Grunting at the Screen (245)

 

 

The information age isn’t finished with us.

 

Well I’m in a difficult position. I’m happy. It seems there have been a bunch of announcements for original Science Fiction films (and if you think the Chinese SF ended with last Grunt you are far from right).

 

 

Just got word that rights have been sold for Chris Borrelli’s Young Adult trilogy The Islands: Ginny, her father and her boyfriend get wind of the end of the world just in time to jump on a boat and get the hell out of Dodge (well not literally Dodge City being landlocked, but you know what I mean) They spend months wandering the sea until discovering an idyllic string of islands, well apparently. The volumes are Islands of Stone, Islands of Ghosts and Islands: Land’s End,

Borrelli sold them to Amazon and DMG Entertainment; it is one of those cross-media deals where they will try to make the property into films and interactive entertainment (good luck with that.)

 

 

The Trailer has emerged for an entirely independent production called Diverge (not to be confused with any similarly names film series).

After a global pandemic a man searches for the cure so he can save his wife, but he is stopped and held captive by a strange figure. There is more going one than it seems, there is some time travel going on.

 

Writer-director is James Morrison; the film will be released through iTunes on Feb. 6 (which means it is really independent).

 

 

There are a couple of genre films with actual distribution but almost no profile.

Kin (Grunting at the Screen 211) Directors: Josh Baker, Jonathan Baker

release date August 31, 2018

 

Alpha Directed by Albert Hughes release date March 2, 2018; a young hunter in the Upper Palaeolithic era struggles to get home while developing a friendship with a wolf.

 

 

 

Scott Glasgold is putting together something called the New Frontiers Science Fiction Anthology (I think it is a series); directors Ruari Robinson, Zac and Mac, Tyson Johnson and Stephan Zlotescu will make films for it. Philip Gelatt created the scripts.

SingularDTV President of Entertainment Kim Jackson tells us it will be “Promising, uplifting sci-fi rather than apocalyptic, dystopian stuff,” (zzzzz.)

It is to be implemented using a blockchain technology (the same tech then secures bitcoin).

This is interesting.

 

It is kind of complicated but I’ll try to explain what they are doing.

They are starting a studio called SingularDTV, and a distribution platform called Ethervision (I’m assuming it is streaming, but it could be downloading, who knows), it’s not just distributing stuff from Glassgold’s short film directors, it will do the full roster of broadcasting genres just like a regular channel.

Both of these will be blockchain based (I’m not going to explain blockchain because one; I don’t understand it and two; you can just wiki it) What is more they intend to finance all of this with a blockchain based currency called “Ethereum.”

(Actually it was simpler than I expected.)

 

Scott Glasgold (as I have said many times before) is the producer responsible for buying up the most promising science fiction short films in the last decade and setting them up as features.

I have ranted on that so few of them actually made it but lately Haz Dulul (who made Beyond) has been getting success, but that is another story.

They tend to be film makers highly capable in CGI special FX and able to deliver impressive results at low budgets.

New Frontiers is a positive development, To me these guess are rock stars, but most people have never heard of them: a showcase that brings their names to the forefront can only be positive.

 

OK, who are these directors?

First and foremost to me is Stephan Zlotescu who created True Skin, he is a visual prodigy; I love his style and is taking way too long for him to come to the mainstream screen.

 

Ruari Robinson is from even earlier, the robot short BLINKYtm was something of a sensation, he has in fact made his own feature film, The Last Days on Mars (not well reviewed).

 

Zac and Mac; Bruno Zacarias and Macgregor. Macgregor impressed mightily with his KOR3 short film, he teamed up with Zacarias to sell ‘Law Zero’ to Warner Bros. and they proceeded to Not make it.

They are highly visual film makers, but I was under the impression they had given up the movie game to sell real estate (seriously, I checked)

 

Tyson Wade Johnston is an Australian film maker most famous for his film Lunar: another space-prison story.

It was impressive enough to get him representation from theatrical agents CAA

Scott Glasgold really has gathered an elite group of film makers to create New Frontiers, I have some concerns.

Ah, the anthology format; good as a showcase, not so great at pulling in the paying audiences. It is biggest in the horror genre, and even then we never had a certified blockbuster.

The distribution method. I’m not clear on what means they will use: I suspect some kind of proprietary streaming service (Glasgold has been working on something to distribute the Blackpills product ), but the use of Blockchain tech suggests they want to use copy protection/ Digital Rights Management/encryption of the heaviest kind.

I have to say, why? The greatest danger to the project is no that it will be copied, pirated and distributed for free. No the true danger is that it will be lost in a world only interested in Star Wars and Jurassic Park sequels.

Glasgold, in the process of selling off the properties has talked to everyone; Amazon, Fox, Sony, Legendary, Syfy Films, Gravitas Ventures, Parkgate Entertainment

If it was up to me I’d sell the series to Netflix and that way everyone would see it.

 

There is another possibility. Now, no one wants to pirate Stephan Zlotescu, but they will want to pirate James Cameron, and Marvel Films and Pixar films.

Why is this relevant? What if they are not really interested in distributing independent films at all? What if this is all a proof of concept aimed at proving the technology so they can just sell it on to Disney or … Disney? (OK, I don’t know another entertainment behemoth…) No wait, Netflix.

It is just a thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017’s Black List has been posted. As I always explain, this is the list of screenplays, regarded highly by Los Angeles script readers, but presently without a deal.

Many Black List screenplays of years gone by have gone on to be acquired and produced.

Many have won awards and been successful. More have crashed and burned both critically and commercially.

Not a lot of this year’s crop are genre films, but there are some.

 

Bios by Craig Luck, and Ivor Powell has made the list even though it has a deal and even stars attached to it. (apparently the rule now is “principle photography has not commenced, which could expand the list threefold if they wanted..); post-holocaust tale of a man who builds a robot to look after his dog after he dies.

 

The Expansion Project by Leo Sardarian (Grunt 244) (now being considered by Brad Peyton); a female space marine is stranded on a hostile planet with her suit losing power.

 

Where I End by Imran Zaidi. A world where you mind can be preserved, stored and uploaded into a new body after death. A man awakes in his new body suspecting it was his wife who murdered him (sounds a bit Altered Carbon…)

 

Jellyfish Summer by Sarah Jane Inwards. An African American girl in the 1960’s harbours two refugees who are human but have fallen from the sky (Oh? Aliens, Angels… Pixies?)

 

Infinite by Ian Shorr. A schizophrenic is revealed to have actually been reincarnated a bunch of times and his bizarre memories come from his past lives. He’s also kept skills from his many reincarnations.

 

Moxie by Heather Quinn: in near future Los Angeles the FBI need law enforcers with the right DNA and it happens that the best woman for the job is an exotic dancer named Moxie.

 

Gadabout by Ross Evans (Grunt 207). Last I checked this one was with Sony; a book called Gadabout TM 1050 Time Machine User’s Manual. It purports to be the instruction book for a 1953 manufactured device; elaborately illustrated, filled with examples of how you might use your time machine.

 

Innocent Monsters by Elaina Perpelitt: a writer struggles with her second novel, but the monsters from the page begin to invade her real life.

 

On by Ryan Jennifer Jones; in the near future a single book editor buys herself a sex android (but just for emotional comfort of course) but the droid has a closed feedback loop and starts to develop a personality (Ironic that the first sexbot script in the age when sexbots actually exist should be about a woman…)

 

 

 

So what’s the deal with these Black List movies? Their distinction is that the industry readers liked them even of the studios failed to buy.

In recent years inclusion on the Black List has meant another bite at the cherry, in the form of renewed interest from the very same film execs who failed to spot the quality in the first place.

 

(In the UK we have something similar called the Brit List. But that is another story.)

 

So let’s play a game of “whatever happened to…”

Now some Black List movies actually got bought, and some of those actually got made.

The Current War written by Michael Mitnick has been completed but will likely not see release until next year, due to some Weinstein unpleasantness.

he Hitman’s Bodyguard by Tom O’Connor, yep that was made too.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness was realised last year to good reviews and muted box office.

Extinction written by Spenser Cohen Directed by Ben Young got rewritten it has been shot, had a release date, but now it has been pulled pending a new slot, hopefully.

What Happened to Monday written by Max Botkin got made, directed by

Tommy “Dead Snow” Wirkola and distributed on Netflix (in some markets it is called “Seven Sisters.”)

Morgan written by Seth W. Owen. was picked up by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free and directed by Luke Scott (Forgot that was a Black List film.) We reviewed it, negatively.

Passengers of course was one of the highest budget films made from a Black List film. We liked it (we are in a minority.)

Arrival was one too, well reviewed. It made money too.

(well that kicks a hole in my theory, but does emphasise if you want to make a profit you must get the budget right.)

All the Money in the World written by David Scarpa was picked up by Scott Free and directed by Ridley Scott, it has had its casting controversy, but now (with a new release date) It even garnered to Golden Globes nomination (influencing one fro for Christopher Plummer in the hastiest recasting ever.)

 

I was going to say that the Black List was a black mark on commercial or critical success, but this is not true. The Imitation Game was one and so, would you believe, was The Hunger Games.

What is more Black List films have been Oscar Nominated and winning.

But a good many of them came and went and for every one that actually got made three still languish in screenplay purgatory.

Well it all goes to show: there are no sure things. Buying a screenplay from the Black List is just the beginning of the fight to make a good movie.

 

 

Just for the Hell of I took a look at last year’s Black List genre scripts, to see how they were doing.

 

O2 by Christie LeBlanc has been lined up for an independent shoot. It is low budget (10m, yes that is low), but has A list casting with Anne Hathaway in the lead.

However it still seems to be looking for a director.

 

The Time Traveller’s La Rond by Tom Dean, Can’t see much going on with this one.

 

I Think We’re Alone Now: Mike Makowsky was bought by Automatik Entertainment.

Reed Morano was contracted to direct, Peter Dincklage and Ellie Fanning have been cast.

It will premiere at Sundance, January 2018.

 

Man Alive by Joe Greenberg has been acquired by Fox , Noah Hawley has been drafted to direct, (but who knows how this will go in the post Disney age).

Free Guy by Matt Lieberman has also acquired by Fox,  actually Lieberman has been doing alright, he is now writing the script for SCOOB, The Jetsons and Spy Vs Spy at Warner Bros.

 

Mother by Michael Lloyd Green got production funding from Screen Australia, the director is to be Grant Sputore and the FX will be created by Weta Workshop.

 

Actually, they are doing better than I expected.

 

 

 

 

 

Guillermo del Toro is to co-write and direct a remake of 1947’s Nightmare Alley: a conman teams up with a female psychiatrist to swindle millionaires. Fox Searchlight is the studio.

Of course there is no schedule, but I presume it will be after del Toro’s year-long sabbatical.

 

 

We haven’t blogged Beyond Skyline for some time. It goes like this.

Skyline came out in 2010 and we quite liked it. It showed just how much you could do with a small budget ; a lot, and even more if you are willing to venture into the unusual.

So we were interested when the sequel was announced.

Problem is, that was in 2014. Really, four years ago. The saga of getting this film made dragged on and on, and eventually we quite reporting on it.

Well it is finished now and the reviews are out. You know, they like it.

For Beyond Skyline we are rewinding to the beginning of the alien invasion (it is not necessary to see the original to get on board this one. The invaders are sucking up human into their ships, extracting their brains and using them to run their soldiers.

An LA Cop and his son flee the invasion only to become pulled into the mothership, we go (via mothership) from LA to Indonesia were we team up with martial artists and perhaps find a way to halt the aliens in their tracks.

Reviewers agree that the director/writer Liam O’Donnell has got a lot of bang for the buck and made a film that is a lot of fun.

Just a second, we still have no release date.

 

 

Another movie we have been blogging, SUM 1, has an actual release. Reviews are not so kind.

 

A young soldier is stationed in a tower in a middle of a forest defending it from an alien creature.

Directed by Christian Pasquariello and produced by Christian Alvart (Pandorum)

Reviewers agree it has some great visuals and impressive FX and even some good performances. but it falls down because it cannot sustain the interest generated at the start.

SUM 1 opened in the US on December 1.

 

 

 

 

 

The Russo Brothers have not been tardy in translating their success with the Captain America films (and the prominence of their Avengers: Infinity war movies) into a whole slew of new projects outside of Marvel Studios.

The latest venture is to tea m up with director Andy Muschietti to adapt the Science-Fiction illustrated Book, The Electric State, by Simon Stålenhag. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are writing the script.

I honestly had not heard of this one but it had an interesting history.

Stålenhag is best known for inserting high tech elements into his illustrations of his native Swedish countryside.

He has a gorgeous hyper-realistic style reminiscent of 1960s commercial illustration.

Take a look

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4816944/A-girl-robot-travel-ruins-1997-US.html

 

However The Electric State is a novel based in the US. But not as we know it. It is an alternate 1997 US. The world has been destroyed by some kind of robot rebellion while humans have retreated into virtual reality. I already like it. A young girl takes her toy robot and ventures across the strange new landscape.

Stålenhag financed the whole thing via Kickstarter and it was published just this year.

I’d like to see this one made.

 

 

 

 

Ed Brubaker is prolific, he’s created a lot of comic series as well as having groundbreaking runs on series like Captain America.

So I shouldn’t be surprised that one his series has been optioned and I have not even heard of it.

It is Kill or Be Killed, a collaboration with his regular artist, Sean Phillips; a man saved from suicide by a demon, there is a price, he has to kill a person to buy another month of his own life.

John Wick co-director Chad Stahelski has been selected to bring it to the screen,

Dan Casey will write the script.

There is no schedule.

 

 

 

We had not reported on the Disney-Fox deal because much of it was shrouded in rumour, but it I real now, they have come to terms and agreed that Disney will pay j58 billion for Fox’s film business.

Unlike most I am not thrashing myself into unconsciousness over the prospect of the X-Men meeting he avengers. I am wondering what will happen to the properties that Fox holds.

Should not be an issue for me, after all, I am avoiding most sequels, but Fox does own Alien and Avatar (and yes Predator, although I doubt I’ll be paying money to see the next instalment of that). In a wider sense the question is how will the former Fox film division be run. No doubt Disney will want a certain amount of their corporate culture to be transferred over But that might not be a good idea, for the audience or Disney.

See, Disney is crap at doing Science Fiction. They can make it sometimes but they can’t sell it. They made Hash out of John Carter and I suggest they will do the same for any future projects. Fox on the other hand are rather good. Aside from the series quoted above, Fox also had Star Wars, which they did rather well with. If Disney governs with a light hand , not only will that make the Avatar sequels more likely to succeed, but the next property to rival Avatar from former-Fox has a much better chance.

 

 

Alex Garland’s next movie Annihilation is getting major traction with the film blogs. They love what they are seeing.

Which is a little ironic because Netflix put some money into it and changed the release pattern.

It will still get a cinematic release in many territories, but that will be immediately be followed by release on Netflix.

I have to declare my bias, I read the book and found it really hard to maintain interest in it. But that means nothing; I was also pleasantly surprised by Ender’s Game.

The trailer for Annihilation is out and it promised 100% extra monsters. If I can I will catch it on release.

Annihilation opens on 23 February 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 check out Science Fiction releases beyond the usual try First Showing.

http://www.firstshowing.net/category/sci-fi/

 

Most Indie Film blogs are pretty boring but Indie Activity reports on Science Fiction as well.

https://indieactivity.com/

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