Grunting at the Screen (228)

3 Apr

The information age isn’t finished with us.

We are hearing the search is on for a director of the live-action Akira, personally we will not believe a thing until filming begins.

And to be honest Akira needs no live action version.

Ruben Fleischer has been tapped to direct Valiant Comic’s Archer & Armstrong, Terry Rossio will be writing the script; an assassin from a cult is forced to team up with his target (a superhuman immortal) to stop the end of the world.

Now this really gets me going: Hidden Reserves AKA Stille Reserven a feature film by Austrian director Valentin Hitz,

In the near future the insurance business is pretty dread. If you don’t buy death insurance your body is reanimated at death and used as a commodity.

Of course there is a rebellion against this process.

The story is about an insurance agent who infiltrates one of the rebel groups to bring it down.

I gather the plot is kind of complex.

I’ve see the trailer, and it’s got me excited because it has one of those vast body storage facilities which have been come a science fiction trope, like in Blade III or Daybreakers.

But it all seems to come from the era before Science Fiction was a branch of action cinema, back when it was all about ideas.


There have been rumour of Robert Rodriguez being involved in a certain reboot, I’m not interested but what is known is that he’s taking on his first animation.

Oh cool is it Heavy Metal?

Er, no.

His debut in the animated world will be Ugly Dolls. It is a toy based movie deriving from the Uglydoll line produced by Pretty Ugly, LLC.

No schedule, but it should be interesting.

Generally I object to Toys turning into movies because, toys don’t come with a narrative. Well usually, I have done a little digging and it appears that the Uglydoll concept came in concert with its own stories. Hme.

We’ve already mentioned Hasraf “HaZ” Dulull’s film Origin Unknown, it turns out this was his second feature. His first one was the documentary-styled film: The Beyond.

The first interstellar mission is in progress and we have sent a crew of enhanced astronauts. This one is (loosely) based on Dulull’s short film Project Kronos.

There is already a trailer and it is headed for the festival circuit.


It seems at this point I need to make an apology. Back in Grunting (144) I may have suggested that Scott Glassgold was guilty of hoovering up all of the very best short film projects and letting them lay fallow: well lately everything is coming up roses for him.

Hasraf Dulull: is making Origin Unknown, and The Beyond

Stephan Zlotescu: is having True Skin produced as a series at Amazon Studios.

Progress is happening.



Life: Review

Life may not last forever, but it certainly can feel that way. The beginning is really boring. In the first half hour I nearly dropped off a couple of times.

You know the score; a Martian probe with a soil sample arrives at the International Space Station. They examine it and find life, They feed the organism and of course it grows, attacks and kills them all.

Oh Shoot! Spoiler Alert!

Forget what I said; the alien gives them flowers and chocolates, takes them to dinner and everyone gets a kiss on the doorstep.

(Now, won’t you be surprised when it kills every one!)

It is reasonably executed, the performances are adequate, the FX are fine, there is no sign of crappieness in the CG. On a technical level it is OK.

All the publicity has been running this as “Alien meets Gravity” , but interestingly enough, it actually plays more like Alien meets Gravity: you have lots of squeezing though tight spaces, futile attempts to kill the beast, tumbling around in spacesuits outside, space trash flying around and the obligatory decompression scene.

Hey, I propose the Air Prize: a prize awarded to any movie set in space where decompression is not one of the scenes, because this shit has gotten old.

And of course it has some quiet scenes, where I almost go to sleep again. I don’t know what it is, have I seen so many space movies that it all seems routine now?

There are some of the usual illogicalities, though less than usual in a Science Fiction movie.

But it is not all bad, it moves along quickly enough (really, it wasn’t slow, just kind boring) there is some action.

And you know what? I actually enjoyed it. But not until the end. You’ll see.



Reviews for Ghost in the Shell are turning up, inevitably mixed, after all of the negative publicity you can only expect it leak into the criticism. They all note or praise the visuals. There is less joy concerning the story. Some however are quite enthusiastic.

On the whole they are positive.

The Ghost in the Shell Anime is a classic, not just of animation but of Science Fiction. In my humble opinion it is the finest example of cyberpunk committed to film.

Should it have been adapted to a live action feature? Probably not.

Should Rupert Sanders have been the director? The jury is out.

The thing is Ghost in the Shell has already been sequelised all to hell, another feature, a couple of TV series, a DTV feature.

Live action was the next step.

It should probably have been a Japanese production. But we have what we have.

Ghost in the Shell: The Review

There is a film that casts a shadow over the Live Action Ghost in the Shell film, a film that informs and guides it, that foreshadowed it.

And that film, of course is Johnny Mnemonic. I am dead serious . and if you know Jack you’d know I don’t joke about the really strange things.

Like Johnny Mnemonic, Ghost in the Shell is about a hero with amnesia and the return of memory.

Unlike Johnny Mnemonic, this plot point takes centre place and it actually works.

You will see a lot here familiar from the 1995 anime: iconic scenes are lifted and reproduced “en vivo”. Not just the action scenes, there are quiet character moments that transfer as well. But the original plot and themes are not present. The scenes are attached to a brand new plot spine built around the missing memory of the Major, as played by Scarlett Johansson.

This is an emotional plot about the search for and discovery of memory and identity. Very different from the more abstracted and philosophical theme of the anime.

And you know what? It is the right decision and it works. The cold and intellectual treatment of the previous material would not have worked for a Western audience and it would not have worked in live action.


This is a very visual movie and the visuals are sumptuous and alluring: the megalithic city is huge busy, colourful and bright. A contrast to a say more famous depiction of the urban future; not as original, but certainly not inadequate.

The action scenes are tough, fast, impressive; but as ever often cut to tightly to precisely follow the motion, but no more than the normal action movie.

The CG is reasonable, and some of what you may assume is CG has actually been done right there in front of the camera.

Scarlett Johansson is impressive, of course she is cold and mechanical, she plays a full body cyborg, but as the film progresses she reveals a quite affecting and yes human character.

And Takeshi Kitano plays it as if he’d stepped off the set of Sonatine: do not mess with the old-school.

There are some cute Easter eggs that will gladden fans that have brought an open mind; my favourite being Batou’s Basset hound (subject of an extended cameo in Ghost in the Shell: Innocence.)

And there are changes beyond the story, if you are the cute Tachikoma spider-tanks of the Manga and Anime, then prepare to run in terror; the live tanks are like M1s on columns.

But this is a big (well low end big) budget action Science fiction movie, so you know it will be all about the fights and the FX. You know there will be a big CG climax. This is a given.

How is it handled? It passes.

Do you know what? A third of the way into the film I stopped judging the film and started enjoying the immersion, the characters and the story. And by the time we reach the end I’m quite stirred.

Yes, this is the cyberpunk movie we have been waiting for. purer that The Matrix, better executed than Johnny Mnemonic.

I have no qualms in apologising to director Rupert Sanders; I didn’t think he could pull it off but he has.

I would have satisfied if they had just not screwed it up, but this is a little more; this is good, not great, but very satisfactory and you should see it.

Oh yes, stay until the end titles, you will get a treat; and no it is NOT a post credit scene.

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


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