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Thread: Silver Screen, the General Movie Discussion

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  1. #81
    Harold Ramis dies: Five of his most memorable comedy movies

    By Oliver Gettell

    February 24, 2014, 11:41 a.m.

    Whether in front of the camera, in the director's chair or on the page, the late comedy actor, director and writer Harold Ramis could be counted on to deliver antic humor under-girded by surprising intelligence. Following are five films exemplifying Ramis' signature style.

    "National Lampoon's Animal House." After honing his comedy with Chicago's Second City improv troupe, including work on the late-night sketch show "SCTV," Ramis began pursuing a film career, with his first script being this 1978 frat-house farce. Adapted by Ramis, Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller from stories published in National Lampoon magazine, the film was made on a shoestring budget and proved to be a box-office hit. With its story of misfit college students challenging stuck-up administrators and spoiled rich kids, "Animal House" epitomized Ramis' interest in stories of rebellion against institutions and traditions. It also catapulted the career of fellow Second City alumnus John Belushi and inspired generations of raunchy comedies.

    "Caddyshack." Two years later, Ramis made his directorial debut with the golf-club comedy "Caddyshack," which he also wrote, with Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray. Starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray, the film tells the story of a young caddy (Michael O'Keefe) trying to raise money for college against the backdrop of a snooty golf course. "Caddyshack" was also a box-office success, but its greater legacy is its reputation as one of the best sports comedies of all time. The film would also be the second of Ramis' six films with Murray as either a writer or director.

    "Ghostbusters." In 1984, Ramis reunited with Murray, this time on screen, for this supernatural comedy about four paranormal exterminators trying to save New York City. Ramis also wrote the movie with costar Dan Aykroyd (Ivan Reitman directed). In the film, Ramis played the bookish, bespectacled genius Egon Spengler, a classic Ramis straight-man role. The success of "Ghostbusters" spawned a 1989 sequel, two animated TV series, merchandise and several video games. Like many Ramis movies, it entered the cultural zeitgeist in a deep way; one can still say "Who ya gonna call?" today and generate instant recognition and reaction.

    "Groundhog Day." Arguably Ramis' signature film, his philosophical 1993 comedy tells the story of a disenchanted weatherman (Murray once again) caught in a time loop and forced to relive the titular holiday over and over again. The film also marked the first of a string of Ramis' later comedies exploring themes of self-improvement and the search for meaning, including "Stuart Saves His Family," "Multiplicity" and a remake of "Bedazzled." "Groundhog Day" was added to the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" in 2006.

    "Analyze This." Ramis' first film as a director after moving his family from Los Angeles back to his hometown of Chicago, this 1999 comedy starred Robert De Niro as a neurotic mob boss being treated by a buttoned-down psychiatrist, played by Billy Crystal. Ramis also co-wrote the film, with Peter Tolan and Kenneth Lonergan. "Analyze This" crossed the $100-million mark at the box office, earned a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy or musical, and generated a 2002 sequel, "Analyze That," which Ramis also directed and co-wrote. It was also a relatively rare movie that became a comedy hit by appealing primarily to adults and helped set in motion a string of comedies about the mismatched middle-aged.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  2. #82
    ‘Noah,’ revival of Bible epics, finds rough seas

    Associated Press

    March 22, 2014 | 8:30 am

    NEW YORK – In the beginning of their work together on “Noah,” director Darren Aronofsky made Russell Crowe a promise: “I’ll never shoot you on a houseboat in a robe and sandals with two giraffes popping up behind you.”

    Decades after Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” and “Ben-Hur,” Aronofsky has renewed the tradition of the studio-made, mass-audience Bible epic, albeit as a distinctly darker parable about sin, justice and mercy. While much of his “Noah” is true to Scripture, it’s nothing like the picture-book version many encounter as children.

    “The first time I read it, I got scared,” the director says. “I thought, ‘What if I’m not good enough to get on the boat?’”

    It’s an altogether unlikely project: a $130 million Bible-based studio film made by a widely respected filmmaker (“Black Swan,” ”Requiem for a Dream”) few would have pegged as a modern-day DeMille. In the lead-up to its March 28th release, “Noah” has been flooded by controversy, with some religious conservatives claiming it isn’t literal enough to the Old Testament and that Noah has been inaccurately made, as Aronofsky has called him, “the first environmentalist.”

    “Noah” is a culmination of the shift brought on by Mel Gibson’s independently produced “The Passion of the Christ,” which awakened Hollywood with its unforeseen $612 million box office haul in 2004. In the time since, Hollywood has carefully developed closer ties to faith-based communities, (Sony and 20th Century Fox have set up faith-based studios targeting evangelicals).

    Yet the debate about “Noah” proves that it can be tricky to satisfy both believers and non-believers, and that finding the right intersection of art, commerce and religion is a task loaded with as much risk as potential reward.

    A lot is at stake, and not just for “Noah” and distributor Paramount Pictures. In December, Fox will release Ridley Scott’s “Exodus,” starring Christian Bale as Moses.

    On the heels of the recently released “Son of God,” the religious drama “God’s Not Dead” opened Friday and Sony is releasing the less straightforwardly Biblical “Heaven Is for Real” ahead of Easter next month. The studio is also developing a vampire twist on Cain and Able with Will Smith. In Lionsgate’s pipeline is a Mary Magdalene film, hyped as a prequel to “The Passion of the Christ” and co-produced by mega-church pastor Joel Osteen.

    When Jonathan Boch started his company Grace Hill Media in 2000 to consult Hollywood studios on reaching the faith community, the two “really didn’t know each other,” he says. Since then, films like “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “The Blind Side” have benefited from outreach to churchgoers.

    “Over the course of those 15 years, you’ve seen the faith community go from almost pariah status or fly-over status to now being seen as an important market,” says Boch, who consulted on “Noah.” ”In my mind, what we’re seeing is another renaissance where the greatest artists are telling the greatest stories every told.”

    Though Hollywood largely swore off the Bible epic when films like 1965′s “The Greatest Story Ever Told” flopped, the revival dovetails recent trends. Figures like Noah are globally recognizable, and thus easier to market. They come with no licensing fee, and, often, plenty opportunity for flashy special effects. “Noah,” which is being released in converted 3-D overseas, is perhaps the oldest apocalypse story.

    The story fascinated Aronofsky as a Jewish kid growing up in Brooklyn. He recalls a poem he wrote about the tale as a 13-year-old — and a teacher’s subsequent encouragement — as his birth as a storyteller. Whereas “The Passion of the Christ” was largely made by Christians and for Christians, Aronofsky says his “Noah” (which was advertised during the Super Bowl) is “for everybody.”

    “It’s wrong when you talk about the Noah story to talk about it in that type of believer-nonbeliever way because I think it’s one of humanity’s oldest stories,” he says. “It belongs not just in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. Everyone on the planet knows the Noah story.”

    The Genesis story is only a few pages, with more details on the dimensions of the ark (which Aronofsky held to) than who Noah was. He’s instructed by God — “grieved” in his heart by what mankind had become generations after creation — to build an ark and fill it with two of every animal. After the flood, Noah is referred to as drunk and then banishes his son, Ham — all clues for Aronofsky on the pain of Noah’s burden.

    Paramount sought the approval of religious leaders, consulting with Biblical scholars in pre-production and doing extensive test screenings (during which Aronofsky and Paramount feuded over the final cut before an apparent truce).

    But early criticism bubbled up online based on what Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore says is an old, unused version of the script (which Aronofsky penned with Ari Handel).

    “It has been a very interesting journey,” says Moore. “It’s been highly chronicled along the way, much of which was based upon either speculation or hearsay or old information.”

    After seeing the film, Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, urged Paramount to advertise the film with a disclaimer. Moore acquiesced, adding a warning that “artistic license has been taken.”

    “Darren, as an artist, had some sensitivity about what that meant in terms of what we were saying the movie was or wasn’t ahead of time, versus letting people experience it for themselves,” says Moore. “But there was such a group of people who had concern about it.”

    “For the vast majority of people, the controversy will go away,” he says.

    Johnson still has mixed feelings about “Noah,” calling it “a great plus, minus”: neither worthy of the boycott that Roman Catholics held for Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” nor a film like “The Passion of the Christ” that will have churches sending busloads to theaters.

    “They got the big points of the story right,” says Johnson. “It’s so counter-cultural today in America or the West to talk about sin, right and wrong, and particularly the idea of judgment — and that is so serious in this film.”

    Johnson adds that, among other reservations, “The insertion of the extremist environmental agenda is a problem.” Aronofsky disputes that.

    “It’s in the Bible that we are supposed to tend the garden,” the director says. “To say there’s no ecological side to the Noah story when Noah is saving the animals just doesn’t make sense to me.”

    Picturehouse founder Bob Berney, who as president of Newmarket Films distributed “The Passion of the Christ,” says balancing artistic license and faithfulness to Scripture is challenging.

    “It’s a kind of a trap, and you have to be very careful,” says Berney. “At the same time, they are movies, and they have to be really good. I think the faith-based audience, the Christian audience still wants a big, exciting movie.”

    All the conversation — both negative and positive — may lure audiences to “Noah,” which Moore says will do its biggest business internationally, even though the film has been banned in many Islamic counties where it’s taboo to depict a prophet. He and Aronofsky believe they have a rich history of artistic ambition on their side.

    “It’s strange that the conversation for a little bit has turned into a controversy about literalism,” says Aronofsky. “What is literalism when it comes to interpreting and making an artistic representation of the text? Is Michelangelo’s David a literal interpretation of what David looked like?”

  3. #83
    Actor Robin Williams dead from apparent suicide–police

    Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net/US Bureau August 12, 2014 | 7:17 am

    LOS ANGELES–Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead at his home in California from suspected suicide, police said Tuesday.

    A statement from the Marin County Sheriff’s Department said the 63-year-old funnyman was found shortly before midday at his home in Tiburon, northern California.

    “At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia,” the statement said.

    Investigators said that Williams was last seen alive at his residence, where he resides with his wife, at around 10 p.m. on Sunday.

    An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office, officials said.

    A forensic examination is currently scheduled for Aug. 12 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.

    On July 1, Williams visited the 12-step program at a Minnesota facility to recharge after more than 18 straight months of work, according to his publicist.

    Mara Buxbaum said Williams was “taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud.”

    Williams has been open about the challenges of maintaining sobriety. He sought treatment in 2006 when he relapsed and returned to drinking after 20 years.

    Williams starred in the CBS series “The Crazy Ones” and the film “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” which was released in May. He had several other projects in the works, including another installment of “Night at the Museum.”

  4. #84
    Actor Robin Williams dead from apparent suicide–police

    Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net/US Bureau August 12, 2014 | 7:17 am

    LOS ANGELES–Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead at his home in California from suspected suicide, police said Tuesday.

    A statement from the Marin County Sheriff’s Department said the 63-year-old funnyman was found shortly before midday at his home in Tiburon, northern California.

    “At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia,” the statement said.

    Investigators said that Williams was last seen alive at his residence, where he resides with his wife, at around 10 p.m. on Sunday.

    An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office, officials said.

    A forensic examination is currently scheduled for Aug. 12 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.

    On July 1, Williams visited the 12-step program at a Minnesota facility to recharge after more than 18 straight months of work, according to his publicist.

    Mara Buxbaum said Williams was “taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud.”

    Williams has been open about the challenges of maintaining sobriety. He sought treatment in 2006 when he relapsed and returned to drinking after 20 years.

    Williams starred in the CBS series “The Crazy Ones” and the film “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” which was released in May. He had several other projects in the works, including another installment of “Night at the Museum.”

  5. #85
    ^ F#%k. This hit me hard. At umpisa ng araw pa man din. My favorite comedian of all time. RIP, Robin Williams.

  6. #86
    The Leaky Science of Hollywood

    Stephen Hawking’s Movie Life Story Is Not Very Scientific

    OCT. 27, 2014

    Dennis Overbye

    It would be nice if producers of science movies spent half as much time on getting the science right as they do on, say, wardrobes or hairstyles.

    I’m tired of complaining about this, but we are in an extraordinary run of such movies right now, and I’d love to see one that doesn’t make me gnash my teeth.

    Last year, “Gravity,” which won seven Oscars, delivered amazingly realistic depictions of space hardware and weightlessness, but bungled the simple rules of orbital mechanics. Next week will bring us not one but two movies with black holes at their core: “The Theory of Everything,” about the early life and times of Stephen Hawking, the British physicist and best-selling author; and “Interstellar,” directed and written by the Nolan brothers, Christopher and Jonathan, about astronauts traveling through a wormhole to find a new home for humanity. (Intriguingly, it is based on work by one of Dr. Hawking’s oldest buddies, Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology.)

    “The Theory of Everything” has a lot going for it. Eddie Redmayne is justly being promoted for an Oscar nomination for his uncanny portrayal of Dr. Hawking and the relentless wasting effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease, for which any number of celebrities have lately endured an orgy of ice-bucket drenchings.

    Millions of people and science fans who have read Dr. Hawking’s books, flocked to his lectures and watched him on “The Simpsons,” “Star Trek” and “The Big Bang Theory” have never known him except as a wheelchaired figure speaking in a robotic voice; for all they know he was always that way and floated down to Earth on a comet, like Venus drifting in on a half-shell.

    Mr. Redmayne’s performance — from the gnarled, paralyzed fingers to the mischievous spark that lights an otherwise frozen face as he savors a joke or a bon mot — is spot on. The dramatic high point, when he clicks a mouse and the words “My name is Stephen Hawking” come out of a speaker with a robotic American accent, is a genuine creation moment. There were tears in my eyes.

    But the movie doesn’t deserve any prizes for its drive-by muddling of Dr. Hawking’s scientific work, leaving viewers in the dark about exactly why he is so famous. Instead of showing how he undermined traditional notions of space and time, it panders to religious sensibilities about what his work does or does not say about the existence of God, which in fact is very little.

    To its credit, the movie does not shy away from the darker parts of Dr. Hawking’s story. It is based on the 2007 memoir “Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen,” by his first wife, Jane Wilde — one of two books she has written about what it was like to fall in love with and then care for an increasingly disabled and celebrated genius. Jane eventually takes up with the choirmaster at her church; Stephen wheels away with his nurse Elaine Mason, whom he subsequently married and then divorced.

    Dr. Hawking, 72, is said to have signed off, if reluctantly, on a movie that would fill in the personal side of his life. Of all the courageous things he has done, this might have been the bravest: entrusting his life story to an ex-wife.

    He allowed the producers to use actual recordings of his iconic voice, and after seeing the movie he pronounced it “broadly true,” according to the director, James Marsh, who won an Oscar for the 2008 documentary “Man on Wire.”

    But when it came to science, I couldn’t help gnashing my teeth after all. Forget for a moment that early in the story the characters are sitting in a seminar in London talking about black holes, the bottomless gravitational abysses from which not even light can escape, years before that term had been coined. Sadly, a few anachronisms are probably inevitable in a popular account of such an arcane field as astrophysics.

    It gets worse, though. Skip a few scenes and years ahead. Dr. Hawking, getting ready for bed, is staring at glowing coals in the fireplace and has a vision of black holes fizzing and leaking heat.

    The next thing we know he is telling an audience in an Oxford lecture hall that black holes, contrary to legend and previous theory, are not forever, but will leak particles, shrink and eventually explode, before a crank moderator declares the session over, calling the notion “rubbish.”

    The prediction of Hawking radiation, as it is called, is his greatest achievement, the one he is most likely to get a Nobel Prize for. But it didn’t happen with a moment of inspiration staring at a fireplace. And in telling the story this way, the producers have cheated themselves out of what was arguably the most dramatic moment in his scientific career.

    Dr. Hawking had been goaded by work by Alexei Starobinsky in Moscow and Jacob Bekenstein in Princeton into trying to determine the properties of microscopic black holes. That required a daunting calculation that would combine quantum theory with Einsteinian gravity, twin poles of theoretical physics thought until then to be mathematically incompatible.

    It took months, during which his friends and colleagues were sure he would fail. They propped quantum textbooks open in front of him and then went away, wondering what if anything would come of him.

    When Dr. Hawking discovered that quantum effects would make black holes leaky, it went against all his intuition and expectations. He spent a couple of lonely months trying to figure out where he had gone wrong, at one point locking himself in a bathroom to think. The penumbra of uncertainty and randomness with which quantum theory endowed nature on the smallest scales would in effect pierce the black hole’s previously inviolable surface. His discovery has turned out to be a big, big deal, because it implies, among other things, that three-dimensional space is an illusion. Do we live in a hologram, like the picture on a credit card? Or the Matrix?

    None of this, alas, is in the movie. That is more than bad history. The equations on the blackboard appear to be authentic — the movies are always great at getting the design details right — but as usual it misses the big picture, the zigzaggy path of collaboration, competition and even combat by which science actually progresses. By leaving out people like Dr. Bekenstein and Dr. Starobinsky, the movie reinforces the stereotype of the lone genius already ingrained by the media and the Nobel Prizes.

    In Dr. Hawking’s case the stereotype is compounded by his disability, which causes the rest of the world — especially the media — to regard his every statement as if it came from the Delphic oracle.

    It also devalues Dr. Hawking’s own work, the months of intense calculation that are required to turn inspiration into a real theory, by making it look easy. Science isn’t easy, even for the Einsteins among us, which doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

    “The Theory of Everything” is only a movie, and I should be thrilled that Dr. Hawking is at last getting his due from the star-making machinery of the big screen and that black holes are even part of the cultural discourse. And I am. It is, as Dr. Hawking said, “broadly true.”

    But at the risk of coming off as a cranky nerd, I wish the moviemakers had been able to hew to a higher authority.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  7. #87
    How Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, Blade Runner, foresaw the way we live today

    On the eve of the re-release of Scott's 'Final Cut' at the BFI, William Cook explores the thoroughly modern riddles at the heart of this cult movie

    William Cook 7 March 2015

    In 1977 a journeyman actor called Brian Kelly optioned a science-fiction novel called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The book’s author, Philip K. Dick, had been writing science fiction since the early 1950s. He was 49 years old, with 30 novels behind him. He had a cult reputation, but he barely scraped a living. Kelly only paid him $2,500, but Dick was happy with this windfall. He’d written this book for half as much, back in 1968. After five more years, and many rewrites, Dick’s book finally became a film. Directed by Ridley Scott and renamed Blade Runner, it’s now commonly — and quite rightly — regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever made.

    Now finally, after all this time, comes confirmation of the long-awaited sequel — directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Harrison Ford again, reprising his leading role as robot hunter Rick Deckard. Ford says the script is ‘the best thing I’ve ever read’. Will Scott’s direction be just as good? Here’s hoping.

    In the meantime, if you can’t wait for Blade Runner 2 (or whatever they eventually decide to call it), from 3 April you can marvel at Scott’s original masterpiece on the big screen once again, as Blade Runner: The Final Cut returns to cinemas nationwide, courtesy of the BFI. Novelistic in its detail, operatic in its intensity, Scott’s direction still takes your breath away. Yet the most striking thing about Scott’s film — and Dick’s novel — is that they both foresaw the future. After all these years, Blade Runner remains an unforgettable experience. But since 1982 it’s become something else as well — a futuristic metaphor for the way we live today.

    Dick delighted in making (almost) accurate predictions: nuclear meltdown in the Soviet Union by 1985 (Chernobyl blew up in 1986); artificial life by 1993 (Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1997). Written half a lifetime before the world wide web, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? displayed similarly spooky powers of prophecy. Anyone with a Facebook page will recognise the creepy appeal of Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends, a never-ending chat show that broadcasts 24/7 throughout Dick’s novel. And anyone who’s searched for instant solutions to their problems in cyberspace (or been prescribed anti-depressants to boost their serotonin levels) will recognise Dick’s Mood Organ, a sly machine that conjures up all manner of emotions, from ‘awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future’ to ‘the desire to watch TV, no matter what’s on it’. As Dick observed, ‘The greatest pain does not come zooming down from a distant planet, but up from the depths of the heart.’

    Scott’s movie retained relatively few of these sci-fi specifics, but he preserved the book’s pervasive air of virtual paranoia — its inherent uncertainty about the boundary between what’s real and what’s unreal. Harrison Ford’s Blade Runner hunts down replicants who’ve become too human, and ends up wondering if he’s a replicant himself. Are his memories really his own, or were they implanted by a higher power? ‘It’s not just “What if…” It’s “My God; what if…”’ stated Dick, of his attitude to science fiction. Watching Blade Runner today, you can’t help wondering if his nightmares have come true. What is the meaning of memory, now everything is a click away on Google? Is the internet transforming us into replicants, incapable of proper empathy? Will anything be left of us, once our entire lives are online?

    Initially, Dick was rather disparaging about Blade Runner (he called it ‘Philip Marlowe meets The Stepford Wives’) but once he saw a rough cut, he was won over by Scott’s film. He didn’t mind at all that the film was so different from his novel. ‘The book and the movie do not fight each other, they reinforce each other,’ he said. ‘The human brain craves stimulation, and this movie will stimulate the brain.’ Dick never made it to the première. He died of a stroke, a few months before the movie opened. He was 53.

    Ridley Scott had had a big hit with Alien, and Harrison Ford had had an even bigger hit with Star Wars — but despite this winning team of hot star and hip director, the initial response to Blade Runner was tepid. Its first cinematic outing made a mere $14 million, barely half its production budget. The critics were underwhelmed. Janet Maslin of the New York Times called it ‘muddled yet mesmerising’, yet the intrinsic ‘muddle’ of Blade Runner is what makes it so mesmeric, then and now. The film (and the book) is built on an unanswerable conundrum. As robots evolve, at what stage do they become human? And as our lives become more and more computerised, at what stage do we start to become machines?

    This thoroughly modern riddle is what gives Blade Runner its staying power, but such profound questions were far too tricksy for the film’s money men. The studio imposed various changes, including a corny film noir voice-over, in an attempt to explain away the film’s multiple complexities. Several alternative versions subsequently emerged, of which Scott’s ‘Final Cut’ is the finest, but even the Chandleresque original was a triumph. Scott said he wanted to make a film ‘set 40 years hence, made in the style of 40 years ago’. Thirty-three years hence, it still feels intensely contemporary. The only thing that’s dated is the computers — and the shoulder pads.

    Fittingly, for a film about the perils of technological innovation, it was new technology that kept Blade Runner alive. Home video was the latest gizmo, and Blade Runner quickly climbed to the top of the rental charts. Movie execs may have been confused by its ambiguities, but movie buffs revelled in them. Within a year, the film had spawned its own fanzine. In 1983, the assembled nerds of the World Science Fiction Convention voted it the third best science-fiction movie of all time. Scott went on to direct a string of smart Hollywood hits: Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven… In 1992 he made the so-called ‘Director’s Cut’ of Blade Runner — actually a creative compromise between Scott and the studio. In 2007 he made the ‘Final Cut’ that’s now on general release again.

    After Dick’s death, Hollywood finally woke up to the cinematic potential of his dark vision. A slew of adaptations followed. In 1990 Paul Verhoeven made Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, based on Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. In 2002 Steven Spielberg made Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, based on a short story Dick wrote way back in 1956, in his twenties, when he was just starting out. Spielberg’s film grossed more than $130 million. Dick’s original fee for this story was $130. ‘Often, people claim to remember past lives,’ he said in 1977. ‘I claim to remember a different, very different present life.’ Our robots may not be quite up to scratch — not yet — but Philip K. Dick’s Mood Organ is already with us. In the parallel universe of the internet, the different present life that he remembered is not so far away.

    This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 7 March 2015

  8. #88
    How Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, Blade Runner, foresaw the way we live today

    On the eve of the re-release of Scott's 'Final Cut' at the BFI, William Cook explores the thoroughly modern riddles at the heart of this cult movie

    William Cook 7 March 2015

    In 1977 a journeyman actor called Brian Kelly optioned a science-fiction novel called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The book’s author, Philip K. Dick, had been writing science fiction since the early 1950s. He was 49 years old, with 30 novels behind him. He had a cult reputation, but he barely scraped a living. Kelly only paid him $2,500, but Dick was happy with this windfall. He’d written this book for half as much, back in 1968. After five more years, and many rewrites, Dick’s book finally became a film. Directed by Ridley Scott and renamed Blade Runner, it’s now commonly — and quite rightly — regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever made.

    Now finally, after all this time, comes confirmation of the long-awaited sequel — directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Harrison Ford again, reprising his leading role as robot hunter Rick Deckard. Ford says the script is ‘the best thing I’ve ever read’. Will Scott’s direction be just as good? Here’s hoping.

    In the meantime, if you can’t wait for Blade Runner 2 (or whatever they eventually decide to call it), from 3 April you can marvel at Scott’s original masterpiece on the big screen once again, as Blade Runner: The Final Cut returns to cinemas nationwide, courtesy of the BFI. Novelistic in its detail, operatic in its intensity, Scott’s direction still takes your breath away. Yet the most striking thing about Scott’s film — and Dick’s novel — is that they both foresaw the future. After all these years, Blade Runner remains an unforgettable experience. But since 1982 it’s become something else as well — a futuristic metaphor for the way we live today.

    Dick delighted in making (almost) accurate predictions: nuclear meltdown in the Soviet Union by 1985 (Chernobyl blew up in 1986); artificial life by 1993 (Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1997). Written half a lifetime before the world wide web, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? displayed similarly spooky powers of prophecy. Anyone with a Facebook page will recognise the creepy appeal of Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends, a never-ending chat show that broadcasts 24/7 throughout Dick’s novel. And anyone who’s searched for instant solutions to their problems in cyberspace (or been prescribed anti-depressants to boost their serotonin levels) will recognise Dick’s Mood Organ, a sly machine that conjures up all manner of emotions, from ‘awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future’ to ‘the desire to watch TV, no matter what’s on it’. As Dick observed, ‘The greatest pain does not come zooming down from a distant planet, but up from the depths of the heart.’

    Scott’s movie retained relatively few of these sci-fi specifics, but he preserved the book’s pervasive air of virtual paranoia — its inherent uncertainty about the boundary between what’s real and what’s unreal. Harrison Ford’s Blade Runner hunts down replicants who’ve become too human, and ends up wondering if he’s a replicant himself. Are his memories really his own, or were they implanted by a higher power? ‘It’s not just “What if…” It’s “My God; what if…”’ stated Dick, of his attitude to science fiction. Watching Blade Runner today, you can’t help wondering if his nightmares have come true. What is the meaning of memory, now everything is a click away on Google? Is the internet transforming us into replicants, incapable of proper empathy? Will anything be left of us, once our entire lives are online?

    Initially, Dick was rather disparaging about Blade Runner (he called it ‘Philip Marlowe meets The Stepford Wives’) but once he saw a rough cut, he was won over by Scott’s film. He didn’t mind at all that the film was so different from his novel. ‘The book and the movie do not fight each other, they reinforce each other,’ he said. ‘The human brain craves stimulation, and this movie will stimulate the brain.’ Dick never made it to the première. He died of a stroke, a few months before the movie opened. He was 53.

    Ridley Scott had had a big hit with Alien, and Harrison Ford had had an even bigger hit with Star Wars — but despite this winning team of hot star and hip director, the initial response to Blade Runner was tepid. Its first cinematic outing made a mere $14 million, barely half its production budget. The critics were underwhelmed. Janet Maslin of the New York Times called it ‘muddled yet mesmerising’, yet the intrinsic ‘muddle’ of Blade Runner is what makes it so mesmeric, then and now. The film (and the book) is built on an unanswerable conundrum. As robots evolve, at what stage do they become human? And as our lives become more and more computerised, at what stage do we start to become machines?

    This thoroughly modern riddle is what gives Blade Runner its staying power, but such profound questions were far too tricksy for the film’s money men. The studio imposed various changes, including a corny film noir voice-over, in an attempt to explain away the film’s multiple complexities. Several alternative versions subsequently emerged, of which Scott’s ‘Final Cut’ is the finest, but even the Chandleresque original was a triumph. Scott said he wanted to make a film ‘set 40 years hence, made in the style of 40 years ago’. Thirty-three years hence, it still feels intensely contemporary. The only thing that’s dated is the computers — and the shoulder pads.

    Fittingly, for a film about the perils of technological innovation, it was new technology that kept Blade Runner alive. Home video was the latest gizmo, and Blade Runner quickly climbed to the top of the rental charts. Movie execs may have been confused by its ambiguities, but movie buffs revelled in them. Within a year, the film had spawned its own fanzine. In 1983, the assembled nerds of the World Science Fiction Convention voted it the third best science-fiction movie of all time. Scott went on to direct a string of smart Hollywood hits: Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven… In 1992 he made the so-called ‘Director’s Cut’ of Blade Runner — actually a creative compromise between Scott and the studio. In 2007 he made the ‘Final Cut’ that’s now on general release again.

    After Dick’s death, Hollywood finally woke up to the cinematic potential of his dark vision. A slew of adaptations followed. In 1990 Paul Verhoeven made Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, based on Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. In 2002 Steven Spielberg made Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, based on a short story Dick wrote way back in 1956, in his twenties, when he was just starting out. Spielberg’s film grossed more than $130 million. Dick’s original fee for this story was $130. ‘Often, people claim to remember past lives,’ he said in 1977. ‘I claim to remember a different, very different present life.’ Our robots may not be quite up to scratch — not yet — but Philip K. Dick’s Mood Organ is already with us. In the parallel universe of the internet, the different present life that he remembered is not so far away.

    This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 7 March 2015

  9. #89
    6 Movie Plots Solved In Minutes With Common Sense

    By Jacopo della Quercia , Aatif Zubair | January 12, 2016 | 794,858 views

    The whole fun of movies is that these characters' problems are not like our own. Where our biggest adventures involve trying to chase a cat out from under the bed with a broomstick, these people are running from robot explosions or cross-examining flamboyant serial killers. But lots of times, a little closer look at a movie plot reveals that they were making things way harder on themselves than necessary.

    #6. X-Men: Days Of Future Past - Xavier Forgot He Controls Minds

    Days Of Future Past was the second delicate reboot of the X-Men franchise. In it, Charles Xavier sends Wolverine back in time to stop Mystique from assassinating Bolivar Trask and prevent a human-mutant war that eats the future. Xavier has a gentleman's agreement not to use his mental powers against Mystique, so this involves a lot more dialogue and espionage than you'd expect from a man who can control minds.

    What Would Have Made More Sense:

    Let's go along with the conceit that Xavier won't enter Mystique's mind and force her to step down. None of us are telepathic mutants and we can never fully understand their ways and customs. But ... couldn't he ignore Mystique and just go into the mind of Trask himself, then incept away all his mutant genocide thoughts?

    You're already in the comments typing this, but the plot tries to account for it by starting the movie with Xavier's powers being broken. Except they don't stay that way for long. A few minutes after, you know, trying, he's mind-controlling people like crazy. He could have gone right up to Trask, shook his hand, and made him devote his life to, say, breaking the dildo-sitting world record. And to make it harder, he could have scanned the world for the man with the most flexible colon and planted it in his mind as well. It wouldn't have to be exactly that, we guess. The point is he needed something else to do with his life.

    It's a movie about saving the world from hate, and they give the main character the one specific superpower that can do that directly. He works hard to make it complicated, but Professor X could do any number of clearly harmless, obviously beneficial things. In fact, once Xavier found out he was going to lose his hair, he could have planted an idea in some TV producer's brain to remake Star Trek, only with a bald Kirk so women in the future would find hairless men sexy. It sounds ridiculou- wait ... dear God ... are we, right now, living in the Days Of Future Past universe?

    #5. Iron Man - The Forgetful Reporter

    Billionaire weapons dealer Tony Stark is kidnapped by a terrorist organization called the "Ten Rings" but manages to survive by fixing the hole in his chest with 1,200 pounds of laser-blasting armor. Late in the movie, Stark discovers his business partner Obadiah Stane masterminded the kidnapping and was secretly supplying weapons to the terrorists. He is shocked! Horrified! And like all things will, this eventually led to a robot suit battle.

    What Would Have Made More Sense:

    Halfway through the movie, a female reporter showed Stark some pictures of Stark Industry weapons being used by the Ten Rings in Afghanistan. When Stark denied his involvement, she retorts by revealing that the weapon's shipment was officially authorized by Stark Industries:

    So with this huge intel, all the reporter had to do was something she almost certainly had in mind all along: report it. She had a pile of information and a quote from Stark himself, surprised by it and not denying it. Stark Industries would have been immediately under investigation by every agency and news outlet. MSNBC's entire news cycle would be devoted to reading evil Stark documents and interviewing evil Stark employees. However, FOX News' editorial direction wouldn't change as they continued to demand, "Why the media can't just leave evil billionaires alone?"

    It wouldn't take much effort to uncover the plot. Stane's evil schemes were right there on his computer, and there had to have been dozens of inept, bumbling employees working on his very suspicious personal projects. Plus, with Stark being kidnapped and tortured, that would make Stane the acting CEO and lead suspect before the first inspector arrived at one of their death warehouses.

    But ... nothing like this ever happens. The journalist shows Stark the pictures and then never bothers to publicize them or even report them to her boss. Is it because Stark slept with her early in the movie, and she is still pining for him? It'd be like a reporter finding out Donald Trump's business partners had ties to ISIS, then just dropping it in hopes Trump would throw her some dick.

    "Actually, this story is going to seem like small potatoes the moment the world finds out Odin is the one true God."

    #4. Transformers - The Decepticons Could've Gotten The AllSpark With Their Tiny Spybots

    The Decepticons are searching for the AllSpark, a mysterious McGuffin that can turn ordinary objects into transformer objects. The AllSpark is on Earth, and the map to it is etched on a pair of glasses owned by Sam Witwicky's great-grandfather. In a way, it's genius -- with a map right on your glasses, you can drive to your space artifacts without having to do any folding or refolding.

    The Decepticons initially deployed a stealthy spy robot, "Frenzy," inside Air Force One, where its space Internet sensors discovered Witwicky was selling the glasses on eBay. It then hacked eBay to discover Witwicky's location. Knowing by now everyone watching the movie would be bored beyond reason, the very next scene has poor Witwicky and his girlfriend, Mikaela Banes, running from vague, robot-like avalanches of metal shapes.

    What Would Have Made More Sense:

    The glasses were on eBay. Couldn't the Decepticons just, you know, buy them? Like, couldn't that space hacker Frenzy just put in a bid? It shouldn't be that hard for a bunch of super advanced space robots to put the cash together, or fool PayPal into thinking they had.

    And if coming up with the money was too difficult, the Decepticons still knew the address to Witwicky's house. They could have sent the same tiny robot in infiltrate his home security, which was probably easier to circumvent than Air Force One's. It could've stolen both the glasses and the AllSpark over the weekend without the government or the Autobots knowing anything about it. It's only through severe stupidity by every robot and filmmaker involved that this was anything other than, at worst, an online auction or at best, a roboburglary.

    Instead, the Decepticons deployed swarming piles of pots and pans to attack Witwicky. In military terms, it was like declaring war on Mexico in order to pick up a chalupa combo. The plan was so bad, it alerted both the Autobots and every government on Earth who managed to defeat the Decepticons using only 144 minutes of explosions.

  10. #90
    ^^^ (Cont'd )

    #3. Primal Fear - Everyone Who Knows Roy Forgets To Talk To The Press

    If you haven't seen Primal Fear, its description is going to sound absurd. It was about a stuttering wimp of a boy named Aaron, who killed a priest and got away with it because the murder was committed by his split personality, Roy, who was forced to make homemade porno movies with the archbishop. The only thing that kept it from being ridiculous was Ed Norton's acting, which was especially amazing since Aaron was totally sane and made Roy up. So Norton was pretending to be a timid man pretending to be a crazy man in a good movie pretending to have a Mexican soap opera plot.

    In the end, his lawyer (Richard Gere), who believed him, convinced a court Roy was a real thing and Aaron shouldn't be responsible for the murder. It wasn't the first time a good lawyer looked like a total asshole, but it's one of the most memorable.

    What Would Have Made More Sense:

    Roy's case had received national media attention. Everyone clicks on an article with the headline "Archbishop Murdered by Simpleton's Split Personality." But honestly, most of them click on the reaction piece, "3 Reasons Our Culture Says All Murderer Split Personalities Have to Be Men" or the reaction to that, "What Feminists Need to Learn About Murder" or the reaction to that, "Popular Split Personality Blogger's Home Address and Private Photos Leaked by #Roywasright Supporter."

    The point is, everyone in the world was looking at it and talking about it. Which makes sense until you realize the media, lawyers, reporters, and FBI had all forgotten to look into Aaron's past. And apparently, every single person from Aaron's past forgot about him. It seems like one of his classmates or neighbors might have remembered him being a totally different guy every now and then. The closest thing they did to a background check was this conversation between Roy and his lawyer:

    You from Kentucky, Aaron?
    Yes, sir. I'm from Creekside.
    Does it say that there?
    No.

    ... and that's the end of the probing. Seriously. There was no further probing of his past, which is pretty lucky considering his plan hinged on convincing everyone he was a weak, stammering idiot. And even if no one from his past came forward, it'd probably be strange if there were no medical records for a man with this much wrong with him. All it would have taken was for one single person from Roy's past to turn on the TV or read a newspaper and Norton's plans would've sunk faster than Gere's face at the end.

    #2. Men In Black 3 - The MIB Forget Spaceships Exist

    In this movie, Will Smith (Agent J) goes back in time to save his partner from being murdered in the past. While there, they work together to deploy a planetary shield to prevent conquering space squids. However, since it's 1969, the only way to get the shield into space is by piggybacking on the Apollo 11 rocket. You know, it might have been faster to say it involves every sci-fi concept that's ever been.

    What Would Have Made More Sense:

    Although we give this film mad props for neuralyzing all memory of that first terrible sequel ...

    ... the first film sort of slaughters the plot to Men In Black 3. In the third one, our heroes need to deploy the ArcNet Shield in orbit, hence the film's climax atop the Saturn V rocket. Although this makes for fine cinema with an emotional ending, it kind of ignores how the MIB already had access to spaceships in 1969.

    In the first Men In Black, we learn the 1964 World's Fair was a cover-up for UFOs, hence its suspicious location in Queens. Not only do these flying saucers still work, we see them work in the first movie. All Agents J and K had to do in Men In Black 3 was drive to Flushing Meadows, and boom -- problem solved.

    Actually, J and K may not have even had to deploy it themselves. New York was loaded with aliens in 1969, among them the alien they received the ArcNet from. Why not ask one of them to deploy the shield on their way home that evening? The point is, gunfighting their way to the top of the worst spaceship on the planet was a dumb but awesome idea. And honestly, if you're fixing a timeline, "dumb but awesome" is probably the combination we're most comfortable with.

    #1. Terminator Salvation - Skynet's Pointlessly Elaborate Plan To Kill John Connor v4.01b

    In the 2009 movie, which you may recall not being very good, Skynet sends yet another cyborg after John Connor, this time without any time travel. It's a pretty complicated scheme since the secret cyborg isn't aware he's a cyborg, and his plan starts with a random explosion that reveals his secret to everyone. So he's a robot, but a nice one, which leads to the idea of using him in a plan to sneak into Skynet. It's important to know that after Terminator 2, all Terminator plots were written by putting books into a food processor until it starts a fire, then asking firefighters to write a film as they put out the blaze.

    In this particular Terminator movie, the cyborg unwittingly leads Connor into a trap, which was Skynet's plan all along. Luckily, that seemed to be the end of the plan, so Connor manages to get out by fighting a terminator and leaving.

    What Would Have Made More Sense:

    Almost anything, but seriously, didn't Skynet capture this guy earlier in the movie?

    For those who were lucky enough to miss this movie, that's Kyle Reese, Connor's father (by way of time semination). Skynet knew he was Connor's dad since we see Reese was the No. 1 target on their list. And to be clear, he was on the same list as Connor and other members of the resistance being killed, which means this was absolutely not a "keep alive" list. So why did they?

    They captured the father of the leader of the humans; they don't bother to robokill him or roboterrogate him. They simply throw him in a cellar. Maybe there was some step of the bizarre plan where they lured Connor into their base and tricked him into kissing his own dad, but we never got to see it. It was merely pointless stupidity. Or maybe they knew, depending on which rules of time travel you go by, that killing Reese would retroactively erase the first and second Terminator from the universe, which was an act of evil even robots are not capable of.


 
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