Monday, April 14, 2008

Are we in a golden age of sci fi and fantasy?

Before I get started today, a hearty huzzah and thanks to the Macon Film Guild for screening Todd Haynes' maddeningly entertaining "I'm Not There" (and to Camp Bacon for guiding me to the balcony for a better seat after a flat tire forced me to arrive as the opening credits were already rolling.)

Though you could certainly complain that Haynes needs an editor (and a lot less Richard Gere), if you love Bob Dylan you'll find plenty to like in this seriously unconventional biopic, which hits DVD on May 6. Cate Blanchett once again deserves all the acclaim she garnered for this, and the scenes with Heath Ledger and Charlotte Gainsbourg have an intimacy and poignancy to them we very rarely get to see on screen nowadays. My favorite moment, though, comes near the end when Christian Bale performs delivers an impassioned performance of "Pressing On," one of Dylan's gospel tunes that I just love. Anyways, see this one as soon as you can.

But, moving on the question at the top of this post, on TV at least I'd say we soon will indeed be in a golden age of both science fiction and fantasy, and we've chiefly got "Battlestar Galactica" to thank for that. But what happens when "Battlestar" is over, a sad development that will come in only 18 episodes or so?

Well, thankfully, the creators of this gem are getting right back to work. Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor have taken the reins of "Virtuality," which is being developed for Fox first as a two-hour movie to premiere in February, with plans to spin it off as a series the following fall.

The movie follows 12 astronauts who are sent on a 10-year journey to find a distant solar system. The explorers pass the time by hooking up to advanced virtual reality modules to explore self-created worlds, but find someone has downloaded a computer bug into the system - and one of them may be the saboteur. Sounds more than a little too virtual for my tastes, but from this crew I'll definitely give it a chance, especially with Martin Campbell of "Casino Royale" in talks to direct the flick.

And it should be a bonanza for people looking for entertaining ways to waste time at work, too. As part of the plot, the space voyage is funded by a reality show that features the trip being streamed back to Earth, and that "reality show" will be produced as webisodes, featuring the same cast members.

NBC first passed on this, saying it was "too sci-fi" (what the frak!?!?), but thankfully Fox seems to have more sense. In fact, Fox, which has a long criminal record of killing high-concept shows way too early, is getting in to the sci-fi/fantasy in a pretty big way this fall, also bringing us Joss Whedon's return to TV with "Dollhouse" in October and then "Boldly Going Nowhere," a sci-fi comedy from the twisted "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" crew, probably coming next winter.

Add to all that good news that another of the "Battlestar" masterminds, David Eick, is developing a series for the Sci-Fi Channel from P.D. James' "Children of Men," and you've definitely got a great time for fans of good television. Now, if we could just sick the cylons on all this reality crap ...

And something cool for fantasy fans too

It seems like forever since there's been a fantasy serial on TV smart enough to make me tune in, but that may finally change this fall.

Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert have tapped John Shiban, who toiled for seven years as a writer/producer on "The X-Files," to run their upcoming syndicated series, "Wizard's First Rule." It's based on Terry Goodkind's novel which went on to be developed into the "Sword of Truth" series of books. To be honest, I don't really know a lick about the plot of this one, but Shiban promises it will be similar - in structure at least - to what we had with "X-Files."

"There's an overarching mythology to the series, but the job of Seeker allows (the lead character) to fight evil in self-contained episodes," he said.

Though this is headed to syndication this fall, it claims to have a presence in 84 percent of U.S. markets, so definitely stay tuned.

But what about movies?

OK, I now promise that my movie funk will end this Friday (or maybe Saturday.) I'm thoroughly convinced that "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" will be a suitably funny gateway to summer and away from the mediocrity we've had thus far. To get everyone ready, here's a pretty funny clip of our hero, Jason Segel, and Russell Brand. Enjoy, and have a pleasant enough Monday. Peace out.


jeremy said...

Glad to hear you liked "I'm Not There." I enjoyed it, as well.
As for the whole sci-fi/fantasy thing--the newest pics of Watchmen have me very very excited.

*lynne* said...

Wizard's First Rule? Yikes! I mean, the first 2 or 3 books were good, then it all went downhill... I cringe at the thought of it getting serialised, although I will certainly keep an eye out for it despite my misgivings. Thanks for the heads up :-)

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the warning, Lynne, since like I said I'm not terribly familiar with the source material .. That said, there have been plenty of examples of creative people transforming coal into diamonds!

Mercurie said...

I don't know about sci-fi or television, but the past several years have been good for fantasy movies--The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Golden Compass... Granted there have been some clunkers in there, but there have been quite a few good fantasy films released of late too.

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