Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Primeval saved! You'll get to see at least 13 more episodes

If you're a fan of the Brit walking-with-dinosaurs sci-fi adventure series Primeval, you're in luck: Three months after ITV canceled the show, BBC America and U.K. pay channel UKTV are rescuing it from extinction.
Impossible Pictures will make another two runs totaling about 13 episodes, Variety reports:
Under the new funding arrangements, BBC Worldwide, responsible for licensing the show to around 45 countries, replaces ITV as the program's biggest investor.
Meanwhile, BBC America, which airs Primeval in the U.S., has joined Germany's ProSieben as a co-production partner on the show.

As part of the deal, ITV will premiere the fourth season of the show in early 2011, while UKTV premieres the fifth season later the same year. It's not clear when Primeval will cross the pond, but we expect it'll be sometime the same year.Primeval follows a team of five scientists who chase down nasty creatures—including dinosaurs from the past and giant batlike "future predators" from the, um, future—who appear in the present via temporal anomalies across Great Britain. Why is it always Great Britain? And where's the Doctor when you need him?
sci-fi wire...

Riverworld miniseries

Tahmoh Penikett dies! And that's just the beginning of Syfy's Riverworld, in which everyone who has ever lived on Earth is resurrected simultaneously in an unusual afterlife.
The miniseries, based on the books by Philip José Farmer, won't air until next year, but you can check it out today, thanks to the trailer below, released by producers RHI Entertainment.
sci-fi wire...

First look at Robert Rodriguez's bloody, violent Predators

We're as interested as you are in any info about the plot of next summer's Robert Rodriguez-scripted Predators reboot. Today we got some tidbits from our friends at the Latino Review, who got a chance to read a 90-page script dated July 12, 2009 and shared some of that insider info with the rest of us.

The draft is a "bloody, violent, Hard-R script" that pits a team of seven kidnapped humans against Predators on the aliens' home planet. Reportedly, the team of seven are:

Royce, a Steve McQueen type
Cuchillo, a Mexican enforcer for a drug cartel who has twin uzis strapped to his back
Nikolai, a bear of a Russian armed with a four-barrel gas-powered rotary machine gun
Isabelle, a French woman armed with a sniper rifle
Stans, a San Quentin prisoner with a shaved head, armed with a prison-made knife
Mombasa, an African member of the Sierra Leone death squad
Hanzo, a Yakuza enforcer

Edwin, an unassuming man who was formerly on the FBI's most-wanted list.
sci-fi wire...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

All the odd Fringe stuff you need to remember for season 2

Fringe is back tonight, and there's some stuff you'll probably need to know—or at least need to be reminded about—before the new season starts. We've done our best to compile a Fringe 101 list to help refresh your (and our) memory below.
This is also a "quick start" guide for new viewers. If you think we left something important out, let us know in the comments.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead.]
Walter Bishop has a cow. It's in his lab at Harvard, her name is Jean, and he's delighted about it. He's a genius scientist, who usually solves the mystery at the heart of each episode. He has significant mental crackage, and not just because he was in a mental institution for years. He worked on a portal to an alternate universe and even took his son Peter from it.
Peter Bishop has a murky, off-the-radar past. Turns out he died as a boy in this, our universe. Walter, heartbroken, replaced him with the boy Peter from the alternate universe, who is the Peter we have come to know and love. It's unclear at this point what happened to alternate-universe Walter.
OK, let's talk about this alternate universe. It's the mainspring of Fringe—not time travel, not faster-than-light travel, but alternate universes. In the not-our-universe once inhabited by the alternate Peter who is now in our universe, John F. Kennedy is alive and aged, Len Bias didn't die of cocaine, and the World Trade Center towers are standing proud and gleaming.
There is a bald guy who is in every episode, mostly briefly. He's usually around when something significant happens. He and Walter know each other. He's called The Observer. I tend to think of him as the eternal bald observer, because a fair amount of this kind of science fiction has a bald observer.

Are there any crimes going on here? Yes, of course, but I wanted to tell you about the cow first. Olivia Dunham is an agent on a special FBI team tasked with investigating strange deaths and the like. In this, Fringe is a successor to The X-Files. But some crimes—especially those involving teleportation—connect to the alternate universes. They also connect to Olivia, who realizes she was treated as a child with a special drug. Indeed, she was experimented upon by Walter.
A little more about teleportation—when was the last time you saw it in a contemporary television series? You've of course seen it in Star Trek beaming, but the teleportation in Fringe is more ragged around the edges, more desperate, and feels more like the novel The Stars My Destination (highly recommended, by the way).
Olivia has enlisted Walter and Peter to help. She and Peter haven't hooked up yet, but I'd say it's just a matter of time. Broyles is the head of her team—you'll recognize the distinctive actor, Lance Reddick, from The Wire and Lost. The team has some good guys and bad guys—a lot more interesting than the FBI team from Numb3rs.
Olivia's former lover was her former FBI partner, John Scott. He's former in both pursuits because he's dead. Walter had a way of getting Olivia into his dead mind. But it was too dangerous for her, so they stopped that, and it's not clear what role, if any, John will play in the second season. Just keeping you posted in case he does come back (though the actor has moved on to another series), or in case you wanted to know. Charlie is Olivia's current partner, and they're just good friends.
Astrid's also FBI and works in the lab with Walter and the cow. Olivia's sister and beloved little niece live with her. The sister seems to like Peter, but they are mostly there as vulnerabilities that Olivia's deadly opponents can exploit.
And make sure you keep an eye on the glyphs—leaves, half apples, seahorses, and the like—on the screen when Fringe breaks for commercials. The glyphs provide clues. Some of them have been decoded on the Web.
And who are Olivia's opponents? Who are the ultimate villains in Fringe? Again, not completely clear. But William Bell, played by Leonard Nimoy, is the genius scientist who used to work with Walter. Bell now straddles both universes as head of the mysterious, powerful, Massive Dynamic. He also has some connection to ZFT (Zerstorung durch Fortschritte der Technologie, or destruction through the advancement of technology), the terrorist group that's behind the crimes, which may have been founded either by Bell or Walter.
And then there's Nina Sharp, played by Blair Brown, who's Bell's chief assistant. She's the current head of the company in our universe, and knows a lot more than she lets on.
The last scene of the last show of the first season found Olivia—our Olivia—in Bell's office, with Bell, in the alternate universe, in his Massive Dynamic office, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, 2009.
Paul Levinson, Ph.D., is professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University in New York City. His eight nonfiction books include The Soft Edge (1997), Digital McLuhan (1999), Realspace (2003) and Cellphone (2004). New New Media, exploring blogging, Twitter, YouTube and other "new new" modes of communication, will be published by Penguin Academics in the summer of 2009. His science fiction novels include The Silk Code (1999, winner of the Locus Award for Best First Novel), Borrowed Tides (2001), The Consciousness Plague (2002), The Pixel Eye (2003) and The Plot To Save Socrates (2006). His short stories have been nominated for Nebula, Hugo, Edgar and Sturgeon Awards. He reviews the best of television in his blog and was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education's "Top 10 Academic Twitterers" in 2009.
sci-fi wire...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The devilish Ray Wise is moving into the Dollhouse

If the devil is in the details, then the Devil is in the Dollhouse: Reaper's Ray Wise is joining the cast of Joss Whedon's sci-fi series, according to Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello.

In addition to playing the Prince of Darkness on The CW's much-loved but short-lived Reaper, Wise is well known to genre fans as the murderous father of Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks and the crazed farmer in Jeepers Creepers 2, among a host of other roles.
Dollhouse returns for a second season on Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Guest stars previously announced include Battlestar Galactica's Jamie Bamber, Keith Carradine, Angel's Alexis Denisof and Firefly/Terminator's Summer Glau.
sci-fi wire...

News briefs: Wicked comes; Silent Hill sequel

Universal Pictures has acquired screen rights to Wicked Lovely, the best-selling first book in a fantasy series written by Melissa Marr that will see its fourth installment published next year by Harper Collins, Variety reported. ...

David Henrie of the Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place will pair with Platinum Studios to develop its comic-book series The Weapon into a feature film he'd star in, according to The Hollywood Reporter; it follows martial-arts inventor Tommy Zhou, who has developed a ground-breaking portable innovation that an evil order will stop at nothing to steal....

Roger Avary (Beowulf) and Samuel Hadida of Davis Films have signed on for a sequel to their 2006 video-game adaptation Silent Hill, according to The Hollywood Reporter; the original centered on a woman who travels to a desolate town to seek help for her ailing daughter only to find supernatural occurrences taking place there.
sci-fi wire...

Trek writer will adapt a vampire tale for Ridley Scott

Star Trek: Nemesis writer John Logan has been set by Fox 2000 to adapt The Passage, the Jordan Ainsley vampire novel being developed for Ridley Scott to potentially direct, Variety reported.

It marks the first time that Logan and Scott have collaborated since the Oscar-winning Gladiator, the trade paper reported:
Fox 2000 acquired the book two years ago, paying seven figures for the three-book series right after its publishing rights sold to Ballantine for $3.75 million. ...

Ainsley—pseudonym for PEN Hemingway Award-winning author Justin Cronin—sold the book based on the first 400 pages and an outline, but the film adaptation awaited his completion of the book, which is nearly 1,200 pages.
In the novel, terminally ill patients become healthy after they are bitten by bats in South America, and the government conducts secret tests on human subjects to see if the virus can cure illness. The result is an apocalyptic unleashing of bloodthirsty vampire test subjects that include death row inmates.
sci-fi wire...

Monday, September 14, 2009

What's the big surprise behind the return of Eureka's 'Taggart'?

The rumors are not true—Matt Frewer did NOT agree to reprise his role as Jim Taggart on Syfy's Eureka just so people would finally stop saying, "Hey Matt, when are you going to be back as Taggart on Eureka?"

"That wasn't my M.O., but if it's achieved that, it's worked," Frewer said during a conference call with reporters earlier this week. "Well, that's it, it's a double-edge sword, isn't it? You can kind of leave 'em wanting more, but if you leave 'em for too long then they just forget."

Fan favorite Frewer—whose credits include everything from Max Headroom, PSI Factor and Watchmen to the Syfy miniseries Taken—returns as Taggart in "Have an Ice Day," which will premiere tonight on Syfy at 9 p.m. ET/PT. In the episode, an ice core threatens to bring with it a new ice age. The manager of the ice core project is none other than Taggart.

But wait a second—we thought Taggart was Eureka's erstwhile veterinarian and biological containment specialist?

"Yeah, so did I," Frewer said, laughing. "I guess in the overall storyline the notion for this was that he was going to complete his walkabout back to Australia. And the whole deal with Taggart is that he always gets waylaid somewhere interesting. And this was his next port of call, to take ice core samples in the Arctic. So there you have it."
Frewer took direction during his time back on the Eureka set from series regular Joe Morton. The actor gives his temporary boss a thumbs-up. "Actually, it was great," Frewer said. "He's an extremely bright and gifted fellow anyway, and it was a pleasant surprise to see how savvy he was directing. Obviously, being an actor, you have somewhat of an immediate rapport with him anyway, and there was kind of a shorthand, but on top of that he was just great fun. We both agreed that for Taggart's return that was the key to the thing, to have fun with it. And he definitely facilitated that."

The episode airing tonight is a one-off. Frewer won't be back as Taggart this season. But Syfy has renewed Eureka for a fourth season, and Frewer said he'd like to return again at some point. "We're pretty much right back into the flow of the character interaction," he said. "There's definitely possibilities there for more stuff, and hopefully they take up the challenge."
sci-fi wire...

What's this mysterious letter from Fringe's second season?

Fringe is on its way back from that alternate reality, and we've got a few cool tidbits to share with you as we get ready for the second season of Fox's ubercool sci-fi procedural.

For starters, Fox sent along this mysterious paper with its second-season premiere screener for the sci-fi series, which returns next Thursday at 9 p.m. Check out the close-up below for the message it contains. (Possible spoiler ahead!) What could it mean??
Executive producers J.J. Abrams, Jeff Pinkner, Joel Wyman and Akiva Goldsman, meanwhile, promise that the second season will build on the tantalizing promise of the first:

"As we said last year, Fringe is a procedural, but unlike most procedurals, it's driven by character. Last season we met Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Walter Bishop (John Noble) and Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) as well as the characters who support them while they tackle insane problems. And we discovered that at least some of the problems they face were put in motion by the work of Walter and his former lab mate, William Bell (guest star Leonard Nimoy), who in an alternate reality occupies an office in the (still standing) World Trade Center.
This year, the problems of Olivia and the Bishops face will worsen and become more personal."
You're gonna see more than one—this is an exclusive! You are going to see many Observers," Orci told the magazine about the new season's eighth episode. "[It's] going to tell you a lot about the Observers. You're going to find out their role in the world, what they're named after, and their connection to some of these characters."
Orci added: "One of the things we're doing, which we've been doing since season one, is that every four episodes or five episodes, if you've been watching the show and you're a fan, you're gonna get bigger answers than you ever got before. If you stay tuned to the fourth show, that eighth show, that 12th show, you will start to see a continuity that begins with the Observers."
Check back on SCI FI Wire for more Fringe news in the coming days, leading up to the season premiere and beyond.
sci-fi wire...

How did Amanda Tapping produce, direct and act in Sanctuary?

Amanda Tapping directed one episode of Stargate SG-1 and always told us she wanted to helm another but never got the chance. So it helps that she's the executive producer of her own show now—Syfy's Sanctuary—and can finally step behind the camera again for an upcoming episode.

Besides producing, Tapping also stars as the creature-loving immortal scientist Dr. Helen Magnus, and she'll direct the seventh episode of the new second season, called "Veritas."
"It was an appropriate episode for me to direct; I think that they must have planned it that way," Tapping said in an exclusive interview. "It was perhaps [director and executive producer] Martin's [Wood] way of torturing me."

"Veritas" was written by Alan McCullough, who scripted three of last year's 13 Sanctuary episodes and also wrote for Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1. In the show, Tapping's normally stable and aloof character seems to slowly slip into insanity and becomes more and more crazy.

"I guess I felt like I was going a little crazy," Tapping said with a laugh. "I kept thinking, 'Am I nuts wanting to direct this?' I didn't want to mess it up. It's about Magnus going crazy, going completely off the rail."

Tapping's first directing gig was SG-1's "Resurrection." "I learned a lot on Stargate," she said. "I had a great experience directing that show, and I've been shadowing Martin for so long."

Wood said he would let her direct every other episode if he could. "She does some incredible work, and I find that her style is very close to mine," he said.
The original plan was for Tapping to helm a Magnus-light storyline, but as the filming grew closer, the focus on her character grew. "We forced her to do perhaps one of the hardest things to do, because if she was just playing her character regularly, it would have been easy, but this time she had to lose it, and she was doing it without supervision," Wood said. "No one was telling her if it was far enough or too far, or how much she should push it."

Wood was prepping the next episode and dropped in when he could, and the show's co-creator and executive producer Damian Kindler watched when he could, too. But when they asked Tapping if she needed help, she'd say, "No, I'm good."
"She just turned in her episode after editing it herself, too, and it just blew us away. It was magnificent," Kindler said. "She did an absolutely first-class job and proved she is a skillful shot-maker, a good director and editor and a clever and intuitive person. If she every wanted to do a career shift, she would make a great director."
Like one of the creatures the Sanctuary houses, Kindler added, "If we could clone Amanda, we would need four of her."

Co-star, Robin Dunne, who plays Dr. Will Zimmerman, said, "Amanda continually surprises me. As an actor she's someone to look up to, but as a director she was equally passionate and generous."

Dunne and Tapping are known for cracking each other up during their most intimate scenes together, but for her Sanctuary directorial debut, Dunne was on his best behavior. "There was no goofing off on that one, I believe," Dunne said.
After all, she is the boss.

Sanctuary returns Oct. 9 and airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
sci-fi wire...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Greg Grunberg reveals more of Sylar's Heroes plans

When we last saw Matt Parkman on Heroes, he had used his psychic powers to help vanquish Sylar. The preview of Vol. 5 suggested that Sylar is already starting to emerge from the body of Nathan Petrelli, despite Parkman's best efforts. As season four, Vol. 5 continues, Sylar lingers on in Parkman's mind, too, said actor Greg Grunberg.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
"When we come back in season four, you see that this transfer of brains or whatever didn't go smoothly, and remnants of Sylar are left behind in me," Grunberg said in an exclusive interview on Aug. 5 in Pasadena, Calif., as part of the Television Critics Association fall press tour. "He's in my subconscious and I can't control him. Then he starts to control me, which is very, very cool."

Sylar's already got Nathan's body. Does he get Parkman's, too? "Well, he's in my head," Grunberg explained. "No one else can see him but me, so he's in scenes with me. It's very cool."

Zachary Quinto continues to play Sylar, in Parkman's vision of Sylar's presence. Grunberg also revealed some of Sylar's dirty deeds. "[He] kidnaps my child to get his body back. It's that kind of stuff, and it's very personal and much more relatable, I think."

That must mean Sylar uses Nathan's body to kidnap Parkman's daughter, right? No, said Grunberg. That's a separate thing while Sylar plays the brain game with Parkman. Don't worry about following the complicated storyline. Grunberg said it all makes sense.

"It's very easy to follow, actually, my storyline," Grunberg said. "It's cool how it's done. I love it because it's more character-based. The show became all about saving the world, and it's very abstract. It's kind of hard to grasp that. What does that mean? It's very spectacular, and it's fun, but then if you do it every week, it doesn't mean anything. And if everybody has powers, it doesn't mean anything. So this year it's kind of getting back to season one, where it's all about the characters just wanting to be real and normal. I don't want this power, I don't use it, and I'm forced to use it because Sylar's doing anything [he can]."

Grunberg has been enjoying the team-up with Quinto so much that he hopes Sylar never gets out of Parkman's head. "I went to the writers, I was talking to them tonight, and I was like, 'Guys, please don't end this. Don't resolve this, because we're having so much fun.' What's cool is that my powers evolve, and I start this year so regretting what I did last year that I have absolutely cut it cold turkey. I refuse to use my powers, and Sylar wants me to, so he's constantly on my shoulder going, 'Use your powers, you p-ssy.' It's great. It's really cool."

Too bad Parkman doesn't have a good angel on his shoulder telling him not to listen to Sylar. "No, that's me, but I'm not strong enough. It's pretty great."
Heroes returns Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. on NBC.
sci-fi wire...

30 Days of Night sequel has director

Ben Ketai has been named the director of 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, the sequel to the 2007 vampire thriller 30 Days of Night, according to Bloody Disgusting.
Previously, Kentai had co-written, with original 30 Days of Night graphic novel writer Steve Niles, the Web-based and on-demand prequel to the first film, 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails. The 30-minute Blood Trails had been shown on and FEARnet on Demand just prior to the theatrical release of 30 Days of Night. Kentai then went on to co-write with Niles and Ed Fowler the Web-based and on-demand sequel to 30 Days of Night entitled 30 Days of Night: Dust to Dust.

The sequel will focus on the character of Stella Oleson, the wife of Sherriff Eben Oleson, who has published a book on the vampire attack on the Alaskan town of Barrow and who subsequently draws the attention of a vampire clan in Los Angeles.
Melissa George played Stella in the first film, but the part will be recast for the sequel.
Filming in Vancouver will begin this October.

sci-fi wire...

The Green Hornet actually starts shooting

After many delays and set backs, including the loss of a director, the search for a new one, an extensive search for a new Kato and a release date pushed back from the summer of 2010 to the winter of 2010, principal photography has actually begun on The Green Hornet, according to a press release from Columbia Pictures.

The Seth Rogen vehicle, which Rogen scripted with his Superbad and Pineapple Express co-writer Evan Goldberg, had originally been set to be directed by Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer helmer Stephen Chow. Chow dropped out, to be replaced by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep director Michel Gondry. The role of Kato finally went to Taiwanese pop singer and star of Curse of the Golden Flower, Jay Chou.

In addition to Rogen, The Green Hornet stars Cameron Diaz, and Edward James Olmos. War of the Worlds, The Quantum of Solace and Revolutionary Road vet David Harbour has recently joined the cast, as has Tom Wilkinson, who played Boss Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins and who has worked with Gondry before on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The Green Hornet is now scheduled to open December 17, 2010
sci-fi wire...

Underworld star heads to Antarctica in Whiteout

Whiteout uses the extreme cold of Antarctica to put a twist on the mystery thriller genre. U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) discovers a murder at the end of her last tour at a South Pole research station. If it's hard to find clues in the blizzard, imagine trying to hit your mark on the set.

"In terms of being challenging, coming out of the trailer that very first day, I really was worried I wasn't going to be able to speak at all, or say a line ever," Beckinsale said at a press conference on Aug. 28 in Beverly Hills, Calif. "My whole throat closed on that first breath. Luckily, Gabriel [Macht] told me to keep my passages open. Aside from that, the cold was really great. It was probably worse in the studio with the heat. Trying to stop [co-star] Columbus [Short] from sweating was the biggest challenge there."

Macht plays U.N. investigator Robert Pryce, joining the investigation with Stetko. He's also out in the snow in heavy winter gear, which is fine for exteriors, not so much under studio lights. "The challenges that we came up against were when we shot in the studio," Macht said during the press conference. "We were in 80-degree weather, in late spring/early summer, and we were having to wear extreme weather gear. It was probably the hottest set I've ever been on, so I was sweating bullets and probably lost 35 pounds by the end of the movie."

Manitoba, Canada, doubled for the South Pole. Don't make light of shooting in Canada. The actors had to be just as prepared for freezing temperatures when they shot outside. Beckinsale recalled the frightening safety manual.

"When we arrived, they put a thick telephone directory under our hotel room doors the night before we started shooting," she said. "That said, 'These are all the different ways it's possible to die here: of being too cold or of being too hot, if you keep your clothes on too long, when you go inside, or if you've ever had an alcoholic drink, or if you breathe in a westerly direction.' We all panicked. The most I remember was putting on and taking off 15 layers of clothes about 70 times a day. When we first went out, all the men had beards full of ice that I thought were makeup department tests, but it wasn't. It was real. And my hair froze into a point just from breathing on it. I thought, 'Well, I'm from England, I'll know how to handle the cold,' and it wasn't anything like that."

All bundled up, Macht toughed out the cold just fine. "My experience in Manitoba was that it was definitely freezing, and the environment was as close to the [Antarctic] environment as I would think is possible," he said. "But we were in extreme weather and I wasn't that cold. The stuff they got us to wear was very warm. I was fine, and I expected it to be a lot worse."

Producer Joel Silver chose Manitoba for its harsh conditions, but they weren't so harsh that he could not control it. Having learned his lesson from shooting in real snow back on Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Silver utilized modern-day visual effects to enhance location footage. Even creating the whiteouts, where fierce snow blocks visibility beyond a few feet, required digital trickery.

"Some of the way that we did the whiteouts couldn't have been done except for the CGI today," Silver said during the press conference. "You couldn't shoot in that situation. You couldn't possibly shoot in an environment like that. We were able to make it where you can actually see the people, but you sense that you really can't see anything else. With this, we did have some harsh environments, but a lot of that was created in a way that you could believe what you were seeing. There was verisimilitude. We did augment a lot of the climate and weather with visual effects, which makes it harsher than it really was. It was cold, and we were shooting on a frozen lake bed, [but] it wasn't treacherous. The ice was many, many feet deep."
Whiteout opens Sept. 11.
sci-fi wire...

Get a sneak peek at the Stargate Universe press kit

The Syfy PR department has started sending out press kits for Stargate Universe, so we thought we'd grab one and show you what it looks like
sci-fi wire...