Scribes with Bad Robot creds in talks… Syfy wants Oz characters to go to war… We wanted to show you the trailer for RIDDICK. We can’t. We just can’t…
From the luxurious Cinefantastique Online studios in NYC, Dan Persons brings you up-to-date on what’s happening in the world of fantastic film & TV.
STAR TREK is back, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is still flouting the rules, director J.J. Abrams is still dividing the fan base, but amazingly, inconceivably, there’s no dissent within the Cinefantastique Online ranks this time: Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons all agree that STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is supreme, quintessential TREK adventure. Telling the tale of the Enterprise’s encounter with a diabolical mastermind (Benedict Cumberbatch), the film at once delivers the big-scale action (even better in IMAX 3D) that audiences have come to expect from a major studio tent pole release while honoring the ideals that made creator Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision of the future so compelling.
Come join Steve, Larry, and Dan as they delve deep into this top-notch entry to the TREK franchise, exploring what makes it both a superior entertainment and a worthy elaboration of Roddenberry’s humanistic vision. Plus: What’s coming to theaters next week.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the script for a film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s SF novel Ender’s Game is making a lot of buzz in filmland.
The script is “packaged” with screenwriter Gavin Hood (X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE) attached as director, with STAR TREK’s Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci set to produce, along with OddLot Entertainment’s Gigi Pritzker.
Apparently, almost every studio and a number of film finance companies have received the package, and several follow-up meetings have already been scheduled.
Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel is set on a future Earth, which has barely survived two attacks by the Formics (or Buggers), an insectoid race. To train soliders the Battle and Command schools have been formed where children are immersed in virtual reality “games”, which have greater signifgance than suspected.
The protagonist is Ender Wiggins, a bullied and abused boy, who becomes an unorthodox master of these vital skills, and put on a path towards leading the International Fleet.
A deal was in place at Warner Brothers in the 1990’s to make a movie version of the Hugo and Nebula Award winner, under director Wolfgang Peterson (ENEMY MINE), but production never came to pass.
The article speculates that Warner Bros. might be interested in reacquiring the project, as might Paramount/DreamWorks where Kurtzman and Orci already have strong ties.
The L.A. Times reports that the STAR TREK reboot writers, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, have ‘broken’ the story for the sequel, meaning that they do have the essential plot set for the next film
While not revealing any details, the duo did provide some insight into their process. Alex Kurtzman said (in part):
“I think one of the weird challenges that we’re facing on this one is that in many ways, with the first movie, I don’t think people knew what to expect, so when we were in the writing process, Bob and I really spent our time going to things that we loved about TREK and it was a very unfiltered process. It felt intimate and small…. Now, that first movie has come up and did well and everyone wants to know what happens next…. We need to find our way back to the same kind of vibe that we had when we wrote the first one: What do we want to see here? What moved us about TREK? Where can we go from where we left off?”
Roberto Orci noted that this film is not an origin story, and added the following:
“We’re looking at a lot of the old episodes for inspiration, still. Whereas the last movie was all about breaking free from STAR TREK and its canon, now that we can do whatever we want, we still want it to feel like good ol’ STAR TREK, even though it’s a new story.”
For more details, including possible comparisons to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, follow the link above.
There has been much recent speculation that STAR TREK writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have been working on developing the popular graphic novel series Locke & Key for film. As it turns out, Kurtzman and Orci have actually decided to pursue the project as a TV series.
The graphic novels, penned by Joe Hill, son of acclaimed fiction author Stephen King, tell the story of a New England family and their mysterious mansion whose doors and magical keys play havoc with those who come across them. The series would be the product of a deal between Kurtzman, Orci, and 20th Century Fox TV and would presumably also involve Dreamworks TV.
Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS sequel is less science fiction spectacle than an excursion into abstract cinema
No other critic is going to admit it, so it falls to me to declare that director Michael Bay is an abstract artist whose work is continuously misinterpreted. The conventional wisdom is that Bay is a no-talent uber-Hollywood hack, who churns out formulaic action blockbusters in which story, characterization, and dialogue are flimsy pretexts for blowing shit up real good. What critics fail to understand is that Bay takes this approach and extends it one step further: the action and explosions are as much pretext as anything else in his films. Bay is not only eager to break with the traditions of narrative cinema; he wants to overthrow the conventions of mindless roller-coaster movies, in which a series of set-pieces deliver enough visceral entertainment to compensate for the weak storyline. Bay couldn’t care less about using camera angles and editing to orchestrate a decent suspense scene that would put you on the edge of your seat, nor is he interested in calibrating special effects, music, and sound design to deliver legitimate thrills. Viewed through his lens, all of that hardware flying around the screen, punctuated with pyrotechnics and saturated with geysers of flame and pillars of smoke, is merely raw material from which he can extract form and color. Yes, there are “actors” in his movies, along with “sets” and “props” – some of them physical, some of them crafted with computer-generated imagery – but in the end, all of them are simply blobs of light and shadow to be shot across the screen like paint spattered on a canvas by Jackson Pollack. The objects being photographed blur until they lose distinction, their form and function subservient to the aesthetics of kinetic motion, color, and composition.
What is most amazing about this achievement is that Michael Bay has presented his peculiar, idiosyncratic vision while working within the Hollywood studio system, under the guise of making movies that are perceived to be crowd-pleasing, mainstream entertainment with wide audience appeal – even while he resolutely refuses to deliver entertainment on the most basic level. In TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, Bay has at his hands numerous resources that could have been easily marshalled by a more conventional director. Given a rising young star like Shia LaBeouf, Bay deliberately uses camera angles, movement, and editing to split the actor’s performance up into a series of jigsaw puzzle pieces that barely fit, giving only the vaguest hint of a character portrait, our attention instead directed to the size and shape of the pieces.
Even more obviously, given Megan Fox, who is probably the hottest woman on the planet (Jessica Alba notwithstanding), Bay can barely be bothered to exploit her latent sex appeal. Like Goddard, who de-sexualized Bridget Bardot in CONTEMPT by filming her bed scene in alternating primary colors that rendered her nudity in abstract terms, Bay uses his over-powering cinematic technique to reduce the leading lady to little more than a glorified extra – her denim shorts, tight clothes, and low-cut blouses registering only as small fragments of the kaleidoscopic kinetic color scheme that is the true raison d’etre of TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.
Even the potential of the titular toys is undermined whenever possible. The fun of Hasbro’s Transformers is that they look impossible: there can’t possibly – or so it seems – be a way to unfold that car into a robot with arms, legs, and claws. And yet, it turns out to be completely possible – a challenging puzzle that engages the minds of children even as they are enjoying play-time with their toys. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, like TRANSFORMERS before it, is unhindered by physical reality; therefore, Bay sees no need to present transformations that have been as rigorously designed as the toy manufacturers, by necessity, had to design theirs. CGI can do anything, so anything goes. There is no need to marvel at clever construction; you need only allow your eye to be dazzled by the shifting slabs of metallic hues as the robots bend and twist like origami viewed in a fun-house mirror.
Despite his meticulous attention to craftsmanship, Michael Bay has not yet fully achieved his artistic apotheosis with his sequel to TRANSFORMERS. He does lapse into conventional cinematic forms at time, much to his detriment (it’s no accident that his biggest box office bomb, THE ISLAND, was the one that tried to tell a straight-forward story without explosions, at least for its first act). LaBeouf gets in a line or two of dialogue. John Turturro is allowed to give something resembling a performance (not a subtle one, to be sure, but it still resembles traditional acting). Here and there a close-up lingers just long enough for the viewer to realize that Megan Fox is, indeed, a fox.* An occasional joke elicits a laugh. A stunt looks like a part of the story instead of an Olympic event. A piece of shrapnel seems to threaten a character in a manner that almost makes you fear the impact rather than cheer on the beauty of motion-color artistry.
Bay’s most unforgivable lapse in TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN comes when he lets the screenplay present exposition intended to justify the action. Bay seems to realize that no one cares what the Decepticons are up to or why super-powerful Autobots need LaBeouf’s puny character for help; nevertheless, he includes these moments, perhaps out of a sense of obligation to the studios unwittingly funding his excursions into experimental cinema.
Fortunately, these lapses into conventional narrative form take up only a tiny fraction of REVENGE OF THE FALLEN’s two-hour-plus running time. Even more fortunately, when Bay gets back to the action, he shows no desire to pay his audience back for having forced them to sit through the tedium. Staying true to his unique vision, Bay insists on botching the promised throw-down between Optimus Prime and the Fallen. The thrill of victory after a hard-fought battle is almost as alien to Bay as the dramatic necessity of exposition. His is a purer form of cinema, at its best when unfettered by such quaint considerations.
We can only hope that he continues to explore this avenue, taking if further and further, until one day, perhaps, he ceases to photograph identifiable objects at all. With advances in computer-generated imagery, we look forward to the day when Bay indulges in a purely abstract phantasmagoria of sound and color, whose shapes and sizes are dictated only by the director’s imagination, not by the face and bodies of actors; their movements coordinated not according to some unnecessary “plot” but choreographed like a dance; the soundtrack score serving not to convey an illusionary sense of emotional investment in plot or character, but freed to work purely in rhythmic and melodic terms.
‘Tis a consumation devoutly to be missed, but until that glorious day arrives when Bay delivers his perfect masterpiece, we must be content with the psychadelic stylings of TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN. FOOTNOTE:
In one inexplicable close-up, Megan Fox is supposed to be expressing fear at the approach of a Decepticon, but her wide eyes and softly parted lips suggest a woman anticipating the arrival of her paramour in a romantic mood. Subsequent shots show Fox with her hand covering her mouth, as if Bay and/or his editor suddenly realized this was the only way to prevent her come-hither look from overwhelming the rest of the scene. Why the first shot was allowed to remain is a mystery – a sop to teen-age boys, perhaps? You can view the scene here.
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN(2009). Directed by Michael Bay. Written by Ehren Kruger & Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman. Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Isabel Lucas, John Turturro, Tyrese Gibson, Rainn Wilson, Ramon Rodriguez, Hugo Weaving (voice of Megatron), Peter Cullen (voice of Optimus Prime).
Variety reports that Paramount is already preparing a sequel to STAR TREK, their franchise reboot that does not open until May 8. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof have been hired to script the follow-up, which will be produced by J. J. Abrams, who may or may not return to the directing chair. A draft is supposed to be ready by Christmas in hope of having the film ready for release in 2011.
There’s obviously a lot of hubris involved in signing on to write a sequel of a movie that hasn’t even come out yet,” said Lindelof, co-creator with Abrams of ABC’s “Lost” who produced the upcoming “Trek” but did not contribute to Orci and Kurtzman’s screenplay. “But we’re so excited about the first one that we wanted to proceed.”
As for potential storylines, Kurtzman stressed that the writing team will wait to take a cue from fan reaction about which direction to go.
“Obviously we discussed ideas, but we are waiting to see how audiences respond next month,” he said. “With a franchise rebirth, the first movie has to be about origin. But with a second, you have the opportunity to explore incredibly exciting things. We’ll be ambitious about what we’ll do.”
Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof are currently writing COWBOYS AND ALIENS for DreamWorks.
The Los Angeles Times has posted a profile of the screenwriting team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Much of the article focuses on how the pair met and forged a partnership that has lasted through such projects as TRANSFORMERS, THE ISLAND, FRINGE, etc, but they do get around to saying a little bit about their upcoming STAR TREK film, directed by J. J. Abrams, which opens on May 8.
In crafting the new cinematic adventure about the Academy days of a young James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock — before they hopped on the U.S.S. Enterprise to boldly go where no man has gone before — the writers saw something familiar in the characters who represent fiery emotion and cold logic. […]
“Kirk and Spock are opposites from two worlds. That’s us in a nutshell. We’re drawn to each by what each of us lacks. The story of this film is about two guys who are such opposites that they might end up strangling each other but instead they bond and thrive together. That’s us. We can go warp speed together.”
The article recounts the effort to get Leonard Nimoy signed back on board – a strategic move to earn good will among the Trek fanbase:
With “Trek,” the pair and Abrams are trying to win over the famously passionate fans of the venerable franchise with a whole new cast playing the crew. No matter what they do, some die-hards will walk out of the theater grumbling, but the team has one ace in the hole: Leonard Nimoy is back as Spock (Zachary Quinto of “Heroes” plays the younger version of the Vulcan in the film). In fact, Nimoy is the only familiar face from the franchise returning for the Paramount reboot, and winning over the 79-year-old actor was a huge hurdle for the writers, who with Abrams went to visit him at his home.
When they arrived, Nimoy was giving off a ” ‘Who are you guys and what are you up to?’ ” vibe, Kurtzman said. “It was incredibly intimidating. By the end it was very emotional too. We told him that we couldn’t do it without him. We told everything and how he was the key to the movie, that the story doesn’t work without him. There was a very long silence and he got misty.
“He had retired and turned down many offers to return to this character, so this was asking the greatest gunslinger to strap on the pistol one more time. . . . His wife told us later that he didn’t get out of the chair for several hours [and] that he was overwhelmed by all of it and the decision.”
And Kurtzman and Orci talk about the tone of the new TREK movie, which will be anything but reverent:
There’s a lot of humor in the film and a certain sexiness that is already stirring debate on fan websites, which Orci and Kurtzman read religiously. Orci is a zealous fan of the franchise with a deep knowledge of its history, and the pair put plenty of traditional touches in the new film, such as the furry and troublesome Tribble that makes an appearance.
“It was scary to try to be funny, but we felt confidant that we had to go for it,” Orci said. “In the original series, humor and sexiness was a key part of the show. It was in the middle of the 1960s and this liberation of the young. And it was funny too.”