to find one released this very year. Just don’t blame the genre for infantilising you.

Mad Max: Fury Road


Who broke the World?

Yeah, who indeed? Imortan Joe has it all, up in his citadel with his War Boys and war wagons and weapons a water, yeah, the only water for miles, with Water and his women, the women he milks like moo cows, the women he breeds his pureblood sons from.

Nothing can touch Imortan.

Nothing except, Max, who bides his time while hanging in Imortan’s cellar as a bloodbag, nothing except his Imperator, Furioso who has plan of her own.

And so it goes with Furioso screaming across the desert in a wartruck packed with Imortan’s breeder women and Joe himself roaring after her belching fire and trailing the trucks of the Bullet Farmers and the Gas Town boys.

What is this thing? It is rage and fear and bone and metal and blood and milk and so very, very fine.

An experience you will never forget and be glad to survive.

I live, I die I live again.

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 (179)

18 May

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Mark Millar’s Kingsman comic never had a sequel. Which is a slight inconvenience because the movie has been greenlit for a followup.

So rejoice, Eggsy gets to molest someone else’s poor bottom.

No details as of yet, but the screenwriters will have to be making it up themselves from here.

Sad how the mighty have fallen, Jon Spaihts, who started so well writing scripts for Prometheus, the still unmade Passengers, World War Robot and science fiction projects too numerous to list is now working on the reboot of Vincenzo Natali’s nineties movie Cube…. no wait! That is not all he is doing.

In amongst the other news I discovered something far more interesting.

Jon Spaihts’ other project: The Forever War. This adaptation of Joe Haldeman’s award winning novel has been kicking around for more than a decade.

It has been optioned and re-optioned. Its last incarnation had been a project for Ridley Scott.

It is now out of Scott’s hands now and they are talking cast. Channing Tatum is attached to it, Roy Lee is producing and it was the subject of a bidding war between Sony, Warner Bros., and one more undisclosed studio (which Warner Bros. won.)

With this kind of heat it looks more likely to than ever to be made.

Which opens another segment of;

What’s Ridley Not Doing?

Over the past few months a number of high profile projects have passed out of Ridley Scott’s hands. I am not surprised, he is overloaded and there are other considerations.

The Blade Runner sequel and The Forever War have gone to other directors while progress on the Prometheus sequel has ground to a halt.

This is in a wake of a bushel of SF films from his production company, Scott Free, stuck in development hell: Wool, Brave New World, Equals, Tranquility Base, Archangels, and Ion.

I am not hugely surprised, Ridley Scott is no big fan of science fiction (despite being so good at it.) His current film, The Martian, is as much hard science fact as fiction. I would not be surprised (in the wake of Neill Blomkamp’s Alien reboot) to hear Promethius 2 has been allowed to quietly die.

Opening this month A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the best ever black & white Iranian vampire movie.

Set in a fictional Iranian town plagued by a vampire who preys only on the most depraved.

Opens 22 May

This week’s straight to DVD offering is 10,000 Days directed by Eric Small set 27 years after a comet strike plunged the world into a global winter. Two ruling families fight it out.

This was originally a set of webisodes. Reviews suggests it’s a romantic drama set against the ice-age holocaust.

Also out this week Wyrmwood, the one they are describing as “Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead”. I have seen the DVD cover and it is chock full of extra features (how did that happen?)

I am delighted to tell you that Automata has now been released on DVD (it even has extra features… not many, but some). It has had mixed reviews, but I’m curious to see what it’s like.

Mad Max: Fury Road is bearing down on us.

There have been a lot of good noises coming out of the blogosphere on this, although reviews have not appeared yet.

We’ve seen the trailers and they seem to be as advertised: Fury Road is built around an epic car chase in the desert.

I see nothing wrong here.


It is a sequel of a thirty-six year old series, and this is hardly 1989.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for reviews, if this is the kind of thing you like.

Mad Max: Fury Road opens 15th May.

Terminator? Star Wars? Mad Max? What is it this year? Are we mired in the 80’s?

I guess what I am asking is when did the future become part of the nostalgia industry?

First reviews of Mad Max: Fury Road, are coming through and the word is good. Worryingly so. In fact I haven’t found a negative review yet.

They say it is an action film with soul, it has thrills, story and characters, and it justifies the 25 year wait since the last one.

We reported on Terra Formars back in Grunting (172).

Takashi Miike is directing the live-action version but I had a peek at the original manga and you know… it’s bugf*** (pun intended).

A group of explorers from earth have come to mars to check on the terraforming project, what they find is the cockroaches introduced to the planet build a biosphere have become eight foot tall homicidal cavemen. So fare so good (!) But the astronauts are not without resources, they have been genetically enhanced with insect powers, so it is a big time giant bug beatdown.

We have no idea, just how much of the manga will be retained, but this one promises to be completely out of its tree.

We mentioned part one of the Japanese manga adaptation Parasyte back in Grunt (166), well part two has been released in Japan and the news… well there is just one review but it suggests there is a structural problem with the whole thing.

According to the review the first part is all set up and no action and the second part is all action and not enough narrative. They are concerned that there is a crucially missing middle in the story line.

We will be looking out for additional reviews.

Meanwhile I have absolutely no pleasure in reporting that Shane Black is off the US Death Note adaptation and Adam Wingard is on.

Wingard is a horror director responsible for the innovative features Pop Skull and You’re Next. (even though I haven’t seen them).

There is still no word on shooting or release dates. So that is something

Dwayne Johnson has signed on for a “sci fi action-Comedy” called Alpha Squad Seven, Jeremiah Friedman and Nick Palmer are writing, and Dreamworks is the studio. It is set in space, otherwise we have no details.

Over the years we have reported on a lot of projects that didn’t make it to first base. So we are happy to announce that Luke Scott’s science fiction project, Morgan, -Grunting at the Screen (175)- has commenced principal photography in Northern Ireland.

Kate Mara has been cast in the lead.

Now this is embarrassing. I found this in the pages of SFX magazine, it is rare that the print media get ahead of the big blogs. But what the heck, it’s Australian.

What is more, it started as a short film (!)

Sorry? I’m talking about Blue World Order, a feature directed by Che Baker and Dallas Bland: civilisation has be destroyed by a massive electro-magnetic pulse… and a virus (er… isn’t that a bit of an overkill?) One mad has remained immune to the virus, and his daughter is the last child on earth.

The directors promise “spinning kicks and laser battles”. I do hope they are kidding, but I fear they are not.

Each generation gets the cinema it deserves.

So I cannot imagine what this age has done, because it’s really getting laid into.

What do I mean? Vampires on a plane? Yeah. Blood Red Sky directed by Peter Thorwarth, they are describing it as “Die Hard on a plane with vampires “. All is not lost yet because it only exist as a concept reel. It hasn’t got funding yet but if it does…

So that is just one thing. Try this. Werewolves On A Train. I wish I was kidding, you wish I was kidding but there it is. Howl from Paul Hyett; The commuter train has been delayed by an obstruction on the track, while waiting werewolves board (work with me here).

The train gets moving, all hell breaks loose.

This one is heading for a British release later this year.

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.