Archive | August, 2015

Grunting at the Screen (186)

29 Aug

The information age isn’t finished with us.

I just discovered Pod a science-fiction horror feature directed by Mickey Keating. It had its debut at SXSW and reviews have compared it to The X-Files. The scenario follows one disturbed man who is keeping something down in his basement. I’m guessing it’s something extra-terrestrial.

Reviews are coming in for Air; the post-holocaust feature produced by Robert (Walking Dead) Kirkman.

It seems to be another malfunctioning-hibernation pod drama: Two caretakers of a survival bunker, the sleep tank of one malefactions and he is awoken at the same time as his companion. Problem is there is only two hours’ worth of oxygen in the whole facility. A cat-and-mouse game ensures.

The verdict is mixed. It appears to be competently directed but it is said to be threadbare in the plot department, and it’s suggested there is nothing new here.

Since Shane Abbess went back to Australia and got back in the game he has been unstoppable. Hot on the heels of Infini comes his latest feature; SFv1. A drifter and a Private Military Contractor team up to rescue the contractor’s daughter. Only thing, this is on an alien colony in the far future. Kind of like Commando SF style.

Kellan Lutz and Daniel MacPherson will star and principle photography is already underway.

Attack on Titan live action has scored a US release: It’s in two parts;

Part 1 drops on September 30, Part 2 is hot on its heels on October 20.

And here is a trailer for Part 2; enjoy.

Word has been bubbling under for months that the Chinese were entering the Science Fiction business.

At last we have some solid news.

Principal photography has completed on Three-Body Problem, an adaptation of Liu Cixin’s popular novel; a tale of contract and conflict between earth and a civilisation from a three-sun solar-system.

It is directed by Zhang Panpan and looking at a release in July 2016.

Rumour has it that there are ten more Chinese features to follow it.

The alien invasion sequel Beyond Skyline has a US opening date. December 11, 2015. Skyline was one of the odder little films of 2011, it ended so strangely that I was eager and intrigued with the idea of a follow-up. So I’m hoping for a British release.

Mamoru Oshii’s Garm Wars: the Last Druid is coming to the US.

It is live-action and Oshii’s English language debut.

The plot, let me see if I can get this right: an alien planet, three tribes in eternal war, a ramshackle band of heroes (including the last druid of the title), a quest for the secrets of existence.

There is way more to it than that, but I’m not getting into it.

The visuals will likely be very cool, the story will be a head scratcher. It is being released into theatres and VOD on October 2.

Look out for North, a post-holocaust thriller directed by Matthew Ogens; three teenagers venture out into the blasted wastelands. Yes, that is all I’ve got.

It is being shot, as all post-holocaust features should be, in Detroit.

We’ve heard suggestions that Greek classic, The Odyssey might be due for a remake but they have come to nothing up till now.

Most of them surrounded the Warner Bros. attempt to get it going, but this new development comes from Lionsgate; Francis “Mockingjay” Lawrence is pencilled in as director and there are suggestions that major stars are attached.

No date has been attached for principle production.

Meanwhile the eye of Hollywood has drifted to the Norse pantheon.

20th Century Fox has just closed the deal on Fall of Gods, an illustrated novel by Rasmus Bergreen, Jan Ditlev Christensen and writer Michael Vogt based on Scandinavian mythology.

The scenario starts after the fall of the Gods when men would make themselves as powerful as the Asgardians themselves, there are a few obstacles, the Jotnar giants and the unexpected return of the gods.

Progress on the project is rapid: Fox have already hired director Wes “The Maze Runner” Ball to make it.

Again no shooting date yet.

It has been slow lately (for me at least) I was despairing that any new science fiction projects would appear.

But they have started popping up in force.

First up is news that Anne Hathaway has signed up for science fiction comedy called The Shower.

This one has been on the black list: that list of hottest unproduced screenplays.

To tell the truth the summary is not encouraging: an alien shower turns men into bloodthirsty monsters forcing the women to defend the world.

But I’m sure there is more to it than that.

Next up is an untitled science fiction vehicle for Robert Pattinson with director Claire Denis. Script is by White Teeth author Zadie Smith.

Details are sparse but we are told it is set in a distant future, beyond the solar system with Pattinson playing an astronaut.

Personally we are aware of these untitled movies, they mostly remain unmade.

And we also got news of Swedish science fiction feature, Origin.

Written and directed by Andreas Climent and André Hedetoft, it tells of three scientists who discover the secret of immortality in the ‘flu virus. But of course it has consequences.

It is in post-production now and will start wending though the festival circuit in 2016.

Sam Worthington has basically done nothing since Avatar (Terminator: Salvation? I know of no such movie!) Well this is about to change.

He has signed on for The Titan, a science fiction feature.

The scenario is kind of vague “a military family that’s relocated to take part in a ground-breaking experiment about genetic evolution in space.” Which could take us anywhere from “The Thing” to “Starship Troopers” (Or Prometheus… I’m just saying…)

Script is by Max Hurwitz and Lennart Ruff is to direct.

It is set to shoot in January 2016

What is Ridley Doing?

Prometheus 2 apparently. It seems Total Film delivered a scoop after all. It has been confirmed that Ridley Scott will be making it his next project. (And incidentally he confirmed that he was looking for Prometheus 2 locations back when he’d been scouting in Australia and being very mysterious).

In Empire magazine he repeated that he would be shooting the sequel in early 2016.

I am, to say the least, surprised. Scott has done back to back science fiction projects in a while (Stand by for the marketing machine of The Martian to kick in with the cry of “It’s not Science Fiction”.)

I for one am cautiously optimistic. Unlike a lot of bloggers I actually paid attention to Prometheus’ pre-release publicity so I knew it was not going to be an Alien prequel, more importantly I knew the plan from the beginning was to separate the story into two parts: Prometheus and Paradise (I doubt the earlier title will remain.) So I knew there would be unanswered questions. I only hope Ridley and his new writer Michael Green have remembered to bring some of the more puzzling themes to a conclusion in the sequel.

The rest of the internet seem more concerned that Prometheus 2 will delay Neill Blomkamp’s Alien: Freeze Dried and Reconstituted (or something). With greatest respect I’d like to remind them that Blomkamp released a film this year. Its name was Chappie and they didn’t go to see it.

Let me ask them, what makes them sure they will want to see another Blomkamp film, just because it has the Alien brand on it? Branding didn’t work for Terminator: Genysis, for the reboot of the Thing, for the Total Recall travesty or RoboCop.

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 (185)

15 Aug

The information age isn’t finished with us.


The Metal Hurlant TV series is now available on disk in the UK. Reviews have been less than generous.

We haven’t made much of Pixels. Well, it has Adam Sandler…

reviews are coming in for it… and the word is pretty much as expected (hey if you want to bankroll a hundred million dollar movie, cast the guy voted both worst actor and worst actress in the same year)

What’s the problem? They say Sandler sleep-walks through the film, and the script is not great. The co-stars are good, but Sandler sucks the energy from the room if he’s in a scene with them.

Pixels, was the rare example of a feature that made into from short to feature and the original short film was good.

What’s Ridley Doing?

He’s doing The Cartel and I’m good with that. The Cartel is the newest novel by Don Winslow; it is also the sequel to his celebrated novel Power of the Dog.

I haven’t read The Cartel yet, but if it is as good as Power of the Dog it will be one crazy ride.

Winslow has researched the history of the Mexican drug cartels and recounted it in the most compulsive astonishing way. If Scott can capture just how shocking it is he will make a definitive film about the War on Drugs.

Now I am good with this, as I have said before, Ridley Scott has never been a huge fan of science fiction (despite his towering achievements) so I’m easy if he’s not making any of the half dozen SF scripts on his back-burner: IF he makes a good movie out of this.

I am hearing from Total Film that that Ridley Scott will start filming “Prometheus 2” in January 2016.

I had a look but could not confirm it. Then the Blogosphere picked it up and ran with it. But so far they are all quoting the Total Film interview; there has been no independent confirmation.

I am content to wait for studio confirmation; there are a lot of wild rumours in the movie world.

Besides I know Ridley has a ton of other projects to pursue, including his latest one: The Cartel

It appears to be Don Winslow’s year. Following on from the option on The Cartel comes another acquisition. The Winter of Frankie Machine. I’m a bit of a Winslow fan and I’ve read this: Frankie Machine is an old school California mobster, almost retired, he runs a bait shop.

But the fears and ambitions of younger mobsters stir him back into action and remind them why he is called “Frankie Machine”

This acquisition is particularly prestigious because the director is to be William Friedkin: a cinematic legend. So far no studio is attached but we are hopeful about this.

Yo, another body swap movie, and this one snuck up on us: Restoration from director Stuart Willis: in a world where people back up their memories, a man wakes up with all of his memories, but in a strange body.

It is in post-production, and can expect a release in early 2016.

So what if Superman was a douche-bag that just had to be stopped? Him and his entire legion of super douche-bags? Something like this is the premise of Brandon Sanderson’s novel Steelheart: the world has been gifted with superpowers, but the people who inherit them are a-holes to a man: with great power comes great tyranny and chaos.

Wading into the fray are the Reckoners; ordinary humans who aim to stop these “Epics” as they are called, stop them and kill them.

It’s a fast moving, fun book, I’ve read it.

Steelheart has now been optioned for a feature by 20th Century Fox and they have pencilled in are Shawn Levy, to direct and Carter Blanchard to write the script.

The wave of anime-to-live-action films continues with Naruto: FX expert Michael Gracey is to make it his directorial debut.

Meanwhile it seemed they were series about Terra Formars. There has been rapid progress and Takashi Miike has unveiled a teaser trailer.

Hmme, feels like we are going down the SF Horror suspense route.

Here is something; UK director Hasraf Haz Dulull, whose short film “Sync” graces Grunting (110) is making a feature film.

It is called Origin Unknown; mission controller Mack investigates a mysterious objects spotted on Mars. He soon finds there is more to it than it previously seemed. Cool.

“Sync” was pretty cool, so I expect a visually exciting feature… He is confidently predicting a release in April 2016.

Check the poster and concept trailer.

We haven’t mentioned Fantastic Four much. There’s a good reason for that. It is a reboot and not long after the last iteration either.

I can’t help thinking the money, time and talent devoted to it could have better been used one something fresh, or at least fresher.

That said, the reviews are out, and the verdict is horrendous.

Just what the problem is quite difficult to discern because just about every aspect of the film has been criticised. However it appears the structure is uneven, the characters unconvincing and the film makers make the fatal mistake of trudging through yet another origin story.

On the positive side the action filled climax has drawn some praise.

Interpreting all of this, I get the impression that the project was hastily prepared and ill thought out. It appears this feature was only the preparation for a sequel which seemed increasingly unlikely to appear.

There were early predictions of a healthy box office. And big budget films have proved immune to the critics of late. However Fantastic Four opened to a disappointing $26.2m.

Usually this would signal the premature death of the franchise; however against expectations 20th Century Fox say they are ready to go for a follow-up.

Harbinger Down has been attracting a lot of attention. This is down to a number of factors:

1) It is by director Alec Gillis and producer Tom Woodruff Jr.; the bosses of Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. and FX experts responsible for creature FX in the Alien Sequels from Aliens to Alien 5.

And a whole lot of other films you will recognise.

2) It was partially paid for by Kickstarter.

3) It came sporting its colours as an old school prosthetic FX feature.

Reviews are now coming out, the verdict is mixed.

The good news is that the critics agree this is a pacy entertaining feature. The bad news is no-one is accusing Gillis of being a great director, or screenwriter.

The performances and characterisations are not praised.

The story is familiar to fans of 1980s SF/horror: a team of scientists recover debris of a Russian spacecraft; however it has brought back the results of radical biological experiments. You can guess the bio specimens except and cause havoc.

The camera work is the whip-panned and fast-cut variety that characterises much SF and action cinema.

The prosthetic FX are good. However, it appears a substantial amount of CG has snuck into the production.

Gary (“Straight Outta Compton”, “Friday”) Gray is “Heavily Researching” a Science-Fiction movie as his next project. This may mean something, it may mean nothing. So far we have no screenwriter, no cast, no studio, no title and no greenlight.

Like we say, it could mean anything.


The Marvel Method.

When you think of it, Marvel studios do not do things in the usual way.

Other studios hire the hot director. Marvel don’t.

Looking at the kind of films Marvel produces you could predict its director roster:

Michael Bay, Tony Scott, Stephen Spielberg,

Try none of the above.

A new ambitious studio might choose young hot directors from the worlds of the Music videos, advertising, even someone with an impressive short film portfolio.

Like Carl Rinsch, Joseph Kosinski, or Joseph Kahn.

They didn’t do that.

Marvel has chosen directors from the indie and television scene. Occasionally veteran directors not known for blockbusters.

Despite that they do not stint on the action (one day someone will have to explain that).

Marvel don’t do the casting thing either. Other studios hire the A List actor. And I am sure there is such a thing as the “A List”: which is to say a list of actors who can “open” a film (boost a film’s box office during that crucial opening weekend).

But look at who they actually hire: not stars but actors. Sometimes out of fashion actors, sometimes actors from television and weirdly enough character actors from other films.

Robert Downey Jr. was considered a has-been when Marvel cast him.

Chris Evans was in a totally different Marvel movie before he was Captain America.

Chris Hemsworth… what was he before Thor?

To be honest the most conservative piece of Marvel casting was Scarlett Johansson.

Lately Marvel seems to be hedging their bets by casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. Time will only tell whether this is an aberration of the shape of things to come.

Marvel don’t do things the same way with story. They privilege story over action and effects. They don’t court controversy but they don’t run from serious themes.

And they mix it up. They don’t have a story formula, they don’t do formula sequels. Lost Angeles convention says a sequel is just the same as the original except bigger and louder. Marvel don’t do that. Sure they get bigger and louder but they also continue the narrative, develop the characters and take things in never directions.

In a way, Marvel are like that other company, just that they don’t have an explicit company ethos “think different” blazoned across all of their corporate advertising.

Of course this is just this year. Marvel Studios is now owned by one of the oldest Hollywood Studios, and it is uncertain how long they can continue to doing it their own way before reaching the end of the leash. We have already seen signs of it with the Cumberbatch casting, and do any of you remember Tony Stark’s alcoholism? Because you won’t get a hint of it in the Post Disney era.

Marvel are acting differently now, but who knows, in a year or two they may be entrenched in formulas, repeating their greatest hits through rote sequels and ham-fisted reboots.

Time will tell.

There are things I was not going to mention because they are even more ridiculous than my level of tolerance.

Emojis are getting a movie. You know those little graphics you put in e-mails and messages because you never learned to express yourself concisely? Sony Pictures Animation are making it, Eric Siegel is writing the script, Tony Leonidis is pencilled in to direct.

I am going to avoid the obvious rant about What The F- are they doing making a film about an internet graphic and move on to why I am bothering to report it at all.

A few days after I am reading that Pez sweets are getting a movie; you know the chalky things that come in a flip top dispenser (Very cool, very collectable, but really, something to make a movie about?)

Envision Media Arts are making it. Cameron Fay will do the screenplay, No director yet.

I would shout “Why!” from the rooftops but you and I know why.

Hollywood have been making films based on Toys for years: Transformers, GI Joe, and Battleship. These are not adaptations because there is no narrative to adapt, no story; one has to be made of whole-cloth.

Then the Lego movie broke large. And now we are looking forward movies based on Minecraft.

You want to know why in a week we get the announcements for Emoji and Pez? It is because of market recognition: the film industry has stopped telling stories and started selling strips of DV with Trademarks labelled on them (Expect the Gucci and D&G movies soon, why not? They have labels too.)

I had hoped to ignore this, but now it is a phenomena and I can only endure it.

Chappie has come and gone to little effect. However Japanese artists have lined up to pay homage to it.

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.