Archive for July, 2016

Harry 20 on the High Rock

We’ve not been altogether complimentary about Luc Besson’s continued work within the Sci-Fi genre in the past, but we’d never advocate getting the law involved. Not so John Carpenter. When not creating sound-tracks for movies he didn’t direct himself, his efforts – at least those of his lawyers – have been targeting Besson’s 2012 film Lockout. Starring fellow Sci-Fi unfortunate, Guy Pearce, the plots of this and Carpenter’s Escape From New York do appear incredibly similar. (Check the two trailers out for yourself here and here.) There are however a batch of other futuristic prison breaks out there for consideration.

First up, and hot on the heels of Carpenter’s 1981 movie, is Gerry Finley-Day’s and Alan Davis’ Harry 20 on the High Rock. Appearing in 2000AD from June 1982, the cartoon series – echoing Besson’s Lockout – was set on an orbital prison created by a corrupt political regime back on Earth. Perhaps they too should sue for Besson for plagiarism.

Skip forward a nine year stretch, and you’ll find yourself banged up in Wedlock (1991) – an open prison system where Rutger Hauer is kept captive due to the explosive collar he’s forced to wear. Similarly, a mere year later, Christopher Lambert also finds himself locked in Fortress (1992), but instead of cranial detonation, death of escaping inmates is triggered by ‘intestinators’ implanted into the gut. No Escape (1994), starring Ray Liotta is probably the best of this average bunch of Sci-Fi thrillers, with an island penal colony replacing the outer space and underground settings. We could go on to mention, the ‘halo’ penitentiary of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002), along with a stack of other weird and wonderful means of incarceration, but these are more asides as opposed to themes.

As a result, we have to look to video games for the next full-term off-planet stretch behind bars. In Vivendi Universal’s Chronicles of Riddick, Escape from Butcher Bay (2004), we catch up with the augmented assassin fresh from Pitch Black (2000). And so full circle to Lockout…

It’s always unpleasant when your geek parents fight, but more so when the Sci-Fi output of both parties has been patchy. For every The Last Battle (1981), there are several Lucys (2014). For every The Thing (1982), another Ghosts of Mars (2001). It’s unlikely that they’d ever be willing collaborate on a project now, but just think of the potential output if we could just lock them up on a film set and throw away the key.

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Black Mirror

The painfully slim-line, and equally enticing and repellent, Black Mirror is back. Not on Channel 4, as per the previous two series, but exclusively on Netflix.

Birthed from the tech savvy and cautionary mind of Charlie Brooker, the previous six episodes and one Christmas special were an unsettling combination of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected and something altogether darker. Torture of child killers, social ostracisation taking unfriending to a reality altering level, a UK Prime Minister forced to have sex with a pig in order to save a princess… There were no punches pulled while the weird was just familiar enough to elicit chills.

Now doubled in size, all six episodes of series three have been named with San Junipero, Shut Up and Dance, Nosedive, Men Against Fire, Hated in the Nation and Playtest airing from the 21st of October. Details about the themes of each episode are scant, and only one production image has come to light so far – a symmetrical vertical split image of a bus interior, where passengers in dead-pan masks and wigs consult the black mirrors of their smart phones.

Talking of phones, while Goodwin’s Law currently seems to have been railroaded by Pok√©mon GO, the virtual reality phenomenon is actually relevant in the context of this article. While being interviewed during a Television Critics Association panel in Los Angeles, Charlie Brooker quipped that he hadn’t foreseen the magnitude of the game’s popularity. Behind the scenes, however, mashup director Patrick H. Willems had already worked the Japanese creature hunter into a Black Mirror pastiche.

Returning to Brooker’s press conference he went on to echo the sentiments of this site, emphasising that technology was simply a vehicle or tool. Ultimately, Black Mirror’s tales were about how humans react to technological shifts and the feelings they invoke. However, he did state that 2016 so far had represented, “free publicity for the show”. Looking back on some of the posts here since January, we’d have to agree.

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So the reviews are coming in and fears that Simon Pegg might have made Star Trek Beyond the fourth film in his Cornetto trilogy are dissipating. It looks like we’re in for another gripping ride into the final frontier. From a wider perspective though, it feels like a franchise reemerging from a difficult time.

The aftershocks within the nerdcore regarding Leonard Nimoy’s death are still being felt. Thankfully, the tributes are finally coming to fruition, with the documentary For The Love of Spock about to be released. There’s no way such a dedication, even one made by his son Adam, can fill the void left by such a Sci-Fi icon, but there’ll no doubt be solace found for the fans in its screening. The death, however, of our new Pavel Chekov is a totally different and freakishly sad affair ensuring Anton Yelchin’s swan song will leave a bitter/sweet taste with all who watch.

Moving from the tragically sublime to the ephemeral, but sticking with tribute as a theme, a group of artists have celebrated 50 years of Star Trek by creating 50 works of art. It’s a mixed bag of interpretations, but there are some gems hidden away in there.

The more positive news continues with the announcement back in May of an all new TV series coming at the start of 2017. Meanwhile the cross-over between science and fiction keeps up its momentum in this anniversary year, with the International Space Station releasing their own promotional video.

Love it or hate it, any 50 year creative franchise deserves acknowledgement, and the examples above prove that its ethics, of being better and going further, still have the power to motivate audiences around the world.

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