Grunting at the Screen (227)

25 Mar

 

 

 

The information age isn’t finished with us.

 

 

 

Cyberpunk Special: Spring

 

Spring comes early this year. Not because of climate change, but Ghost in the Shell opens this month.

 

 

Neuromancer is still dead, and instead of shedding tears over it they should consider the alternatives. Since they complain most of the ideas have been stolen by other film and shows, they should try something else. Like Pat Cadigan’s Synners: there should be an HBO miniseries, only without of HBO’s usual gratuitous shagging. It is a serious long-form story with layered characterisation (and seeing that there are no androids, it won’t step on Westworld’s toes).

 

 

 

We were weren’t going to play the game of “which short should be a feature” this quarter, but it came to our attention that shorts director Hasraf “Haz” Dullul

is making his first feature. It occurred to me, should his short Sync have been his first feature?

Now I took another look at it. And I think they got it right. Sync is not the great lost feature, in fact it is … a bit boring. And the premise is well a bit Johnny Mnemonic, with an android substituted for Johnny’s head.

Sorry.

 

There must be something in the air: Sync is not the only short with a recent feature deal.

David Karlak’s short film Rise caused a minor hubbub when it was released in 2014.

In the future the robots are rising (again) however this time we are seeing it from the viewpoint.

 

It was another of the FX heavy Science Fiction shorts that we’ve seen so many of.

Like many of those, it had a studio deal: Warner Bros. had contacted to make it into a feature.

That meant nothing, the hordes of shorts that have reached for featurehood and fallen at the first hurdle are many.

This one had an edge: it starred Anton Yelchin.

However Yelchin has sadly passed away, and Rise spent the last three years in Limbo.

But there has been progress.

The rights have been obtained by producers Brian Oliver and Johnny Lin.

They are fully funding it and Karlak will direct the feature.

 

The producers are not just talking feature, they are using the word “franchise”; eggs before chickens, guys….

 

 

 

The classic Ghost in the Shell anime directed by Mamoru Oshii got a cinematic re-release in February.

 

I’m wondering if this is a good idea. Oh it is good for the anime, but for the Live-Action adaptation. After all, how will you sell the idea of the copy, when the original looms so large?

 

Sure, the release can serve as great publicity, it can raise awareness, but it can also remind us of what the Live-Action adaptation is not.

 

 

I’ve been neutral about the Live-Action feature. It had a troubled origin, Steven Spielberg had the project for a while before passing it on.

 

Now I cannot say Spielberg was the best fit for the project (the closest he has been in territory was Minority Report and I am in two minds about that) but moving from him to Rupert Sanders seems like a step down.

 

Seems like, I have to confess, I never saw Snow White and the Huntsman.

 

Anyway, I’d like Ghost in the Shell Live-Action to be good, I really would.

 

With the feature opening in March the publicity machine is well into its groove. This is the stuff I usually treat as background noise, but since we are taking an in-depth look, I might as well say. Ghost in the Shell Live-Action has scored very highly in social media buzz; Variety magazine clocked it at 30,000 conversations (no, I don’t know what that means), which is higher than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

The question is, will that translate to ticket sales. If internet buzz meant ticket sales the Snakes on a Plane would be the highest grossing film ever.

Anyway, we will know very soon.

 

I’d like Ghost in the Shell Live-Action to be successful, I’d like it to be good and I’d like it to make money. That would keep the door open for so many other films.

But I worry.

I’m worried about that statement Director Rupert Sanders made about cherry-picking scenes from the different anime iterations.

This might work: it is a narrative strategy; take a number of outstanding moments; and build a narrative around them. Perfectly legitimate.

If it is possible.

If you have the writing talent.

It would be great if Sanders has harnessed the talent to create a coherent and compelling narrative around those visually stunning scenes.

But I worry this will be a “greatest hits” collection: a cynical attempt to pull the fans in by showing them what they want to see, and not making much of an effort to make sure it all makes sense.

It would fit in with the current ethos of Los Angeles cinema.

What do I mean? They want Khan, give them Khan. They want the Death Star, give them the Death Star. And the sop to originality is you just change the names, but we all know it is just the same old dog and pony show.

If this is what it turns out to be then the reaction will predicable: a savage attack by the critics, followed by mass rejection by the fans. Whether that turns into Box Office failure is not certain: there is a trend for going against the critics, and when it comes to predicting the audience, nobody knows anything. *

But the fan and critical reaction could seal the fate of any sequels and anyone else who wants to do Near Future urban Science Fiction. Really; despite the fact that the Matrix sequels were more financially successful than the original they are still accounted as failures (but not by me).

The first Hulk film is accounted as a failure, the second as a success; even though they made about the same amount at the box office.

So even if Ghost in the Shell Live-Action is moderately successful, it may still be a disaster.

As political hacks say “It is all about the optics”

 

Hah, I win again, I already insisted there would have to be a name change in the old “Motoko” situation. In early March a story started that Scarlett Johansson character (previously only referred to as the major” is now being called “Mira”. Score!

 

The Japanese language dubbed version of Ghost in the Shell Live Action will be voiced by the original actors: Atsuko Tanaka from the 1995 anime will voice The Major.

So is everyone happy now?

 

We don’t generally blog promo vids. But we love Adam Savage, so when he want to New Zealand to see what WETA did for Ghost in the Shell We could not resist.

This is what he found out about the Geisha Dolls:

 

And here are some alarming details about the stealth suit,

 

Enjoy

 

 

I was going to leave the Ghost in the Shell controversy be, it is after all ridiculous. But then the original anime director Mamoru Oshii weighed in with his definitive statement during an IGN interview;

http://uk.ign.com/articles/2017/03/21/original-ghost-in-the-shell-director-mamoru-oshii-has-no-problem-with-live-action-remake

 

“What issue could there possibly be with casting her?” Oshii told IGN by e-mail. “The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply.”

 

And that is that.

 

 

 

 

 

Of the upcoming features, Blade Runner: 2049 is the most keenly anticipated, it has a small and enthusiastic fanbase. Its trailer has garnered positive response.

 

News has been coming apace. There have been interviews with director Denis Villeneuve, and he is still making the right noises, and I am comfortable in saying I believe them.

Denis Villeneuve is telling us expectations are high for the sequel, he is aware that his critics are watching him and he intends to produce a sequel worthy of the original, he also says the sequel will have the same atmosphere as the original, same genre same atmosphere.

Having seen the Arrival I expect this means we will see no action sci fi spectacular with a slam bang CG finale. And this is a mercy.

I keep saying “he’s saying all the right things”. One of those things is, in fact, about the use of CG, which he says will be kept to a minimum. There will be live sets, mostly and the sparing use of Green Screen. It is what fans want to hear, and it may even be true.

 

Less significant was the news that there will be Blade Runner: 2049 merchandise. No need for panic. The original Blade Runner had its own merchandise, die-cast metal spinners, caps, and a few books: The Art of Blade Runner, The Blade Runner Storyboards.

For Blade Runner: 2049 I expect fewer books, more action figures. But that is fine.

 

Cast member Lennie James reported that security on set was extraordinary, and much of that related to the screenplay; most of the time only parts of the script would be available to the actors, and those parts would be removed at the end of each days filming, if they had been provided electronically, they would vanish after a given period.

In addition the sets in Budapest were locked down tight with no photography leaking out.

I’m not concerned about the security, a lot of major projects are now security obsessed, what is interesting is that the feature seems to have been filmed entirely on set, I have heard no word of location filming. This will be influential on the final look.

I am well aware that the fans who long for a new Blade Runner long for one that is just like the old one. But not I. What would be the point? Since the 1980s a revolution has taking place in cinema: from Minority report, to Chappie, new film-making techniques have given us futures that are shockingly real; futures filmed on location.

I am willing to acknowledge that Blade Runner (1982) was state of the art then: is too much to demand that Blade Runner 2048 be state of the art now?

 

 

 

 

Alita: Battle Angel is in production. A notice for extras appeared in the industry press indicating that shooting was taking place in February.

They are filming in Austin at night.

Now if this is anything like Robert Rodriguez’s usual shoots, he will shoot in fragments over a long period, grabbing various cast members along the way.

We speculate he will use a mixture of his known techniques of real sets plus greenscreen.

What can we expect from it? Well, we’ve had very little indication, no detailed plot, no production art. We suspect the story will be an amalgamation of several of the different Manga stories.

A good guess would be that it is intended to be the first of a series.

But we know almost nothing.

 

 

 

 

It has gone quiet around the Amazon series True Skin. Back in July, creator Stephan Zlotescu said things were progressing well.

The plan was to make an hour-long pilot then see if a series was indicated.

Aside from a writer being hired, nothing else has been announced.

The plan was to get it on screens in 2017, but it is unlikely this will be possible with movement being so slow.

Question? Is this project still in play?

 

 

 

 

Question? Will Mute get a theatrical release?

No one is saying. On the plus side Director Duncan Jones has a fanbase who still fawn over Moon and they would support a release.

On the minus, Netflix has had trouble getting theatrical chains to accept their product. And we still have no date for Mute’s Netflix debut.

Let’s take a guess here: Netflix are still negotiating, hoping to get it into cinemas, but ready to just put it out of they can’t get one?

We might never know the actual situation, but I expect it will be out some time this year, one way of another.

Meanwhile Jones is deep in post-production.

 

 

 

 

The other thing coming on streaming services is “Altered Carbon”, we know it has been filming. But nothing else.

Actually we know a couple of things. Added to the cast has been Tamara Taylor. Which is fine.

We also have been looking over the notices of filming, and it has been posted as “Altered Carbon: Season One.” This could mean nothing. We assumed they would do the whole novel in one season, and we still assume it.

We’d hate to think they are splitting it up over multiple seasons…

And we don’t think they will.

But are they thinking they might go to Season 2? How would they proceed? Would they go straight on to Richard Morgan’s follow-up novel Broken Angels? Problem there; the premise of the series is that people can jump from body to body but physically travelling between the stars is difficult, Broken Angels set on a different Planet, with a different cast of characters, in bodies we have not seen. Would Netflix recast?

I don’t think so. I’d like to think they’d stay on Earth, carry on with the same faces, with new characters behind them. They would be new, different and fresh.

But we’re counting our chickens again. Let’s get to Season One first…

 

 

 

 

Another project we have had no news on is Hard Boiled.

I don’t buy it. Initially I didn’t but it because it was so far out of Ben Wheatley’s Wheelhouse.

Now I accept he could make it, but only if it could be made.

Huh?

Take a look at the source material. It is Bugf***.

The level of detail there, the strangeness of it. It just cannot be done.

It can’t be done because it will be too expensive, even with CG the level of visual detail is insane. Even if you shoot, I don’t know, Cambodia (that should be pretty cheap to film in) it will be too expensive.

It can’t be done because it is crazy dirty weird. It is, nobody will finance a film with that much strangeness and filth… and it is a pity.

It can’t be done because no-one knows what is; it is not a “Brand”, before you start shouting. I know what it is, I bought the issues when they were new. I know who Geoff Darrow is I know who Frank Miller is.

Do a street survey and see how many other people know.

You can make deal to make a Hard Boiled movie, but you can’t make a Hard Boiled movie.

 

 

 

 

 

And in other news

 

What Ridley is Not Doing

 

Back in September 2016 Ridley Scot grabbed up the rights of Don Winslow’s unpublished manuscript before it even had a title.

Now we know what is happening to it.

First of all, it now has a title: The Force; NYPD Sergeant Denny Malone has to juggle personal and professional issues amid a city about to explode in racial conflict. A situation complicated by the fact that he has been bought and paid for by one of the city’s biggest drug gangs.

 

The book will be published in June.

And the feature has a director. James Mangold.

The screenwriter has yet to be announced, and there is shooting or release schedule.

 

There is now a Japanese release date for Fullmetal Alchemist Live Action

by Warner Bros. Pictures on December 1st 2017. There is no North American release yet but who knows.

Here’s the Trailer again

 

 

 

Arrival is now out on DVD, surprise, it has as many extra features as the Blu-Ray

Highly recommended.

 

 

 

The alien invasion feature Extinction now has a release date: it is January 26, 2018.

 

 

 

‘Round about this time we usually speculate about what’s coming in Sci Fi London. Not this year. Although we can tell you a little about what is actually coming.

The Festival will open with Caught from Jamie Patterson: it is the classic scenario of fugitives who seek refuge at a remote house and take the owners hostage, only these fugitives are alien.

 

And the festival closes with The Rizen from Matt Mitchell. In 1955 secret NATO weapons experiments backfire: one woman has lead a band of survivors out of a horror the military have unleashed. (Hme, sounds like a zombie movie).

 

Sci Fi London are also jumping on the VR bandwagon with Tesla Punk a film in Spherica’s Immersive Combat program.

 

 

 

Reviews for the film Life are coming out and they are mixed. Not good/bad mixed but OK/great mixed. Most notices agree that it is pretty entertaining, though derivative.

A small number of critics are going nuts over it and think it is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Basically the scenario is Alien-meets-Gravity: an alien organism attacks in the International Space Station.

We’ll see how that goes.

 

 

 

Military horror is again a bit of a thing.

We just had Spectral (Grunting 217), and later on we have been promised Overlord. But it looks like Overlord (Grunting 223) will have direct competition.

Another film based in World War II, Ghosts of War: a squadron assigned to hold a French chateau discovered the building full of malevolent ghosts.

Eric Bress is to direct.

 

 

 

 

Paramount is to adapt Garth Ennis’ comic The Pro; a prostitute who wakes up one day with superhero powers.

Well, that won’t be controversial.

Zoe McCarthy to write the screenplay.

 

 

 

 

 

*thank you William Goldman

 

 

 

 

 

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.

http://www.darkhorizons.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

Grunting at the Screen (226)

18 Mar

 

 

 

The information age isn’t finished with us.

 

OK, March, what’s fresh and funky? GITS of course, Life,

MindGamers

The Void

The Belko Experiment

 

The Discovery on Netflix…

 

and some rehash movies. But what the hey.

 

And there is Logan.

We had no intention of watching this. The first Wolverine movie had so much potential, and threw it away. The Second was better, but dissolved into a standard GCI action-fest at the end.

Now all the reviews are saying this is anything but standard. Anything but a regular

superhero movie.

And oh yes, they all say it is very, very good.

All of them; critics in agreement, well it happens, but not really with something positive to say.

You know, the sequel that is better than the original is a rare thing. Even in this era when knock-off sequels are far more seldom. As good as, yes. Better? Not so much; but it seems every Wolverine film is slightly better than its predecessor…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews for The Great Wall are popping up. They all say it is silly, they all say it is fun.

Ah, why not.

 

 

MindGamers has a release date, it is March 28th. This is to coincide with a “global mind experiment”, which I read as “global marketing exercise”.

 

 

 

Here is something cool, a movie based on an idea rather than a label: The Mandela Effect: there is a phenomenon where people misremember an event on mass. It got its name from the persistent rumour that Nelson Mandela died in prison.

What if people are not misremembering? What if it is reality itself in flux?

Script is by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen. Director is to be David Guy Levy.

It’s being cast and will shoot in June.

 

 

 

 

 

Generally I ignore rumours. But when the tip comes from the horse’s mouth then I have to take note.

Neil Blomkamp has been suggesting he will not be making an Alien sequel.

I guess the only one happy about that is me.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for what he does next, and something has emerged; but only as a frustration hint on his twitter stream.

First he said

“Excited to show Mr [William] Gibson some stuff.”

Then “See! Totally new stuff coming in six months?”

You know, it’s worse than a rumour, it tells us nothing;

For a start we know it is not one of the things we have heard before, not a sequel to his three original Science Fiction features, or an expanded version of one of his shorts.

It is not one of the projects previously mooted “The Gone World.”

Guess we’ll find out. In six months.

 

 

OK, Straight to disk.

 

Train to Busan has made it onto UK DVD, I’m not one for zombie movies, but reviews suggest this is one of the best recent ones.

And the disk has extra features too.

 

 

Also on the shelf this month is Supernatural Forces. The title is not familiar, let’s check the cover.

Ah, it seems this is in fact “the Mind’s Eye” (Grunt 188)

And more significantly, this one has actually been well reviewed.

What we have here is a take on those old-school psychic movies like Scanners.

Graham Skipper plays a fugitive psychokinetic being chased by (presumably mad) doctor John Speredakos who wants to turn his power into a weapon.

Many names have been evoked here: John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Stephen King; and in an approving tone.

Yet they changed the name.

What is going on here, some kind of “anti-branding” where product is given the least recognisable labels to…? I have no idea what the purpose might be.

OK, let’s be unfair; lately in fandom there has been fetish for practical FX over CG, and “Supernatural Forces” is one hundred percent practical with reportedly fine execution.

It is the quality of storytelling I am after, and there might be something going for it in this regard too.

Anyway, I’m a sucker for this kind of thing and if you are too it is now available.

 

 

 

Which brings to mind.

Lately there has been a vogue for two things: practical FX and 80s nostalgia. These things go hand in hand. There has been a rising tide, the most visible example has been stranger Things, but it is far from the only one.

Inanimate/Harbinger Down evoked sea based horror like Deep Star Six and Leviathan.

Infini was reminiscent of Alien and its many homages.

Turbo Kid was a nod to Mad Max

Manborg again Mad Max.

The Void a mix of various John Carpenter: Prince of Darkness, The Thing.

Somnus another alien tribute.

 

Why are we seeing this now? The usual reason is demographic; those who were teenagers in the 80s now have the power to get film and TV made, and they choose to bring back the things they know and love.

 

But let us be realistic, like all trends it will only last so long and it will have both good and bad entries.

 

 

 

So Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Grunting -129) now has a director; Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic).

This is the one where the investigation of a murder in a virtual city uncovers a vast conspiracy.

As of yet there’s no word of cast or schedule.

 

 

 

OK, Dune, I just can’t let it go.

Assuming, as we were, that this film actually gets made there is one burning question: black stillsuits, totally unacceptable or just a regrettable idea?

Back in the eighties the one good aspect of Dune was the costume design, it should have been, it was by the great Bob Ringwood.

But black stillsuits, are you serious. Is there a worse colour to be under the desert sun in, and in rubber? (Maybe that would one useful during the cold dessert nights but really.

I don’t really blame Bob Ringwood, a designer makes what he is told to, and so much of his other stuff was great.

So what colour should a stillsuit actually be?

Sand colour of course; with some creative cinematography they can make sand camouflage suits visible when they have to be and disappear against the dunes when appropriate.

 

Glad I got that out.

 

Meanwhile back to length, I previously suggested the only way to do justice to the breadth of Dune’s story was to split it in two.

But . There. Is. Another. Way.

When legendary Studios bought the rights to Dune they got both the Film and television rights, maybe that was to prevent some other company making a TV version while they were dithering over the movie, maybe they wanted to put Dune on the big screen and the subsequent books relegated to broadcast.

But I have another idea.

They could make film four to six hours of Dune; carefully cut a two and a half hour feature version, but then release a six hour mini-series version with the extra footage on TV. In essence do deliberately something similar to what was done accidentally with the David Lynch film.

 

Now, I have no information suggestion that this is what they intend, but it is a possibility.

 

Which has gained sudden relevance.

An interesting thing happened at the Kong: Skull Island release, bear with me; some critics were praising it for its shortness, they were making snide comments about Peter Jackson’s bloated productions.

Is the tide turning? Is the age of the overlong epic coming to an end?

That is very relevant to future productions, this is very relevant to Dune.

Dune needs a certain amount of space, will it fit into these slimmed-down times?

 

So, where should Dune be filmed?

My first inclination is to Say Morocco; it is where Ridley Scott made The Martian, and Kingdom of Heaven and Black Hawk Down.

Then I remembered that Denis Villeneuve is not making Dune with Ridley Scott. (No, He’s making Blade Runner 2049 with Ridley Scott).

OK, it is unlikely the sands of Morocco will stand in for those of Arrakis.

 

Since Legendary is producing Dune, how about China? They have desert. And it is pretty cheap to film out there. They will get more bang for the buck there.

 

Anyway, we are in that wonderful twilight area; the film has been mooted but it has not yet disappointed us… So we can speculate on how good it could be.

 

Who should write it? Who would you cast (actually I am pretty flexible on this question)?

 

The last thing that bugs me is just who will write the screenplay?

What we know is that Denis Villeneuve has his own particular vision.

We also know that Legendary Pictures has not imposed a script on Villeneuve, we know that because he has said in interview that it has not been written yet.

 

I got to say it is a poisoned chalice. Even of the new writer is unaware of the prestige of the material they are dealing with, it is still a massive tome to reduce to feature film size. I wouldn’t wish it on any… hey, maybe one of the Game of Throne writers could give it a shot, it should be child’s play to them.

 

 

 

 

Blame! is being called a cyberpunk story: based in a city so vast it extends to the orbits of the Gas Giants, I’d say that is questionable, but the imagery is interesting.

What is interesting is the original manga creator was Tsutomu Nihei, who produced some concept art for the abandoned Neuromancer feature.

Blame! already had a cell anime series, but it has been trying to get a CGI feature going for a while. The original studio Basara, went bust before that could happen.

Well, another company, Polygon Pictures, has taken over and it looks like the feature is finally coming.

Here is the trailer.

 

 

 

We last ran into The Last Scout back in Grunting at the Screen (164), thought it had vanished into straight to video hell, but we just found a trailer

It goes to VOD in the US March 7th.

 

 

 

Director Dan Trachtenberg has signed on for Space Race, a Science Fiction feature written by Daniel Kunka.

Other than that details are thin.

It is described as “high concept with four-quadrant tentpole potential”.

Huh?

They’ve lost me.

“High concept: means is the idea is simple as f*** (which is probably why they are keeping it close to their chests, anyone can copy it)

“Tentpole” suggests they think it will be big (oh dear, they may also sink a tone of cash into this one.

“Four-quadrant”? You’ve lost me there.

Essentially they are telling us nothing. However, there is the title; “Space Race”.

It couldn’t be that simple? A bunch of people compete in a race across space; perhaps in spaceships maybe in space yacht, or maybe space bikes (it could happen!)

 

Well, more new if it happens. These “secret ” projects tend to wither secretly on the vine.

 

 

 

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.

http://www.darkhorizons.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

Grunting at the Screen (225)

6 Mar


The information age isn’t finished with us.

OK, March, what’s fresh and funky? GITS of course, Life,
MindGamers
The Void
The Belko Experiment

The Discovery on Netflix…

and some rehash movies. But what the hey.

And there is Logan.
We had no intention of watching this. The first Wolverine movie had so much potential, and threw it away. The Second was better, but dissolved into a standard GCI action-fest at the end.
Now all the reviews are saying this is anything but standard. Anything but a regular
superhero movie.
And oh yes, they all say it is very, very good.
All of them; critics in agreement, well it happens, but not really with something positive to say.
You know, the sequel that is better than the original is a rare thing. Even in this era when knock-off sequels are far more seldom. As good as, yes. Better? Not so much; but it seems every Wolverine film is slightly better than its predecessor…

Reviews for The Great Wall are popping up. They all say it is silly, they all say it is fun.
Ah, why not.

MindGamers has a release date, it is March 1st. This is to coincide with a “global mind experiment”, which I read as “global marketing exercise”.

Here is something cool, a movie based on an idea rather than a label: The Mandela Effect: there is a phenomenon where people misremember an event on mass. It got its name from the persistent rumour that Nelson Mandela died in prison.
What if people are not misremembering? What if it is reality itself in flux?
Script is by Steffen Schlachtenhaufen. Director is to be David Guy Levy.
It’s being cast and will shoot in June.

Generally I ignore rumours. But when the tip comes from the horse’s mouth then I have to take note.
Neil Blomkamp has been suggesting he will not be making an Alien sequel.
I guess the only one happy about that is me.
I’ve been keeping an eye out for what he does next, and something has emerged; but only as a frustration hint on his twitter stream.
First he said
“Excited to show Mr [William] Gibson some stuff.”
Then “See! Totally new stuff coming in six months?”
You know, it’s worse than a rumour, it tells us nothing;
For a start we know it is not one of the things we have heard before, not a sequel to his three original Science Fiction features, or an expanded version of one of his shorts.
It is not one of the projects previously mooted “The Gone World.”
Guess we’ll find out. In six months.

OK, Straight to disk.

Train to Busan has made it onto UK DVD, I’m not one for zombie movies, but reviews suggest this is one of the best recent ones.
And the disk has extra features too.

Also on the shelf this month is Supernatural Forces. The title is not familiar, let’s check the cover.
Ah, it seems this is in fact “the Mind’s Eye” (Grunt 188)
And more significantly, this one has actually been well reviewed.
What we have here is a take on those old-school psychic movies like Scanners.
Graham Skipper plays a fugitive psychokinetic being chased by (presumably mad) doctor John Speredakos who wants to turn his power into a weapon.
Many names have been evoked here: John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Stephen King; and in an approving tone.
Yet they changed the name.
What is going on here, some kind of “anti-branding” where product is given the least recognisable labels to…? I have no idea what the purpose might be.
OK, let’s be unfair; lately in fandom there has been fetish for practical FX over CG, and “Supernatural Forces” is one hundred percent practical with reportedly fine execution.
It is the quality of storytelling I am after, and there might be something going for it in this regard too.
Anyway, I’m a sucker for this kind of thing and if you are too, it is now available.

Which brings to mind.
Lately there has been a vogue for two things: practical FX and 80s nostalgia. These things go hand in hand. There has been a rising tide, the most visible example has been stranger Things, but it is far from the only one.
Inanimate/Harbinger Down evoked sea based horror like Deep Star Six and Leviathan.
Infini was reminiscent of Alien and its many homages.
Turbo Kid was a nod to Mad Max
Manborg again Mad Max.
The Void a mix of various John Carpenter: Prince of Darkness, The Thing.
Somnus another alien tribute.

Why are we seeing this now? The usual reason is demographic; those who were teenagers in the 80s now have the power to get film and TV made, and they choose to bring back the things they know and love.

But let us be realistic, like all trends it will only last so long and it will have both good and bad entries.

So Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Grunting -129) now has a director; Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic).
This is the one where the investigation of a murder in a virtual city uncovers a vast conspiracy.
As of yet there’s no word of cast or schedule.

OK, Dune, I just can’t let it go.
Assuming, as we were, that this film actually gets made there is one burning question: black stillsuits, totally unacceptable or just a regrettable idea?
Back in the eighties the one good aspect of Dune was the costume design, it should have been, it was by the great Bob Ringwood.
But black stillsuits, are you serious. Is there a worse colour to be under the desert sun in, and in rubber? (Maybe that would one useful during the cold dessert nights but really.
I don’t really blame Bob Ringwood, a designer makes what he is told to, and so much of his other stuff was great.
So what colour should a stillsuit actually be?
Sand colour of course; with some creative cinematography they can make sand camouflage suits visible when they have to be and disappear against the dunes when appropriate.

Glad I got that out.

Meanwhile back to length, I previously suggested the only way to do justice to the breadth of Dune’s story was to split it in two.
But . There. Is. Another. Way.
When legendary Studios bought the rights to Dune they got both the Film and television rights, maybe that was to prevent some other company making a TV version while they were dithering over the movie, maybe they wanted to put Dune on the big screen and the subsequent books relegated to broadcast.
But I have another idea.
They could make film four to six hours of Dune; carefully cut a two and a half hour feature version, but then release a six hour mini-series version with the extra footage on TV. In essence do deliberately something similar to what was done accidentally with the David Lynch film.

Now, I have no information suggestion that this is what they intend, but it is a possibility.

Which has gained sudden relevance.
An interesting thing happened at the Kong: Skull Island release, bear with me; some critics were praising it for its shortness, they were making snide comments about Peter Jackson’s bloated productions.
Is the tide turning? Is the age of the overlong epic coming to an end?
That is very relevant to future productions, this is very relevant to Dune.
Dune needs a certain amount of space, will it fit into these slimmed-down times?

So, where should Dune be filmed?
My first inclination is to Say Morocco; it is where Ridley Scott made The Martian, and Kingdom of Heaven and Black Hawk Down.
Then I remembered that Denis Villeneuve is not making Dune with Ridley Scott. (No, He’s making Blade Runner 2049 with Ridley Scott).
OK, it is unlikely the sands of Morocco will stand in for those of Arrakis.

Since Legendary is producing Dune, how about China? They have desert. And it is pretty cheap to film out there. They will get more bang for the buck there.

Anyway, we are in that wonderful twilight area; the film has been mooted but it has not yet disappointed us… So we can speculate on how good it could be.

Who should write it? Who would you cast (actually I am pretty flexible on this question)?

The last thing that bugs me is just who will write the screenplay?
What we know is that Denis Villeneuve has his own particular vision.
We also know that Legendary Pictures has not imposed a script on Villeneuve, we know that because he has said in interview that it has not been written yet.

I got to say it is a poisoned chalice. Even of the new writer is unaware of the prestige of the material they are dealing with, it is still a massive tome to reduce to feature film size. I wouldn’t wish it on any… hey, maybe one of the Game of Throne writers could give it a shot, it should be child’s play to them.

Blame! is being called a cyberpunk story: based in a city so vast it extends to the orbits of the Gas Giants, I’d say that is questionable, but the imagery is interesting.
What is interesting is the original manga creator was Tsutomu Nihei, who produced some concept art for the abandoned Neuromancer feature.
Blame! already had a cell anime series, but it has been trying to get a CGI feature going for a while. The original studio Basara, went bust before that could happen.
Well, another company, Polygon Pictures, has taken over and it looks like the feature is finally coming.
Here is the trailer.

We last ran into The Last Scout back in Grunting at the Screen (164), thought it had vanished into straight to video hell, but we just found a trailer

It goes to VOD in the US March 7th.

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.
http://www.darkhorizons.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

Grunting at the Screen (224)

18 Feb

 

 

 

The information age isn’t finished with us.

 

 

 

 

So what is on the DVD shelves this February?

The usual stuff plus some straight-to-video fare.

Sole Survivor had me scratching my head, where did this one pop up from? Can’t find any reviews for it either.

Ah yes, we have another feature that has changed its name, to protect the guilty makers of this piece of crap.

Sole Survivor from director Christopher Jacobs was originally called Lone Wolves; it’s the end of the world again and a soldier gets in contact with an astronaut trapped on a space station to save civilisation.

The problem is, it sucks. The story, acting, and FX suck. Of course if it has kept its original title you could just look it up and see how much it sucked.

But don’t worry, you know Jack and I’m happy to expose these skinwalking weredisks that think they can slink past your quality control in the dark.

 

You may not have heard of Deep Space from director Ian Truitner, which is not surprising because it was originally called Teleios. Oh here we go again, except we don’t because Teleios is actually well reviewed; good fx for a low budget production, a thoughtful script, acting a little stiff, but that is explicable since the characters are genetically altered artificial humans.

The scenario is a crew of genetically engineered artificals journey out to rescue a mining ship that has gone silent, the miners turn out to be mostly dead and strange thing start happening on the ship.

OK so the scenario is not new, if you have seen Alien or Event Horizon you will find yourself in familiar territory, but reviews suggest the execution is a cut above the rest.

So what was the point in changing the title? Well there does not seem to be one at all.

Deep Space, available in supermarkets.

 

 

 

There are umpteen horror anthology movies at the moment, one close to my heart is “Galaxy of Horrors”, and anthology of Science Fiction horror collected by Justin McConnell, and Avi Federgreen, it features 8 stories from international directors and a framing sequence. It is in cinemas from March 1st and VOD from March 7th,

Here’s a trailer

 

 

 

James Gray’s To the Stars (Grunting 134) is now being called Ad Astra (although they are still going no closer to the stars than they were under the old name). They are talking about casting Brad Pitt.

The plot involves some kind of mental breakdown on a long space voyage.

Grey is talking about making something “conceptually amazing”, good luck to him.

 

 

 

I have not covered Gore Verbinksi’s A Cure for Wellnes because I could not figure out just what it was: was it a thriller? Horror?

To be honest I have no particular feelings about Gore Verbinksi. He’s never particularly impressed me, but I don’t hugely hate his work.

Anyway reviews are out now and… they are interesting. Downright fascinating;

Basic plot; ambitious young executive is set to the mountains to retrieve his boss who is taking the cure in a wellness clinic, when he gets there, the boss is not ready to go and the young man finds himself drawn into a series of treatments at a clinic which is not what seems to be.

The thing is, reviews have described this as totally nuts. Some are positive, some not so much, all agree it is odder than any mainstream film deserves to be.

OK one review says it drags some.

But it sounds just crazy enough that it might be good.

Open Feb. 17th.

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, Black Hole is coming… not The Black Hole. Oh no.

Disney’s long mooted reboot is still in turnaround. We are talking a production from Brad (San Andreas) Peyton.

A black hole enters the solar system setting off the usual global disasters, a team of scientists and soldiers try to prevent total disaster.

 

No Cast as of yet but production is expected to begin in early 2018

 

 

A few years back it looked like we were going to have a major influx of Viking films.

What we got were some well-regarded TV series, but few features.

Perhaps the day of the northlander has come because the production of a major feature has been announced: Viking Destiny: a young girl is banished after being framed for the murder of her father, the king. She travels the world accompanied by the god Odin gathering an army to reclaim the throne. (So long as she does not require a Wizard, a warrior a thief, and an ancient object of power I think she’ll be fine).

The god Odin? Hme. Based on a true story is it? Anyway.

Director is David L.G. Hughes, Terence Stamp has been cast as Odin.

No schedule.

 

 

You may be wandering about that population dystopia What Happened to Monday, well wandering will do no good because it has now changed its name to Seven Sisters.

It is getting an international release, US release is yet to be announced.

 

 

 

Looks like Tom DeLonge has competition. You want Skater Science Fiction? Next up is “Skate God” from director Alexander Garcia in a dystopian world a skater is a descendant of a geek god.

The plan is to shoot in the late spring.

 

 

 

 

 

The Space Between Us: Review

First of all the cast is great Britt Robertson is a young Julia Roberts, a young Kyra Sedgwick, she lights up the screen, gives a convincing performance and is someone to watch in future movies, (Asa Butterfield is every bit as good a s he was in Ender’s Fame, which is very good. He does a good performance f someone lost on Earth.

Gary Oldman plays against type effectively.

 

The film starts well portraying Oldman as a space visionary (apparently Elon Musk is now a “type”). The FX here are solid and credible.

In fact, later the film makers even make an effort to portray Martian gravity.

Which is all well and good because this film sucks!

Yes even a good performance cannot survive a film with a terrible script, and this one is the cinematic equivalent of Swiss cheese.

Where do I begin? OK with the premise; i.e. NASA (even in collaboration with a private company) sending a pregnant astronaut into space. With the health examinations flight crew get, they won’t send one up with a head cold.

And how about the fact that don’t have the nouse to do a urine test but do include a sonogram kit up with the medical equipment? Sounds like a little accidentally-on purpose.

Moving on swiftly, why is NASA ending people to Mars when they have clearly found a hole in Einstein’s relativity? I mean the instant communication between Earth and Mars. With that theoretical breakthrough we should be designing starships.

At closest approach the time delay between Earth and Mars is four minutes, at its most distant, about twenty four. It took me 45 seconds to find that. 45 seconds the film makers didn’t think you were worth.

Apparently Asa Butterfield plays someone with an immune system of steel; despite all of exposure to Earth pathogens the only threat to his life are the conditions he brings from Mars.

Which reminds me, he walks from a capsule landing. After an entire life on Mars and seven months at zero g (I’m sorry, “microgravity”) he walks. So they reinforced his bones with carbon nanofiber, did they reinforce his muscles as well?

And let’s not get into accelerating into orbit with your head on a girl’s lap. (Stiff neck maybe?)

The technical difficulties are not the only problem, Asa and Britt are not shown communication long enough to form the kind of bond they later have, not even for horny teenagers.

But the way there is a twist at the end, but don’t worry, you won’t care.

The film is not without virtue, it is cut tightly enough to move along swiftly (which suggests a whole lot of missing plot support.)

And the love story is kind of cute: she’s from Colorado, her boyfriend is from Mars.

But it doesn’t forgive the utter mess it all is.

So why did the film have so many implausibilities? I realised when Britt was flying they away in her foster dad’s crop-duster (Oh yeah, they do that) that the very reason the film makers decided to pointlessly make this a Science Fiction movie is they think sci fi fans will buy and crap you serve up to them, they don’t care they’re dumb as a bag of spanners.

Well this this fan ain’t playing.

The credits rolled up with the names of the writers. Well I’m taking you over my knee: Don’t. Write. Again. Till. You’ve. Read. A. Science. Book! Now go to your corners!*

Only go see this movie if you enjoy getting your intelligence repeatedly insulted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Hme, that was a little too revealing…

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

 

 

 

 

 

Grunting at the Screen (223)

6 Feb

 

 

 

The information age isn’t finished with us.

 

 

 

 

With the coming of February, life begins.

The Space Between Us opens on the 10th.

We covered this back in Grunts (158), (187), (210) and (220) so you may well know nothing about this feature…

Anyway.

The question we are asking, with Passengers and this one: is the Space Rom-Com now a “thing”?

 

 

Reviews for The Space Between Us are emerging. They hate it. Oooh they hate it bad. They hate it for different reasons, they hate the characters, they hate the plot, they hate the bad science. I’d be more comfortable if they hated it for just one reason.

Well, it’s traditional to start the year with a bad movie.

I’m in.

 

Also coming in February;

John Wick: Chapter 2

The Great Wall,

and God Particle.

 

 

Now it is definitely February. What I mean is everything is happening; Dune has a director and it is Denis Villeneuve.

 

To be honest I did not see it happening. Denis Villeneuve had mentioned how tiring it was making BR, so it was hardly likely he’d plump for another bigger Science Fiction production.

But here we are.

A number of factors contributed to this outcome. Denis Villeneuve expressed interest even before Legendary acquired the rights.

 

He built an impressive portfolio with independent films, the Arrival was a hit and he was selected for BR.

 

He is an avowed Science Fiction fan but one with selective taste.

 

And finally getting an Oscar nomination did not hurt.

 

This outcome also follows Legendary’s usual policy of hiring the directors of smaller innovative films to make their larger budget features: Guillermo del Toro, Duncan Jones, Gareth Edwards all benefited from this approach.

 

 

There is, of course no guarantee the feature will even get made; like may science fiction classics, Dune is (and make no bones about it ) cursed.

 

Denis Villeneuve is just the latest of many, many directors to be attached to this most prestigious of projects. Let me count the names.

Peter Berg

Pierre Morel

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Ridley Scott

 

More than one of them got well into preproduction with a lot of heavy art commissioned before the project fell apart.

 

Dune has also been made twice: once as a feature film, once as a mini-series.

The feature gathered a small but vocal cult audience, bit it is by no means adjudged a classic. Most of the film-going community is ignorant or indifferent to it and a small number are still quite hostile to it.

 

As for the Mini-series, I shall speak no more of it (well I thought it was OK).

 

Being that the Legendary production is the remake of a thirty year old film, you’d think I’d be ready to pour contempt on it.

 

Not so. Dune has never been done right.

 

A book as well regarded as Frank Herbert’s Dune should have a film to match.

 

What I object to is rebooting classic films. Dune is the perfect case of unrealised potential.

 

So, let’s pretend the making of Dune is a lock.

 

How should legendary and its director tackle it.

 

Well, ahem, I have a few modest suggestions.

 

Before Frank Herbert wrote Dune, he roughed out a smaller more conventional novel called Spice Planet. The notes for this were fleshed out into a short novel by Frank Herbert’s son Brian, and Kevin Anderson. I strongly suggest that Legendary should secure the rights to this novel. Why? it contains all of the cinematic bones that allow you to make a version of Dune that a general audience can understand easily. What do I mean by that?

What is the root of the disagreement between the Emperor and Duke Leto?

What is the secret origin of Spice?

Why would the Emperor even allow The Atreides to take over the valuable spice planet Arakis?

It is all in Spice Planet, and in a very linear way.

 

There is one more thing Legendary should seriously consider: Split it in half.

Before Lord of the Rings it would have been a risky thing to suggest. But Dune is such a massive story to tell, you can either make an 8 hour film (and you see how that worked out for David Lynch) or you can split the film. After all, the novel was originally published as two volumes.

 

And while they are at it they should get the rights to the Jim Burns illustrations in Frank Herbert’s Eye. Why? Herbert worked with the artist to produce his preferred vision: this is Dune as the author saw it.

 

When Peter Jackson made LOTR he roped in the most highly regarded Tolkien artists to conceptualise it. There is benefit to not reinventing the wheel.

And I’m not the only one who thinks Dune should be remade because the feature was originally a bit off.

http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2017/10-failed-movies-with-good-premises-that-should-be-remade/2/

 

In fact they feel that way about a bunch of films.

 

 

 

And fabulous February does not end here. We are also hearing word that Ursula K. Le Guin’s Planet of Exile has been optioned by Los Angeles Media Fund.

I’ve read some of her Hainish novels but I can’t say I remember reading this one.

Two tribes live on the planet Werel; Human and extraterrestrial. But the long winter is coming and tension between the groups is rising.

 

Screenwriter is Daniel Stiepelman and the project is still in its earliest days.

 

 

 

J.J. Abrams is producing a supernatural war film called Overlord; two paratroopers on a mission discover supernatural forces working against them. Julius Avery will direct.

No schedule as yet.

 

 

 

 

Tom DeLonge is set to direct Strange Times: San Diego skateboarders investigate paranormal activity.

Tom DeLonge is better known as a founder member of Blink-182, but he has previously produced The Signal (Grunt 147) and Love (Grunt 102).

 

 

We are delighted to tell you about Origin Unknown to be directed by Hasraf Dullul and written by Gary Hall: a discovery beneath the surface of Mars threatens to change everything.

Hmm, Hasraf Dullul where did I hear that name before? Ah yes, short film director, made a film named Project Kronos.

And Sync.

 

With Origin Unknown he is graduating to the big time.

Cast in the lead is Katee Sackhoff

Principal photography begins later February in London

 

 

They just keep coming: Chris “The Darkest Hour” Gorak is to direct and write “Attach”: an athlete gets a cutting edge prosthetic arm and leg, they are artificially intelligent, and somehow they start having ideas of their own.

Great! This is perfect high-concept: Hand of Orlac meets the Bionic Man.

Alex Russell takes the lead.

The production company is still raising the finance for it.

 

 

 

 

China Film Group is joining up with director Timo Vuorensola to make Iron Sky: The Ark, third in the series.

Wait a second did I miss the second one?

Ah, I see, he second one; Iron Sky: The Coming Race, has not been released yet. It is due out in September 2017.

The China Film Group must be really confident of success.

Max Wang has written the screenplay and Vuorensola will direct.

OK, this one will be set and I presume shot in China for delivery in 2018.

Confusingly it is chronologically before The Coming Race.

No word on the plot, but I am guessing it involves some kind of “Ark”, (I’m hoping for a giant space ark taking all the Nazis from earth… like forever.)

As I said, Everyone is going to China.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

http://www.darkhorizons.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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grunting at the Screen (222)

30 Jan

 

 

 

The information age isn’t finished with us.

 

January is the slow part of the year. The world is in recovery from Christmas and there is not a huge amount of news.

 

 

There are a couple of scheduled releases:

Underworld Blood Wars January 6th 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter January 26th.

 

 

 

It seems these series always end up next to each other. (Why don’t they just get a room?*) Despite some ropy recent instalments I’d like to check out the Underworld Sequel and if there is a non-3D version of Resident Evil 6, I might do that one too!

 

I’m not a huge fan of sequels, but these are a couple of series which have been mid-budget and fun and, despite a certain decent into cheesiness, lack the cynicism of some other franchises out there.

Really.

 

Reviews for Underworld: Blood Wars are out and they are pretty mediocre, well the ones that aren’t plain bad.

Still… if I can catch it cheap, I just might.

 

 

 

We are hearing about a new Science Fiction project from producer Jerry Bruckheimer; It is called Origin, Joachim Ronning is to direct. Ronning and his brother Andreas Ronning will write.

No details of story as of yet but I doubt it is related to the Swedish film of the same name.

Bruckheimer is a film industry legend, known for producing big budget action films. Lately he has been associated with the box office sensation Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

He is not known for making Science Fiction, although he did produce the time travel feature Deja Vu in 2006.

 

Origin is described as “contemporary, big scale, high concept”. Not very informative. Let’s see if we can interpret.

Easiest is “big scale”, they want to spend a ton of cash on it, maybe 100, 150 million dollars and upward.

High Concept? Ah, it is so simple you can put it a single sentence (You’d think it would be the opposite, but this is Hollywood speak); well that explains why they are so cagy about the story; if it is that simple anyone can do it.

Contemporary? Well I don’t know. Set in contemporary times? Maybe. But I suspect what they mean is it’s pretty much like something we all know and has been known to already make money. So, not very original.

In any case, we may not see at all. Many of these mysterious film projects with no names, or no known stories end up languishing in turnaround for years before quietly fading.

 

 

Steven Hammel and Keanu Reeves have a production outfit called Company Films and yes, they too are going to China.

They are lining up a number of TV and feature film projects to be co-producing by Chinese companies.

Lined up so far is: Rally Car, Olivier Megaton directing, Jeremy Lott writing; Reeves is a rally driver in a race across the Gobi desert.

Unmanned, Tim Webber directing to be shot in the autumn at Wanda’s studios in China; human soldiers are paired with robot drones that will soon make them obsolete.

Company Films is also working on an untitled (uh-oh) Science Fiction feature with Shu Huan.

And there is also Looking for Aladdin; a quest to find the lost lamp of Aladdin.

 

 

When we last reported on Rupert Wyatt’s Captive State (Grunting 211)

we had no details.

Well, we’ve got details.

For a decade Chicago has been occupied by an extraterrestrial force. This film is to highlight life in the surveillance state.

Just Chicago? Surly not. And is it really aliens we have fear in an authoritarian society?

Cast are John Goodman and Ashton Sanders, no word on schedule.

 

 

With the New Year come new DVDs.

Rupture had a cinema release, but hardly anyone heard about it. Morgan, well I didn’t take to it on the big screen, I doubt that will change for a home release, and here is something interesting: Somnus. Looking at the cover it looks like the typical cheap straight to video release. Only thing, this one went to Cannes. A commercial spacecraft takes an unscheduled trip to the colony Somnus where things are not as they should be.

Chris Reading is the director and it seems he has taken some interesting strategies in making it. It was shot in redressed cold-war aircraft interiors. CG was kept to a minimum and miniature work was used in the space sequences. And there were some visual nods to 2001 and Alien.

Increasingly at the independent level we are seeing films reverting to old-school methods where they can.

Anyway, I have seen a few reviews, they are mixed but by and large they agree that it is an amalgamation of earlier films, it brings little new to the pot

 

 

 

 

 

Attack on Titan is getting a live action feature. What? It had one already? Ah yes. This one is an American feature.

Producer will be David Heyman, the studio is Warner Bros.

As ever there is no word on script writer, cast or schedule.

This is just the latest in a string of Anima or Manga adaptations, it also slips into the trend for giant monsters: King Kong Skull Island opens this year, nest year we will have Pacific Rim: Maelstrom and in the mid-future will be the King Kong vs. Godzilla rematch.

 

 

It’s not a movie but we like Andy Weir; the author of The Martian is writing and producing the TV series Mission Control; it’s about the personal and professional lives of astronauts. CBC is the network. So far they have only asked for a pilot but if it goes well a series may be commissioned.

Just so long as it isn’t Defying Gravity.

 

 

Brandon Sanderson’s novella “Snapshot,” has been optioned by MGM: in the future the police take a snapshot of a day to solve crimes. During one investigation a horrifying discovery is made.

So far there is no director, no script, you know the routine.

 

 

 

 

Ubisoft continues to reposition its games as feature films, latest one is The Division; (formerly known as “Tom Clancy’s The Division”) a third person shooter set in a pandemic aftermath.

 

They are already quite far along with the preparations; director will be, Stephen Gaghan, Jessica Chastain and Jake Gyllenhaal have been cast.

No schedule of yet.

 

 

What’s Ridley Not Doing.

Ridley Scott’s Scott Free production company is actively pursuing the acquisition of The Wailing remake rights, this was a south Korean movie from 2016; a police office in a small village comes up against a strange contagion where people randomly become violent to others or themselves; a Japanese man said to be demon possessed is the chief suspect, but soon the policeman and his family become targeted by the contagion.

Now Scot Free has not acquired it yet, and if it does there is no indication that Ridley Scott would direct.

In fact the studio head Hosung Kim, from Fox International Productions, Korea does not believe it could be remade outside of its specific cultural context and certainly not without its original director Na Hong Jin.

 

 

 

The Dune feature film may well be dead.

Oh there has been no announcement but I have reason to believe.

It goes like this.

Thomas Tull, The head of Legendary (the film studio that acquired Dune) has been replaced.

There is a terrible truth from the plains of Africa: when the new lion takes over the pride, he kills the pride’s cubs so he can make his own.

It is just so in Hollywood studios.

Well, not exactly so…

When the new studio head comes along the films greenlit by the old studio head face a hard time. Those not in yet in production are put into turnaround. These completed and facing release are dumped in unfavourable parts of the year with little or no promotion.

The problem is , not only was Dune bought under Thomas Tull’s regime, he will remain the producer even after leaving the studio.

But why would a studio head sabotage his own pictures: it is all about perception; if these “legacy” films do well, the success belongs to his predecessor, if they do badly it is proof that replacing the old regime was the right thing to do.

It’s just politics.

 

 

Good news everyone. The Arrival has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, Director Denis Villeneuve has also been nominated.

All in all it got seven, with nominations for best Cinematography , best sound mixing, best sound editing, best production design and best adapted screenplay

I usually cannot be bothered with awards, they are mostly crap. But it is irksome when year after year great genre pictures fail to even get a nomination, enough so that it is worth noting when they do.

Also gaining a couple of nods was Passengers; best original soundtrack, and best production design. Not too bad.

 

 

Michael Bay continues to attempt to make another science fiction feature, the latest one is Little America. Sadly he is not directing this one. To be written and directed by Rowan Athale: in the future the president has bankrupted the USA, Americans are emigration to China to find jobs, and a Chinese billionaire hired and American ex Force Recon marine to find his lost daughter.

No cast or schedule as yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Actually, it was discussed bringing these titles together until it was pointed out no camera could contain that amount of tight latex without actually exploding.

 

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.

http://www.darkhorizons.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

 

 

 

 

Grunting at the Screen (221)

7 Jan

 

 

 

The information age isn’t finished with us.

 

 

 

 

Cyberpunk Special: Winter.

 

Winter isn’t coming… it is very much here.

And in keeping let’s start with Neuromancer.

Neuromancer is dead. There has been no such announcement but the failure of any movement since the announcement of Chinese investment points towards a project too deep in turnaround for recovery.

Which is a pity because this should be its time. With the cyberpunk meme rising again, it is mete that one of the films in production should be adapted from William Gibson’s most iconic novel.

This is not to be.

The current reason that it is difficult to adapt is that so many of its ideas have been stolen by other productions. This sounds like pure prevarication to me: this is a good reason to not produce the umpteenth Star Wars or Star Trek sequel, because none of them have a fresh idea between them. Any old idea can be made fresh again, and Neuromancer is made for this age.

 

 

And what of the other Gibson adaptation, Dogfight?

Well, director Simon Pummell has had this project for two decades, it is not going anywhere and I think his other project, Piper is more likely to film first.

 

 

Meanwhile we are hearing that Gibson’s comic, Archangel has been optioned a TV series. The word came straight from his twitter account. There are no details, so we don’t know who has bought it, who is cast, when it is scheduled to shoot or when or where the broadcast date is.

And yes, Archangel is not cyberpunk.

 

 

Gibson’s Blue Ant trilogy has also been re-optioned.

Pattern Recognition was previously under option, nothing came of that.

 

 

 

Let’s also drop a word of commiseration for the Anime-to-live-action adaptation; Bubblegum Crisis.

It started so well, with a reality show to find the stars.

Now there has been no word for years.

In retrospect maybe it was not such a great idea. It worked well as anime, but as live-action it was in danger of becoming a hodgepodge of Blade Runner and The Terminator (and with those suits someone was bound to invoke Power Rangers as well…)

There is a moral in there, I am not sure what it might be but it is bound to start with: Don’t cast your movie from a reality show.

 

 

 

When Scott Derrickson moved to Marvel the films he had on his slate: Deus Ex Human Revolution and When Gravity Fails, slipped by the wayside.

Despite hints, there is no indication either will see production soon.

Given the current cultural and political atmosphere (it’s funny but no-one seems to mention that general anxiety over Islamic terrorism might just affect which western fantasy films get greenlit…) it is unlikely we will see When Gravity Fails, (unless they shift the background to like…Shanghai!) To be honest I assumed this was a factor generally, but I am surprised to see movement on a new version of Sinbad (let’s see how much of the Arabic origins survive there.) But anyway.

As for Deus Ex, the fact that it is seen as a Videogame movie more than cyberpunk may be exacerbate the delay. Every year one film is nominated to finally break the “curse of the videogame movies” (there is no such curse: Tomb Raider, and Resident Evil both made enough money to support sequels.) However this year Warcraft underperformed in the US (which is what matters for future financing) and that casts any forthcoming games-based features into doubt.

 

 

 

 

 

And what has happened with True Skin? I last blogged it back in Grunt (199) and it has become a bit of a mystery. Since its acquisition by Amazon in March, there has been a deafening silence.

In interview True Skin creator Stephan Zlotescu said the project was “Coming together very nicely”.

We have learned that Nicole “Guardians of the Galaxy” Perlman was hired to write the script. But she is not due to start working on it until 2017. That pushes any possibility of the series into late 2017- early 2018 at the very best.

 

 

 

Robert Rodriguez, has been a busy man, running a cable network (he really has to start going On Demand, it’s the future…) producing other film makers and planning other features like Jonny Quest. But it looks like he is settling back into the director’s chair with Alita: Battle Angel. He’s been aggressively casting:

Rosa Salazar as Alita

Christoph Waltz as Doctor Dyson Ido

Leonard Wu as Kinuba

Lana Condor as Koyomi

Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Hugo

Mahershala Ali as Vector

Jackie Earle Haley as an unnamed cyborg and

Eiza González in an unknown role

 

Encouraging.

But is he up to it? I love Rodriguez, I own most of his movies, but I also know he is soft on story.

Alita is a huge project and it needs to hang together, my hope is the supervision of James Cameron and script inherited from earlier days will keep Rodriguez on track, but a good script is no deterrent for a director who values visuals over narrative (Tim Burton, I am talking about you).

I want Alita to be good. But I am concerned.

Rodriguez did his best work at low-budget, using his own screenplays and without much supervision. Alita cannot help but be a major project with a budget on the high side and with James Cameron’s name on it I would be astonished if it did not attract more studio oversight than Rodriguez is used to.

At let’s not forget his most problematic film have been made inside the studio-system.

This is way outside his comfort zone.

They were talking about principle photography in October, but it seems unlikely it has begun. Rodriguez has only said he will make Alita before he tackles Johnny Quest.

 

 

 

 

 

In keeping with earlier considerations of short films with potential which one do we think is worthwhile this time?

Now it gets difficult.

Honestly the first thing that occurred to me was Kike Maillo’s Eva. But guess what? It’s already been made into a feature film. So you haven’t seen it? There is the rub. It got Snowpierced*, it has been sold to the Weinsteins and since then, like so many foreign language films they bought, was never seen again. Well that’s not fair, it did show on Netflix.

 

OK, so which other short film is worthy of a feature? Uh, try Rise by David Karlak (it was close to hand): It looks good, has a familiar theme (the robots are revolting) but with a twist (it is shown from the robots’ point of view).

 

 

 

We’ve been keeping an eye on Jon Spaihts who is having a hell of a year with Dr. Strange and Passengers. During the Passengers interview on Coming Soon Spaihts spoke casually about the origin of the plot “I pitched a big noir sci-fi story. It prominently featured, at the end of the story, a man stranded alone in space”.

Whoa, whoa; wind that back a little; “I pitched a big noir sci-fi story.” Oh did he? That sounds promising especially since he says later that he has stories and scripts ready to go.

We certainly hope someone buys up that “noir story” so we can see what it is.

 

 

 

Progress continued on Netflix’s Altered Carbon series: joining Joel Kinnaman will be, Martha Higareda as city cop Ortega, James Purefoy as ancient plutocrat Laurens Bancroft, and Kristin Lehman as Miriam Bancroft, his wife.

 

The series started filming mid-November at Skydance Studios in Vancouver. Miguel Sapochnik is directing the pilot.

Reportedly Netflix is spending a ton of money on it, it is the biggest series they have done and some are whispering of it in terms of Game of Thrones.

 

 

 

I win the bet! As I expected Blade Runner 2 has had a title adjustment. The Blade Runner sequel is now called “Blade Runner 2049”.

 

Mid-December a whole lot of Blade Runner: 2049 news arrived;

Harrison Ford’s role might turn out to be a cameo,

Harrison Ford punched Ryan Gosling so hard they both required ice, **

Gosling said the film was the equal in scope of three movies,

Denis Villeneuve called it his biggest artistic challenge.

In all of this I detect the publicity machine turning over.

It all begs the question? Why all this media activity at this point?

 

Then at the end of December the teaser trailer came out;

You might as well see it;

 

My first reaction was dismay; I was looking at the same kind of sights as I’d seen before. Then the scene in the desert started and I thought, “This might be interesting”

As for the giant head, what is going on? Ridley Scott is only the producer, but is stamping this one with a Prometheus signature, just to remind us he is still around?

Harrison Ford turned up doing something similar to what he did before.

The music is basically Vangelis cues, we know he will not be doing the soundtrack, and trailers usually have temp tracks, there is no guarantee any music from the trailer will make it to the feature.

It is only a teaser, so it likely not as indicative as we think it is.

 

 

 

Now here is a question. Ready Player One opens on December 15th 2017: is it cyberpunk?

Personally I hate getting into these discussions, (and yet here I am) I am not the authority to rule whether this or that work is fit to enter the sacred sun-genre. And it generally causes pointless controversy. But some journalists on the blogs are using the “C” word and hell, I have nothing better to do.

I’d say look at origin and attitude. Not the origin of the author but the origin of the idea.

I’ve read Ready Player One as a novel.

What it is is a love-letter to the author’s game-playing youth. A youth of 8-bit and text-based games. The story itself largely takes place in a Virtual Reality gaming environment. The protagonist is in search of a prize that will put him in control of the biggest game company in the world.

This is played against a background of a world of gross inequalities, (the protagonist lives in a high-rise trailer park.)

The elements are there: a bohemian sub-culture (gamers), a disruptive technology (games played in virtual reality), even an evil corporation (a rival company trying to take over). Superficially there is little distinguishing Ready Player One from genre-cyberpunk.

However it comes out of a deep appreciation of game culture and not an analysis of the intersection between information technology and society. The difference is subtle but real.

And then there is attitude. This is the most important aspect of Cyberpunk. You can sport the tropes all day long but without the attitude you are just a wanna be. The question is: is it dangerous? Cyberpunk attitude threatens established order, it is rowdy, a little revolutionary, a little anarchic. And Ready Player One? Kind of good matured.

If I had to answer (and no -one asked, but it’s relevant to our future coverage) Ready Player One isn’t Cyberpunk. But I’m still looking forward to seeing it… even if it is a Spielberg film.

 

 

 

We need to talk about Hard Boiled.

When world dropped at the beginning of December I was so stunned I really had nothing to say.

First matter: is it cyberpunk? I don’t think so, it’s more like a surrealist take of The Terminator. The thing is, when journalist see the pages of the Graphic novel, with the busy urban spaces, the hyper-detailed backgrounds, the 30’s styled automobiles, the intricate articulated machinery… they are going to say “Cyberpunk”.

Though I won’t agree.

 

Second question: can it be done? When I heard the news I re-read the book. It is nuts! Bugfuck! Fully three-quarters of it is brutally violent action; gunfights, car- chases and crashes. To be honest there is so little story there we are doubting there is enough for a feature film.

 

But the third and most important question that came to mind was: can they pull it off? Ben Wheatley is the currently darling of the critics. They fall over themselves to praise His every release. His latest; the adaptation of High Rise was deemed an extraordinary success.

To me… not so much.

I don’t hate him, but I haven’t been moved to see the early ones like Kill List, I fell to sleep during A Field In England and my response to High Rise was … “analytical” where it should have been “engaged”.

He does not excite me.

Then comes the question. He’s (apparently) a pretty good art-film maker but can he do action? Interestingly we will be able to answer that question next year when Free Fire comes out, it is reportedly wall to wall action.

So far all of Wheatley’s films have been low budget. This will not wash with Hard Boiled; at minimum it will be a Mid-budget film of at least a hundred-million dollars (yes, it pains me to use the phrase “mid-budget” in connection with such astronomical numbers but the big-budget films now start and $150m and clime quickly into the $300m zone). British money will not buy you a Hard Boiled movie, only US or multinational cash can bring it home.

Furthermore can anyone make Hard Boiled? The visual style was created by comic book artist Geoff Darrow and it is intricate, precise and hugely detailed. To recreate it on film (will digital video) will be a nightmare. To be honest I don’t think it can be done.

Now before you say “well they did it for the Matrix”, I’ll have to disagree: sure Geoff Darrow did the conceptual art for the Matrix movies, but hold his art up against frames from the film and you see he was used more as inspiration than art direction. The film is an impression of his art, not a recreation. For Hard Boiled, as everything about it is rooted in the distinctive art with the massive double page spreads, and minimal dialogue; an impressionistic interpretation would just betray the work.

How would an adequate visual translation be achieved? I strongly feel a CG heavy version would look cheap. And a Live “on-set” version would be expensive beyond anyone’s ability: even filming in Eastern Europe or China.

Then I had an inspiration. A live-action Hard Boiled is impossible, but an animated one would work fine. Then I had another inspiration: a Claymation version would be even better. And then I thought I’d had one inspiration too far.

Last of all we know Wheatly collaboration Tom Hiddleston has already been cast to play Nixon.

My first reaction has “huh?” He didn’t strike me as the ideal killer cyborg material. Then I re-read the graphic novel: You know the distinguishing feature about the protagonist Nixon is his ordinariness. He’s not muscle-head. Now Hiddleston’s quite charismatic, but I think he can pull off ordinary.

 

All in all I don’t think it can be done.

Convince me.

 

 

 

 

In October Duncan Jones commenced shooting “Mute” at Babelsberg studio, Berlin. It stars Alexander Skarsgard, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux. The remaining cast was out with filled with German actors. Clint Mansell has been tasked with writing the soundtrack.

 

Although he shot it at a studio, he used an exterior set at night. Which proved challenging as the weather turned inclement.

Jones tweeted heavily throughout the shoot, counting down the days, complaining it was “cold as brass”, giving an occasional (generally cryptic) photo from the set. There were some hints and details, but nothing particularly gripping; he showed pictures of future German currency; David Hasslehoff is on one of the notes.

 

“Mute” is a bit of an adventure for all concerned, it’s the first Netflix original feature film produced in Germany. For years it was considered too risky, because it had a thriller story in a futuristic setting where the setting was not strictly necessary to the plot.

 

On December 16 he announced principle photography was done.

That just leaves re-shoots and post-production.

 

William Gibson seems to be enthusiastic; he re-tweeted Jones several time.

And just as we went to press (!) the first images from the shoot emerged. Typical.

 

http://screenanarchy.com/2017/01/first-mute-images-show-a-neon-soaked-future.html

 

(Not as Blade Runner as I expected)

 

 

 

 

Details are emerging about the Ghost in the Shell live-action feature.

The story is set in the fictional Japanese city of Niihama, however the style leans toward Hong Kong and in fact part of the principle photography took place in Hong Kong itself and the (now demolished) Walled City of Kowloon was an inspiration.

 

I feel that Scarlett Johansson has been looking for this project for a long time: look at her earlier choices: Aeon Flux, Lucy, and The Black Widow.

This could be the apex of her journey towards an iconic action heroine.

 

We previously said it would be an adaptation of the Stand Alone Complex TV series. Now we are hearing that it will take from a number of the storylines (manga, anime) but not be beholden to any particular one.

It seems to take elements from the manga, the first anime, the TV series. The villain seems to be an amalgam of the character from the second series of the TV show, the Puppetmaster from the first feature anime and Laughing Man from Stand Alone Complex.

 

They are taking elements from each source: the geisha androids from Innocence, the shootout from the first film.

I am questioning as to if this will work. The scenes are visually important but narratively they need to work they need to fit. Can the film makers achieve this? We will see.

 

The publicity process kicked in to high gear with Ghost in the Shell.

There were journalist set-visits but more interesting, set-visits from original Ghost in the Shell directors, Mamoru Oshii (the animated features), and Kenji Kamiyama (The TV series). Their response was positive. I have to note Japanese people are very polite and they are not likely to just say they hated everything they saw. On the other hand when the Wachowskis asked Mamoru Oshii to do a short film for them, he let them know just what he thought and it wasn’t good.

Let’s just treat it like it sounds; approval.

 

 

To be honest I have not thought much of the Ghost in the Shell live-action production: it has been bouncing around for a while, after it was dropped by Spielberg, Rupert Sanders took over, and this seemed to seal the impression that we were not due for anything special.

 

The jury is still out, but some interesting factors have emerged. The Live-action film is a collage of different aspects of the various anime production. One scene they are reproducing is the “shelling” sequence from the opening of the first Anime feature.

 

They are doing it 60 percent live-action animatronic. Interesting. Of course that still means 40 percent CGI but four years ago that would have been 100 percent CGI.

I can only ask why they have decided to go this way, because, after all, the original was animated (well the real original was drawn, but you know what I mean). The director is insisting on a live recreation of an absent original. It is almost Baudrillardian.

And what the director was requiring was “reality”, it had to really look like the manufacturing process of a cyborg body.

 

Clint Mansell was announced as the soundtrack composer. Mansell has been best known as Darren Aronofsky’s collaborator; he was with the director from the beginning of his career. Lately he has been associated with Duncan Jones and will also provide the soundtrack for Mute.

 

And also in November the first trailer came out. There were several nods to the animated feature and the execution was acceptable. Reception to the trailer was positive and for the first time people started thinking that we might have something special.

Everyone else is showing the trailer:

 

 

Normally I’d approve.

And I am struggling to understand just why I am feeling apprehensive; maybe I fear they are putting so much emphasis on making perfect jewels of the iconic scenes in the original that the whole: the story, may be lost in it.

I’m going to see it, and I’d like it to be good. But I’m not ready to raise my expectations just yet.

 

 

With Mansell writing the soundtracks of both Mute and Ghost in the Shell, this places him in pole position as the go-to cyberpunk composer. And there is the fact that he also did Pi.

Mansell was the guitarist and lead singer for Pop Will Eat Itself.

His film scoring career began with Pi after the demise of his band.

He is most associated with Darren Aronofsky’s films, although he has scored films for many other directors, including Park Chan-wook and more lately Duncan Jones.

 

Which begs the question: who is the ideal cyberpunk composer?

This is the one aspect of cyberpunk film I have not thought about. Off the top of my head, the favourite soundtracks have been Tetsuo, Ghost in the Shell anime feature, Blade Runner. But can we do better?

I’m no soundtrack expert so I canvassed some opinions. I was recommended Masafumi Takada (nice choral work) and Makeup and Vanity Set who do some good work. I also got a vote for Thurston Moore who is interesting and somehow I think some novelists might approve

 

In my inexperience I was tempted to just opt for Chu Ichikawa, who did Tetsuo and most of Shinya Tsukamoto’s films.

 

But I think I have an answer: Petra Hadens; she is heavenly. Tell me I am wrong.

http://boingboing.net/2016/12/30/petra-hadens-stunning-a-cape.html

 

OK, the release schedule does not look too different:

Ghost in the Shell will be released March 31st 2017.

Blade Runner 2 October 6, 2017

Alita: Battle Angel will be released on July 20, 2018

We have no release date for Mute (Netflix is generally cagey) but we’d lay good money on it being in 2017.

 

 

 

In Other News

 

 

Progress on the live- action Fullmetal Alchemist continues. Take a look at the photos.

http://screenrant.com/fullmetal-alchemist-first-photos-live-action-adaptation/

 

 

 

 

The long shadow of Gravity continues to be cast, but the studios are no longer interested in fantasy, they want reality which is why they are going with First Man – a biopic of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

Josh Singer is writing, Damien (La La Land, Whiplash) Chazelle is to direct, Ryan Gosling is to star.

 

 

The Great Wall. Starring Matt Damon has had its China release and it is doing OK, it opened at $64.7 million.

This is a Chinese co-production directed by Zhang Yimou and co-starring Donnie Yen.

 

 

*that so is a “thing”.

**accidents happen!

 

 

 

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