Archive | July, 2015

Grunting at the Screen (184)

25 Jul

The information age isn’t finished with us.

I need to do cyberpunk specials more often; in every one I should say “there is no news today”. It seems every time I do this, we get some news.

This time it is news about Duncan Jones’ long gestating project, Mute.

He is on the verge of finishing World of Warcraft, however it will not be released until 2016.

He thinks he can squeeze in another production in that time, and he wants that production to be Mute.

Whether he can raise the financing, that is another thing.

Mistakes I think the Blade Runner sequel will make.

I’ve been watching the Blade Runner workprint (amazing quality, set design, cinematography). I got to thinking; how will the sequel attempt to rise to the challenge of following up this classic.

I think they will try to emulate the production design and cinematography… and I think that would be a mistake.

First of all even Ridley Scott never tried to repeat the distinctive look. Second because we can do so much more.

Blade Runner was mostly studio based, and it looks like it, even in the so called exterior shots. Looking at the cinematography established in say films like Neill Blomkamp or Spielberg’s Minority Report, it is plain that current cinematography can look very natural, even while adding copious effects.

Second I suspect they will attempt to match the remarkable production design. I doubt this is even possible, the original Blade Runner comes from the tail end of an era of production design, art direction and props. Ridley Scott pushed these disciplines to the endpoint, providing a density of visual information so intense at to be insistent of the film’s reality.

I doubt there is the talent of money to do this again: this is the era of CGI and bluescreen.

Perhaps in a country where the talent is there and the labour is cheap it I possible… maybe China.

One mistake I don’t think the sequel will make: Pace. There is no chance of the sequel moving at the gentle 1984 pace.

How did I miss this one?

William Gibson is working on a comic called Archangel. It is a time travel story taking place in the last days of WWII and an alternate present.

Publisher is IDW and artist is Butch Guice. Look for it in 2016.

Now, what has this to do with movies?

Before Archangel was a comic, it was to be a film project with actor Michael St. John Smith.

This actor is a screenwriting teacher in L.A. He was co-writing the screenplay for Archangel with William Gibson, and the project was, for a time lodged at Red Cedar Films Inc. (A company right in Gibson’s native Vancouver).

Apparently the project fell though and now they are going for the Comic book option (a brilliant move because, as I mentioned before, film executives can’t read.)

Reviews of Self/Less are out and the verdict is… curious. Well Tarsem Singh has cured himself of his addiction to elaborate imagery, the visuals are competent but not as eye popping as previous films. However his facility with storytelling is no better than before.

Apparently the feature has a great premise which is not exploited at all.

One sequel I always have time for is Resident Evil. Any Resident Evil. The first one was under rated and quite good, subsequently they have become more and more absurd, but you know, they have a sense of their own absurdity and I’m willing to just go with it.

After a hiatus, they are on again for just one last entry. Milla Jovovich is back and is filming with husband, the director Paul W.S. Anderson in South Africa for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

Since Heavy Metal was bought by David Boxenbaum and Jeff Krelitz they have been looking around for film and television projects. Their latest acquisition has been the comic Roche Limit by Michael Moreci. It is a mystery with horror elements set on a space station descended into anarchy.

Seth Sherwood is writing the screenplay.

Since the demise of Tomorrowland I have been gloomily predicting a world without original science fiction film, but it seems people are still willing to lose their shirts on futuristic flicks. Case in point ,  The Dark Side, a new feature film project adapted from Anthony O’Neil’s eBook; an android goes berserk on the moon, a detective is set to stop it. OK, not the most the engaging material but who knows, it might be goof. Besides, it is set in a space prison.

Twentieth Century Fox have optioned it. Screenplay is to be by Javier Gullon.

Ant-Man opened to solid, if unspectacular business, because its budget was lower than Age of Ultron, it will easily earn back its cash and there will be sequels.



Let’s Get Small.

It is a thoroughly pleasant film. It moves along quickly enough, the characters are adequate, the story structure solid.

I had a good time.

Scott Lang has recently been released from prison, his ex-wife has remarried, he can’t keep a job but he needs a stable resident and lifestyle so he can have regular contact with his daughter.

He is determined to go straight but the lure of cash to finance that stable new life is too strong and he finds himself breaking into the home of a retired corporate CEO named Hank Pym. A mistake because Pym has a plan for Lang: he wants him to become Ant-Man.

This is not your usual Marvel Movie, it’s a heist, and it follows the beats of the heist. And there is no city wide destruction at the end, although there is a knock-down fight.

There are some provisos. If scientific accuracy is important to you then this is not the film for you. It violates the laws of physics and maths so often you may as well abandon all hope of credibility and go with the flow.

More seriously (No really, it’s a comic book movie) is the tone of the feature. It is funny, light-hearted and very much a family movie. Why is this a problem? It’s a film about a bunch of ex-cons pulling off a heist. Criminals here are portrayed as funny hapless and sweet. It there was any edge in this movie it was neatly filed off. And this worries me, ever since Tony Stark’s Alcoholism was mysteriously cured in Iron Man 3, I have noticed the creeping hand of Disney making everything marvel Touches child-safe, and that hand has new ceased creeping and is now swinging a rod. It bodes ill for the future.

Otherwise feel reassured, Ant-Man is inoffensively watchable. And don’t forget to stay ’till the end of the credits for a preview of a forthcoming Marvel feature.

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 (183)

11 Jul

The information age isn’t finished with us.

We haven’t said much about Terminator Genisys.

Coverage is ramping up ahead of its July release. The film makers seem to genuinely have wanted to make a good film, and they genuinely seem to think they have achieved it. I shall wait for the reviews, and still not go.

Why? Well I’ve seen the trailers and I am seeing a whole lot of what I’ve seen before, the film makers are not moving the story on, just grinding on the same stuff over again, on the expectation that the same thing the public wanted in the 80s and 90s they will want again. They might be right, but I am not the public.

Reviews of Terminator Genisys are out and the verdict is mixed/negative. In fact they say what I was afraid I’d hear: It is tired, outdated, and repeating what we’ve seen before only at a sluggish pace.

Another thing we’ve noticed is a lot of blogs have been trying to explain the complex time travel plot.

About a week back a friend of mine told me there is as new version of John Carpenters movie the Thing. (Less violence, some outtakes from shoot).

About the same time I read of an unseen version of Blade Runner (Not that unseen version, another one), it has some unused footage in it…

Here’s a link.

I got to thinking.

The information age is not finished with us, and it is certainly not finished with our art, any art that can be digitised (and that includes, pretty much any art) is effectively unfinished, because at any point it can be re-edited, remixed and re-released. All art is now provisional, a stage in its journey from conception to eventual obscurity. Completion is not an option: if the creator will not re-compile or re-think their vision, then a substitute can be brought in. Or a fan can remake it.

At any stage, after release to public, an artwork is affectively a collaboration between creator and audience, the creator brings their work, the audience brings their reaction and nuance, their experience; context.

But now that reaction can become concrete, something they can share (over the net, remember, the information age). Case in point: The Phantom Menace: The Phantom Edit. A version that excises Jar Jar Bincks: We have an artwork, a reaction and a nuance in downloadable form.

This is the digital version of the moustache on the Mona Lisa, write large, or rather write wide.

This is the future, expect more films to be subject to concrete critique in the form of versions telling the story the audience wanted to hear, or just thought could be told, or even were mean-spirited enough to express; a lot of it will come out of hatred as well as love. But one way or the, the future is yet unwritten, and will remain that way.

Now this is the reason we go to the less known blogs.

We saw a trailer for the Russian SF feature Mafia, a year and a half ago, from director Saric Andreassian, it looked pretty good back them and it looks even better now, there are sequences here worthy of Akira.

I am still not sure just what it is: Near Future noir? Dystopia? Who knows?

As Quiet Earth blog points out the Russians have a habit of producing genre films with great visuals but story lines a western audience cannot connect with (and not just western).

So there is no guarantee this will be good, just that it will have some great looking sequences.

It opens in January 2016.

On the heels of this is Monster Hunters, a fantasy from Hong Kong by director Ramen Hui. OK the CG is very obvious, but it is just so cute, it is like a Studio Gibli film made by and old school Wuxia director. I’d like to see this one.

And here the latest trailer for the live-action Attack on Titan. Bloody hell! I. Will. See. It.

DreamWorks is to adapt Michael Crichton’s novel Micro….Hme, don’t remember that one. Oh, his unpublished novel fragment. That should be … something. Ah, it was completed by Richard Preston and published 2011 (Still not remembering it….)

Let’s see , a bunch or young scientists get miniaturised and cast into the south American jungle: Oh I see, kind of Fantastic Voyage/Incredible Shrinking Man. (Far be in for me to say this one might have stayed in Crichton’s desk draw or trunk had he lived…)

Legendary film maker Frank Marshall is to produce.

Tom Hanks and Emma Watson will be starring in an adaptation of Dave Eggers novel “The Circle,” it’s about social media; surveillance and one company that has wrapped up the individual’s entire digital life.

Director is James Ponsoldt and principle photography begins in September.

Shut the front door. Luc Besson productions Lucy and Columbiana are both to get sequels. Surprising because Columbiana opened to an indifferent reception, a Lucy made a ton of money… but it was kind of final (Where to you go when the title character evolves beyond humanity, turns here self into pure essence and leaves the human race behind, and honest sequel would be two hours of psychedelia…) Even Besson thought it could not be followed up.

No details on either one.

I’m having misgivings about Harbinger Down. Oh shoot, I haven’t mentioned it before.

Basically it is an old school body horror feature directed by Alec Gillis (Who has done the FX on some of the most classic sf and horror movies including most of the alien movies.

It is partially crowd funded and stars Lance Henriksen. Its unique selling point is that it used traditional prosthetic FX. This is not as much of a credit as it might seem.

In the past two or three years digital FX have improved to the point that, at the highest level they are indistinguishable to in-camera FX.

I you are now doing a prosthetic FX film, it has to be something special.

Harbinger Down openly pays homage to films like The Thing and Alien.

Graff, a fishing boat captain, takes a bunch of student climatologists to the baring sea where they pull a frozen body out of the ice and thaw it out.

You can imagine mayhem ensures.

My misgivings come from the fact that one of the world’s top FX supervisors is making a film referencing one of the finest prosthetic FX features ever made c.f.: The Thing.

What I mean is that he should not go anywhere near this unless he is certain he can outdo Rob Botin. There is no real point to go over this theme unless you can make the audiences eyes pop.

And I am not sure anyone can do it.

Anyway, you will all find out soon; Harbinger Down will open in cinemas and on VOD August 7 for a short US run before it hits disk on September 1.

We heard about the science Fiction film Advantageous, but didn’t get excited about its premise. However it has been garnering some praise.

In the future more jobs have been eliminated, women have been driven out of the workplace, director is Jennifer Phang.

Gwen Koh works as the face of the Centre for Advanced Health and Living. However she is getting older and fears unemployment so she undergoes a risky experimental procedure. One that will take one consciousness and implant it in another one’s body.

It is now available on Netflix.

This is the latest in a run of Body swap features. We shall keep an eye on reviews to see if it is really as exceptional as rumoured.

Reviews for Shane Abbess’ Infinite are coming in. The verdict is mixed. It seems its greatest strength is its weakness: it certainly has authentic 1980s practical effects look to it, and even the negative ones praise the production design and cinematography. But they all compare it to classic films of the genre, and it suffers in comparison.

So if you want an old-school science fiction/horror, but accept there may not be much in the way of originality. Then this may be the one for you.]

It is a great pity that this year has already seen a ground-breaking feature on sentient robots because the first review for Uncanny is quite positive; it is described as clever, harrowing and efficiently directed. And the use of a male robot puts clear water between it and that other robot movie Ex Machina.

Coming out of nowhere is Astraea; this is the kind of film I have mentioned, a post-holocaust feature depending on character and performance more than action and special effects.

After a plague wipes out most of North America Astraea and her half-brother Matthew take a long trip from west coast USA to northern Canada. They encounter a survivor family along the way, and tensions ensue.

Directed by Kristjan Thor, and starring Nerea Duhart and Scotty Crowe, it has been completed but we have no release date as of yet.

I’ve just heard about Listening, a Science Fiction feature by Khalil Sullins: Two grad students develop mind-reading technology, of course they attract attention from these who want to abuse it.

The feature has been completed and it seems to be a low budget, independent production.

It has been compared to Primer and I Origin.

So far there is very little information on what kind of release if any, it is getting.

French director Claire Denis and British author Zadie Smith have teamed up to make an “untitled drama set in space. ” details are not forthcoming but they promise it will be original and innovative.

FrightFest 2015 has released its line-up.

Among the many films are:

Turbo Kid, the post holocaust tribute to eighties trash cinema.

JERUZALEM, the Israeli apocalyptic feature

and STUNG, the giant wasp movie

FrightFest opens 27 August

Self/less opens soon. Now we have not said much about this feature for one reason; it is directed by Tarsem Singh. This director is a major visualist, but I have seen a couple of his features and I don’t think he can carry a story.

Anyway. Selfless is the biggest budget of the current body-swap features.

Ryan Reynolds is a young and healthy man into which the dying billionaire, Ben Kingsley.

It opens on July 17th

Reviews for Eli Roth’s Knock Knock are overwhelmingly positive, it seems he has has matured (a little), he has re-invented the erotic thriller and he can make a film without gore.

Ant Man.

Marvel Studios is on a roll. It has delivered hit after hit. It is in the position Pixar was in a few years back. But the question is; is Ant Man a bridge too far?

There are some questions surrounding it, primarily the departure of its first director Edgar Wright.

And there is also the firmer, more corporate hand Disney have been taking with Marvel Studios, does “the little studio that could” still have a separate identity?

Despite the rabid attention of fans Ant Man is not a hugely well know character and, for the general audience the premise might by just a little too absurd.

The question is, can Marvel go big, by going small?

Avengers has opened huge. It is riding high and Marvel is riding with it. Anyone who had doubts about Marvel’s brand name pull should be thinking again.

I would bet good money that Ant Man will open big and make good bank, at least as much as Guardians of the Galaxy last year.

But one day a Marvel Movie will tank.

This is not a prediction it is a statement of fact, no film studio in history has had every movie hit it out of the park.

It will probably be part of a whole trend away from Superhero movies: the day when a Batman or Iron Man movie can make a billion and a half dollars will come to an end.

What will happen on that day?

At first glance it looks like a disaster, Marvel’s entire game is superheroes, and this can only lead to rapid decline.

Well probably, but not necessarily.

Before Marvel Comics was Marvel Comics it was Timely Comics… and they published everything: War comics, adventure comics, Westerns and even romances. Really.

And I am guessing that many of those characters and stories are still in the ownership of Marvel.

Even since then Marvel has done work outside of the superhero field: The ‘Nam ran for several years.

The death of the superhero movie could provide Marvel with an excuse to diversify and show it is a real studio.

And it could happen, they have always been the ones who do it differently and take risks. Who knows, we might get a WW2 Howling Commandos TV show…

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