Fans of the Saturday night staple that is the SyFy Channel’s movie of the week have something big coming to them this weekend. In fact, they have many big somethings coming for them and their tasty, tasty flesh. Get your popcorn and get to a safe house suitably far from the ocean, because Mega Piranha and its hungry monsters are coming to a boob tube near you.
Mega Piranha has got it all: the well-intentioned scientist (played by 80s pop idol Tiffany, no less) only trying to feed the world, the hard-ass military man (Paul Logan) sent to clean up after her experiment goes awry, and, of course, CGI monsters devouring people left, right, and center.
I got a chance to interview Mega Piranha director Eric Forsberg about his latest project.
Choice is good. It increases the replay value of a video game (always a good thing when you’re dropping $60-70 on it) as you start again to see the world that could have been. Too much choice, however, can stick a gamer with the consequences of those choices not only in one game but in sequels yet to come. There are a few who will actually replay the games, all of them, to pursue different endings, but those people are the exceptions, not the rule. For all that Mass Effect 2 succeeds on expanding upon and enriching the already incalculable depth of its predecessor, it often fails to make a case for its own worthiness for inclusion in the franchise. All because of choices made.
Even if you weren’t glued to the announcement this morning, you’ve probably heard that the nominees for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards are in. And the news is deceptively good for science-fiction fans: among the newly expanded list of Best Picture nominees, no less than four movies—Avatar, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, and Up—are genre titles.
Of course, this ebullient crow of geek victory depends on considering Inglourious Basterds as sci-fi because it is an alternate history (though the film itself does not contain any other conspicuous sci-fi elements) and saying that Up qualifies on the strength of a floating house and dogs wearing collars that translate their barks into words. Let us assume, for the moment, that both films do count as genre. Four out of ten nominees for Best Picture are sci-fi films! Now do we declare our supreme geekish victory?
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan was released on DVD and on iTunes last week, and in keeping with Tor.com tradition, we’ve put together a round table from a couple of BSG Round Table regulars, and a newcomer. Is it a glorified clip show? An excuse to show some boobies in the tubs o’ goo? Does it even add anything to the show, or does it put a sour bookmark on the series? Read on to find out....
Ten years ago, Brad Pitt made movie catchphrase history by declaring that Rules One and Two were “You do not talk about Fight Club.” Jesse Eisenberg is no Brad Pitt, but you will enjoy his rules for surviving Zombieland just as much, if in an entirely different way.
Zombieland’s reverence for its genre (and irreverence for pretty much everything else) is what allows it to avoid audience disenchantment with the zombie same-old, same-old. While the setup may appear familiar, the response of the film and the protagonists to the zombie apocalypse is as flippant as those of previous movies have been serious. This is a movie advertising itself under the pseudo-macho tag line, “Nut Up or Shut Up.” Sober reflection on the extinction of humanity this is not.
Horror movies capitalize on hiding monsters and murderers off-screen, in reflections and in shadows, to terrify the audience with what they can only glimpse, briefly, from the corner of their eyes. This is due to a) imagination being even more terrifying than anything that is actually shown; and b) the limitations of construction materials for making the monster (CGI is good, but not there yet). But what happens when a monster doesn’t need to skulk in the dark or come around the corner to attack? What happens when you can keep an eye on it but still cannot see it? Or stop it? And what happens if there is no escape? What happens if the haunted house follows you?
Paranormal Activity happens. If you go home from the movie not just a little bit afraid of every bump in the night, you weren’t paying attention. This tiny movie, shot for less than the price of a used car, in about a week, rediscovers terror in the white noise of everyday life while destroying the former comfort of horror movies: you don’t have to stop paying attention for the monster to get you.
Parasites are amazing...ly disgusting, as the show Monsters Inside Me manages to detail, with stomach-squelching enthusiasm, each week. Parasites have co-evolved to outwit and co-opt their intended hosts’ biology in such incredibly intricate, devastatingly effective ways. (Just ask any cat lady who's contractedToxoplasma gondii.) Much as it always freaked me out to read the sections on parasites in my biology textbooks, I did have to sort of admire their ruthless success.
Until I read about zombie fungus.* I have a zero tolerance policy for zombie-inducing anything—viruses, strange green meteorites, or parasites. (Like the zom-bees of the video game Dead Rising. Not. Cool. Capcom.) For now, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is content to control the brains of carpenter ants, taking a species that evolved to live in trees, probably to avoid O. unilateralis in the first place (canopy:barricaded mall as ants:humans in the zombie outbreak), and death-marching them across the forest floor. All in the name of spreading the zombie fungus spores. What happens when it makes that critical evolutionary leap to infect other hosts? Bipedal ones, perhaps?
Horror, like pornography, often focuses on violations of the body. Which is why it is surprising that it has taken as long as it has for a movie like Deadgirl to make the intuitive leap and feature rape (without the comfortable distance of metaphor) as the central violation of a body in a horror film. Horror is also a reflection of our anxieties: about sex, about strangers, about terrorists (which explains the explosion of torture porn following 9/11). As the financial world crumbles and the poor get poorer, horror turns to examine power—the loss, the gain, and the transfer of it. Rape is just a different kind of struggle between the powerful and the powerless.
When last I left you intrepid theater-goers, I predicted Dragonball would tank, Wolverine would rake the box office over, and Star Trek was would shovel the dirt over the franchise after Star Trek: Enterprise nailed it inside its coffin.
So, I am 1.5 for 3. I give myself 0.5 on the Wolverine front because it did sell out opening weekend, but it dropped so precipitously, you’d think some of the reels of the film caught fire. (Probably because of there being too many hot guys in one movie.) That’s pretty damned pathetic. Let’s hope I do better with my Summer 2009 Opt-Out Schedule.
I had the good fortune to sit in on the ItsJustSomeRandomGuy panel at NY Comic Con, and ever since then, I’ve kept up with RandomGuy’s “I’m a Marvel, and I’m a DC” clips via his Twitter. You’d think RandomGuy would be hard-pressed to top the mockery of 2008’s bumper crop of comic book adaptations.
Then he paired Rorschach with Wolverine and let them have an Inner Monologue-Off:
This remake bug is damned infectious. (Total Recall? The Crow?) Remaking slasher films is just a way to repackage sequels so people will see them in the theater. But remaking iconic fantasy films like The NeverEnding Story is a challenge—to the genre, to the fans of the work—and it’s not one to be undertaken lightly.
2009 could be the year that puts the soaring success of the science-fiction and fantasy films of 2008 to shame. Major franchises will reboot, spin-off, and flash-forward. The story they said no one could film will kick off the ever-expanding blockbuster season. And Hollywood will be laughing all the way to the bank with their share of your $13 per ticket. Expect tickets for Watchmen to be snapped up quick, pre-ordered by people who wouldn’t know Alan Moore from Rob Zombie. (To be fair, it is hard to tell some times. I get Alan Moore’s girlfriend confused with Rob Zombie.)
Sold-out shows for genre films will be the norm rather than the exception, even for those with the mediocre buzz of Star Trek: 90210. The recession-strapped geek must be discerning with his or her cash and select which films are worth the $2 Fandango pre-order investment in order to secure seats on opening night. I present to you my suggested Spring 2009 Opt-Out Schedule. As a courtesy, I include alternative opening-weekend releases, for those of you who try and fail to get tickets for the genre film of your choice. There is always something else to see on a Friday night.*
I am not a con-virgin. I have been to two teeny-tiny cons before this year, but in no way did they prepare me for the might and madness that is New York Comic Con. Truly, this is an awesome experience, and I’m glad that I walked among the gods and goddesses, famous or no. However, I am no fan of crowds, and I had few panels or booths or guests that I absolutely had to meet. This is due partially to my celebrity non-interaction policy but also due to a sense that I, while a fan, haven’t got it in me to deprive keener fans of a chance to see their idols. (Especially not when so many had dressed up as characters from the shows/movies/comics produced by the guest speakers or were wearing the affiliated merchandise.)
I was too busy chasing people down for pictures to stand in lines anyway.
As such, I decided to stick to panels that interested me for their subject rather than the celebrity status of the guests. The feminist in me immediately drifted towards Saturday’s “Representation of Women in Comics” panel run by the nonprofit Friends of Lulu. I anticipated some griping about the likes of Rob Liefeld (who I passed by on the main floor without laughing and pointing, which I consider a moral victory). Maybe some discussion of Chris Claremont’s work, with his compensating for traditional oversight with extraordinarily overpowered female characters. Maybe some discussion of manga’s influence, since it is clearly a marketing force with which to be reckoned and draws in the sort of female readership for which most American titles would kill. I wanted war stories from the mostly female panel and I wanted the outsider-looking-in, insider-looking-out perspective of the panel’s lone male voice. I would have been happy with anecdotes so long as they were stuffed with details.
For someone neither in shape to wear nor talented enough to create elaborate costumes, I am a picky, fickle sort of costume photographer. (Not to mention a lousy one.) I didn’t take pictures of any well done costumes I didn’t recognize. (Sorry, shoujo fan- (and frequently cat-) girls!) I only took pictures of superlatively awesome and/or singularly unique costumes. Because I don’t care how many hours you spent spray-painting your head electric green: if you’ve seen one Joker, you’ve seen him a thousand times. People in rubber masks (if they didn’t make the masks themselves) are cheaters, so no pictures on the internet for them. And because I’m a crotchety old lady, the bias of the costumes I tracked down reflect a late 1980s-early 1990s childhood.
Sue me later; for now, enjoy these poorly lit and framed photos of my favorite conventioneers.
Although this year’s list of Academy Award nominees for Best Picture aren’t as obscure or impossible to watch as last year’s, I’m noting a distinct lack of love for genre titles, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button notwithstanding. I never really held out hope that The Dark Knight would get into the ring with the “serious” movies, but I’m taking its snub worse than I anticipated. (But I am laughing at its nomination for Best Film Editing.) I truly thought that it had the best shot at getting a science-fiction/fantasy film back into consideration after the years-long drought since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won in 2004.
First, tally up all the translation errors that accumulate when movies are adapted from comic books. Now double that number. (Imagine that: quadrupling the negative effect of casting Halle Berry as Storm and Catwoman.) You might have a ballpark estimate of how badly Hollywood will fare in its pursuit of the next source of film material as fertile (both in the sense of bounty and stench) as comic books have been. For the studios have begun to circle, not like sharks but vultures, around the mostly untapped and bountiful resource of anime and manga. All the same difficulties of adapting to cinema as comic book series—rabid fans, writers insufficiently immersed in the culture to appreciate the nuances, studio demands ostracizing talent or promoting mediocrity—plus about a billion more that come with the culture barrier of East meeting West. And that’s before you get into specifics of Japan meeting America, and all of their complicated history.
To those near-insurmountable difficulties add the stench of failure that comes when animated source material is reworked for live-action and you have precisely the injury that Fox Studios is going to inflict upon the wildly artistic, impulsively fun Cowboy Bebop series, should they follow through with current rumor. Compound that butchery with Keanu Reeves in the lead, and you don’t just have something that’s dead in the water. It’s dead, reanimated, killed again, shattered into pieces, and then revived in animatronic form with some bits missing and the rest put on back to front.
It ought to be against the law to wussify Wolverine. Do they not know their audience at all? People don’t go to see a movie about a guy with an 800 pound metal skeleton and foot-long indestructible claws because they care about his daddy issues or his dead girlfriend. The entire trailer could have been one long FX shot of Wolverine’s claws sliding out from between his knuckles, and people would still have paid $12 for The Day the Earth Stood Still just to see it. One good snikt! is all it takes. The rest of the movie could feature Hugh Jackman in a tutu; it would still make $100 million its opening weekend.
The Beast with a Billion Backs starts off with some strange event that is barely commented upon, and then ignored in favor of a new and exciting adventure that has little, if anything, to do with the beginning of the show. Granted, that could describe every episode of Futurama (or The Simpsons) that is or ever will be. The sad part is that this is equally true of the movies put out about both series. Only The Simpsons Movie is over and done with and the writers can go back to working on the show. There are still two more Futurama movies in this limited revival, and that is all the new material we will ever get for this series (as things currently stand).
Comedy is dependent upon timing, and, unfortunately for Matt Groening, he hasn’t mastered comedy that lasts longer than half an hour. This was true for Bender’s Big Score, and it’s true for The Beast with a Billion Backs. It starts with a seemingly innocuous tear in the universe, mostly ignored by Earthicans who’ve lost interest. (The rip in time and space is a consequence of the time-travel paradoxes exploited in Bender’s Big Score.) There are more shocking developments to start the ball rolling (literally, in one case): Amy and Kif are getting married! Fry is dating Brittany Murphy! There is a giant game of human Labyrinth! All this and more in the next ninety minutes!
If you run in nerd circles, you’ve inevitably come up against the nerdier-than-thou types who ruin any casual enjoyment of a series (some times even whole genres) with their preaching. (If you’re a good nerd, you ought to have been that sort of mechanerd once or twice yourself.) Most of the time, it’s fine to just nod and shake your head at appropriate moments. Eventually, however, someone is going to catch you out at your pretense of being in-the-know. I find that it’s just better to state your ignorance upfront and admit that you’re proceeding from a standpoint of being only semi-informed.
So, with that in mind, I am ready to present to you the brand new Dragonball live-action movie trailer. (Full title: Dragonball Evolution. Because they’ve evolved into real people, but you’d never know it from some of the acting choices.) I caught a few episodes of Dragonball Z on Cartoon Network. I checked in on a Monday and there Was! A! Fight! About! To! Happen! Lives! Were! At! Stake! By Friday, no one had even set foot in the ring. I guess that means that the live-action movie can only improve on the anime’s pacing, but I’m sure “real” anime nerds will crucify me for even suggesting it.
That said, this looks like a fabulously bad movie:
Chow Yun-Fat does a mystical exposition dump! He doesn’t even giggle when he says “dragonballs,” which ought to earn him a medal or something. He does say it as fast as he possibly can, though. “Okay, ha-ha, BALLS, people. Moving on...”
Offended fans line up to the right. Offended people with taste to the left.