Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

“After Earth” trailer – Post-humanity never looked so good

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Epic science fiction adventures set on ruined, post-humanity Earth are clearly like buses – you wait for one and then two come along at once.

Sunday saw the full trailer for the Tom Cruise apocalyptic drama “Oblivion” swoop online and today sees the first trailer for Will Smith‘s next starring effort, “After Earth”, take a flying leap into the spotlight.

And a cautiously impressive science-fiction adventure it looks like, too.  Directed by M.Night Shyamalan from a script by Gary Whitta (he of “The Book of Eli” fame), this story pitches Will Smith and his son Jaden into a desperate adventure on a far-future Earth long devoid of human interference and now stuffed to the gills with hostile creatures and deadly natural phenomena.

I’m getting a bit of an “Avatar”/ecological sci-fi vibe from the assorted, super-evolved creatures in the trailer and a curious, perhaps not intentional “Lost in Space” movie hint from the costumes that Smith senior and junior are sporting throughout the scenes we see in this two-minute and 28 second first look at the film, which opens in June 2013.

It could be a great adventure film – and who doesn’t hope that Shyamalan will buck his recent run of mediocre cinematic form and once more deliver a film which is akin to his “The Sixth Sense” rather than his genuinely quite dreadful “The Last Airbender”?

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“Oblivion” pics? Nerd-vana…

Concept art from "Oblivion", via JoBlo.com

Concept art from “Oblivion”, via JoBlo.com

By the time that “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” begins to digitally unfurl for me next Thursday lunchtime, I’ll be well and truly exhausted.

How so?  Why, by the parade of geeky, awesome movie trailers for 2013 fare which have preceded the main show, of course.  As well as footage from “Star Trek Into Darkness”, the humble movie-goer can expect first looks at Zack Snyder‘s ‘Superman‘ reboot “Man of Steel” and now the upcoming Tom Cruise sci-fi vehicle, “Oblivion”.

For me, this is a very cool development as I loved the previous movie from “Oblivion” writer/director, Joseph Kosinski, the unloved but splendid “Tron: Legacy“, and these nifty slabs of target concept art promise a genuine science fiction adventure with a sense of scale missing from most cinematic attempts in the genre – to be polite, we can best summarize most Hollywood speculative fiction as action movies in sci-fi drag rather than actual, genuine attempts to tell stories which genuinely engage with science fiction concepts and big ideas.

Of course, this is a big studio film with a notably hands-on star/producer, so there’s every chance that “Oblivion” will deliver on the pretty visuals front and deliver not a jot of substance, but a geek can dream that a 2013 studio film will engage noggin and heart at the same time.

 

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Tony Scott – In Memorium

 

Tony Scott, who died on August 19th 2012 in Long Beach, California. He was 68 years old.

If you’ll permit the indulgence, this is how I want to remember British film director Tony Scott, who committed suicide on Sunday:  On a film set, replete with his signature baseball cap, setting up some kind of practically staged set-piece, with mayhem about to be unleashed.

He was a director whose career and films arrived roughly in parallel with my love of movies – one of my abiding memories from my teenage years is of collecting tokens and sending off via mail order for a Top Gun movie poster, back when that defining Tom Cruise vehicle was the action movie par excellence of its day.

“Top Gun”, from 1986 – when films seemed simpler, even if the underlying politics were anything but.

Whilst a lot of the coverage of his death will focus on the way in which he chose to take his life, please forgive my preference to focus on his work and recommend some of his extensive catalogue of films which you might want to check out.

Scott’s movies were just that – commercial, unashamed action-thrillers and dramas.  Whilst his academic career seemingly set him on a path towards fine art, he duly found himself working in commercials – see his celebrated, iconic SAAB advert here, which largely influenced producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to hire him for “Top Gun”.   His first film was the stylish, erotic and singular vampire drama, “The Hunger“, which underperformed in cinemas and led to a prolonged return to the ad world until Simpson and Bruckheimer’s Air Force drama pitched him onto the directorial A-List.

His career from there is the very definition of diverse.  He made modern classics like “True Romance“, “Crimson Tide” or “The Last Boy Scout“, and more eccentric, darker fare like “Revenge” , “The Fan” or the unique, one-of-a-kind Keira Knightley starring, profoundly meta bounty hunter flick, “Domino”, which is the very definition of an assault on the senses.

In recent years, he had formed a reliable working relationship with Denzel Washington and their collaboration yielded such films as the aforementioned “Crimson Tide”, “Man on Fire”, “Deja Vu”, “The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3” and their last film together, “Unstoppable”.

Weirdest car chase ever? I think this film is a candidate for that honour…

If I were going to recommend a film which shows Scott and Washington at their best, it would be the very underrated sci-fi thriller, “Deja Vu” – a mind-bending tale of time travel, terrorism and a love story which happens across multiple versions of reality.  Sort of.  It’s indicative of the way that Scott’s bravura style mellowed in recent years – the bullets still fly and the helicopters still zip around on-screen like hyperactive dragonflies, but there’s a human story at the core which makes the more elaborate action sequences somehow mean a bit more.

Period spy wranglings with Robert Redford and his latter-day matinee idol heir, Brad Pitt.

If you don’t like the sound of that, I recommend Scott’s desperately underrated and fantastic espionage drama, “Spy Game”, which applies his warp-driven visual style to the kind of low-key, introspective story which seemed apposite at the time but utterly thrives on the clash of styles.  Scott loved the inherently dramatic possibilities of a ticking clock and “Spy Game” is the very model of a story constructed around  impending cataclysm – veteran spy Robert Redford’s last day on the job is spent covertly trying to save the life of Brad Pitt, the spook he recruited whose execution is imminent.

Two arguing big lugs versus a runaway bomb the size of a football pitch – sounds like a party…

Scott’s last film is one of his best – the runaway train thriller, “Unstoppable”, marked his fifth film with Denzel Washington and one which deals brilliantly with the ticking clock motif (in this case personified by a train stuffed full of toxic chemicals, barreling almost unchecked towards a small town) present and correct and a pair of plucky, underdog blue-collar heroes in the form of Washington and Chris Pine who are the only guys who stop things from going boom.

I love movies which pit heroes against nature and eschew heavy firepower in favour of street smarts saving the day – the compelling thing about this story (nominally based on true events) is that it’s a thoroughly normal, not essentially heroic pair of guys who find themselves doing the right thing in the face of mind-boggling unlikely odds and with a boatload of personal baggage making their already crappy day worse (Washington’s seen-it-all before train driver is about to get canned by the railway company and Pine’s brash young buck is estranged from his partner and having child visitation access problems).

It’s bonkers, but oddly easy to relate to – there’s a purity about his last film which confirms that Scott was a master at diverting your attention from the cliches inherent in a premise and making the arguably shop worn story so compelling that you couldn’t deny it and were gripped throughout.

I loved a great many of his movies – he never made high art, but Tony Scott made Friday Night Movies Par Excellence,  filmic escapism which helped erase the woes of the working week for a couple of hours.  And there’s not much more that you can ask of a film director other than to make movies that people want to see, and sneak some of your personality in there too if possible.  He will be greatly missed by me – selfishly, I’ve lost one of the directors who made me love movies and going to the cinema.

 

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Def Leppard – Old Hits, New Tricks

Def Leppard – Sheffield’s finest, growing old gracefully – well kinda.

Well, this makes a lot more sense.

Def Leppard recently re-recorded new versions of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Ages” for the soundtrack of film version of the “Rock of Ages” musical and that seemed like a neat gift for fans who want to download the originals but can’t – Leppard’s back catalogue is a notable absentee from the iTunes store and other music download stores.  There is, of course, a good reason for the prolonged absence of Steel City’s favourite sons – and wouldn’t you know it?  Dirty cash is involved.

I never had hair like Russell Brand does in this film. It was worse…

Leppard leader Joe Elliott explains the band’s stance on re-releasing their classic songs in an interview with MTV Hive (which is a thing, apparently) by explaining that the reason for a Leppard-free iTunes is down to disagreements between band and former record label on the value of their catalogue.  Elliott is diplomatic but I don’t have to be – even though record companies are increasingly becoming as necessary as an umbrella in the Sahara, trying to rip-off artists by quibbling about how much they get paid for downloads is really quite cheap and a good way of ensuring that this tick on the back of musicians will soon hopefully be a thing of the past.

The plan appears to be that Leppard will be re-creating their songs for future release in a similar way to the two “Rock of Ages” songs – engaging in a programme of re-recording the material in what Elliott brilliantly describes as ‘100% forgeries’ of their hits,reaping the entirety of the financial reward from distributing them on Amazon, et al.

There are so many tinny, 80’s-sounding CDs in my collection which might benefit from this approach – though it’s not always the best idea.  I do have what turned out to be a re-recording of an old 80’s House of Lords track which I bought in haste on iTunes and now rarely play – singer’s voices don’t exactly improve with age and can be downright horrible to listen to, as I found out.

Leppard are currently on tour in the States on a jaunt with fellow 80’s survivors Lita Ford and Poison – a bill nearly the equal of the Lep/Motley Crue/Steel Panther show I saw last December – and still one of my favourite bands.   A rock, clearly, will never be out of the question for these fine gents…

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Trailered – “Rock of Ages”

It’s almost as though Hollywood has found a way to dig through my brain and stealth-target their product at me:  A musical (well, okay) based around 80’s hair bands (oh, hell yes) starring Tom Cruise (Get out of my head, Hollywood!).

Well, where else are you going to set this movie?

Warner Brothers and New Line posted the trailer for their adaptation of the Broadway musical, “Rock of Ages” today and it seems as though I’ll be going to see a musical in 2012 – who knew?

That's Tom Cruise, as rocker Stacee Jaxx, hair extensions akimbo in "Rock of Ages".

The story follows the time-honoured path of rock songs of the era – in fact, it may be directly inspired by the lyrics of Poison’s 80’s hit “Fallen Angel” – with Julianne Hough’s small-town girl coming to Hollywood in pursuit of her dreams and finding  only unrestrained debauchery, a Sunset Strip rock scene at the peak of its powers and a battle for the soul of  Tinsel Town’s raging around her.

The musical uses classic 80’s anthems from Reo Speedwagon, Journey,Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Europe, Pat Benatar and a jukebox full of classics and the film has an equally starry cast – Cruise, Julianne Hough, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Paul Giamatti and Catherine Zeta Jones, amongst others.

Catherine Zeta Jones, channelling PMRC founder/Helen Lovejoy-alike Tipper Gore...

The film’s due out in Summer 2012 and the musical is currently in London’s West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre.  

And yes, I am thinking whether I can schedule a visit sometime.  The things I do for Hair Metal…

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“The Dark Knight Rises” prologue non-spoiler news

Hmm...brooding.

Empire’s bloke across the pond was invited to an early screening of the “Dark Knight Rises” prologue footage which is going to play in front of the IMAX prints of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” this Christmas.

And he’s quite enthusiastic about it.

This Nolan fellow?  Apparently, he’s quite good at directing big-scale action sequences, introducing iconic comic book bad guys and using the large-screen IMAX format to its best advantage.

The footage plays in front of IMAX prints of “Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol” in Bradford, Glasgow, Manchester and London – which means that I’ll probably be waiting to see it on the internet with the rest of you.  Curse you, large format exclusivity!

 

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Tomorrow’s cyberpunk today: augmented advertising on your eyeballs.

In the future, even your eyeballs won't be safe...

I’m all for futurism.  Wi-Fi toasters?  Bluetooth underpants?  Hi-Def backpacks? Totally down with all of the above.

Sometimes, though, I begin to think that the interface of technology and humanity is going to places that I’m not comfortable with – witness Bitter Wallet’s story on Augmented Technology contact lenses.

Hence the use of the screen-grab from “Minority Report” above.  There was a film which seemed to get the future’s interface between humanity and technology bang-on.  Your eyes get a retinal scan whenever you walk into a shop and the contextual adverts update in real-time with recommendations based on your purchasing history.

I'm assuming that digital readers of augmented reality contacts won't be quite so terrifying...

It’s like a really terrifying, faux-omniscient Amazon Recommends reading your recent life every time you go to the Mall.  In related news, I don’t go to Malls unless I absolutely have to and can’t get out of going (A trait which I picked up from the wise and lovely Mrs Rolling Eyeballs whose blog title directly references “Minority Report”, fact fans).

Though the technology in the Bitter Wallet story has only so far been tested in lab conditions on Rabbit subjects as a proof of concept (because Bunnies are all about wearing contacts, yo….), one can only imagine that this stuff is going to have a subsequent application which directly impacts on a more human client base and which will inevitably be used to sell us stuff.

The history of technological innovation seems inexorably married to subsequent commercial usage – an inevitable by-product, I suppose, of the funding rounds required to develop anything worthwhile in our era.  You can’t develop something cool because you need money, which is available from private sector investors, who want results which can be effectively monetized to make a return, which arguably compromises innovation in turn because something esoteric but fantastic won’t reach a big enough market to be worthwhile.

Teetotal blogger posts augmented tech, faux-Guinness advert from nearly ten-year old film. Universe implodes at the Meta-ness...

The lovely thing about “Minority Report”, of course, is that we’re supposed to be slightly disapproving of the technological society in the movie – it’s invasive, barely regulated and runs on gadgets which erode personal liberty which we allow because it gives us greater daily convenience (insert obligatory, anti-Mark Zuckerberg joke here).  Director Steven Spielberg meanwhile manages to get lots of brands and marques to liaise with his crew of futurologists to be featured in the film (a risky gambit, as any contemporary viewer of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” will attest – it’s like a graveyard of once-prominent brands), which seems at least tacitly critical of the future it’s asking these corporate partners to sign up to.

Sweet ride, bro.

So, corporate branding is bad – but here’s a nifty futuristic Lexus for you to covet…no mixed messaging there, then.

I think that we can all agree that companies having less direct contact with us is a good thing – and that the degree to which advertising can be used to influence our behaviour is something which shouldn’t be jacked directly into our cerebral cortex (well, eyes, but you get the point).  This may be a generational thing with me – I grew up reading Gibson, Sterling, Pat Cadigan and the wave of eighties ‘cyberpunk’ authors, so the idea of corporate interests feuding over who gets to control the future is one which resonates with me.

It seems that kids don’t necessarily have the same concerns – I think to many young adults, the labyrinthine agreements which we agree to when we set up accounts on internet sites so often implicitly guarantee invasion of privacy that its seen as the norm and nothing to be bothered about unduly.  Yes, you’re being tracked, tagged and scanned as you check in on smartphone apps or buy a song on iTunes, but that free stuff you got when you signed up more than makes up for companies data-mining the hell out of you.

Still, check out these cool adverts on my eyes, man – feels good

 

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