Archive | December, 2016

Grunting at the Screen (220)

28 Dec




The information age isn’t finished with us.





End of Year Special

2013 was a remarkable year for Science Fiction film. It gave us Cloud Atlas, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, Elysium, Gravity, and Ender’s Game. Even Iron Man 3 could not put a dampener on how many great, original genre films came out. In retrospect it was a high point; one that should be remembered like the SF heydays of the 50s or the 80s.

Why am I mentioning this now?

Because 2016 was lowpoint (or at least we hope it gets no lower than this).

It was a year of sequels, remakes, and reboots, of deep conservatism in the film industry.


In film terms, it was not a good year.


You may have noticed a marked lack of coverage of the major sequels in Grunting.

This is no oversight I am precisely aware of their existence.

I am just not watching them.

If you go watch sequels to 30 year-old franchises, all you get will be sequels to 30 year-old franchises. When you go to the cinema and all you see are Star Wars spin offs and Star Trek sequels that is because you asked for it.


There is some light though; Suicide Squad made more money than Batman V Superman, and Deadpool did really well too, better than recent X-Men sequels.

Both were originals. And Arrival did better than expected too.

This is not to say it is the end of the sequel era.

Not by far.


At this point I usually apologise that I don’t have ten movies for top ten of the year.

This year I am struggling to find three.

I will not lie, I had fun at the movies, and a lot of what I saw was entertaining. But I know the difference between amusing and good.


And it was not good.


Captain America: Civil War was dark and majestic and yes very good. But if you hadn’t seen Captain America: Winter Soldier it might be a tad mysterious.


Dr Strange was a solid effort, it avoided the pitfalls of the source material, it was fin and it was not stupid.


Arrival was an ambitions and artistically successful Science Fiction film, rightfully compared with the better films in Christopher Nolan’s portfolio.


And that is it!


There were also straight-up bad movies that I found entertaining, there were a couple of entertaining films that on reflection were only OK. And there was at least one film that infuriated me.


But I cannot list them in a “best of” with any conscience.



Though my opinion is not the only one around, some are much more positive about the future: according to the guardian Arrival and Passengers mean we have entered an era of “emotional” Science Fiction, and according to Screenrant. Arrival Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian indicate we have crossed over to a golden age of cerebral Science Fiction.

Hme, both emotional and cerebral; aren’t we lucky?


So what of the coming year?

Actually it does not look that bad. There are a ton of high profile sequels and spin-offs scheduled… Yes I said it doesn’t look too bad because there are also a lot of original movies coming.


In fact some writers, out in the blogosphere believe we are entering a period of original, high-quality Science Fiction. Taking the cue from Arrival and Passengers, they believe the next wave will be about ideas and character.

I don’t know if it is true, here is a little of what we have coming.

The Space Between Us (which was due in 2015)



Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


Whether this signals a great change is yet to be seen.





some news.

Mickey Keating is to write the script and direct a science fiction feature called The Faces. They are keeping details close to their chests but word is it is a paranoid thriller.



It appears that the feature adaptation of Joe Haldeman’s Forever War is still in play; writer Jon Spaihts has reported that he is working on it every day. He also avows that he is a huge fan of the book and the author.









I didn’t want to like this. It would be inconvenient.

I wanted to call it “Love Spatially”

But I went anyway.


You know the routine. Jim is on a century plus-long voyage to a space colony when he wakes from hibernation. It takes him a while but he realises he is the only one awake.


Then he finds out there are still ninety years left until the ship arrives.


Oh dear.


A lot of drama follows from here; his attempts to fix things, what happens when Aurora wakes up, then the ship in trouble.


Essentially this becomes a romance against a science fiction background, it even follows the plot structure of romantic comedies, complete with a Grand Gesture (thankfully Jim does not hold a ghetto-blaster above his head, outside her window..)

So I really wanted to hate this film; I don’t do romantic comedy.


And a couple of times I almost do: there are a couple of scientific snafus: one concerning artificial intelligence, one involving nuclear power.


Both involve spoilers, so you know.


But guess what?


I really liked this film. It is, how do they say? Life affirming. It is a real feel-good movie; without schmaltz or selfconsciousness. How they pulled that one off I don’t know.


But it is a likeable film. The ship’s design is gorgeous; I once asked why a space ship had to look like a gothic nightmare? Why couldn’t it look like a luxury cruise liner? Well this one does, while still looking like a space ship, the curving lines are luscious.


The cast is likeable, Chris Pratt And Jennifer Lawrence ooze charisma and the script is tight.


More than that it lets you lose yourself in it. and by the end you’ll be in love with love too.


Take someone special to it.




Well, that makes four decent movies; maybe this year was not so bad after all.


I’m Jack Eris and if you know me, you know Jack.




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


Grunting at the Screen (219)

17 Dec




The information age isn’t finished with us.






All things post-holocaust are coming into vogue.

First up is The Domestics from director/writer Mike P. Nelson: a young couple have to travel though a gang infested area to get home.

Cast are Kate Bosworth, Tyler Hoechlin and Lance Reddick.

It will be shot on location on New Orleans.




And coming from France is “Ares,” directed by Jean Patrick Benes; it is 2035 and a restless, unemployed population is only soothed by legal televised fights. Ares is a fighter experimenting with a brand new drug in a bid to win his fights.

The feature is produced by Louis Leterrier.

And guess what? They are calling it “the French Blade Runner”.

We have read a review: they admit it makes an effort at the steaming urban landscapes dotted with digital billboards of Blade Runner but they are not impressed at with the story. They claim it suffers the same problem as many French genre films: really obvious plotting.

On the other hand, they say the fights are well staged and the visuals are impressive.

Ares was released in France on Nov. 23rd, no word on US or UK releases yet.




And we have also found Domain from director Nathaniel Atcheson; in the wake of a viral holocaust the population has retreated to vast bunkers beneath the cities. But down in the dark, things get weird.

It has been categorised as horror, which is why it has evaded us.

We looked around, found some information. This is actually quite interesting. This is possibly the first social media global- holocaust feature. After a global pandemic, the survivors are housed in a series of bunkers, in order stave off cabin fever, the bunkers are linked by a network linking them into six bunker groups called Domain.

It all works fine until the system breaks down with post- holocaust cyber-bullying.

The director is making all the right noises; long term Science Fiction aficionado, visually influence by Ridley Scott. And he is making the best of a small budget.

A 2017 release has been promised.




I was going through my old files (I keep deep archive) and found a comment “Paul W. Anderson is going for a fourth Resident Evil film (he should just give up and make it a TV series, it never ends, dude)”

Oh for those halcyon days where there were only four Resident Evils but I make a point. Anderson has missed the boat on the biggest development in visual entertainment. The future may be Virtual Reality but the future is definitely Television. And most probably streaming television. Although, to be honest an ongoing Resident Evil TV series kinda makes me nauseous…




You may know it under the name…

An interesting thing is happening. Interesting as in disturbing and annoying.

You may remember Skypocalypse… you don’t? Oh yes, I didn’t mention it, I mean to.

Anyway this is a straight to disk (STD*) movie now in your supermarkets, don’t go look for it , the reviews are terrible; the point is, if you went looking for reviews you would find very few because it had its name changed , it was originally “The Phoenix Rises” you will find reviews for this and yes, it stinks.

But that isn’t the whole of the point.

I was looking up another STD movie Exodus (no relation to any other film of the same name) when I found a citation for it on Amazon (I apologise, I go where the information is…) One customer reviewer was very irate; Amazon should be banned from selling DVDs like this, it came out in 2003 as “War of the Planets”.

Oh? It seems other people are noticing; renaming, rebranding and marketing old tat as new.

Apocalypse Earth


Sniper Elite


Alien Metamorphosis


all had name changes before their latest disc release.


It is a growing tendency, and I can only believe companies do it because it works; it boosts sales.


Perhaps if you buy cheap crap in the supermarket or drugstore you deserve to get the same old cheap crap as you bought last time.


Or perhaps not. Perhaps like me you live in hope that some resourceful film-maker will rise above the low budget and give us something entertaining or daresay I, profound.


Even if you doubt filmic diamonds can be sieved from the sewer of cheap media, for pure consumer protection reasons we need to be aware of and expose this cheap marketing ploy.




Two more videogames are up for adaptation, this time from Saga: “Streets of Rage” and “Altered Beast”.

We don’t know if they will go for television or cinematic adaptation.

“Altered Beast” was a beat-em-up game from 1988, the back story was; a centurion in Ancient Greece (Hey! Centurions don’t come from Greece!) is resurrected by Zuse to rescue Athena; to aid his quest he is given the power to transform into various animals.

Aside from the ahistorical details, there is some potential here.


Streets of Rage: another Beat ’em up. Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding fight to free their city from the grip of Crime Boss, Mr. X (yes “X”) I presume they achieve this by beating up a lot of people, but I am open minded about this.


I expect a whole lot of meat will go on these bones before these projects get anywhere near filming.




Now this is exciting. Director Paul Haggis has been tasked to bring Paolo Bacigalupi’s Young Adult novel Ship Breaker to the cinematic screen.

They are talking $100m budget.

Ship Breaker is based in a post global warming world; the nations have gone to hell in a handcart, the coasts are flooded, warlords have carved the land into tiny territories, the people survive by tearing apart and repurposing the technology of the past (thus the title.)

The protagonist is works in a gang of shipbreakers when he encounters a genetically modified weapon from one of the past wars and his life suddenly changes.

This is a very fine novel, dark and unsentimental, It has a chance of making a gripping, if grim feature film.

No detail of screenwriter, cast or schedule yet,




Comic miniseries “A.D.: After Death” by Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire has been optioned by Sony: in the future death has been defeated, unfortunately never-ending life comes with its own problems.

No details.




You know, some sequels I don’t mind at all.

Like the sequel to 2008’s Meatball Machine.


I have no idea what is happening in Kodoku Meatball Machine, which is out in 2017, and I question whether it’s creators know either, all I know is that it is a tornado of fist extensions, prosthetic body parts, rage and blood, oh so much blood.


It has been so long since we have had one of these movies, and I have missed them so very much.

It’s Not Safe For Anyone!

Take a look.




Well, science fiction feature film projects are jumping up all over the place. Patience is also a comic book adaptation having originated with indie creator Daniel Clowes.

A man discovers a time machine which allows him to go back and rediscover his murdered wife.

Sounds familiar.

Once again the way to your lovers hear lies through some deft violation of causality.

One day academic papers will written about it.

Focus Features has acquired it, Clowes himself is adapting it for the screen and that is it.

More news as it happens.




Much closer to the screen is Marjorie Prime

Starring Jon Hamm as a hologram.

It’s an adaptation of the Pulitzer nominated play by Jordan Harrison;

An ageing violinist has a hologram as a companion, one that looks just like her husband in his youth.

This one will debut at Sundance.




Adam Robitel and Gavin Heffernan have sold their screenplay Imago to Beijing’s Cristal Pictures. It is being describe as a Science fiction disaster.

A technological remedy for global warming has been developed. Of course it all goes wrong and plunges the world into an ice age.

This is another big Chinese-US co-production. It is being prepared for a production with an American and Chinese cast.






It opens December 21.

I was going to open with a comment about the Black List. See there is this list of best unproduced screenplays, which Passengers was on.

I was going to make some sarcastic comments about how a great screenplay does not necessarily make a great movie.

But then I found out Arrival was a Black List screenplay too.

Let’s take a different tack.

Passengers was a long time coming. Word started leaking out about it back when it made the Black List in 2007. Keanu Reeves was attached to it in 2009, and it had an intriguing premise. Not of a man who woke up during a century long space flight, that had been done in literature before (no really, I know at least one instance, I would bet there are more). No the intrigue was in what happened next.

It was the reason I called it the screenplay about the biggest douchebag in space.

But that is another story.

Literally, because I am hearing they have changed the story.

What did they change? Not important. They changed it.

They cast the vastly likeable Chris Pratt coming off Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, put him opposite the hunger games girl Jennifer Lawrence.

Boy they are doubling down.

I’ve seen the trailer, it’s pretty.

But. And it is a little “but”; a small number of the Science Fiction community have expressed concern. See they think it is looking a bit like a Romantic Comedy. No!

That doesn’t worry me.

Because I have zero expectations of quality. No, I have heard no suggestion that it will be terrible.

I just don’t expect great things.

Jon Spaihts wrote it. He is the man of the friking moment having written Dr. Strange and having a ton of genre screenplays behind him (mostly unproduced). No seriously. Here is a partial list;

World War Robot

The Forever War

Cube (reboot)

The Black Hole (reboot)

Children of Mars


and some that actually have been made:

The Mummy

and of course Prometheus


Spaihts has taken over from Alex Garland as the Science Fiction Guy. The guy they go to when they want one of those scripts.

Though I’m pretty sure Passengers has been messed with since it left his hands.


Reviews for Passengers are in and across the blogosphere the word is not good. They do not like it. The very concept of the film is at odd with the critics.




Roland Emmerich is in discussion to direct Dark Matter (not to be confused with the TV series Dark Matter, or the other film Darkest Matter or even the series His Dark Materials… not that I thought you would…)

It’s an adaptation of the novel by Blake Crouch: a physicist finds himself in a parallel world where he didn’t marry his girlfriend and didn’t have a child with her. (…But what has this to do with “dark matter”….)

More news as it emerges.



When we last spoke of Stem (Grunting 131) it was a project for the Spierig brothers. Since then there has been changes.

Stem is now written and to be directed by Leigh Whannell of Blumhouse Productions: it is the near future and technology controls all aspects of like (wait, they said it was the future?) Anyway, they killed his wife, they paralysed hi, but he’s coming back with the help of the experimental “stem” chip and he will have his vengeance.

Blumhouse has been associated with horror movies so this is slightly out of their wheelhouse. It is due to be shot in Melbourne, Logan Marshall-Green has been cast in the lead.

More news as it emerges.






Talking of the Black List, were we? Yes, we were. Well the 2016 edition is in.

Anything good?

Let’s remind ourselves: the best unsold screenplay according to LA readers (the readers are the guys who read the scripts before they get anywhere near a decision-maker).

In the Blink of an Eye: the history and future of the universe and the human race; hme, could be epic, could be tedious.


O2; a woman wakes up in a cryonic chamber with her air running out: Obviously someone read Passengers and thought it was way too big and expensive.


The Time Traveller’s Larond: Lover across the ages. Oh dear will this be the SF equivalent of Twilight?



Free Guy: a bank teller finds out he is a character in an adventure video game (didn’t we already do his in 13th Floor and The Matrix? Something tells me this time it is for laughs).



I think we’re alone now: its great being the last person on earth, until someone comes along and spoils it. It’s true, hell is other people.



Man Alive: aliens invade and take over humanities mind’s the last free human has to persuade the aliens that an even bigger threat is coming (I vote killer monkeys, can it be monkeys? Can it?)



Mother: a robot Mother raises a girl in a bunker, until a stranger comes along. Hey, that’s the same of that other movie!

So a fair number of genre stories waiting for a buyer. Remember, even if they are picked up, it does not mean they will make good movies.














* I think it apt…

I’m Jack Eris and if you know me, you know Jack.




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


Grunting at the Screen (218)

5 Dec




The information age isn’t finished with us.




Well, things have certainly picked up.

First up we have news that Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow’s miniseries Hard Boiled has been picked up for feature film adaptation.

This is the story of Nixon: tax collector, family man, unstoppable killer cyborg.

Back then Geoff Darrow was only known in the comic community; he was the American who had mastered the bandes dessinée art style. His Frank Miller collaborations were legendary.

Then he became the conceptual artist for the Matrix and everyone was exposed to his art.

Involved in the Hard Boiled feature is the High Rise team of Tom Hiddleston and Ben Wheatley. Come again?

I’m not intimately familiar with Ben Wheatley’s work and Hardboiled seems like a radical shift in tone for him. As for Hiddleston, he’s going to have to act his socks off in the role.




The other big news is that Frank Herbert’s Dune has been acquired by Legendary Entertainment.


They have bought both cinematic and television rights.


Dune had been in play a few years back, running through a succession of directors. Then it went dark for a long time and it seemed any hope of a new feature film was dashed.


But it is all about to happen again. Whether the result will be any different remains to be seen.


Dune is of course a revival of another thirty year old cinematic property. Filmed first in 1984 by David Lynch and then given a year 2000 TV adaptation on the Syfy channel, there is crucial difference between it and other revivals: it has no classic period.

Sure it has fans, but most will admit it can be improved.


If anyone wants to know what makes Dune so iconic they need to read Frank Herbert’s novel because the adaptations have been so contentious among the fans.


Can Legendary finally provide the definitive version? It will not be easy. Legendary are experienced in creating genre epics: they made Pacific Rim and Warcraft. And they have close ties with Chinese film, which may prove crucial in staging a big film at a medium budget.


The question is, just who could helm such an iconic project. I actually had a discussion with a Dune fan last year and the conclusion was that only Peter Jackson had the skills and influence to make it as it should be done.


However Legendary is known for putting small-scale directors in large scale movies: Guillermo del Toro in Pacific Rim, Duncan Jones in Warcraft, Gareth Edwards’ in Godzilla, and one man has expressed interest in the director’s chair: Denis Villeneuve, having garnered respect with Arrival, and currently working on Blade Runner: 2045, he looks good on paper.


However, if experience is any guide, we will get a lot of hot air, and no film at the end.



Now that the Resident Evil film series is coming to its “Final Chapter”, what will Paul W.S. Anderson do? Bereft of any game-based features to… eh up! What’s this? Looks like Anderson is getting straight back in the game with Monster Hunter; a game from Capcom that has a big following in Japan and China. An ordinary man discovers he has a destiny to travel to a fantastical land and learn how to fight monsters.

Anderson is also writing the screenplay; no word on schedule and casting as of yet.





We are hearing of Battle Of Memories from China, a Science Fiction feature by director Leste Chen starring Huang Bo: a man deals with the trauma of his divorce by having his memory wiped, later he wants his memory back, but finds instead himself in the mind of a serial killer.

This has possibility.

We have no word of a Chinese release let alone a western one.




And also from China, something very different. It appears they liked Mad Max very much… because they made their own one: Mad Sheila, we have all of the visual interest points; fetishized costumes, weapons, heavily modified vehicles chasing across the dessert, it is low-budget and filled with CG explosions.




We’ve been on the lookout for information on DxM (Grunting-189), which was kind of a waste of time because it changed its name to “MindGamers”

The premise was kind of interesting: a technology that links people’s minds, but a sinister force threatens to use it for mass control.

This film was knocking around since 2015, but it now has a distributor and they are promotion it using a game called “Mission Unlock Enoch”

The trailer is out, looks good.


To be honest it reminds me of Neveldine & Taylor’s 2009 feature Gamer.



And now for this year’s Brit List. The Brit List is the British equivalent of the Black List which is… ah go google it.

Anyway this year’s best unmade (British) screenplays include a few genre efforts, among the Science Fiction are: The Competitors by Ruth Greenburg “A runaway prostitute falls in with a lone rider pursuing a stolen child through a brutal landscape.” and The Far Edge of the World where three scientist at the Antarctic manage to endanger the structure of reality itself.

Perhaps they will get picked up, perhaps they won’t.




Lin-Manuel Miranda has signed with Lionsgate to direct and write music for Patrick Rothfuss‘ “The Kingkiller Chronicle” fantasy trilogy.

Lindsey Beer is writing the script.

Actually this is a multiplatform deal: Cinematic, Televisual, perhaps even for the stage.

No word on cast and schedule.




Jodie Foster has been cast the near-future thriller Hotel Artemis. Drew Pearce is writing and directing. No other details.

More news as it develops.




Ah, new information at on the Rupert Wyatt Science Fiction feature “Captive State” – Grunting (211). They have cast John Goodman.

Everyone is still being mysterious about the plot, but Wyatt is letting slip that it is “Very grounded and relatable to our world.” Which tells us nothing.




We don’t report much on new Nicholas Cage movies, there are so many of them, but this one is Science Fiction: The Humanity Bureau: in the near future climate-change has wrecked the economy and the government banishes its “unproductive” members into the wastelands. Nicholas Cage from the Humanity Bureau struggles to save a mother and child unjustly exiled.

Unlike a few of the projects reported on this week, we think this one will actually get made.

Rob King is directing a script written by Dave Schultz. Principle photography has already begun.




We may have been rude about low budget SF feature Virtual Revolution, but it turns out it will get a release; albeit a very restricted one: it will be at  the Arena Las Palmas Theatre from December 16th.




And finally we have just heard that Arrival has sailed past the $100m worldwide box office mark. We have a big smile on our face.



I’m Jack Eris and if you know me, you know Jack.




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