Grunting at the Screen (241)

 

 

The information age isn’t finished with us.

 

 

 

It is no task at all to predict the rise of Netflix. (Grunting 239 and 234) Confirmation comes in the form of the streaming behemoth’s future feature film plans. Next year they plan to release 80 films. More than twice they are releasing this year.

They are not letting us know their detailed plans but I assume the vast majority on streaming only. However I would be surprised if some of them were not theatrical releases.

There are good reasons why they should; the huge promotion that a cinematic release creates the possibility of major awards and the prestige.

And if they enough of them on screens, they can suddenly become a major player.

 

 

Meanwhile, as Netflix reinvents television (kind of) Guillermo Del Toro is carrying the torch for film. In an interviewee at Hollywood `Reporter he says that TV as not made “images that stay with us as mythology.”

I suspect he is in the minority. Film directors are migrating in droves, to Netflix, yes and also to cable like HBO, AMC, and everywhere upscale.

 

 

Downsizing is getting good reviews.

The movie Downsizing got me to thinking. Just as Time-Travel has distinct sub-genres, (A whole different discussion) “people shrinking” also segment themselves out.

The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Borrowers, Ant Man, and now Downsizing.

What do we mean by sub-genres? Well consider this; The Incredible Shrinking man and Honey I Shrunk the Kids are essentially in the same sub-genre, even though one is a drama, the other a comedy.

And then there is Fantastic Voyage.

It does not fit in with the others, which is what got me on this line of thought in the beginning. (oh it’s relevant, there is a plan to remake Fantastic Voyage, Guillermo Del Toro is involved.) It is however in a sub-genre, it shared it with Innerspace.

And I forgot a whole sub-genre about mad scientists and wizards shrinking people to doll-size. (there are a whole lot more than you’d imagine).

 

Whether it is from one genre or another, the act of shrinking usually is a metaphor for something else. Perhaps the diminishing importance of the individual in industrial society, or the way a woman’s voice is unheard in society, you could even intuit a literalisation of the class struggle with ordinary people shrunk to doll-size by powerful and oppressive technocrats or hereditary oligarchs (yeah, that’s a stretch).

The latest film, Downsizing is no exception. With the plot line of a man who shrinks himself in order to save money (while his wife backs away from this strategy) it is markedly “on the nose”. (Suddenly it is not as surprising that it is an Oscar contender.) This is all about the last decade of economic turmoil, or stagnation (if not actual recession) and perhaps about white middle class panic, the prospect of having to live less affluent lives with no clue as to why.

 

Fantastic Voyage, however, has become a cliché; there was a Rick and Morty episode where an entire theme park was put in an indigent’s body, and his diseases were the attractions (It was kind of Fantastic Voyage meets Jurassic Park), and I do believe I saw an Episode of the Ultimate Spider-Man based inside of Nick Fury’s body. So, although the Fantastic Voyage formula has not been heavily exploited in film, it is very much out there in culture. Now if Guillermo Del Toro is remaking the original, he faces the burden of years of homage and parody. He is going to have to bring something fresh to the party. Hme. Thinking of who Guillermo Del Toro is I think I know what.*

 

 

 

Last Grunt we made snarky comments about established directors who have publicly vowed that they will never do a Comic Book Movie, or more specifically, never do a Marvel movie.

These mavens, strident in their independence, yet far too polite to mention who might have offered them places helming such a film.

It would not be amiss to suggest most of them had not even been asked.

But I think this is more than a massed attack of sour grapes. Marvel is in the process of transforming from a maverick studio to something more conventional, more resembling something that its parent company, Disney will recognise.

(The so called “Phase three” of its releases may be the last time we see something like Avengers 3-4 where a pair of Television directors get to direct the largest cinematic endeavour since Avatar.)

Disney have already voiced its interest in luring honest-to-goodness stars to Marvel movies. (previously they had to be content to put actual actors on screen, people trained and experienced at delivering a story to the camera and making it emotionally believable.) I suspect once Disney have replaced thespians with nine-day wonders, social media personalities, sports figures, and anything that could be vaguely classified as a “celebrity” they will push aside the interesting cadre of directors who previously came from Television and independent film with the league of major film makers. Oh I am waiting for the pride with which they declare the next Marvel movie will be by Stephen Spielberg.

It perhaps has not occurred to Disney that Marvel’s huge financial success happened while the smaller company was doing things their own way, and it was working.

It will probably not occur to them that when a Marvel movie finally bombs; and one will, it will be because Disney could not keep its hand out of the cookie jar. Because with Disney in the driver seat Marvel will be exactly the same as every other studio.

But meanwhile those directors of record have been taking note, they have seen Disney’s direction, and suddenly the protestations look less like artistic integrity than the first round of a public negotiation. If you want the big bucks you cannot get them by saying you’d do anything to get on board; no first you make yourself unavailable.

After all, how will you sell your soul if it looks like you don’t have one to start with?

 

 

 

Check this, an independent superhero film, Armstrong. Directed by Kerry Carlock and Nick Lund-Ulrich. You can get in on VOD or buy it at Walmart.

 

 

 

And close on its heels is Singularity. Not to be confused with any other Singularity. This one is written and directed by Robert Kouba and co-stars John Cusack.

A man wakes up after sixty years in hibernation and finds the world has been taken over by robots.

It seemed to pop up from nowhere; I was confused until I started digging.

It looks like it is the same film as Aurora which was due to be released in 2016.

Another name-change special.

It is due to turn up under its new name in December.

 

 

 

Tom Hanks is to star in a new Science Fiction film called Bios, director is Miguel Sapochnik, script is by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell; it’s just another post-holocaust robot, learning life lessons story. Oh yes, there is a dog.

Amblin Entertainment will produce, Universal will distribute, it is expected to begin production in early 2018 (That seems a long way off…)

 

 

 

 

 

I sometimes don’t pay a lot of attention to forthcoming films from the DC Cinematic universe. You can’t blame me, Of the last three films, only one has been watchable. I really don’t care about the next Flash movie or the Aquaman movie and as for Green Lantern Corps they should just give up already.

Then I heard who they were looking at to direct Deathstroke and said, well this is interesting.

It’s Gareth Evans. Sad to say it is only at the rumour stage. (I hate rumours).

If they pull it off, it would be one DC film I’d want to see.

Gareth Evans directed the Raid 1 and 2, and with that short filmography he is edging on the greatest action director in the world. His version of Deathstroke would more violent than anything DC have done so far (and looking at Batman V Superman, that is actually saying something. DC/Warner claim they more interested in Director’s visions that creating a “universe”; this would be a test of their commitment.

To be honest I know almost nothing about the character Deathstroke, only that he is a villain and he is not Deadshot.

So I looked him up.

Slade Joseph Wilson. Ex-army, master of fighting forms, experimented on and given enhanced physical powers. (strength, speed, agility, durability, healing, the usual) His throat was slashed, severing his vocal cords rendering him mute, blinded in one eye, (Jesus Christ!) He is also a tactical genius. He uses a power staff that shoot energy blasts (or bullets in some versions).

 

 

 

 

Konami Digital Entertainment are turning their arcade game “contra” into a feature film and TV series: special forces duo Bill Rizer and Lance Bean travel from one futuristic location to another destroying everything in their path.

here is nothing about that scenario I do not like.

No details yet.

 

 

 

We’re hearing about something called Vestige, Stephon Stewart is to direct, Analeigh Tipton and Mickey Rourke have been cast. They are calling it a science fiction thriller; Tipton is to play an Olympic figure skater preparing to compete in the next games… against androids.

Yep it is the human spirit against cold science (for all who can’t bring themselves to believe that science is a very human activity indeed.)

No schedule.

 

 

 

We’ve been blogging SUM 1 for a while now, ever since Grunting (170) in 2015, well it looks like it finally is getting a release.

Of course there has been a name change. Alien Invasion S.U.M.1; a young soldier is stationed in a tower in a middle of a forest defending it from an alien creature.

There will be a limited release from December 1 followed by On-Demand exposure.

 

 

 

I have been known to get rough on producer Scott Glassgold; he is the one who bought up all of those great science fiction short films, each one displaying brilliant visual creativity. Subsequently many of the projects based on these shorts have been trapped in limbo.

Let’s do something new. Let’s assume Glassgold is not entirely to blame.

After all progress is being made.

Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull is the most successful of his protégés. He is on the cusp of releasing his feature The Beyond (based on the short Project Kronos) and it looks like another feature Origin Unknown will also get a release. And he is not finished there; he has another project SYNC, which he can line up as a third production. He also has something called I.R.I.S.

The Beyond will be released direct-to-VOD on January 9th, 2018.

 

Here is the original short:

 

 

Here is a trailer for The Beyond

 

Dulull also said an interesting thing; he wants “to do to sci-fi what Blumhouse did for horror.” I wish him well.

 

Glassgold’s other prospect is also busy; Stephan Zlotescu is working on the Blackpills project which involves several different series to appear on some kind of downloaded medium.

 

 

 

 

The Rift: Dark Side of the Moon, directed by Dejan Zecevic seems like something I overlooked, but I keep deeper archive than even I realised and it looks like I blogged it back in Grunt (204).

Well it is getting a US release November 28 shortly followed by a DVD release on December 12th. I’m not hugely excited; at the heart of this story of mystery meteorites and special forces investigating is the old zombie shuffle and jive. But we will see if there is anything more to it.

 

 

 

We mentioned It Came From the Desert back in Grunt … No wait, we didn’t mention it, can’t imagine why not.

Anyway, it is a new feature film based on an Amiga game from way back in 1989.

director is Marko Mäkilaakso, writers are Hank Woon and Trent Haaga

Giant Ants have invaded the New Mexico desert . Stopping them is down to some kids on dirt-bikes.

The film is in the can, but there is no release date yet.

 

 

 

 

We are just hearing about Curvature, a feature film directed by Diego Hallivas written by Brian DeLeeuw.

An engineer named Helen goes back in time to prevent herself from committing murder.

It is still at the festival stage so there is no release information yet.

 

 

 

Come to think of it, so far as Original Science Fiction movies, this month has not been bad at all.

 

 

From Here On in There Are Massive Spoilers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blade Runner: 2049

Review 2

 

I can’t do this review without spoilers so let’s get them over with

K is a replicant

Dave Bautista dies in the first twenty minutes

Decard and Rachel had a child

Even though you think it is K, it isn’t

 

There are a few others, but those are the big ones.

 

The way Denis Villeneuve handles sequelising Blade Runner is a matter of repeat and response. He said he was not doing a pastiche, and he didn’t. However there are many Easter eggs waiting for the attentive viewer.

There is a dining scene in the city, analogous to the sushi bar from the original

There are subtle references to Deckard’s apartment in K’s apartment (in the tiles actually), the street lights and vehicles speak in the same kind of voice as in the original. And there are a number of scenes where replicants burst through walls.

 

There are multiple points of comparison in the visuals.

There is no “hell landscape”, no refineries belching fire, instead there are solar farms and wind farms.

Instead of a “studio feel” this largely has a location feel, but I expected that.

It is set mostly in daylight instead of night, although there are a couple of night scenes reminiscent of the original.

The hyper-cluttered look is absent. Instead there is a cleaner more European look.

 

There are a couple of moments where the director asserts real visual independence in the design, one of them is Vegas, the other in the post-holocaust landscape. Both were visually remarkable. Las Vegas especially gave you that feeling: there is a reason why directors choose that city to illustrate the Post Holocaust; Las Vegas, a fantasy city built in the dessert just challenges nature to come claim it.

 

K takes a look at the scan of some bones, and in a crevice he finds a serial number, proving she was a replicant.

 

There is the scene where Luv is directing a missile strike from her easy chair, her language is the same as the Esper scene when Deckard was analysing photos.

 

Then there is story. In these there are differences too, there are no Voight-Kampff scenes, but there is a baseline test which K takes. It does not measure if he is a replicant, it measures how compliant he is. We no longer have to prove that replicants have a human aspect, it is taken as given, we get example of this early with Sapper and K himself. Androids do not dream of electric sheep, just electric girlfriends. Instead this plumbs the question; what responsibilities does man have to his creation, and what rights does that creation have?

 

Blade Runner’s constant rain has been replaced with snow and haze.

 

One difference, significant, often overlooked, is that 2049 has actual African Americans in it. They were conspicuous by their absence in the original.

Blade Runner is set in Future Los Angeles. Not “San Angeles” or any fictional American city, but a city known for its cultural diversity. There was lots of diversity in the original; Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic and even German at one point. No African American though. We are inclined to be generous and assume this aspect was an oversight. But, if we had not been so understanding we would have to demand, just which disaster wiped out every African American person in the Los Angeles area between 1982 and 2019? However we have no such questions for 2049, because they are few but visibly present.

 

I have said there is no way Blade Runner could be repeated, because it would just be too expensive, and I stand by that.

What Blade Runner (1982) has is density of imagery, the sets are so packed with set decoration that the effect is narrative, the profusion of objects, their placement and juxtaposition tell visual stories that unfold below the level of language.

This is particularly evident at the sushi bar, in animoid row, in Deckard’s and JF Sebastian’s apartments.

There is nothing like this in Blade Runner 2049. Denis Villeneuve does not even attempt it. And that is fine, he has other strategies as a director.

 

At the same time this is a Blade Runner movie set in the Blade Runner universe, this is evident because it directly continues the themes or the first film.

 

It is a powerful film, cool, dark and dour and yet amazing.

 

In terms of FX there was a lot of similarity. The FX are very good, without being flashy, obtrusive or annoying. A lot of people have praised the realm of 2049’s FX, we are told that much of what looks like CG is in fact miniature work. The miniatures were built at WETA Workshop (and I wonder if there is any other major FX house still doing miniature work) much of what we assume is digital, including the Las Vegas outdoor scene, is in fact made of enormous model work.

 

Even some of the videographers shied away from digital, the responsible company talked of using micro photography on grapefruit skin to get images.

 

Of course some CG was most certainly used, particularly in some key scenes; The hologram scenes, Rachel’s scene.

 

2049 is dense with theme. If Blade Runner was Frankenstein (mankind creates life and it rebels) 2049 harks to Pinocchio (The puppet longs to be a real boy) K is the puppet, the replicant who hunts his own kind, but he wants to be special, he wants to be truly human, and at the end, perhaps he is; in that he performs the human act of self-sacrifice.

 

Here is the thing. I have said before, the only reason to reboot a movie is if you seriously think you can bring something that satisfies an unfulfilled potential in the original.

Now I really think everyone involved in this project thought they could take it to the next level. However, I consider this a brave and mostly successful achievement.

Mostly.

The gold standard is; come twenty years from now, when they say the name of your film which one do they mean?

2049, is a great achievement. But come 2037 when they say Blade Runner, I believe they will mean Blade Runner 1982.

 

 

Ah the music. Robust, that is my first thought, the big surprise us that the main theme present in trailers is not here, not at the opening not anywhere.

Vangelis is here largely by allusion; it is a synthesiser score (surprising, I thought they would go for an orchestral version of the Vangelis themes, much like the score translation from Terminator 1 to 2. But no, we have an original score driven by a Vangelis type approach with differences; the textures here are harsher, less nuanced, as I said, more robust, and yet perfectly fitting, it is in the spirit of the original, but in no way a copy of it..

Until the end, where we have the Tears in Rain Vangelis’ cue from the original. it is unexpected yet perfectly apt. Its use is not mysterious; the dying of a replicant.

 

I liked this film, respected it. But I suspect, because it was so cold and distant, many people will find it hard to give it the kind of affection to sustain its reputation over the next few decades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* OK, it’s monsters, probably sympathetic monsters.

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

 

 

And if you want some movie news about other than sequels and reboots try

http://screenanarchy.com/

 

And if you want to walk the wild side of genre video, try Starburst’s review section

http://www.starburstmagazine.com/reviews/DVD-and-blu-ray-home-entertainment-reviews

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