(Photo by Universal Pictures/ courtesy Everett Collection)
Director Denis Villeneuve has called Dune the “longstanding dream.” He’s not alone. Since 1965, the Frank Herbert epic has been a bewitching vision shared between the minds of adventurous readers, worming deep into the psyche of grand science-fiction devotees. Of course, Villeneuve stands out among Dune fans – he’s the first one in decades who gets to turn the novel into a movie. Like the book, it will follow the path of royal Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), his training in psychokinetic arts, and his family’s arrival to rule desert planet Arrakis, the galaxy’s sole source of a powerful mineral mixture called spice.
Dune will release December 2020, but if you need those inhospitable desert fumes in your life now, you can watch Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. Get to the Las Vegas sequence and pretend that’s Arrakis wind and sand whipping your face. (The surrounding movie’s pretty good, too.) Or just go straight to the well and watch the previous movie version of Dune, directed in 1984 by David Lynch. He’s essentially disowned the film, but it’s a well-meaning attempt, rendered mostly incomprehensible by the end if you’re not familiar with the book – exactly why Villeneuve’s Dune will be split into two movies. Dune has long stymied filmmakers (it was actually done decently on TV with the 2000 miniseries), and you’ll get the behind-the-scenes treatment of a noble but failed adaptation inside the wonderful documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune.
Dune towers within the space opera: A genre of sci-fi adventure where pulpy action and plot twists rule the stars, with frequent space and military battles, and streaks of sweeping romance. More space operas from movie history include The Chronicles of Riddick, The Last Starfighter, Flash Gordon, The Fifth Element (there’s a literal opera in this), Serenity, and Battle Beyond the Stars, featuring special effects by James Cameron.
We all know about the impact of Flash Gordon and The Hidden Fortress on George Lucas when thinking up his own space opera, Star Wars. Dune‘s influence fills out the rest. The Force is akin to Dune‘s own all-encompassing mystic system, and Tatooine is essentially a stand-in for Arrakis. So we’re including A New Hope here, even though you’ve already seen it. We hope.
John Carter and Stargate are more in the realm of space fantasies, but the action and arid settings match. Ditto the Earthly, apocalyptic Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. While there are obviously better movies in the series, it’s inside Thunderdome where Max is sculpted as a messianic figure, the type of imagery central to the Dune arc.
If space military operations are more your thing, engage with the sleek Ender’s Game, or violent propaganda satire Starship Troopers. And if you like what Dune dishes on ecological and environmental notions (with a potential side of giant sand critters), eat up the hippie-dippie Silent Running along with Hayao Miyazaki’s early masterpiece Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
On animation: The medium has long opened eyes to whole new worlds, like Disney’s underseen Treasure Planet. Or the trippy French classic Fantastic Planet. And even the full-length Daft Punk cosmic fantasy Interstella 5555, produced by Leiji Matsumoto, godfather of the animated space opera. His epic movies like Arcadia of My Youth and the two Galaxy Express films don’t have Tomatometers so we didn’t include them, but they’re currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Rotten Tomatoes looks at 24 unresolved TV cliffhangers, ranging from poisoned presidents to adrift interstellar spaceships. We couldn’t possibly solve these mysteries. Can YOU?
Friday’s Gods of Egypt may have drawn early criticism for its mostly white cast, but moviemakers have always viewed the country with a fantastical bent. From biblical stories to historic archaeological delights to springboards into tall science fiction tales, this week’s 24 Frames takes a look at all that, along with modern and true-to-life depictions of Egypt as it is today.
Did the Mayans really predict, all those centuries ago, that Earth would be visited by planetary apocalypse three years from now? It’s open to interpretation — Roland Emmerich has a gargantuan disaster movie to sell and even he admits the whole 2012 theory is just, “a nice hook for the audience.” John Cusack, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson and Danny Glover are a few of the stars swept up in Emmerich’s latest cataclysmic shocker. Rotten Tomatoes meets the cast and director in Cancun, Mexico – close to the once-throbbing heart of Mayan civilisation — for a 2012 fact-finding mission.
Continue onto the next page and beware some mild spoilers as we start our journey through the world of 2012.
Fact #1: Emmerich Was Reluctant to Re-enter the Disaster Fray
“I was very reluctant. Even my friends joke with me, ‘Oh, you destroy the world again,'” admits the Teutonic helmer of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. “But when you find something you’re really good at and very successful with, then once in a while you want to do it again because it’s very easy for you to get a lot of money to make these movies. And every time you can do it a little bit better. We can do things now that we couldn’t do when we were doing Independence Day. I had this watershed moment on The Day After Tomorrow where I finally believed that you can create whole environments digitally, and I said, ‘I think I’ll do a whole movie like that.'”
Fact #2: The Mayan Calendar Really Does End in 2012
The Central American civilisation wasn’t into predictions — least of all about its own collapse — but their sophisticated ‘Long Count’ calendar does comes to the end of a cycle on December 21, 2012. Skeptics say it’s merely fodder for conspiracy theorists and cash-ins. But some New Age theorists are convinced the date will bring either cataclysm or enlightenment. “It’s fascinating that a culture which disappeared 1500 years ago would have this notion that the world would end on this exact date,” observes Emmerich. “Do I believe? Sometimes I do and then my brain says, ‘It’s ridiculous.’ But do some research and you find some other cultures say the same thing — it’s eerie.”
Fact #3: Emmerich Tripped Up the President
The production constructed a massive platform operated on a gimbal for the film’s rough-and-tumble earthquake sequences. Danny Glover, playing the US President, was the first 2012 headliner to attempt to manoeuvre his way across the ‘shaky-floor’ stage but tumbled and fell, prompting Emmerich to dial down the quake factor. “It was incredible — when this thing went, it felt really like an eight or nine point earthquake,” the director chortles. “We actually had to tone it down because people freaked out.”
Fact #4: Cusack Was Thrilled to Take the Lead
At first sight, Cusack and Emmerich make an odd Hollywood pairing. But the 43-year-old star insists he was ecstatic when the director approached him. “I liked The Patriot and Stargate,” Cusack tells RT. “For me, if I can get a big movie like this every once in a while, I’d love to do it. And then you can use that to leverage smaller movies.” Plus, he insists the script, co-written by Emmerich and Harald Klauser, took him by surprise. “In a strange way, it’s not a genre disaster movie — it’s much more elegantly written and character-based. It doesn’t follow the normal disaster movie formula.”
Fact #5: Emmerich Didn’t Touch Manhattan… Or Mecca
“I wanted to stay away from New York because I had destroyed it too many times. So I said, ‘No New York this time.'” Instead, the skyscraping metropolis pictured is Downtown LA. As for Mecca, Emmerich originally planned to dish out the same destructive pulverising to the Muslim holy site that he unleashes on the rest of the world in 2012. But he bottled it. “That’s the problem with our world. If you would destroy Mecca, I would have a fatwa on my head. So we stayed away from it.” The Vatican on the other hand? It crumbles to dust, taking out a few thousand Catholic worshippers on the way.
Fact #6: 3D Was Never an Option
“I’m not sure about 3D yet,” Emmerich tells us. “It’s different when you’re James Cameron and you have three and a half years. But we had so many scenes with actors in these situations that I thought it was probably too dangerous to shoot in 3D. I want to see Avatar, and then I’ll make a judgement. So far what I have seen in 3D was not convincing to me. Whenever I see a 3D movie, I feel like I’m on mushrooms.”
Fact #7: For Actors, Blue Screen Doesn’t Have to Be a Nightmare…
Cusack’s harried limo driver is subjected to fire, ash, ice, water, wind and earthquakes. But the actor insists that having to do disaster-acting in front of a giant blue drape wasn’t the tedious challenge he thought it would be, thanks to Emmerich’s insistence on building a realistic soundstage world and creating each sequence with pre-visualisation technology so he could give his actors a sense of what they were panicking about. “The sets were astonishing,” says Cusack. “When I’m on the glacier, they built a massive glacier the size of a soundstage. It wasn’t what I’ve heard it can be like, where there’s nothing to play off.”
Fact #8: …But it Often Does
“Even beyond my wildest imagination, I couldn’t perceive things to the degree that they were being perceived by Roland,” says Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays 2012‘s doomsday-predicting science boffin. “I’d go into the air force hangar and see the blue screen and think, ‘Okay, it’s a set.’ But through Roland’s eyes, it’s this huge, expansive landscape. I felt like I was watching it all for the first time when he showed the finished film to me.”
Fact #9: Thandie Newton Got Soaked
“I got drenched,” moans the Crash star, who plays the US President’s feisty daughter. “I was in wet clothes all fucking day and I’d be like, ‘Eech, I want to go home.'” In one sequence, as Newton’s art-curator character is attempting to grab her place on one of the floating Arks built to save pockets of humanity, she endured days of dampening. “The biggest effects sequence I was involved in was when we were on the Ark and it was gradually filling with water. This tidal wave came around the corner! How do they do that? When you’re doing something like that, there’s water everywhere, you’re trying to get up the ladder and it’s amazing, it’s really happening. And then, ‘Cut! Reset.’ The water gets drained through God knows where, gets put back to God knows where and we go again.”
Fact #10: Underneath That Calamity Dressing Lies Some Hefty Themes
“The disaster doesn’t get resolved,” notes Cusack. “When you see the water come over the Himalayan peaks, it’s about what you’re going to do with your final days. How do you separate the essential from the non-essential? Who’s important to you and what are you going to do with the time you have left? If it is a genre movie, it busts it wide open.”
Fact #11: The Governator Wants a Private Screening
In 2012, an unnamed Californian governor goes on telly to assure his citizens that everything’s going to be alright. In a heavy German accent. Then a monster earthquake strikes… It’s a little in-joke, although Schwarzenegger’s name is never mentioned. But Emmerich’s still nervous about showing him the film. “A good friend of his has seen the movie and told him about it. Now Arnold has invited me to his house to show him 2012 and I’m constantly saying, ‘It’s not finished yet.’ I’m a little scared.”
Fact #12: Emmerich’s A Big Softie Now
“I think my movies constantly evolve,” muses the disaster-master. “I think they’ve become more emotional and intimate; I think they have more heart now, especially this one. My all-time favourite scene of all my movies is in 2012 — it’s when John Cusack, who’s this father who pretty much fucked up his marriage and the relationship with his kids, knows that they will run out of gasoline soon in this big Antonov plane and he has to somehow tell his kids. And how he does that is an incredible, sweet and tender moment.”
2012 opens in Australia on 12th November and in the UK and the US on 13th November.
As the entire combined forces of North American geek culture descend on San Diego’s Comic-Con this week, fear not; geekiness galore is to be found in this week’s new releases! First up, pick up the eagerly anticipated extended version of a superhero fan favorite (Watchmen: Director’s Cut), and watch as Henry Selick brings a Neil Gaiman fairytale to life — in three dimensions (Coraline)! Sci-fi nerds should like the recut, feature-length pilot of a long-running series (Stargate SG-1: Children of the Gods), while French New Wave enthusiasts have a Jean-Luc Godard double feature, courtesy of Criterion (Made in USA, Two or Three Things I Know About Her). Finally, hearken back to the ’80s with a hearty, “Yo, Joe!” (GI Joe: Season 1.1).
Updated: So, you think you can dance? Watch an exclusive clip from the DVD release of So You Think You Can Dance Get Fit in this week’s column!
With Comic-Con just around the corner (follow our daily updates from San Diego starting Thursday!) you’ll get a few chances to geek out with this week’s new DVD releases. The biggest of them all? Zack Snyder‘s superhero opus, Watchmen, which arrives in its full three-hour-plus glory. (186 minutes, to be exact.)
Watchmen the Director’s Cut features 25 extra minutes of footage, primarily consisting of extended dialogue that was missing from the theatrical cut, and the extension of Hollis Mason’s (AKA the original Nite Owl) storyline. Additionally, the 2-disc DVD contains a handful of new bonus features, including the 11 online making-of journals used in promotion before Watchmen‘s debut, a “Phenomenon” featurette, a digital copy of the theatrical cut, and a My Chemical Romance music video. Blu-ray fans get all that and more, including the ability to watch Watchmen in “Maximum Movie Mode,” which inserts fun tidbits, Snyder commentary, page-to-screen comparisons, interviews, and more. A third Blu-ray disc contains additional featurettes, including a fascinating look at the “real” physics of the Watchmen world (“Why is Dr. Manhattan blue?”).
Finally, Warner Bros. knows that it will suck to double dip when the massive 5-disc Ultimate Edition hits shelves in December (which will feature the mini story Tales of the Black Freighter into the film, pretty much all previously released supplements such as the Under the Hood “documentary” and motion comic, and commentary by Dave Gibbons and Zack Snyder). Pop open your copy of Watchmen: the Director’s Cut and find a $10 off coupon for the Ultimate Edition. You know you’ll want it.
Next: Henry Selick does Neil Gaiman’s Coraline
If you missed Coraline in theaters, then you missed out on the best possible way to watch this intricately detailed, dark fairytale based on the book by Neil Gaiman. However, you’re in luck; pick it up on DVD and Blu-ray this week, and watch Coraline in 3D in your own home! While home theater 3D is usually more a novelty than an optimal watching experience, Coraline offers a dazzling visual smorgasbord, a rare case in which it’s obvious that the filmmakers planned for a three-dimensional viewing experience. Young Coraline (Dakota Fanning) voices the precocious titular girl who discovers an alternate world in the walls of her family’s new house; will she choose to stay with her “Other” Mother and Father, whose button eyes are just the first indication that things are a bit off, or will she decide that her real home is exactly where she wants to be?
Next: John Malkovich is The Great Buck Howard
John Malkovich puts his natural eccentricity to good use in The Great Buck Howard as a washed up “mentalist,” wrapped in a fog of his own delusions of grandeur, who hires a young law school dropout (Colin Hanks) as his road manager. Buddy-road comedy hijinks ensue in this winning, if sleight, comedy boosted by solid performances, including that of the winsome Emily Blunt as a publicist and love interest. Deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and a commentary track by director Sean McGinley and star Hanks also appear on the release.
Next: Zach Galafianakis is a “tunt” in the black comedy Visioneers
Fans of subdued comedian Zach Galafianakis (whose star has risen recently thanks to his summer comedy hit, The Hangover) will be delighted to find this black comedy hitting shelves after making the festival rounds. The bearded one stars as George Washington Winsterhammerman, a middle-management “tunt” in a dystopian alternate reality where the Jeffers Corporation owns everything and people are medicated via drugs and mind-numbing media to remain complacent. Those who dare to have hopes and dreams might find themselves spontaneously combusting, and George — who’s also become more and more restless at home with his wife (Judy Greer) — fears he might be next. Visioneers doesn’t tread completely new ground, but this take from director brothers Jared and Brandon Drake is a welcome addition to a subgenre of corporate resistance comedies. Learn how to host your own Visioneers screening at the film’s official site.
Next: A modern dance romance in Carmen and Geoffrey
Modern dance legends Carmen De Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder met in 1954 on the production of Truman Capote’s Broadway musical House of Flowers; one month later they were married, and nearly fifty years later, their careers (and marriage) were documented in this critically acclaimed film. Directors Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob recount the couple’s individual accomplishments in a portrait of their lives together, during which both played parts in the shaping of modern dance and theatrical arts: she as a prima ballerina, Alvin Ailey collaborator, and actress (Carmen Jones), he as a painter, writer, actor (Annie, Live and Let Die), and Tony-winning director (The Wiz).
Next: Stargate goes back to the beginning
Fans of the long-running science fiction series Stargate have a new (and old) treat this week: the feature-length pilot episode that launched the show, based on the 1994 film, has been remastered and recut into a feature-length DVD release. Not only has co-creator Brad Wright re-edited the piece using original filmed footage, he’s also had it newly scored and sharpened up visual effects. A commentary track by Wright and star Richard Dean Anderson is included.
Next: Criterion’s Godard double bill
French new wave enthusiasts have two new Criterion releases to add to their Godard shelf: Made in USA (1966) and Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967). The former, a 1960s pop treatment of the noir The Big Sleep, stars Anna Karina as a detective (a la Bogart) investigating her lover’s death. The latter offers a layered text about a Parisian housewife taken to prostitution — but also examines the Vietnam war, cultural consumerism, and the nature of language and art in one of his most celebrated and socially radical films. Both films come in a newly restored transfer and include archival materials, cast interviews, and critical essays.
Next: So, you think you can dance?
No, we don’t think we can dance. But in giving this pair of fitness videos from our favorite reality show a whirl, we got just a little bit closer to six of So You Think You Can Dance’s most popular former contestants, and learned how to salsa in the process. In two new releases — Tone and Groove and Cardio Funk — dancers Twitch, Katee, Lauren, Travis, Courtney, and Dmitry (who recently earned an Emmy nomination for choreography) teach the home dancer a few basic routines; yes, you may want to make sure you’re home alone while doing this, unless you’re more than marginally coordinated. If you love the show, you’ll have fun with these DVDs — and get up close and personal with the dancers in the process.
Watch an exclusive DVD clip for a sample of the So You Think You Can Dance workout below!
Next: Pushing Daisies, the final season
If you were among those who shed a tear when ABC’s wonderfully whimsical series Pushing Daisies bit the big one, then celebrate this week by picking up the Complete Second Season, which capped the series. The quirky show about an unassuming pie maker who could bring the dead to life with a single touch was undeniably one of the most gorgeous shows on TV, and starred a colorful cast including Lee Pace (star of the visually-stunning The Fall), Anna Friel, and Kristin Chenowith. Get all 13 final episodes, plus behind-the-scenes looks, interviews, and plenty of making-of insights.
Next: Yo, Joe! Back to the ’80s with an animated classic
If you need proof that nostalgia is not always the most reliable arbiter of good taste, look no further than this reissue of the classic animated series, GI Joe: A Real American Hero. Released to coincide with the upcoming live-action adaptation starring Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller, the animated GI Joe series hits DVD in a four-disc collection of episodes from its inaugural season. (Look for the $145, 17-disc Complete Collector’s Set later this month.) Revisiting the 1980s action children’s show, one thing is painfully clear: this military-fetishizing series about a band of US Army do-gooders who continually do battle with the evil villains of Cobra Command does not hold up. Stories are painfully repetitive, violence is glorified, and the phrase “Yo, Joe!” doesn’t make any sense. Even the animation is inconsistent from episode to episode! Nevertheless, children of the ’80s might find some entertainment value in owning this set, which includes interviews with show creators and voice talent and a nifty collection of those GI Joe PSAs. Because knowing is half the battle.
Until next week, happy renting!
Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin don’t seem to work together anymore, but now that MGM is apparently interested in re-starting the "Stargate" movie franchise, the old partners might just be back in business. And Devlin seems pretty confident about getting James Spader and Kurt Russell back for a pair of sequels.
Courtesy of IGN FilmForce: "We always envisioned ("Stargate") as a trilogy, and, unfortunately, the way in which the movie got made, we didn’t really have control," Devlin explained.
"They think there is an audience out there who would like to see what part two and part three were intended to be because there was a larger story arc that we had in mind," he explained, adding, "and we never got to explore it. So I think it will be very exciting to actually get to go do parts two and three."
Devlin also said that the first film’s stars, Kurt Russell and James Spader, have long expressed interest in making a sequel. "The irony is actually because it was twelve years ago that we made "Stargate," part two was actually supposed to take place about twelve years later. We were just going to kind of age them up as actors so it actually works out really nicely."
Click here for a bunch more.
Once we heard that Jet Li ("Fearless," "Unleashed," "Once Upon a Time in China") and Jason Statham ("The Transporter" series, "The Italian Job") were going to star in an action movie together, we were stoked. Li and Statham previously appeared together in "The One," but due to budgeting and time conflicts they didn’t get a chance to duke it out — much to my disappointment and, I’m sure, to others as well.
The story goes like this, "After his partner is killed by ‘Rogue’ (Li), the infamous assassin who has recently set off a bloody crime war between two rival Asian mobs, FBI agent Jack Crawford (Statham) starts a deadly game of cat and mouse to settle the score." Being fans of kung fu grips, pool ball kicks, and jaw-breaking fists of fury, Senh Duong and I (Phu Bui-Quang, programmer extraordinaire moonlighting as an entertainment reporter) thought this would be bigger than all five "Kickboxers" and four "Bloodsports" combined. Our adventure started when we had our very own diligent Jen Yamato contact Lionsgate to set up a set visit.
The plane we were supposed to take got struck by lightning. Luckily, we weren’t in the plane when that happened, but that meant we were stuck at the airport for more than twelve hours. Not the auspicious beginning we were hoping for. When everything was sorted out, we got on an alternate plane and arrived in Vancouver near midnight. We missed our rental car pickup due to our late arrival, so we took a taxi to our hotel. After unpacking and a bite to eat, we retired to our beds to prepare for the long day ahead.
In the morning, we met up with the movie’s publicist, Barbara Chomos, and she drove us to Ballantyne Pier, where the movie was shooting that day. As we walked into the building, the inside was nothing like a storage facility. A "Yanagawa Motors" sign greeted us. The place had been converted into a car dealership which showcased some really sweet rides like a Pininfarina Ferrari, Lamborghini, C12 LaTurbic, and C-8 Spykers, along with Honda Runes and Confederate Hellcat motorcycles. According to Chomos, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt are the only two who have Confederate motorcycles on the West Coast. The car dealership also doubles as the Yakuza boss’ base of operations.
The scene we saw being shot involved Jet Li‘s character Rogue and Ryo Ishibashi as Shiro, Yakuza boss and the main baddie in the movie. In the scene, Shiro invites Rogue into his sword-decorated office for a talk. During their conversation, Rogue throws down a steel suitcase onto Shiro’s table. What do they talk about? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!
On the second day, we saw the lovely Devon Aoki in action as Kira, Shiro’s ruthless daughter, attempting to intimidate Rogue. She leans in to whisper some words into his ears which I’m pretty sure were not sweet nothings. Meanwhile, another couple is deciding whether to buy a Ferrari or Lamborghini. A while later, Kira’s henchmen come into the room to escort Rogue out of the office.
Longtime producer Dean Devlin looks poised to make his directorial debut some time soon, and his project of choice will be a thriller called "Ghosting."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Dean Devlin finally is making his long-awaited shift from producer to director. He will direct "Ghosting," an effects-packed paranormal thriller, he said Thursday. Jessie Alexander’s script centers on a crippled cop who works with a group of undercover investigators who temporarily paralyze hearts to move back and forth between the land of the living and the dead."
Variety reports that Roland Emmerich‘s "10,000 B.C." was no quicker dropped by Sony than picked up (in "turnaround") by WB, the studio that hopes it make it one of their Summer ’07 tentpole releases. (Roland Emmerich is the man who gave you "Stargate," "Independence Day," and "The Day After Tomorrow."
"Warner Bros. Pictures has picked up Roland Emmerich’s big-budget "10,000 B.C." out of quick turnaround from Sony.
Aggressive move gives Warners its first chance to work with Emmerich — and a 2007 summer tentpole. Emmerich is set to begin shooting the prehistoric adventure in late April in South Africa.
Pickup comes less than five months after Emmerich and producing partner Michael Wimer set up the project at Columbia Pictures through their Centropolis shingle.
Sources said Sony’s hefty 2007 release calendar couldn’t accommodate a slot for "10,000" as the filmmakers wanted, and the earliest the film could be released through that studio was 2008."
"Emmerich and composer Harald Kloser wrote the drama, which follows three stages in the development of primitive man.
"10,000 B.C." centers on a 21-year-old who lives among a primitive tribe that survives by hunting a mammoth each year as the herd migrates through the tribe’s homeland.
The project is akin to Mel Gibson‘s period drama "Apocalypto," in that both films are set in an obscure period and will not be star-driven, but have tentpole aspirations. Emmerich, who’s looking for unknowns, will begin open casting sessions in late October.
While "Apocalypto" is being filmed in a Mayan dialect, the characters in "10,000 B.C." will speak English."