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Tag Archive: Minority Report


Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything’s connected.  Everything’s vulnerable.

The visionary behind the groundbreaking 1997 science fiction film Gattaca has at last delivered his next worthy sci-fi follow-up.  The direct-to-Netflix movie Anon is equal parts future crime and noir detective thriller.  It stars Clive Owen (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Children of Men, Sin City) and Colm Feore (Thor, The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck) as police detectives in a near-future Earth where smart phone and computer technology has merged with the mind.  Technology and science have evolved to allow humans to instantly identify and search their minds and a database shared with everyone as they move through their day–as if Google Glass tech was inside a contact lens wired to the brain.  Written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol, writer/director of Gattaca and writer of The Truman Show, Anon features a police detective nicely synthesizing Rick Deckard, Frank Bullitt, and Dirty Harry Callahan.  Only an actor as unique as Clive Owen could pull that off.

With a world similar to Gattaca–but a colder, stark, and concrete-filled version of a rigid, totalitarian future close to that of the Prime side in the world of the Starz series Counterpart–telling lies has become a thing of the past.  The detectives must track down an unidentifiable woman, the anonymous hacker of the title played by Amanda Seyfried (Veronica Mars, Ted 2, Mamma Mia!), sought as the criminal behind a string of murders.  This hacker can erase memories and replace real thoughts with replaced images, and we see the best example of this as Owen’s detective pursues the hacker in a busy subway.  Oddly, this dystopia doesn’t feel as horrible as that of Mad Max: Fury Road, or Blade Runner, or Terminator.  It’s just not that far removed from the wired life of today.  Which should be enough of a cautionary warning.

Stark but slick and cool like The Adjustment Bureau, not only the visuals of Anon but the music is haunting and cold, thanks to an inspired score from Christophe Beck (Ant-Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Surreal camera angles and the use of shadow firmly plant the audience in this future thanks to cinematographer Amir Mokri, and you can credit production designer Philip Ivey (District 9, Elysium) and art director Aleksandra Marinkovich (Crimson Peak, Kick-Ass 2, Total Recall) for a stunning, new vision that leaves behind tech noir for something fresh and different.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Much of the best science fiction doesn’t leave us with memorable or lovable characters so much as incredible, imaginative ideas, and prescient or prophetic visions.  When you look to science fiction’s past, examples can be found throughout the works of H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, and Ray Bradbury.  Great concepts abound, like Wells’ time travel, Mary Shelley stretching the bounds–and horrors–of medical science, Dick always wrestling with the perils and annoyances of technology, and Michael Crichton finding ways to use science to change the future.  Robert J. Sawyer is a current science fiction author building on the ideas of the past, and like all of the above writers who researched the real science behind their characters, he delves deep into his subjects.  In his novel Quantum Night, now available in paperback, he has with surgical precision stitched together a tale of modern truths and horrors, bundled in a story pressing the bounds of psychology and quantum theory to explain why the world may seem to be falling apart, and offering one way to try to repair it.

In a very educational way, Quantum Night is also a refresher in Psychology 101.  Sawyer, one of only three science fiction writers ever to have won the trifecta of writing awards (the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Campbell), references every major theory and experiment from college days along with enough background in quantum theory to support a compelling thriller.  By book’s end you may find yourself staring at strangers and questioning their level of consciousness, conscience, and psychopathy.  You may be sitting next to a psychopathic individual right now, or someone with a mind that may be even more gut-wrenching to discover.  Written in 2015 and taking place in the not-so-distant future, Russian President Vladimir Putin readies to fire nuclear weapons on the United States.  A future U.S. President gets Roe v. Wade overturned, has gotten his country to turn on immigrants and then invades Canada, led by its first Muslim prime minister (here Sawyer predicts the future of the current real-life Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi), purportedly so the U.S. can secure Canada’s cities when the country no longer is able to control the flow of terrorists.

The story follows a professor of psychology who also serves as an expert witness to defend criminals who have proven to be psychopathic on both established and modern psychopathy tests.  In the latest case he is reminded of his own past on cross-examination–a past he refuses to believe.  As he re-traces his memories he learns his volunteering for psychology experiments in college resulted in six months of erased memories.  And it gets worse–his mind was altered.  Readers encounter a pair of scientists in the past, trying to hone in on those elements of the mind that shape how we think.  The protagonist encounters a lover from his college days who is also in the field, and their relationship and her relationship with her daughter and her brother (now 20 years in a coma), could dictate the fate of everyone’s future with a high-tech tuning fork “sonic screwdriver”-inspired device and one of the 40 giant, real-world synchrotrons.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As much as you may hear general moviegoers asking if we may be near the end of the Alien franchise–and earlier this month Alien director Ridley Scott said as much, that the franchise has basically “run out”–you probably won’t hear that from fans of Alien who keep coming back for more.  But no worry: two future movies are expected from the franchise.  Along the way tie-in authors continue to expand the universe before and after the first film that premiered way back in 1979.  The best of these so far is arguably Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows (reviewed here at borg.com along with an interview with the author here).  In that novel Lebbon cleverly intercut between films a new tale of Ellen Ripley encountering xenomorphs again.  Earlier this year we reviewed an anthology, Alien: Bug Hunt here, and a new interactive in-world book in the Alien universe will be reviewed here soon.  Ridley Scott returned to direct another film in the series this year with Alien: Covenant, and a new tie-in novel bridges the gap between 2012’s Prometheus and Covenant.  Titled Alien: Covenant–Origins, it features the return of one of fandom’s favorite writers, Alan Dean Foster, and readers will find the story completely unexpected.

Since the 1970s Foster has written famous science fiction expansion stories that brought classic films home to audiences before the days of home video, including the novelization of the original Star Wars and the first Star Trek tie-ins.  His success with those would lead him to write the novelizations of the first three Alien films and Alien: Covenant, Terminator: Salvation, The Chronicles of Riddick, the first two Transformers movies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness, adding to a catalog of books that include The Thing, The Black Hole, Outland, The Last Starfighter, Starman, and AlienNation.  So Foster knows the Alien world well and with Alien: Covenant–Origins, Foster looks beyond the monstrous xenomorphs of the franchise to the political and corporate machinations behind the first effort to colonize outer space by Earthlings.  Springboarding off what we can imagine to be a Michael Crichton’s Rising Sun-inspired corporate takeover of CEO Peter Weyland’s tech company by competitor Hideo Yutani after the events of Prometheus find Weyland lost in space, we encounter the new Weyland-Yutani Corp. as it prepares to send a ship full of colonists to habitable planet Origae-6.  But on Earth the company first encounters espionage, intrigue, and sabotage, earthbound topics wrestled with similarly in Carl Sagan’s classic novel Contact. 

More action-thriller than sci-fi, Foster plants us into a mad dash to get the Covenant into space, with Yutani’s daughter kidnapped, assassination attempts, and a strange faction bombarding the company at every step to stop all efforts to go into space to avoid what one human is foreseeing as an invasion of horrible alien demons in Earth’s future if Weyland-Yutani proceeds with its flight.  It’s the same warning Sagan and NASA encountered from members of the public when the United States sent two Voyager space probes to the edge of the galaxy and beyond in the 1970s–what if aliens find us and they’re not so friendly?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Twelve Days is Steven Barnes’ latest sci-fi novel, an urban thriller delving into the evolution of the human brain.  Olympia Dorsey is a single mother of two, working for an Atlanta news outlet.  Her son Hannibal is autistic, and Olympia has been called into his school where they suggest sending her son to a better center for his care.  The center, a spiritual headquarters shrouded in Indian mysticism and nestled in the mountains, sounds too good to be true.  So she brings along her ex-boyfriend neighbor in their first visit to meet a Doctor Strange-esque mystic and martial arts expert who uses her influence and charisma to convince them she has the place for Hannibal’s care, evening promising a complete turnaround for the child in ten days.  Barnes’ crafts a slowly-building story where Olympia, desperate to improve the life of her autistic child, allows herself to be reeled in.

Olympia’s boyfriend Terry is ex-military, and had been plotting a jewel heist with his old military pals, but after his confrontation with the mystic he is somehow changed.  Can he make a clean break from his own criminal enterprise?   What is the motivation of this cult?  Influence?  Money?  Power?  Revenge?  Is the threatened apocalypse in only twelve days real or only a distraction?  And can Olympia get out before it’s too late?

Not like even the typical cult, the mystical mountain facility evokes the frightening Jefferson Institute of Robin Cook’s Coma, only here the victim’s organs aren’t harvested for money.  Here the victims are used as brainwashed agents to use their brainwaves to kill people far away, when submerged in a chamber not unlike that of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report.  It’s when the science fiction begins that Twelve Days kicks in.  Borrowing from the ideas of Joseph Ruben’s 1984 film Dreamscape, Twelve Days presents the most unusual of assassination tools to eliminate all the members of an anonymously leaked “Death List”–a dead pool list that includes both the world’s most wanted criminals, but also its leaders.  Each is being systematically eliminated, and even more are projected to die within twelve days.

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Minority Report Fox

Minority Report, the Tom Cruise movie directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the short story by Philip K. Dick is getting its own sequel in the form of a television series this Fall.  Spielberg’s adaptation was very rich in cutting edge special effects, effects that still stand up well 13 years after the film’s release in 2002, including a rich and dense transportation system of flying motor-vehicles and cycles, spider-robots, floating computer 3D “windows” that we now use on our smartphones every day.

Based on the first preview released by Fox, shown below, the new TV series doesn’t appear to have the budget for all that, instead showing only sporadic bits of a future world that reminds us of Marty McFly’s future in Back to the Future.  It’s a sequel, taking place 10 years after the end of Precrime in the film.  The story it follows is intriguing.  Instead of following any lead character from the movie, it will focus on one of the precogs–those three telepathic humans whose minds saw the future and allowed Precrime to exist–predicting and preventing crimes before they happen.

Precog Minority Report Fox

The series stars Stark Sands (Inside Llewyn Davis) as that precog, along with Meagan Good (Deception), Wilmer Valderrama (That ’70s Show, Awake, From Dusk Til Dawn), Laura Regan (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Burn Notice, Everwood, Mad Men), and Li Jun Li (The Following). 

Check out an extended preview for Minority Report, followed by a behind the scenes look at the show:

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predestination-poster01-predestination-poster-2

Finally the Australian film Predestination will be making it to the States.  The Aussie Spierig Brothers direct this loose adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies.”  Bringing some genre street cred to this independent film is Gattaca’s Ethan Hawke as the lead.  Hawke is a time travel agent in the business of preventing crimes before they happen, and in good film noir fashion he is on his final case to hunt down that one criminal who got away.

If the plot sounds familiar, it should.  Predestination is just the latest entry in the sci-fi time travel trope, in the vein of the Philip K. Dick inspired films The Adjustment Bureau, Paycheck, and Minority Report, and the Bruce Willis/Emily Blunt rollercoaster ride Looper.

predestination

Predestination was filmed in Melbourne, and comes from that same stylized sci-fi tradition that brought us the cool post-apocalypse film The Quiet Earth.  Released in Australia back on August 28, 2014, it finally has a U.S. release date.

After the break, check out the trailer for Predestination:

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Judge Dredd Year one cover Issue 1

A new Year One comic book series hits newsstands today.  IDW Publishing, who now holds the comic book license to the Judge Dredd franchise once held by DC Comics and originally published in the UK in 1977, begins anew with Judge Dredd’s earliest days in Issue #1 of Judge Dredd Year One, released today and previewed here at borg.com below.

It’s the year 2080 and twenty-three juveniles “juves” begin exhibiting strange “psi-powers” or psychic abilities.  First a teenage boy becomes angry and is able to levitate.  A baby begins controlling toys and making them float in mid-air.  A street thug spirits a man off the roof of a building.  And on the “Larry Hagman Freeway” (in Dallas, Texas, I presume) Judge Dredd first appears in hot pursuit.  And another child emerges with strange powers of telekinesis.

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Speaking of yesterday’s discussion of Cybermen and The Borg, another well known borg sci-fi character was the subject of a New York Times article this week:  RoboCop is being resurrected for the big screen this year, one of several remakes of 1980s properties, such as 21 Jump Street and Dirty Dancing, coming soon to a theater near you.

Unfortunately there is not much information yet released, especially no photos yet of the police uniform for the 2013 RoboCop production.  Peter Weller, who we learned this year will be featured in the next Star Trek movie, originally dawned the steel armor of the downed cop who, like the Bionic Man, was rebuilt to fight the forces of evil in the U.S.  The original costume is instantly recognizable, but early word from production is that we will see a very different police armor uniform for the new RoboCop.

Although it is not quite as cool as the original RoboCop, I am a fan of the Iowa State Patrol uniform worn by the officer hunting down a young James T. Kirk in the future Riverside, Iowa in Star Trek 2009:

I’m still not sure if that was a good protective outfit for a human cop, or whether that android face mask reflects an actual android, or this was meant to be a cyborg creation.  Either way, it’s a pretty good outfit.

Years ago Academy Award winners Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock showed us the prim and proper cops of the future city of San Angeles, where we learned “In the future, all restaurants are Taco Bell.”

My fellow Trekkies will recognize those belts being re-used in the Mirror Universe of the Enterprise TV series by evil Captain Archer & Co.  These guys looked believable.  But no armor!

And this year’s coming remake of Total Recall features another slick looking future cop:

Note that the new Total Recall takes no obvious design queues from Paul Verhoeven’s original Total Recall.  So it should be no surprise if the new RoboCop takes no design queues from Verhoeven’s RoboCop.  Verhoeven’s RoboCop was inspired by the future cop from the comic book 2000 A.D., Judge Dredd, and Verhoeven’s RoboCop has been interpreted as a retelling of sorts of the original Judge Dredd story because of several common themes, and, of course, the mask.  Although the Sylvester Stallone future cop in Judge Dredd didn’t adhere totally to the original story, he did have a mask, but his uniform was a bit strange:

Future cops are definitely “in” these days.  Karl Urban (Bones in Star Trek 2009, Eomer in Lord of the Rings, Xena, Bourne Supremacy, Chronicles of Riddick) will be starring in a new version of Judge Dredd, that Urban says comes more from the course material, titled Dredd and expected to be released in September 2012.

Far less interesting are the precrime future cop uniforms from Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, based on Philip K. Dick’s short story of the same name:

For the new RoboCop, José Padilha is slated to direct a screenplay by Nick Schenk and Joshua Zetumer.  Thirty-three year old actor Joel Kinnaman has been tapped for the lead role as Murphy/RoboCop.  Of the creative trio, Schenk is the best known for his sceenplay for Clint Eastwood’s (awesome) film, Gran Torino.  Kinnaman had a small role in last year’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and as Stephen Holder in the TV series, The Killing.

Here is the the marketing blurb for the new film: “In a crime-ridden city, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg with submerged memories haunting him.”

Unlike the new RoboCop, the original RoboCop rarely removed his helmet.

Padilha and Kinnaman have disclosed thus far that the new RoboCop will be a very different film than the original, with a costume where you can see the RoboCop’s eyes, and they’d said that the focus of the new story will be the period from Murphy getting shot to becoming RoboCop, as opposed to an action film where RoboCop serves as a futuristic officer.  So this seems a bit like the path of Martin Caidin’s original Bionic Man story as told in his novel Cyborg.

Ronny Cox and the earlier, non-cyborg version, from the original film

My favorite scene, and the one I hope they do include in some way, is the scene where the non-cyborg RoboCop before Weller’s is revealed to be flawed and destroys one of the executives in the board room at the big reveal.

The current release date is scheduled for August 9, 2013.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

I’ve got to admit, I can’t get enough of movies based on the works of Philip K. Dick.  And even though I can’t imagine anyone playing Cohaagen better than the great sci-fi character actor Ronny Cox (Robocop, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stargate, Medium), I am sure Bryan Cranston (The Flash, X-Files, Breaking Bad, John Carter) will do nicely.  I’m talking about Total Recall–the new adaptation of Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” originally adapted 22 years ago into the 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger at the peak of his acting career, which became a sci-fi classic.  Since last year when we saw the Columbia Pictures display across the street from the San Diego Comic-Con, revealing one of the future cops and police vehicles, we’ve been eagerly looking forward to this film.

Columbia just released a teaser for a trailer coming this Sunday.  That’s right–a teaser for a teaser.  Check it out:

You can also find some early marketing at the official Total Recall website.

Colin Farrell (Minority Report, Phone Booth, Daredevil), Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, Much Ado About Nothing), Jessica Biel (Stealth, Next), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Underworld, Pirates of the Caribbean), Ethan Hawke (Gattaca), John Cho (Star Trek)–that’s a pretty good cast with something for everyone.  And consistent with past envisioning of Dick’s future Earth, this teaser looks a good deal like the art design is similar to that used in Minority Report, which also featured Colin Farrell.  Still, at 30 seconds this one truly is a teaser in the truest sense of the word.

So we can look forward to even more this Sunday!  But the release date?  August 3, 2012.  Ugh!!  Enough teasing already.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

As a big fan of Michael Westmore, predominantly because of his alien designs for several Star Trek series and movies, I love the odd show or reference to creating professional aliens for TV and movies via make-up, latex or other prosthetic and mask work.  I’d heard of the Syfy reality show Face Off, through its beautiful promos showing the host and others transformed into bird faces and other creatures, but for whatever reason missed the first season.  Thanks to a holiday marathon last weekend I was able to get a bit caught up and now am looking forward to its second season beginning Wednesday, January 11, on Syfy.

As reality series go, I like to think I am a bit selective.  I am easily annoyed and will stop watching any show that is about people in a confined space getting along or, more likely with reality series, not getting along.   This is why my reality series watching has been limited to Iron Chef America (where the fight is not really personal as much as professional with no living situation squabbles).  I also tried The Next Iron Chef and Top Chef for several episodes, but ultimately gave up when they turned into repetitive experiments in cramming people together who don’t really want to be there.  I am sure I’ve sampled some other reality shows that I have repressed or just don’t remember.  The worst of these was probably Worst Cooks in America, a pretty horrible and valueless show.  So why try another reality show?

Face Off at one level is just another competition show where several contestants compete to outperform their peers.  The difference here is the subject.  Like cooking, there is skill and artistry required, and the ongoing battle between those with professional training and those who are self taught or are naturals.   But the subject here is something cooler.   Food is food.  Monsters and aliens are… just really neat.  In creating great alterations of people into something else, we don’t get a college course in the profession, but we can pick up some pointers.  Like watching Bobby Flay and Mario Batali facing off against challengers and showing us how to improve our food preparation, and unlike the other reality shows out there, I want to know all I can about the craft of creature make-up from these amateurs and up and coming professionals and more importantly, from the guests who hail from Hollywood and actual film work, including Academy Award winning make-up pros.  At least all I can glean from limited investment of my time–about an hour per week.

Face Off appears to leverage some notoriety first through the host, McKenzie Westmore, daughter of Michael Westmore.  Admittedly my focus in watching a show like this isn’t the host (and shouldn’t be).  She does have some film credits, to add to her family name as a bit of “street cred,” including some soap opera work and minor roles in Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek: Insurrection and Ms. Westmore claims she has a background studying theatrical make-up, beauty make-up and appliance work “in school”.  As a hook to entice viewers, the Westmore name got me to watch, and from there I found other reasons to keep watching.*

For sure there are reasons to be doing something else while the show is on, specifically the standard reality show garbage–in particular in the first season the producers felt the need to dwell on two contestants that had some inexplicable vendetta against each other.  If you can cut through those parts (the DVR has a fast-forward, remember!) the good work done by the contestants was exciting to see, and I found myself several times surprised by the skill and resulting images created by the artists in the timeframes allotted.  And in one battle, where contestants had to change actual couples who were engaged to be married from male to female and vice versa, the reality schtick was clever and entertaining, even if the art of the craft seemed to suffer a bit.  The best challenge I viewed was the skin and ink contest where the best works had nude models blend into backgrounds in a stunning way.

The bigger draw in the show are the guests and other judges.  These have included Academy Award winning makeup artist Ve Neill (Pirates of the Caribbean, Edward Scissorhands, Mrs. Doubtfire, Ed Wood, Beetlejuice), television makeup artist Glenn Hetrick (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the X-Files, Angel, Heroes, Babylon 5), and creature designer and director Patrick Tatopoulos (I Am Legend, Resident Evil: Extinction, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans). Guests have included Michael Westmore himself, Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th) and Greg Nicotero (Predator, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Army of Darkness, Unbreakable, Minority Report, Hulk, Sin City).

The drawback so far is the over-emphasis on monster make-up, as opposed to fantasy and sci-fi.  It goes with the territory, however, that make-up artists spend a lot of time on horror flicks.  Hopefully we’ll get to see more sci-fi work and challenges in season 2, and maybe more film creators from science fiction films and less from the standard horror genre.

*Editor’s Note:  Original article updated.  My initial review reflected my findings after looking for references to Ms. Westmore’s make-up background.  I hoped to find some either on the show’s website or on Ms. Westmore’s website or on other Web sources but had no luck.   Ms. Westmore tweeted today that she indeed studied appliance work in “school”, not just worked under her father.  The show would do a great service to Ms. Westmore and the show by including some of her background relative to make-up work if so.  Viewers want this detail, and it lends greater credibility to the show knowing she has this background.  Here is what Ms. Westmore’s website states as her background and it tends to promote her role as host and actress vs. active involvement in the FX/make-up industry:

“Actress and host McKenzie Westmore is certainly no stranger to the film and television industry. A member of the legendary Westmore family, McKenzie started her career early, at the age of three, when she was cast in “Raging Bull”, as Robert De Niro’s daughter; and can be seen as the host of SyFy’s exciting new special effects and make-up competition series “Face Off.”  Most widely recognized for her 10-year run as “Sheridan Crane” on NBC’s popular daytime drama “Passions”, Westmore’s additional television and film credits include “Weird Science”, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Star Trek: Voyager”, “Dexter”, “Surviving Suburbia”, and the Star Trek feature film “Insurrection.” Westmore also played a recurring role on ABC’s hit daytime drama “All My Children.” In addition, she can be seen in the HBO webseries “Apocalypse Wow!” and in the independent feature film “Vile” scheduled for release in 2011. When she is not working in front of the camera, Westmore can be found working hard behind the scenes, writing and producing on several new projects currently in development. A health, beauty, fitness and nutrition enthusiast with a background in personal training and nutrition, Westmore is also developing a line of wellness products created to enhance the health, beauty and well-being of women everywhere.  Westmore is so proud of her rich family heritage and was thrilled to celebrate in 2008 when the Westmore family received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in honor of their pioneering work in the world of film and television make-up and the combined family contributions to over 2,000 films and television series.”

The show’s website says even less about Ms. Westmore’s background.  Again, I think she would be doing herself and her show a favor by including her other work relative to the make-up world in her bio.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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