Mar 272015
 
Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint resolved those issues but have some new ones.

 by Karina “Cinerina” Montgomery

James Caan and Mandy Patinkin work through some issues.

James Caan and Mandy Patinkin work through some issues.

The Hollywood Reporter has announced that a reboot of the 1988 film Alien Nation is now being written by the scriptwriters of the first Iron Man. As a fan of the movie and the short-lived 1991 TV show, I leapt in immediate excitement at the news. Witty screenwriting can go a long way to excuse retreading beloved material (I’m looking at you, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters!). So far, we just know that the plan is to reimagine the story and explore early days (see Planet of the Apes), but I think if the movie takes the same brave steps as the show did in its day, it might be a worthy reboot.

The original premise is that an alien ship has crashed on earth. Its crew died but its cargo, a slave race called the Tenctonese, survived and they are now stranded here. Similar to District 9, which vividly illustrated the agonies of apartheid, Alien Nation dealt obliquely with race and was possibly the grittiest fish out of water tale of its day. The Tenctonese, or Newcomers, are accepted as a fait accompli, though still colliding with human privilege. The story followed unwilling partner detectives Matthew Sykes, human, and Sam Francisco, Newcomer, investigating a drug ring circulating a compound that only works on the alien physiology, as well as some possibly related murders.

Cathy and Matt in the Newcomer ward.

Cathy and Matt in the Newcomer ward.

The rich narrative potential of aliens unwillingly stranded on earth and integrating their culture into ours coupled with an odd couple cop team naturally led to a series. That series being on Fox, it was of course immediately cancelled, but not before its 22 episodes explored more deeply the seismic effect of integrating a new, truly strange minority overnight into our world, while also being a great cop show with a surprising amount of comedy.

Alien Nation on television explored the sociology and psychology of how former slaves make their way in post-Reaganomics America. It was able to handle head-on, as science fiction can so readily do, the millstone of racism as well as other culture clashes. It commented on immigration and social classes, with often humorous collisions of religion and traditions. The show even made some tentative forays into gender and sexuality, as the Tenctonese require a third gender to reproduce. They were genetically engineered to be the perfect slave species and as such are stronger than humans in many ways. They are different and so present a threat to the human populace’s vision of normal or the status quo.

The show covered much in a short time without being bogged down: Newcomer teenagers rebelling by donning a wig; cultural norms and clashes in the simplest of contexts; the advantages of having been bred to be slaves versus choosing one’s destiny; slave overseers blending in with their former charges, and the urge for vengeance; differing vulnerabilities exploited by criminals; religious ritual and family units in the context of living so long as property, but also unwilling immigrants trying to build a home and assimilate.

Fun new cosplay opportunities!  Lauren Woodland gets into makeup.

Fun new cosplay opportunities! Lauren Woodland gets into makeup.

The show ended on a cliffhanger, and fans were so fervent about resolving it, they finally produced a TV movie and 4 network sequels. Original screenwriter Rockne S. O’Bannon has been continuing to explore some of these themes that Fox abandoned on the Syfy series Defiance. Outsiders trying to make a place for themselves in an environment that’s been wound up tight like a different drum? These themes resonate with us; a reboot was probably inevitable. In the right hands, it could be a narrative touchstone for our national discourse.

With all that has happened in our country between 1991 and 2015, we are primed to tackle these issues through the more comfortable lens of science fiction. Racial tensions from 9/11 to Katrina to Ferguson, struggles for gender equity, the growing acceptance of homosexuality, advances in artificial intelligence, and the increasingly frustrating debates about whether science is real, a reboot of Alien Nation could have a lot to say. The important thing is to not turn this goldmine of analogy into a loud, obnoxious message movie/series.

I hope they cast Karl Urban as Matt Sykes and Michael Ealy as Sam Francisco for their delectable chemistry, box office mojo, and as a redress of the unfortunate cancellation of their promising comedic buddy cop show Almost Human (also cancelled after one season by Fox). That show was a modern incursion of some of the territory Alien Nation tried to explore 24 years ago, but with contemporary attention on the humanity in a machine. I’d prefer to see Alien Nation rebooted on television (preferably on a progressive network like HBO or AMC) rather than a standalone movie so it can take its time and develop. However, I will be there on opening weekend, humming “E take nas naj…nah sus gah nilpa” merrily under my breath.

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Mar 242015
 
Leviathan

LeviathanMankind has colonized many worlds in a time when travel faster than the speed of light has been made possible by the harvesting of exotic matter from the eggs of the largest species mankind has ever seen. Those who take part in the hunt for the matter are mostly involuntary labor.

The Leviathan broke the internet just last week, but already it’s attracted some power hitters to the production team. Neill Blomkamp, wunderkind writer/director of District 9, and producer of Elysium and Chappie, has stepped forward to offer his services as executive producer, and Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Cinderella, Star Wars Rebels) has come on board to produce. This is after only a week of the release of The Leviathan‘s sizzle reel by directorial hopeful Ruairí Robinson.

It’s a proven fact that sizzle reels work. So many films the geekosphere has come to love started as short segments of films made to get investors and distributors interested in fronting the rest of the money for a new project. The quirky post-apocalyptic film 9, the retro-futuristic Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow leap to mind. And in a way, so does Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, which started out as a six minute short film by Blomkamp (Alive in Joburg). This is a technique near and dear to Blomkamp’s heart, and we can imagine the enthusiasm he must have felt when he saw what Robinson had accomplished.

Producers had been lining up to meet with Robinson to talk to him about helming the picture, but when Kinberg made his move it was apparently all over. Kinberg.  Kinberg’s first-look deal with Fox also gives Robinson potential studio backing should they decide to move forward. If Fox passes on it – no, we can’t imagine it either, but if they do – the other studios will likely be standing in line.

Robinson, who previously made The Last Days On Mars, is represented by 42 and WME.  Kinberg is coming off of Disney’s successful re-launch of Cinderella, with $200 million worldwide and counting, and has a Ridley Scott/Matt Damon collaboration The Martian as well as the latest re-boot of Fantastic Four in the pipelines.

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Mar 172015
 
Leviathan

Grab your parachute, Herman Melville, because The Leviathan is coming.

It’s not a movie. Yet. It’s a proof-of-concept teaser, a short that shows what the rest of the movie could be like if somebody gave them the money to finish it. Academy Award-nominee Ruairí Robinson, best known so far for Fifty Percent Grey, and The Last Days on Mars, used help from the Irish Film Board to create this tease of what he and screenwriter Jim Uhls (Fight Club, Jumper) want The Leviathan to be.

A team of humans is on the hunt for a giant of the clouds, to extract something vital from it.

Here’s a synopsis for the film, which takes cues from literary sources such as Moby Dick and Dune: “By the early 22nd century mankind had colonized many worlds. Faster than light travel was made possible by harvesting exotic matter from the eggs of the largest species mankind has ever seen. Those that take part in the hunt are mostly involuntary labor.”

There is nothing about The Leviathan that doesn’t scream full throttle adrenaline rush sci-fi blockbuster. Watch the teaser, and see what you think.

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Mar 122015
 
Sir Terry Pratchett
Sir Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett

It is our sad duty to inform you that beloved author and screenwriter Sir Terry Pratchett has died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.  He was 66.

Sir Terry was known best the Discworld series, and wrote more than 70 books over his lengthy career. He also wrote screenplays for Doctor Who, and collaborated with Neil Gaimon on Good Omens, a fantasy novel that achieved cult status and has been recently produced as a radio drama for the BBC.

He was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007, but continued writing, completing his final book in the Discworld series last summer; The Shephard’s Crown, a Tiffany Aching book, is due out this year.

The author died at home, surrounded by his family.

“The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds,” said Transworld Publishers’ Larry Finlay. “In over 70 books, Terry enriched the planet like few before him. As all who read him know, Discworld was his vehicle to satirize this world: He did so brilliantly, with great skill, enormous humour and constant invention. Terry faced his Alzheimer’s disease (an ‘embuggerance’, as he called it) publicly and bravely. Over the last few years, it was his writing that sustained him. His legacy will endure for decades to come.

“My sympathies go out to Terry’s wife Lyn, their daughter Rhianna, to his close friend Rob Wilkins, and to all closest to him.”

Terry passed away in his home, with his cat sleeping on his bed surrounded by his family on 12th March 2015. Diagnosed with Posterior Cortical Atrophy in 2007, he battled the progressive disease with his trademark determination and creativity, and continued to write. He completed his last book, a new Discworld novel, in the summer of 2014, before succumbing to the final stages of the disease.

We ask that the family be left undisturbed at this distressing time.

A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute to the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory: https://www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett

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Mar 092015
 
helix-s2-box

By Alicia Glass, contributing writer

Helix has always been convoluted and a little hard to follow time-line-wise, but this season two is really making it difficult. When we last left our dubious heroes and scary-eyed villains, the base out there in the middle of nowhere had been destroyed and the Narvik outbreak had been contained. We hope. Julia (Kyra Zagorsky) in all her silvery-eyed glory went to work for the Ilaria Corporation, Alan Farragut (Billy Campbell) determined to wipe out all the immortals, and everyone else went their separate ways. Now here it is at Day 1 again (as far as the show is concerned) and a new CDC team, led by the other brother Dr. Peter Farragut (Neil Napier), is heading to a particular island once again out in the middle of nowhere to stop an outbreak of another deadly pathogen.

On the island there is of course a commune that’s been there, we learn, for a very very long time, run by the same creepy god-complex man, Brother Michael (Steven Weber). A gifted, if not more than a little bugshit insane, botanist and scientist, Michael controls the Abbey Commune on the island and literally the lives of everyone in it – including the long line of women who’ve been his breeding partners, every one of them both his daughter and the mother of his next child, because Michael believes greatly in breeding selective qualities. Peter brought with him Dr. Sarah Jordan (Jordan Hayes) from the first season of Helix, along with toxicologist Dr. Kyle Summer (Matt Long), who inevitably it turns out is lugging secret reasons of his own for being there.

Warning! First season Spoilerz ahead!

For those of you who might need a small refresher course from the first season, here are some upshots: Hiroshi Hatake (Hiroyuki Sanada, remember him?) made his daughter Julia into a silver-eyed immortal, like him; Alan swore vengeance on super-secretly run by immortals Ilaria Corporation, after what they did to him and his at the base; Sarah had a thing, and then a fling, with Alan; Hatake’s wife and adopted son were rather brutally killed on the base; and oh yeah, Sarah was made silver-eyed too, in theory to save her life. This is all relevant to Season 2, but the characters tend to summarize a lot of what happened at the super secret snow base so we can get to most of what season two seems to be about: consequences.

helix-season-2-episode-1-bones

Stay with me here. We’re here at the commune watching the CDC and the Abbey folk clash, only now the show insists on fast-fowarding old-fashioned camera style, to 30 years later. Out there in the ruins of the Commune, Julia is here, looking for her contact to lead her to particular places on the island. No-one else of the present is here, unless you count Julia’s grape-nuts insanity dreamland encounter with her father, but the upshot is that the immortals of her present are dying of an illness, which should be impossible. So Julia came here, where apparently all roads lead, in the past and potential future, to the island. Where we learn, as the show begins to interleave the potential future and the past, there is indeed an outbreak of a deadly mutant-berserker virus that the CDC people dub “mycotics”. Kyle gave the name, “myco” for the fungus which bears the virus, and “cotics” for psychotics, because it sure makes people go absolutely crazy.

So how is this all connected in season two of Helix? Why is Alan already at the Abbey when the CDC folk get there? What implications will Sarah’s ability to breed at all have on the legacy of the immortals? Who is the mysterious young man who saved Julia’s life, reputed to be her know-nothing contact? Everything really is connected, just like the strands of – say with it me – a Helix. Though to save yourself potential brain-strain in trying to figure how the hell this mess really is all connected, I recommend binge-watching the show.

You can be infected with Helix on the Syfy channel, on Fridays @10/9c!

Follow #WhatTheHelix

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Mar 052015
 
Shadowrun_Chronicles-pc-games

by Michael Brown, staff writer

After three years of development and early access, Catalyst Game Labs and Cliffhanger Productions have announced a release date for their online, Shadowrun_Chronicles-pc-gamesKickstarter-fueled Shadowrun game that will mirror the tabletop pen-and-paper version. Catalyst has teamed up with Nordic Games to distribute a boxed set that will be available in retail stores in April 2015. Along with the release date, Catalyst announced on the Shadowrun website that the name would be changed from its initial moniker of Shadowrun Online to Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown, feeling that the term “Online” provided negative connotations, while “Chronicles” expressed their continued goal to tell stories.

“It just clicked between Nordic and us – we know and trust them to give Shadowrun the attention it deserves and we are looking forward to finalise Shadowrun Online and deliver a strategically demanding, turn-based co-op combat experience”, said Jan Wagner, co-founder of Cliffhanger Productions, before the announced name change. “With Shadowrun Online, we put the emphasis on experiencing cataclysmic events in 2076, shaking Boston and the whole of North America, focusing the game play on tactical combat, truly individual characters and the team aspects of the role-playing experience. You can play the game as a full single player game, leading your team of runners into dangerous missions or you can join up with your friends or other players you meet in the game to face the dangers ahead.”

Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown takes place in the year 2076 of the popular, fan-favorite Shadowrun universe, a dystopian world where magic has returned to the Earth, and exists side by side with cyber-technology. Players in the Shadowrun tabletop role playing game play “shadowrunners”, those individuals who have fallen into the cracks of society and earn their living by doing the dirty jobs others won’t do, while powerful mega-corporations cast their shadows across the globe.

Boston Lockdown centers around a dragon emerging from an underground lab and bringing with it a disease that turns Boston’s citizens into raging killers. Government and corporate forces lock down the city, and you and other shadowrunners must survive, solve the mystery, or die. Players in the online game will directly affect events in the tabletop game, collaborating in a huge story line that will cast ripples in the Shadowrun universe.

Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown is a turn-based tactical game, often compared to X-Com, that will stress role playing as much as combat. Players will be able to choose their metatype, from Ork, Troll, Dwarf, Elf, and Human, and their class, from gun-toting street samurai to a spell-slinging mage, with in-game choices having real consequences for the Shadowrun universe.

Currently, you can join the early access game on Steam for a much cheaper price than you would pay once the finished product is released. Catalyst also has two other online games, similar to Shadowrun Chronicles, out for purchase and play, and are available in digital format only. Shadowrun Returns, the Kickstarter-funded game that started the online revolution, and Shadowrun: Dragonfall, are both stand alone games, and will give you a feel for what’s to come in Shadowrun Chronicles. Both games are developed by Harebrained Schemes, in association with Catalyst Game Labs. Their third game, Shadowrun: Hong Kong, currently in production after a huge Kickstarter response, is scheduled to be released in December 2015.

Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown will step out of the shadows for PC, MAC and Linux on April 28, 2015.

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