Tuesday, 28 April 2009

MARS ATTACKS: Tim Burton’s flawed pulp classic

When it comes to visuals that leave a lasting impression, there is little in the modern cinema era that match up to the films of Tim Burton. Whether it’s Johhny Depp’s mad turn as Edward Scissorhands or, erm, Johhny Depp as Willy Wonka, Tim Burton’s movies have a visual style and language all of their own. Before every film he made had Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in starring roles, Tim Burton was responsible for Mars Attacks, a loveable yet flawed tribute to the classic era of Pulp SF and genre cinema.

With a hugely impressive cast and some eyepopping effects, Mars attacks is one of the most entertaining films of the 1990s, that most annoying of decades.

Mars Attacks features such sheer visual inventiveness that it is hard not to get swept away by it., This is probably a good thing, as the plot is paper thin and the acting (despite the pedigree of the cast), is far from perfect. The CGI had certainly dated since the movie was released, and looks even cheaper than it was intended to in the first place now, but you can still get a kick out of seeing bubble-headed aliens zapping people left right and center. You really can’t go wrong with people getting zapped, can you?

Mars Attacks is a curio now. Not one of Tim Burton’s most remembered or appreciated films, it was a huge hit at the time and was also very popular on Video (and latterly DVD) following its release. Definitely flawed but a ton of fun, Mars Attacks deserves a well-earned repeat viewing.

While you’re at it, you could follow up on Mars Attacks by sticking Galaxy Quest on after it. With movies like Fanboys, Free Enterprise and so on bringing the Geek manifesto to the masses in recent years, it’d be cool to go and check out this spoof SF gem from 1998. Thanks to the awesome cast headed up by Sigourney Weaver, Tim Allen and Alan Rickman, its cheesy (but oh so true) stabs at Star Trek and SF fan culture hit close to home, and are still hilarious.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Anne McCaffrey: Creator of the Pern books

The beginning of a series of articles in which we appreciate the true greats of the science fiction and fantasy genres.

If anyone has earned their status as a legend in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, then it is Anne McCaffrey. As creator of the Dragonriders of Pern and the hugely popular series of science fiction and fantasy novels that followed the first book ('Dragonflight', which was made up of two novellas originally published in Analog magazine), Anne has secured her place in the history books as a writer of monumental power and talent.

The Pern novels now number well over twenty, and many of them have become essential titles in the science fiction genre.

But there is more to Anne McCaffrey's career than just creating the Pern novels and the world that they take place on. She is also author (and co-author on several books) of several science fiction novels dealing with sentient spacecraft.

Some of the most influential of these books are probably the anthology The Ship Who Sang and the novel The Ship Who Fought. These showed a different side to her writing, allowing her to deal with a more SF style universe than the science-fantasy worlds of the Pern novels.

She is also the author and co-author of many other books in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and while her output has slowed in recent years, she remains one of the finest exponents of the genre around.

What is it that makes her work so special though? Dragons? Crystal Singers? Children hardwired into starship computers? maybe all of these, but she is also an incredibly talented writer when it comes to characterization and social issues within the fictional universes she has created.

Her books aren't just action extravaganzas or character studies, they are both and much more. Each book of hers boasts many layers that a lot of other writers wouldn’t even contemplate, and thus she achieved her status as one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, as well as creating one of the most loved science fiction series ever conceived- Pern.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

ROBIN HOOD: William Hurt joins the cast

Now here’s a project that is slowly gathering some interest to film fans. Ridley Scott’s forthcoming and as-yet-untitled Robin Hood movie has now added William Hurt to its cast. William Hurt is to play William Marshall, the Earl of Pembroke in the film.

Other actors now confirmed for the project include Russell Crowe (Billed on the IMDB as both Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham), Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian and Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Eleanor.

I guess it is something to do with Kevin Costner’s mullet in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, or that bloody Brian Adams song that went with it, that had me fearing any new versions. The thought of those things strikes fear into the heart of any seasoned film fan.

The good news is this Ridley Scott version of the classic Robin Hood tale looks set to be rather special. Well, anything has to be better than that atrocious TV version from 2006, anyway. Hopefully.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Sarah Michelle Gellar: 'Would love to see Buffy as a Mum'

Sarah Michelle Gellar, star of the TV phenomenon Buffy The Vampire Slayer and several movies, has said that she would consider returning to her legendary role as the vampire-killing cheerleader, but only if the story was right for her. The actress states "There is an idea for a script and to pick the story up with Buffy older and maybe even a mother", which kind of negates the whole 'Season 8' comics series created by Joss Whedon that has been such a hit. This is a shame really, as the stories that covered were great. Nevertheless, this may well be great news for fans of the Buffyverse and its characters. here's hoping that if this movie does get made, it is a damn sight better than the 1992 version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I still have nightmares about Luke Perry's hair.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: One, Two, Rorschach's coming for you?

I love this one. The forthcoming Wolverine movie remake, which I was previously very dubious of, may have actually won some points. Word has come down that the current frontrunner for the role of iconic undead serial killer Freddy Krueger is none other than WATCHMEN's sociopathic nutter Rorschach, aka Jackie Earle Hayley.

This could actually work really well. Judging from his performance in Watchmen, he can certainly handle a deranged character well, but I'd worry a little that the makers of this new version of the 1984 horror classic may try and give Freddy too much of a sympathetic character overhaul.

There seems to be this trend in current horror remakes to explain away the background of horror icons and as such take away much of the impact they originally had. If the new Wolverine movie movie can stick to the basics and not go too deep into Kruger's motivations for what he does, then I think it can be saved.

The casting of Jackie Earle Haley would be a huge step in the right direction for a film I'd really rather not get made in the first place

Friday, 3 April 2009

DOCTOR WHO: Planet of the Dead trailer reaction

So then, the first trailer for the next Doctor Who special episode, Planet of the Dead, has now aired and also leaked online (but not through the BBC yet, so I'm not posting it here), giving us a glimpse at one of the tenth Doctor's final few adventures. While it seems that stylistically the episode will have some elements in common with season 4's 'Midnight' episode, I think it is going to be a winner.

Thanks to the fact that it doesn’t have to have any Christmas elements nailed to the script, it looks like a solid Doctor Who story with some interesting effects (although the Tritovore still look horrendous to me) and a nice, strong science fiction setting.

The Dubai footage has a beautiful look to it, and will hopefully provide the episode with a great atmosphere. I'm curious to see if the edit style in the trailer matches that of the episode itself- a little adventurous editing and visual effects will help elevate it above a mere episode into something more special. After all, isn’t that the point?

I'm still not quite sold on Michelle Ryan yet, but I'll reserve judgment until I see the episode itself. The Doctor seems a little on autopilot, but that is probably/hopefully just down to the limited running time of the trailer. It does look promising. Not long now!