Saturday, 29 August 2009
So after two weeks posting about movies and the various articles I've had up on http://www.scifi.co.uk/ I'm finally getting to the bones of what this site should be all about. Books into movies. The Good the bad and yet to filmed. It's only right that i start with a book that is one of my favourite all time books. ENDER'S GAME! It is a magnificent work and has been complemented by another vook set during the same timeline ENDER's SHADOW. Together they would make an absoloutely magnificent film. It's always possible it could be two films, but a nice Lord of the Rings length epic could really be one of the all time great Science fiction films of all time.
The books have been transformed into a comic book series and graphic Novels. ( I am currently reading these). I hope to encourage as many people as I can to read the Novel and it's sequels / spin offs; to give an outline of the developement hell that has been te efforts to make a film of ender's game. I know, I know if a book is worth movifying (Another real word i assure you!) it has to have at least five years and three studios before it even thinks about actually being a film!
I'm expecting this series to be another of those that I have placed on the Sci-fi channel's UK website, but that is of course up to my editor/ so far he has been eager to use every idea I've thrown at him, in fact there are about ten blogs backed up on his laptop right now waiting for breathing space on the website.
So for now think of this as more like a taster for the information to come and please take the time to find Ender's game for yourselves. If you are even 10% as thrilled by it as I am you can help in the crusade to get it made into a film, and a great film at that.
The most underrated Sci-Fi films of all time!
One of the real bonus points of getting the opportunity to blog for Sci-fi.co.uk is “meeting” sci-fi and fantasy fans from all over the world. This allows you start again all those wonderful discussions / arguments you’ve had with your analogue friends on countless Friday nights instead of doing sensible things like, go to sleep. To meet kindred spirits who love that film that you began to think nobody else had ever seen or, Tank Girl I’m looking at you, who agree that a film is so bad it’s good & not just so bad it’s really, really bad! Perhaps more a little misunderstood because the humour just didn’t ring true for most of the tiny, tiny number of people who watched it. The line “Two Dollars and 15 cents“is guaranteed to bring my house to a standstill as Louise and I enter uncontrollable fits of laughter and everyone else edges themselves stealthily towards the exit!
Now don’t panic; I know what you’re thinking. Who cares what Everton thinks if he rates Tank Girl as one of the most underrated Sci-fi films of all time? Don’t worry, I may find amusement in it, and even think it’s a little misunderstood, but in the main I can see the faults, even if like a favourite old pair of shoes, or that leather jacket I had for 10 years, I can see right through the faults to the comfy bits.
Still, before I get to interesting part... (Oops schoolboy journo error! The MORE interesting part)... I’ll have to define what I mean by underrated. Generally people look at two things when it comes classing a film as underrated, AKA cult. Critical opinion and cold hard cash! Many films that are now considered to be classics, like It’s a Wonderful life and the Searchers both had mixed fortunes at the box office and with critics, although Life did garner some Oscar nominations. Both are now widely considered two of the best films of all time. Long story short (I know too late) just because a film made a decent amount of money, doesn’t mean people thought it was any good (Hancock, Harry Potter 1 or 2, The Day After Tomorrow), and just because the critics didn’t get it doesn’t mean it wasn’t great (Blade Runner, The Thing).
I’m hoping to get you guys talking and see what films you guys think. Blade Runner is firmly established as a “classic” now so perhaps listing it as underrated is kind of redundant now?
Anyone who’s ever read anything I’ve said about James Cameron will know that I rate “The Abyss” very highly indeed. OK that’s not quite right. I rate The Abyss highly; I rate “The Abyss: The Directors Cut” extremely highly. Foolishly cut down by Fox because they considered its 171 minute running time too long and likely to lose the film money, due to one less showing per day. These were the pre hyper-multiplex days of 1989. Perhaps more importantly they were also the pre Lord of the Rings 3 hour movies are ok days. Ripping the guts out of the, very important, subplot making the ending slightly confusing and worse the film kind of just stops. Bud gets rescued, spend a few seconds with the “aliens” and they take him and the other survivors up to the surface and the film ends. It made the ending less satisfying. A lot less satisfying.
Oh I still liked it. It was good, exciting science fiction. There was a good anti war message, struggling to get out around the cuts, and I LOVED the titanium toilet ring. It also reminded me why I seriously have no interest in working underwater. Cameron ratchets up tension in a way that makes even 80s Spielberg seem like he’s playing chess with the old folks! Situations go from worse to apocalyptic in stupendously entertaining ways. The Benthic rig getting dragged towards the Abyss seems harrowing enough but then the crane starts to fall, phew it didn’t crush them, but Ah, Now it’s dragging them to the Abyss again. The mixture of camerawork is perfect switching from dollys to Steadicam to hand held at just the right moments tracking the numerous poor souls who are just not quite going to escape drowning.
Because of my age The Abyss was the first Cameron film I got to see. Later, watching The Terminator and Aliens (Aliens: The Director’s cut too) I could clearly see the progression of his style, both of writing and directing. Match cutting, atmospheric lighting and an unmatched ability to use exposition without slowing a film down. Cameron’s characters explain on the move. Think Sarah and Kyle in The Terminator. The basic plot of the film, who Kyle is what the Terminator is and why there all there is explained on the run, on foot, in cars. In the Abyss we get to know the rig as we see it being towed along the ocean floor or as steadycams glide down its tunnels. The Cameron staple that is a strong female character is here too, as in Aliens there are several. The Abyss is still most well known for the quantum leap in Special effects that was the “water tentacle”. Evolved out of the morphing technology in Willow it was genuinely one of those moments in cinema never seen before. It was also a moment that served the story and allowed it to be told to better effect. There’s no, we “need a scene with a water thingy that copies people’s faces write one in”. Terminator 2 was slicker, (and much better or is that much deeper than people tend to think) and perhaps more accessible but it is in The Abyss that Cameron perfects his movie style. That style, or blueprint, can be seen in the rest of his work, in the purely entertaining True Lies and in Titanic the “exponential endings” (tm & copyright thank you) that is Cameron’s trademark are used again. In fact it’s Cameron’s mastery of expomantial endings that make the original cut of that film so unsatisfactory. The film races on through each of the endings in sequence and there’s neither enough breathing space between each ending nor a significant emotional payoff to make sitting through them worthwhile.
A good way to illustrate why Cameron is the master of this technique would be to look at pretty much any Renny Harlin film. ~He seems to be a student of the Cameron school of moviemaking, but unfortunately he spent too much time partying and dropped out in the final year. Take the long kiss goodnight. There’s a decent film hiding in there, but it never ends. Everyone dies, but they don’t, Samuel L Jackson dies, but doesn’t things crash on bridges and blow up but still it isn’t over, I bet they’re still making that film now and on ending 734! In The Abyss you care about Bud, Lindsey and in the director’s cut the rest of the world too. It’s also got one of the best film scores I’ve ever heard.
I’ll get to another film in my most underrated list in another blog, but please let us know what yours are and why.
You are the resistance.
For those who remain sceptical as to the average at best status of T4 I have a few quotes from the Director McG and one of the stars Sam Worthington. They both admit that the film was not up to the expected standard, had many incredibly daft sequences and was bascially just not good enough.
Sadly McG has somehow managed to avoid the sack and is still on course to direct the next one!?!?!?!?! Lord save us!
"I think the film missed some of the fun that Jim brought to the early pictures. I'm a disciple of Jim ... and clearly I didn't do a good enough job on that picture and I didn't satisfy the fan base to the degree that I
would expect to satisfy them. And I take that very seriously and I'll just work that much more diligently to make sure I do that in the next one"#
"Worthington added that he even agreed with some of the nitpicks about the movie, such as: How does a giant robot sneak up on an abandoned gas station without making a sound?
"I can nitpick with the best of them, man, and kind of go down the list of things I saw on IMDB where they found holes in it, and go, 'You are f--king right,'" he said. "If there was a big 10-ton robot coming outside that gas station, surely we would f--king hear it. And I missed that. So I'm going to be a bit better when I'm looking through my f--king scripts. So it raises my game a bit, because now I feel like an idiot for not saying it to McG, you know?" "
Taken from http://scifiwire.com/2009/08/hate-terminator-salvation.php
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
To be honest this is kind of a story I've already told. The article I posted here a few days ago (A Tale of Two Avatars) Has now gone live on the Sci-Fi channel's website and it's on the front page! I'm probably way too excited, but I don't care, for me it's a big deal. So if anyone reading this fancies checking it out on Sci-Fi and leaving some comments that would really be good for me.
You are the Resistance!
Friday, 21 August 2009
Return of The King of The World!
Pretty much anybody who’s into Science Fiction and Fantasy or just great movies has seen the long awaited first Teaser trailer for James Cameron’s Avatar. Even though the demand was so high that poor old Apple.com/trailers was crashing like a family of test dummies on a stock car racing holiday! The teaser trailer does its job. You get to see the Na’vi in some superb Motion capture scenes as well as the "evil” human military machine battling it out with the indigenous species on the planet they’re attempting to strip mine for all its precious resources. The planet itself is also very well rendered. Of course it’s the 15 minutes of 3D footage being screened to lucky members of the media and public today that will really show what the film is about and if the trumpetedleaps in technology are real or just hype. Now let’s put aside that this is the first, non documentary, feature film in TWELVE years, from the director of the world’s most successful box office smash. (Titanic). Let’s ignore the fact that James Cameron is the director of 4 of the 20th Century’s best, and most exciting science fiction films.)The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss and Terminator 2.That In The Abyss and T2 he unleashed some of the most innovative effects and moviemaking techniques of the 20th century. Avatar will be out all over the globe on the 18th of December. Those lucky people who managed to get free tickets for Avatar Day on Friday the 21st go to see 15 minutes of very exciting 3D footage. This rather clever marketing campaign should see word of mouth spread like wildfire. If the press reports on the quality of the footage are to be believed of course. The film stars Sigourney Weaver, but not just any Sigourney Weaver, try her as she looked around 1986, when she starred in Cameron’s superlative Aliens. Word in Hollywoodland is that this effect is remarkable; remarkable to a degree that the “youthed” versions of Patrick Stewart, in X-Men 3 and Origins Wolverine, look like a junior school Photoshop experiment in comparison. The film also stars, Sam “man of the moment” Worthington. It’s to be hoped that the quality of his films is on a steep upward curve: after being one of the 3 things worth watching in the supremely disappointing Terminator Boredom (sorry Salvation) he follows up Avatar with a film any fantasy fan the wrong side of 30 is praying will knock our collective socks of next spring. Clash of the Titans. (Although the second half of this tale will highlight the film that could, indeed should, be the biggest and best fantasy film since the King returned in 2003. The story revolves around the human attempt to basically strip mine an alien planet, called Pandora, of its resources. A side effect of which would be devastating to the indigenous Na’vi, a humanoid race considered primitive by the humans, but actually “more than meets the eye”. With the Na’vi, standing at 3 meters tall with blue, sparkly skin, and humans replaced with Avatars (essentially new improved bodies) it’s easy to see how a significant advance in effects technology before Cameron felt able to tell this tale effectively. How effectively The Science fiction community, as well as other less enlightened moviegoers, will see on The 18th of December. Cameron’s Avatar has already won one battle though. To avoid confusion with the likely megahit that Avatar will become, another film, due out in the Summer of 2010, has had change its title. More on that in the 2nd of our Avatar tales.
A tale of two Avatars
Part Two: The Lost Night Returns?
Cameron’s Avatar has already won one battle though. To avoid confusion with the likely megahit that Avatar will become, another film, due out in the Summer of 2010, has had change its title. The Avatar prefix has had to be dropped; leaving Avatar: The Last Airbender, (Known in the U.K as Avatar: The Legend of Aang). As simply The Last Airbender. It is this film and hopefully its sequels that could Fantasy’s next, great film series. O.K it’s based on a children’s cartoon, but it is perhaps the best children’s cartoon series of all time. Better than Mobile suit: Gundam Wing and even Dogtanian! . Set over 3 books, each with 20 parts the cartoon ran for 3 years and won countless awards and deservedly so. Covering spirituality, abusive parents, imperialism, honour, duty, love and even Yoga; With genuine character growth and progression. Set in a paralell Earth with the planet essentially divided amongst the 4 elements of Earth, water, fire and air. It is an exclusively Asian world and therein lies the first germ of doubt as to whether this work will be treated with the respect it deserves. As stated above it’s an exclusively Asian world a solitary Indian Guru completes a cast consisting of (essentially) Inuit, Tibetan, Japanese and Chinese nations. Of course that not exactly what they are rather this fantasy Earth’s version; think Of the Gyptians in the His Dark Materials trilogy as compared to Gypsies. (Or the Golden Compass if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the books.) Well in the never ending pantheon of strange and unnecessary complications that make up the production of a Hollywood movie the original casting placed Caucasian actors in several of the lead rolls. Unsurprisingly this led to a mixture of shock, disbelief and eventually anger. The requisite letter writing campaigns and protests outside the studio led to some fairly minor recasting and a bitter taste has been left in the mouths of many fans of the show, of all colours, and of course in the Asian community as a whole. It’s 10 years since Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Another film I can’t believe failed to make the all time top 20 fantasy films list????) and there’s a black President of the United States, how on Earth are we still casting films like the old days of Alec Guinness & co in make up? Anyway we’ll leave that aside for now. Here’s an even bigger concern. I mentioned that the tale is set over 3 books. Book I is Water and deals mainly with the issues of the Water Tribes and a great Journey from the South Pole to the North Pole. Book II is Earth and deals mainly with the Earth kingdom, The Avatar’s need to learn Earth bending and travels through the Earth Kingdom. The final book is called Fire and details the need for Aang to learn fire bending, and secret travels through the fire kingdom to prepare for what they hope will be a final invasion to end the war. The equally important “bad guy” of the series is given comparable screen time as his story arc comes to a head here too. It seems simple 3 books three films right? Well no. As I have mentioned this is an award winning series, comparable in its medium to Battlestar Galactica. Drawing influences from Miyazaki films, my Neighbour Totoro and Castle in the sky mostly, as well as Ninja Scrolls, Cowboy Bebop, The Water Margin and Many aspects of Japanese and Chinese culture and even Buddhism and yoga. There are twenty 22 minute episodes per book, with not a lot of fat to trim. It seems far more suited to a 6 film series than a pared down trilogy. There has been talk of this being a Harry Potter like series. This is better than Harry Potter, by some distance, and each book has a natural, big climax midway through; and then builds to a bigger ending at the actual finish. The fear, as always, with this is that what will hit the cutting room floor is much of the character growth, especially in the villains’ roles and the “support” characters; to be replaced by extended Kung-Fu scenes and comic relief. Aang may be the Avatar, as Frodo is the Ring Bearer and Luke the last Jedi, but the genuine detail that goes into the other characters is equally as important. So much so that several episodes don’t feature the Avatar at all, or for just s few scenes and there are episodes where only the “bad guys” appear. I’ll say it again IF this is given the care and attention and the depth of character storytelling maintained, we genuinely have one of the all time greatest fantasy epics to look forward to. M. Night Shyamalan certainly has the potential to make something like this work. However whilst The sixth Sense and Unbreakable remain outstanding works. His subsequent work has bounced around from above average to downright poor. It’s also more than a little disconcerting to see one of Hollywood’s leading Asian filmmakers involved in a production that was so insensitive in its casting. Let’s hope for a return to form as the source material certainly deserves it! You are the resistance!
On a different tack I’ve been spend a lot of these summer holidays trying to teach 2 girls, aged 9 and 4, Aang’s Bo Kata as seen in the teaser trailer. Let’s just say we’re not quite there yet!
Thursday, 20 August 2009
It's Avatar day on Friday the 21st and yours truly has been lucky enough to get tickets to see the 15 minutes of footage chosen to get everyone in the world desperate to see James Cameron's latest Sci-Fi masterpiece!
For those who don't know the visionary director of the first two Terminator film (AKA the good ones), Aliens, They Abyss, True Lies and yes, Titanic, hasn't made a feature film in 12 years. Why? Basically he's been working behind the scenes spending large amounts of money trying to get 3D technology and motion capture tech up to the standard he needed to make Avatar. The film mixes real flesh and blood actors, with altered one; Sigourney Weaver is in the film but has been "youthed" so that she looks like she did in Ghostbusters 25 years ago. There are also the Avatars, replacement bodies for humans and the Na’vi, the alien race whose planet the humans are attempting to strip of its natural resources. The Na’vi have blue, sparkly skin and are about 3 meters tall, hence requiring much motion captured special effects.
The filmmaking techniques have been revolutionary; so the film itself is also supposed to be revolutionary. The producers have very cleverly decided that the best way to get just how special this film is would be to fill every IMAX and 3d screen in the world for 15 minutes on Monday the 21st. Those people lucky enough to get tickets will see 15 minutes of footage from the film and presumably, having picked their eyes up from the floor and put them back in their eyes, run screaming to their friends family and internet social networks eager to spread the word on how "must see" this film will be.
Rest assured I'll be putting my thoughts on the footage on here (as well as on http://www.scifi.co.uk/ ) on Monday evening.
Doon't forget the first trailer goes up at 15:00 TODAY!
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Monday, 17 August 2009
BRUCE SPENCE Legend of the Seeker Interview – August 2009
After playing an assortment of weird and wonderful characters in fantasy and sci-fi over the years how does it feel to finally be playing the wise old mentor?
Well I guess I've served my apprenticeship. Zedd is certainly a grand character and I've been in scenes with Gandalf, Obi Wan Kenobi, and assorted characters so I'm prepared to take on the mantle of a mentor; a wizard character in this quite superb epic.
It's come to my attention that you frequently turn up in the third instalment of huge sci-fi and fantasy franchises, most recently the third Narnia film which will be filming soon. Are you conscious of that?
It's serendipitous really the way it occurs, it's quite by accident. But it's interesting that that occurs, yeah [laughs]. It's a strange coincidence, three must be my lucky number.
At six foot seven I've read you're one of the tallest actors in the business. How does that affect all the horse riding you do in Legend of the Seeker?
It's fine really, I have a big horse. I'm actually six foot six, I don't know where this six foot seven has come from. Surprisingly there are a few actors a little taller than me, but I definitely am one of the tallest in the business. It's been an advantage and a disadvantage. One of the reasons I've found myself in sci-fi and fantasy films to a certain degree is because of my physical shape. But also for some reason I just seem to find myself in that genre.
As you've just mentioned you have obviously appeared in a wealth of sci-fi and fantasy films, but are they genres you're interested in outside of acting, as in reading and watching films?
Interestingly no. I've always been interested in the concept of mythology. It deals with stories that involve the unconscious, and these are stories that fascinate me. The work of Joseph Campbell I'm a great fan of, he's someone who's documented all those mythological parallels that exist within this earth. There are stories that need to be told and every culture shares similarities in these stories, and that in itself interests me.
And how about the Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth books. Have you had a chance to read those?
Definitely. When you get involved in a series like this you have to familiarise yourself with them. The essence of Zedd from those books I've taken. You may be aware that in the first season we used Wizard's First Rule as a foundation, but because of the networks standalone requirements we've also diverted from those books. We've used many stories from the Wizard's First Rule, but we've created many of our own as well.
How does it feel to see New Zealand becoming the unofficial home of fantasy TV and film production?
I'm quite impressed. To be really honest I've worked in a number of international films and worked in a number of countries. From the very first day on set [of Legend of the Seeker] I was very impressed by the standard of the crew, of the camera department, of the special effects department; I was really in awe of that whole area and I felt enormously confident from the first day that we had a great team and obviously the history of all the Lord of the Rings films, and some of the Narnia films have created a wealth of talent here that we definitely are tapping.
It's maybe fair to say the role you're most remembered for is as the Gyro Captain in Mad Max 2. At the time did you realise you were making something that would go on to be such a cult favourite?
[Laughs] Not at all. We knew we were making something unusual, and there we were in the Outback of Australia with these strange cars and these strange people telling an extremely strange story, especially in Australian conditions. We either thought it was going to be something quite fantastic and out there and new, or an absolute disaster. Fortunately it went the other way. It was quite a watershed film in a way. It really showed the Americans how we could take some of their genres and some of their storylines and add to them and make them that much better.
If there was any character you could play, not just from sci-fi or fantasy, who would that be?
To be really honest it's the character I'm playing at the present time, and that's Zedd right now. This time two or three years ago I never dreamt I'd play Zedd. Right now Zedd preoccupies my time and my imagination. But who knows what's going to be round the corner in the next couple of years. I'm getting on in years, I'm not all that old, but I'm 63 now. I'm amazed that I've come this far, I'm so lucky to have had the roles I've had.
With that in mind do you prefer playing good guys or bad guys?
I love both. Because both of them celebrate various elements of the human psyche and I guess after playing Zedd for so long I'll be looking forward to playing someone nice and evil. It's nice to play both sides of the fence, that's the beauty of being an actor, that you can put yourself in that situation and you can explore those evil parts of one's psyche or the really good parts, or those really challenging and agonising parts.
One more question for you. When you were filming the Mouth of Sauron scene for The Return of the King, were you aware of just how creepy that was going to turn out?
No, and interestingly enough it was a pretty panicky day. I was aware that the character had to be a serious character and regarded as serious in a rather horrific way and we wanted to blast the audiences out of their seats with this awful character. But I noticed when the director, Peter Jackson, was sitting over the video watching me perform he kept laughing, and I was thinking to myself 'I hope I'm not playing this for comedy'. Of course, it wasn't; he knew what he wanted, and he was getting it. I had no idea. It's interesting that I'm often so preoccupied with what I'm doing on the other side of the camera I'm not really one of those actors who watches themselves on screen so I often don't know how the finished article has ended up.
Well it turned out very well...
Well I must admit. The best thing about being an actor is creating a role; with a director, with good acting; with good camera, with good special effects you can push a character in a dramatic moment to areas where I never dreamed they'd go. We went a long way with that one.
Words by: Peter Holley
www.scifi.co.uk racy at times which viewers often enjoy.
Friday, 14 August 2009
X-men Origins Wolverine Part Two. Er, not his origin really.
So not only are we getting the story many wanted for the first Wolverine movie. (Not sure how that would have been his origin though eh?) But, saints be praised, we’re getting a genuine top drawer film scribe to write it.
Christopher “The Usual bloody Suspects” McQuarrie is going to moviefy the seminal Frank Miller / Chris Claremont, Japan set storyline! (Moviefy is so a word!)
Now If I’m 100% honest I think that Wolverine suffered a bit of an unfair backlash based on the still not reached heights of X2 and the platinum standard of The Dark Knight; the film that replaced X2 as the best comic book movie of all time.
There’s a hell of a good story in there. In fact there’s room for more than one movie. Giving that even Hugh Jackman ages like the rest of us, does anyone else think they should just write and film 2 or 3 Wolverine movies at once? Or, given that the moneymen are infamous for short-changing the mutant movies where budget is concerned, is it possible to film a Wolverine / x-Men movie set 50 or so years in the future? I know I know they’ll never pay for it right? Maybe Marvel can work a deal where 50% of the movie rights go back to Marvel and they split the budget and finally spend that extra $30m - $50m that the x movies could have done with to go that extra (danger room / Sentinels) mile?
Anyway is more of the mutant with a bad attitude, bad hair and a serious manicure problem Good news, or Bad news?
Oh also I’ve commented on X2 and The Dark Knight being the best two comic book movies around. So am I a sage or a Simpleton
You are the resistance
Thursday, 13 August 2009
Tuesday, 11 August 2009