Hope For Terminator Fans?

terminator-james-cameron

News that Terminator creator James Cameron will be getting the rights back to the iconic film franchise in 2019 bodes well for hopes that the series will get back to its roots and high mark from the first two movies. Recent reports indicate that Cameron will be handing the directorial reins over to Deadpool director Tim Miller, which should also bring some credibility back to the series after the less than enthusiastic response to 2015’s Terminator Genisys partial reboot. Miller directed the very popular superhero film in 2016 and is a rising star in Hollywood. The fact that Cameron will be the creative force behind the scenes gives the whole project instant respectability with fans and will hopefully bring about another huge movie that will have the Terminator storyline make some kind of sense. The whole idea of John Connor being a villain, which was a major plot point of the last movie, is just wrong, so maybe this new entry will rectify the whole situation.

I enjoyed the third and fourth films in the franchise, but do admit that they did not come close the level established by Cameron’s entries. He had nothing to do with those films or with Genisys, so the idea of him bringing a new film to life is a very good omen. Right now it is not known if Arnold Schwarzenegger will have any involvement or if the movie will be another reboot or continue where earlier films left off, but in any case Terminator fans seem to have something to look forward too in the coming years. It would be even better if Cameron himself was slated to direct this movie, but alas he is busy making four sequels to his Avatar franchise, the first of which will supposedly come out in 2018. This means he will be tied up until at least 2023 according to his announcements, but at the rate that preproduction is going it could be another 50 years until we see another Avatar film. In any case, Terminator fans have been waiting for years for more great films featuring their favorite killer cyborgs from the future and hopefully soon, they will be coming…they will be back.

C.S. Link

D23 Expo Highlights: Star Wars, MCU, Theme Parks & More

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Disney had their own version of Comic-Con this past weekend with their D23 Expo held in Anaheim. As can be guessed, the convention was related to all things under the Disney umbrella and what’s coming up. The highlights from D23 Expo dealt with exciting theme park and genre film developments.

Star Wars

Many fans were disappointed that there wasn’t a new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but were titillated with the reveal of a Drew Struzan movie poster for the film and an official cast photo for the first Star Wars Anthology film Star Wars: Rogue One. There was also confirmation that Colin Trevorrow, the director of the mammoth hit Jurassic World, will direct Star Wars Episode IX. But the juiciest revelations had to do with the expected and highly anticipated Star Wars Land to be built in Disneyland Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm and all of its intellectual property from George Lucas a few years ago, fans have impatiently waited for some kind of expansion of Star Wars in the Disney parks beyond Star Tours. Yes, the famous simulator ride had been updated with new, random scenes recently, but aside from Jedi Training Academy and the popular Star Wars Weekends, it seemed as if Disney hadn’t really paid a lot of love to its newest IP acquisition. Meanwhile, its rival Universal Studios Orlando stunned and dazzled Harry Potter fans with its meticulously developed Harry Potter lands in their parks.

That all changed with the announcement. Finally, Disney will have a worthy answer to Harry Potter with an equally revered IP. The Star Wars Land (note: it wasn’t called that in the announcement) will be 14 acres, which will feature a cantina and an immersive Star Wars environment on a new planet similar to what Universal did with Diagon Alley and Hogswart. There will be two new E-ticket rides, one will allow visitors to pilot the Millennium Falcon (most likely some kind of simulator ride), while the other will be based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There will be another update to Star Tours that will include a destination from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, an updating of Jedi Training Academy, and an interactive experience called Star Wars Launch Bay. This attraction will be in pavilions in both parks that will feature meet and greets, exhibits and stores, of course. The only drawback to these ambitious plans is that when it came to the time table for all of this the only answer was “coming soon”. Just thinking out loud here, but Disney should take heed on how quickly Universal builds its new attractions. Some of us would like to have something open before this decade ends!

Marvel Cinematic Universe

strangeThe two items that are keeping fans salivating had to do with Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange. With the latter, Marvel Studios guru Kevin Feige introduced concept art (Doctor Strange begins filming later this fall) that featured a classic look for the sorcerer that includes his red cape and Eye of Agamotto. A trailer for Captain America: Civil War was unveiled, which, of course, no one that didn’t attend D23 Expo could see. There are tons of fake “leaked” trailers out now on YouTube and the smattering of legit ones are taken down too fast to bother linking to, but rest assured as soon as its released to the masses, you can see it here. Based on the descriptions, it sounds like an awesome film and it could be part of the reason why DC/Warner Bros. moved their own superhero civil war flick to another date.

Theme Park News

The other major announcement regarding the Disney theme parks was that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will build a Toy Story Land for the young and young at heart. At 11 acres, this land will have two new rides (a spinner ride and a family coaster), expand Toy Story Mania, which is probably the best news because the wait times for that attraction is beyond ridiculous (and frankly not worth the wait). No time frame was given as to when this will happen. But based on the other big construction needed for Star Wars Land, Disney might as well shut down Disney’s Hollywood Studios until all of this is finished. They may finish ahead of schedule that way, make fans even happier, who will more likely spend money sooner.

toy story land

Speaking of slow construction, the Avatar Land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is still chugging along. At least with this expansion we have an actual opening date (2017). For anyone that doesn’t know, there will be two attractions based on Avatar, one is similar to the popular Soarin’ ride and will allow visitors to fly over the skies of Pandora, and the other attraction will be a boat ride.

iron man ride

Here’s some news that will rankle North American Marvel fans, Hong Kong Disneyland will have an Iron Man ride. Similar to Star Tours, the Iron Man Experience will feature the Golden Avenger facing off against the forces of Hydra in Hong Kong. Sounds great for anyone who has an updated passport and the money and time to burn. Look, we understand that there can’t be any Marvel rides in Walt Disney World, but couldn’t they have this slotted for Disneyland? That agreement between Disney and Universal only applies to rides east of the Mississippi.

Upcoming Films

Disney had presentations for its upcoming film slate and the announcements were fast and heavy. New animated films include Gigantic, Moana, Zootopia, live-action versions of Beauty and the Beast, Ghost in the Shell, and The Jungle Book, a remake of Pete’s Dragon, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and Alice Through The Looking Glass. Part of the presentation focused on Pixar, which showcased The Good Dinosaur and announcements for Cars 3, The Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, Coco (based on the Dia de los Muertos festival), and Toy Story 4. This fourth film in the franchise will be more of a love story and will be about Woody looking for his lost love Bo Peep. The Pixar stuff is exciting except for the third go around with Cars. But marketing types at Disney would disagree with that!

release schedule

All these announcements and presentations at D23 Expo confirm that Disney isn’t resting on its laurels. The next few years will be exciting times for fans, at least when it comes to films. The theme park components will pay off at a much later date.

 

Real Or Fake 3D Films

Once considered a novelty gimmick back from the ’50s 3D films look to be a mainstay in modern-day cinema. Specifically, f/x-laden genre spectaculars. It’s gotten to the point that a big-budget sci-fi or fantasy film without the 3D treatment seems to stand out or seem lacking. A prime example of that is the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises.

As anyone knows, this all started with the phenomenal success of James Cameron’s Avatar. There had been 3D film releases before Avatar but none of them were as hugely successful as Cameron’s sci-fi epic. Naturally, the film studios attributed Avatar’s success to the revolutionary 3D process that James Cameron utilized and set out to recreate that film’s success at the box office. This is why it seems as if every major genre or animated film is released these days in 3D.

All would be terrific if the 3D used was actually good on a consistent basis.

More and more often, audiences are complaining about the inferior 3D used in many films. Unlike Avatar, which was filmed using 3D cameras, most films released in 3D are post-converted. Usually it seems as if this process was slapped on at the last second and it shows. There are many rants that the films looked dark during some scenes, and actually seemed two dimensional at other times. These complaints were leveled at Clash Of The Titans, Green Lantern and Marvel Studios’ recent super hero films.

Film studios are in danger of killing any enthusiasm for a 3D film. What makes things worse is that the studios won’t reveal in their ads if the films were truly filmed in 3D or not. Add to that the higher ticket prices and it won’t be long before the bloom is off the rose so to speak. There are signs that this is happening already. Take the ticket sales of the newly released John Carter; despite the promotion that the sci-fi epic was in 3D (it was post-converted according to reports) it wasn’t a big hit. Or better yet, look at how Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace did when re-released last month in 3D. It wasn’t a flop and did respectably but it wasn’t a mega hit. Of course, being that Star Wars Episode I was filmed over a decade ago, one couldn’t expect it not to be post-converted, and in that film’s defense the conversion was actually pretty decent. While some images appeared to be two-dimensional, some scenes looked good and at least there weren’t any scenes that looked dark.

The true 3D process using special cameras is costly, but in the long run, it would benefit studios since they can claim their films are true 3D films rather than something hastily done to earn a quick buck.

The good news is that while many upcoming films are using the post-conversion process, there are more and more films that do use actual 3D. While some of those films may not be appealing to some (feature-length animated films and horror films) they do point to the notion that 3D is becoming more mainstream. Perhaps a day will come when it becomes more economical for studios to produce true 3D films on a regular basis or at least improve the post-conversion process. (This improvement would benefit older films needing conversions like future Star Wars re-releases.)

This website reports which recent and upcoming films are true 3D films and which ones aren’t. The following is a partial list of upcoming films using both types of 3D.

Post-Converted: The Avengers, The Cabin In The Woods, Gravity, Men In Black III, Wrath Of The Titans

Actual 3D: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, The Hobbit, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Prometheus, Resident Evil: Retribution

José Soto

Sci-Fi Oscar Bias

On Sunday the Academy Awards will be presented and I really don’t care which film wins for best picture because I haven’t seen any of the nominated films. I’ll eventually watch some of the nominees on cable though. But looking at the list, I realize that as usual there isn’t a science fiction film nominated for best picture. Well, The Three Of Life features scenes of the Earth being set afire from our sun going supernova billions of years from now, but that film doesn’t dwell on those described moments. Then there’s Hugo, which has some arguably slight sci-fi elements, namely the dramatization of Georges Melies and his silent film Voyage To The Moon, but Hugo is more of a fantasy film and an ode to early filmmaking.

Some research reveals that in the entire history of the Oscars only six science fiction films have been nominated for best film. They are A Clockwork Orange, the original Star Wars, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Avatar, District 9, and Inception. (On a side note, Inglourious Basterds is considered by some to be science fiction only because its ending establishes the film to be about alternate history.) Sure sci-fi films dominate the technical categories such as special effects and sound, but that’s about it when it comes to recognition from the Oscars.

Films like Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey have made the top 100 list from the prestigious American Film Institute’s AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies, yet weren’t nominated for best film in the year they were released. Many other sci-fi films have stood the test of time, while some best picture nominees and winners have been forgotten by today’s audiences. For instance, we continue to talk about The Empire Strikes Back and Back To The Future, yet the movies that won for best picture in the years these sci-fi classics came out are largely ignored (1980’s Ordinary People-IMO, for the record, Raging Bull should’ve won that year; and 1985’s Out Of Africa-not even sure what that movie was about). How about the sci-fi films that were nominated? Does anyone actually believe that Annie Hall is a better film than Star Wars? Sure maybe a bunch of elitist snobs do but despite what George Lucas has done with the saga, the original film has stood the test of time and is a popular as ever. In the case of Avatar, there were stories of many Academy members having an axe to grind with James Cameron and had a rapid disdain for Avatar because of all the computer animation. For my money District 9 was a better film than either Avatar or the winning film, The Hurt Locker. With E.T., it was a better film than Gandhi, but by the time the awards came out there was an obvious backlash against Steven Spielberg’s film.  You can thank the marketing departments that plastered E.T.’s mug on everything at that time. Plus Gandhi was considered more respectable, mainstream and IMPORTANT.

It’s vital to realize that the Oscars are really just popularity/political contests and marketing campaigns among Hollywood insiders who award the statues to sentimental favorites and buddies. The Academy Awards are awash with tales of snubs and cronyism and outright dumb selections which goes beyond sci-fi films. Take the pick of Crash in 2005 over the more popular and more controversial Brokeback Mountain. Or the trite comedy Shakespeare In Love over Spielberg’s classic Saving Private Ryan. That oversight was primarily due to a massive marketing campaign by the former’s executive producers.

Oddly this bias doesn’t extend to fantasy movies because those types of films have received best picture nominations since the 1930s (1937’s Lost Horizon and 1939’s The Wizard Of Oz were the first fantasy films nominated for best picture) right up to this year. One even grabbed the Oscar for best picture nine years ago; that was The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, which many fans felt was the weakest in Peter Jackson’s trilogy. It should be noted that the bias against animated films is even worse, but that’s another story.

The hostility against sci-fi films by the Oscars is clearly evident and will continue for the foreseeable future.  It’s a shame really, since so many past sci-fi films are considered classics not just by fans but by mainstream viewers and critics. This prejudice may have begun with science fiction’s B-movie origins. But as anyone can tell you, sci-fi films have become more sophisticated and true pieces of cinematic art. Shockingly if you go to online sci-fi forums there are many members who put down sci-fi films and don’t consider them worthy of being nominated. So the bias even permeates among many so-called fans who just can’t see these films past their settings. The bottom line is that the Academy has to get over this bias and join the rest of the crowd. Until then we can only root for an occasional acting nomination or the reliable special effects category. Either that or wait for the Saturn or Scream Awards.

José Soto