Grunting at the Screen (236)




I didn’t see Brandon Cronenberg’s debut film Antiviral. But I am delighted to see he is working on his next one: Dragon; the recreational drug of the future is derived from alien bio-products. We follow a space ship on the hunt for one of these extraterrestrial dragons full of the valuable substance.

What is more, it shoots in mid-2018


Valiant Comics are developing Eternal Warrior as a feature film: for ten thousand years the Warrior has defended man using forgotten martial arts.

Dave (Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner: 2049) Bautista is working closely with Valiant on the project.




Annihilation has a release date, 23rd February 2018. Well, we will see then.



Independent comic Black by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph and others is getting a feature film adaptation. Production company Studio 8 has picked up the rights: the story is based in a world where only persons of African descent have superpowers.


No word on screenwriter, director or Schedule.




We have a release date for Wesley Snipes’ Armed Response; Friday, August 4th.

We’ll look around for some reviews.

Ah, here there are. Hme, not good, sounds like the film was made without any passion at all; a lazy script, an uninterested cast. Oh dear.



Alita Battle Angel will not be with us until next July but some information is leaking out. Jackie Earle Haley is playing an entirely digital character, a huge robot. Its identity has still not been revealed but Alita fought many huge robots in her Manga adventures.

Here is an interesting thing: Haley really praised the script, sure he praised director Rodriguez as well, but he really praised the script. Again, I don’t mean to be rude but Rodriguez’s films are not well known for their scripts. I am mildly excited.






Well this is interesting.

Netflix just bought Millarworld. Just a recap here. Millarworld is the company started by Mark Millar to own his various independent creations.


Now some may ask; will there now be a Netflix Wanted, Kick Ass or Kingsmen series.


We think not, these properties are still optioned by other studios, to make a Netflix series the options would have to lapse.


However there have been a bunch of other Mark Millar comics that have been languishing in development hell for years. It is possible some of these options may have lapsed:


American Jesus



Jupiter’s Legacy


have all failed to produce a movie. And there are other comics that have been kicked around as movie projects and not even made as much progress as those: Chrononauts, Superior, Huck, MPH.


To be honest Millar seems to just exude new comics with alarming frequency.


So it is likely that Netflix, have bought the whole company will not delay in bringing them to screen.


But I think it unlikely they will stop at single series.


I have watched the way Netflix has moved from content channel to content provider, And I watched the way they made Marvel’s third string of characters into successful series and then an entire television universe.


Oh yes, I suspect they will wish to make Millarworld into its own universe (which is not even so in the comics field). It is the thing to do, and given that they have experience in taking comics and remaking them into a streaming friendly format, they certainly have the ability to do so.


They have seen what Marvel Studios have got, and they want some of that. In fact I was wondering how long it would take for them to turn in that direction, and what means they would take: create their own characters or buy them in. Well we have an answer.


The question is: Just how big do they want to get? Will they stay at Streaming series level? Or do they want Cinematic glory. The whole kid and caboodle or merchandises, spin offs and endless ancillary income?


Why Not? Netflix have made theatrical features before, and soon they will have the muscle to force their movies into the cinemas whether established distributors like it or not.


Mark Millar’s costumed heroes are as film friendly vehicles for such a take-over as any.


Or they may just want to make a bunch of streaming series.

It is not clear just what tack they are taking. some blogs have pointed out that creating a “universe” us not an automatic slam dunk; Universal have crashed and burned twice in attempting to make its classic monsters into a coherent arena, however Legendary Pictures are doing fine with its own Giant Monster universe.


And when I think of it, it has been quite some time since Wanted. Could the rights have reverted?


There should be an announcement of their intentions within a few weeks.



Meanwhile there has been an announcement that Disney intends to pull all of its content from Netflix, and start its own streaming service.

Incidentally, Marvel is a Disney company.

It all begins to make sense.

Bear with me, I don’t like to speculate.* But let’s take a look. Netflix acquires Millarworld (from which it presumably intends to develop content) right before Disney announces it will pull contents. Did they know in advance?

Now it has emerged that Millarworld is Netflix’s very first acquisition.

As I blogged earlier streaming services are positioning themselves as very serious players; their income is rivalling that of the entire film industry.

Suddenly Disney’s move looks less like the bully and more like self-defence. Netflix and Amazon are being forced into every greater vertical integration of their business: i.e. in taking over more and more of the business chain: production and distribution. They simply have to act from both ends: content providers are hoarding their product and theatrical distributors are refusing to co-operate. In the process inevitably the streaming services will damage their former partners, who have now become their rivals. Thus, to pre-emptively yank your content, that is self-defence.

Hoverer, given that Netflix will lose rights to some of the biggest movies on the planet, I would not be surprised if Millarworld is far the their last acquisition; what will next? More comic companies? Game developers? Foreign film studios?



Robert Kirkman’s production company Skybound has made an exclusive deal with Amazon.

Interesting. Just a bit of industry news in isolation, but in concert with the acquisition of Millarworld by Netflix this is the sound of mobilising armies.

OK, it now looks like the two behemoths of streaming TV will face each other before they directly take on traditional media.

Skybound potentially has even more potential than Millerworld, Why? Kirkman is even more prolific than Millar. And that is saying something.

Here is an example, if Amazon wants a superhero universe; just Invincible and its related comics alone will yield dozens of characters. If they want controversy they can make the scabrous religious satire Battlepope, they want horror, The Astounding Wolfman or Haunt,

Comic series just pour out from Kirkman’s hand. He may be famous for the Walking dead but that is a fraction of what he does.

I doubt Skybound is the last comic company to make an exclusive deal with streaming media. In fact I think it has only just begun.




Ah, we have a review of Seven Sisters, AKA “What Happened to Monday”. Yes it is negative but the description does nothing but encourage me: first Naomi Rapace’s performance is said to be remarkable, she plays seven distinct individuals, convincingly, the plot is said to be frantic and driven by Science Fiction ideas, they claim it is cliché, but that is better than it being s reboot.

It is directed by Tommy Wirkola of Dead Snow and Hansel and Gretel: Witchhunters Fame. The action scenes here are well spoken of even while the plotting is being savagely rubbished. You know I am inclined to give this one a chance.


We have word of the Frightfest lineup. Before examining it I can tell you, I won’t be seeing any of them. Geographical issues.

But let’s sieve through them anyway.

Hmme seems to be the usual rat’s nets of sequels and reboots. There are a few things I recognise:

Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainness; a mad action movie where a woman takes revenge for the murder of her father.

Meatball Machine Kodoku (Grunt 219) (OK it’s a sequel); more body-warping, blood soaked insanity from the Sushi Typhoon guys.

And ah, we mentioned this one Royce Gorsuch’ Mindhack from the last Grunt; A low budget virtual reality thriller, well we should get some reviews after it screens.

Radius, a man walks away from a car crash only to discover everyone within a fifty foot radius of him falls dead.

And incidentally they will be showing that totally whitewashed anime adaptation Death Note. Yeah, until further notice every US anime adaptation, every sequel to Edge of Tomorrow, every freaking Power Rangers movie will be labelled “Whitewashed” here until they realise; if you label one, you have to label them all.

Most of them are new to me.




We have a couple of other film projects announced.

Malignant Man an adaptation of Boom! Studio’s comic written by Director James Wan, co-writer Michael Alan Nelson, and illustrator Piotr Kowalski.

However Wan will not be making this one. It is going to Director Rebecca Thomas; a man with advanced cancer dissevers his tumour is in fact an alien parasite which endows him with remarkable powers, he uses his gift to fight an enemy hiding beneath the skin of society. Hme, sounds like that Anime Paracyte.

We’ll see.

No word on schedule




Well this is unexpected.

The Neuromancer feature film is an on project again.

Having just said there was no way it would ever get made, well it’s a little embarrassing, but I’m not complaining.

The latest arrangement is that Twentieth Century Fox is producing and Tim Miller is directing.

Of course there is no word on schedule.



Director Ava DuVernay is adapting Dawn by Octavia Butler into a TV show. She’s collaborating with Charles D. King and writer Victoria Mahoney.

Let’s just assume Mahoney is the screenwriter. that would put it ahead of many of the recent announcements.

Now, it’s been a while but from what I remember the novel is about life after aliens come to a ruined earth and start to (mostly peaceably) transforming humanity into a hybrid race.




So, Valerian crashed and burned. I’m not hugely surprised. I know nothing as to how good or bad it would be or how well it would be reviewed.

It was new. It was a new science fiction movie; not a comic, not a reboot; and the now familiar pattern reasserted itself; the film going public have become hostile to things it has not seen already.





John Carter

Jupiter Ascending


After Earth

They all did quite poorly, and not all of them were bad.


OK, my view is a bit dark. Original Science Fiction films have also done well


The Martian






and of course Avatar.


It is possible. An original science fiction film can come out and make it big, really big. It’s not like pulling teeth… its worse. It is dragging the audience away from its comic and toy based action spectacle posing as actual science fiction, turning them from comic book movies and maybe taking a chance on something they haven’t heard of and seen umpteen times already.


OK it helps if you have something really great to show them, Valerian was not great, but was it that much worse than the Power Rangers movie?


So what can be done? Not a lot. When the Neuromancer movie was announced I grimly mused that it would be an easier sell to the public if they thought it was a reboot “It’s time to see Neuromancer…again” let them think they saw it back in the nineties, they just can’t remember the details.


OK, faking and entire history of a movie yet to be made is unethical impractical and frankly likely to blow up in your face. But what can be done.


The public are now exhibiting the visual idiocy Film Execs. Sorry? Hollywood suits have been demonstrated to be incapable of visualising a film they have not seen before. They have readers to tell them what is good, they buy comic books because they cannot visualise what a film potentially can be.


They way to get this breed of cretin on board is to give them something to look at; storyboards, concept art, test footage or fake trailers (Robert Rodriguez had success in boosting productions by making the trailer first).


Static visual material is not making it, so I say go the test footage and fake trailer way. Get the audience on board before principle photography begins. Leak some test footage and then make an entire trailer, make the audience want the film to be made. Then make it.


Alternatively, publish a comic, make a smartphone game and put them out a year  before release date, push  them aggressively so the audience feels it already knows what it is getting.


These are desperate times and those are not even the most desperate of measures..




Ghost in the Shell, Live Action is out on DVD. Good news is that there is a version with an extra disk and some extra goodies. At least in the UK.

(yeah that is the Blu-ray versions, but I assure you there is a DVD version. I won it. )

Interesting thing. In the second disk interview director Rupert Sanders said he wanted to preserve the philosophy and spirit of the anime. And this did not really pan out. I’d like to think he was not just Hollywood-lying. And if he isn’t… were the ideas trimmed out? Is there a director’s cut?






Make no bones of it, Valerian is bad.

Not disastrously bad, but nonetheless bad.

This has been a season where decent genre films have not been given a chance by their audiences, but it is not the case here; on the level of story, performances and direction it falls short.

The chemistry between its two leads is pretty much zero, as characters you have zero sympathy as they have no relatability at all.

Cara Delevingne clearly cannot act, she has one expression which serves her well as a model, but leaves us woefully uninformed to her emotions when delivering lines. As for Dane DeHaan, he seemed to be channelling Keanu Reeves, badly. Under any other circumstances I would have forgiven them; they were working with a bizarre script where the dialogue directly contradicted the action; as if the director and screenwriter were constantly at war (ironically, bother persons being Luc Besson himself), but they’d be as bad even delivering David Mamet.

But it was not all bad. There is some nice world building integrating the exceptional visual invention.

Oh it’s pretty, the aliens are impressive, and some of them are hot. Oh yes, I’d like me some of that alien action.

Notwithstanding my unnatural urges, the action scenes are impressively staged, although nothing special.

Also, within the busy spectacle of light colour and sound there is a pearl of a good idea; about culpability, consequences and how victims usually have deeper resources of compassion than victors.

However it is buried in a matrix of tedious clowning. it should be called the city of 1000 distractions, because the director does all he can to lay detours and dead ends before setting us back on the path to the last twenty minutes which are quite good.

Not good enough to make up for an irritating journey that gets you there.


Ultimately this is not a science fiction film, it is a fantasy with spaceships. No you cannot “fall” in space, and if you bandy about numbers they should mean something.

The film cost two hundred million dollars but Besson could not spare £250 to hire a physicists who would have told him that the impressive sounding 700 million miles journey of Alpha station would not even have taken it to the nearest star. In fact it would not even take it out of the solar system.

In years to come Valerian will certainly be remembered, not as a science fiction classic, rather as an oddity, a folly that just cannot be believed unless it is seen.












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



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