Monday, August 31, 2009

Elizabeth Mitchell kicks visitor butt to protect her son in V

Elizabeth Mitchell plays FBI agent Erica Evans on ABC's new, revamped version of V. Spoiler alert: In the very first episode, she faces off in a battle between humans and visitors. Further spoiler alert: she'll kick even more butt as the series continues.
"I just read [the next script] and there is more kick-ass action," Mitchell said in a group interview on Aug. 8 in Pasadena, Calif. as part of the Television Critics Association fall press tour. "I've said this and I don't know if they want me to say this, but I like it even better than the pilot. I was happy to have read it before I came here, because when you just do a pilot, you're talking about unknowns. You're talking about something ephemeral and you can't quite get there. I've read it. It's active. It's not cerebral. It's so active that you find yourself caught up in it, and it made me very happy."

Mitchell was also getting ready to reshoot the fight scene from the pilot. Previously, SCI FI Wire reported that producer Scott Peters wanted to add more elements to the visitors' combat. Mitchell will get to improve her technique as well.

"I wasn't as skilled a fighter as I am now, so my punch looked a little bit like a 12-year-old girl's," she joked. "I don't think that's why [they're reshooting] but they wanted it to be more dangerous, they wanted it to be higher tech. They wanted the guys to look sincerely terrifying when they were coming after us, and they wanted them to have more gadgets and they do."

V still tells the story of aliens who visit earth and at first offer to be humanity's allies. They cure our diseases and offer free tours of their spaceship. Fans of the '80s series already know the visitors turn out to be lizard creatures under their attractive exterior. Agent Evans is onto them early on and pursues a human resistance, while other characters explore the religious and media implications of the visitors.

Playing an action heroine has also improved Mitchell's performance, the actor added. She's relishing her turn as the action heroine. "I love strong women," she said. "I love, love, love it. I find when all of that is happening, you don't think that much and not thinking as an actor is really good. I tend to overthink things, so when I'm running around gasping for air and beating people up, whatever is happening in my face I have no control over."

Erica has bigger problems than just saving the world though. Her own son, Tyler (Logan Huffman), defies her parenting rules. Now she's actually warning him about falling in with the alien threat, not just coming home before curfew.

"I just read the next episode and she tries very hard to do that," Mitchell said. "She makes herself incredibly clear and believes all is well. He, I think, has been a kid who has in the past listened to her, so I think that she thinks that that's going to be the case again. She's a good mom, a single mom and it was nice playing a mother. I did it before in Frequency, but to do it to this magnitude, where my son is in grave danger, is fascinating to me."

The new V differs from the original in many aspects. They get to the big reveal quicker and have a longer term plan for the invasion than the 1984 miniseries. There are new characters and modern updates, but Mitchell holds the original in high regard.
"I also feel a tremendous obligation to the people who watched before, to not mess it up," she said. "So yes, the memories do come back. However, my character didn't really exist, is a compilation of other characters, therefore I'm given a little bit of a gift in not having to fill the footsteps that Morena [Baccarin] is having to do. Which by the way she does really beautifully and completely differently, which is so nice. But, I have a little bit of a gift here. I'm able to really love the old and not feel bad about being in the new, so it's good."

V premieres Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
sci-fi wire...

Meet Stargate Universe's resident geek, David Blue

Brad Wright, the co-creator of Syfy's upcoming Stargate Universe, told a Comic-Con audience that the show got not only an actor in the person of star David Blue, but also a technical adviser: Blue—who plays Eli, a genius slacker—has been a fan of the franchise from the beginning and has seen every episode of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis.

"Our first day of weapons training, actually, we did it on the Atlantis set, in front of the Atlantis gate," Blue told us in an exclusive interview, adding: "It's hard when your castmates were not as huge fans beforehand, because you can't geek out in front of them without feeling like an idiot. I kind of had to wait for lunch, when everyone walked away, and go to the Stargate and touch it and take pictures of myself in front of it."

Blue added, "I love any scene the Stargate is in. ... When you see on Eli's face that he's really excited about the gate, that's actually me. ... I keep telling people that this place seems far too real, and the place is so cool, there's no way we're not government-funded. It's just to throw people off the scent that this actually exists. ... Somewhere up there, there are people on spaceships, and they're going through Stargates, and these things are actually happening."

SGU, from Wright and Robert C. Cooper, follows a band of soldiers, scientists and civilians who must fend for themselves as they are forced through a Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. The desperate survivors emerge aboard an Ancient ship, the Destiny, which is locked on an unknown course and unable to return to Earth. Faced with meeting the most basic needs of food, water and air, the group must unlock the secrets of the ship's Stargate to survive. The danger, adventure and hope they find on board the Destiny will reveal the heroes and villains among them.

"Stargate Universe takes place in the same world and the same universe as SG-1 and Atlantis, but essentially it's a group of people who are brought on to do some research," Blue said. "Scientists brought in to figure out this mythical ninth chevron address, ... a nine-digit phone number, and nobody knows where it goes. And through a course of events, [he] ends up having to pick up and go, and the right people who are supposed to go on this mission to explore don't necessarily end up going."
Blue added: "You end up with a group of people who weren't supposed to be there, ... counting on each other, who aren't necessarily the ones with the skill sets for survival ... on the far side of the universe, trying to figure out how to survive. How to not die. How to not kill each other. And genuinely having to deal and cope."
The show differs from previous installments in the popular franchise. "Unlike past shows, where you have rubber-faced, British-speaking aliens, it's more about the ensemble cast," Blue said. "The people you become invested in. Who you get to relate to and find catharsis in, ... it's great, because you can see all these new layers and levels to situations you normally get the chance [to see] in shows these days."

SGU has been described as darker in tone then its predecessors, but Blue has a different way of looking at it. "I tend to say it's not as much darker as it is more real," he said. "And maybe that's a pessimistic way of looking at the world, but I think that ... reality itself is darker. It's not just shiny, 'Hey, we survived again! Woo-hoo!' There are more levels, where you look at the person sitting next to you, and you start thinking to yourself, 'Do I trust them today?' And you look at someone sitting next to you and start to see a spark and go, 'How do I really feel about that person?' And when your life is being threatened, you tend to actually, in a weird way, find humor to make yourself cope. You can say 'darker,' because in some ways it is, ... but when you really get down to it, it's like everyday life. That's kind of what I like about it."
Blue said the show is part of a greater trend in television for shows to reflect the world around them. "Look at reality shows," he said. "They want to feel like they're a fly on the wall, watching a situation happen. So when you can do that with something that's also sci-fi-related, I think it's even cooler for the fans. Because it makes you feel more like the gate actually exists. Like it's Wormhole Extreme, and these people are going to come and kidnap you any minute because they need your help."

When I told him that I'd certainly be OK with that, he laughed and said, "Me too! And it happened! I'm actually calling you from a real spaceship."

At Comic-Con, the show's creators told the audience that viewers of SGU don't have to be familiar with the earlier shows to watch. Blue agreed. "I think it's great, because the truth is, a lot of my friends and family do not watch a lot of sci-fi, or specifically Stargate," he said. "They keep asking me, 'Should I watch it all?' And I say, 'Feel free to.' It's almost like easter eggs. But the truth is, you don't need to. That's one of the things I really love about Eli, my character. I'm there to be the audience. I'm there to be the heart and the eyes and the ears of the audience who are thrust into this situation they weren't expecting to be in and have to go, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa! What are the Ancients?' And have it explained to them."

But loyal fans will find plenty of references to earlier series, with familiar guest stars, inside jokes and "little tidbits" of information, Blue promised. "You can feel special on that note," he said. "I hate to make this reference, but for some reason it's sticking out. It's kind of like The Muppets. You know how as a kid you watch, and you think it's great and funny? ... And then you grow up and watch and you go, 'Oh, that's a lot dirtier than I thought it was?' It's kind of like that."

Stargate Universe debuts Oct. 2 with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. ET/PT; it will air Fridays at 9 on Syfy
sci-fi wire...

Watch the history of sci-fi visual effects in five minutes

Here's how he describes the clip, above:

A "5th-grader-friendly" collection of clips and making-of footage from notable visual effects films of the past century.

Originally intended for educational use as an introduction to a classroom lecture.The music track is "Rods and Cones" from the album "Audio" by Blue Man Group.
1900 - The Enchanted Drawing1903 - The Great Train Robbery1923 - The Ten Commandments (Silent)1927 - Sunrise1933 - King Kong1939 - The Wizard of Oz1940 - The Thief of Bagdad1954 - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea1956 - Forbidden Planet1963 - Jason and the Argonauts1964 - Mary Poppins1977 - Star Wars1982 - Tron1985 - Back to the Future1988 - Who Framed Roger Rabbit1989 - The Abyss1991 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day1992 - The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles1993 - Jurassic Park2004 - Spider-Man 22005 - King Kong2006 - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest2007 - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End2007 - The Golden Compass2008 - The Spiderwick Chronicles2008 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
sci-fi wire...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eureka stars completely different in Warehouse 13

Wanna see Eureka stars Erica Cerra and Niall Matter doing something really, really different? Then check out tonight's episode of Warehouse 13, in which they play married scam artists. (Spoilers ahead!)

"Niall heard about it before I did, and he called me up and he goes, 'So are you going to do Warehouse?'" Cerra recalled last week during an exclusive telephone interview. "I said, 'What?' He goes, 'Well, apparently they'd like us to do a Warehouse 13 episode as a couple,' and I thought, 'That sounds like fun. I'll let you know when I hear about it.' Then I got a call, and they said they'd love me to do an episode with Niall. And it was fun. It was neat for us to do something else together. Niall and I have a really good chemistry. We work really, really well together. So it was easy for us to go, 'OK, now we're husband and wife.'"

The episode, "Duped"—which will premiere at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy—features Cerra and Matter as Jillian and Gary Whitman, the aforementioned scam artists. The Whitmans seem to be enjoying way too much luck in Las Vegas, and Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanna Kelly)—or a reasonable facsimile of Myka; that's a whole other story—arrive in town to grab and go with the artifact that's bringing the couple such good fortune.

"Gary is a bit more involved in the scams than Jillian," Cerra said. "The idea that we came up with is that she's very much in love with her husband, and he was a crook, and she goes along with what he does because she loves him, she loves the money, and they've now come across this really cool artifact. And they're utilizing it. They want to make as much money as they can, bank it and move on with their lives and start a family."

Cerra added, "So, they're not really hardened, evil criminals. They're just people who have found a way to make some quick cash, and they're taking advantage of it. Where they're coming up with a bit of a problem is this artifact is quite addictive."

Eureka airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
sci-fi wire...

10 ways District 9 will change sci-fi moviemaking forever

District 9, the sci-fi action drama from director Neill Blomkamp, spun an alien invasion tale that managed to entertain while delivering a message about how horribly we can sometimes treat each other—and anyone or anything that's different.
But that wasn't the only message the film delivered. Its box-office and (for the most part) critical success delivered a message all its own, one that Hollywood heard loud and clear.

And since the movie business sometimes seems to live and die by the rule that everyone wants to be the first to be second, it means that D9's success will forever change the way films are made and marketed.

Some of the changes will be huge, while others will be relatively small, but still, that massive spaceship hovering over downtown Johannesburg in South Africa heralds a shift in sci-fi moviemaking.

Here's how we think future sci-fi films will try to copy this surprise hit (warning: spoilers ahead):

1. It will force the studios to come up with viral marketing campaigns that are actually intriguing. You saw the buses, you saw the billboards, you saw the benches that said "For Humans Only." (And you saw how some of the people sitting in those benches didn't look quite human after all.) The viral sites and the ubiquitous signage all helped set up the buzz that launched District 9. Marketers will get the hint that being viral isn't enough--campaigns will also have to be interesting.

2. It will cause Hollywood to start looking outside the system for creators. Before Neill Blomkamp was plucked from relative obscurity to work with Peter Jackson on that aborted movie adaptation of the video game Halo for a few hundred million dollars, he was known primarily for his alien invasion mock-umentary short Alive in Joburg. The success of District 9 sends a message that money can be made when you look beyond the usual suspects for talent.

3. It will result in more films with no-name casts. Starring Sharlto Copley? Who? Before District 9, Copley's biggest credits were the acting and directing he did in his own shorts from age 12. He also had a cameo in Alive in Joburg, the inspiration for District 9. This movie proves that you don't need Tom Cruise, Will Smith or Keanu Reeves to make money with an SF film, and this summer's box office—during which Johnny Depp failed to make Public Enemies a hit, and Julia Roberts couldn't save Duplicity—has handed Hollywood yet another lesson.

4. It will lead to more storytelling that's original and not based on a comic book, pop novel, children's toy, video game, TV show or a previous movie. Imagine that! This movie could encourage more risk-taking in terms of story, and it proves that a good, original idea can succeed. Now if only someone could come up with one. (And yes, we know that technically the feature film is based on a short film, but to us D9 seems like the fully realized version of Alive in Joburg, rather than an expanded adaptation of some other piece of content.)

5. It will lead to more multiracial and multicultural casting. Most of the cast and crew were non-American, and a lot of the cast was non-Caucasian. It's nice to know that this time the aliens were color-blind when they landed. (The upcoming Clash of the Titans remake, with its international cast that has only a couple of Americans, and none in major roles, is joining in this trend.)

6. It proves that accents aren't a bad thing, which is especially useful in sci-fi. South Africans, Nigerians, prawns and multinational business executives from a mysterious conglomerate—all of them are characters in this movie. Some of them may have needed subtitles, even when they spoke English, but it certainly added to the authenticity. It will give the studios license to allow more multicultural casting.

7. It will encourage lower-budget filmmaking. District 9 cost about $30 million to make, but the realistic lasers, alien weaponry and alien creatures look much better than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which cost more than $200 million

8. It proves that getting the fans excited about the film is more important than getting critics excited. When District 9 screened at last month's San Diego Comic-Con, press seating was cut way back to make sure that more fans could get in to see the film, a move which helped generate even more fan buzz. In the future, more marketing campaigns will target the core audiences who actually shell out for tickets rather than the professional journalists.

9. It will lead to more location filming. What? Aliens land somewhere besides New York, Tokyo or Washington, D.C.? This story needed to take place in the Johannesburg of Blomkamp's youth. The crew used remnants of an actual township near Soweto, so they didn't have to spend extra bucks to make things look old artificially. That suggests more real locations, less green screen. And it's better for the environment.

10. It will result in more main characters that are morally complex and conflicted, extremely unusual in a sci-fi blockbuster. No one could be more conflicted than D9 hero Wikus Van De Merwe, who in one scene is trying to get the insect-like aliens to sign their own eviction notices, and in other scenes is growing a bug arm and helping a "prawn" make it to his spacecraft. Maybe we'll see more nuance and less bravado in sci-fi.

sci-fi wire...

New Warcraft details from Blizzcon!

World of Warcraft players got some seriously huge news from Blizzcon in Anaheim, Calif., today: There is a brand-new expansion pack called World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Fans screamed as some of the rumors floating around the Internet were proved to be true. SCI FI Wire just sat in on the World of Warcraft panel at Blizzcon, and we got you some serious deets on the new features.
The trailer showed us exactly why the expansion pack is called "Cataclysm." An ancient evil has resurfaced in the land and changed the face of the classic Warcraft realms. The entire world has changed, and destruction has overtaken familiar landscapes. Fire, cliffs, ruins ... and, strangely enough, grass in Tanaris. The lost islands have become a refuge for the Goblins, and the maelstrom is churning. The level cap was raised to level 85, not 90, as some had speculated. It was suggested that Blizzard wants to push off level 100 as long as possible. We will be seeing new playable races, guild leveling, a new secondary profession, and the ability to transfer from Alliance to Horde and vice versa, creating a new character on the same level within your server. And the biggest announcement of all, the return of the World of Warcraft Big Bad himself, the black dragon Deathwing.

Deathwing debuted in Warcraft II. He was originally one of the five dragon aspects, warding Earth and protecting Azaroth. Some 10,000 years ago, during the War of the Ancients, he began to hear the voices of the old gods, and they drove him insane. He had himself covered with metal plates to replace his scales. Recently the whispers of the old gods have gotten stronger, and Deathwing has awoken from his slumber and erupted into the world. His explosion into the world is the cause of the Cataclysm. Tsunamis, storms, violent eruptions have destroyed the Earth. He actually draws up the elemental planes. Titans created the planes to contain the elementals and bring order to the nascent planet. Elementals weren't exactly happy about that.

The new playable races were met with cheers, though each faction thought the other should have been theirs. The Worgen class is the new race for the Alliance. The developers felt that the Alliance needed a monster race, and these certainly qualify. They were formerly human, but as the Scourge marched south, the people of Giltheas got antsy. A spell was called down, but it was every bit as dangerous as the Scourge itself. The Worgen are a sort of a werewolf-style creature and appear to be quite a bit larger than humans. We were told that the big question in the expansion is whether the Worgen are from somewhere else or somewhen else. We were told that the Worgen starting point is badass, and we'll update you as soon as we check it out.
The new playable race for the Horde is the Goblin. Goblin society has broken up between factions and is now ruled by trade princes. The Goblins have been neutral in the past, but the playable Goblins are a specific group from Kezan in the Lost Islands, a new playable area in the world of Azaroth. The Cataclysm has hit the world hard, and these Goblins have been shipwrecked on Kezan. They begin as a neutral race even on the island but are forced to become allies of the Horde. They were also referred to as the comic relief of the game.

Upheaval comes in the form of tidal waves, tsunamis, volcanic explosions and unending storms. Every zone in the game has been changed. Barrens has been split into Northern Barrens and Southern Barrens. Desolace is now a green and lush area after the Cataclysm allowed water to enter. A place you know as a 25-35 area may now be 45-55, and the Alliance has finally lost Southshore. New pieces of land have appeared as well. Darkshore has been completely redesigned, and the people of Aberdine have been forced north to a brand-new camp to the north. The Stonetalon barrier has been blown open, and Azhara is now a Goblin 10-20 zone. The cities were also revised (Undercity is now rebuilt), and they're all flyable.

There are seven new playable zones in World of Warcraft; Mount Hyjal, Uldun, Lost Isles, Isle of Kazan, the Sunken City of Vashj'ir, Deepholm, Twilight Highlands and Gilneas. The Sunken City is an underwater level, but the developers promised us that it wouldn't be annoying to play. It was originally the home city of the evil high elf Lady Vashj, which sunk under the sea after the Sundering. There will be new tech, allowing combat on the sea floor to be exactly as it is on land, and there will be seamless movement between swimming and floor fighting. It also holds the Gateway to the Abyssal Maw. Underwater mounts were also announced. Deepholm is in the elemental plane of earth and where Deathwing broke through to Azaroth. It's also the central hub of the new zones, with portals allowing quick travel between them.
Uldun, off the coast of Tanaris, was described as an Egyptian-style landscape. Uldun has always been rumored to hold a super weapon, and it will be revealed through questing. There is also a brand-new creature class in Uldun called the Tol'vir, stone creatures created by the Titans. Mount Hyjal is a zone under siege, and the World Tree is in danger of being burned. But ... the Night Elf Malfurion Stormrage is back from the Emerald Dream, and he and the forest god are here to protect it.

The designers said that they've finally been able to do with Hyjal what they always wanted. Finally, the Twilight Highlands. Grim Batol, which was here before, has been sheared in half by Deathwing's super heat. It's the headquarters of Twilight's Hammer, which has become super-powerful since the Cataclysm. There are two new port towns, one for the Alliance and one for the Horde, and the red dragons, having been pushed back, have their headquarters here.

There will also be plenty of new dungeons and raids in the new world, including the Firelands, Uldum, Blackrock Caverns, Grim Batol and Skywall. (The final two include both a raid and a dungeon.) And there are two Heroic Dungeons in Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep. Guild leveling will include a "mass resurrection," and new race/class combos will include Tauren Paladins, Gnome Mages and Dwarf Shamans. There will also be Phased Terrain. Phasing was added fairly recently, and they're taking it up a notch to help make the quests more compelling. The shot we saw was as a coastline and it looks stunning.

We also got a look at the new secondary profession, Archaeology. There are now a ton of ruins in the world, and you can explore them at archaeology nodes. Talent trees are not going to be expanded, but there will be new talents to explore. The just-announced Paths of the Titans will allow you to choose your path without being limited by class, adding a new dimension to your game. A new Mastery System will streamline your talents, which will now give your character bonuses.

For you PvP players, some new zones were announced as well. Tol Barand features a dungeon and extra-profitable daily quests. There is the Battle for Gilneas Battleground and some brand-new arena maps. The major PvP feature is the Rated Battlegrounds to get your rating up and get access to the same types of gear you can get through the arena system.

No word yet on a release date. Blizzard's line is "it will be released when it's ready."
sci-fi wire...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Avatar teaser trailer goes live

The trailer for James Cameron's eagerly awaited 3-D epic Avatar has gone live at the Apple QuickTime Movie Trailers site. (Update: Apple seems to be having problems with the launch, but keep checking back until it's there—that's all we'll be doing this morning! Meanwhile you can see the trailer here—in French—discovered by Cinematical.)

Avatar is the story of an ex-Marine who is thrust into hostilities on an alien planet filled with exotic life forms. As an "avatar," a human mind in an alien body, he finds himself torn between two worlds in a desperate fight for his own survival and that of the indigenous people.
Avatar opens Dec. 18.
sci-fi wire...

New images for The Wolfman

Here's how Universal describes The Wolfman:
Inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolfman brings the myth of a cursed man back to its iconic origins. Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father (Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins), Talbot sets out to find his brother ... and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.

Lawrence Talbot's childhood ended the night his mother died. After he left the sleepy Victorian hamlet of Blackmoor, he spent decades recovering and trying to forget. But when his brother's fiancee, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), tracks him down to help find her missing love, Talbot returns home to join the search. He learns that something with brute strength and insatiable bloodlust has been killing the villagers, and that a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector named Aberline (Hugo Weaving) has come to investigate.

As he pieces together the gory puzzle, he hears of an ancient curse that turns the afflicted into werewolves when the moon is full. Now, if he has any chance at ending the slaughter and protecting the woman he has grown to love, Talbot must destroy the vicious creature in the woods surrounding Blackmoor. But as he hunts for the nightmarish beast, a simple man with a tortured past will uncover a primal side to himself: one he never imagined existed.

Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III) directs The Wolfman, and six-time Oscar-winning special effects artist Rick Baker brings his design and makeup talents to transform Del Toro into the fearsome title character.

The Wolfman opens Feb. 12, 2010.
sci-fi wire...

Angels and dust on the set of the supernatural Legion

SCI FI Wire took a trip to the New Mexico about a year ago to the set of Legion, the upcoming supernatural thriller about God's having enough of the 6 billion ape descendants roaming this planet and sending, ... well, ... legions of angels to wipe us out.

BAFTA-nominated actor Paul Bettany plays the Archangel Michael, who decides to go AWOL (that's Angel Without Leave) against God's orders and defend humanity from the seraphic onslaught. Other cast members include G.I. Joe's Dennis Quaid, Transformers' Tyrese Gibson, Friday Night Lights' Adrianne Palicki and genre fave Doug Jones. Visual-effects expert Scott Stewart makes his feature directing debut with Legion, after years of heading up effects house The Orphanage.
"My objective in this film is to save the human race," says Bettany in his trailer, addressing how one goes about playing an archangel. He's covered with tattoos crafted by the makeup department in the Enochian language of angels devised by the 16th-century necromancer John Dee. "Which is impossible to play [as an actor], so you have to come up with substitutes. I have two children and a wife who I'm, you know, quite fond of," he says with profoundly British understatement. "I simply wouldn't want anything awful to happen to them. So I mix my fascination with the mythology of angels with my real-life objective to keep my children safe, to keep them as happy as possible, ... with the attitude of a warrior. One can only deal with one's fantasies of what an angel is. I began to sort of ... create something a little more concrete."If T.S. Eliot said he could show you "fear in a handful of dust," then the makers of Legion seem to be taking that notion to heart. The set, off in the desert outside Albuquerque, is coated with fine sand like red flour. The stuff gets into everything, and you can't help but pity the freaky-looking extras huddling around heaters during down time on the night shoot, who have to endure the impossibly fine dust while wearing spooky contact lenses.

Bats swoop, eating bugs attracted by the lights surrounding the set of the off-the-beaten-track diner where Michael and a small group of human survivors are holed up for an apocalyptic siege. The unreality of the set is accentuated by flashes of dry lighting on the horizon, making everything feel apocalyptic without the benefit of special effects.Which might be exactly what effects-specialist-turned-director Stewart might be going for.

"[I'm trying to] build sequence after sequence, which hopefully just sort of ratchets up the suspense and which doesn't necessarily do it with visual pyrotechnics, but which tries to do it quietly in an increasingly brooding kind of way, and then we have all hell break loose," Stewart says during a break in filming. "There's Paul Bettany running around with machine guns trying to kill bad guys. He said something really funny the first day. He had an MP-5 and an M-16 in his hands, and he's running out of the diner firing away, unloading full magazines. And he said, 'I was in the Royal Shakespeare Company, but THIS is why I became an actor!'"Legion opens Jan. 22, 2010.
sci-fi wire...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rumor: Is Bryan Singer attached to a Battlestar movie?

HitFix's columnist Drew McWeeny reports a tantalizing rumor: that Universal Pictures is nearing a deal with filmmaker Bryan Singer to produce and possibly direct a new movie version of Battlestar Galactica.

Singer and producing partner Tom DeSanto were originally developing a Syfy original series based on the old Battlestar series about the time the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred, and the plan fell apart. It was later that Ronald D. Moore and David Eick developed their own take on the material for a Syfy series that went on to critical acclaim, earning the admiration of a loyal if somewhat small audience.
Here's what HitFix reported:

The question this raises, of course, is how close will [Singer's new movie] be to the plans that Singer had for the material before Ron Moore's show aired? Right now, my sources indicate that the big decisions haven't been made yet. Singer is the first major creative element to be approached, so once they sign him, they'll go find a writer and they'll figure out exactly which story they're telling. It seems like he'd want to get back to the ideas he originally loved about the piece, but since that was developed with another studio, I'm not sure that would work.

And I'm not sure I buy that Singer's going to come in just to direct a big-screen version of the show that just finished its run. The series wrapped up pretty conclusively, with The Plan and Caprica already in motion as extensions of that story in different directions.

So is this going to be yet another all-new take on the premise? In February of this year, the announcement was made that [Battlestar creator] Glen Larson had signed a deal with Universal to develop a Galactica film that was not tied to any previous version. This has got to be that same project, right? So I guess that means Singer and Larson are going to be sitting down to figure out what take they want to pursue.
sci-fi wire...

Review: District 9's aliens give sci-fi a social conscience

Given the thoughtless action epics that populated theaters this summer, it should come as little shock that District 9, an alien occupation story with actual ideas and racial overtones, drew gobsmacked reactions from critics and audiences alike, even before it was properly released.

At the same time, it's also this sense of unlikely triumph that obscures some of the film's shallowness, if not outright shortcomings; but because Neill Blomkamp's emphasis is on humanistic rather than cultural relevance, the writer-director's feature debut is a genuine triumph nonetheless.
The film stars newcomer Sharlto Copley as Wikus, a corporate-owned social worker in South Africa who is enlisted by his boss—and, not coincidentally, his father-in-law—to help relocate a population of alien beings called "prawns" who descended to Earth after their ship ground to a menacing but seemingly inert halt over downtown Johannesburg. Facing a thankless, confrontational job with indefatigable cheer, if also na├»ve optimism, Wikus eagerly explores the creatures' shanties, only to accidentally be sprayed with a mysterious fluid from an alien device.

But when he begins to partially transform into one of the prawns, Wikus finds himself a pawn in the corporation's plan to harness the power of the alien technology, and soon he forges a tenuous pact with Chris, a prawn who offers to return him to normal in exchange for help returning to the ship.

For a first-time filmmaker, District 9 is a real achievement: Seeded with great, profound ideas, Blomkamp's story works as a conventional piece of entertainment and social commentary simultaneously, and effectively. But its obviousness—and its occasional superficiality—undermines a sense of deeper cultural resonance, even if it teaches lessons that are important and quite frankly more relevant than ever. Thankfully, however, Blomkamp's emphasis is not on deconstructing race relations, but in telling a meaningful story, and he finds many if not most of the right details that bring its emotional core to life.

Shot documentary-style, which gives the material palpable real-world weight, not to mention a certain kind of geographic authenticity, there's an interesting irony to many of the contrasts struck between the South Africans' solidarity as a species against the prawns; black and white citizens alike express their contempt for the creatures, who are described as little more than unthinking drones. (Because it's unclear how far Blomkamp intends to take his metaphor, it's hard to know where his representations of actual black Africans end and the fantasy-other of the prawns begins, although suffice it to say this transparency on the story's surface suggests any deeper connections are likely unintentional.) But the relationship between Wikus and Chris, the one prawn who seems to be capable of cogent thought, is remarkably sensitive and powerful, and it mostly compensates for (if not excuses) some of his conceptual inconsistencies.

For example, Wikus is perhaps best defined as a liberal racist, the kind of person who claims a sense of altruism and benevolence but whose beliefs are mired in ignorance and condescension, however well-meaning are his intentions. But the intellectual and emotional awakening that Wikus endures is profoundly painful for him, sometimes even self-destructive, and he makes progress in half-measures that sometimes backfire but almost always prove relatable or at least recognizable.

Further, there's a key moment in the film when Wikus accidentally interrupts an intimate conversation between Chris and his son, and tenderly knocks on the door frame to acknowledge it; that Blomkamp uses an otherwise insignificant gesture to signify Wikus' evolving respect for these alien creatures serves as a testament to his abilities as a storyteller, and his attention to the universal but oft-overlooked details that define human connection—even if one of the people connecting isn't one.
Of course, with such weighty issues at the forefront of the story, much less this review, one might be tempted to assume that the film is all polemic and no propulsion. But Blomkamp doesn't skimp on the set pieces, and he crafts a truly exciting thriller whose deeper resonance exists there but doesn't distract you: Wikus becomes an unlikely action hero in the service of saving his own life, infiltrates a fortified military compound and at one point dons a metal suit resembling a hollowed-out Robocop ED-209 to battle the military men who wish to turn him into a lab rat just like the poor prawns before him. Like Children of Men, its nearest tonal predecessor, it operates on a hard-science level of authenticity, and while one might be hard pressed to simply call it an action film, there's plenty of it in there to make sure that you're entertained even as you contemplate its other, less visceral elements.
Ultimately, Blomkamp's debut doesn't quite sustain (much less support) the weight of the concepts that reside on its surface, but he does such a good job making sure that what's underneath them works that it's almost impossible not to be charged up afterward. So while the fact that it has ideas at all may indeed be suitable cause for celebration, what's really exciting is that they show real promise and suggest the arrival of a formidable new filmmaking talent.

Be it as a breakneck action-filled thriller or a thought-provoking cultural critique, District 9 truly is one of the best movies of the summer, because it reminds audiences that physical and intellectual stimulus need not be mutually exclusive when it comes to potential blockbusters—especially when there's something emotional there to tie the two together.
sci-fi wire...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

V producer on who might return and other homages

Scott Peters, executive producer of ABC's upcoming V series, confirmed that producers have spoken with Jane Badler, the actress who memorably played the evil alien leader Diana in Kenneth Johnson's original V miniseries, on which the new show is based, about possibly playing a role in the new series.

"Jane Badler has approached our producers and has been in touch here and there," Peters (The 4400) said in an exclusive interview over the weekend at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

Badler is one of the original cast members whom the producers are considering putting in the new show as an homage and tip of the hat, Peters said. "And I haven't had a chance to actually sit down or talk to anybody face to face, but I would love to," Peters said about the original stars, who include Marc Singer and Faye Grant. "And as we move forward in the writers' room, ... we're just getting up on our ... feet. We start shooting Monday [Aug. 10], and so once we sort of get that first one under our belts, I think we'll be able to take a bit of a sigh of relief and really sort of look a little bit more broad stroke, a little bit more big picture. ... I don't want somebody to just walk by in the background and then feature them for a second. ... I want to find a really interesting role for somebody."
That might include role that are 180 degrees different from the parts they played in the 1983 miniseries. "Yeah," Peters said. "I mean, just somebody who can come in, and ... it's either a really ironic role for them, based on what their old role was, or just something really fun or interesting. I want them to have fun doing it. I want the fans to be excited about it. And I think it's just a fun thing to be able to tip your hat to the old show."

The new V is a re-imagining of the original miniseries, about the world's first encounter with an alien race, in which the aliens call themselves the Visitors and have a seemingly friendly agenda that may or may not be a cover for something more malevolent. The new show stars Elizabeth Mitchell as Erica Evans, Morris Chestnut as Ryan Nichols, Joel Gretsch as Father Jack Landry, Lourdes Benedicto as Valerie Stevens, Logan Huffman as Tyler Evans and Laura Vandervoort as Lisa, with Morena Baccarin as Anna and Scott Wolf as Chad Decker.

Peters also promised that the new series will nod to the original in other ways as well, though it tells a new story in the present day with new characters and new situations. (Possible spoilers ahead!)
"Whenever we would audition actors or bring writers in to ... interviews, ... we would ask, 'What do you remember of the show? What's like the big [thing]?' And the big things were the huge ships, the red uniforms, ... eating the hamster and [the] alien baby. You know, universally, that was what everyone came up with. It was like our top four or five. So definitely, we are well aware of those moments and looking to put our own little spin on them to tip our hat to the old audience."

What about the famous reveal of the Visitor's face ripped away to reveal that lizard countenance?

"That was the other one, of course," he said, adding: "We tried to put our own [spin on it]. We're ... a little bit different than their execution of it. It wasn't so much latex mask as it is real flesh and blood."

V will premiere Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
sci-fi wire...

Upcoming Underworld 3D movie to start new trilogy?

With one released-out-of-order trilogy under its belt, comprising Underworld, Underworld: Evolution and the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Screen Gems might be gearing up to start a new Underworld trilogy, according to ShockTillYouDrop.

The new Underworld movie, now in development as a 3D release, could be the kick off for a new story arc centered around fan favorite Selene, the female vampire Death Dealer who had been an elite soldier in a centuries-long war between clans of vampires and werewolves.

There is no word yet on whether or not Kate Becksinsale will reprise her role as Selene.

The new 3D Underworld movie is scheduled for a January of 2011 release.

sci-fi wire...

Steven Spielberg poised to take over Halo movie?

Is Steven Spielberg interested in taking over a proposed film adaptation of the Halo video-game franchise?

That's the rumor over on, which cites numerous anonymous sources.
IESB has learned exclusively (believe me this is solid and I've confirmed it three times over with studio executives and our close ties to CAA) that one of the biggest producers in Hollywood history is currently in active negotiations to develop the feature film adaptation and no it's not Jerry Bruckheimer or Peter Jackson. It's the man behind Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones and Transformers, Mr. Steven Spielberg.
Spielberg is blown away by writer Stuart Beattie's take on the game in his script entitled HALO THE FALL OF REACH. This coupled with the fact that his Dreamworks umbrella is looking for a big tent pole to help launch their newly independent studio with distribution over at Walt Disney Pictures after losing Transformers to Paramount in the separation, it's the perfect combination.
Halo, as we recall, was the project that producer Peter Jackson was once attached to and for which he enlisted newbie South African director Neill Blomkamp before it all went pear-shaped. That collaboration eventually resulted in the upcoming sci-fi action drama
District 9, so we have Halo's fall to thank for that.

But IESB says that Spielberg is blown away by Stuart Beattie's (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) take on the script, about which we wrote a while back. That script is independent of Jackson and Blomkamp's effort and is based on the Halo: The Fall of Reach prequel novel; he also came up with several pieces of concept art (and thanks to Latino Review for breaking that story).

For his part, Blomkamp recently told SCI FI Wire he's not interested in Halo anymore. also argues that Spielberg is an avid gamer, something our sister site
fidgit disputes.
sci-fi wire...

Will Heroes' 'Claire' get a new BFF?

In June, Hayden Panettiere told SCI FI Wire that Claire will go to college this season on NBC's Heroes; now Panettiere reveals that her new roommate could be a female replacement for her first-season pal Zach.

"We're six episodes now into the season, and it's just she develops this friendship with this other girl, this roommate of hers," Panettiere said in an exclusive interview last week at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. "It's the only confidante she's had since the first season, so it's a great relationship, and I think people are going to really like it and enjoy it. But it's normal life."

Claire needs a normal life after three years of Heroes heroics. "She says, 'I've been chasing normal life, and I finally found it. I finally caught it,'" she said. "How long that lasts, I don't know."

Even though Claire has moved away from home, she'll still have visits with adoptive father Noah Bennet, aka H.R.G. (Jack Coleman). "I go to visit him in one of the episodes, and I'm sure I'll visit him [again] soon enough," she said. "It'll probably go to hell in a handbasket."

The new mandate for Heroes in season four is to focus more on character stories. It's a nice change of pace for Panettiere, but she's already getting restless. "At the same time, I want to go shoot someone," she said. "I want to go kill someone."

Some actors have said they are appearing in fewer episodes, but Panettiere has worked a normal schedule in the first six. Beyond the current call sheets, she does not know what producers have planned for her schedule.

"I don't even want to guess," she said. "I have no idea the way it's going to go, what they have planned. I like to be surprised. I'm spontaneous. I've been in most of them. Most people have been in most of them."

Heroes returns Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. on NBC.
sci-fi wire...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Warehouse 13 stars reveal more secret artifacts to come

The cast of Warehouse 13 celebrated its successful debut at NBC's party for the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Wednesday night in Pasadena, Calif.: After only five episodes, Warehouse 13 has scored well for Syfy, and cast members offered us a preview of the stories—and the supernatural artifacts that set them in motion—still to come. (Spoilers ahead!)

The show centers on the title storage facility, home to legendary supernatural artifacts and the people who find, retrieve and store them when they cause trouble.
One item that may come as a surprise to viewers is Studio 54's disco ball, said star Eddie McClintock ("Pete Lattimer"). The '70s dance club was legendary, yes, but magical? "Well, the Studio 54 disco ball absorbed all of these lost dreams of the inhabitants of 54," McClintock said in an exclusive interview. "When [club owner] Steve Rubell and that all went down, it was kind of the end of a time of innocence, with the war in Vietnam and all that stuff. It's just so random, and I love that about the show."

Joanne Kelly ("Myka Bering") totally bought into the Studio 54 theory. "Well, Studio 54 had magical powers, from what I've read," she said. "It's an artifact, it's in the warehouse, man."

Kelly's favorite artifact belongs to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll: the mirror that Carroll described in Through the Looking Glass. "We see Pete playing ping-pong with it in one of the first episodes," Kelly said. "It's a mirror that has your reflection, but it's not you. So the essence of the mirror is not you, it's different. Very tricky, this mirror, and I'm a huge Lewis Carroll fanatic, so that was pretty exciting to me."

Another artifact belonged to the Italian inventor of the electrical cell. Allison Scagliotti, who joined the cast in episode four as Claudia Donovan, got harnessed up to portray the effect of that artifact.
At one point, I become magnetized to the ceiling after putting on Alessandro Volta's lab coat," Scagliotti said in a separate interview. "That was just awesome to shoot. I was literally 20 feet up in the air on a wire, exhausted. Those harnesses are really constricting. That's what's so cool about Claudia. She's always got her hands on some awesome steampunk gadget. The Warehouse is like Treasure Island for me. Every day is discovering something new."Perhaps the greatest new artifact in Warehouse 13 is Claudia herself. After debuting in the episode "Claudia," in which she kidnaps Artie (Saul Rubinek), she now works by his side in the Warehouse.

"The only episode I don't appear in from here on is 'Implosion,' which airs in two weeks," Scagliotti said. "Other than that, I'm here to stay. I'm a fixture in the Warehouse. I'm pretty quickly part of the hardware, I think. Next episode you see me build a tool that helps Artie reconstruct crime-scene footage. It's really, really cool the dynamic that Artie and Claudia share, what eventually arises between Claudia and the Pete and Myka characters. If we're a family unit, then Artie is sort of like our curmudgeonly patriarch. Myka is our serious overachieving sister. Pete is the kind of goofy jock, and I'm like the kind of punk middle child who's getting into trouble."
As Artie, Rubinek appreciated what Scagliotti adds to his role. "As much as he obviously has delight in the kind of artifacts, but they become his children," Rubinek said. "He has no wife, he has no kids. Thank God Allison Scagliotti is playing Claudia Donovan as part of the show now and becomes a kind of surrogate daughter for the character. So he has to learn life lessons that he never had to learn before."
McClintock and Kelly also enjoy seeing their fictional boss get some company. "It's great for Artie to have a foil, too, back at the Warehouse, because it gets lonely," McClintock said.

Kelly added, "I think she brings an edge that we needed."
Warehouse 13 airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.
sci-fi wire...

Producers tease Fringe season two: More 'Over There'?

The season finale of Fox's Fringe introduced a parallel universe where the twin towers of the World Trade Center still exist, and the show's producers said today that they've named it "Over There" and that it will be the only alternate dimension the show will explore in the upcoming second season. For now. (Possible spoilers ahead!)
"We have decided that though science acknowledges a multiverse, we're only going to tell a story about two, here and what we're referring to internally as Over There," executive producer Jeff Pinkner said during a press conference today in Pasadena, Calif., at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. "They are two versions of reality. It's not time travel."

Pinkner added that the bulk of the show will still takes place in our world, though the characters will know that something else may be happening Over There. "It takes place predominantly over here, but what's happening Over There is impacting what's happening over here," Pinkner said.

Series co-creator, writer and executive producer Roberto Orci added that Over There is meant to fuel the imagination, not stand as an expression of the scientific principles of multiverses. "Thematically, the other universe exists [as] a foil to what might have been different in this universe," Orci said in the press conference. "In this other place, Kennedy lived. It's more wish fulfillment and riffing on our world than 'We have to follow the rules of two universes.'"

The Fringe writers said that they are ahead of their original schedule. Co-creator, writer and executive producer Alex Kurtzman said that fan feedback showed that the audience would be receptive to going Over There after only a year.
We never intended to reveal the parallel universe until season three," Kurtzman said during the press conference. "It became very clear they were open and ready for more, so it felt like, why stall it? Let's throw down this challenge to ourselves where we have to come up with a way to take the stories even further."

The season premiere, which screened for some press, has one character go in a shocking direction at the end. Without spoiling the premiere, Pinkner explained why the writers chose to change the game so dramatically. "Because it seemed awesome," Pinkner said, without naming the character or the twist.

As for William Bell, the character who was finally revealed in the first-season finale (in the person of Leonard Nimoy), Pinkner said that Nimoy has shot only one episode of season two but that producers plan to write him in whenever Nimoy wants. "Truly, we've made an open invitation," Pinkner said.

Orci added that season two will run more smoothly as the team has figured out how to balance season-long arcs with stand-alone episodes, character stories and overall mythology. "That's been the whole thing from day one," Orci said. "How much can you serialize? How much can you stand alone? You try to modulate. In the first season we had to plan around resetting the series once or twice, doing it around three or four weeks [breaks]. That makes us more flexible."

Moving the production to Vancouver, Canada, from New York gives the Los Angeles-based producers more direct control, they added. "The fact that we're closer than we were from New York is helpful," Orci said. "We can be up there a little more, communicate better. I think we're just a tighter ship this year."
Fringe returns Sept. 17 at 9 p.m. on Fox.
sci-fi wire...

SGU's Lou Diamond Phillips reassures Stargate fans

Much has been said about how Syfy's upcoming Stargate Universe will take the long-standing franchise in a new direction, but star Lou Diamond Phillips promised there would be enough for faithful fans of the Stargate series as well.

"The Stargate is at the center of it," Phillips said in an exclusive interview Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. The show will also focus on the combined military and civilian exploration of space, much like SG-1 and Atlantis before it, he added.

But Phillips, who plays Col. Telford, said the show will do some new things as well.
"I think audiences today are looking for something that's a little more grounded, so to speak, even when you're doing sci-fi," Phillips said. "It's grittier. It's darker. It's very much character-driven. It's about the dynamics between very real people in an extraordinary situation and not so much about heroes and villains, you know? And also not as much about the hardware anymore. I mean, certainly it has created its own world, it has its own mythology, but it's about how these everyday human beings—be they military, scientific or political—fit into this scenario."
SGU follows a band of soldiers, scientists and civilians who must fend for themselves as they are forced through a Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. The desperate survivors emerge aboard an Ancient ship, the Destiny, which is locked on an unknown course and unable to return to Earth. Phillips (Syfy's The Triangle) plays a lifelong military man who is the chosen leader of the ill-fated expedition.

"I'm supposed to go through the Stargate into this unknown address," Phillips said. "The base is attacked, and a lot of people who should not be in charge are stranded on this ship out in the middle of nowhere called the Destiny. I get stuck on Earth, and it's my mission to try to get to these people ... back, but I have no way to physically get on the ship. ... [So I] keep using these telecommunications stones, exchanging bodies with people and trying to take over and ... get them home."

The body-changing communications device is presumably based on the Ancient technology discovered in the season-nine SG-1 episodes "Avalon," parts one and two.
"It leads to what I hope is going to be the most talked-about love scene of the fall," Phillips adds.

The new SGU will also feature characters with conflicted motives, Phillips added. For his part, "Col. Telford is so focused on his mission that ... he basically comes off as a jerk an awful lot of times," he said. "I mean, he is by the book: ... whatever it takes to get it done. And also very much driven by his ego and the fact that he wants to be the one in charge. Knows that he is more qualified than anyone to complete this mission. Yet there are some dark secrets, and, I think, there are some very interesting surprises about Telford to come."

Stargate Universe debuts Oct. 2 with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. ET/PT; it will air Fridays at 9 on Syfy
sci-fi wire...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

No one told Stargate Universe star not to reveal spoilers

Stargate Universe star Robert Carlyle fortunately didn't get the memo saying that stars of sci-fi series shouldn't tell reporters what's going to happen, and he was only too happy to share with us a raft of spoilers for the upcoming Syfy original series.

Carlyle headlines the ensemble cast as Dr. Nicholas Rush, the reclusive leader who is responsible for an accident that sends a group of soldiers, scientists and civilians through a Stargate onto the runaway Ancient starship Destiny. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead!
Take one recent episode. "I was floating in a tank, and that was kind of bizarre, in actual fact," Carlyle said in a group interview last month at Comic-Con in San Diego. "A bunch of aliens actually got me. Of course, Rush is left on a planet, which is what he deserves, and then the aliens come and pick him up and stick him in a tank. So that's where you suddenly pick me up again, floating in it. So that was quite cool."

But wait, there's more. "We do all die, and then we come back to life," Carlyle revealed. "It's a very, very interesting episode written by Robert Cooper called 'Time.'"

Also look for Stargate SG-1 star Richard Dean Anderson to return to his old stomping grounds, reprising the role of Gen. Jack O'Neill. "He was lovely," Carlyle said. "He really was. He was very humble about the whole thing, in fact. I think he also understood, very quickly, that this is a different thing. He said it was a different show from the one that he had been used to, and, of course, Gen. O'Neill comes back. I think that he's in four or five of the episodes, but you don't actually need to know who the guy is at all. He's so solid with his character, and that's fantastic to act with."

Robert Carlyle
SGU is built around the same mythology as the two previous Stargate series but is nevertheless intended to stand alone for viewers new to the franchise. "I guess we have to obviously give a nod to SG-1 and Atlantis, because we wouldn't be here if those shows hadn't been there," Carlyle acknowledged. "I don't think it's necessary to have watched any of that, at all, in fact. I mean, I guess you have the issues of this general, and even if you hadn't seen him before, he would just seem like another character, so we don't have to be familiar with the past to take on the future."
Aboard the Destiny, the major friction will take place between Carlyle's Rush and Col. Everett Young, played by Louis Ferreira. "Myself and Louis Ferreira are together a lot, and we go on extremely well, because we have to, because we're at each other's throats," Carlyle said. "It's very, very tense stuff."

Younger characters provide passive-aggressive tensions for Rush. David Blue plays Eli, a genius slacker. "Rush is kind of like Salieri, and Eli is a Mozart," Carlyle described. "That's what's going on. He needs this boy. This boy is probably much more clever than him, but he's not going to let him know that."

Rush might seem hardened or gruff, certainly antisocial, but Carlyle said he is not mean or vicious. "I think he's got a wicked sense of humor, but he keeps pretty much to himself," Carlyle said. "I don't think he's the kind of guy who takes pleasure in other people's discomfort or anything like that. He would be quite happy on his own. He's troubled in terms of his wife. His wife is dead, and he wasn't exactly there for her, and this is what caused an awful lot of Rush's problems. He's a very, very lonely man."

sci-fi wire...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why the creators are still tweaking ABC's new V series

Fans who viewed the pilot of ABC's upcoming reboot of the alien-invasion series V at San Diego Comic-Con may not have seen the final version (spoilers ahead!).

Executive producer and writer Scott Peters said that he is still tweaking the first episode, particularly a fight scene between visitors and human resistance near the end of the hour.
We're doing a little bit of reshooting for the fight, because we feel like we want to make the visitors even more formidable and even more awesome," Peters said in a group interview last month at Comic-Con in San Diego.

Like the original 1983 miniseries, the new show deals with the arrival of alien Visitors who promise advanced technology in exchange for water and minerals. But as viewers of the original miniseries know, the Visitors turn out to be something more sinister.
Peters (The 4400) said that the new show sets up a bit more backstory for the aliens' presence, requiring the final fight in the pilot to be more extreme. "The original intent was that they would come in with silent weaponry," Peters said. "They wouldn't be [here] with guns, and they wouldn't be with lasers, because if they ever got captured or anything happened, they didn't want a piece of alien technology laying around. They also didn't want to draw attention. So they're very adept at hand-to-hand combat, which all makes logical sense. The feeling was it lessened their ability to seem as formidable as they are. So we're going to be adjusting that a little bit."

The fight scene as it was initially shot shows humans doing their best to brawl the alien visitors, who can jump higher and move faster, thanks to wirework. Peters wants to give visitors additional weaponry to make them even deadlier.

"We actually do want to introduce a tiny little bit of Visitor tech that comes in," Peters continued. "What we're determined to do is introduce a little bit, a new piece of alien tech, Visitor tech, try to do it every episode. Certainly try to give a little bit of culture, peel back the onion of what their mandate is, what's really behind it, what's really going on, and just see the political stuff that goes on aboard the ship, just like we have political stuff underneath the ship."

But Peters doesn't want to turn the show into a "battle of the week." "Oh, we're not going to shy away from an action element, by any means," Peters said. "It's just not going to be the driving force of the show. It kind of becomes a little less interesting to us. To us, the characters drive the show. Yes, it's set against this huge science fiction backdrop, but I can watch spaceships for a couple of minutes and be, 'Yeah, it's cool. Now what have you got?' I can watch an action sequence for a couple of minutes and go, 'That's great. Now what have you got?' Characters have to be the thing that drive the show and that you really invest in, and when you do have the action sequences and you do come to the new technology, it's just icing on the cake. It's super cool."
The characters include FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch), the investigator and the skeptical priest who discover the resistance in the first episode. "It'll take a little time [for the resistance] to grow, but Georgie [David Richmond-Peck] will certainly be back, and certainly we introduce some new folks along the way," Peters said. "But, yes, Elizabeth and Joel are not going to be the only ones fighting the war."

Erica will face an additional challenge dealing with her teenage son Tyler (Logan Huffman), who finds himself recruited by the Visitors, or "Vs." "That's exactly going to be her issue," Peters said. "'If I had a hard time fixing it before, how the hell am I going to fix it now?'"
Tyler is tempted by Visitor recruiter Lisa, played by Smallville's Laura Vandervoort. "You will absolutely be seeing more of Laura Vandervoort," Peters said. "She was wonderful. She's joined the cast as a series regular, and you can expect to see a lot more with Tyler as things move forward. She has a couple interesting things up her sleeve as well."

Getting back up to the spaceship also adds a little pizzazz to the weekly political and religious metaphors. "That's also a mandate of ours for ourselves," Peters said. "Yes, it's mostly an earthbound show, but we love the candy of going up and seeing the inside of this place."

Meanwhile, Father Jack is dealing with religious implications of alien visitors. If the visitors can cure our diseases and provide technological answers, why would people turn to God?

"He's sort of in the business of asking people to devote themselves to his religion," Peters said. "This is a guy who used to step outside, look up at the sky, where in his mind God would be, and now there's a spaceship in the way."

Another aspect of V deals with the media. Anna (Morena Baccarin) opens up to a journalist, Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), giving him exclusive access. That is, of course, as long as he asks only the questions she wants him to.

"Chad is stuck," Peters said. "He's a guy who was plucked out of obscurity. She didn't pick Tom Brokaw to do it. She picked a guy who wouldn't get up and leave. So she's pretty good at manipulating folks."

The pilot also leaves the fate of Erica's FBI partner, Dale Maddox (Dollhouse's Alan Tudyk), up in the air. Peters only hinted about plans to bring him into the fold. "That's a hard question, because I don't want to give anything away," Peters said. "We love Alan. Clearly the audience loves Alan, and it would be awesome to find ways to maybe see him again somehow."

V premieres in November.
sci-fi wire...

District 9 director already thinking about a sequel

Neill Blomkamp, the South African writer-director of the upcoming sci-fi drama District 9, has yet to find out whether his movie will catch on with wider audiences the same way it did with folks who saw footage from it at last week's San Diego Comic-Con.

But the filmmaker said that he would be happy to return to the film's universe if it became a box-office smash. "If this film is successful, if audiences want another, whatever, District 10, I would love to do it," Blomkamp said in an exclusive interview this week in Los Angeles. "It's a very personal film, and it's a universe and a place that I find incredibly creative. I'd love to go back to that universe."

The movie deals with the arrival of a million insectoid aliens, derisively called "Prawns," in a massive ship over Johannesburg, South Africa, and the uneasy coexistence 28 years later between humans and aliens who live in the grinding poverty and violence of a township-like camp. The action is set in motion by a low-level bureaucrat, played by newcomer Sharlto Copley, who heads an armed force that enters the slum, District 9, to make way for a forced relocation of the aliens. When things take an unexpected turn, Copley's Wikus van der Merwe finds his life turned upside down, and he is forced to question his assumptions and forge an uneasy alliance with an alien and his young son.

Blomkamp said that if audiences wanted something different from him, he was working on something else that would no doubt appeal to the same audience, even if the project went in a slightly different direction.

"I have another science fiction film now that I want to write for the rest of the year," Blomkamp said. "That, I think, may be the next one, and I'm incredibly into [it]. It's quite different, and it's a unique idea, but I'm very into it."

Describing the tone, he said it would feature a similar combination of grand ideas and great action set pieces: "It's similar," he said coyly. "I mean, it's a very different film, but it's a very similar genre, I suppose."

As for a follow up to District 9, there's an obvious sequel idea. (Major spoilers ahead!)
The obvious thing would be for Christopher to return to Earth in three years to help Wikus, as promised. Is that a possible story?

"I do have ideas rattling around in my head, and weirdly enough they're not to do with what you just said," Blomkamp said. "They're different. But, who knows? First, the population has to like [District 9]; otherwise, the whole thing is just moot, I suppose. But I would love to go back there."
District 9 opens Aug. 14.
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Park Chan-wook: Don't think of Thirst as a vampire movie

An internationally popular writer-director wants to tell a story about a priest's fall from moral grace. How best to put across such a story?

Well, if you're Park Chan-wook—the South Korean filmmaker behind Old Boy and the Vengeance thrillers—you very loosely adapt Emile Zola's Therese Raquin, have the priest become a blood-drinking, wife-coveting vampire and call the resulting film Thirst.
Thirst, opening today in limited release, stars Song Kang-ho (The Host) as Sang-hyun, the priest in question. He's a good man who submits to taking a secret vaccine that kills nearly everyone who takes it. In fact, he's the only survivor, but bizarre side effects soon reveal themselves. Sang-hyun gains strength, lusts after a longtime friend's beautiful but unhappy—and possibly abused—wife, Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin), and eventually begins to imbibe blood and even kill when necessary. The film ranks as probably one of the hardest-R releases ever, bursting with violence, gore, nudity, language and more; in other words, we loved it.

"In all truth, it wasn't in my interest, and I didn't try at all to reinvent the vampire genre within the conventional traditions of vampire films," Park said last week during an exclusive interview in New York City. "I chose a vampire story in order to tell this [particular] man's story."

Following is more from our interview with Park, who spoke with the help of a translator.

In the context of your films, what kinds of storytelling tools are violence and sex?
Park: These tools are used in order to clarify issues, to clarify questions. I throw questions to the audience. Every artist is interested in throwing questions to the audience that is appreciating their art. This question that I'm throwing to the audience doesn't require a descriptive answer. It's a question of choice, this or that. So it is a dilemma of choice, and in order to make the question more physical, to make it more obvious to the audience, it is more effective to put my questions in the most extreme, most pure form possible. And in order to do that, it is most effective for the question to be asked with a tinge of violence. You are placing the audience in a situation with horrific, horrific violence and asking them, "In this situation, what would be the moral choice? What would be the ethical choice? And if there is no ethically right choice, what would be the least of all the wrong choices?"
To illustrate this, rather than ask somebody, "Would you like to go without a meal, or would you like to pinch this guy?" it's more effective to ask the question, "Either he dies or you die, who is it going to be?" One has to die, and that's more effective. It makes the situation more pure and effective when the question is violent in nature.
And sex?

Park: When I was making Old Boy, the producer at the time was really concerned with incest scenes where a father and daughter would be having sex. The producer thought it would be very hard to release the film with that scene, and he wanted to take it out, but even with it intact there weren't any problems with it getting an R and getting released in the United States. So what I mean to say is that when I'm including scenes of violence or sex, it's not gratuitous. It's all done within a context of sincerity and desperation and all the different emotions that the main characters in my movies have. These scenes are the result of trying to express the emotions.

Every filmmaker wants every scene to work, but is there a scene or two in Thirst that you felt you had to pull off convincingly or the whole thing would fall apart?
Park: When I first had an idea for this film 10 years ago, there were two things that I wanted to get right. There were two things that I had, basically, that I was starting with: the process of the main character, and the question of how does he make a woman that he loves into a vampire. Those are two sequences that I think I wrote in one night, in one sitting, although it was 10 years ago. The rest of the story was all blank. I didn't have any other elements of the story apart from the past two. That, in turn, means that for the last 10 years I have been developing those sequences and everything around them. The sequence that actually made me want to make the film is the one with Tae-ju getting turned into a vampire. So that's the one I felt was the most important to get right. I thought it would become the core of the film, and it was important to me to realize that scene without detracting from the original idea I had for it. And I think I did that.

As audiences grow increasingly familiar with your work, how much harder does it get to scare them and to make them think?

Park: I would say it has become somewhat easier. Audiences, when they first experience my films, they tend to look at only what's on the outside, what's at the superficial level. They see the violence and the effects, and this is what may remain in their thoughts. I think that's especially true for someone who's never seen my movies and is seeing one for the first time. But if they're used to my films, then they come to them prepared and they're willing to look inside and what's behind everything they see.

It's just like when I saw Blue Velvet for the first time, the only thing I took from it was the ear that was cut off and all these insects swarming around it. That's the only thing I could think of for a few nights. But as I got to watch more and more of David Lynch's films I was able to get over that and see what was inside his movies.
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