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The Wertzone

SF&F In Print & On Screen

Updated: 2018-02-19T04:45:44.600+00:00


Support The Wertzone on Patreon



After much debate (and some requests) I have signed up with crowdfunding service Patreon to better support future blogging efforts. You can find my Patreon page here and more information after the jump.

What is Patreon?

Patreon is a crowdfunding site that allows people to support their favourite bloggers, authors, artists and creators, from as little as $1 a month.

What do people get out of it?

The writer gets financial support. In my case, this will allow me to spend more time blogging and writing and delivery more content to a higher standard. In the contributor's case, they get exclusive or earlier access to material.

What more stuff will you be able to do?

I'll be able to devote funds to buying new PC equipment like cameras and mikes to move into video blogging (it's where the cool kids are these days), with a video version of The History of Epic Fantasy at some point. I'll also have the time to pursue The History of Science Fiction, which lots of people have asked for. That's an absolutely massive project and would only be viable if I could dedicate full-time work to it.

I'll also be able to attend more events, meet more authors and writers and expand the range of content on the blog.

Wait, does this mean supporters get stuff normal readers don't?

In my case, no. Patreon supporters will get early access to my next blogging series, Cities of Fantasy, with each article to be published on Patreon one month before it is published on the Wertzone. Everything that appears on Patreon will appear either here on the Wertzone or Atlas of Ice and Fire, if a few days or weeks later.

I like the idea of supporting you, but not on a monthly basis. Can I make a one-off contribution?

Absolutely! You can use the Wertzone tipjar account to make donations via PayPal. I've moved the tipjar into a more prominent position in the top-right of the blog to help with that.

UPDATE (27 November 2017)

Thanks everyone. So far we're up to about $178 a month, which has made a big difference in allowing me to afford to do more stuff for both this blog and Atlas of Ice and Fire. More stuff is coming down the pipe, so if people have been thinking about donating now is a good time to do so!

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS movie switches studios, gets a 2021 release date


The long-running saga of the Dungeons and Dragons movie has taken another twist.

After a lengthy and curious legal battle between Universal and Warner Brothers, the latter emerged with the rights to develop a D&D movie back in 2016. The project was fast-tracked, with Rob Letterman (Gulliver's Travels, Goosebumps, Detective Pikachu) hired to direct and Ansel Elgort (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, Baby Driver) in talks to star. The movie was going to be set in the Forgotten Realms world, specifically the city of Waterdeep and the Yawning Portal Inn, including its secret entrance to the vast subterranean dungeon of Undermountain.

However, things have changed rapidly in the last few months. Warner Brothers' option expired and Hasbro gained full control of the D&D movie rights (for the first time; the previous film rights were sold before Hasbro's acquisition of D&D owners Wizards of the Coast, to their displeasure). They have now teamed up with Paramount to develop the movie project instead. Paramount and Hasbro have developed a close working relationship together over the course of five successful Transformers movies and two successful G.I. Joe pictures.

It is unclear if Letterman and Elgort are still in the frame for the movie and how much of the previous concept will be retained, but it does now at least have a release date: 23 July 2021.

Hasbro hinting that a reboot of the TRANSFORMERS movies may be imminent


Hasbro and Paramount have released a curious statement that suggests that a full reboot/rethink of the Transformers movie universe could be incoming.The current iteration of the Transformers movie universe began in 2007 with the release of Michael Bay's Transformers. It then continued with Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Dark is the Moon (2011), Age of Extinction (2014) and The Last Knight (2017), all of them excruciating. The next film in the series is Travis Knight's Transformers: Bumblebee (2018), which is the first movie in the series not to be directed by Michael Bay. It's also the first film in the series to pick up some positive vibes, mainly due to the revelation that the movie will be set (at least partially) in the 1980s and will feature Bumblebee in his original Volkswagen Beetle form from the original toys, comics and cartoon series.Paramount had previously slated another full Transformers movie for 2019 and had also assembled a writer's room to discuss options for other movies, including a movie set on Cybertron at the start of the Autobot-Decepticon War and another one set in Ancient Rome, where the Transformers would have presumably transformed into chariots, triremes and giant war elephants.As of today's announcement it sounds like this idea has been cancelled. Many of the writers in the collective assembled by Paramount have decamped to other projects - Akiva Goldsman to Star Trek: Discovery, Lindsey Beer to the Kingkiller Chronicle movie and TV series, and Robert Kirkman to an exclusive development deal with Amazon - and the 2019 Transformers VI movie no longer appears on Paramount's development slate, suggesting it has also been canned.This may be down to the disappointing box office of The Last Knight. It made $600 million worldwide, only slightly more than half of the previous two movies' $1.1 billion. With a production budget of $220 million and marketing to match, The Last Knight certainly still turned a profit, but that 50% audience drop seriously surprised Paramount and clearly has them pondering the future of the franchise.Hasbro's plans now include a rebooted G.I. Joe movie for 2020, which will ignore the previous two films and will be a return to the franchise's roots. They will also be releasing a Micronauts movie in 2020 and the long-gestating Dungeons and Dragons movie (more on that soon) will launch in 2021. More intriguingly a "Hasbro/Paramount Event Movie" will be released in 2021 as well. This may be a Transformers reboot, but it may also be the long-mooted G.I. Joe vs. Transformers crossover movie. The two properties have crossed over many times previously in comic books and there was a hint that the two 1980s cartoon series took place in the same universe (with a character showing up in Transformers who was almost certainly Cobra Commander in disguise), but this would be the first on-screen, large-scaled team-up of the two brands.Unlike many franchises, many Transformers fans have been praying for a reboot of the movie franchise almost since it started, with many of Michael Bay's decisions (particularly his awful direction, incompetent action scenes, poor scripts and the genuinely terrible production design of the Transformers themselves) roundly criticised and rejected. Here's hoping if there is a reboot, the next creative team will do a better job.[...]

WHEEL OF TIME showrunner confirms he is working on the script


Wheel of Time showrunner and writer Rafe Judkins is working on the script for the show whilst on a writer's retreat near ACTUAL DRAGONMOUNT.

Okay, I lie, it's the volcano of Volcan de Agua, near Antigua, Sacatepequez in Guatemala.

Judkins is on a retreat with several other writers, including Amanda Kate Shuman who has written episodes of Chuck, The Blacklist, Berlin Station and The Following. This may just be a coincidence, or it may be a sign of other potential writers coming on board for the project.

With recent indications that the project is moving forwards (albeit slowly), with Sony Television working with an as-yet unannounced network/streaming partner, hopefully we'll get confirmation of the project soon.

Thanks to Narg at WoTTV for the heads-up.

Gratuitous Lists: The Ten Best RED DWARF Episodes


In honour of Red Dwarf's thirtieth anniversary today, it's time to take a look at the ten best episodes of the show's run.The stories are not presented in quality order because at this level, there's not much between these episodes. This is the show firing at its very best and frankly all of these episodes are worth watching.The EndSeason 1, Episode 1"Everybody's dead, Dave." The very first episode of Red Dwarf sets up a very strong premise, with Dave Lister, the lowest-ranking crewmember on the five-mile-long mining ship Red Dwarf (because the service robots have a better union than the human maintenance crew), being sentenced to spend the rest of the mission in temporal stasis after smuggling an unquarantined cat on board. This proves unexpectedly helpful when the crew is wiped out by a lethal radiation leak. Holly, the ship's AI (IQ 6,000, "the same as 12,000 traffic wardens"), steers the ship into deep space and waits for the radiation to die down to a safe background level...which takes 3 million years.Emerging from stasis, Lister discovers his only company is the now-senile Holly, a humanoid lifeform who descended from his pregnant cat and a holographic recreation of Lister's commanding office, the painfully officious and unpleasant Arnold J. Rimmer.It's a great premise which gets the show off to a good start (arguably the second episode, Future Echoes, is also required viewing as it sets up how the show can move beyond its limited premise), showcases the amazing cast and features some good gags. It all started here, and it's startling to think how far it would come.Better Than LifeSeason 2, Episode 2Red Dwarf started off being quite claustrophobic, but in Season 2 the writers started finding ways of getting the crew off their miserably grey spaceship. In Better Than Life the crew get hooked into a video game designed to give them their fantasies. Unfortunately, the game is not prepared for the invasion of Rimmer's self-loathing, disturbingly twisted psyche which sets about sabotaging the game for everyone else with wild abandon. The result is an escalating series of catastrophes in the game as Rimmer's subconscious sets about destroying anything that threatens to make him or his friends happy. It's both extremely funny and also desperately sad and twisted as we realise for the first time that Rimmer has deep-seated reasons for being such an unpleasant man, which the series soon starts mining for great material.MeltdownSeason 4, Episode 6Red Dwarf is at its best when mixing pathos and comedy, mining the characters to produce funny material. But sometimes the show just likes to kick back and be absolutely daft with a high concept, in this case ripping the mickey out of the movie Westworld. This episode is definitely in that category. The crew arrive on "Waxworld", a theme park planet inhabited by wax-droids who are supposed to act out historical scenes for the edification of visitors. Unfortunately the droids have gone a bit insane over the last million years or so, and are now trapped into fighting a horrendous war based on their characters' programming.Or, to put it another way, the episode features the crew teaming up with the unlikeliest band of heroes in history, consisting of Pythagoras ("Alas our numbers do not reach twenty-one; at least then we could form an equilateral triangle,"), Santa, Stan Laurel, Marilyn Monroe, Sergeant Elvis Presley, Gandhi ("DON'T EYEBALL ME GANDHI! Drop to your knees and give me fifty, now!"), Mother Theresa and Queen Victoria. Their enemies are the ultimate team-up of evil and depravity: Adolf Hitler, Rasputin, Emperor Caligula ("Bring hither the swimsuit with the bottom cut out and unleash the rampant wildebeest!"), Al Capone, Richard III and James Last. Inspired by the martyrdom of Winnie the Pooh, the good guys have to fight one last battle to gain victory. Which would be more hopeful if some idiot hadn't put Rimmer in charge of milita[...]

Happy 30th Birthday, RED DWARF!


Today marks the 30th anniversary of the airing of the very first episode of Red Dwarf, the world's longest-running science fiction comedy show. Set 3 million years in the future, Red Dwarf is the story of the last known human being alive, Dave Lister, a slovenly bum, and his friends and allies (and the officious, arrogant and borderline insane Arnold Rimmer, Lister's nemesis) as they explore deep space and occasionally try to get home.Red Dwarf was created by writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor in the mid-1980s. Grant and Naylor had been writing together for years, working as writers on satirical puppet show Spitting Image and on radio shows such as Son of Cliche. On Son of Cliche they created a character named "Dave Hollins, Space Cadet", an Earthman who gets stuck millions of years in the future with only a senile computer for company. They developed and expanded the concept, re-titling it Red Dwarf, and trying to sell it to the BBC or Channel 4.They initially had a cool reception: the BBC was trying to shut down Doctor Who, feeling the show had run its course (they succeeded, if only temporarily, in 1989), and was fiercely resisting making another SF show. There wasn't much interest from other quarters. The show was only finally greenlit after influential producer Paul Jackson - who had produced the massive hit shows The Two Ronnies, Three of a Kind and The Young Ones - took on the project and championed it.Despite this success, the show was assigned a tiny budget that badly affected Grant and Naylor's casting choices. They'd originally wanted Alfred Molina to play Lister and Alan Rickman Rimmer, but with less money to hand they settled on "punk poet" Craig Charles and one of their voiceover funnymen from Spitting Image, Chris Barrie. Dancer Danny John-Jules and stand-up comedian Norman Lovett completed the cast, place a humanoid descended from Lister's pet cat and the ship's super-advanced AI Holly, respectively. Given their original casting choices had all been white, Naylor and Grant had ended up with a cast that was 50% black, which came in for some bizarre criticism in the British press at the time. The show also had no regular female characters, although this was the point: later episodes established that the absence of any women on board would contribute to the crew's growing list of neuroses and bizarre tics. The show wouldn't gain a recurring female character until Season 3, when Hattie Hayridge took over from Norman Lovett as Holly (who could change his/her appearance at will), and then the addition of Chloe Annett as Kochanski in Seasons 7 and 8.Red Dwarf debuted on 15 February 1988 to largely indifferent ratings, but a surprisingly strong critical response. In fact, the first episode of Red Dwarf - the ironically titled The End - attracted the highest Audience Appreciation Index response since the Queen's Coronation in 1952! The rest of the first season was patchy, with the terrible budget and awful sets letting the show down even when the gags were pretty funny.The cast of Red Dwarf in the first episode, which aired thirty years ago today: Danny John-Jules as Cat, Chris Barrie as Rimmer and Craig Charles as Lister.Season 2 followed later the same year, and saw a slight budget increase that allowed for location filming and some pretty good model work. Grant and Naylor also adjusted their writing style. Having been influenced by Alien and Silent Running, they liked the idea of nailing the isolation of the characters. They built episodes around the idea of loneliness and also around Rimmer's tragic backstory (which they were careful to ensure made the character more understandable, not magically more likeable). The second season was vastly superior to the first and ensured that a third season was commissioned. Naylor and Grant took more direct control as producers and were able to assign the budget more carefully, making it lo[...]

Star Trek: Discovery - Season 1.5


The Federation-Klingon War continues to rage, with the Federation gaining some victories thanks to the USS Discovery's spore-based quantum teleportation drive. Unfortunately, the last jump has carried the Discovery way beyond where anyone has gone before...into another universe.Star Trek: Discovery had a rocky start, with a prequel two-part story before we even got to meet most of the show's actual recurring cast and the ship itself. The show's tone has been all over the place, whilst the writing has frequently let down the excellent actors that the show has assembled. The second part of the season - which consists of six episodes compared to the first chunk's nine - solves some of these problems. This batch of episodes is much faster-paced, more consistent in quality and delivers some very solid payoff to the mysteries set up at the start of the season, if several of those revelations were predictable months in advance.Again, Discovery benefits from its very solid cast. Jeremy Isaacs, James Frain, Sonequa Martin-Green, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman and Shazad Latif all continue to deliver stand-out performances, bringing real depth to their characters and performances even when the scripts occasionally falter. Wiseman and Latif in particular benefit from the back run of episodes, with Tilly channelling her youth and enthusiasm in some very unexpected directions and becoming a far more impressive character as a result. Latif's Ash Tyler gets put through the emotional winger and although there are some holes in the way his story developers, the actor never gives less than 100%.The show continues to be one of the best-looking on television, with sets to die for and some very accomplished action scenes. The CGI and space scenes continue to disappoint, however. Discovery has gone for a very stylised and colourful look (Nebulas! Everywhere!) to its space scenes which are arty but also not very good at getting across the staging and geography of its space battles. The clean lines of the previous series where you could tell what the hell was going on are sadly missed at this point. Starship designs also continue to disappoint: the Klingon ships, which seem to be a hodge-podge of ideas thrown together with little regard for logic or design philosophy, are particularly poor.In terms of story, a large chunk of this back run of episodes takes place in the Mirror Universe, Star Trek's go-to place when it wants to do morally unambiguous action stories (because everyone in the Mirror Universe is All Evil, All the Time). Discovery's use of the Mirror Universe is effective - avoiding creeping tone of camp that crept in during Deep Space Nine's frequent excursions there - if a bit overdrawn at four episodes, even if these did allow the reappearance of Michelle Yeoh as the evil Philippa Georgiou, whom Yeoh plays with scenery-destroying relish. Still, it gives the series a much-needed dramatic focus.The show's final stretch feels badly compromised by earlier decisions. Putting both L'Rell and Voq on Discovery and killing off every other Klingon character of note means we have no real stake in the Klingon side of the conflict, especially once L'Rell and Voq both realised that the Federation is absolutely totes awesome after spending five minutes hanging out with them (the "assimilation" threat of the Federation from earlier in the season feels appropriate at this moment). The decision to retire the teleportation device, reinstate Burnham and end the war with a literal deus ex machina (at least from the Klingon POV) also makes it feel like Discovery is giving us easy, pat answers to large, complex problems. The final shot of the season is also very cool, along with the choice of theme music, but it also feels like the show should perhaps have tried standing on its own two feet for a while before playing this card.Ultimately, the second half of Star [...]

BABYLON 5 Rewatch: Season 4, Episodes 19-20


D19: Between the Darkness and the Light Airdates: 6 October 1997 (US), 27 November 1997 (UK)Written by J. Michael StraczynskiDirected by David J. EagleCast: Lt. Eisensen (Marc Gomes), Interrogator (Bruce Gray), Number One (Marjorie Monaghan), Captain James (David Purdham), Felicia (Musetta Vander), Guard (Greg Poland), Evan (J.P. Hubbel), First Guard (James Laing), Assistant (Anneliza Scott)Date: Approximately 30-31 October 2261.Plot:    Garibaldi, anxious to rescue Sheridan and start paying back for some the things he did whilst under Psi Corps’ control, attempts to contact the Mars Resistance. He is captured and brought before Number One, who offers Franklin the chance to kill him. Franklin almost agrees, but lets Lyta scan Garibaldi to learn the truth. They discover that he was used by Psi Corps, but is now free of their influence. After convincing Number One into helping them, Lyta, Garibaldi and Franklin set out for the Earthforce prison complex.On Babylon 5 Delenn and Lennier discover that Londo has called a meeting of the Babylon 5 Advisory Council without informing them. They arrive just as the Narn, Centauri and League worlds unanimously vote to send ships to support Ivanova’s fleet.The liberation fleet is moving towards the Solar system and successfully defeats the Earthforce destroyers Damocles and Orionin combat. In return for leniency at the war crimes tribunal, one of the captured crewmen reports that some of the ships that have joined Ivanova’s fleet are really still working for Clark and are providing intelligence to Earthforce on their movements. Clark is setting a trap involving some new-model destroyers employing lethal technology. Clark wants to destroy the rebel Earthforce vessels in Ivanova’s fleet to make it look like the liberators are really alien invaders. Ivanova decides to take the White Stars by themselves to intercept and destroy the new vessels before they can attack the Earth ships in the fleet.Garibaldi, Lyta and Franklin arrive at the prison complex and Garibaldi manages to use his well-publicised face as Sheridan’s captor to get past the outer guards. Lyta uses her telepathic powers to overwhelm the inner guards and they rescue Sheridan from his cell. However, they then have to fight their way back out. With the help of the Resistance, Sheridan is put on a shuttle headed for the liberation fleet.The White Star forces arrive at the ambush coordinates and encounter a large number of Earthforce destroyers fitted with Shadow technology, namely much improved hull armour and superior weaponry. Full-scale battle erupts and, despite heavy losses, the White Stars emerge triumphant. However, when the last enemy vessel explodes the White Star 2 is crippled and Ivanova severely injured. She and Marcus bail out in a lifepod and the ship explodes.Sheridan’s shuttle reaches the liberation fleet shortly after Minbari, Narn, Centauri and League warships arrive to support them. He assumes command of the Agamemnon and orders a course set for the Mars colony.MORE AFTER THE JUMPDating the Episode: This episode ends a day or two before the next one begins. Sheridan has been in custody for about a week.The Arc: Sheridan is rescued from Mars and returns to take command of the fleet. Their next target is Mars itself. We discover what happens there in D20.The machine used to interrogate Sheridan is similar to the virtual reality cybernet used on Sinclair in episode A8.Ivanova refers to a conversation she had with Marcus almost a year earlier, in C21.Ivanova is badly wounded during the battle against the Shadow-enhanced destroyers. We discover her fate in D20 and D21.Earthforce got its hands on some Shadow technology eight years ago (DC5-8) and some more last year, as we discovered in C8.The Mars Resistance is organising itself for a mass uprising against Clark’s forces. We see this in episode D20.Bac[...]

Black Panther


Aeons ago, a vast meteorite crashed into central Africa, leaving behind a mountain of vibranium, the hardest and most versatile metal on the planet. The nation of Wakanda has grown up around it, developing into the most technologically-advanced nation on Earth whilst keeping its capabilities secret to avoid drawing the eye of invaders. When a shipment of vibranium is stolen by noted arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, the newly-crowned King T'Challa - the Black Panther of Wakanda - sets out to capture Klaue and avenge a great crime he committed against the country years earlier.The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a smoothly-operating machine at this point, having hit a stride where it has consistently churned out well-produced movies for several years now without missing a beat. The strength of the MCU is both its over-arcing storyline extending across multiple movies (and set to culminate in this year's Avengers: Infinity War) and also its growing willingness to let talented, slightly offbeat directors helm individual movies and bring a sense of individuality to them. This could be seen in the Russo Brothers' Winter Soldier (influenced by 1970s spy movies), James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy (influenced by 1970s space opera) and Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok (influenced by glam rock and the 1980s Flash Gordon). And it certainly can be seen in Ryan Coogler's Black Panther.This film hits all the checkboxes you expect of a Marvel movie: it's colourful, it's fun, it has a slightly knowing sense of humour and it has enough of a broad appeal to keep adults and kids entertained alike. However, it also provides what arguably no Marvel movie has since The Winter Soldier: a palpable sense of menace and a villain who is extremely effective. For the first part of the movie that villain is Andy Serkis's Klaue, who is dynamic and convincingly wide-eyed insane. Later on, Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger rises to the fore and Jordan plays the character with a nonchalant confidence that boils over into simmering rage. It's a powerful performance. Jordan has been on a lot of people's radars ever since his memorable turn as the tragic Wallace in the first season of The Wire, but this film should take him to another level. Most impressively, Killmonger becomes a villain who is clearly in the wrong, but whose motives are clearly understandable and who has human moments of weakness and doubt that make him a more interesting enemy.In terms of performances, the film overflows with great ones. Lupita Nyong'yo and The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira are both outstanding as warriors defending Wakanda (one from behind the scenes and one with a massive spear), with Letitia Wright stealing every scene she's in as bonkers Wakandan inventor Shuri (think of Tony Stark, but young, female and less prone to tedious angst). Winston Duke has a small but highly memorable role as M'Baku, the leader of a tribe less than happy with T'Challa's ascension, and he gets the lion's share of the film's best lines. Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya is also excellent, using his thoughtful thousand-yard stare to great effect as W'Kabi, one of T'Challa's friends and allies. Angela Bassett also has a strong, elder stateswoman presence as T'Challa's mother. Martin Freeman returns from earlier Marvel films and has a surprisingly important role to play, which he lives up to nicely (and gets an intense conversation with Serkis wherein the director restrains himself from any Hobbit references).It would be wrong to call his performance disappointing, but Chadwick Boseman gets a little lost in the mix at times, surrounded by far more interesting characters with senses of humour, or righteous honour, or dread-inspiring menace. Boseman's T'Challa gets to be a stoic straight man to most of the rest of the cast, which is fine but does leave Black Panther feeling like [...]

ROBOTECH movie gets a new director, writer and (rough) time schedule


Sony are continuing to develop their long-gestating Robotech film project, based on the 1980s American animated TV series (based, in turn, on three Japanese anime series edited together into a single narrative). They now have a director and a writer for the film.

James Wan has withdrawn as director, to be replaced by hotter-than-sun Andy Muschietti, the director of the two-part movie version of Stephen King's IT, the first half of which was released last year to critical acclaim. Muschietti is currently working on IT Part II, which will be released on 6 September 2019. Muschietti will begin work on Robotech in earnest once IT Part II wraps post-production, which probably won't be until mid-2019 at the earliest.

Jason Fuchs has also been attached to the Robotech project as writer. He's thrown out the scripts developed over several previous years and is now working on a fresh take. Fuchs is also in demand following his credit as a co-writer on last year's Wonder Woman. However, his other scripts (Ice Age 3 and Pan) have been less well-received.

Assuming this project moves forward - which seems more likely now a firmer directorial deal seems in place (Wan's deal apparently foundered over DC's inability to confirm a timescale for his Aquaman project, although that is now shooting) - it'll probably be 2021 or 2022 before we see the film on the screen. There also remains a major issue in that Harmony Gold (the creators of Robotech) are in dispute with Studio Nue and Big West (the creators of the Macross anime, which is the primary source for the Robotech story and animation) over international distribution rights for the Macross series, sequels and prequels in the United States and Europe. As a result of this dispute, Studio Nue have refused to licence the original Macross mecha designs to Harmony Gold or (as far as is known) Sony. This means that if the Robotech film moves forward, it will not be able to use any of the mecha, starship or vehicle designs from the original Robotech series, This will not go down well with fans eager to see the Veritech fighters from their childhood in action on-screen.

Still, interesting to see how this project develops as it goes forward. The basic Robotech/Macross premise is incredibly strong: an alien starship crash lands on Earth just before a nascent World War III is about to go nuclear. The world's superpowers band together in the face of this greater threat and reverse-engineer the starship and its technology. A decade later, the alien owners of the ship (or, more accurately, their genetically-engineered slave-soldiers) show up to reclaim it and all hell breaks loose.

RIP Jóhann Jóhannsson


In surprising news, it has been confirmed that Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has passed away at the age of 47. No cause of death has been given.

Jóhannsson had been releasing solo albums since 2002, but had come to recent, widespread attention for his work in film scores, in particular his collaborations with Denise Villeneuve. He provided the moody, minimalist scores for Villeneuve's films Prisoners, Sicario and, most memorably, Arrival. He also provided the score for The Theory of Everything. He won a Golden Globe for Everything and a World Soundtrack Award for Arrival.

He'd recently made headlines when his complete or partially-complete scores for Blade Runner 2049 and mother! were not used. Hans Zimmer replaced Jóhannsson on Blade Runner 2049, somewhat bafflingly proceeding to produce a very Jóhannsson-like final score. The changeover on mother! was more amicable, as Jóhannsson himself felt that the score he'd produced interfered with the movie's atmosphere; after consulting with director Darren Aronofsky, they decided to drop the score almost completely, instead using only distant echoes of it melded into the film's sound design. Jóhannsson instead accepted a sound design credit on the film.

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Jóhannsson had completed three additional scores before his passing: Mandy, The Mercy (released just last week) and Mary Magdalene, due out at the end of this month.

Jóhannsson's passing is sad news, especially as such a young age. His music was inventive, haunting, devastatingly emotional and immediately recognisable. His work on Arrival was utterly sublime. He will be missed.

On the GAME OF THRONES showrunners making STAR WARS


As we heard last week, the Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been tapped by Disney to write and possibly direct a new Star Wars movie series. Benioff and Weiss will start work on the films the second they finish up on the final season of Game of Thrones (which is shooting until the late summer, probably to air in February or April 2019).This is a logical decision on several levels: Benioff and Weiss have delivered the biggest and most successful television show in HBO's history and the biggest drama show on the planet right now. They have made HBO an insane amount of money and (albeit helped by the simultaneous rise of Amazon TV and Netflix Originals) raised the bar for the scale and scope of television in a way that has completely redefined the medium, possibly forever. The impact of Game of Thrones on television may eventually be seen as being analogous to the impact the original Star Wars had on cinema back in 1977 in terms of scale, visual effects and cultural impact.There are, however, two reasons to be cautious about this news.The Star Wars universe, by Paul Shipper.How Much Star Wars Is Too Much Star Wars?Between 1977 and 2005, Lucasfilm released exactly six Star Wars movies, three cartoon series (none of which lasted more than a single season's worth of material) and three TV movies. They authorised a lot of other content - novels, video games, comics, board games and RPGs - but for the core Star Wars canon that was it. They released a six-season CG series after 2005 (which had an ill-advised movie spin-off), but generally speaking, the amount of core Star Wars content produced in the first 30 years of its existence was relatively modest for what was arguably the worlds biggest SFF franchise.Since October 2014 - less than three and a half years ago! - we've had another three movies (The Force Awakens, Rogue One and The Last Jedi) and a four-season animated series (Rebels). Another movie (Solo) is due out in just three months. After that we've got one movie in pre-production (Episode IX) and at least six more in the formal planning stage beyond that (Rian Johnson's trilogy and the Benioff/Weiss project), plus one more "Star Wars Story" that's very likely to happen (the Obi-Wan movie) and two movies at the proposal stage (a Boba Fett movie and allegedly a Yoda one). Lucasfilm have also apparently put a further core Skywalker trilogy (Episode X-XII) into the earliest planning stages. In addition, Disney are planning "several" live-action Star Wars television series for their new streaming service. This new Star Wars canon has also been expanded by dozens of new novels and comic series, as well as several video games.That's an awful lot of content to take on board. Disney are clearly putting Star Wars into the same bracket as their Marvel Cinematic Universe, a setting that can sustain multiple, high-grossing movies per year.However, it's questionable if that is true. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is based on almost sixty years' worth of comic books, encompassing thousands of characters, hundreds of titles and thousands of storylines that can be mined for the cinema. The eighteen movies in the MCU to date really only consist of one major comics storyline (the Thanos/Infinity Stones arc) and a dozen or so smaller stories (such as Civil War, Planet Hulk and Age of Ultron). That's barely scraping the surface of the potential on offer in the Marvel universe, especially now that Marvel can tap the Fantastic Four/X-Men/Deadpool arm of the comics universe as well. In addition, Disney has been careful to vary both the tone and content of the MCU, slowly allowing writers and directors greater freedom to innovat[...]

Sailing back into HOSTILE WATERS


In 2001 Rage Software released a strategy game called Hostile Waters. Due to a copyright issue, it was given the slightly less-wieldy title of Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising in the United States. The game was released to a rapturous reception, with universal critical acclaim and high review scores. However, these did not translate into high sales. The game sunk pretty quickly and Rage Studios had to close its doors a couple of years later.The appeal of Hostile Waters has never really gone away though. Retrospectives (like this one) surface every couple of years and the game has gained a new lease of life through re-releases on GoG and Steam. And it's both easy to see why the game is so beloved and why it also didn't resonate with a mass audience.Hostile Waters is a strategy game inspired by the 1988 video game Carrier Command. It has an all-new story written by comic writer and novelist Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, The Authority, Crooked Little Vein). Set in the year 2032, it depicts a world utterly at peace. In an alternate-timeline 2012 humanity created the "Creation Engine", a nanotech reassembler which can take garbage, pollutants and other materials and recreate them as anything: food, clothing, electronics. The Creation Engine resulted in the collapse of the old order of capitalism and warmongering, as the abrupt arrival of a post-scarcity society made such things obsolete. Some of the old order did not like this and tried to ban Creation Engines, even going to war to obliterate them and all knowledge of how to build them. They were defeated in a brief, brutal and bloody conflict.Hostile Waters opens with the peaceful, semi-utopian society that resulted from the Creation Engine coming under attack: missiles fired from a remote island chicane in the South Pacific are striking the major cities. An "adaptive cruiser" - a warship fitted with Creation Engines so it can build a complement of strike craft on the fly - named Antaeus is sent to the chicane to investigate. Sure enough, it turns out that the "old guard" of dictators, generals and now-redundant business tycoons are behind the attacks, using Creation Engines and genetic engineering to unleash a new threat, a biological WMD that they can use to blackmail the world. The early part of the game sees you - playing the commander of the Antaeus - investigating the threat, taking on Cabal military forces (who start off using traditional vehicles like Apache helicopters and Abrams battle tanks) and becoming aware of the more devastating weapons the Cabal is working on. Later on in the game the Cabal launches their bioweapon, which promptly turns on them and becomes a much greater threat than anyone was expecting.What is interesting about Hostile Waters is the control scheme. It's real-time tactics game which anchors the in-game camera to one of your military units. There is no gods eye view of the battlefield like in, say, StarCraft or Command and Conquer. There is a strategic map (accessed via the F1 key) but this pauses the game. You can issue orders to your units in this mode, but you have to come out of the map to see them unfold. This makes for an engrossing variety of gameplay: at one moment your units are engaged in a furious real-time battle and then you pause the action for a leisurely appreciation of the battlefield and what orders you can give. You can also take direct control of a unit and fly/drive it around the battlefield like an action game before allowing the AI to take over again. This allows Hostile Waters to be both incredibly intense and also extremely relaxed at the same time. allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www[...]

SF&F Question: are the non-Frank Herbert DUNE novels canon?


The BasicsDune is a 1965 science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert (1920-86). It is the biggest-selling science fiction novel of all time, having sold over 20 million copies. Before his death in 1986, Frank Herbert wrote an additional five novels in the Dune saga: Dune Messiah (1969), Children of Dune (1976), God Emperor of the Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984) and Chapterhouse: Dune (1986), as well as a number of essays and short stories in the same setting. In 1984 a feature film version of Dune directed by David Lynch, with Herbert serving as a creative consultant, was released.After Herbert's death, the family estate spearheaded by his son Brian took over as literary executor. They authorised a series of video games based on the series (beginning with Dune in 1992) and two TV mini-series based on the first three books, which aired on SyFy in 2000 and 2003. Most significantly - and controversially - Brian Herbert co-wrote (with prolific tie-in author Kevin J. Anderson) a series of prequel and sequel novels to his father's series, beginning with House Atreides in 1999. To date they have released thirteen novels in the Dune universe and have frequently claimed to be expanding the "Dune canon." However, these books have met with both critical derision and criticism, particularly for the early claim that the books were based on Frank Herbert's notes and background material for the series, only to later confirm that these notes were very brief and marginal and did not contain in-depth outlines for the new books.This leads to the question, then, if these latter Dune novels can be considered canon?Definition of Canon"Canon" is a debatable fan when applied to fictional universes, but generally it is accepted that the "canon" is the events that "happened" in the fictional universe which all other additions to that universe are expected to acknowledge or take into consideration when being written. Some fictional universes consist of multiverses with numerous different canons and continuities taking place within them, most famously the Marvel and DC comic universes but also the Transformers media franchise, which from day one separated the comic books and cartoon series into separate canons.There is also a distinction involved when stories are adapted into new forms. For example, although the television series Game of Thrones is based on the George R.R. Martin novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, it forms a distinct and different canon by itself and nothing that happens in one medium is automatically assumed to happen in the other.Canon should not be confused with "official," that is material released or authorised by the legally appropriate entity, or "fanon," (sometimes "head-canon") which is material deemed to be acceptable by individual fans and can incorporate any combination or mixture of canonical, official, non-canonical, outright apocryphal or fanfiction material.Who determines what is canon?It is generally accepted that one person or role - a "keeper of the mythos" or "gatekeeper" - is responsible for determining what is canonical or not. In most cases this is the creator of the original version of the story or the first instalment of a series. For material like TV shows, movie series or comic books this becomes more complicated, as these stories are often created and put together by teams of people rather than individual, and the individual creator does not own the properties and loses control of them if they chose to leave or move on to other projects. For example, the British science fiction TV series Doctor Who famously has no hard-and-fast canon because it was created by a committee of several different writers and producers over half a century ago (most of [...]

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold


Three years have passed since the death of the legendary Aral Vorkosigan. His widow, Cordelia, continues to live and work on Sergyar, third world of the Barrayaran Empire, as vicerine. Aged 76, but expecting to live at least to 120, Cordelia has almost fully half her life ahead of her and is unsure of what to do with it. Complicating matters is Admiral Jole of the Sergyar Fleet, a respected officer and a close friend of Cordelia and her late husband's. With Sergyar in political uproar as a controversial decision to move the planetary capital is made, Cordelia has some important decisions to make.Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is the latest (so far) novel in the Vorkosigan Saga and one of the most wrong-footing. Each of the sixteen novels in the series has been different, but at least incorporated some elements of action-adventure, political intrigue, war or undercover criminal activity, which the protagonist (usually Miles Vorkosigan but occasionally other characters) has to deal with. This novel doesn't have that. There are no villains, there are no explosions (well, one, but not quite what you'd expect) and no exchanges of energy weapon fire. The political intrigue is very slight, at best, and the novel is unfolds without much fear of mayhem, death or destruction taking place (unless you count a rather remote threat from a volcano).Instead, this is a novel about relationships, the changing nature of life as people grow older, and the philosophical acceptance that we are not here for very long and people have to make decisions for their happiness and that of those around them, sometimes unorthodox or complicated ones. The tensest moments in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen come in conversations, as Cordelia is forced to reveal that she's been leading a rather more interesting life on Sergyar then her son Miles believed and grapples with the baffling decision of just how you start a new live over when you've already done all the usual stuff - had children, gotten married and beheaded your most lethal political opponent in battle?In this sense Gentleman Jole continues the themes from Cryoburn, musing on the passing of the generations, but the book again rejects this as a maudlin idea. Instead it also celebrates the commodities of life and time, delights in the arrival of new life and new children (and grandchildren) and spins out, in a good-old fashioned manner, an everything-but-old-fashioned romance between two people at a more mature time of their lives.Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (****) is not a rousing space action-adventure novel. It is a life-affirming, warm romance that returns to some some of Bujold's central SF ideas (most notably the science of uterine replicators), introduces some new ones (Cordelia's utter disbelief at people refusing to believe a destabilising volcano may erupt and destroy their town) and unfolds with a stately, mature pace. Is it slightly self-indulgent? Maybe, but then after thirty years of putting the Vorkosigan clan through the wringer, both the author and her characters deserve a break, especially when it's as thought-provoking and enjoyable as this one. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.[...]

BABYLON 5 Rewatch: Season 4, Episodes 17-18


D17: The Face of the EnemyAirdates: 9 June 1997 (US), 13 November 1997 (UK)Written by J. Michael StraczynskiDirected by Michael VejarCast: William Edgars (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.), Bester (Walter Koenig), Captain Edward MacDougan (Richard Gant), Lise Hampton-Edgars (Denise Gentile), Number One (Marjorie Monaghan), Alison Higgins (Diana Morgan), Captain James (David Purdham), Captain Leo Frank (Ricco Ross), Wade (Mark Schneider), Psi Cop (Harlan Ellison), Date: Late September or early October 2261.Plot:    Sheridan’s fleet launches an attack on an Earthforce outpost in an asteroid belt. The defending Earthforce warships, the Hydra and the Delphi, are critically damaged and both surrender after Captain MacDougan of the Vesta confirms that, contrary to ISN and government reports, Sheridan isn’t killing all the Earthforce crew who surrender to him. The EAS Agamemnon, Sheridan’s old command, arrives and Captain James, Sheridan’s former first officer, agrees to swap sides and join Sheridan’s cause.On Mars Edgars agrees to tell Garibaldi the whole story of his operation in return for Garibaldi’s cooperation in capturing Sheridan. Garibaldi tells Edgars that Sheridan’s father - who has been missing for several months - needs to take a certain kind of drug once every few months to treat an illness he is suffering from. Through the movements of this drug Edgars is able to arrange for Sheridan’s dad to be arrested on Earth. Garibaldi contacts Sheridan on the Agamemnon and tells him that his father is in prison on Mars. Garibaldi has contacts willing to break him out, but only if Sheridan agrees to talk to them face-to-face. Sheridan agrees, despite suspecting a trap, and orders Ivanova to leave Babylon 5 and take command of the fleet in his absence. The Agamemnon has not yet announced its defection and has the latest access codes for getting through the early warning system around the Solar system, so it takes Sheridan to Mars and drops him off in a Thunderbolt. He arrives in a bar to meet with Garibaldi, but Garibaldi knocks him out with a tranquiliser and he is taken into custody by Earthforce personnel.Back at Edgars’ home, Edgars spills the beans on what is really going on. There is a virus threatening telepaths, but Edgars himself created it. He believes that telepaths are the greatest threat the human race has ever seen and he is determined to remove the threat, for good. The virus is harmless against normal humans, but telepaths die from it. However, his plan is not genocide. The antidote that Garibaldi helped get through B5 Customs must be taken at regular intervals every two weeks or the result is fatal. Edgars plans to use this to keep the telepaths under control. After he leaves, Garibaldi goes into a trance-like state and activates a homing device in his tooth. He then goes to the vac-tube station where Lise tries to talk to him, having overhead some of Edgars’ plans, but Garibaldi tells her to leave. Bester than arrives and scans Garibaldi’s mind to learn Edgar’s intent. He tells Garibaldi that, through the Shadow allies who had infiltrated the Psi Corps (C14), Bester was able to arrange for Garibaldi to be captured when the Shadows surrounded Babylon 5 (C22). Garibaldi was brought to the Psi Corps base on Syria Planum and mentally reprogrammed, his natural tendencies towards paranoia and suspicion massively enhanced. The Psi Corps had long known that someone was planning to move against them, just not who and how. As they hoped, Garibaldi uncovered the conspiracy and now they can move against it. After considering killing Garibaldi, Bester instead removes the mental programming and lea[...]

GAME OF THRONES showrunners sign up to make a new STAR WARS trilogy


David Benioff and Dan Weiss have signed up to produce a "new series" of Star Wars films. They will start work on the project as soon as work on the final season of Game of Thrones wraps later this year.

Disney have confirmed that the new movies will not be related to the core Skyalker saga (which will end with Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019), nor to Rian Johnson's in-development trilogy.

The news seemingly confirms that HBO's Confederate, an alternate-history story about the South winning the American Civil War which Benioff and Weiss had been tapped to helm immediately after Thrones, is now on indefinite hold.

This news also seemingly confirms that Disney are going to be aiming to release multiple Star Wars movies per year, like their Marvel franchise. Assuming the Benioff & Weiss movies will alternate with Johnson's, this means that the further Star Wars Story stand-alone movies (including an in-development movie focusing on Obi-Wan Kenobi between the first two trilogies) will now be sharing release years with these new trilogies.

Amazon options CONAN THE BARBARIAN TV show


Amazon has made the surprise announcement that it is developing a TV series based on Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian short stories.

The project appears to be in an advanced stage of planning: Ryan Condal (Colony) is writing and producing, whilst Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones, Altered Carbon) will direct the first episode. He will also act as executive producer and may return to direct more episodes later on. Warren Littlefield (The Handmaid's Tale, Fargo) will act as executive producer and the main organisational force on the series.

Condal and Sapochnik are long-term Conan fans and have expressed an interest in returning the character to his literary roots, hewing closer to Robert E. Howard's books than the existing movies.

There are three films based on the books already: Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984), the first of which was well-received but criticised by Conan fans for inventing a needlessly tragic backstory and not engaging much with the source material. Conan the Barbarian (2011), starring Jason Momoa, was praised for having a better and more faithful lead actor, but the movie was otherwise unremarkable.

There was also a short-lived, terrible 1990s action series, Conan the Adventurer, which history has mercifully mostly forgotten. Schwarzenegger has recently been saying that he may return for a new Conan movie set in the latter period of Conan's life as charted by Howard, when he rules the Kingdom of Aquilonia. What impact the Amazon TV deal has on that is unknown.

There has been renewed interest in the character recently, mainly down to the success of the Age of Conan MMORPG and a series of successful board games and comic books. Marvel recently reacquired the comic book rights, hoping to recapture the success of their 1970s and 1980s run when Conan was a surprisingly big success for them.

Amazon are also developing a Lord of the Rings prequel TV series. Acquiring Conan as well is a sign that they have a lot of faith in the fantasy market and that it may be able to sustain multiple fantasy properties from one studio (which begs the question if they would also considered triple-dipping with Wheel of Time or not).

Rumour: Microsoft planning a shock acquisition of Electronic Arts or Valve


Polygon has broken a story that Microsoft is planning a shock acquisition of a major gaming company in an attempt to revive its flagging fortunes.As of the end of 2017, Sony had shipped 76 million PlayStation 4 consoles, comfortably outstripping Microsoft's X-Box One. Although Microsoft have refused to publish sales figures, industry estimates have put the number of X-Box Ones sold at around 30 million, considerably less than half of the PS4 figures. Microsoft is also facing challenges in the business space - open-source alternatives are making its expensive Office suite of software look unappealing - and in its bread-and-butter desktop business, especially with many casual users preferring to use smartphones and Apple and Android tablets rather than traditional, Windows-powered PCs.Microsoft certainly aren't hurting too badly - their global operating revenue in 2017 was $89 billion compared to Sony's $69 billion - but clearly they have decided that drastic action is required to stop the rot and regain the initiative in the gaming space. The primary reason for X-Box One's poorer showing, despite (on paper) superior hardware, has been pinned on the format's lack of compelling format-exclusive titles compared to the PS4.According to reports, Microsoft are eyeing two possible plans. The more aggressive and larger-scaled would be buying Electronic Arts, the world's second-largest video game publisher. EA was the largest for many years, but has recently fallen behind Activision-Blizzard. A purchase of EA, along with its Origin game-delivery service and myriad franchises (ranging from the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series to Titanfall, Battlefield, The Sims and Star Wars titles), would signal a major return by Microsoft to the publishing field. It would give them control over a swathe of major games, respected studios (such as BioWare and DICE) and, in Origin, a content-delivery system far superior to Microsoft's poor Windows 10 Store. It would also mean that all EA titles going forward would be X-Box One exclusive on console (although most titles would likely continue to be released on PC). This would be a particularly powerful move given the popularity of EA Sports, particularly the world-conquering FIFA football franchise of games.Although EA is a behemoth in game publishing, it's less than half the size of Microsoft with a combined value of around $35 billion, making an acquisition possible, if not without challenges.The second, if more remote, possibility is that Microsoft could purchase Valve, the owners of the incredibly popular Steam game delivery system on PC. Valve also have fingers in the VR space through the HTC Vive headset, home-streaming through Steamlink and indie gaming developing via Steam Early Access. Valve also own a number of high-profile (but all now long-dormant) video game franchises including Portal, Left 4 Dead, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress and, of course, Half-Life. Valve are worth about half of EA, but a purchase is much more difficult as Valve are a fully privately-owned company, meaning Microsoft can't buy out the company publicly as they could with EA. They would have to try to convince Valve's owner, Gabe Newell, to sell the company, which given Newell's history (he once worked for Microsoft and quit in the early 1990s to found Valve) may be unlikely.Both plans are bold. Buying EA would position Microsoft much more powerfully in the console gaming space, although it may also backfire: a franchise like FIFA going X-Box exclusive might just drive sales of the rival Pro Evolution[...]

Trailer for the STAR WARS: SOLO trailer


Because we can't just have the trailer any more, Lucasfilm have released a trailer for the first trailer for Star Wars: Solo, their spin-off prequel movie about the young adventures of Han Solo.

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Looks okay. We'll find out more tomorrow, apparently, when we get the full trailer.

The most expensive TV shows of all time


Last year there were a couple of attempts to make a list of the most expensive TV series of all time, which failed because they used radically outdated information and didn't take account of some of the newer shows on the block. So let's take a stab at this with slightly better information.It should be noted that this list applies to ongoing TV shows, not special event mini-series or made-for-TV (or streaming) movies. Including those projects, the 10-episode HBO event series The Pacific is comfortably the most expensive TV show ever made with a budget approaching $270 million, or a mind-boggling $27 million per episode. John Adams, another HBO mini-series, spent $100 million on 7 episodes, meaning it matched the seventh season of Game of Thrones at around $14 million per hour. Band of Brothers, The Pacific's forebear, cost $125 million for 10 episodes, with an additional $15 million in marketing.14: Lost$132 million for Season 1Lost gets onto the lower end of this list by dint of it's Season 1 budgeting set-up. The show was budgeted at around $4 million per episode - already on the high end of things for a 2004 network TV show - but the cost of getting J.J. Abrams on board and setting up a filming facility in Hawaii saw the budget blast upwards to almost $6 million per episode. The pilot alone cost $14 million and saw the production team have to fly in an actual aircraft fuselage for the crash scenes. They then had to remove the wreckage and leave the Hawaiian beach in absolutely pristine condition. This cost a fortune. ABC's financial department was so aghast that the head of the network was fired on the spot. Fortunately, Lost turned out to be the biggest and most popular show ABC had launched in years and it made a healthy profit in foreign sales. In addition, with the set-up work done for the first season, later seasons were able to drop the budget to around $5 million per episode, and this was reduced further when Seasons 4-6 were given shorter orders.13: Altered Carbon$7 million per episode (Season 1)The newest show on this list, Netflix's Altered Carbon features not just elaborate sets (including a full futuristic cyberpunk street that could be shot from multiple angles to depict different parts of the city) and stunning CGI, but also cutting-edge filming techniques involving state-of-the-art 5K cameras and some incredibly elaborate action sequences. Thanks to basing shooting in Canada, the show was able to deliver a formidable amount of production value for an - by Netflix standards - relatively modest budget.12: Stranger Things$8 million per episode (Season 2)For its debut season, Stranger Things was given a $6 million budget by Netflix, perhaps a sign that they were not expecting great things from this drama (contrasted to the much bigger budgets given to Marco Polo and The Get Down). Fortunately, the show was a break-out mega-hit for the network and its second season was given a hefty budget increase (indeed, some reports suggest that, including marketing, it may have been closer to $9 million per episode). With Season 2 hinting that the show might start moving further afield from its small town setting, we may see this jump higher in future seasons.11. Star Trek: Discovery$8.5 million per episode (Season 1, after budget overruns)As the show to launch CBS All Access, relaunch the franchise on screen and lead the charge for CBS's new take on Star Trek (in opposition to Paramount's films), Star Trek: Discovery was given a very generous openi[...]

Trailer for Duncan Jones' MUTE released


Netflix have released the trailer for Duncan Jones' new cyberpunk movie Mute.

Set in a near-future Berlin, the film sees a mute bartender named Leo (Alexander Skarsgard) searching for his girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh), who has gone missing. He embarks on a journey through the city's shady underworld in search of two American surgeons (Justin Theroux, Paul Rudd) whose names keep coming up in relation to the mystery.

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Intriguingly, the film is set in the same world as Jones' first movie, the cult hit Moon, and Sam Rockwell will return as Sam Bell from that movie, although not (it's expected) in a major role.

If successful, Jones has a script for a third movie in the "Mooniverse" ready to go.

The film will be released on Netflix on 23 February.

AMERICAN GODS gets new showrunner, reason for Bryan Fuller's departure revealed


Starz's adaptation of American Gods has gotten a new showrunner in the form of Jesse Alexander. Alexander worked alongside outgoing producer-showrunner Bryan Fuller on both Hannibal and Star Trek: Discovery and Starz seem to be hoping he can keep some of Fuller's magic on the show. More encouragingly, Neil Gaiman is taking a more hands-on role on Season 2 of the show, apparently with the plan (backed by Starz) of getting the show to hew closer to the novel.

The Hollywood Reporter also has the skinny on why Fuller left the show between seasons. Season 1 went a mind-boggling $30 million over-budget. American Gods was already one of the most expensive shows on television, with a budget well north of $7 million per episode, so this overrun must have caused massive consternation at Starz. On top of this overrun, Fuller was also demanding a substantial budget increase for Season 2 above the extra $2 million per episode (taking the show to $9 million per episode, potentially making American Gods the third-most-expensive show on-air, behind only Game of Thrones and The Crown) already agreed with Starz. Apparently there was a logjam exacerbated by the possibility that Season 2 might not air until two years or more after Season 1.

Fuller has moved on and is now in talks to helm a TV adaptation of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Gaiman and Alexander's remit now seems to be getting American Gods done within the confines of its already-generous budget and on a much more frequent timescale than had previously been planned. All going well, Starz hope to air the second season of American Gods in January or February 2019, providing there are no further setbacks.

Altered Carbon: Season 1


It's a world where human beings have become digital information, swapped between bodies, backed up on the cloud and sometimes illegally copied. It's a world where centuries-old rich folk - the 1% of the 1% of the 1% - have formed a vaguely bored and utterly corrupt elite watching over the rest of the human race. It's a world utterly unprepared to deal with a man named Takeshi Kovacs, an Envoy from Harlan's World, an utterly formidable soldier who swaps bodies as easily as swapping guns. He is called in to solve an impossible murder, and in the process flushes out the demons of his own past. Welcome to Bay City, Earth, 2384.A few years ago, Hollywood suddenly decided that cyberpunk was going to be the next big thing. Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner 2049 were commissioned as films, Harebrained Schemes resurrected Shadowrun as a video game franchise and (over in Poland) CD Projekt Red began developing the Cyberpunk 2077 video game, whilst Netflix picked up Duncan Jones' Mute as an original movie. Netflix also commissioned Altered Carbon, a 10-episode adaptation of Richard Morgan's 2002 novel of the same name, an early classic of 21st Century science fiction.The brief cyberpunk bubble has burst with the disappointing under-performance of Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner 2049 (despite the latter's visual and thematic brilliance), which must have led Netflix to feeling nervous about Altered Carbon. A violent, complex story rooted in graphic violence and a fair amount of sex whilst asking questions about humanity, immortality, death, family and morality, it's dense, sprawling hard-edged and sentimental, with a fairly complex plot. Early reviews have also been mixed.Fortunately, these fears can mostly be laid to read. Altered Carbon is a dramatic, compelling drama with great performances, outstanding visual effects (the astonishing CGI may be the finest ever put on the small screen, even if it comes at the cost of a surprisingly small number of well-used sets) and which has a lot to say about the dangers of immortality, the corrupting influence and power of money and the little people going up against an uncaring system. Little of what Altered Carbon has to say is new, but the renewed relevance of its themes to modern society certainly makes it worthwhile to reassess them.Our main focus is on Takeshi Kovacs, played for most of the run-time by Joel Kinnaman. Kinnaman has been criticised in the past for being a bit bland, but is surprisingly good in the main role. He is great in the action scenes, nails the painful interrogation sequence from the books and does a good job of portraying the different characters of Kovacs and Ryker (the former owner of Kovacs' new sleeve). Kinnaman's range is not great but he does "brooding, annoyed intensity" very well. He is even exceptional in a sequence that feels like Kovacs just walked out of the books, where he manipulates a woman into giving him vital information by (cynically) engaging her empathy.We also get lengthy flashbacks to Kovacs' time as an Envoy, where he is played with earnest charisma by Will Yun Lee. These sequences also see significant screen-time for Kovacs' former Envoy allies Reileen Kawahara (Dichen Lachman) and Quellcrist Falconer (Renee Elise Goldsberry), both of whom are outstanding and powerful (especially Goldsberry, who has to be severe, military, charismatic and emotional at the same time, all[...]

Sam Raimi in talks to direct NAME OF THE WIND movie


Lionsgate Entertainment is in talks with acclaimed horror and fantasy director Sam Raimi to helm the movie version of The Name of the Wind, the bestselling fantasy novel by Patrick Rothfuss.

Lionsgate are developing an ambitious, multi-media approach to adapting The Kingkiller Chronicle. They are simultaneously developing a movie trilogy which will directly adapt the three novels - The Name of the Wind (2007), The Wise Man's Fear (2011) and The Doors of Stone (forthcoming) - and a prequel TV series which will explore the adventures of Kvothe's parents. The TV series is in development at Showtime.

Lindsey Beer has written the script for the film, but the real reason things are moving is down to Lin-Manuel Miranda. Having achieved superstar status thanks to his Broadway musical Hamilton, Miranda has made the Kingkiller project his next priority. He is working on the music for both the TV series and films, including the in-universe songs, and is executive producing. With Hollywood keen to tap his talent, interest in this project has sky-rocketed.

The financial success of the novels has certainly helped: Patrick Rothfuss is the biggest-selling debut fantasy author of the 21st Century. The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man's Fear and spin-off novella The Slow Regard of Silent Things have sold well over 10 million copies between them in just over a decade.

However, work on the project may be dependent on Rothfuss releasing the third novel in the series: despite claiming the trilogy was complete over a decade ago and releasing pictures of the apparent manuscript for The Doors of Stone in 2013, the book is still has no release date set.

Sam Raimi is an interesting choice to helm the movie: although his reputation was made in gory horror movies (such as the cult Evil Dead trilogy, its remake and the ongoing Ash vs. Evil Dead TV series), Raimi achieved his greatest success with his three Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Maguire. He also directed Oz the Great and Powerful in 2013 and has been looking for another feature film project since then.