Archive | October, 2015

Grunting at the Screen (191)

31 Oct

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Is anyone looking forward to Blade Runner 2 (OK, the director, the crew and the producers probably hope it will do well)? But is any of the audience looking forward to it?

All I am reading are hopes that they don’t screw it up.

Intuitively it is not franchise material: it didn’t come from a comic or Young Adult novel, or a toy. More tellingly it is not one of those films that made a ton of money on release. In fact it was accorded a financial failure. What is more is that it was not received well by the critics either. Of course it is now accorded as a classic, but the dual problem of critical and commercial rejection points to a basic problem: Blade Runner is not for everyone.

In a sense it was an art film filmed at blockbuster scale.

And who is to say this will not happen again?

This assumes that everything goes right at the production stage. The LA entertainment industry talk about “catching lightning in a bottle”; it is that feeling when you make a classic. You cannot program this, you cannot get it with focus groups and there is no formula. It just happens. With Blade Runner 2 have we “caught lightning in a bottle”? The director and cinematographer are well regarded, the script has been praised, but none of these things are guaranteed, the magic happens or it does not.

If Blade Runner 2 wraps and it is average, mediocre or just plain bad then it justifies the scepticism of the audience.

And if it is only good the audience is justified in asking why it was made if they were only shooting for “good”, this is the sequel to a classic.

It has to be extraordinary.

Who is rooting for this movie when it has so many points against it?

Of course it might surprise us, it might be fabulous and a box office smash.

We look for the successor to Blade Runner everywhere we never looked for it in a time travel movie but here we are with Synchronicity (Grunting 182). I saw a review on the Quiet Earth site that gives it the look of Ridley Scott and the sound of Vangelis.

That puts the expectations way up. The plotting is said to be (in true Time travel style) intricate, although it actually concentrates on characters.

I will wait for further reviews, but this seems like one to watch out for.

There is no distribution deal for it yet.

I don’t know how I missed word of the new Ghost in the Shell Move; conveniently called “Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie”

but I did.

We’ve taken a look and we can tell you a few things.

First of all it is a sequel the recent Ghost in the Shell series: Ghost in the Shell: Arise (now that is a proper title).

It is traditional animation style and not CG (apparently), and this kind of works for me.

The plot takes us to the usual territories: Major Motoko Kusanagi investigating another attempt to puppet people through their implanted technology.

I’ve seen the trailer and it looks pretty good.

It will have a limited US theatrical run on the 10, 11, & 16 November only.

I am hearing Serbian Cyberpunk Anime Technotise: Edit & I – Grunting at the Screen (141) – will get a release on DVD 9th November, this sounds too good to be true, so I am keeping a heads-up on that.

Well we have the answer to the question of whether Laeta Kalogridis’ script will be kept. Ghost in the Shell to be rewritten by Jonathan Herman. This also suggests that the film is still very much in development, it may be while before it appears.

We are glad to report that The Martian is heading towards Ridley Scott’s most successful US box office. Gladiator made $187 and it looks like The Martian will overhaul this, it even returned to the Number 1 position.

A script from the acclaimed Brit List has just be purchased: Gateway 6. On a war-torn earth, four solders man the outpost Gateway 6, the wait for relief or the enemy but what turns up is an abandoned boat. Is it salvation or something else?

Written by Malachi Smyth, it’s to star Rhys Ifans and Ed Skrein and be directed by Tanel Toom. It is shooting in in Estonia in early 2016.

We are also hearing about another British SF project; Aether.

Marc Munden (from TV’s Utopia) is pencilled in to direct. Screenplay is by Krysty Wilson-Cairns.

In the near future a technology has emerged to record sound waves hours after they were made’ the technology’s inventor finds himself at the centre of an information into a string of brutal murders.

No schedule yet.

Sandy Collora who made the independent SF movie Hunter/Prey a few years back, is raising money for another feature: Shallow Water.

An environmental horror movie about mankind abusing the environment.

It is based in an oceanic environment.

He is promising traditional prosthetic effects.

Sometimes it is good to be proved wrong. I said that Untitled Science Fiction features generally go nowhere, but it looks like the project lead by Claire Denis and written by Zadie Smith is getting real traction.

First of all it is being cast. Patricia Arquette and Robert Pattinson have been cast in the lead.

And now it has a title and the plot has been revealed.   The title is High Life, and the story is your basic Dirty Dozen in space: a group of criminals are given the chance to redeem themselves on a mission to find new energy sources.

To be honest, the plot does not send me but who knows what they will do with it?

Just got word of Higher Power, a feature film to be directed by Matthew Santoro with a script by Julia Fair. It is described as a “cross platform” project about a man who gains “he powers of a demi-god”. (Pretty vague) It is also described as “science fiction”.

So what are we talking about? Something like Limitless or Lucy? Who Knows?

Now Matthew Santoro, that name looks familiar.

Ah, here we are, he made a short film called “Offline” back in 2009. You can see it over at Grunt (110).

I do wish him the best, too few short film makers graduate to features.

And we are hearing about The Discovery, a love story set on a world where life after death has been “scientifically proven”.

Rooney Mara and Nicholas Hoult have been cast. Charlie McDowell is to direct. No schedule as of yet.

I didn’t mention the Dino-Riders project for many reasons: it is based on a toy, it was an 80’s animation and they aspire to be a Transformer type franchise… just not as edgy and adult.

Oh God. Any of these reasons would be reason to be worried. But in the long run… it’s about men riding artillery equipped dinosaurs!

Alissa Phillis and Stephen L’Heureux are the producers. I am hoping in between now and the point it shoots they relent and decide to make a kick-ass movie about guys riding artillery equipped dinosaurs

We’ve just heard, due to the delay of Alien 5, Neill Blomkamp will be moving onto other projects.

We could not be happier (Unless those other projects are sequels, remakes or reboots).

Of course we expect the rest of the blogosphere to be lamenting that they will have to wait a little longer for the rehashed Alien movie along with more Ripley, more hicks and of course more aliens.

We also expect fan rage will be taken out on Ridley Scott’s upcoming Alien: Paradise Lost which is responsible for the setback.

Meanwhile I look forward to Neill Blomkamp’s next original film.

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 (190)

17 Oct

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Turbokid is now out on DVD and it has some actual extra features (isn’t it interesting, if any disk has features it will be the cheap production).

UFO films seem to be making a comeback on Straight to Disk release. (The Phoenix Incident, Dominion,)The latest one being Area Q from Brazil.

Directed by Gerson Sanginitto and filmed in Brazil and the USA this one stars Isaiah Washington: an investigative reporter is sent to Brazil, Area Q, associated with UFO sightings. Here he discovers the story of his life.

Inanimate. Old-school is hot this year. Old-school meaning 1979-89.

We have seen it with Infini, The Mind’s Eye, and Turbokid.

Just released on disk is Inanimate from Alec Gillis. Half of the famous team of Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr.: Special FX mavens who have worked on Aliens, and Leviathan Starship Troopers. They have now moved into director’s chairs.

In the US this is known as Harbinger Down and we blogged it back in Grunt (183).

It has been well reviewed.

It has familiar plot: a crabbing ship out in the Bering Strait nets itself a frozen pod. They bring it aboard and it starts transforming the bodies of the crew. We have seen stuff like this from The Thing to Virus.

This comes trailing all of these associations and its Unique Selling Point is its traditional prosthetic effects.

The impression I get is that you will get what you expect.

No Special Features on this one, which is a pity because this is the kind of disk that can do with some.

We mentioned June, the movie not the month, back in Grunt (182), well it is now out on US DVD, when we spoke of it was looking like a possession movie, but now it more resembles a classic psychic child film in the vein of Carrie or Firestarter (although the director, L Gustavo Cooper, point to Akira as a touchstone.)

Kennedy Brice and Casper Van Dien star.

What ever happened to Gods of Egypt?

As the year draws in and summer movies run out I look towards next year and I’m what happened to Alex Proyas’ mythic epic.

We like Proyas a lot, he made Dark City and The Crow and back in the day (the day..this time..being the early nineties) he was regarded as a major visual stylist.

First some facts: Principal photography is finished. The feature was due for release on February 12, 2016.

We now know the release date has been shifted to April 8th. Even so, there has been a pall of silence hanging over the production.

Being that this is another original genre movie I am wondering if the studio intends to push it at all.

We shall see.

Metal Hurlant Resurgence: The second season of the Metal Hurlant anthology show has come to disk. There is just one review, but it is very positive: well-acted, good stories, acceptable Special effects.

Surprising in the light that the first season was roundly trashed by all and sundry.

You can catch it on release on October 19th.

Oh dear.

Timur Bekmambetov is at it again, and by at it I mean producing (as opposed to directing a film) Latest producing project for him is the Russian language He Is Dragon, it is the usual romantic story-line, girl meets boy, boy is a dragon.

We are waiting for reviews.

Every time I think the film industry has given up on original science fiction something pops up.

This time it is Ascension, a project 20th Century Fox has bought for Matthew Vaughn. The screenplay is by Shannon Triplet

The plot seems familiar: The earth is slowly loosing gravity and stuff is floating off into space.

There have been a couple of (unmade projects) with similar premises in the last decade. One was a project actually called “Gravity” and scheduled to be directed by Louis Leterrier but nothing has been heard of it since 2014.

Another was called “Inversion” script by Bragi Schut and David Arata, also unseen since 2014 – the big difference here being that the gravity shift is instantaneous.

Whether Ascension will have any better luck than the other two projects we shall see.

The Assassin’s Creed movie has been in development for some time, we are glad to note that principle photography has begun: It stars Michael Fassbender and is directed by Justin Kurzel.

Cyberpunk Special: Winter Autumn.

We had not intended to do another Special until December but the news has piled on.

In August it looked like there was movement on Duncan Jones’ Mute. He posted that he had finished the screenplay.

Additionally he seems to have picked up a fan.


Has it got William Gibson’s stamp of approval?

However by the end of September Jones was still struggling to get it off the ground. Given the time it has been languishing in development I would not hold out hope of seeing it soon.

Steven Hoban talks about the collapse of the Neuromancer project at the Quiet Earth site. What is interesting is his claim that he Natali and William Gibson are now working on an unnamed project. Check this podcast from about point 8.59.

The imagination overflows.

There are three possibilities;

This is a new project, with an original idea from William Gibson

This is an adaptation of a different (not Neuromancer) Gibson short story or novel

This might be a project which we have seen before; we know Gibson was trying to get Archangel off the ground, is this the project he is pulling Natali and Hoban into?

William Gibson doesn’t talk about film projects too much (and considering the checkered history of the Neuromancer movie, do you blame him?) However Michael Swanwick co-wrote Dogfight” with him and he does talk.

Here are his comments on the Simon Pummel adaptation.

Denis Villeneuv has been interviewed on the subject of Blade Runner 2.

He is giving away very few details but he has said he would address the long-time controversy of Deckard; is he a replicant or not? (He said he would address it, he did not say he would answer it).

He also hinted that the sequel would be “self-contained” it would be “separate movie”; this suggests it will not be a direct continuation of the original. The presence of Harrison Ford means there will be some connection.

He is making the right noises: he wants to respectful of the original but bring something new. The original is one of his favourite films etc. However I have heard these kinds of reassurances before, and we will see when we see.

Besides, I still feel there shouldn’t be a sequel at all.

The sequel shoots in summer 2016.

The other project looking likely is Ghost in the Shell, this one has some actual casting and something of a shooting schedule.

Principle photography is due to kick off in early 2016.

It has a release date of March 31st 2017.

What do I feel about it? Unlike most of fandom I am not concerned with the whitewashing of the cast (Ferchrissake, did you think a hundred million American dollars of Hollywood money would buy a Japanese person in the lead? Really?). No my concern is style. I don’t expect the complexity or the philosophy of the original to survive, so what is left? The incredible visual style. I think of Ghost in the Shell and I think of a poem of forms. Of the inevitable victory of the machine over nature and the beauty of that day, of precise curves and interlocking joints moving with preternatural grace.

I expect none of this in the American production.

Ah we have word on a couple of cyberpunk projects, and it’s all bad.

From time to time we mention cool short films that get picked up as development as features.

In fact we’ve listed a whole bunch of them over at Grunt (110).

A disturbing thing we’ve noticed is that most short films, as much as they attract enthusiasms, fail to get anywhere near feature production.

The Wrap did a revealing study of the matter:

Such has been the fate of two of the most promising projects: Jesus Orellana’s “Rosa,”, and Stephan Zlotescu’s “True Skin”. Reportedly both are no longer in development and rights have reverted to their creators.

Rosa was an animated short with elements in common with Ghost in the Shell but a style that was highly European baroque. It had unique and sumptuous visuals. It was made back in 2010 and almost immediately picked up by 20th Century Fox for development as a live action feature. This was a very exciting development. But it came to nothing. Worse still in the intervening years we have heard nothing from creator Orellana: no other features, no other shorts, nothing.

The story is similar for True Skin. This was a live action short, filmed in Asia reminiscent of a Bangkok Blade Runner. It was optioned in 2012 and we waited for the feature film.


Ricardo de Montreuil’s “The Raven” has also gone into turn-around.

To say the least we are disappointed.

Let’s not forget both were represented by IAM Entertainment.

The failure to bring these films to fruition breeds a certain cynicism. Someone is getting paid, but the audience is getting short changed. Do studios option these shorts just to keep some other studio from getting first?

Anyway, what is the exit strategy from the endless round of enthusiasm, development and turnaround in short films?

Step one is story. These short films are very visual and VFX heavy. What they need is to refocus on story, and make us want to know what happens next.

Step two is to not give away the farm too soon. Keep a few rights and if the studio can’t put a feature into production then get the world buzzing again with a comic book version or video game adaptation.

Step three is make them pay. Studios only understand the language of money. If they want to grab your pride and joy and waste five years of your life make them sign a pay-or-play deal, you get paid off whether they make the film or not (it’s a great incentiviser).

Stephan Zlotescu is now working on a screenplay with Gary Hall to bring “True Skin” to the screen independently.

Ricardo de Montreuil’s has made a low budget feature called “Low Riders”.

On the Rodreguez front with Nerverackers there is no news. With Rodreguez involved in a multiple projects including his Cable channel El Rey Network and the feature film Johnny Quest it seems Nerverackers has been kicked onto the back-burner again.

In fact recent news may have cancelled that project all together, because you it is likely you have head that Rodreguez has closed a deal with James Cameron to direct Battle Angel Alita. Rodreguez has worked in a number of genres and he had been looking for a large scale Science Fiction or Fantasy project for years. Lined up have been: Jetsons, Barbarella, John Carter of Mars, Fire and Ice, Red Sonja. Most of these projects slipped through his fingers but with the powerhouse of Cameron behind him Alita may tick every one of Rodriguez’s boxes.

Cameron had intended to direct it himself but between his commitment to make three Avatar sequels and his devotion to diving the deep ocean, it must have occurred even to him that he would never have the time.

I have read the first Battle Angel manga and it is epic and brutal; a mix of Terminator, Rollerball and Elysium.

Reports on the Rodreguez involvement are still new, but the director is hinting that he will be working with the Cameron’s script. This will be the one developed with Laeta Kalogridis (possibly the most experience screenwriter of Cyberpunk properties working in L.A.)

If this is so, I’d say we can breathe a sigh of relief Rodreguez is a fine director, but his grasp on story has always been loose, except when working with strong story-smiths like Frank Miller.

So, we may well have a treat waiting for us; future-urban landscapes, killer cyborgs and brutal sports all rolled into one.

I can’t wait.

A lot of people might say Battle Angel Alita is not cyberpunk but The Verge says it is and that is good enough for me.

Crimson Peak
Just go see it.

I wasn’t looking forward to this, I thought it might be a snoozefest, but I could not have been more wrong.
It is a passionate, sweeping historical drama, with ghosts.
Its American sequences are all Edith Wharton,* the British scenes all Jane Austin*. Well not exactly all, there are traces of Henry James and Angela Carter in there as well.
Crimson Peak is a homage to films like The Haunting, stories like Blue Beard, The Bloody Chamber, and the oeuvre of Alfred Hitchcock.
This is director Guillermo Del Toro’s most ambitions period film, and the reconstruction of the timeframe is vivid and meticulous.
The writing is sharp, the dialogue crackles and the performances are just gorgeous.
In terms of cinematography and production design there has not been a film like this since the 1960’s it feels unlike anything else in the theatres.
And the plotting is so swift and precise it is the antitheses of slow and draggy indie films

Some reviews have been concerned that the film telegraphs its punches. I prefer to see it less as predicable, more as “classic”.

I am most concerned that this film was badly marketed, you can tell nothing from the pre-release publicity that actually helps you understand this film.

It is a very bloody film, the violence, is infrequent but when it comes it pulls no punches and quite shocking. In fact, I wonder just what you have to do to earn an 18 certificate today.

So yes, go so it, it will be a unique cinematic experience.

* Actually I’ve read neither, but I have seen trailers…

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 (189)

3 Oct

The information age isn’t finished with us.

Colin Trevorrow just had a major hit with Jurassic World. Now all eyes are on what he will do next.

It seems that his “something new” is, in fact, something old: a seven year old screenplay of his named Stealing Time. It sounds awfully familiar: a grandfather and son must rebuild a time machine to stop thieves who hijacked the technology.

I swear I have blogged this summary before.

Trevorrow is not directing himself, this one has been snagged by DreamWorks

Ah, I see it now. This summary has a resemblance to the already made film: I’ll Follow You Down. This also is about a sun, a grandfather, a missing Father and a time machine. Haley Joel Osment starred.

A lot of SF fans will not have heard of Nightmare Code because it has largely been sold as a horror movie, but this looks like the real deal.

Written and directed by Mark Netter, it involves a software developer who takes over an AI programming job after the previous developer lost his mind. As he gets into his job he realises the program itself is driving its developers insane.

Now you may feel some dismay, it is a found footage film. But don’t be too discouraged; this time it is shot from the POV of the AI itself, and that is different.

Nightmare Code is on VOD from September 29th and on disk from October 27th.

Artificial Intelligence drama Uncanny – Grunt (167) – will be released on US DVD on November 3.

Russian Science fiction epic Hard to be a God is now out on DVD, shock! It has extra features. This one can be obtained in actual legitimate film and music outlets.

Ryuhei Kitamura is back. He made two of my favourite films: Verses and Midnight Meat train.

Next up for him is Vessels based aboard a hunted Queen Mary liner.

The script is by Gary Dauberma

The film will be shot aboard the actual Queen Mary in Long Beach, early 2016/

We heard about DXM a while back but didn’t say anything because there were not enough details.

But data is coming through.

Director is Andrew Goth who brought us the much anticipated Gallowwalkers.

A group of bio-engineers discover quantum theory can be used to transfer motor skills from one person to another.

But they are unaware that another, darker intelligence has been stirred.

From descriptions it sounds mad, there will be a lot of visual and story elements bouncing against each other, and I am looking forward to the first reviews.

It gets it debut at Grimmfest 4th October 2015.

The Martian Review

To be honest. I don’t much like this sub-genre, which one? The “alone in space” sub-genre. I’m going to shock you. I don’t like Silent Running and I don’t like Moon either. (But I do love Robinson Crusoe in Space, it’s great… go figure).

However, I went into this experience with zero trepidation because I’d read the book.

You know the plot: NASA mission to Mars, dust storm, one astronaut gets left behind, he has to use science to survive until rescue.

The one surprising thing, the one thing that no review warned me of was just how much of this was informed by Ridley Scott’s old work. It opens with an almost silent star field, almost, there is a bit of quiet disconcerting music. Then the title comes up and we see first the straight lines in the letters before the complete letters appear. This is the opening to Alien.

There are other quotes as well. When the dust storm hits it is just like the ablation storm in Prometheus.

And the self-surgery scene later resembles the bloody field surgery in Black Hawk Dawn. Are these deliberate or artefacts of creation by a single vision?

Anyway. To review the actual film. Ridley Scott has conceded nothing to modern sensibilities, it proceeds at his own deliberate pace.

What is different is the humour, not so much jokes as humour coming out of the situations, it’s good stuff.

Watching Mark Watney improvise technology is fun, though you can’t help thinking as works with duct-tape and tarps that he must be the first hillbilly astronaut.

I have read the book and the film compresses the situations, there are fewer hazards, although most of the reverses stay in. (one hazards is left out of the film all together involves a steadily dimming sky, not normally thought of as deadly but believe me… it was.)

There are quite a few deviations from the novel, but all of them tasteful.

Matt Damon plays a very personable Watney (the book character was a little bit of an asshole, which I liked.) The rest of the cast was pleasingly diverse (in your face, critics of Exodus!) and though it is not the paciest of films you need to hold out till the end because the climax is killer (in your face, Gravity!)

So Ridley Scott does not reinvent Science Fiction again (we were not expecting him to) but he does have a lot of fun, and so do we.

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.