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Posts Tagged ‘Ridley Scott’

Last week I wrote about how some stories are better on the page than the screen and that some novels should not be adapted, today I come to you with a book that is crying out to be adapted. Wool by Hugh Howey. Given the quote from the Sunday times on the cover “The Next Hunger Games” I think it is only a matter of time. A well known online encyclopaedia suggests the film rights have been purchased by 20th Century Fox “with director Ridley Scott and [Screenwriter] Steve Zaillian expressing interest”. The book started life as a short story, self published on through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system. It proved so popular that Howey begun adding to it until it became Wool, a five hundred page novel. A prequel Shift was published earlier this year and a sequel Dust is expected at the end of the year.wool

Set in what appears to post-apocalyptic (listeners to “wittertainment” will know that post-apocalyptic is an oxymoron, but it is an accepted term in popular culture so I am sticking with it) where people live in a giant silo berried deep in the ground. They are told that the outside world is uninhabitable as the land is ruined and the atmosphere is toxic. Most people take this as gospel, those that don’t believe keep their thoughts to themselves as it is a crime to question this and to express a wish to go outside and find out. Those that do are sent “cleaning”, sent through an airlock to clean the sensors that give the silo its only view of the outside world. Shortly after cleaning the exiles die, seemingly killed by the inhospitable outdoors, thus keeping people inside and satisfied for a little longer. The story starts with the silo sheriff, Holston volunteering for cleaning, for reasons that are explained in flashback. This leads the silo needing a new sheriff, the mayor, Jahns and a longstanding deputy sheriff, Marnes (who has refused promotion) travels to the depth of the silo to recruit their favoured candidate, Juliette. But the honesty and tenacity that got Juliette the job don’t fit well in a world of secrets.Ridley Scott Steve Zaillian

The most important thing about a story set in a dystopian future is that it creates a believable world for its characters to exist in. This is something that Howey does with ease, the silo is explained in perfect detail without getting in the way of the narrative and without huge paragraphs of dull exposition needed. And like all the best movie or literary incarnations of dystopia, everything seems okay on the surface. This isn’t a dystopia where the survivors are battling for survival against the un-dead or a terrible disease, they are just looking for information for the truth. This concept that drives the plot isn’t new, think Soylent Green (1973), Logan’s Run (1976) or even George Orwell’s novel 1984 where beyond the plot the characters motivation is to find the truth. Sometimes for the good of society, sometimes to their own determent, often for both.Andrea Riseborough and Jessica Chastain

The characters are well drawn and believable as are their motivations. Like Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games (2012), the casting is vital to the success of a movie adaptation. Here are a few suggestions: Andrea Riseborough or Jessica Chastain as Juliette – Tom Hanks as Solo – Brian Cox as Bernard – Helen Mirren or Judi Dench as Jahns. Not sure on Holston or Marnes. Lukas is probably the weakest written character so again unsure on the casting, possibly the most famous age appropriate actor at the time, Ryan Gosling? I look forward to seeing how it translates to the screen, given production times, it will probably be two years before we find out.

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As 2012 got underway I was looking forward to some well publicised movies like Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers and The Hunger Games. I had heard good reports from across the Atlantic about The Artist, Young Adult and The Descendents. But, I had never heard of what turned out to be some of the best movies of the year: Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, Haywire, Rust and Bone, Café de Flore, End of Watch and Killer Joe. Hopefully there will be some pleasant surprises this year too, if not there is still a lot to look forward to:

Django Unchained
When Quentin Tarantino decides to make a western, he doesn’t just make a Weston, he makes a Blaxploitation Spaghetti Western. The cast includes Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio as well as a cameo from the original Django, Franco Nero. And did I mention Quentin Tarantino.Django Unchained

Zero Dark Thirty
I saw Near Dark when I was about 13, I have seen every other Kathryn Bigelow since (yes I am the person who saw The Weight of Water ) and would now watch anything she makes . It also stars Jessica Chastain who I had never heard of before The Tree of Life but is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses.Zero Dark Thirty

The Counselor
A Ridley Scott crime thriller based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy starring: Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Penélope Cruz. Any one of these would be a reason to watch it.The Counselor

The Wolf Of Wall Street
Its Martin Scorsese what more do I need to say.The Wolf Of Wall Street

Cloud Atlas
Most readers probably know more about this than me as it was released three months ago in some countries. The story looks bonkers but Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski’s were responsible for two of my favourite movies of all time (Run Lola Run and The Matrix).Cloud Atlas

Star Trek Into Darkness
There have been a couple of great Star Trek movies, but the franchise had really run out of steam until the J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot that was far better than I ever expected it to be. Lets hope he can do it again.Star Trek Into Darkness

The Great Gatsby
As proved by previous adaptations The Great Gatsby (like all F. Scott Fitzgerald stories) is better on the page than the screen, however I am intrigued by what Baz Luhrmann will do with it.The Great Gatsby

The Last Voyage of Demeter
The Demeter was the Russian ship that carried Dracula from Transylvania to England in Bram Stoker’s novel. By the time it reached Whitby all the crew had disappeared presumed dead. Neil Marshall’s movie tells their story. One thing you can guarantee about Neil Marshall movies is that they are fun. (they don’t appear to have started shooting yet so I  Neil Marshall

Stoker
Chan-wook Park, the director of my favourite movie of the 00’s (Oldboy) finally makes an English language movie. It looks bonkers; and that’s a good think if you were wondering!Stoker

Pacific Rim
Guillermo del Toro’s giant robots v alien invaders movie. Enough said.Pacific Rim

And the next ten:
World War Z
Snowpiercer
A Field In England
The Paperboy
Machete Kills
Kick-Ass 2
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Wolverine

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As I work on my inevitable list of best films of 2012 I started thinking about Argo. Not the Ben Affleck film that we saw, but the un-filmed Star Wars rip-off Sci-Fi movie that featured in it. For as long as I can remember Star Wars has been essential Christmas viewing, but why? Probably because as an action adventure fantasy film it is yet to be surpassed. It is often stated that Star Wars changed films for ever, it certainly built on the idea of the summer blockbuster that began with Jaws two years before. All this is most probably true, but surprisingly Star Wars has never inspired a successful and credible action adventure set within a alien universe. The greatest failing of most of them is an unnecessary attempt to ground the plot in the reality or to earth, this is true from The Last Starfighter (1984) through to Avatar (2009). It worked for Star Trek as the idea of humanity exploring space was central to the premise. After its cancellation in 1969, it gained cult status, around the time of Star Wars a plan to resurrect the television series as Star Trek: Phase II.  It was a planned and quickly abandoned, ideas from the pilot were however saved and became Star Trek (1979). The  highlights of the film series that followed are: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and the reboot Star Trek (2009). 1977 star wars

The latest failed attempt of the genre was John Carter (2012) based on A Princess of Mars by (Tarzan author) Edgar Rice Burroughs. So uncomfortable in its own skin the producers dropped the Sci-Fi “of Mars” title from the movie shortly before it hit cinema screens. Telling the story of a civil war era gent who is transported to Mars that is going through its own Civil War. A lot of the story involves the fish out of water scenarios as Carter adapts to the culture of the society and then imports his own sensibility. Going back to the time of Star Wars, the biggest of the early attempts to cash in on the Star Wars was unsurprisingly by Disney. The Black Hole (1979) had a budget of around $20million, around double that of Star Wars but only grossed around the same as Star Wars took in its first weekend. There is a good reason, for all its technical accomplishments, the movie is just plain dull. I have seen it at least twice and remember very little about it. With a budget of around $4million Starcrash (1978) is certainly low budget but isn’t quite the Z Movie it is often claimed to be. Poorly acted with terrible effects and unintentionally funny moments it isn’t very good. However it does deserve a certain amount of praise as a low budget movie that has grander ambitions than many of its contempt competitors, it is also good silly fun at times.

Starcrash

The one success of the genre (artistically if not financially) was Flash Gordon (1980). The plot is a rehash of the original thirteen part film serial starring Buster Crabbe from 1936. One of the reasons the movie looks so good and worked so well is the retro design including long shiny almost phallic spaceships that were inspired by the original 1930’s comic books. The result is utter camp, the characters and the performances are totally bonkers and over the top in the vein of Barbarella (1968). All this was held together by a an equally camp and over the top score by Queen.

Flash Gordon

The story goes that David Lynch turned down Return of the Jedi instead opting to replace Ridley Scott as the director of Dune (1984). Unlike most people, I am glad he did. I first saw Dune on video in 1985 and loved it. A few years later I read the first three or four of Frank Herbert’s novels. It was the first David Lynch film I saw, I have seen and loved everything he has made since. The movie shares producer Dino De Laurentiis with Flash Gordon, that is where the similarity ends. While Flash Gordon is fun and camp, Dune is sombre serious but when you strip away all the religious symbolism, mythology and the ideas of loyalty and betrayal it is simply a story of trade and politics, possibly an allegory for the fight for the control of the worlds supply. The TV mini series is heralded as a superior adaptation, it may be but it is painfully dull, something the movie can not be accused of even in its three hour cut.Dune

Star Wars often plays like a western set in space.  This is where the genre has found the most sucess.  A film that took this idea a stage further was the Roger Corman produced Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) that took its plot from Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai. It has a certain degree of pedigree with a screenplay by John Sayles, a score composed by James Horner, and the special effects directed by a young James Cameron. A similar idea had been attempted in the “High Noon in space” Outland (1981) with Sean Connery in the Gary Cooper role. Not a classic, but far better than its reputation. The best space western is probably Serenity (2005) based on the too short-lived TV show Firefly (2002-2003). It is still rooted in the reality of humanity but unlike the movies that suffer for this, Serenity plays its hand perfectly.Battle Beyond the Stars

The Star Wars prequels failed to live up to their billing, will the new Disney produced movies be more successful or will we have to wait for someone else to create a new Space Opera in a believable alien universe? Star Wars: Episode VII is expected in 2015.

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“In space no-one can hear you scream.”

In preparation/anticipation of the release of Prometheus a few weeks ago I watched the first two Alien movies again. I have the directors cut of Aliens, the first sequel directed by James Cameron on DVD however I only have an old VHS copy of Ridley Scott’s original film.

Commercial towing spaceship Nostromo is on route from Thedus to Earth with a cargo of twenty million tons of mineral ore and a refinery. Its crew of seven are in stasis until they are awoken when they pick up what they believe to be a distress beacon.

Looking back at Alien, aside from the grainy image of my old VHS copy, the most notable thing about the movie after all this time is not the suspense or the horror, it’s the characters. They are different characters with their own ideas, personality, prospective and their own agenda as you would expect of a the crew of a ship (in space or a regular ship in the real world). In many ways the most significant of these are Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) who give the movie a more relevant and political edge. Kane (John Hurt) has one of the most memorable scenes in film history but within the plot it is the only important thing he does. Ash (Ian Holm) comes to represent “the corporation” this is a defining element of the movie and one that has continued through all the sequels spiff offs and the new prequel Prometheus, it is also like Parker and Brett the thing that gives the movie edge and relevance beyond the genre. As captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) is an interesting character, he is more a company man than the rest of the crew but is still his own man never forgetting how far from home he is. Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) could have been there to just make up the numbers, but she does more than that, she helps give the movie balance and prospective. And finally the star, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). It seems hard to believe now but aside from a couple of bit parts Alien was her first movie. The casting was perfect, not only did it define her future career, but it helped elevate the movie beyond its genre origins.

On the surface it is a sci-fi movie but owing far more to the horror and thriller genres. Contemporary space movies of the day like Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) have a bright an hopeful outlook, Alien has more in common with John Carpenter movies Halloween (1978) and Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). The basic concept owes a debt to Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel “And Then There Were None” (originally published with a less politically correct title), itself being inspired by the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians. In comparison to the later films (including the Predator crossovers and the prequel Prometheus) it has a much smaller story and scope, this far from being a problem, it is actually a benefit. Its not that we don’t care where the “space jockey” or the Alien come from, it is that they are not relevant to the survival of the crew. We are focussed in on a very small part of a larger greater universe and know no more, or less than the characters in the film. It is this simplicity and intimacy that helps create a bond between character and viewer making us care what happens to them.

The effects should stand out in a film that is more than thirty years old, but they don’t. The models used to recreate the exteriors and the H.R. Giger designed “space jockey” are fantastic and a relief in this over CGI age. The interiors of the Nostromo look dated just like they do in Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and many Star Trek movies. The important thing though is the Alien also designed by Gieger, I have heard “man in rubber suit criticism”. This really isn’t fair, sticking with the first rule of monster movies, the alien spends most of its time in the shadows, when we do see it, it really stands up. The planet is a dark rain soaked inhospitable place that exists largely in shadow and half-light, the Nostromo is made up of dim corridors, this lends itself perfectly to the movie. The style of the lighter brighter Prometheus would not work in Alien.

Like no other sci-fi or horror movie before Alien redefined two genres and possibly invented there own genre. It has aged surprisingly well and could teach the makers of a few flabby overcomplicated movies a thing or two about suspense and atmosphere. The grainy VHS version seems somehow appropriate for a movie that I first saw on late night television in the 1980’s.

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Have you ever noticed the number of actors and actresses who advertise aftershave and perfume? If you haven’t take a look at your TV as we approach Christmas and you may be surprised. The thing I didn’t realise until recently is how many of them are directed by big A list directors. This isn’t a new thing, David Lynch made an advert for Opium by Yves Saint Laurent in the early 90’s, he has since gone on to direct one for Gucci and a bag commercial for Dior starring Marion Cotillard.

Dior’s Midnight Poison Commercial starring Eva Green was made by In the Mood for Love director Kar Wai Wong. Sofia Coppola has made two adverts for Dior, the most recent feats “brand ambassador” Natalie Portman. With the help of CGI Charlize Theron’s second Dior, Jadore advert also feature Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich it is directed by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud. The inclusion of Marilyn Monroe is an interesting and potentially risky one as the actress is generally associated with Chanel.

On the subject of Chanel, they have really embraced the idea of using movie directors: The Bleu de Chanel advert featuring French actor Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising) was directed by Martin Scorsese. The Chanel #5 advert from a few years ago featuring the song Sea of love (the one that ends with an aerial shot of a swimming poor that looks like a perfume bottle) was directed by Ridley Scott. Do you remember Estella Warren as the Little Red Riding Hood? (also a Chanel No. 5 commercial) That one was directed by Luc Besson. Its no surprise that the Paris set Chanel No. 5 commercial had echoes of Moulin Rouge! Not only does it star Nicole Kidman but it was directed by Baz Luhrmann. The current Chanel No. 5 advert stars Audrey Tautou and is set on the Orient Express, it reunites the actress with the Amelie/A Very Long Engagement director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Keira Knightley has made two Chanel, Coco Mademoiselle adverts the most recent one was directed by Pride & Prejudice and Atonement director Joe Wright.

The commercial that has been getting a lot of airtime recently is the Gucci Guilty advert featuring Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans and directed by comic book writer turned film maker Frank Miller. With an over stylised look and heavy use of green screen it is very reminiscent of Sin City.

A recurring trend in fragrance commercials is directors reuniting with actors they have made films with. Maybe one day Tom Tykwer will make a perfume commercial with Ben Whishaw and Rachel Hurd-Wood or Karoline Herfurth, that’s one I would like to see!

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