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SF in film and TV
August - September 1998

Eyes and AI
A release date for Stanley Kubrick's forthcoming Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, has finally been announced by Warner Bros.: July 16, 1999. Not much is known about the film, other than it's based on a novel, Traumnovelle [Dream Story] by Arthur Schnitzler, and involves two married psychiatrists. Here's the Internet Movie Database's page about it, and here's a page of rumors and gossip. Meanwhile, what about Kubrick's science fiction project, AI? Unsurprisingly, since Kubrick is a notoriously secretive director, a search of the web turns up little that's definitive. Here's a feature and article from Wired magazine, January 1997, about it, and one, two pages that compile news and rumors now several years old.
(Fri 11 Sep 98)

Millennial Movies
An article in the Los Angeles Times last Friday, September 4th, surveys film projects underway in Hollywood that relate to the forthcoming millennium. Some relate specifically to the calendrical change as an apocalyptic event:

  • End of Days Satan tries to destroy the world and Arnold Schwarzenegger tries to stop him. (Beacon Pictures)
  • Duke Nukem Action pic about a drinking, smoking, womanizing hero, based on the computer game of same name. (Threshold Entertainment)
  • The Sky Is Falling The world's religions unite to control the world, until two priests discover proof that God is dead. (New Line Cinema)
  • Specific references, such as Y2K issues, are being avoided to prevent films from becoming immediately dated once the year 2000 arrives. (Don't bother Hollywood with the question of which year marks the new millennium.) Projects that key off the turn of the millennium in a looser way are still considered risks; a studio exec for New Line Cinema, for example, suggests that the The Sky Is Falling may not be made at all if it can't be ready by the end of next year.

    For the longer range, studio execs have decided that the change of millennium is an appropriate time for films with visionary, spiritual themes -- what one producer calls ''wouldn't-it-be-wonderful-if movies''. One of the first of these is the soon-to-be-released Robin Williams film What Dreams May Come, about a man who pursues his late wife to heaven and then to hell. Others in development include The Bicentennial Man, again with Robin Williams in the adaptation of Isaac Asimov's story about a robot who wants to be human (Disney), and Between Lives, a New Age comedy in which the recently deceased are able to choose who their parents will be in their next life (Metafilmics).

    Warner Bros., meanwhile, plans to make fun of it all by marketing its Looney Tunes characters, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and others, in a new ''Mil-Looney-um'' campaign.
    (Wed 9 Sep 98)

    Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy Planned
    New Line Cinema has committed $130 million to the production of a trilogy of films based on J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. New Zealand director Peter Jackson, best known for Heavenly Creatures (1994) and The Frighteners (1996), is slated to shoot the three films simultaneously over the course of a year. He hopes to have the first film ready by Christmas 2000, with the second and third following by summer and Christmas 2001.

    Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of the Rings and its prequel The Hobbit are perhaps the most popular, and influential, fantasy novels ever written. First published in the 1950s (The Hobbit in 1937), the books were cult favorite in the 1960s and topped Locus's polls of all-time best fantasy novels in 1987 and 1998.

    An animated version of the first part of Tolkien's trilogy was produced in 1978 by Saul Zaentz with director Ralph Bakshi. Zaentz (Amadeus, The English Patient) owned film rights to the trilogy for many years and will serve as executive producer of the new films. Rights were recently obtained from Zaentz by Miramax Films, which was reluctant to make three separate films until a cooperative venture with New Line was pursued and established by director Jackson. Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh are now writing the project's 300-page script.

    Special effects will be handled by Weta Digital, which did effects for The Frighteners and many of the wormhole effects in Contact. Jackson is also working with prominent Tolkien artists Alan Lee and John Howe on production design. Fans on the Internet have already cast Sean Connery as Gandalf, but according to Jackson casting for the project has not yet been considered.

    (Mon 24 Aug 98)

    Persis Khambatta, 1950 - 1998
    Actress Persis Khambatta, who played Lt. Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), died on Tuesday in Bombay, of a heart attack. A child model, she was Miss India in 1965. Locus would not ordinarily note the passing of an actor just because he or she once appeared in an SF film, but Khambatta is of note for being identified, in Thomas M. Disch's The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of (pp. 135-136), as the harbinger of an SF icon:

    The feminist incursion into SF has produced its own distinctive icon, one that has joined the small repertory of images, like the spaceship, the robot, and the dinosaur, that semaphore Science Fiction Spoken Here. That new icon is the Bald Woman. ... [I]ts central significance is one of empowerment rather than diminishment.
    The icon recalls the robot woman in Metropolis, says Disch; the image of 'evolved', all-brain, humanity; the naked aggression of De Niro in Taxi Driver and of Marine recruits; and it indicates the supreme sacrifice made by Sigourney Weaver in the third Alien movie.
    (Thu 20 Aug 98)

    Music to Time Travel By
    Is there something about film music for science fiction stories that's distinctive from any other film music? A long article by Kerry J. Byrnes on the Film Score Monthly website says yes, and furthermore identifies three sub-genres of time travel films (travels across space, across time, and across death), each with its own unique demands on the composer. Examples include 30 films and episodes of The Twilight Zone and Time Tunnel.
    (Thu 20 Aug 98)

    Forthcoming Films
    Shamelessly cribbed from the August 21/28 issue of Entertainment Weekly, here is Locus Online's list of films scheduled for release through the end of the year that are of SF, fantasy, or horror interest. (Only two are space movies.) Dates indicate initial release in major US cities.

    Oct 2nd
  • Antz First of two computer-animated insect movies this fall, this one is from DreamWorks and stars the voices of Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, and Sylvester Stallone.
  • What Dreams May Come High-profile film of Richard Matheson's 1978 romantic fantasy novel; starring Robin Williams; directed by Vincent Ward.

    Oct 9th

  • Practical Magic From Alice Hoffman's 1995 magic realism/dark fantasy novel about three generations of witches; starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, and Dianne Wiest; directed by Griffin Dunne.

    Oct 16th

  • Beloved Very high-profile film version of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize winning 1987 novel that includes occult elements. Stars Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover; directed by Jonathan Demme.
  • Pleasantville About two teens trapped inside a 1958 Leave It to Beaver-esque black and white sitcom, according to EW; it sounds doomed to be compared to The Truman Show. Starring Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy, Joan Allen; directed by Gary Ross, who wrote Big and Dave.

    Oct 23rd

  • Apt Pupil Film version of Stephen King's novella about a teen who befriends a former Nazi war criminal living next door. Starring Ian McKellen, Brad Renfro; directed by Bryan Singer.
  • Soldier A sci-fi western starring Kurt Russell -- what a concept, except that it's written by David Webb Peoples, co-screenwriter of Blade Runner and writer of Unforgiven. Directed by Paul Anderson.

    Oct 30th

  • John Carpenter's Vampires Based on John Steakley's 1990 novel Vampire$, a horror thriller about professional vampire hunters. Starring James Woods; directed by John Carpenter.

    also in October

  • Gods and Monsters Biopic of gay Frankenstein director James Whale, based on Christopher Bram's novel Father of Frankenstein. Stars Ian McKellen.

    Nov 6th

  • Jack Frost Michael Keaton dies in a car crash at Christmas and returns as a snowman. Directed by Troy Miller.

    Nov 13th

  • Meet Joe Black Inspired by the classic Death Takes a Holiday, this stars Brad Pitt as the guise adopted by Death for a trip to Earth to learn why people fear him. Directed by Martin Brest.

    Nov 20th

  • A Bug's Life The other animated bugpic. This one is from Disney, and stars the voices of Kevin Spacey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
  • I Still Know What You Did Last Summer Sequel to last winter's surprise hit teenage horror flick. Directed by Danny Cannon.

    Nov 25th

  • Babe: Pig in the City Sequel to 1995 hit, starring James Cromwell, directed by George Miller.

    Dec 4th

  • Psycho Gus Van Sant's remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic, this time in color and starring Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche.

    Dec 11th

  • Star Trek: Insurrection The 9th ST feature film, about a planet with a fountain of youth-type secret. Starring the usual folk plus Donna Murphy and F. Murray Abraham; directed by Jonathan Frakes.

    Dec 18th

  • Mighty Joe Young Remake of 1949 flick about a 15-foot-tall gorilla. Starring Bill Paxton; directed by Ron Underwood.
  • You've Got Mail Update of 1940 classic The Shop Around the Corner, now a cyber-romance about two people who meet in an internet chat room. Stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan; directed by Nora Ephron.

    Dec 25th

  • The Faculty Hip teens battle alien-worm-infested teachers bent on world domination, according to EW. Starring Elijah Wood, scripted by Kevin Williamson, directed by Robert Rodriguez.
  • And though not SF, fantasy, or horror (however remotely), two other films of particular interest to film buffs are The Thin Red Line, Terence Malick's first film in 20 years (since Days of Heaven), a WWII epic starring Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, and John Travolta, opening Dec 25th; and Woody Allen's latest, Celebrity, starring Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, and Leonardo Di Caprio (!), opening in November.

    (Tue 18 Aug 98)


    © 1998 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.