Sci-Fi 'Looper' Adds Bruce Willis

armageddon_BW_1Cinematical reports in news from Cannes that Bruce Willis (ARMAGGEDON) has joined the cast of the SF-Action time travel flim LOOPER.
He’ll apparently play a older version of the character that Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN)
will portray, as the film takes place in at least two time periods, separated by decades.

The reported plot sounds interesting; future crimminals send their victims back in time, before time travel is invented. Their hirelings, “Loopers”, kill them, and dispose of the bodies of people who technically don’t exist yet.
Of course, something goes wrong with the set-up, leading hopefully to action and adventure.
Are there TIMECOPS involved, as well as Time Crooks ?
Rian Johnson (THE BROTHERS BLOOM, in which Gordon-Levitt also appeared) directs.

Doctor Who: Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone

DOCWHO_weeping-angels_R The Eleventh Doctor Is In Good Hands

I’ve been watching the fifth season of the BBC’s revived DOCTOR WHO series on BBC America with great interest. New producer Steven Moffat is branching off from the often inconsistent, but memorable tenure of Russell T Davies, who brought the series back from limbo. It’s early days yet, but I think the series is in good hands.
Matt Smith is the youngest Doctor thus far, and while he still seems to be channeling some of David Tennant’s hyper 10th Doctor, he’s also bringing his own shadings of the Time Lord as being nerdy-quirky, compassionate, far from omniscient, and possibly somewhat immature and reckless.
New companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) is attractive and the center of an enigma, seen in the first episode of the season, when the newly regenerated Doctor discovers a ‘crack’ in space and time, manifesting in her childhood bedroom. He thought he had sealed it, but the trouble was just beginning, in what promises to be a long story arc.
Two of Steven Moffat’s creations for the show, the sinister  ‘Weeping Angels’ and the mysterious River Song (ER’s Alex Kingston) reappear in this two-part episode. Song is a very important person in the Doctor’s life, but they keep meeting out of temporal sequence, a great idea for a show about a time traveler. He first meets her the day she dies–at least, physically. (Fourth Season’s two-parter ‘Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead’.)
The Angels were created for the third season ” Doctor-light filler” episode ‘Blink’, for which Moffat won BAFTA and Hugo awards.
They’re a strange race from the early universe who appear as stone angels, usually with their eyes covered as though crying. They’re “quantum locked”, meaning they literally turn into immobile statues while anyone is looking at them. As soon as living beings take their eyes off them, they can move quickly, and attack, seeking energy–be it from radiation or people’s own life / temporal energy.

Amy, The Doctor, and River Song are looking for Angels
L-R Amy, The Doctor, and River Song are looking for Angels

Dr. Song has used her knowledge of the Doctor’s vanity (he visits far future museums to ‘keep score’) to lure him into rescuing her from sticky situation via a starship’s flight recorder on which she has inscribed the message “Hello, Sweetie!” in old ‘High Galliferyan’. She’s also promised his help to a company of soldier-priests intent on destroying the last of the Angels, still onboard the now-crashed spacecraft.
There’s a lot of creepy-fun atmosphere on the planet, in a catacomb full of ancient and decayed to the point of being featureless statues. (Kudos to director of photography Damian Bromley & Crew.)
One of the flaws of the first of the two episodes is that no one suspects what the statues are until too late, including the Doctor, who knows that the long-dead aliens who built the place had two heads, not one. Of course, they are near-dead Angels, now feeding on the ship’s radiation and other power, and any living thing they can find.
And this seemed screamingly obvious to me as a viewer. It’s one thing to figure things out a little in advance of the heroes (which can be a nice plus), it’s another to think they’re all dim-wits.
A young cleric-solider named Bob (David Atkins), whom the Doctor had tried to reassure is killed, and the Angels use his mind and voice to torment the Time Lord. In a nice bit, he remains polite and apologetic as he relays their taunts.
Amy Pond has stared into the eyes of a Angel, and it has gotten into her visual centers, which makes it necessary for her to close her eyes and still try to navigate, having to trust the Doctor, even though she knows he doesn’t always tell her the truth.
She’s saved, but through the actions of River Song, something this new series and season have done often, making the companions seem at times more clever, understanding, or heroic than the Doctor. I can understand the desire to make these characters seem worthy in their own right, both to the audience and the time-traveling hero, but it’s a trend that can become irksome; it seems to diminish the lead role slightly.
The afore-mentioned crack in space & time shows up again, acting as both a deu-ex-machina, and a springboard for further stories.
This crack is actually eating up time & matter, and thus memories–explaining a number of things, such as why Amy had no idea what the Daleks were, despite very dramatic public and world-wide incursions by them in previous seasons. It’s implied no one remembers them, because these events now never happened, an ingenious way of getting rid of stories Moffat’s predecessors did that he might not care to keep in his continuity.
And considering some of the truly over-the-top elements of some episodes, who can blame him?
(People who have traveled in the TARDIS can remember them, because it takes you outside of time and changes your perception of  it.)
The Doctor seems both frightened and delighted with this new phenomenon that could consume the universe.
At episode’s end, after fending off a surprise romantic overture from the to-be-married the next day Amy Pond, the Time Lord suddenly realizes that his companion and her wedding date are inextricably linked to this menace, and hustles her into the TARDIS, just before the stroke of midnight.
A nice cliffhanger ending, even though the next episode “Vampires of Venice” wouldn’t appear to address the matter directly. Maybe the Doctor’s buying time.
I’ll tune in to find out.
DOCTOR WHO: Time of the Angels / Flesh and Stone (2010)
The Doctor: Matt Smith
Amy Pond: Karen Gillan
River Song: Alex Kingston
Father Octavian: Iain Glen
Directed by Adam Smith
Written by Steven Moffat

Smallville:Salvation — Review

Zsalvation_Kiss_AThe Season Finale and A Look Back at Season Nine


Just saw the season Finale of the CW Network’s SMALLVILLE, ‘SALVATION’. Quite a dramatic ender for this year, with multiple cliffhangers.
To protect readers who haven’t seen it, I’ll start with the official description of the episode–which has some spoilers itself.

“Zod (Callum Blue) unleashes his army upon the world, forcing Chloe (Allison Mack) to call in reinforcements from old friends. Zod tells Lois (Erica Durance) he is The Blur and asks her to steal the Book of Rao from Clark (Tom Welling). Torn between Clark and The Blur, Lois asks Clark to come clean with her about everything but he refuses. Chloe (Allison Mack) and Oliver (Justin Hartley) attempt to reconnect Watchtower’s satellite system in order to fight the Kandorians but to Chloe’s horror, Oliver gets caught on site and disappears. Tess attempts to stop Zod but he leaves her clinging to life. Clark and Zod battle for control of Earth.”

Let’s see: The old friends? Justice League members John Jones (The Martian Manhunter, played by Phil Morris, Black Canary (Alaina Huffman of STARGATE UNIVERSE) and Lee Thompson Young as Cyborg make cameo appearances on Watchtower’s computer screens. The series’ version of the Justice Society, Hawkman (STARGATE’s Michael Shanks) and Britt Irvin as Stargirl are also on hand. Only Shanks gets a chance to make any real dramatic contribution to the proceedings, but I have to admit the scene ranked high on my comic book fan geek quotient.
However, the real Superman mythos pandering (and don’t get me wrong, I love this kind of stroking) was the opening minutes, which had Clark apparently having a vision of his own future (circa 2013) with many iconic comic book elements. And when he woke from this revelation, he discovered a package from his earth mother—which, judging from the reflection in his eyes, contained the classic Superman uniform.
The dilemma that faces Clark throughout the episode is that he can send Zod and the Kandorians to a world of their own—but all the Kryptonians on Earth, including Clark will be gone forever. Or as long as forever lasts in a comic book universe.
He has to struggle with that choice before being willing to make that sacrifice, but being who he is you know he will do so. No surprise there. But there are some twists along the way.
Oliver Queen (The Green Arrow), who has been having a “friends with benefits” affair with Chloe Sullivan (the only remaining character from the first year, save Clark) manages to exchange ‘I love you’s’ with her before getting whisked away by unseen super-strong foes who he says are NOT Kandorians.
Sitting vigil outside the horribly burned Tess Mercer’s hospital room has been a hooded woman, knitting away, waiting for her to die. Once she does, the grandmotherly figure shows a dark side as she enters the room, bag in hand, with what certainly seemed sinister intent.
Does this have anything to do with the “coming Apocalypse” mentioned several times over the season? Am I being blatant enough?
Lois not trusting Clark for keeping secrets? It’s very strongly implied that she knows the biggest one of all, after he saves her from the wrath of Zod.
And how does Clark manage not to get sent to wherever the Kandorians ascend to in a blaze of golden light? Zsalvation_Knife_B
Simple, he lets Zod stab him with a blade of Blue Kryptonite, which in the context of the show makes Kryptonians human. Thus Zod loses his own protection from being transported, and Kal-El falls off the building, speared in the side, his legs straight, his arms stretched out, in a classic crucifixion pose.
That last bit points out one of the strengths and weaknesses of the ninth season. Superman has always had a sort of Judeo-Christian echo in it. The angelic being, the only begotten son, sent to save us all. There’s Moses and his life-saving trip down the Nile, and the obvious Christ parallels. It’s a given, but it should stay as subtext and not become so heavy-handed, as it did in SUPERMAN RETURNS, and this season of SMALLVILLE.
It’s been so much in the forefront, that if I was a devout person, I would probably find it offensive. As it is, it’s been a bit of a drag, with characters going into fanatical monologues about as subtle and welcome as a tap on the shoulder with a sledge-hammer.
However, overall it’s been a good year. The first episode of the year was SAVIOR, showing Clark Kent returning from his 40 days in the desert, though he initially returned rejecting his mortal life, until realizing he needed to re-connect with it, due to his feelings for Lois Lane.
We met Zod, and John Corben (Metallo, played by TERMINATOR’s Brian Austin Green), and even had a the nod to the SUPERFRIEND’s Wonder Twins. Comic book fans got a two-hour “movie event” with the Justice Society script by comic book writer Geoff Johns.
Checkmate’s Amanda Waller (Pam Grier), and future JLA benefactor/menace Maxwell Lord (Gill Bellows) showed up, Martha Kent and Perry White (Annette O’Toole and Michael McKean) appeared in a great nod to years past, and we had the pleasant sight of the curvaceous Erica Durance dressed up as an “Amazon Princess” for a comic convention.
Series star Tom Welling became an Executive Producer this year, and working with show-runners Kelly Souders and Brian Wayne Peterson, I think facilitated a freshening of his and the show’s energy.
Season Eight, the first year without Michael Rosenbaum’s compelling Lex Luthor, had seemed a bit tentative and cash-strapped. While the budget didn’t increase notably this season, it seemed that producers and crew figured out ways to stretch the (Canadaian) bucks this year, giving it a smoother feel and filmic look, despite being shot on High-Definition video.
So messianic reservations aside, this aging fanboy is looking forward to another year of SMALLVILLE.
Directed by Greg Beeman
Written by Turi Meyer & Al Septien
Warner Brothers Television, The CW Network.

NBC Cancels Heroes, Keeps Chuck

heroes_NBC2According to The Hollywood Reporter, NBC has officially cancelled it’s “real world” superhero series, HEROES.
I’d given up on the show early this season, as it had, in my view, seriously run out of steam. I no longer cared what happened to the characters, as they seemed no more than puppets dancing to the odd and frustrating whims of the writers.
The article asserts that network gave some thought to bringing back the HEROES for an abbreviated season, or a TV movie to tie up loose ends.
That might have been nice, but apparently it’s not to be.
However, the light SF/Spy show CHUCK seems to have been renewed for another season.
I’ll have to try to watch a few more episodes of the amiable series from Warner Brothers.
Given a Greenlight for the new season is the genre-infulenced series THE CAPE, starring David Lyons (ER) as a cop turned costumed superhero. Summer Glau (TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CRONICLES) will play “an investigative blogger who wages war on crime and corruption” and presumably becomes an ally.
Might be worth a look.

Little Orphan Annie Ends Run

annie_Sandy“Who’s that little chatter box? The one with pretty auburn locks?
Whom do you see? It’s Little Orphan Annie!”

Well, you won’t be seeing her much longer, it seems. After 86 years, the newspaper comic feature will run it’s final Sunday strip on June 13th, 2010, according to Tribune Media Services. (The daily strip is also ending, presumably the 12th.)

The Chicago-based news and features syndication service decided to cancel the iconic comic, which was running in fewer than 20 newspapers — including the ones owned by their parent the Tribune Company,  The Chicago Tribune, The LA Times, The Baltimore Sun and others—and papers they were formerly associated with, such as The New York Daily News.
The current creative team of writer Jay Maeder and artist Ted Slampyak are said to have left the strip’s last panel as a cliffhanger, showing Annie caught in a tangle with “the Butcher from the Balkans”.
However, Tribune’s press release indicates Annie’s adventures may not be over.
Steve Tippie, vice president for TMS Licensing and New Market Development said:  “Over the years, Annie has generated an enormous amount of international awareness and affection through three generations—children and their parents and grandparents—and now it’s time to go where this new base of Annie fans finds their entertainment.
Our emphasis going forward will be on bringing her more in line with current pop culture and shaping her development as a property that appeals to children and adults on a whole new level. We plan to grow Annie’s popularity by introducing her to new generations of audiences through new media and licensing applications.”
Little Orphan Annie began her run on August 5th, 1924.  The character was created by Harold Gray, who drew or was closely involved with the strip until his death in 1968.
The plucky waif was adopted by Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, who was fairly humorous at first—with a wife that didn’t much care for Annie. She soon disappeared, and as the strip shifted from humor and melodrama, readers saw that Warbucks was a self-made man, (though a war profiteer and likely arms dealer), and adventurer— occasionally with a lethal vigilante streak.
The giant Punjab was enlisted to served as bodyguard to both Warbucks and Annie,  joined later by the somewhat sinister Asian aide-de-camp, the Asp.
Mild science fiction and fantasy elements appeared over the years, such as the strange character Mister Am, a friendly bearded fellow who was possibly possesed of supernatural powers and immortal.
The comic strip spun off a long-running radio series in 1930 —actually, two or three distinct shows, beginning with Adventure Time with Orphan Annie. The lead character was played by Shirley Bell (on and off for ten years), Floy Hughes (live West Coast version with different cast for the first three years), and Bobbie Dean, generally on NBC’s Blue Network.
Sponsored for years by Ovaltine, Annie and her pal Joe Corntassel got into local scrapes while tended by Mr. & Mrs. Silo. When Daddy Warbucks took her along on trips, the redhead encountered pirates and other exotic dangers all around the world. 
After getting dropped by the drink mix in favor of the more exciting Captain Midnight, a new Mutual Network series began in 1940 with Janice Gilbert as Annie, now the sidekick of aviator Captain Sparks — named for the new sponsor, Quaker Puffed Wheat Sparkies.
Little Orphan Annie left the air in 1942. 
The first film adaptation of the comic strip was RKO’s LITTLE OPRPHAN ANNIE (1932), with Mitzi Green in the titular role and slow-burn comedian Edgar Kennedy as Daddy Warbucks. Paramount’s hard to find 1938 LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE starred Ann Gillis.
1977 saw the hit Brodway musical ANNIE, starring Andrea McArdle, and later Sarah Jessica Parker, among others. The song Tomorrow, by composers Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin has become a standard. 
John Huston (THE MALTESE FALCON) directed the 1982 film adaptation. It starred Alieen Quinn, Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks, Geoffrey Holder as Punjab, and Carol Burnett. 
There has been a TV  sequel,  ANNIE: A ROYAL ADVENTURE (1995), and a TV re-make of the musical ANNIE (1998).
Perhaps Annie will survive her latest peril, she’s a escaped many a close scrape before.

The Last Exorcism — Poster

LastEX_logoSynopsis and Teaser Poster
“When he arrives on the rural Louisiana farm of Louis Sweetzer, the Reverend Cotton Marcus expects to perform just another routine ‘exorcism’ on a disturbed religious fanatic.  
An earnest fundamentalist, Sweetzer has contacted the charismatic preacher as a last resort, certain his teenage daughter Nell is possessed by a demon who must be exorcized before their terrifying ordeal ends in unimaginable tragedy.
Buckling under the weight of his conscience after years of parting
desperate believers with their money, Cotton and his crew plan to film a confessionary documentary of this, his last exorcism.  But upon arriving at the already blood drenched family farm, it is soon clear that nothing could have prepared him for the true evil he encounters there.
Now, too late to turn back, Reverend Marcus’ own beliefs are shaken to the core when he and his crew must find a way to save Nell—and themselves—before it is too late.”
THE LAST EXORCISM was written by Huck Botko & Andrew Gurland and directed by Daniel Stamm (A NECESSARY DEATH).
Strike Entertainment and STUDIOCANAL present an Arcade
Pictures production.
Due out from Lionsgate August 27th, 2010.

The Last Exorcism Teaser Poster
The Last Exorcism Teaser Poster


IFC Midnight – VOD/DVD

centipedeIFC Entertainment announced Tuesday that it was launching a new division for genre films called IFC Midnight. This will largely be a Video on Demand and a DVD/Blu-ray distribution label.
IFC Midnight “will offer the very best in international genre cinema, including horror, sci-fi, thrillers, erotic arthouse, action and more.”
They plan to premiere four new IFC Midnight films every month on video-on-demand, but some select titles will also be released in theaters simultaneously with their VOD premieres.
MPI Media Group will distrubute the films on DVD and Blu-ray under the IFC Midnight label.
The announced schedule, thus far:

  • CELL 211  (JUNE)
  • DOGHOUSE Zombie comedy directed by Jake West. (JUNE)
  • VALHALLA RISING Viking adventure, also theatrical release.(JULY)
  • THE HORDE AKA La Horde French Zombies, cops and gangsters clash. Theatrical & VOD (AUGUST)
  • VENGANCE Theatrical & VOD (AUGUST)
  • ENTER THE VOID described as director Gaspar Noe’s follow up to IRREVERSIBLE, and based on The Tibetan Book of The Dead—though set in a Tokyo where “where the past, present and future merge into a hallucinatory maelstrom”.  Theatrical & VOD (SEPTEMBER)

Obviously, additional films will be necessary to fill out the four releases a month planned.

Judge Dredd in 3-D

2000_JDThe news out of Cannes is that JUDGE DREDD is returning to the Silver Screen. This new take will be a “high-octane” $45 million production, filmed in Johannesburg, South Africa and directed by Pete Travis (VANTAGE POINT), according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The script by Alex Garland (28 DAYS LATER) appears to have the approval of co-creator John Wagner. Wager and artist Carlos Ezquerra developed the furturistic lawman with editor Pat Mills for the UK comic book 2000 A.D. in 1977.
The character previously appeared in the visually appealing but lack-luster JUDGE DREDD (1995), embodied by Sylvester Stallone.

A Smallville Homecoming

SV_921_LnPWSMALLVILLE: ‘Hostage’
“Much to Clark’s (Tom Welling) surprise, Martha Kent (guest star Annette O’Toole) returns to Smallville with her new boyfriend, Perry White (guest star Michael McKean) in tow.

Lois (Erica Durance) and Perry realize they are both working on the same story about the Red Queen, and decide to team up, which ultimately puts them in serious danger.
Chloe (Allison Mack) helps Clark search for the Book of Rao, which they believe contains information on how to stop Zod (Callum Blue) and his army.
Glen Winter directed the episode written by Jordan Hawley & Anne Cofell Saunders.”
— The CW’s Official Description

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?
Nice to see former series regular Annette O’Toole return to the series, if only as a guest. As many will know, she played Lana Lang in SUPERMAN III (1983), and is married to Michael McKean in real life.
McKean previously appeared in a Season Three episode entitled “Perry”, apropriately enough.
Any doubts about who the “Red Queen” might be?
This character ties into the show’s current arc about the Checkmate organization, featured in the comics and JUSTICE LEAGUE cartoons.
‘Hostage” is the penultimate episode of Season Nine of the series, with the big showdown with Zod due in next week’s ‘Salvation’.
SMALLVILLE airs Fridays at 8 PM ET/PT on The CW Network.
Photos: Michael Courtney/The CW Network
NOTE: Press material misspelled Michael McKean as McKeon, this has been corrected.

Yesterday Was A Lie (2009)

click to purchase

A Film Noir SF Parable
Took the screener DVD of YESTERDAY WAS A LIE for a spin last night—and a dizzying ride it was, indeed. The black and white film from writer-editor-director James Kerwin takes the form of a film noir detective story, but it’s really more like an extended discussion of ideas of time, causality, and reality.
We begin with Hoyle (Kipleigh Brown), who is some kind of detective. Police? Private Eye? It’s not clear at the outset, and expect no revelations on this subject as the film progresses. She’s looking for answers about an elusive theorist (John Newton) and a WWII-era notebook about researches into the nature of time.
Wearing my critic’s hat through the first 15 minutes or so of the movie lead to frustration, so I had to switch to a more passive viewer mode. Seeming inconsistencies and anachronisms increase and become more obviously intentional as the film moves along, as do numerous references to non-linear time, alternate realities, left/right brain theory, and memory.
DEEP SPACE NINE’s Chase Masterson (who also produced) plays a mysterious and nameless singer, a doppelganger for Hoyle, with a strong suggestion that she is really another aspect of the lead character. Information that she and others supply further questions Hoyle’s own point of view and independent existence.
Doppelganger or projection of the Anima?
Doppelganger or projection of the Anima?

Physics, Philosophy, and Jungian Psychiatry lie at the heart of this film, along with bits of T.S. Elliot. Which is one of YESTERDAY’s flaws: there’s too many ideas and theories, some of them (arguably) simplified and distorted to fit the movie’s premise: “The most powerful force in the universe lies within the depths of the human heart”.
While a valid artistic viewpoint, all of these items left me feeling at times that I was watching an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, padded out to feature length with a bunch of related and very interesting, but possibly non-essential elements. (For example, STAR WAR’s Peter Mayhew appears as a silent and menacing figure that adds to the noir-ish mood and performs one important action. Yet the character is nothing more than a device to provide those very functions, adding nothing of essential value to the storyline.)
What YESTERDAY lacks in the end is a powerful dramatic punch or emotional pay-off. There is a coda that suggests a balance has been reached (and could be read more than one way), but it’s not all that satisfying from a conventional standpoint.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the movie. I found the actors attractive and engaging, and the photography is outstanding. Shot in high definition color video by D.P. Jason Cochard, it’s been regraded & desaturated into a beautiful approximation of that silvery, luminous way post-WWII pancromatic B&W film stock and lighting tends to looks onscreen.
So while I can’t recommend the film to the casual viewer looking for a fun Sci-Fi adventure, I think it’s very much worth watching by the SF fan looking for an interesting and challenging film experience.
The DVD contains a number of interesting bonus features, including an eight page preview of the YESTERDAY WAS A LIE graphic novel.
Helicon Arts Cooperative
Available Now
Rating: PG
Running Time: 89 minutes
SRP: $24.98
Catalog #: E1E-DV-6717