Archive | Science-Fiction

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…And Starring The Statue Of Liberty

Posted on 28 October 2009 by Rich Drees

StatueOfLibertyWhen a movie’s story wants to change location from anywhere in the world to New York City, the chances are good that the transition will be done by cutting to a shot that features the Statue of Liberty. Arguably one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks today marks the 123rd anniversary of her dedication. And over those years that she has stood in New York Harbor, she has found time to make several film appearances.

National Treasure: Book Of Secrets (2006)

The Statue of Liberty was sculpted by Frenchman Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who first created a smaller version 22 meters high which now stands on the Île des Cygnes in the Seine in Paris. It also struck screenwriters Marianne and Cormac Wibberly as a good place to hide a clue for Nicholas Cage’s historian/adventurer Ben Gates to find in National Treasure: Book Of Secrets. Although it wasn’t a great movie, it did use several little known bits of United States history for plot points.

Saboteur (1942)

With its release during World War Two, director Alfred Hitchcock knew that the use of the Statue would have a big impact on his film’s audience, representing all the ideals that the country was fighting and sacrificing for. Robert Cummings plays a man wrong accused of setting fire to a California airplane factory. Evading the authorities he chases Norman Lloyd across country to Manhattan where the film climaxes on the Statue’s torch. Hitch would go to revisit the idea of setting a film’s finale atop a national monument with North By Northwest, with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint being chased across the top of the monument by James Mason’s goon Martin Landeau. You can view the climax of the film below, but I’d recommend watching the whole picture. It’s Hitchcock after all.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

In 1984, the Statue began a much needed restoration. Scaffolding was erected around the entire 151 foot tall structure. It was only natural that someone would look at that and think “Action Sequence.” As its full title none-too-subtly suggests, Remo Williams was intended to be the first in a franchise of adventures based on the satirical-action Destroyer novel series written by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. Remo Williams (Fred Ward) was a New York City cop who is recruited into an ultra top secret organization CURE. He is turned over to Chiun (Joel Gray, under some great prosthetics that earned the Best Makeup Academy Award that year), an ancient Korean who schools Remo in the ancient art of Sinanju, the first and still purest of all martial arts. CURE is also investigating an arms manufacturer who has been ripping off the government. While Remo is being trained on the Statue, he is attacked by hired goons of the arms manufacturer and the stage is set for an entertaining climb up and down the scaffolding. While there was some location work done at the Statue, a majority of the sequence was shot on an outdoor set built in Mexico. You can see a bit of the Statue of Liberty sequence in the film’s badly edited trailer below. (Really Sony, that is terrible, even by 1980s standards.)

XMenStatueOfLibertyX-Men (2000)

The Statue Of Liberty becomes the focal point from which villain Magneto (Ian MacKellan) hopes to strike at a gathering of the world’s diplomats on nearby Ellis Island, by using it as a base for a machine that will rewrite the diplomats DNA to make them all mutants. Regarded as a terrorist by the governments of the world, Magneto sees his actions as leading to the liberation of all mutants from the discrimination that they are being subjected to, making the use of the Statue all the more symbolic, at least in his mind. It also leaves the audience to ponder the axiom about one man’s terrorist being another man’s freedom fighter. And the fight between Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Sabertooh (Taylor Mane) on top of the Statue’s crown, actually manges to one-up the Remo Williams sequence.

Planet Of The Apes (1968)

As a symbol of New York City, the Statue has always been a in the cinematic crosshairs when filmmakers need to show that something BIG has happened to Manhattan, and usually by extension, the world. It has been knocked over into the New York Harbor by alien invaders in Independence Day, frozen solid in The Day After and decapitated by a giant monster in Cloverfield. But the most iconic stature destruction still remains the first- Its appearance before Charleton Heston in Planet Of The Apes, signaling that the astronaut was planet but in a future where humanity’s once proud civilization had fallen. Not surprisingly, this revelation comes from the mind of Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, who worked on adapting Pierre Boulle’s novel for producer Arthur P. Jacobs. It was, and still is, a powerful image, one that twsts the knife on Heston’s character and the audience as well. So engrained in even the most casual movie watcher’s consciousness is the image that it has been spoofed by both Mel Brooks in Spaceballs and Kevin Smith in Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back and director Tim Burton didn’t even try to recreate it for his 2001 remake.

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Rob Zombie To Remake THE BLOB …Kind Of

Posted on 29 August 2009 by Rich Drees

RobZombieRocker-turned-writer/director Rob Zombie is moving on from his revitalization of the Halloween horror franchise to remake another classic film, 1958′s The Blob. Variety has reported that Zombie has signed a deal to write, direct and produce a remake of the film, with production slated to start as early as next spring.

A remake of The Blob has been in development almost since the last remake of the film hit theaters in 1988. Most recently, Carey W. and Chad Hayes, the scripters behind the lackluster 2005 remake House Of Wax, took a crack at the screenplay. Jack Harris, producer of the original 1958 film is on board as one the project’s producers. The film is projected to have a $30 million budget and is shooting for an R rating.

Zombie certainly seems to have found a, shall we say, unique vision for the movie. He’s not that interested in having the creature we have come to know as the Blob actually in the film.

My intention is not to have a big red blobby thing — that’s the first thing I want to change. That gigantic Jello-looking thing might have been scary to audiences in the 1950s, but people would laugh now… I’d been looking to break out of the horror genre, and this really is a science fiction movie about a thing from outer space. I intend to make it scary, and the great thing is I have the freedom once again to take it in any crazy direction I want to.

Now, I have to admit that I flew in the face of conventional wisdom in regards to Zombie’s remake of John Carpenter’s classic slasher Halloween. In Zombie’s 2007 remake he explored the tragic, abusive childhood that lead Michael Myers to become a mask-clad killer who slashed his way across the unsuspecting town of Haddonfield, Illinois. This realistic approach unfortunately didn’t gel well with the movie’s second half where Zombie recreated many scenes from the original film that feature a Michael Myers as a seemingly unstoppable, supernatural force. Many horror fans felt that Zombie’s attempt to plumb Myers’s psychology was antithetical to what Carpenter originally created.

Now I know that my stating that I think what Zombie is doing wrong here by abandoned the most core aspect of the original Blob movie will seem hypocritical. However, I think that the psychological examination of Michael Myers is a completely valid approach to the movie. It still left him a killer, it just tried to examine why he became what he was. However, how can you take “red blobby thing” out of The Blob and still have a movie you can call The Blob!??!

I’m not adverse to the idea of a remake of The Blob.  There are enough stories and ideas in the concept that a new film has a good chance of being interesting in its own right. And it is not like film studio goons are going to come to our homes and remove the nice Criterion Collection DVDs of the original film from our book shelves. And while I will very likely go to a theater and see what Zombie’s vision for The Blob will be.

He just isn’t instilling much confidence for the project in me right now.

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Thoughts On The ‘AVATAR Day’ Footage

Posted on 22 August 2009 by Rich Drees

Avatar1“You’re not in Kansas anymore!”

So intones Stephen Lang’s Col. Quaritch in the opening moments of the sixteen minute preview of director James Cameron’s upcoming science-fiction epic Avatar which screened yesterday evening at IMAX theater locations around the country.

Yes, the line’s use could have been cliché-ic and hyperbolic. Except for the fact that Cameron’s film may just be able to live up to the hype and expectation that has slowly been building up around the project for the last couple of years. Hype and expectation that in no little part has been fueled by Cameron himself, with talk of immersive 3D presentation and photo realistic, computer generated characters and creatures.

(Surprisingly, reports from around the country state that not all showings of the preview were sold out. I say surprising, because when the free tickets for the event were made available last Monday online, the website offering them almost immediately crashed and experienced delays for several hours afterwards.)

Last night was Cameron’s “proof of concept” demonstration, and he brought the goods. The first of the five scenes previewed, all from the first half of the film, introduces viewers to the film’s basic conceit. A couple of centuries in the future on the planet Pandora, humanity has established a research outpost. However, since the planet’s atmosphere is not oxygen-rich like here on Earth, an ingenious way of exploring the planet has been devised. Copies of Pandora’s indigenous intelligent population, the Na’vi, are created and controlled via a sort of telepathic remote control. Everything that the Na’vi body experiences is experienced by its controller back at the base. It is as if the controller is their Na’vi avatar. Quaritch warns the group of Marines about to begin their assignment on the world that “Every living thing that crawls, flies or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for jujubes…”

The second scene shows us the process in which is used to transfer control to a na’vi avatar. The film’s hero, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a former marine now confined to a wheelchair. He looks at the avatar program as a way to, in at least some way, regain his mobility. Once the transference process is complete, Jake in his Na’vi body, quickly jumps up and ignoring doctor’s and technician’s orders, begins moving about a laboratory.

It is here where Cameron begins to show off the leaps in computer-generated imagery that he claims to have made for the film. We see Jake’s Na’vi avatar close up in several shots. We see his feet and hands close-up enough to see pores, hair, wrinkles and finger prints. The depth of detail is amazing and breathtaking.

Avatar2The following three scenes showcase Jake in his Na’vi avatar moving through the jungles of Pandora. In one sequence, he and some others encounter some weird six-legged beasts that look like a cross between an elephant, a rhinoceros and a hammer-head shark. The scene culminates in a pell-mell dash through the forest as Jake is chased by another, even more ferocious creature.

The fourth scene features Jake meeting one of the indigenous Na’vi, Ney’tiri (Zoe Saldana) in a clearing at night. They don’t see quite eye-to-eye at first, but they must come to an understanding as the final scene shows Ney’tiri and a few other Na’vi showing Jake, now in native garb, a ritual which bonds him to a flying, dragon-like creature.

Each of these segments have an increasingly higher technical difficulty but each sequence shows no sign of slippage in the quality of work being presented. A little voice kept reminding me that eight foot tall, blue, cat-like humanoids and strange six-legged elephant-rhino-hammerhead shark creatures do not exist in real life, but yet, there they were in front of me on, and popping out of, the screen. The environs of Pandora are an impressive bit of world building and one suspects that Cameron probably has reams of notes on a hard drive somewhere that delve into far greater detail than will ever be seen or even hinted at in the final product how the ecology of the planet works. It is a hostile world and danger looks behind or underneath every tree, fern and bush. For all intents and purposes, Pandora is a real world that Cameron has somehow managed to transport us to while keeping us in the safety of our comfy cinema seats.

But will this film be as game changing as some insist it will be?

Possibly, but we can’t really make that judgment until well after Avatar‘s December 18th premier. Several factors yet to be played out, including how the final product works as a film and how other filmmakers follow in Cameron’s footsteps in regards to using the new technology and techniques he has developed for the film, will inform that verdict more than any excitement-fueled decree made today will. The 3D process used in the 1950s showed much promise, but virtually no filmmakers beyond Alfred Hitchcock (with Dial M For Murder) and George Sidney (with the musical Kiss Me Kate) really tried to push it much further than its exploitation roots. From the footage shown, Cameron seems to be using it in a similar way, as a way to draw the viewer into the world he has created rather than have the film thrust things out at the viewer.

As a way of generating excitement and showing what he has up his sleeve, Cameron has definitely succeeded in what is probably the most interesting bit of marketing of a motion picture in a long time.

In the meantime- here is the standard trailer for Avatar that was released Thursday. It does contain some footage not seen in yesterday’s preview.

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SHOOT ‘EM UP Director Takes On OUTLAND Remake

Posted on 19 August 2009 by Rich Drees

OutlandPosterWarner Brothers has hired Michael Davis to helm a remake of the 1981 science-fiction film Outland.

The original featured Sean Connery as a marshal investigating a series of mysterious deaths at a mining colony on the Jupiter moon of Io. Written and directed Peter Hyams, who would return to Jupiter and its moons in 1984′s 2010, Outland drew comparisons with director Fred Zinnemann’s classic 1952 western High Noon for its protagonist’s dogged determination to bring those behind the miners deaths to justice, even at the cost of his own marriage.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Chad St. John’s screenplay for the new version will stick close to the original’s storyline, but will beef it up to summer blockbuster proportions.

The story takes place in an orbiting city around the moon, where a cop uncovers a murderous conspiracy endangering the entire city. With a week before his retirement back to Earth, our hero has to choose between walking away with his wife, or taking on a private army with his overachieving ex-partner and wife’s former boyfriend.

The original version received mixed reviews, though some critics pointed out that the transplanting of Zinnemann’s High Noon to a western setting was a fairly effective invention.

The thing is, both High Noon and by extension Outland, were very much about their characters and the moral implications of the situations they found themselves in rather than any kind of extended action sequences that one expects from a tentpole-sized film that the Hollywood Reporter claims Warners wants this to be. I have reservations that Davis has the ability to effectively handle this material. He has shown that he has a flair for energetic action sequences, as Shoot ‘Em Up is essentially one long series of such set piecess that paid the barest attention to the characters involved. As a bit of mindless escapism, it works just fine. But as a precursor to a remake of a reimagining of a film described as an “existential Western,” I’m left with some doubts.

No cast or start date for the feature has been announced.

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Ridley Scott To Direct ALIEN Prequel

Posted on 31 July 2009 by Rich Drees

RidleyScottDirector Ridley Scott is returning to the franchise he launched in 1979, Alien. The new film will be a prequel, which will presumedly look at how at relentless alien killing machines wound up on the crashed spaceship discovered by Sigourney Weaver and her crewmates in the first film.

Previously, Scott was only attached to produce an Alien prequel for studio 20th Century Fox, with commercials director Carl Erik Rinsch set to make his feature film debut with the project. However, Fox wasn’t happy with that arrangement and pressed for a personnel change.

While the news that Scott will be revisiting the Alien universe, I have to admit to some trepidation over the idea that the trip is for a prequel. A major portion of the terror generated in Scott’s original film was that there was virtually nothing known about the alien creature that leaps from the shadows, mercilessly decimating the unfortunates who got in its way. As we became more familiar with the aliens over subsequent films, some of their ability to scare us as an audience has diminished. Also, since the two Alien V Predator franchise crossover films take place in the present day, they could technically be considered to be prequels in their own right. There are even a few hints in them that point towards things since in the main Alien franchise. Since both Alien V Predator films are pretty much disliked by fans, they can be pretty much ignored by Scott though. (I call this the Highlander II option.)

On the plus side, the script is to be written by Jon Spaihts, after he successfully pitched both Scott’s production company, Scott Free Productions, and 20th Century Fox. While Spaihts has no produced credits on his resume, he has also written Shadow 19, which Keanu Reeves will star in for Warner Brothers, and Passengers, which has been purchased by Morgan Creek, also for Keanu Reeves. Both scripts are pretty good reads with some interesting ideas in them. Presumably, he has an equally interesting story in mind for this new Alien installment. It should be noted that Spaihts dance card is pretty full already – he is also rewriting The Darkest Hour for Fox, rewriting St. George And The Dragon for Sony and writing Children Of Mars for Disney – so what priority this receives remains to be seen.

Via Variety.

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Run, Don’t Walk, To BlobFest!

Posted on 08 July 2009 by Rich Drees

blobfestrunoutOne of the best fan run movie events of the summer is coming up in just a few days- BlobFest!

Held at the very movie theater in the Philadelphia suburb of Phoenixville that was attacked by the gelatinous monster in the 1958 classic, BlobFest is a celebration of the film and all things great from the 1950s. The Fest kicks off Friday night with its annual Running Out Re-enactment, in which you can run for your life from the Blob, just like theater patrons did 1958! Plus, there’s costume and trivia contests, rockabilly music and classic cars at the day long street fair on Saturday. There’ll be four screenings of The Blob over the weekend, three of them paired up as double-features with Invasion Of The Saucer Men and 13 Ghosts. (And we’ll be tweeting the event as well…)

For more information, check out FilmBuffOnLine’s The Blob Site.

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Stiller And Witherspoon Renovating USED GUYS

Posted on 05 May 2009 by Rich Drees

benstillerDevelopment Hell is the place where unproduced scripts are consigned for a multitude of sins- Being too smart, too expensive or just having some insurmountable story problems. And that’s exactly where the script Used Men disappeared to back in 2006. The film, a science-fiction comedy about a future where women run society and men are cloned and treated like automobiles, was a month away from rolling cameras when 20th Century Fox pulled the plug, balking at teh film’s budget which was moving north of $100 million.

The project now appears to be making an escape back towards active production as Fox has announced that they are developing a revamped version of the script. Where the original version was set to star Ben Stiller and Jim Carey as too obsolete clones who go in search of their masculinity, the new version will feature clone Stiller and his relationship with his owner, to be played by Reese Witherspoon.

At first glance, this definitely sounds like a watered down version of the original idea, tossing aside what had made it interesting and then strapping the rest on to a standard romantic comedy framework.

Except…

It is being reported that the Little Miss Sunshine directorial duo of Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton are in talks to helm this new film. The duo have not yet delivered a follow up to their 2006 surprise hit and I am interested in seeing what they are going to do next. No mention has been made of who will be recrafting the original script written by Mickey Birnbaum and worked on by Dave Guion and Michael Handelman. Will Faris and Dayton rework the script themselves or work with a new writer. Or does Fox already have a writer in mind and Faris and Dayton are signing on based on the strength of a pitch from the studio?

Via Variety.

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Review: MOON

Posted on 28 March 2009 by Rich Drees

moon1Sam Bell is going a little bit stir crazy.

Coming up on the end of a three year stint stationed on the dark side of the moon, Sam (Sam Rockwell) has been the only human manning a station that monitors automatic mining vehicles that gather a mineral needed for energy production back on Earth. His only companionship is the station’s artificial intelligence Gerty (voiced by a monotoned Kevin Spacey). While heading out to one of the automated miners, Sam accidentally crashes his lunar buggy and blacks out. He awakens to find himself in the base sickbay, Gerty reassuring him that he is safe. However, Gerty very pointedly ignores any questions from Sam as to how he got back to the base from the crashed buggy. But solving that mystery only reveals a myriad more.

Continue reading review…

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Diesel Still Hoping For RIDDICK Sequel

Posted on 11 March 2009 by Rich Drees

I'll be back... maybe.One thing that really annoyed me about the 2004 science-fiction/action film The Chronicles Of Riddick, was how much of the film seemed more concerned with setting up future sequels than it was with telling its own story. And given the film’s under-performance at the box office, it certainly seemed unlikely that the makers of the series were going to get their chance to tell those planned stories.

However, the franchise has managed to stay alive through a direct-to-DVD animated feature, released simultaneously as Chronicles, and a few video games. The latest of those games, Assault On Dark Athena, is scheduled for release soon and while doing the PR rounds, Riddick star Vin Diesel commented on the possibility of a new big screen Riddick adventure-

Maybe we’re too tight-lipped about the next Chronicles of Riddick film, and I think circa the release of [Dark Athena] that’s probably when you’ll start hearing more about the next Riddick film. It is underway… David Twohy is finishing up the next script.

The scuttlebutt is that a new Riddick film would probably be a more low-key affair (Translation- lower budget), similar to Pitch Black (2000), the movie that introduced Diesel’s mercenary character to movie audiences. Diesel has been promising a new movie for many years now, and it is kind of hard to believe him when he says that there will be some concrete news about it soon. Besides, after all this time are audiences outside of the films’ cult following really clamoring for a new installment?

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New TERMINATOR: SALVATION Pics

Posted on 02 February 2009 by Rich Drees

Open up and say "Ahhhhh..."I will readily admit that I have given McG hard time about his upcoming summer blockbuster Terminator: Salvation.

Not to his face, mind you. I don’t know the guy and have never met him. I’m just not a big fan of his past work and I have had no real reason to believe that Terminator: Salvation was going to be any different. I have talked about the film here before and how I don’t think it is a particularly good idea to continue to mine this particular franchise. Cameron’s two films work perfectly together, and to further push things by showing that the apocyliptic Judgement Day was not averted cheapens them in retrospect.

Wired scored an interview with Terminator: Salvation director McG and he says some interesting things that don’t quite win me over on the premise of continuing the franchise, but at least he has given some thought to not just delivering a brainless action film. Illustrating the article is some great new production art wirth checking out on its own.

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