BBC Sued Over Dalek's Davros

Davros_1The UK’s Daily Mail reports that the BBC is being sued by Steven Clark, who says he invented the evil Davros, creator of the Daleks  for a contest run by the (now defunct) magazine TV Action magazine in 1972.
Readers were challenged to to create and design a villian to appear in a DOCTOR WHO comic strip that appeared in the magazine villain, and Steven Clark asserts he “invented the name Davros and sent in a drawing of the character along with a handwritten essay called The Genesis Of The Daleks: The Creation Of Davros. ”
Mr. Clark did not win the contest, but the judges included the fourth Doctor Doctor Jon Pertwee, DOCTOR WHO script editor Terrance Dicks and producer Barry Letts.  
To his surprise, in 1975 the series aired a serial titled Genesis of The Daleks, and featured a character named Davros that looked very much like his drawing. The story, written by Dalek creator Terry Nation (BLAKES 7), did not follow the essay by Clark, though the name Kaleds, an anagram of Daleks did appear.

Steven Clark's Davros Sketches
Steven Clark's Davros Sketches

According to his suit, the then 16-year old Clark did not make a claim at the time, because he had lost his copies of his entry. He says that  twenty years later he re-discovered them, stuck inside the family’s encyclopedias—but erroneously believed that too much time had passed to file a legal claim.
The article states that tens of thousands of pounds may be due Steven Clark, if his assertation is true. He’s quoted as saying:   

“The money aspect of it is not my primary motivation. I am proud of the character I created and I just want my work to be recognised. It would be nice to be finally linked to the character after all this time.”

If true, the BBC should acknowledge the fact, however contests of this nature usually have rules that grant all right to submissions to the contest organizers and television shows whith which they’re connected.
Personally, the sketches make be slightly suspicious, as they are so close to what appeared on screen, which would have been a rarity for the BBC’s independently-minded designers and FX departments of that era.

'Robocop' Reboot—Director & Writer?

Been ruminating on this item: robocop_gunAccording to Deadline,  MGM has hired Brazilian director Jose Padilha (ELITE SQUAD), and signed writer Josh Zetumer to work on the script with him.
Josh Zetuner is apparently a hot un-produced screenwriter, penning the abandoned Paramount DUNE movie, and a cancelled Jason Bourne sequel from Universal. Reportedly, he also did un-credited work on MGM’s last James Bond film, QUANTUM OF SOLACE. 
So we have a director whose work is largely unseen in the U.S., and a writer whose scripts are supposed to be good, but never actually make it onscreen. The results could be great, or not. Actually,  it’s encouraging to see Hollywood roll the dice like this. We’ll have to wait and see if the gamble pays off.
I haven’t seen any official confirmation of this information, just to be clear.

'Robocop' Rebooted — Director In Mind?

robocop_1According to Deadline, the back-from-near death MGM is in talks with  Brazilian director Jose Padilha (ELITE SQUAD 1 & 2) to revive ROBOCOP as a franchise with a remake/reboot.
Starting with the 1987 original directed by Paul Verhoven, the series went on to 2 sequels and a 1994 TV show. Robocop/Alex Murphy was played in films by Peter Weller and Robert John Burke, with Richard Eden suited up in the television version. 
Originally made by Orion Pictures, the property passed to MGM.  Before its recent troubles, MGM had lined up Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN) for the reboot. Now he’s committed to 20th Century Fox’s THE WOLVERINE, with Hugh Jackman as the Marvel comics character.
The article stated that a new script writer will pair with  Jose Padilha, or  one assumes, whoever winds up helming the feature.

Animated Terminator 3000 announced

The Internet is abuzz this morning with the news that a company named Hannover House has sent out a press release announcing an upcoming $70-million TERMINATOR sequel, to be titled TERMINATOR 3000 and – get this – filmed in 3-D animation with a PG-13 in order to bring in the kiddie audience. The film will be made in association with Red Bear Entertainment. Details are scarce at the moment, but production is tentatively scheduled to begin in January of 2011.
The franchise has passed from Hemdale (which produced the original) to Carolco (which produced TERMINATOR 2), later passing through the hands of Halcyon Media and ending up with Pacificor, which licensed  the rights to Hannover House.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Blu-ray Review

click to purchase
click to purchase

If we had to pick the five greatest theatrical experiences of our adult life (eliminating childhood, where even the lights going down could give goosebumps) then catching TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY on opening day back in July of 1991 would rank highly among them. It’s an amazing thing to walk out of a theater with your head buzzing after witnessing something utterly, totally, and demonstrability different, and TERMINATOR 2 was exactly that – an action epic with an unlikely emotionality at its core, a special effects extravaganza that utilized brand-new technology and combined it flawlessly with reliable, older methods, and, perhaps most amazingly, a sequel that outdid the original in every imaginable way.
The success of  The Terminator in 1984 served as a calling card for the talents of both star Arnold Schwarzenegger and writer-director James Cameron, with both having labored for years in low-budget genre efforts before joining forces on a vehicle that called on each of their strengths; playing a (nearly) emotionless cyborg negated the stars thespian weaknesses; the director’s skills, honed working on the special effects for numerous ultra low-budget productions (including numerous Roger Corman efforts and some nifty matte paintings for Escape from New York), allowed Cameron to create viable future tech for very little money. The film was a smash, and the fortunes of both men rose at a geometric rate for the remainder of the decade, creating almost ridiculously high expectations for the inevitable sequel.
Following months of pre-release hype surrounding both the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to his most iconic role and the use of the groundbreaking digital morphing effects, TERMINATOR 2 did finally debut to virtually universal critical and audience acclaim. Though its action set pieces are justifiably famous, it is the deliberate pacing of James Cameron’s editing that has you gripping for the figurative edge of your seat long before the bullets start flying. Even the major action beats utilized longer takes and far less cutting than you’d find in a similar blockbuster. Cameron always keeps the special relations of both people and objects easy to follow; unlike headache-inducing shows like Transformers, the editing rhythms carry through and establish momentum throughout the film’s running time (watching Michael Bay’s film is like being in the car with a 16-year-old learning to drive a stick shift), and you always know where everyone and everything is in relation to everything else – a depressingly lost art. And though digital effects (in their infancy in 1991) are utilized whenever Robert Patrick’s T-1000’s shifted its liquid metal shape, the rest is achieved through expert models and gasp-inducing stunt work.
Just as important to TERMINATOR 2’s success are the principal actors, almost all of whom make something quite special out of their roles – whether, in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, they were returning to roles they had previously created, or newer editions to the cast. Under James Cameron’s careful direction, Schwarzenegger has always seemed livelier and more comfortable, able to take gentle pokes at his image without degenerating into outright mockery. His reading of certain lines – like his response to Edward Furlong’s shocked exclamation that he was prepared to kill a man in broad daylight (“Of course, I’m a Terminator”) is priceless, and his performance is peppered with unexpected character moments.
Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is simply amazing to behold, incredibly fit and muscular without being freakishly so. She was one of the more unusually attractive actresses of that era, and Cameron photographs her with a mixture of love and awe – similar to the way Michael Bay photographs an aircraft carrier. The authority that she carries holds the film’s more questionable plot turns in check and more than makes up for TERMINATOR 2’s only real shortcoming, the irritating, lispy performance of Edward Furlong as John Connor – the future leader of the Resistance that we wouldn’t follow across a room.
After the bankruptcy of Carloco Pictures many moons ago, the home video rights to TERMINATOR 2 have leapt from one company to another – and from VHS to Laserdisc to DVD and now Blu-Ray – with decidedly mixed results. After one of the earliest “must have” special edition releases on Laserdisc, all subsequent releases have built off this foundation – including commentary tracks featuring nearly all the production personnel, an extended (and superior) 153min cut of the film (the theatrical ran 137min) that reinstated Michael Biehn’s appearance as Kyle Reese, and literally hundreds of documents and photos from the production. The DVD releases saw the debut of an “extended special edition” running just a few minutes longer than the special edition, and including only two additional scenes – the T-1000 using his fingertips to scan John’s bedroom, and a coda taking place in a futuristic Washington D.C., with Sarah as a grandmother watching as her son, Senator John Connor, play with his daughter in an idyllic park, the Skynet threat finally defeated.
Lionsgate’s new Blu-Ray represents a noticeable improvement over their previous Blu-Ray, taking advantage of the soon-to-flop Terminator: Salvation to re-master TERMINATOR 2. While only those intent on heavily scrutinizing the image on large displays will notice most of the image upgrade, the drastic improvement that the lossless audio offers is immediately evident (back in the Laserdisc days, that first metallic crunch of the Terminator foot crushing the skull always knocked us out of the chair, and we were glad to have that feeling once again).
There has been a lot of grumbling in regards to the use – or misuse – of digital noise reduction on the title, and we wish that we could offer a more definitive answer. TERMINATOR 2 was never a particularly naturalistic-looking film; virtually the entire show is shot with heavy blue filtering, giving even human features near-metallic sheen. We suspect that some people may be mistaking this (and it is the way that the film was originally shot) for a DNR byproduct, though I’ll leave it to people with displays 65-inches and over to determine. The transfer looked good to us.
The extras represent a best-of compilation of previously offered items, with both the original commentary plus the slightly newer commentary track featuring James Cameron and co-writer William Wisher that had been offered with the “Extreme Edition” DVD release – it’s more interesting than the somewhat jumbled cast-crew track by virtue of concentrating on Cameron’s point of view (it is also scene-specific whereas the other is not.)
All extant versions are here as well, though you still have to put in the code 82997 to access the Extended Version; the two scenes that make up the difference between the Extended and Special editions are available separately on the disc and both represent solid cuts (the fingertip scan looks sillier than it probably read and mucks with the pacing, while the D.C. coda is embarrassingly stiff.)
Much of the previous BTS content had been carved up for picture-in-picture content that can be set to run with the film. All the theatrical teasers and trailers are also present (in HD) including the terrific “I promise, I will not kill anyone” spot. If you haven’t already bought the previous edition, this represents a pretty good value for money – particularly for the terrific lossless audio track. If you’re worried about heavy use of DNR, you can check out a very comprehensive screenshot comparison at DVD Beaver. Recommended.

Terminator Salvation – Science Fiction Film Review

Terminator Salvation (2009)I think films (like Terminator Salvation) strive to achieve in two areas: On a very visceral level, bringing you a lot of special effects explosiveness and fun, because that is what you want from a Terminator movie, but also, it will have more resonance if you have interesting themes.
We have a theme about the burden of destiny in the John Connor (Christian Bale) character and we have a theme about what makes us human in the Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) character. So I think at the end of the day the movie is largely about becoming. About John Connor becoming the leader of the resistance. About what is it that makes you human, which is the whole point of the Marcus Wright character: Where does humanity lie?
I think those themes goes a long way in the movie and during the journey we also blow-up a few things.

—McG, director of Terminator Salvation

Not having seen any of director McG’s previous films (or those of co-star Sam Worthington), I must say I was quite surprised at how well TERMINATOR SALVATION turned out. As McG himself noted at a pre-release press conference, “There’s nothing about the body of my career that would suggest I’m the right guy to make a TERMINATOR movie.”
Which is exactly what I thought, but the film itself puts all those reservations to rest. As McG notes, he has managed to weld some very memorable action sequences, of quite searing intensity, onto a framework that carries themes with a certain amount of resonance. In short, it’s a formula that makes for a nice restoration of the TERMINATOR franchise, especially after the previous installment was clearly heading in the wrong direction.The major fault of T-3 : The Rise of the Machines was that it took the time-traveling concept that had been set-up so carefully in the first two movies by James Cameron far beyond what was logical, or more importantly, believable.
TERMINATOR SALVATION, written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, who also wrote T-3, corrects that fault by firmly setting the action of the film in the year 2018. Therefore, we have no time-traveling characters or the inevitable paradoxes they invite. Instead, we are introduced to a death row inmate, Marcus Wright, who agrees to let his body become the basis for an experimental Cyborg program being developed by scientist Serena Kogan (Helena Bonham Carter). Resistance leader John Connor inadvertently frees Marcus when he leads an attack on the Skynet laboratories, which sets the new story into motion.
As Marcus Wright, the Australian actor Sam Worthington is a huge asset, giving TERMINATOR SALVATION the kind of subtle performance that Arnold could never reach. And since Worthington is mostly unknown in America, there can be no preconceptions about him. We can’t tell in advance if he may be a force for good or for evil, which is a question that John Connor himself must decide when he first encounters Marcus.
Of course, this idea of good guy or bad guy has been a re-current twist in all the TERMINATOR movies. Sarah Connor didn’t initially know if Kyle Reese was trying to save her or kill her in THE TERMINATOR. Likewise, in TERMINATOR 2 we weren’t expecting Arnold to be a good Terminator. So in TERMINATOR SALVATION, we also wonder if Marcus is good or evil, man or machine, Iago or Prospero?

Given such a fascinating ambiguity in his character, it’s no wonder Sam Worthington takes the ball and runs with it, basically playing a macho action character with an astonishing depth of feeling and pathos. In fact, much to its advantage, the entire first half of TERMINATOR SALVATION centers not on John Connor, but on Marcus Wright, whose amnesia has left him totally unaware that he has been reborn as a cyborg into a brave new world. Thus, he sets out in a journey to discover who he is, wandering through a beautifully realized vision of the American West, after the nuclear Armageddon of Judgment Day has left Earth a desolate wasteland.

All these stunning visuals are captured by cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, along with the assistance of the F/X wizards at ILM and Matte World Digital, who provide us with such iconic vistas as these: the steel hulk of Los Angeles skyscrapers, as seen by Marcus from the remnants of the famed Hollywood Hills sign; an escape by Marcus and Kyle Reese across the Rio Grande Gorge bridge near Taos, New Mexico; an attempt to reach Skynet’s Marin county headquarters by crossing San Francisco’s half destroyed Golden Gate bridge; and most excitingly of all, a fabulous Ray Harryhausen-type of action sequence set at a decimated 7-11 store in the New Mexico desert.
Strangely enough, most of the more exciting action scenes involve only the Marcus Wright character and not John Connor. Which leads one to wonder why Christian Bale, who reportedly was asked to play Marcus, turned that plum part down in favor of the far less interesting role of John Connor! Perhaps he felt he had already explored a similar character in Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, where he plays a man who is both very tough, but still quite tender.
In any case, Bale’s loss becomes Sam Worthington’s gain. Ironically, Worthington was cast for his first major Hollywood film by James Cameron in his upcoming 3-D extravaganza, Avatar. At the TERMINATOR SALVATION press conference, Worthington was asked if he had sought Cameron’s advice before accepting his role as Marcus Wright. He replied, “I told Jim Cameron they wanted me to do it and I explained to him what I wanted to do with the character. He thought it was a good idea and told me not to fuck it up and that was about it. Then he went back to working on Avatar. It’s totally weird that I finished Avatar on a Friday and started shooting TERMINATOR on a Monday. I found it fascinating to still be involved in Jim’s world.”
Based on his work in TERMINATOR SALVATION, Worthington will certainly be an actor to watch in the future, especially in Avatar, where he plays a paralyzed former-Marine who travels to another planet and attempts to infiltrate the alien inhabitants by combining his own DNA with those of the aliens.
Worthington not only gets the best action scenes in TERMINATOR SALVATION, but most of the more memorable emotional scenes, as well. Christian Bale’s role, on the other hand, is extremely predictable. He doesn’t take center stage until the last half of the movie, and even then his action scenes become the kind of thing we’ve already seen far too many times in the first three movies.
Which is why, if there is to be a TERMINATOR 5, it might be best if there is a shift of focus away from John Connor and towards the character of Marcus Wright.

TERMINATOR SALVATION (May 21, 2009). Directed by McG; Screenplay by John Brancato and Michael Ferris; Produced by Moritz Borman, Jeffrey Silver, Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson. Executive producers, Mario F. Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna; Cinematography by Shane Hurlbut; Film editor: Conrad Buff; Music by Danny Elfman; production designer: Martin Laing; Costume designer: Michael Wilkinson; Terminator makeup and animatronic effects by John Rosengrant; Sound designer: Cameron Frankley; ILM visual effects supervisor: Charles Gibson.
Cast: Christian Bale (John Connor); Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright); Moon Bloodgood (Blair Williams); Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Serena Kogan); Anton Yelchin (Kyle Reese); Jadagrace (Star).

Bionic Woman: "Sisterhood" – TV Review

Katee Sackhoff as the first Bionic Woman - Jamie Sommers' nemesis Sarah CorvisIn its third week, BIONIC WOMAN continues its dizzying descent after its promising pilot. New exposition seeks to undermine our understanding of what has gone before; the attempt at complexity does not cast revealing light on previous details; it simply contradicts them. The impression one receives is that the show is being rewritten as it goes along, revising the premise in order to head in a new direction. The ill-conceived stumbling in already murky waters merely kicks up more mud, obscuring rather than clarifying, in the hope of fooling the audience into thinking something profound is hiding in the darkness.
The new story has Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan) assigned to bodyguard a rich man’s daughter, but the real plot engine driving the episode is rogue bionic woman Sarah Corvis (Katee Sackhoff). Previously, we knew she was mentally unbalanced by her powers; now she seems to be physically suffering as well. Egged on by villainous Anthony Andros (Mark Sheppard), Sarah seeks out Jamie and tries to convince her to submit to surgery that will help Andros update Sarah’s technology and possibly save her life.
Needless to say, it is impossible to believe that Jamie would have anything to do with Sarah, whose body count includes Jamie’s fiance and her unborn child. Nevertheless, the episode insists on having Jamie at least consider the proposition. The attempt at turning enemies into potential allies is woefully unconvincing. Shifting alliances are not dramatically impossible (see THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY), but they work best when the motivations are clear and we see the advantage to both parties to make the switch. Neither is the case here.

The closest the episode comes is having Sarah help Jamie defend her young charge from some would-be assassins. Sarah’s timing is so impeccably perfect that a reasonable viewer would wonder who she managed to show up just before the killers. In an episode desperately trying to sow distrust against the nominal good guys (including Jamie’s dead fiance), it never occurs to our heroine that maybe – just maybe – Sarah might have, you know, staged this whole attack just to earn brownie points by helping out at the crucial moment.
The on-going relationship between Jamie and Sarah is wearing out its welcome, because it is pushing too hard, too fast. (One suspects the show should be re-titled BIONIC WOMEN.) In one climactic moment, Jamie dissuades Sarah from harming an innocent victim by making an appeal to her better nature. This kind of dramatic ploy might work at the end of the season, in order to leave a new angle open for season two, but it is way too early now. (How many years did it take Batman to try reasoning with the Joker in The Killing Joke? Even Darth Vader didn’t get redeemed until the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI.)
Other questions remain unanswered. Last episode, Jae Kim (Will Yun Lee) resumed his romantic relationship with Sarah, but this week he is still training Jamie to defeat Sarah. Does he feel a bit conflicted about this? Do any of his colleagues suspect something may be up with him? Don’t ask – the episode ignores the plot complication entirely.
The special effects are also showing signs of overreaching. We get an execrable computer-generated shot of Sarah jumping from one building to another, which looks like a cut-out animated figure. In future, the show should stick to live-action effects.
There are a few moments that suggest the show still has potential, if it can straighten itself out. The clear highlight features Miguel Ferrer as Jamie’s boss, Jonas Bledsoe, who is seen making a heart-felt declaration of love to a subordinate, only for the scene to reveal that he is testing – and beating – a polygraph machine. In a show that is stumbling over attempts at humor (revovling around Jamie’s attempts to maintain a normal family life with her younger sister while occasionally kicking bad-guy ass), this is one moment that actually generates a real laugh.