Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category


Monday, June 18th, 2012

io9 has published my essay on Prometheus. Comments closed here; go chat about it there!

Robin Hood, with spoilers

Monday, May 17th, 2010

The road to this particular Sherwood was a tangled one. A spec script entitled NOTTINGHAM got the ball rolling back in 2005; Crowe signed on to play a revisionist detective-Sheriff, with Robin Hood as a bit of a rogueish lech, and Guy of Gisbourne carrying all the Bad Guy Baggage. At some point along the way, Crowe decided he wanted to be the Man in Green—or maybe the producers just realized that a $200 million movie entitled ROBIN HOOD was the safer bet.

Yet the movie’s somewhat-unorthodox roots are evident on the screen all the same. I particularly appreciated the early elimination of King Richard—so often the Deus Ex Machina in these tales, here we see him as an out-of-control brigand-king who gets what he Fucking Deserves before the audience has had a chance to start in on the popcorn. Things from there got a little tangled—while I appreciated the high politics and mistaken identities and maneuverings, the whole Magna Carta link started to feel like a bridge too far, and left me wondering what the movie would have been like had it simply stuck to a narrower Robin-Hood-as-Odysseus-trying-to-get-back-home.

Of course, if that were the case, it would have been tough to have all those castles and setpieces–and that was one hell of a final battle with the French on the Dover coast, finally answering the question of just why so much trailer footage showed horses riding around on beaches. Though in real life the only ancient/medieval invasion ever contested on a beach was Julius Caesar’s. And what I wouldn’t give to see THAT up on the big-screen…

Iron Man 2

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Well, Marvel has done it again. Iron Man’s sequel pulled in more than a hundred million this weekend, on top of its stellar international opening. The film stuck to the formula that worked so well for the first one: lots of explosions, plenty of action and Tony Stark’s charisma on display throughout. Wisely, they didn’t include the Mandarin as villain, instead wheeling out a rogue Russian physicist, played by Mickey Rourke, supposedly the son of the original Crimson Dynamo. Rourke pretty much stole the show for me, and I can only scratch my head at the reports that he was offered a mere quarter million for the role initially. The scene where he just calmly walks onto the Grand Prix track and then starts lacerating cars with an electric bolo is pure genius–so good, in fact, that the movie has trouble producing anything better till the very end. Kudos also go to Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double, the aptly named Heidi Moneymaker, who’s just pure hell on wheels. I wasn’t initially convinced by Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury, but he ultimately won me over, and hey, I get it: if this is going to be an enduring franchise, then it’s got to start expanding our view into the Marvelverse.

Meanwhile, a lot of people keep writing in to ask me how Iron Man’s exoskeleton differs from the powered armor worn by the mechs in my Autumn Rain books. The answer, of course, is it really doesn’t, except that I’d envision the armor as being, realistically, a lot bulkier, partially because it’s, hey, ARMOR, and also because it needs to contain a lot of ammo and fuel. It’d also be a damn sight harder to get on then just flicking open a briefcase. But ultimately, the main requirement of powered armor is that it kick ass, and that’s something that the Iron Man movies deliver on in full. No surprise that the third one is already in development…

And if those movies have left you jonesing for more combat involving guys in battlesuits, then you know where to look….

Riddick Returns (?)

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Followers of this blog know that I have more than a passing interest in the Riddick franchise, so it’s great to see that the third Riddick movie (tentatively titled Dead Man Stalking) seems to be picking up momentum, with io9 featuring some cool concept art earlier this month. Shooting remains more than a year away, so it’s way too early to count chickens (or scalps), but director David Twohy’s overall plan looks like a good one:  fuck space opera, and go back to the Pitch Black basics. For one thing, he can no longer afford the sweeping galactic vistas that characterized second movie (and box office bomb) Chronicles, and for another thing, the Riddick character thrives on a particularly brutal kind of stripped-down minimalism.

The big challenge, of course, is how to do this without dishing up a clone of Pitch Black.  Twohy seems to have opted for a First Blood-type approach in which Riddick ges hunted by mercenaries on a deathtrap of a planet, and naturally turns the tables on them (a longer, meaner version of the first five minutes of Chronicles, perhaps).   Savvy marketer that he is, he’s been pitching the new project as building on Pitch Black the same way that Road Warrior built on Mad Max.  That’s certainly got my attention. . . just as I’m suspecting the home video numbers—and the continued ascension of the Riddick franchise to cult status—has gotten investor attention, and allowed Twohy to get this close to resurrecting one of the most memorable characters to ever hit SF moviedom.  Fingers crossed that Twohy succeeds in dumping Riddick in a whole new world of hurt.

Richard Morgan, Crysis 2, and the PR jackpot

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Richard Morgan triggered more than a little stir in the gaming community earlier this week, when he celebrated his winning the Crysis sequel job by doing a drive-by on the writing in various other games . . . Halo is “full of bullshit archetypal characters” . . . Arkham Asylum features “the stupid girl with big tits” . . . Call of Duty:  Modern Warfare 2 is “just a bunch of mission levels” . .  you get the idea.   Predictably, the gaming community reacted like a bee hive getting poked with a stick.

The key word being:  predictably.

Richard knows what he’s doing, of course. Indeed, he does it every time he embarks on a new venture in his career, the last one being when he announced the release of his first fantasy novel by digging up the corpse of J.R.R. Tolkein and sodomizing it.  I exaggerate….but judging from the way Tolkein’s legions reacted to his criticism that Lord of the Rings was essentially a puerile piece of crap, you’d have think that’s exactly what happened.

But all that was going on was Richard getting more attention for his book.  Same way he just got that much more attention for the Crysis sequel.  Knowing him, he’ll probably do a pretty good job with it too . . unlike a lot of writers with a genius for self-promotion, Richard actually delivers the goods, as anyone who’s read ALTERED CARBON can tell you.

And he picks his targets carefully.  Were he to pen a mainstream novel, he’d have an article in the Guardian about how Hemingway was too drunk to write his way out of a paper bag.  If he writes a scifi movie script, we’ll have a rant about how everything from Star Wars on sucks balls.  Part of it may just be the natural ambition of a writer who wants to take everything he does to the next level.  But most of it’s a matter of page-views and eyeballs.  Looking at the man’s career thus far, it’s kinda hard to argue with the results.

From Norwescon to Nebraska

Friday, April 9th, 2010

So here I am in the middle of the prairie, getting ready for the start of Willycon XII, where I’m Guest of Honor, which promises to be a lot of fun. There’s even a panel on supervolcanoes tomorrow!—which makes me sad for not having one in my book.  (Originally I was going to put the Autumn Rain base in an underwater volcano, but settled for an abandoned 21st century sea-fortress instead.).

And of course last weekend I was at Norwescon, which rocked.  Great panels on directed energy weaponry and tomorrow’s tech, as well as the chance to catch up with a number of folks—highlights include meeting Vernor Vinge in person (we’d shared a virtual stage last year), having a coffee with space opera maestro S. Andrew Swann, catching up with fellow Clarionite Derek Zumsteg (whose account of Norwescon you can find here), wandering through the endless late-night halls with Daryl Gregory and Jack Skillingstead, and realizing that Cat Rambo and I are both obsessed with Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles.

And in between, I’ve been cranking away nonstop on Secret MegaProject Alpha, which is the no-space/radio-silence into which the last week has dropped.  Stay tuned. ..

Norwescon Schedule

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

I’m heading to lovely Seattle in a few hours for Norwescon; here’s my schedule of panels:

Friday, 1 p.m. Tomorrow’s World: What amazing advances in technology are about to change the way we live?

Friday, 4 p.m. Energy Weapons: A Reality Check.

Friday, 10:30 pm. Reading. (Incidentally, this’ll be the very first reading ever from the third book!)

Saturday 2 p.m.  The Clarion Writers’ Workshop:  What’s It All About?

Saturday 10:30 p.m. Can We Change the World Through Science Fiction?

Hope to see you there!

Doin’ Dune

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Some of you live in a permanent state of it.  Some of you don’t know what the fuss is all about.  images1

I get it every few years.

It’s called Dune Fever.

And I go fucking crazy.

So crazy I start to think the series actually lives up to its promise in the later books.

Actually, my view of the Dune franchise falls somewhere in between (a) those people on the one hand who think the first book ruled and the rest was just a giant drone-on, and (b) those people on the other hand who will buy and read anything as long as it has a sandworm and at least half of Frank Herbert’s name on it.  Specifically, I think DUNE MESSIAH is every bit as good as DUNE —  I could talk all day about how it’s, frankly, the best sequel ever written.

But then cometh the Fall.


Where Herbert’s editors gave up.  And I’m tempted to as well.

But I stumble on, like the dying Planetologist Kynes staggering through the desert . .  I reach GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE, and it all comes back to me in one awesome rush that lasts until . . . oh, about the hundred page mark of HERETICS OF DUNE.  Which I finally finished three years back, in the midst of a business trip abroad where I literally had no other reading and no other excuses.

Now I’ve bought CHAPTERHOUSE DUNE and will be reading it on the plane to Norwescon this weekend.  Stay tuned.

(And no, I don’t think I’m ready to deal with the Anderson/Herbert collaboration yet.  For now, I refer you to my esteemed colleague David Louis Edelman, who’s said it all better than I could.)


Thursday, March 25th, 2010

This movie was trashed by so many people I respect that I never even bothered with it.

But Jeff Vandermeer’s post from earlier this week made me change my mind. And I’m on a semi-nocturnal schedule right now, so it seemed only fitting to fire up a movie about space zombies at an hour when the only sound I can hear is that of the cats.

At least, I hope they’re cats. I don’t dare turn around to find out.

But vis-a-vis Pandorum . . . I loved it.  Plain and simple, I fucking loved it.  I forgot the lesson I learnt with the (astoundingly underrated) 13th Warrior back in 1999. . . never mind what everybody says. . . even if it made only five dollars at the box office . . . if it looks intriguing, go for it.  This is the movie that EVENT HORIZON should have been . .not a plunge into actual metaphysical evil, but rather a Heart of Darkness journey into just what depths people can sink to when they’re cut off from all else.

Some of you had problems with the mutants.  I didn’t.  Like Vandermeer, I ain’t going to parse the science of it. . but those of you have trashed the mutants, please forward me your withering critique of Joss Whedon’s Reavers (whose asses Pandorum would CONSUME), and I’ll be satisfied that you’re being consistent.  Meanwhile, I’m focused on the topography of that spaceship . . the scariest HR Giger acid-trip outside of Switzerland you’re gonna see. And a fitting backdrop to the story, which was a stripped-down mix of in-your-face action and backstory revelation.  There’s such gold in the generation-starship-meme that it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done more often in cinema—I’d love to see Baxter’s “Mayflower II” and Aldriss’ Nonstop, in particular.

Though I suppose the real reason we haven’t had more of them is budget vs. accessibility.  Pandorum cost 40 million to make, and clawed back less than half of that.  It’s tough to make something *so* sci-fi and dark appealing to the broader market, and once the core SF audience had turned against it, Pandorum was as screwed as most of its passengers.  Meanwhile, I’m perusing the script to see if I can uncover any “director’s cut” moments.  But the noises behind me are getting closer . . . .

The Ghost Writer

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

In many ways, Ghost Writer is a throwback to paranoid 70s thrillers like THE PARALLAX VIEW, yet it couldn’t be more timely, both for the headlines that Robert Harris’ book generated (thanks to its thinly veiled allusions to Tony Blair), as well as for its take on the war on terror. Ewan MacGregor is self-effacingly brilliant, whereas Pierce Brosnan is a hell of a lot of fun to watch as the disgraced ex-Prime Minister Adam Lang.  I kept expecting him to have to deal with a giant laser gun in the sky, but alas, that scene never happened.

But the real star—and ghost—of the movie is director Roman Polanski.  One can bet that the irony of the movie’s location was not lost on him—Lang is writing his memors on Martha’s Vineyard, and is on the verge of being trapped there rather than return to face a war crimes tribunal in Europe.  But of course, since Polanski can’t go to the U.S. lest he be busted for his own sins, “Martha’s Vineyard” ends up looking somewhat German.

The movie’s final revelation is as provocative as it is sensational—I might even say unlikely—and left my hypersmart friend gnashing her teeth about the movie’s “conspiracy theory” interpretation of history.  I’d love to discuss exactly that, but I haven’t declared this post to include spoilers, so it looks as if for now I’ll have to save it for a later date.  Hopefully the Men in Black don’t get to me in the meantime.