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I woke up this morning to find the above-pictured oranges sitting on my kitchen counter, and Paul’s pass on our latest script sitting in my inbox.  I looked it over, made a few changes, and then sent the script wide – and, in this particular case, “wide” refers to the 3-5 individuals involved in this development process.  Word is they want all the materials in by early February so that they’ll have plenty of time to review them prior to a decision in March.  Will we finally get that elusive series order?   Well, I feel very good about this project – but, in all fairness, I felt pretty good about Dark Matter which was in the same position last year only to ultimately lose out to another property by the very slimmest of margins.  My writing partner, like a spurned lover, refuses to get his hopes up, maintaining an emotional distance as if the project were a relative going in for risky life-saving surgery.

Speaking of Dark Matter, I’m trying to arrange a conference call with my partners to discuss where things stand.  When last er spoke, we had a modest budget in place that, while impressive to the uninitiated, isn’t really quite enough to make a good ship-based series.  I’ve been running comparison budgets with my savvy friend and former colleague, Lawren Bancroft-Wilson, and it would seem we’ll need an additional 15-20% to do it properly.  I don’t suppose any of you happened to have any lottery winnings you’re looking to invest?  If so, let me know!

Having completed a first draft of that southern gothic pilot with Tara, I’m taking some time of from the script so that I can return to it, fresh, in about a week.  I’ve always found that when you’re writing, it’s very easy to get attached to what you’ve put down on the page so a little time away allows you to come back to it with a more open mind.  Meanwhile, I’m about 23 pages into the horror script.  Ideally, I’d love to hit the 30 page mark before my partner on this one, Alex Levine, frees up his busy schedule.  So far, so creepy!

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Took my old gal Jelly (she’ll be 15 next month!) in to see the vet today.  Over the past couple of days, she’s been doing a lot of panting and crying, especially in the middle of the night.  She checked out okay, no obvious health issues, so I’m going to have to keep an eye on her.  And be prepared to wake up A LOT in the wee hours of the morning.

Today was Jelly and tomorrow it’s my turn to go visit the doctor to check out yet another in a long line of mystery ailments.  They’re racking up.  No sooner did I make an appointment to ask an opinion on one issue than another unrelated issue cropped up.  Akemi joked it was because I’m getting old.  The kidder!

A couple of purchases today…

1This handsome statue in preparation for my future supervillain-themed office.  How’s that for optimism?

1Yes, I have heard of kindle.  And, yes, I still prefer real books.  The only problem is all the late-night Stargate: Universe-watching with Akemi has eaten into my reading time so I need to free up an after-dinnner/pre-workout block just to play catch-up.

Hey, speaking of reading, don’t forget to vote for our upcoming Book of the Month Club selection.  Your choices…

Our discussion will begin a month after the polls close – or, a month after the winning book is actually released, whichever comes last.

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A few days ago, I offered a rundown of some of the upcoming high-profile movies poised to hit the big screen in the coming weeks (May 26, 2013: Upcoming movie releases to look forward to! Or not!). Today, I’d like to alert you to some of the smaller upcoming releases that have captured my interest…

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THE KINGS OF SUMMER

Release Date: May 31, 2013

What it’s about: A coming-of-age comedy about three boys who run away from home to live in a tree house in the woods.

What it’s got working for it: Has a Stand By Me vibe.

What it’s got working against it: I think it’s a mistake to market this movie as a comedy given that everything I’ve seen so far suggests some fairly subdued humor.

1SHADOW DANCER

Release Date: May 31, 2013

What it’s about: An Irish mother is arrested and sent back to Belfast as an undercover operative.  To save her family, she must betray it…

What it’s got working for it: One helluva a set up.

What it’s got working against it: It looks very dark.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

1VIOLET & DAISY

Release Date: June 7, 2013

What it’s about: Two young female assassins get more than they bargained for on their latest hit.

What it’s got working for it: Potentially/delightfully weird and over-the-top.

What it’s got working against it: Potentially/ridiculously weird and over-the-top.

1BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO

Release Date: June 14, 2013

What it’s about: The line between fact and fiction blurs when a British sound engineer travels to Rome to work on an Italian horror film.

What it’s got working for it: Looks like an awesome homage to cinema giallo.

What it’s got working against it: Alternately, could turn out to be plain weird and inaccessible.

1A HIJACKING

Release Date: June 21, 2013

What it’s about: Somali pirates hijack a cargo ship and demand a ransom for the captive crew.  The CEO of the shipping company engages the pirates in a battle of wills while the lives of his employees hangs in the balance.

What it’s got working for it: Looks gritty, smart, and suspenseful.

What it’s got working against it: Also looks kinds of bleak.

1BYZANTIUM

Release Date: June 28, 2013

What it’s about: Two female vampires arrive in a small coastal town

What it’s got working for it: Moody, atmospheric.  A gorgeous-looking movie.  Female vampires are a bonus!

What it’s got working against it: Style over substance?

1COPPERHEAD

Release Date: June 28, 2013

What it’s about: “Copperheads” = northerners who opposed the American Civil War.

What it’s got working for it: Directed by Ron Maxwell (Gettsyburg, Gods and Generals).

What it’s got working against it: Might be a little dry.

Mailbag:

Magsol writes: “In this case, ownership becomes even more complicated. It was Aaron Sorkin who created the character, and Schiff who brought it to life, but Sorkin left after season 4 to pursue other interests and was in no way involved in the writing after that point. Hence, the new direction for the Ziegler character was entirely John Wells’ doing; Schiff was the only constant throughout.”

and

M Reed writes: “The two leads of Supernatural were recently discussing that it puzzles them that new writers come in and retcon history regarding the characters of Sam and Dean Winchester and that they don’t blame the audience for complaining about these sudden changes in the history of the characters.”

Answer: Ah, but these are very different situations.  In this case, we’re not talking about the writer who created the characters and developed them over the course of those early seasons.

M Reed also writes: “In the case of SG1 yit gets even more complicated.”

Answer: True, given that Jack O’Neil(l) was a character who predated the series.  Still, the Jack the fans came to know and love was created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, then brought to life and shaped by Richard Dean Anderson.

M Reed also writes: “Who really owns the characters of O’Neil(l) and Jackson?”

Answer: Oh, that one’s easy.  MGM! :)

shinyhula writes: “I’d think studio interference would cause the most problems on set than divas.”

Answer: Well, interference, either by a studio, network, or anyone involved in the production, would be a bad thing.  In a more general sense, studio/network notes can change the creative direction as well, but like cast input, it’s not really a big issue and can be addressed – so long as it’s not something that crops up at the 11th hour (or worse, some time after!).

Ryan “Stitch” Nixon writes: “Personally, the editing was the biggest downfall, they spent so much money I do not understand the cutting it down to LESS than 2-hours when most superhero films now are pushing 2.5 to 3 hours.”

Answer: Hmmm.  While I’m sure a 2.5 – 3 hour version of the movie would have made it “better” in the sense that it would have done a better job of reflecting the original script, I think a longer run time would have hurt the the movie even more.  As Cookie pointed out in his review, unlike Watchmen, Green Lantern was essentially a fun romp, a popcorn movie, not an epic.

HBMC writes: “And Joe, wouldn’t you say that your question – who owns a character – works very differently between television (where the writers often run the show) and movies (where writers are not to enter the actors’ eye-lines, ever, on pain of death)?”

Answer: Most definitely.  In film, it’s the director who sees most of the frontline action.

HBMC also writes: “As to Joe’s actual post – who owns the character, the person who writes them or the actor that plays them, I don’t think it’s a black and white either/or answer. I remember in Uni they once brought in some actors to act out scenes from the scripts we were all writing. It was fascinating because when they went through the particular scene I had written they did things in a completely different way to what I imagined in my head, and in some cases the decisions they had made were better than what I have originally thought of.”

Answer: So true and this is something I’ve mentioned in previous entries.  We, as writers, create the characters but it’s the actors that bring them to life and, consequently, influence their development.  They take what’s on the page and interpret it onscreen.  We see how they’ve interpreted and shape the character accordingly.  It’s a constant collaborative back and forth.

Tam Dixon writes: “Did you try the cheesecake recipe yet?”

Answer: Yep.  Full report tomorrow.

gforce writes: “I’ll go ahead an ask the obvious one – any word on the Dark Matter front, or the other projects?”

Answer: Apparently, June 6th is the date when all our questions will be answered.

gforce also writes: “Also, do you know if Cookie has and ideas for future reviewing projects after the superhero movies?”

Answer: Not so fast.  A thorough audit of the superhero movie catalog by yours truly reveals a bunch of review candidates Cookie (mistakenly?) missed.  Entries like the 1978 t.v. movie Dr. Strange and the equally horrendous Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. starring the Hoff warrant screenings as well.  But there’s no reason why, in addition to these gems, Cookie couldn’t review a few non-supermovies as well.

gforce also writes: “Are you watching the S4 of “Arrested Development” on Netflix? I think it’s brilliant, but you have to watch several episodes to start to figure out what’s going on.”

Answer: I loved the first three seasons of the show and fully intend to check out the fourth – but, at present, my t.v. dance card is full.

baterista9 writes: “As I’ve learned more about the film industry, I’ve gotten the impression that individual divas are in the minority. Am I correct in thinking that most participants “play well with others”?”

Answer: True.

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1AFTER EARTH

Release Date: May 31, 2013

What it’s about: A father and son find themselves stranded on Earth, roughly a thousand years after humanity abandoned the planet.  With dad injured, son must find a way to brave the strange and dangerous new/old world to ensure their survival.

What it’s got working for it: It’s scifi and we all love scifi, don’t we?

What’s it’s got going against it: Just because it’s SF, doesn’t mean it’s good.  In fact, more often than not, it isn’t.  Also, these father-son outings (starring real life father and son Wil and Jaden Smith) inevitably play like Disney adventures where the threats and suspense are muted by the foregone happy ending.  ALSO, it’s directed by M. Night Shyamalan who hasn’t delivered a good movie since The Sixth Sense.

1NOW YOU SEE ME

Release Date: May 31, 2013

What it’s about: An elite FBI team faces off against the world’s greatest illusionists turned bad.

What it’s got going for it: An impressive cast.

What it’s got working against it: Despite the out-there premise, it isn’t a comedy.

1THE INTERNSHIP

Release Date: June 7, 2013

What it’s about: A couple of out-of-work salesmen land internships at Google.  Hilarity ensues.

What it’s got going for it: Will Ferrell is part of the cast.  He’s pretty funny.

What it’s got working against it: Didn’t someone declare a moratorium on these Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn movies?

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THE PURGE

Release Date: June 7, 2013

What’s it about: In the not too distant future, the government deals with crime by allowing criminals one annual 12-hour state-sanctioned reign of terror.  Just to get it all out of their systems, y’know?  On one such night, a family has their lives upended by an intruder who breaks into their gated community.

What it’s got going for it: An intriguing, albeit somewhat silly, premise.

What’s it’s got working against it: An intriguing, albeit somewhat silly, premise.

1THIS IS THE END

Release Date: June 12, 2013

What it’s about: Six buddies try to survive the apocalypse, and each other, in this end-of-the-world laugher.

What it’s got going for it: A darkly humorous premise and the always-funny Craig Robison (Daryl from The Office).

What it’s got working against it: I think Seth Rogen is funny too – his movies not so much.

1MAN OF STEEL

Release Date: June 14, 2013

What it’s about: Superman.

What it’s got going for it: Brought to you by tremendously talented director Zack Snyder and tremendously talented writer Davis S. Goyer.

What it’s got working against it: I’ve yet to meet a Superman movie I’ve liked.

1WORLD WAR Z

Release Date: June 21, 2013

What it’s about: Brad Pitt battles zombies on a world-wide scale.

What it’s got going for it: The book, by Max Brooks, is excellent.

What it’s got working against it: What made the book so great, it’s sequential, multi-voiced narrative, is exactly what makes it impossible to translate to the big screen.

1MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

Release Date: June 21, 2013

What it’s about: A young, idealistic Mike Wazowski’s college plans are upended by an all-out rivalry with big-monster-on-campus James P. Sullivan.

What it’s got going for it: I loved Monsters Inc.

What it’s got working against it: It IS a sequel…but I’m cautiously optimistic.

1THE HEAT

Release Date: June 28, 2013

What it’s about: A by-the-book FBI agent (played by Sandra Bullock) teams with a loose cannon cop (played by Melissa McCarthy) to take down a drug kingpin.

What it’s got going for it: Melissa McCarthy.

What it’s got working against it: The premise aint exactly fresh.

1WHITE HOUSE DOWN

Release Date: June 28, 2013

What it’s about: Terrorists take the White House and only one man – a guy with something to prove and nothing to lose! – can save the President!

What it’s got going for it: I’m going to need more time to think about it.

What it’s got working against it: Didn’t this exact same movie come out a couple of months ago?  Only back then, it was called Olympus Has Fallen.

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GH poster

Do you have low expektations?  Are you annoyed by tings like logic and quality?  Are you a cretin?  If you answered yes to any of dese questions, den you may enjoy The Green Hornet.

x

Cool, no?  No.  Not really.

Movie open on Russian gangster who visit club owned by rival.  There, he make rival an offer he can’t refuse.  Rival refuse it anyway, so Russian pull out carefully concealed weapon – a big, clunky twin-barreled gun.  How possible for him to sneak it inside?  It not make any sense!  Russian kill bodyguards, make another offer, den get up and leave.  As he leaving, rival notice he forgot his briefcase and say: “Hey, you forgot your briefcase!”.  Seconds later – literally, dats all de time it takes for Russian to get out de office, thru de club, and out de front door – briefcase explode.  It not make any sense!!

We cut to Chateau Versailles where we introduced to multi-millionaire douchebag father and his multi-millionaire douchebag son. Britt. Father is unhappy wit son’s lifestyle.  He unhappier still when he supposedly get stung by bee, have allergic reaction and die.  Britt take over de family business and fire entire house staff – except guy named Kato because he know which buttons to push to make great coffee. Also, Kato be a terrifik mechanic who, for some reason, tricked out Britt’s dad’s car wit all sorts of James Bond gadgetry.  Why?  It not make any sense!!!

One night, Britt and Kato dress up in disguise and take head off father’s memorial statue.  Dey also end up stopping gang of muggers. Well, Kato stop dem.  Britt just try his best not to get in de way.

x

It not make any – shhhhhhhh.

Disguised Britt and Kato caught on security camera defacing father’s statue.  Britt inherit father’s newspaper and insist it publish headline story on mysterious criminal defacers, one of which he name Green Hornet.  Soon, everyone very interested in Green Hornet.  De media, citizens, even de Russian gangster.  But why?  Why de heck everyone suddenly interested in some guy just because he took de head off a statue?  Why powerful Russian gangster is worried about being upstaged by a costumed vandal?  IT NOT MAKE ANY SENSE!

x

Green Hornet and Kato in…De Case of de Missing Plot.

In order to decide next course of aktion, Britt have to hire self-proclaimed “criminal expert” temp to tell him what Green Hornet will do next.  Using her “expert insight”, he follow her predikted pattern: beating up criminals and generally causing trouble for Russian gangster.  Why Britt need to hire some temp to tell him what to do? IT NOT MAKE ANY SENSE!!

x

Faster den a speeding truck.

Russian try to kill Green Hornet and Kato – but dey eskape.  Den have a falling out because Britt tink Kato dating temp.  Den Kato tink Britt dating temp.  Ho hum.

Kato accept Russian’s offer to kill Green Hornet and get de drop on Britt (after completely implausible flashback sekwence in which Britt piece together complikated backstory for benefit of confused viewer.  It not make any sense by de way) – but it turn out he have no intention of killing him after all.  In de end, it not really matter because, for some reason, Russian gangsters and his thugs start shooting up de place before Kato can go thru wit it.  Why?  IT NOT MAKE ANY FREAKIN’ SENSE!

Shoot out!  Car chase!  Fights!  Entire floor of newspaper building destroyed but newspaper staff unaware dere be anyting going on until a half a car drive out of de elevator.  IT NOT MAKE ANY FREAKIN’ SENSE!!

Bad guys killed.  Britt, dressed up as Green Hornet, get shot in shoulder and eskape.  But he unable to go to hospital because den police will know HE de Green Hornet.  So he and Kato and temp come up wit brilliant plan: De next day, Britt give public speech – and interrupted by Kato who fake shoot him in de shoulder and drive away. Presumably, hospital staff won’t know difference between fresh and day-old gunshot wound and everyting a-okay.

Britt and Kato put head back on statue, restoring dignity to father’s legacy.  Sadly, same can’t be said for Green Hornet franchise.

Verdikt: Seriously!  It makes no sense!

Rating: 3 chocolate chippee cookies.

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This was the question many Stargate fans were asking themselves yesterday after news broke of the astounding success of the Veronica Mars kickstarter campaign.

For those of you who haven’t heard, series creator Rob Thomas approached Warner Bros. about making a Veronica Mars movie. According to Thomas: “Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board.”  Well, the fans stepped up and demonstrated their interest, pledging $1 million dollars (in a record 4 hours and 24 minutes) to the project’s kickstarter campaign [http://money.cnn.com/2013/03/13/technology/veronica-mars-kickstarter/index.html].  And, last time I checked, over 47000 backers had pledged close to 3 million dollars, about a million dollars over their goal – and this is only day #2 of their month-long drive! [http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/559914737/the-veronica-mars-movie-project].

It’s awesome news for Veronica Mars fans that has also energized fandom in general.  Already, loyal viewers are asking about their own favorite shows ['Veronica Mars' Movie Funded...Could a 'Chuck' Movie be Next?! (Poll)].  Could a similar strategy work for us?  Well, I suppose it depends.

Over at Forbes.com, Paul Tassi asks: “How did a show that’s been off the air for eight years raise two million dollars in barely half a day?”, and then proceeds to break down exactly how they pulled it off [http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2013/03/14/how-exactly-did-veronica-mars-fund-a-movie-in-ten-hours/].  It offers great insight – and food for thought.

So how successful could a Stargate movie campaign prove if it attempted to follow the successful five-step strategy he outlines?  Well, according to Paul, “There are a number of factors at work here, and they’re worth exploring in order to understand if this kind of thing can or will happen again…”

1. The fanbase must be religiously devoted

Check.  There’s no doubt the Stargate fanbase is still strong and more than willing to support the franchise as evidenced by their continued involvement on fansites like Save Stargate Universe | Facebook, GateWorld | Your Complete Guide to Stargate!, and Stargate Solutions.

2. Get everyone on board ahead of time

Okay, proper planning is key but, in this case, it requires MUCH consideration.  In the case of Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell approached the studio and cast first, and THEN started their campaign. Which is, of course, what would be required here.  So, how interested would MGM be in a Stargate movie?  That’s the biggest question.  And the answer all comes down to economics.  Would it be worth their while (aka – not only financially feasible but lucrative)?  Will the potential rewards outweigh the risks?  Five years ago, the answer would have been  a resounding “Yes!” given the fact that Ark of Truth and Continuum surpassed expectations.  But, of course, that was before the bottom fell out of the DVD market.  Could alternate viewing platforms make up the shortfall?  Streaming?  Broadcasters?  Maybe the big screen treatment?

Which brings us to another question – “What does MGM have planned for Stargate? – because, let’s face it, as one of their most successful franchises, it’s not going to lie fallow for long.  Do they already have something in the works?

But, for the sake of argument, let’s say, it’s a best case scenario for fans of SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe.  The studio proves amenable to the idea.  Next up is ensuring we have a cast in place.  So, which cast? SG-1?  Atlantis?  Universe?  Or would it be a selective amalgamation of all three (which was Brad Wright’s original idea for an SGU movie)?

3. Offer rewards people want

Now this one is much easier to deliver on.  I, for one, would be more than happy to send you a signed script, arrange a set visit, or deck you out in prosthetics before blasting you out an airlock if it would ensure your support.

4. Leverage social media

Are you kidding?  Stargate fans are the kings (and queens) of social media.  We’ll get word to them and they’ll get word to EVERYONE.

And finally 5. Understand that not everyone will be able to do this

Why not?  Well, some former cast members may well be too busy to participate (Robert Carlyle now stars on Once Upon A Time while Jason Momoa has been burning up Hollywood post-SGA) while others may have simply moved on.  Still, provided we manage to cross this particular bridge as well, there’s the question of money.  To put it bluntly, we would need A LOT more money to produce a Stargate movie.  A LOT more to pay for the construction of new sets (alas, the Destiny, Atlantis, and Stargate Command are no more and would have to be rebuilt from scratch) and visual effects (I haven’t read the script, but it’s unlikely the Veronica Mars movie will feature much in the way of space battles), not to mention other related costs like cast, crew, and the onset aerobics instructor for my pug, Bubba.

So, conservatively, three out of five aint bad – unless you’re looking to make a Stargate movie in which case it aint good either.  Even if you could convince MGM to get onboard – and that’s a mighty big IF – there’s still the matter of the amount of money that would be required to produce a scifi movie.  How much?  Well, ballpark, I’d say significantly more than the 3 million dollars the Veronica Mars campaign has raised to date, but somewhat less than the $39 million dollars the Forbes article claims Serenity cost.

Certainly not impossible but, damn, them’s long odds!

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IMG_3702Look familiar?  Well, it should.  This is the massive VFX Stage at The Bridge Studios that once housed sections of Atlantis, the village set, various hive ships, and the Daedalus/Apollo/Odyssey/Korolev. Yesterday, Paul and I were joined by an old friend, former Stargate Producer/Production Manager John G. Lenic as we took a trip down memory lane, revisiting our old stomping grounds.  Once Upon A Time is now using Stage 4 (that once held the Destiny set), Stage 5 (the SGC gate room, control room, conference room, Hammond’s office, the infirmary, and surrounding corridors as well as the Alpha site corridors, control room, and gate room), and Stage 6 (the Atlantis gate room, control room, conference room, infirmary, and surrounding corridors) but there is plenty of stage space still available including the aforementioned monster VFX Stage.  While walking the grounds, we ran into a bunch of familiar faces – Ron, Graham, former Stargate Construction Coordinator Scott Wellenbrink, the gals in accounting. Earlier in the day, we’d paid a visit to Atmosphere Visual Effects where we spent some time with former Stargate VFX Supervisor Mark Savela and our former script coordinator Lawren Bancroft-Wilson.  Yep, just like old times.  Sort of.

And what, pray tell, were we doing reconnecting with our former colleagues?  Had we become wistful for times of yore and wanted to relive past memories?  Sure.  Let’s say that.  Also, our production partners on the shows we’ve been developing were in town and keen to see what Vancouver had to offer.  Just in case, say, we get that/those pick-ups.

My heart is with Vancouver and, given the choice, I would love to shoot here but, realistically, Toronto may make more financial sense.  At least, I suspect, until the ruling provincial liberal party gets booted from office this May (despite spending 11 million dollars for the rights to host the Indian equivalent of the Golden Globes).  Still, all options are on the table and being explored.  I hear that if we shoot in Germany, we’d get even more bang for our buck.  And there’s the added cost-effective bonus of being able to move in with our former colleagues – and recent newlyweds – Alex and Sarah while we’re there. I’m sure they’d love to host us – for the eight months to five years that the series will run!

Well, since we’re on the subject, what say we (almost) conclude our trips down SGA memory lane with the show’s final episode…

1ENEMY AT THE GATE (520)

Five years, 100 episodes, and it all came down to a group farewell from the balcony of the City of Atlantis, overlooking San Francisco Bay. Originally, we had planned to land Atlantis off New York but my writing partner. Paul, vehemently objected on grounds of scale.  So we changed it to a west coast location.  And thus ended the series.  Although, if things had worked out differently, the trip to Earth would have just been a stop on their return journey back to the Pegasus Galaxy.  Oh, what fun we’d planned.  Well, more than planned.  We’d actually written a script.  But more on that in another blog entry.

After five seasons, Atlantis had come to an end but, unlike SG-1, it lacked a true sense of finality.  I mean, sure, that last shot of our heroes, all together, finally back on Earth worked as a series ender but that was never the intent.  By the time we got word of the cancelation, the finale was already in prep.  Still, I had no doubt we’d be given the opportunity to truly wrap things up with a movie that would return our heroes to Pegasus and, like the SG-1 finale, suggest that they were still out there and that their adventures continued.

To be honest, news of the cancellation came as a bit of shock.  I’ve already discussed the specifics in previous entries but, suffice it to say, up to a few days before receiving final word, various sources had informed me we WERE coming back for a sixth (and probably final) season.  The story that was eventually turned into the script, Stargate: Extinction, was originally slated to be the following season’s two-parter opener.  But, of course, things changed.

Paul and I found out, walked down the hall and broke the news to a disappointed Carl Binder, Martin Gero, and Alan McCullough, then headed down to the trailers were we informed the cast.  A sad day.

As for the this final episode, while, in hindsight, there were a few things I’d have done differently (ie. introduce the idea of the wormhole drive earlier in the season.  Ironically, it was it was originally conceived, not as a payoff in this episode, but in the “return journey” storyline) it nevertheless worked well in that it closed a chapter while opening the door to endless possibilities.

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HB posterMonster pleasantly surprised by first Hellboy so, of course, me expeckt less of de same from de sekwel becuz, after all, it be a sewkwel. Remember Hangover II?  Blues Brothers 2000?  Citizen Kane II: The Quickening?  But Hellboy II: The Golden Army out-surprise de first Hellboy.  It a movie wit even more heart, even more humor, even more spekatcular visual effekts – but also, at times, even more problems.

Big Red

Big Red

Movie begin wit old professor telling young Hellboy legend of The Golden Army.  It go someting like dis:  Humans jerks so goblins build mekanical army for King of Elves who use it to kick ass.  Truce called and magik crown dat control army get broken into tree pieces.  Dis piss off young elf Prince Nuada who go into exile to sulk.

High five!

High five!

But he not sulk for long.  Mebbe only a few centuries.  And when a piece of de crown show up at auktion, he also show up to claim it – and sic creepy little flying “tooth fairy” creatures on everyone.  He den pay his dad, de King, a visit and kill him to get second piece of crown.  But his twin sister, Princess Nuala, run away wit final piece, spoiling brother’s plans.

xxx

It’s de wraith!  I mean de elves!

BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) , not to be confused wit BURPED (Bureau for Underwater Paranormal Research and Defense), arrive on scene of auction massakre to investigate, get attacked, and outed.  Now everyone know Hellboy and co. really exist! Cool, no?  How will dis play out in rest of movie?  Oh, it not?  Den never mind.

Government upset, so send in new agent to join Hellboy and co.  DIS guy -

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Krauss blow his top.

Johann Krauas be a steampunk German ectoplasmic medium wit attitude.  He be annoying at first but, over course of movie, monster really warm up to him.  In fakt, entire BPRD team – Hellboy, Liz, Abe, Johann, even Tom Manning (played by Jeffrey Tamborine) – be unique, interesting, very likable charakters.  So monster perplexed dat main villain, Prince Nuada, be so dull.  Oh, he very interesting to look at and his fight scenes be great but, at end of de day, he not be partikularly sympathetic or despicable.  He just a little bland.

BPRD visit Troll City where dey find Princess Nuala and bring her back to headquarters.  She flirt wit Abe Sapien who fall head over flippers in love wit her.  Despite being covered in prostetiks, aktor Doug Jones practically steal de movie, delivering terrifik performance as Abe (who could be love child of Fraiser’s Niles Crane and Creature from de Black Lagoon).  In one of movie’s highpoints, Abe and Hellboy bond, booze and brood over deir respektive relationships.  BUT fun time interrupted by Prince Nuada who track down his sister.  Becuz dey be twins, he able to locate her and comes close to finding final piece of magik crown hidden in a book -

When good guys show up.  Prince Nuada fight Hellboy, stick him wit point of magik spear, kidnap his sis and leave.

Broken spear point stuck in Hellboy.  He dying!  Liz, Hellboy and Abe – wit surprize help from Johann – steal plane and go get help.  Dey end up coming across monster who happen to want de spear point and happen to know someone who can get it out (yeah, yeah, me know, me know.  It be a stretch).  Our heroes pay visit to second cousin of creature from Pan’s Labyrinth -

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Pan’s Labyrinth?  No.  Dat’s de other guy.

He remove spear point from Hellboy but warn dat, one day, Hellboy will destroy Earth.  But dat’s a story for another time…

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Showdown!

Hellboy, Liz, Abe, and Johann track down Prince Nuada and sis.  Abe give up final piece of crown which allow Nuada to awaken Golden Army. Big fight ensue!  Our heroes about to get deir asses kicked when Hellboy challenge Nuada for de crown.  Dey duel.  Hellboy win!  Nuada a sore loser and about to get all stabby-stabby on Hellboy when Princess Nuala stab herself, mortally wounding both her and her brother.  Becuz dat’s what happens when you’re a twin.

Our heroes eskape.  Liz inform Hellboy dat he going to be a dad – of twins!  And Johann Krauss deliver best line of entire movie:

Verdikt: More heart, more humor, more spektacular visual effekts but weak villain and a few contrived moments.  Still, sooper entertaining. Me tink Abe deserve his own spin-off.  Or late night talk show.

Rating: 8 chocolate chippee cookies.

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Huzzah!  A big 13 page writing day now puts me on P. 51 of my new pilot.  And, potentially, a little too long.  My ballpark breakdown has been pretty spot-on so far and, if my powers of prognostication hold true, the rough first draft is going to clock in at a robust 64 pages.  I think it’s a lot of fun but my colorful supporting character risks overshadowing my protagonist.  That’s something I’m going to have to address on my next pass.

Days of Stargate Atlantis past continues with…

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VEGAS (519)

Robert Cooper coined the term “shepisodes” for these John-centered entries, and this is one of my favorites, an oh-so-different AU story that follows detective John Sheppard in his hunt for a serial killing alien.

The working title was CSI: Atlantis and, given its procedural trappings and colorful eye candy Vegas location, it’s no wonder.  Rob does a terrific job writing, directing and producing one of the high points of Atlantis’s fifth and final seasons, with memorable performances by all involved.  Joe Flanigan is perfect as the washed up detective with nothing to lose while David Hewlett delivers a what-might-have-been version of his character who is, at heart, very clearly, very much Rodney.

Great guest-performances led by Neil Jackson as the wraith-out-of-water.  And there’s even a nod to Stark Trek: The Experience compliments of actor Robert Picardo who added the inside gag while shooting.

Everyone on the production who didn’t get to go to Vegas to shoot was, of course, jealous of everyone who did.  I figured everyone had learned their lesson, so I was surprised that the next series, SGU was set on a spaceship flying through some distant galaxy.  I thought we’d all agreed on Stargate: Hawaii!

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While we were shooting Atlantis’s final episodes, fans were fighting to save the series.

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Sheppard’s sweet ride

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It looks better without the bullet holes.

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To: Das.  Love: Wraith.  The incredible Neil Jackson

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A couple of Sopranos alums guest star: Frank Vincent and Steve Schirripa.  Both were stand up guys.

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Also putting in cameos: the late Joel Goldsmith (left) and former MGM Senior Executive VP and huge Stargate supporter Charlie Cohen (middle).

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Director Robert Cooper demonstrates sleight of hand, setting up a shot and skimming some poker winnings.

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John Sheppard, P.I.

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I spent yesterday afternoon going through the various Art Department handouts I amassed over my time on Stargate.  Sadly, not over my entire run on the franchise but mainly over those last four years – Atlantis’s fourth and fifth seasons, and Universe’s first and second. There’s a lot of interesting stuff – and some highly detailed schematics that might only prove of interest to the most diehard fans.  Some episodes are well-represented with reams of supporting sketches and blueprints while others have only a single sheet or two to accompany the happy memories.  All told, several hundred documents at least.

The plan, as outlined in a previous entry, is to package them by episode as fan giveaways.  I estimated 40 at first but, including SGU, it’s closer to 80!   Ultimately, as many of you have already pointed out, it would be nice to make this veritable treasure trove of Stargate information available to fandom at large.  And so, before I get around to doing that giveaway, I’m going to have everything scanned and digitized so that someone (hint! hint!) can upload to a dedicated site where fans can peruse them at their own leisure  - while the more ambitious of you can start work on building your own versions of the various sets.  How’s that for an idea?  “Hey, studio, we’d like to shoot the movie.  No, we can shoot it for half the cost because we’ve already got the sets.  They’re on loan from some fans…”

1Continuing our trip down SGA memory lane with…

1GHOST IN THE MACHINE (505)

Another one of Carl Binder’s infernal “ghost” episodes!  Have to hand it to him though.  He was damn good at them.

This one was bittersweet for a host of reasons, the chiefest, of course, being the fact that it marked the final appearance of Elizabeth Weir (in new replicator form, mind you).  The original ending was a little more open-ended but, once were unable to secure Torri for a return appearance, it was decided to rewrite the script and offer closure to that particular storyline.  I often like to think that, if things had turned out differently – IF the show had been picked up for a sixth season and IF Torri had been amenable to a return appearance – we could have found a way to re-introduce the real Weir to the Stargate universe.  In my mind, Oberoth’s claim to have killed the real Elizabeth was an obvious lie.  Why dispose of such a valuable asset, someone with such intimate knowledge of Atlantis and the Stargate program?  It’s more probable that Oberoth kept Elizabeth in stasis at a secret location – only to perish with that knowledge.

Somewhere out there in the Pegasus Galaxy, Elizabeth Weir is waiting to be rescued!

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The lovely Michelle Morgan as Fran.

Lots of firepower in this episode.

Lots of firepower in this episode.

(Photo @MGM Television)

Heads up! (Photo @MGM Television)

(Photo @MGM Television)

(Photo @MGM Television)

A rare addendum.  Came across this and thought it was too good to pass up.  Art Department rendition of the ending/final VFX shot:

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LS posterDis movie suck more den Grover’s aunt Tildy at a Shriner’s convention.

Movie begin wit guy walking down a dark alley where he encounter shaky creep hiding under dirty blanket.  To most sane people, dis be invitation to skedaddle.  But not dis guy.  He stand and watch as – in movie’s most horrifying sequence – creep trow off blanket and KNOCK COFFEE CUP OUT OF GUY’S HAND.  HE GET COFEE EVERYWHERE!!!

Oh, and he a snake man.

CUT TO: SWAT team, Ghost Squad, showing up at scene of some heist. Team members given orders: “You, you and you – go dis way.  You, you, and you go dat way.”  You, you, and you?  You tink dat, maybe, dese guys might be on a first name basis?

Inside building, armed thugs everywhere.  Dey led by Snake Man who stroll around all nonchalant, wearing a towel draped over his head like he just finished a spa treatment.  He joined by guy whose coffee he spilled in alley.  Turns out it he be Snake Man’s brother.  Me tink.

"Shteve, Jamie's in trouble!"

“Shteve, Jamie’s in trouble!”

SWAT team, led by Lee Majors, move in.  Dey sneak up on bad guy guards and strangle and break deir necks.  Why bother incapacitating when murdering dem so much easier?  CUT TO: dead security guards everywhere.  On de floor.  In a chair.  Coming up de eskalator.  Wait. What?  Either security guy killed twenty seconds earlier or dis be world’s LONGEST eskalator ride!

SWAT team Ghost Squad get into shootout.  Kill bad guys, den manage to sneak up behind other bad guys who, apparently, suffering from inner ear infektions and not hear all dat gunfire.  BUT – Snake Man not so easy to sneak up on.  AND, like most Snake Men, he know kung fu.  He beat up our hero, Daniel, and eskape to a waiting van.

Uh…way to secure de perimeter, SWAT Ghost Squad.  Snake Man blow up building – or facsimile thereof.  Dem be some bad visual effekts!

FLASHBACK to years earlier where scientist be working on synthetik skin graft.  Like most brilliant scientists, he test it on himself first – burning his arm over bunsen burner and slapping on de synthetik skin graft.  Unfortunately, it a no go.  Oh well, back to de drawing board – and, presumably, de hospital to get treated for turd degree burns.

It turn out our hero, Daniel, be a friend of scientist and he have bad news.  Politicians in Washington pulling de plug on his research.  He out of money.  And becuz he not able to complete his work, his sister – who, coinsidentally was in recent car accident and horribly burned – dies.  Well, dat de implikation but it unlikely new coat of skin would have helped much.  Still, scientist so mad he break into lab at night and, after caressing and sweet-talking his lab equipment, accidentally start a fire – and get badly burned.  He enter weird chamber and become…Snake Man!

Lizard Man

Lizard Man

FLASHFORWARD to Present Day (spoiler alert: sadly, no aktual presents. :().  Daniel diskovered alive.  In rubble of 20+ story building(?!).  He rushed to hospital in extended multi-cut sekwence punctuated by slo-mo shots of ambulance driving.  Bad news: his pelvis and legs be crushed.  Good news: Convenient experimental treatment will have him up and around in no time.  Even better newz: Ghost Squad caught one of Snake Man’s thugs.

Dat night, Snake Man and his crew show up and shoot hospital staff. Dey sneak up on cops guarding prisoner (who be obviously suffering from same inner ear infektion as bad guys several scenes earlier) and kill dem.  Snake Man be partikularly OTT, snapping necks, strutting around and shooting people two-gun style.  It as if John Woo’s less talented younger brother made a movie and cast Gorn from de original Star Trek in de lead.

Mr. Gorn be ready for his close-up.

Mr. Gorn be ready for his close-up.

For good measure, Snake Man ratchet up radiation in hero-Daniel’s room.  Uh, why Daniel getting radiation treatment?  Never mind. Fortunately Daniel manage to hit big red CANCEL RADIATION button by his bed before tings get too uncomfortable.  On de one hand, he suffer near lethal dose of radiation.  On de other hand, near lethal dose of radiation give him super speed!  (Kids, don’t try dis at home).

Whee!  Lookit him go!

Whee! Lookit him go!

Daniel run around super fast and collapse.  Concerned doctor give him “metabolism juice” to keep his spirits up.

Meanwhile, Snake Man has meeting wit his army at lavish hideout.  He prove very temperamental and end up killing his General.  Dis bring up a couple of questions:

1. If dis guy crazy enuf to kill his own men, why would anybody work for him?

2. Where he get de money to hire his own private army?  Last time monster checked, he couldn’t even afford to continue his research!

3. How it possible we not even at halfway point of movie?

Daniel decide he need a skintight spandex costume to show off his half-boner, so he visit de local sports shop and pick one up.

Cut to: A meeting of scientists in a tiny room.  Lead scientist unveils…a “Mass Ionic Dispersal Device!”.  Other scientists clearly impressed and applaud. Beat.  One pipes up: “What does it do?”  What does it do? Seriously?  Better question: “Hey, why we all standing around in dis room?”.

Back at Ghost Squad HQ, Lee Majors reveals dat, luckily, dey put sekret transmitter in prisoner Snake Man sprung from hospital.  Now dey can track de bad guys!  Dis be great – if not for de fakt dat movie clearly established months have passed since hospital attack.  What took ‘em so long?  Ghost Squad head off to get de drop on Snake Man and co. – wit sirens BLARING!

Snake Man and his thugs steal Mass Ionic Dispersal Device.  But, before dey can get away, Ghost Squad show up!  Shoot-out! Lightspeed zip onto de scene and, for some reason (mebbe to make it a fair fight) not bother using his super speed to fight Snake Man.  So he get his ass kicked.  Snake Man steal device and stroll out to a waiting van where he make his getaway.  Again.  Ghost Squad really need to bone up on deir perimeter-securing.

Back at Ghost Squad HQ, team suspekt dere be a mole among dem. How else to explain how Snake Man always one step ahead?  But monster feel need to point out dat Snake Man NOT one step ahead. Ghost Squad could have caught him twice – if dey had SECURED DE PERIMETER!!!

Member of team Ghost Squad captured and forced to give up location of safehouse where Daniel and his girlfriend living.  Snake Man and thugs lay ambush for Daniel who show up – as Lightspeed.  Again, he not bother using his super speed to fight Snake Man and, again, Snake Man kick his ass.  Den leave wit Daniel’s girlfriend.  At dis point, monster can’t help but wonder why?  Why bother laying ambush for Daniel if he not going to kill him?  Why not kidnap girlfriend and leave before he get dere?

Lightspeed about to get boned.

Be gentle wit him, Snake Man.

More stoopid shit happen.  Finally, Lightspeed and Ghost Squad get location of Snake Man’s HQ.  Lightspeed show up and told he have one of two choices: save girlfriend wit bomb strapped to her chest, or save millions of people from device dat will make Washington D.C. chilly.  Or super hot.  Me apologize but, at dis point, monster distracted by far more interesting Humana Medicare Advantage infomercial.

Lightspeed use his super speed to run to Washinton leaving -

Snake Man and his brother to walk into next room and rough up girlfriend.  Lightspeed disarm device.  But it not possible for him to race back and save girlfriend in time (In hindsight, he should have just saved girlfriend first to save time but, hey, whatcha gonna do?). Fortunately, Snake Man’s brother chooses dis moment to have sudden crisis of conscience and question whole plan.  Why?  Why de sudden turn?  Duh.  Becuz Lightspeed need convenient delay dat will allow him to get back in time to save his girlfriend.  Snake Man angry and kill his brother.  Den spend next fifteen minutes yelling to himself – conveniently giving Lightspeed plenty of time to get back.

BUT Lee Majors show up and – in movie’s biggest stoopidest twist – it revealed dat HE de mole.

Wait!  WHAT?!

How possible for him to be de mole?  Why it be necessary to kidnap and torture other Ghost Squad member to get location of Daniel’s safe house when dey could have just asked Lee Majors?  If he de mole, why Lee Majors implanted transmitter in Snake Man’s brother?  What de Fudgee-o?

Snake Man shoot and kill Lee Majors becuz he be a spiteful boss, den Lightspeed set Snake Man on fire and kick him out window.

Daniel and his girlfriend go on a picnic.  De End.

Verdikt:  Skript be truly horrible, but it offset by incredibly bad direktion.

Rating: No cookies but one chocolate chippee.  Dat turn out to be a rat turd.  Sorry.

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