Grunting at the Screen (246)

 

 

The information age isn’t finished with us.

 

 

 

 

End of Year Round Up.

Last year I was very grumpy.

I keep comparing each year to 2013, which was a high-point in original Science Fiction cinema. And they keep coming up short.

 

I wanted to be a little milder this year.

 

Every year is someone’s Golden Age. As we get older we realise this; even if we are not impressed someone will be looking back and singing the praise of the Movies. TV and Music of this year. All it will take is enough time.

 

So. for everyone else. Except me: it was a great year:

We had the return of King Kong. The reboot of Power Rangers. That great Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. The resurgence of the Alien franchise. The reboot of the Mummy. Another Planet of the Apes movie. A Transformers movie. My God. It just keeps going. The Star Wars sequel that everyone talked about and Blade Runner: 2049.

 

So 2017. A great year.

 

For you guys.

 

For me, a more mixed year; one of waiting weeks for something that wasn’t the sequel of a reboot or whatever to turn up.

I didn’t use to mind them. But I sure do now.

 

There were some highlights. I’m not a complete grouch.

I liked Ghost in the Shell. I thought it was a really decent effort.

Wonder Woman proved DC/Warner could actually make a watchable superhero move.

 

The best thing I can say is that 2018 is looking increasingly better: Neuromancer and Dune were announced. Never have both projects been in play at the same time. Sure. They can’t come out until after 2018 but that is another story.

 

So. This year. Needless to say. No Top ten. No Top five.

 

 

The Space Between Us was pretty terrible.

Life was an enjoyable Alien pastiche. but we can do better than that.

Wonder Woman. was fun. just as long as you did not think too hard of it as a feminist breakthrough.

Valerian was a hot mess.

 

The films based on other material were variable.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 was fun. Lightweight fun. and inconsistent with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Including the First Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

Wonder Woman was fun. although lacking in substance: artistically. thematically. politically. At the meta level we can only express gratitude that a woman has been trusted with a major superhero movie.

 

And then there was Ghost In The Shell. Not perfect. but perfect for me. A visual feast. with real ideas. and it struggled to have a human heart. Yeah. I liked it. and it is the only one of this year’s films I wanted to own.

 

Valerian did not disappoint. because I had such low expectations for it. It proved that Luc Besson had learned nothing about delivering Science Fiction since The Fifth Element. in fact he may have forgotten quite a lot. It was tiring.

 

As the year trundled on. it evened out… Blade Runner: 2049 was better than I expected. and in fact better than it had any right to be. a really well thought-out and made piece of cinema.

 

The year was not a complete disaster. But it certainly underperformed.

 

I’d make comments about Thor: Ragnok and Justice League but by then I had given up. Well my personal circumstances had a lot to do with that. but it does not obviate the terrible reviews Justice League had.

 

2017 was far from the best year for film. but it managed to not be the worst either.

 

Next year will see the predicable march of franchise films. but there is light at the end too. A number of films delayed from 2017 will come out. And there are some original debuts. and no doubt there will be surprises (In fact I expect more surprises that ever. if only because the franchises have squeezed out news of small independent features.)

 

 

 

 

For years I prophesied that the next generation of film makers would come from the game industry. this did not happen. because frankly the game industry is was more lucrative than risking it in movies.

But the story does not end there. because the game industry is powering the new wave in film making.

This is due to the game engines which now produce output within a hair’s breadth of film quality.

Epic Games is now encouraging film makers to use its Unreal engine to make films.

This is not exactly new. the practice of making short films with game engines called “Machinima” (a term much abused) has been around for decades.

The game changer is the current generation of tools which now provide output certainly good enough for Television and very soon from now the big screen as well. What distinguishes the from current CG animation tools is their real time rendering capability. What does that mean? Film making CGI tools allow you to create animations and then they render them. they output them in their final form. This is a process that can last between any time between hours and days for more complex scenes. But Game Engines render at real time (they have to. they are interactive. Gamers will not wait an hour for their turn). This means you see the scene you created immediately at the speed it will end up as. It means you can swap in or out assets (3D models) change lighting. modify actions and see the effects right away (rather than hours or days).

Unity is now shopping its tools around the Los Angeles film industry and they are turning heads. FX supervisors are calling them game changers. Unity is warning it is a disruptive technology…

Let’s explain. when studios see the advantages or realtime rendering they will want to switch technologies. a whole ton of very expensive software is going to be junked over the next two years. And even if they keep their tool’s they will want to use realtime tools for things like Previsualisation (that is the use of trial animations to guide both cinematographers and FX crew in the shots the director has selected).

There will be a realignment in the FX industry. jobs will change. and jobs will be lost.

Strangely enough that is not what excites me. Unity will charge Houses like Industrial Light and Magic and Weta FX to use the tools. But to small film makers just making short films to drop on Vimeo or something everything I’ll be free.

And to me the true disruption is that the only barriers to entry as a filmmaker will be a modest cost for computer equipment and network connection (less modest if you happen to impoverished in an underdeveloped nation. but that would be the same for any endeavour) and talent. Given the love cost of computers and broadband connection the range of possible film makers just yawned open. Hell every prospective film student should make a Machinima (although that term has fallen out of favour). Even if they only want to make small scale drama without special effects. because they can achieve all of the goals of film making without hiring actors (OK. so you cannot get a nuanced performance. but hell I’ve seen some short film performances and some of the 3D assets give amateur actors a run for their money!).

I’m going to hold my tongue and not predict a vast wave of great film makers coming out of the current game engine scene. But in the next couple of years will be worth while keeping an eye out.

 

 

Albert Hughes’ prehistoric adventure Alpha. was scheduled on March 2. 2018. but it has now been rescheduled to September 14. 2018

 

 

Whatever happened to Neveldine and Taylor? You know. they were the lunatics responsible for Crank. Crank 2 and Gamer. I liked them a lot but the team has broken up.

Brian Taylor is still directing. he has worked on the Syfi series Happy (an adaptation of a Grant Morrison comic).

His latest feature film is Mom And Dad. with Nicolas Cage. Av pandemic virus turns adults into homicidal maniacs. A couple of kids have to survive the violent attacks of their parents.

 

It is out soon in the US. still no word of a UK release.

 

 

 

Coming up is Scorched Earth, starring Gina Carano directed by Peter Howitt, Carano plays a bounty hunter in Post Holocaust America, she is trying to bring in the most feared fugitive Attica Gage. The whole thing is played out as a future western. Scorched Earth opens in US theatres, On Demand, and on digital HD simultaneously on Feb. 2.

 

 

Beyond Skyline has a British DVD release. It is released on 8 January.

 

 

 

 

We are hearing about a new Science Fiction project from New Line (I’m surprised they are still a going concern). It is called Stillwater; details are being kept quiet for now. Great, this is an inch better than “Unnamed Science Fiction”. The only thing we are discerning is that it is not an adaptation of a comic, game or book (or anything).

Anyway, New Line has contracted Christian Ditter,  from Germany to direct and    Evan Spiliotopoulos for the screenplay.

As ever there is no schedule.

 

 

 

 

What is Ridley Doing?

Well next up he is doing The Cartel, but there have been disturbing movements in the force, well on the rumour grapevine anyway.

I generally don’t bother with rumour but this one begs a question.

Word is that Ridley Scott is negotiating with Disney to direct Merlin Saga; an adaptation of T. A. Barron’s five book Young Adult series.

Merlin Saga is a 12 part series that started off in 1996 with Merlin Book 1: The Lost Years. It starts off with exploring the younger years of the legendary wizard Merlin.

Actually the more I re-read this the hinkier it sounds.

How so? Committing to even the first part of a multi- part saga? And Young Adult? Scott has not done young adult, and he has only done fantasy once before. This seems well outside of his wheelhouse.

And most of all, Disney?

Yes Disney, the thing is, Disney bought Fox and Fox owned Alien and now Disney has something Ridley Scott wants.

 

Why would Ridley be negotiating direct Merlin when it is Alien he wants? Unless it is for leverage. Which is, he might do Merlin, if he gets the go-ahead on Alien.

Disney has had this property since 2015, what it intends to do with it, who knows because they already have a Merlin project with deep connections to previous Disney product: The Sword In The Stone. Heck I just assumed Disney bought Merlin Saga to keep it out of any other studio’s hands.

So, maybe Ridley Scott is negotiating to make some YA series….

Or it could be all rumour bullshit….

 

 

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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