SyFy's 'Caprica' Buys Time

Caprica CityAccording to Fancast.com,  NBC Universal has worked out an extention deal with the actors on CAPRICA,  prolonging their options. Set to expire this month, the contracts have been extended until November, in the hopes that  SyFy will renew the BATTLESTAR GALACTIC spin-off for another season. 
This gives the studio and fans some breathing room, although the cable channel recently revealed a new slate of planned series that might not leave room and budget for CAPRICA to return.
The science fiction network has been slow to renew before, supposedly putting off deciding to whether to renew the fantasy-detective series THE DRESDEN FILES for a second season until it became clear that star  Paul Blackthorne had signed for another series, making continuing the popular show impossible.

Abrams' Bad Robot Backs Victorian Robot Flick

jj-abrams_l
J.J. Abrams will be producing a robot period piece, according to The Hollywood Reporter. BOILERPLATE: HISTORY’S MECHANICAL MARVEL will be based on a graphic novel/picture book by Heartbreakers authors Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett.
BOILERPLATE is the tale of the world’s first robot, who came upon the scene in the 19th century and took part in some of history’s most memorable moments including the legend of Lawrence of Arabia, the silent movie era, and World War I. BOILERPLATE is not to be confused with Atomic Robo, a similar graphic novel series from Red 5 Comics that tells the story of a different robot who is instrumental in major historical events.
The story of BOILERPLATE is told in the graphic novel by picturing the main character in familiar period imagery. If this style choice carries over to the film adaptation, it could make for a really fascinating piece of alternate-reality storytelling.

CAPRICA Season 1.5 – Trailer

Also from The Chicago Tribune’s Watcher Blog,  GALACTICA spin-off prequel CAPRICA promises to be more action and drama oriented in its second half, now that the basic premise has been established.
In Season ‘1.5″ viewers will see the return of James Marsters (ANGEL) as terrorist Barnabus Greeley, Scott Porter as polygamist Nestor Willow, and John Pyper-Ferguson will return as Tomas Vergis, the bitter business rival of Clyon creator Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz).
At CAPRICA’s Comic Con panel, Marsters said his character is “looking out on a society that’s eating itself alive, as far as he’s concerned…  He’s disgusted.”
The show will also return to virtual world ‘New Cap City’, where the physically deceased character Tamara Adama (Genevieve Buechner) lives on.  
Asked if CAPRICA will get a second season on SyFy, executive producer/co-creator   Ronald D. Moore, said that he firmly believed that it will— although that decision will not be made for some time.
The second half of the first season of CAPRICA is expected to begin airing in January of 2011.

Robot Noir From The UK In REIGN OF DEATH

Love your Sci-Fi but short on time? Check out the short film REIGN OF DEATH! Directed by Matt Savage (Concept Designer on KICK ASS & X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) and starring Noel Clarke (DOCTOR WHO), REIGN is classic detective noir set in a dystopian future. The movie has been making it’s way around the UK Festival circuit and has been picking up a lot of positive buzz. While the film speaks for itself, in a much larger sense it shows that you don’t need a huge budget to make a fun and memorable film.

Tim Burton To Do 'Monsterpocalypse'

monsterpocalypse_logoAccording to SlashFilm, frequent genre filmmaker Tim Burton (PLANET OF THE APES) is developing the board game MONSTERPOCALYPSE as a movie, with the intention to direct.
The site spoke to producer Roy Lee (HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON), who confirmed Burton’s involvement, and that John August (Burton’s CORPSE BRIDE) is writing the screenplay.
Game creator Matt Wilson is consulting, and will be a co-producer.
The plot will deal with an invasion of ailen giant monsters, and the ultimate response to that menace will be giant robots. (Naturally…)
A 2012 release is tentatively planned.

Yetis For X-Mas on 'Doctor Who'?

DoctorWho_YetiBleeding Cool posted this illustration from designer Peter McKinstry that purports to be the internal structure of DOCTOR WHO’s old nemeses, the robotic Yeti’s.
The Yeti’s, tools of the other-dimensional Great Intelligence menaced second Doctor Patrick Troughton in the 1960’s serials The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. DW_yeti_60s_2
The sometimes chilling, often kinda silly and cuddly-looking creatures are said to be featured in this year’s DOCTOR WHO Christmas special.
It’s not the first time Yetis were postulated to be un-earthly in origin. In the Cthulhu Mythos, the Yeti, (Mi-go or Mei-go) are said to be fungoid/crustacean extraterrestrials with strange motives, using furs at times to disguise their presence and true forms.
Nigel Kneale’s (THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT) Abominable Snowmen were mentally advanced (possible) extraterrestrials.

'Real Steel' Photo And Info

realsteel_jackman_WebUSA Today features pictures and press info on the in-production SF film REAL STEEL. (click on photo for larger view)
Directed by Shawn Levy (NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM), takes place in the near-future setting of 2020, by which robot boxers have replaced humans in the ring.
Hugh Jackman plays one of these replaced fighters, now out of work and trying to bond with the son (Dakota Goyo) he barely knows.
If the story seems somewhat familiar, it’s because it’s based on Richard Matheson’s short story Steel, which was adapted into a harrowing episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, starring Lee Marvin as the desperate former pugilist.
The script has gone through many hands, beginning as a 2005 screenplay by Dan Gilroy (FREEJACK), Jeremy Leven (CREATOR), and current screenplay by Leslie Bohem (TAKEN) and John Gatins.
Says Jackman on the plot:

“The heart of the story is this father and son relationship and in comes this junkyard robot called Atom that the kid’s in love with… I abandoned the kid pretty much at birth. But we come together because the boy’s mother has died. We have a lot of distance to make up. It’s through this mutual interest in robot boxing that they find a way to come together and form a bond.”

Not too surprisingly, REAL STEEL is a DreamWorks SKG film for Disney’s Touchstone Pictures.
However, one minor surprise is that the filmmakers went with the expense of building 19 full size, 8-foot tall animatronic robots, for the performers to interact with — at the advice of executive producer Steven Speilberg.
The actual fighting scenes will be realized with digital visual effects and motion capture supervised by boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.
Director Shawn Levy is quoted as saying: “There are some things only visual effects can pull off. But when you give an actor a real thing, in this case a real 8-foot-tall machine, to interact with and do dialogue opposite, you get a more grounded reality to the performance.”
REAL STEEL is due in theaters November 18th, 2011.
See the link Above for more details.

Metropolis Restored: The Cinefantastique Podcast, 1:14

In Volume 1, Episode 14 of the Cinefantastique Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction Podcast, Dan Persons, Lawrence French, and Steve Biodrowski visit the futuristic city of METROPOLIS, the 1927 science fiction classic from director Fritz Lang. The subject of a recent restoration that added over twenty minutes of footage, the film is ripe for reappraisal. Is it even better than before, or is the additional running time a mere marketing ploy to get you to buy more DVDs? Also under consideration this week: a Frank Frazetta obituary, Dario Argento does Dracula in 3D, plus a week’s worth of news and a look at upcoming home video releases.


[serialposts]

The Making of Metropolis: Actress Brigitte Helm

Brigitte Helm as Maria
Brigitte Helm as Maria

Fritz Lang discovered the 17-year old actress Brigitte Helm for the double-role of  Maria and her robot counterpart in METROPOLIS and she gives a remarkable performance in the film, convincingly portraying both angel and whore . In this 1927 article she discussed the rewards and difficulties of working with Fritz Lang, a notorious perfectionist.
THE  MARIA OF THE UNDERWORLD, OF YOSHIWARA, AND I
By Brigitte Helm
What excited me most about the role of Maria in Metropolis were the character’s crass differences, because these also lie hidden in my own nature: the austere, pure and chaste Maria, who believes in doing good, and the Maria the obsessed siren. Whenever I’m told how well I portrayed these intertwining and contradicting elements, I find it flattering and take it as a compliment.
It was incredible work. Now that it’s over, I have trouble remembering the disheartening and sadder moments – only the sunnier and uplifting moments stay with me. Sometimes it was like heaven, and other times like hell! The three weeks spend shooting the water sequence, when the underground city is flooded, were unbelievably hard on my health. Even now, I have to admit that I don’t know how I got through it.
Mad scientist Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) prepares to transform his robot into the likeness of Maria (Brigitte Helm)
Mad scientist Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) prepares to transform his robot into the likeness of Maria (Brigitte Helm)

The night shots lasted three weeks, and even if they did lead to the greatest dramatic moments–even if we did follow Fritz Lang’s directions as though in a trance, enthusiastic and enraptured at the same time – I can’t forget the incredible strain that they put us under. The work wasn’t easy, and the authenticity in the portrayal ended up testing our nerves now and then. For instance, it wasn’t fun at all when Grot drags me by the hair, to have me burned at the stake. Once I even fainted: during the transformation scene, Maria, as the android, is clamped in a kind of wooden armament, and because the shot took so long, I didn’t get enough air. But like I said earlier, today I have to make an effort to remember the unpleasant things: they’ve just faded away. Now that I relate so much to the role of Maria, I can’t image myself playing any other role. Only I can’t imagine myself not working in films again. So I’m curious to see just what is going to happen.
[serialposts]

Director Fritz Lang on the Making of Metropolis

The best film of the year is easily the newly restored version of  Fritz Lang’s science-fiction masterpiece, METROPOLIS which features twenty- five minutes of missing footage that hasn’t been seen since the movie had it’s premiere in Berlin, 83 years ago.  This new footage restores important subplots and makes it clear just how badly METROPOLIS had been butchered by Paramount when they “improved” it  for American audiences.
Unfortunately, while the beautifully restored Metropolis is showing at theatres around the country this summer, it appears that in most cities it will be projected at the sound speed of 24 frames per second, even though there is much evidence to suggest the film should be shown at 20 frames per second.  In 2001, Enno Patalas of the Munich Film Archive showed a previously restored version of the film at The San Francisco Film Festival and Festival director Peter Scarlet noted, “Metropolis runs 147 minutes at its proper projection speed of 20 frames per second.”  Likewise, cameraman Gunther Rittau in discussing the stop-motion effects used for creating the cityscape of Metropolis provides figures that indicate the film should be shown at 20 frames per second.  It also seems probable that Lang shot the movie at a frame rate between 18 and 20 fps.
Apparently the main reason the film was transferred to DVD and is currently being shown at 24 frames a second is due to notations on the original score by Gottfried Huppertz.   However, according to Stefan Drossler, the current head of the Munich Film Museum, silent films in Germany were routinely shown at frame rates much higher than they were shot at,  and projectionists even had to be warned about “speed limits.”  Martin Koerber who oversaw the current restoration of  Metropolis says, “The premiere of the film took place at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin, on January 10, 1927. At the time, the length of the film was 4,189 meters: at a projection speed of 24 frames per second (we can only guess at this today), meaning the showing lasted 153 minutes.   …The actual projection speed for the premiere is unclear. Noted on the deleted piano accompaniment for the shortened version is a projection speed of 28 frames per second.”
With such confusion surrounding the proper projection speed, a simple viewing of the film at 24 fps indicates many of the chase sequences and characters appear to be moving too quickly.  When seeing Metropolis at the slower rate of 20 fps the characters movements appear much more natural.
However, Metropolis at any speed is a real treat to see up on the big screen, in a print that makes the film look absolutely gorgeous, excepting the 25 minutes of badly damaged 16mm footage that has now been carefully inserted into the film.  To celebrate, here is Fritz Lang talking about Metropolis with his friends, Willy Ley, Tonio Selwart and Herman G. Weinberg as recorded and transcribed by Gretchen Weinberg and published in Cahiers Du Cinema in 1965.
Fritz Lang places his hands on the coffee table, while looking at a series of photos from Metropolis spread out before him.
FRITZ LANG: Do you know that there is a shot of my hands in each of my films? Ah, here is Brigitte Helm in Metropolis. God, she’s beautiful! You know, Metropolis was born from my first sight of the New York skyscrapers in October 1924, before I went to Hollywood where UFA was sending me to study American methods of production. It was terribly hot at that time. While visiting New York I felt it was the crucible of the multiple and confused human forces, with blind men scrambling around in the irresistible desire to exploit one another, thus living in perpetual anxiety. I spent an entire day walking the streets. The buildings seemed to be a vertical veil, very light and scintillating, a luxurious backdrop suspended from the gray sky to dazzle, distract and hypnotize. At night the city gave only the impression of living; it lived as illusions do. I knew that I must make a film of all these impressions. On returning to Berlin, in a burst of energy, Thea von Harbou (Lang’s wife) started to write the script. We imagined, she and I, an idle class living in a great city thanks to the subterranean work of thousands of men on the verge of rebellion, led by a daughter of the people. To prevent this rebellion the head of the city asks a scientist to invent a robot in the image of the girl in question. So the robot, Maria, turns against her people and incites the workers to destroy the machine that is the heart of the city, which controls it and gives it life. I have often said that I did not like Metropolis and this is because I can’t accept today the leitmotif of the message of the film. It is absurd to say that the heart is the intermediary between the hands and the brain, that is, of course, between the employee and the employer. The problem is social and not moral. Naturally, during the shooting of the film, I liked it, if I hadn’t I couldn’t have continued to work on it. But later I started to understand what didn’t work. I thought, for example, that one of the faults was the way I had shown the work of the man and the machine together. You remember the clocks and the man who works in harmony with them? He became, so to speak, a part of the machine. Well, that seemed to be too symbolic, too simplistic in its evocation of what is called “the evils of mechanization.” Now, several years ago, I had to revise my judgment again at the sight of our astronauts in their promenade around the world. They were scientists but still prisoners of the space capsule, nothing else—almost a part of the machine that was carrying them.
Lang looks at more photos from Metropolis: the children fleeing the flooded underground city, the robot Maria, the revolt of the workers in the chamber of the machine and the immense stadium used by the children of the ruling class.
FRITZ LANG: See, here’s a shot by Shufftan, it’s Eugene Shufftan who did it. You asked me, Willy, what technical problems we encountered. Well, that scene we shot thanks to mirrors. Shufftan scratched the glass on certain parts of the mirror; then he placed it facing the camera lens so that part of the set–constructed to human scale–appeared in the mirror, which also reflected a miniature set representing the machines in motion. These miniatures extended the real set, because it would have been too costly and too complicated to build for such a short scene. This combination of reality and artifice was then filmed (instead of being done in the lab like it would be now), and that was due to the ingenuity of Shufftan.
Lang looks at a photo of the cityscape of Metropolis.
FRITZ LANG: We constructed a miniature set of the streets about seven or eight feet long, in an old studio with glass walls and we moved the little cars by hand, inch by inch, one frame per movement, filming image by image. We moved the planes and photographed them in the same way. This scene that takes only one or two minutes on the screen took six days to shoot! Ultimately the worse difficulties we encountered were not in the shooting but in the lab. The cameraman had told the technician to develop the film normally. But the head of the lab, knowing the time we had spent filming this short scene, decided to develop it himself. No one had thought it necessary to tell him that for reasons of perspective, the cameraman had filmed the background a little out of focus to give the impression of great distance. The head of the laboratory started to develop the negative focusing the background and not the foreground. The scale of dimensions was then destroyed. I tried to keep my calm. “These things happen, my children,” I said, “Let’s start again.” And we did. (The first thing I discovered about making films is that you never make them alone. Your crew helps you. And I had a remarkable crew.) As for the videophone scene, it was done by projecting a part of the film shot previously in the rear of a telephone apparatus, across a translucent screen, one foot by two. This was the first rear projection and the first transparency. We didn’t realize the importance, the scope of what we had done, for if we had we would have made a fortune patenting a process universally employed today. At the time we only knew that there was a problem that had to be solved. My cameraman, Gunther Rittau, was determined not to fake the shooting; he used his intelligence to arrive at this solution: he synchronized the camera with a projector that was to project the picture of a man on the videophone. That was done with linked rods connected by mobile joints going from the camera to the projector, which were, because of the shooting stage, rather far from each other. Then, when the scene started, the two machines worked at the same time in perfect synchronization. The flooding of the workers city was real, shot in normal scale. Hoses at street level projected water like geysers.

The robot, galvanized by Rotwangs scientific machinery.
The robot, galvanized by Rotwang's scientific machinery.

Another camera effect concentrated on creating the robot Maria. The concentric rings of light that surround her and move from top to bottom were in fact a little ball of silver rapidly turning in a circle and filmed on a background of black velvet. We superimposed those shots, in the lab, over the shot of the robot in a sitting position that we had filmed previously.
The city lit up at night was done with an animated drawing. The way we filmed the explosion of the heart machine was one of the first uses of the subjective camera, giving the audience the same impression that the actors feel of the shock. The camera was attached to a swinging pulley on a vertical board that advanced toward the machine on the platform then moved back to give the effect of the explosion.
Sergei Eisenstein visited me in the studio and we had a controversy about the moving camera versus the fixed camera, but we weren’t able to discuss it for long because of my shooting schedule. I planned to see him several days later, but he had already left Berlin and I never saw him again. Someone told me that he did a study on my working methods on the first Dr. Mabuse, which I’m told was published in Russia.
Speaking of camera effects, there are some that can only be done thanks to make-up. For example, in The Testament of Doctor Mabuse, when Doctor Baum meets the ghost of Mabuse at night, he sees on its head the living brain he had dissected that very morning, in order to discover what anomaly had made Mabuse a great criminal. This is how it was done: we had a special skull on which we put glass tubes outlining the form of the brain. The tubes were filled with mercury so the liquid moved whenever Mabuse did. Between the glass tubes the make-up man put bits of white hair, like Mabuse had in real life, which gave the public the impression of seeing his brain through the skin. To enhance the horrible aspect of the spectre, a bit of eggshell was placed over each eye and the cornea was painted in a deformed way.
Lang looks at a photo of Peter Lorre in M.
FRITZ LANG: Peter Lorre. I discovered him for M, you know. I loved him very much. We were friends for 35 years.
[serialposts]