Have a look at Gabe Ibáñez’s Automata

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This is the first I’ve heard about this movie (coming in October), but it looks like a movie to see: Gabe Ibáñez’s Automata, A serious look at the ethics of creating independent intelligence.

The movie blockbuster bubble

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marqueeAt the opening of a new building at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying that the era of the movie blockbuster may soon be over:

“There’s eventually going to be an implosion, or a big meltdown… where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

George Lucas—between he and Spielberg, producers of most of the biggest movie blockbusters in American history—agreed that the movie industry was due for a reversal of fortune, where the huge movies of the past will no longer carry the mega audiences they once did, and studios will be stricken by the sudden unprofitability of big movies.  Both of them also lamented about the “lesser” movies they made, which almost weren’t accepted by the studios for theatre releases because of their non-blockbuster status.  That’s right: Spielberg and Lucas both had trouble getting their movies into the theatres.

And what they are suggesting is that, at present, lesser movies are hard to produce for movies… but that in the near future, big blockbusters won’t get the automatic greenlight either.  Does this mean Hollywood will have to turn back to the lesser movies, and a different profit expectation?  If so, what should we expect? Continue reading

Doc Savage: The mold from which heroes were and are made

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Doc SavageIt was recently announced that Iron Man 3 director Shane Black is in discussion to helm a new movie for Sony, starring the pulp hero Doc Savage.  A friend of mine saw this, and correctly guessed that I would squee upon hearing the news.

Why? I grew up reading the famous “181 Supersagas” of Doc Savage—also known as the Man of Bronze—and his friends Monk Mayfair, Ham Brooks, Renny Renwick, Johnny Littlejohn and Long Tom Roberts, occasionally joined by Doc’s cousin Pat Savage, as they raced around the world, investigating scientific mysteries, righting wrongs, and punishing evil-doers wherever they were found.  Doc and his friends were among the very first “science heroes,” those who embraced the modern world of steel and wonder, and who used science and intellect to solve mysteries and save the day… but with plenty of very unscientific fisticuffs and derring-do thrown in for excitement.  Doc Savage, the leader of the group, was no less than the template that future superheroes would be based upon for the balance of the 20th century. Continue reading

Cowboy BeBop: We need more sci-fi like this

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Cowboy BeBopWhat do an ex-cop with an artificial arm, an ex-hitman with a mean martial-arts gift, an amnesiac con artist with a gambling problem, a slightly wacko hacker and an artificially-intelligence-enhanced dog have in common?  These characters—Jet Black, Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine, “Radical” Edward and Einstein the Welsh Corgi—all fly together on a ship called the BeBop, traveling about the occupied areas of the Solar System chasing down bounties in order to pay for their next meal.

On the surface, Cowboy BeBop looks like most sci-fi anime, with stylized characters, futuristic tech, spaceships and settlements on other planets; but not, as those settlements tend to look like third world countries, the ships look very used and ugly, billboards hang in space and the heroes are as likely to fight their bounties with fists as with guns.  And for a program about futuristic bounty hunters, an awful lot of strange and funny things that have nothing to do with bounties tend to happen to them… they’re not the most successful at their trade, and they eat a lot of cheap noodles for sustenance.  In other words, the crew of the BeBop seem a lot like normal people.

And maybe science fiction needs more people like them. Continue reading

Cloud Atlas: Doomed to fail in the U.S.?

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Cloud Atlas poster

Cloud Atlas (Warner Brothers)

Cloud Atlas, the new Warner Brothers movie, seems at first glance to be everything a movie should not be in the U.S.:  It has an intelligent story; it doesn’t feature any action heroes; the major romantic interests in the story all fail; and part of the storyline takes us into the future, automatically insuring an entire host of potential viewers will dismiss the movie as sci-fi right off the bat, and avoid it like the plague.

In fact, so far the most vocal complaints about the movie have been either about a lack of understanding of the story or a complaint about the heavy use of prosthetics to turn the lead actors and actresses into different people, different personalities, different races, and even different genders, running from storyline to storyline. Continue reading

A decade later, you still can’t take the sky from me

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Firefly (courtesy Mutant Enemy/20th Century Fox)

It seems like only a few years back that Joss Whedon gave us a new way to look at future fiction that resonated with a lot of people, weirded out a small but influential group of people, and was unseen by most people.

I am, of course, referring to Firefly, the futuristic retelling of America’s post-Civil-War period… cowboys in space.  At least, that was the prominent outer skin of the series; but as fans discovered, Firefly had more layers underneath than an onion from the seventh dimension.

Firefly presented us with a future that sounded more workable and believable than any future depicted by Star Trek, Stargate, Galactica or almost any other space-faring TV society: The future of the human race, having abandoned the used-up Earth of their ancestors, had discovered a single system of multiple-multiple planets and moons, giving them the chance to settle on and terraform each of them into worlds of their desire.  Like the development of the United States, some planets benefited from their available resources better than others, resulting in rich and beautiful cities on one planet, and desolate no-collar existence on another.  And after their own war of unification, the planets were settling into an uneasy alliance, while those who didn’t like the new order tried to eke out an existence on their own, away from authority figures and politics they didn’t appreciate. Continue reading

Redemption in The Incredibles

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Mr. Incredible, trademark and copyright Disney-Pixar.

Mr. Incredible, trademark and copyright Disney-Pixar.

Well, here we are in another period of summer blockbuster superhero films to wade through.  And as much as I enjoy them, I often find myself thinking about The Incredibles, Pixar’s animated superhero family.  Since the movie was released, it has gone to my list of favorite movies and stayed there.  I watch it frequently when I’m alone in the house and have a few hours to spare, securing myself in the basement with the lights low and the drinks and snacks ready and soaking it in like a guilty pleasure.

But is it just because I like superhero movies?  Is it because of my fondness for animation?  No, it’s much more than that.  In fact, more than the live-action superhero movies, more than most adventure movies, The Incredibles deals with adult themes that I find I identify with… most notably in the character of Robert Parr, aka Mr. Incredible. Continue reading

Questions for the Cult of Prometheus

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David, the android (from Prometheus, 20th Century Fox)

David, the android (from Prometheus, 20th Century Fox)

Prometheus, the sort-of Alien prequel, opened in theatres a few weeks ago, and already it’s generating a lot of buzz… not for its production or acting, which were nothing short of excellent… but for the many questions the movie raises about the origins and history of life on Earth, the spread of life in the cosmos, and the morality of experimentation with life.  Many of these questions are left unanswered by the end of the movie, leading to the possibility that we could see these questions debated for years in the movie’s aftermath.  (Caution: Major spoilers follow.) Continue reading

The Wrath of Khan sucked. Yes. It did.

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The success of series

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The Avengers (Marvel Studios)

The Avengers (Marvel Studios)

As I write this, The Avengers is well on its way to becoming another record-breaking movie.  As well, we have seen three Twilight movies, four Pirates of the Carribean movies, six Star Wars movies, umpteen Harry Potter movies, sequels to The Hunger Games and Iron Man are in the works… you know what?  I could blow three or four paragraphs on all the sequels and series of movies out there.

Suffice to say, continuations are popular in movies.  And why not?  A movie can only pack in so much information… a typical 2-hour movie is perhaps the equivalent of a 100-page book, and these days, books pack in 3-400 pages.  Multiple movies are a great way to get in all of the book’s content (well, more of it, anyway) and provide more well-rounded entertainment to the moviegoer.  Continue reading