Log Entries: 03/01/2015

Let me begin by apologizing for my tardiness in addressing the need for a regular post on this blog.  For the past several months, I have been busy writing a screenplay that takes place within a theme park in Houston, Texas in 1979, called AstroWorld.  And with generous assistance from the park’s former employees, I have created something very funny, and very magical.  But it has taken a lot longer than I expected to produce a First Draft.  So from here on, I resume my regular monthly posts on this blog featuring entertainment news and tidbits from the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy.  **Also, please NOTE: I have a backlog of obituaries over the past several months.  And all will be addressed at the end of my next blog post, in April.  But for now, I have chosen to only focus on one: Leonard Nimoy.    BladeRunnerBLADE RUNNER 2 (or whatever the eventual title may be) has been given a green light by Alcon Entertainment and it’s associating partners.  As reported many months ago, Harrison Ford will reprise his role as android hunter Rick Deckard, and a new director has now entered the mix, taking over for Ridley Scott; who will now service as Producer.  Denis (Prisoners) Villeneuve will now helm the film.  The only other details offered were that the film will officially begin production in 2016, and that Harrison Ford believes it to be,  “the best script I’ve ever read.”  Unfortunately, there is no further word as of yet, on any “definite” involvement on the part of Ford in a potential Indiana Jones 5 (excepting previous statements by Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger, and those pesky Chris Pratt rumors,) but Starlogger will keep you posted …  Blomkamp's ALIENHOWEVER, IN OTHER REBOOT-REMAKE-SEQUEL NEWS, director Neil (District 9, Elysium, Chappie) Blomkamp has managed to persuade 20th Century Fox to finance his own Alien film, based upon a personal art project (at left.)  As of this writing, the film is said to be a sequel to all previous Alien films, and Sigourney Weaver is in negotiations to reprise her role as Lt. Ellen Ripley, or some variation of that original character.  The film, thus far, is untitled.  But director Blomkamp made a point to pin down the approximate angle his film will take by stating the following: “I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Alien.  So it’s Alien, Aliens, and then this movie.”  Blomkamp later clarified that he will not be revising the current cannon of the Alien franchise.  Offering that he will not ignore events depicted in Alien 3 or ResurrectionMARVEL & SONY PICTURES recently made a deal for $0 (that’s right, no money involved; both parties simply agree not to share profits or sue each other,) allowing for appearances of Spider-Man in Disney-Marvel films, specifically including Captain America: Civil War (said to involve cameos of many characters in the Marvel Universe,) and possibly, the forthcoming Avengers sequels, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Avengers: Infinity War Part 2Heroes and VilliansIt is not certain at this time if the Spider-Man character will make appearances in any of the other Marvel films planned by Disney, which in part include: Doctor Strange (starring Benedict Cumberbatch,) Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman,) Captain Marvel, and The Inhumans.  And although Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been effectively cancelled, due to the lackluster performance of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Sinister Six and Venom are still in development at Sony, and Marvel’s own Kevin Feige will be producing a new stand alone Spider-Man film, which is aiming for a summer of 2017 release date.  Actor Andrew Garfield will not be returning … ON THE SUBJECT OF CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, the film’s storyline reportedly pits Captain America against Iron Man, due to opposing views over something called, “The Hero Registration Act.”  Robert Downey Jr., who will appear in the film as Iron Man, had this to say regarding the nature of his role in the film. “Ultimately, it’s Steve’s (Rogers) story; it doesn’t say ‘Iron Man 4: Civil War.’  I think that’s great, too.  I think Chris has been hungry to bring even more of an underside and some shadow to that.  I remember the comics — on the surface, you got the sense that Cap was baseball and apple pie, but underneath, there was all this churning stuff of being a man out of time.  Now we know he’s made his peace with that.  What’s the bigger issue ?  It can have a little something to do with the past, but it can be about someone becoming more modernized in their own conflict.”   DDDAREDEVIL WILL SOON BOW on Netflix.  The series is said to be set after the events of the first Avengers film, and on the subject of the general plot of the show, Marvel’s Emma Fleischer offered the following: “We are still part of the Marvel Universe, but we are not explicitly in that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. world.  We’re in our own corner.  So the aliens (of The Avengers [2012]) came down and ruined the city (New York,) and this is the story of Hell’s Kitchen’s rebuild.”  Among the cast will be Vincent (Full Metal Jacket) D’Onofrio, who will play Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin … MARVEL’S A.K.A. JESSICA JONES will also begin airing soon on Netflix.  The show, already in production, is a 13 episode series starring Krysten Ritter as a former superhero, turned detective.  It premiers later this year …THE BEAUTIFUL MORENA (FIREFLY) BACCARIN has been cast as the female lead in the Ryan Reynolds Deadpool film.  Having languished in development hell for several years, Deadpool somewhat reboots the character Reynolds first played in the film X-Men Origins: WolverineDeadpoolHere he plays an assassin who undergoes a procedure to cure his cancer, but the operation leaves him twisted and scarred while also giving him extraordinary abilities.  The film, directed by newcomer Tim Miller, begins filming next month in Vancouver, Canada … BRYAN SINGER’S X-MEN: APOCALYPSE has entered production.  The sequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past will star a variety of new talent as the young X-Men characters we all know, dealing with the threat of the character, Apocalypse, in the mid 1980’s.  Thus far, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, and Even Peters (Quicksilver,) are the only returning actors from previous films of the franchise.  As for Patrick Stewart, the plan is for he and Jackman to team up for another Wolverine film.  And good news for Jackman-Wolverine fans.  Jackman recently stated that he intends to play the character of Logan/Wolverine, until he dies … GrossguardA MINOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS news item: Jony Ive, a VP at Apple Computer responsible for many of their designs, including the iPhone, iPad, iMac, and more recent iOS platforms, was consulted on certain aspects of the new “crossguard” lightsaber seen in the recent teaser trailer.  Crossguard MemeSpecifically, the idea that the light blade isn’t so well defined.  Said Ive: “I thought (the lightsaber) would be interesting if it were less precise and just a little bit more spitty.”  He also suggested the redesign be, “more analog and more primitive and I think in that way, somehow more ominous.” … MEANWHILE, FELICITY (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING) JONES has won a role in an as-of-yet unnamed Star Wars spin-off film.  The script for that top secret project is now being rewritten by Chris Weitz … AND TARIANA (ORPHAN BLACK) MASLANY has won a separate role in a separate Star Wars spin-off film, set to be directed by Gareth (Godzilla) Edwards.  Reportedly, Muslany will be playing the live action version of “Sabine Wren,” a character featured in the animated Star Wars Rebels ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (scheduled to begin shooting The Legend of Conan this fall,) will yet again reprise his role as “The Terminator” in yet another sequel, scheduled to follow the upcoming Terminator: Genisys reboot.  According to Schwarzenegger, the next Terminator film will begin production “next year.”  The new Terminator films are reportedly designed to be a trilogy, and production is scheduled to move quickly to take advantage of the Terminator rights, before said rights revert to creator James Cameron; who has no intention of revisiting the Terminator franchise … Legend of ConanSPEAKING OF LEGEND OF CONAN, Producer Chris Morgan has stated that the film will be more inspired by the original film by John Milius, than by the work of Robert E. Howard.  “We look at all the source material and we love things that kind of speak to that tone.  We’re incredibly respectful to Howard.  I’m a huge fan of the stories and the books, but I’m a super-huge fan of the first movie; because that crystallized and distilled it all for me.  Milius just killed it.  He did such a good job.  And Legend of Conan is really resonant and it really digs into the legacy of that original film.  I’m already very proud of it.” … IN GHOSTBUSTERS NEWS, director Paul (Bridesmaids) Feig recently commented on his personal inspiration for the development up the reboot featuring an all female cast.  GhostbustersSaid Feig, “I will say, I was very inspired by (The Walking Dead.)  What I love is how they play with the danger, they play with the scariness, but also the idea that it’s always about gauntlet run.  And that’s something: an element I want to bring to this Ghostbusters reboot is having to get through these various obstacles that are supernatural and all that.  I really feed off of The Walking Dead.” … PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES has officially started production in Queensland, Australia, directed by Espen Sandberg & Joachim Ronning.  The story: ghost pirates lead by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) escape from the Devil’s Triangle, determined to kill every pirate at sea, including Captain Jack Sparrow.  His only hope is in finding the legendary Trident of the Greek God Poseidon, which gives its possessor total control over the seas … IN VARIOUS DC NEWS: Gal Godot will reprise her role as Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman in a stand alone film that begins shooting as soon as this fall … Legion of Superheroes (a comic that followed a team of super-powered 20-somethings, in the 30th Century) is being developed and possibly prepped by Warner Bros. as a ‘superheroes in outer space’ story, ala Guardians of the GalaxyHarleyActress Margot (The Wolf of Wall Street) Robie has been cast as “Harley Quinn” in Suicide Squad, while Jared Leto has been cast as “The Joker,” and Will Smith has been cast as “Deadshot.”  The film is being directed by David (Fury) Ayer … The CBS Supergirl series is finalizing casting and will begin shooting soon.  The show is described as being about Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin, who was born on Krypton, but escaped its destruction the same as Kal-El, by being sent to Earth.  Taken in by a foster family, she’s been a “Super girl” in hiding, living in a “Superman” world, until turning twenty-four and coming into her own … Director Zak Snyder has offered this image for his version of the “Aquaman” character, as he appears in his forthcoming Batman Vs. SupermanAquaman Jason MamoaJason Mamoa had this to say about the role: “It’s not my movie.  it’s the first time in history to have them (Superman & Batman) both on the screen together, and I’m just excited to see those two up there.  Justice League is quite a ways away.  But I’m looking forward to it.”  He added, “There’s definitely a plan in this whole universe that Zack (Snyder) is designing.  And it’s amazing to be a part of it.  I think everything that you see that is building, there’s a purpose behind the whole plan.  What’s great about this is Zack, man.  We don’t want to just reinvent it, but he’s got a whole idea of what Aquaman should be and I’m really honored to be playing it.  I’m excited for the world to see it.”  Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is scheduled for release March 25, 2016.  Justice League is tentatively scheduled for release in November of 2017.  A potential and eventual Aquaman film is also in the offering … Pete's DragonIN BRIEF: A remake of Walt Disney’s Pete’s Dragon (1977) is now shooting in New Zealand.  The film is being directed by David (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) Lowery, and stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, and Robert Redford.  The film is due in theaters August, 2016 … Steven Spielberg’s film Minority Report (2002) has spawned a television series.  Set 10 years after the film, and the end of the Precrime Division, another generation of characters will secretly relaunch the Precrime Division in a genuine attempt to avoid possible Armageddon.  Casting is complete and the show begins shooting very soon … Evan Daugherty (Divergent, Snow White and the Huntsman) is writing the Tomb Raider reboot for GK Films and MGM.  Warner Bros. will release the film … Director Rob (Parks and Recreation) Schrab will helm the sequel to The LEGO MovieThe LEGO Movie Sequel is due in 2018.  This film will follow on the heels of The Batman LEGO Movie, which will be released in 2017 … Michelle Gomez will reprise her role as “Missy,” or “The Master” in the upcoming season of the BBC’s Doctor WhoAsh Vs. Evil Dead begins production very soon (if it hasn’t already,) and will air in half hour episodes on the Starz Channel, later this year.  Sam (Army of Darkness) Raimi will helm the initial episode.  And it appears that many members of the same team that made that film, are also involved here.  Gimme some sugar, baby.Amazon Prime has ordered a full series commitment after evaluating viewings of the pilot for The Man in the High Castle.  Based upon the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick, the story centers on an alternate history (set in ’62) wherein the Germans and the Japanese won the Second World War, and each control half The United States.  Man in the High CastleWhen tensions between these two sides rise, things get interesting, creating a highly complex story that won a Hugo Award in 1963.  According to Amazon’s VP Roy Price, The Man in the High Castle is the most watched pilot Amazon has yet produced.  And they’ve produced a lot of various pilot episodes of various shows.  The Man in the High Castle’s subsequent episodes will be available later this year to all Prime Members. … The 1982 comic Dreadstar is headed for television.  Benderspink and Universal Cable Productions are producing the live action pilot, without a current Network commitment.  The story centers on Vanth Dreadstar, the sole survivor of the Milky Way Galaxy, who teams up with a band of strange characters to stop an ancient war between two evil empires, from spreading throughout the Universe.  DreadstarJim Starlin, who created the character, will pen the screenplay.  Starlin is also the creator of a trio of characters featured in Guardians of the Galaxy: “Thanos,” his adopted daughter “Gamora,” and “Drax the Destroyer” … Writer George R.R. Martin has revealed that Producers of HBO’s Game of Thrones are about to completely mess with both readers, and TV viewers heads by killing off a number of characters on the show, who live on in the books.  Martin had the following to say, “People are going to die who don’t die in the books, so even the book readers will be unhappy.  So everybody better be on their toes.  David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are even bloodier than I am.” … 20th Century Fox TV and New Regency are developing what they call an “event series,” based upon the graphic novel, Enormous.  The story is set in a near future and involves an ecological crisis that spawns massive creatures.  No writers or Network commitment has been announced … David (Jurassic Park) Koepp has been hired by Sony Pictures to pen an adaptation of Sylvain Neuvel’s debut science fiction novel, The Themis Files.  The story concerns a covert project to assemble ancient body parts of a giant humanoid relic, buried long ago and all over the world, by aliens …  Warner Bros. hasn’t given up on that Space Invaders movie just yet.  They’ve hired writer Dan Kunka, author of a blacklisted screenplay that got a lot of attention, to re-draft the material based upon the classic early 80’s arcade game …   Warner Bros. is also developing a motion picture version of Adventure Time.  Roy Lee and Chris McKay (The Lego Movie) will produce, and series creator Pendleton Ward will co-write.  Originally a TV movie was in development in-between the show’s 4th and 5th Seasons, but was cancelled … Daniel Craig Lea Seydoux Dave BautistaAnd last but not least, the 24th Bond film, Spectre has started shooting, with Daniel Craig being joined by series regulars, and Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Christoph Waltz, and Dave (Guardians of the Galaxy) Bautista.  The story is said to involve a cryptic message from an unlikely source that sets down Bond inside a maze of a criminal organization.  As ‘M’ fights political pressure to shutter MI6, Bond uncovers a hidden truth that could destroy everything he fights to protect. SpectreHOW MANY ENTERTAINERS: ACTORS, DIRECTORS, WRITERS, PRODUCERS, DANCERS, SINGERS, what-have-ya, how many can you name (and trust me, you can count them on one hand,) how many can you name right now, without having to research the matter, thoroughly, that showed the integrity, the discipline, the sincerity, the dignity, and the poise that Leonard Nimoy did in his career ?  How many ?  Star roseI can name one or two off hand.  Sidney Poitier and George Pal.  After that, I start searching my memory, and eventually, I dodge my failing memory for that old Cinemania ’97 program that I have installed on my computer; which I consult regularly for research and the occasional adventurous foray into film history.  And while that wonderful tool may lead me to find a new list of potential treasures I haven’t seen, and though I may discover endlessly interesting personalities I was completely unfamiliar with, there aren’t many that stand out with a certain tangible integrity, or that shine with that simple honesty that is a person’s true and own character.  Most, are simply people who are paid to be artificial.  They keep their true nature to themselves.  Nimoy NikonAnd besides, who could blame them for getting lost in that unending cycle of publicity, pomp and circumstance, artificial humility, and a certain ‘when in Rome’ mentality, that affects all who work in such an industry.  But Nimoy seemed to sidestep all that jazz.  How ?  The man was the very portrait of how to be a professional actor.  ‘Nuff said, right ?. He was also known for being a terrific director.  Stop there ?  Photographer.  Writer.  Teacher.  Lecturer.  All of these are roles that are hard to master.  And according to many who knew him, he was also a good friend, a fair man, and a endlessly curious rascal, who most found difficult to hold a grudge against.  Was he simply meditating, or did he really learn that much from playing the character of Mr. Spock ?  To quote In Search of …, I suggest there must be, “some possible explanation, but not necessarily the only one, for the mystery we will examine.”  Nimoy Spock out of uniformLeonard Simon Nimoy was born in March of 1931, in Boston.  LennieHis parents were immigrants from what is now The Ukraine.  His father a barber, his mother a homemaker.   Their son (Lennie) began acting when he was 8 years old in a neighborhood theater.   After high school, he studied drama and photography, and received honorary doctorates from two different Universities.  Nimoy ArmyIn ’53 Nimoy enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, and as a Sergeant, he served in Army Special Services, helping put on shows for the troops.  Then he moved to Hollywood and did more than 50 small parts in various films and TV shows; generally as, ‘the heavy.’  He also took on ‘ethnic’ roles during an era when Hollywood sought out the scarce ethic talent they could find, to play any ethnic role they could accomplish on camera, with said actor.  He played everything from Italians, to Russians, to Mexicans, to Native Americans.  And throughout, he picked up extra money teaching acting classes, on the side.  spockBut Gene Roddenberry’s Wagon Train to the stars, made him first a star, then a pop culture phenomenon, and finally, a legend.  Star Trek was almost instantly popular.  Although at the time, no one at Lucille Ball’s company “Desilu,” or Paramount, or even NBC knew that.  There was press; there was lots of press.  But the sponsors just weren’t there.  Mainly because the “Nielsen Ratings” weren’t accurate.  nimoy catlowBut it was a great run for him, and he made great money for the term of the show’s run on television.  And after the show ended, he kept working.  First came Mission: Impossible, playing the master of disguise, “Paris.”  Then, the film Catlow (1971,) starring alongside Yul Brynner.  Rod Serling’s Night Gallery gave him his first opportunity to direct.  And he gave a calm, cool performance as a murdering surgeon in a terrific episode of Columbo, titled, ‘A Stitch in Crime.’  And there were plays, and commercials, and appearances on other television shows.  A Stitch in CrimeHis role as narrator on the mysteries of the unexplained show, In Search of… kept him in the public consciousness for some time.  Almost everyone who was alive at the time saw it in syndication, at least once.  His role as a psychiatrist in Philip Kaufman’s successful remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, remains a clear standout.  And there was more.  You can be sure of that.  He just – kept – workingLeonard Nimoy In Search OfAnd then, somewhere in the early to mid 70’s, Nimoy began spotting his likeness as “Spock” on billboards advertising alcohol.  He immediately started looking around and found that his likeness was being loaned out by Paramount to all matter of product placement.  Right across the board, “Spock” was everywhere.  And he looked just like Leonard Nimoy.  So Nimoy began the process of trying to get paid for that.  Which was a long, convoluted legal nightmare.  Both to get the residuals he was owed for co-opting his image, and as an attempt to influence some element of responsible control over what products the image endorsed.  Concurrent to this, Star Trek was coming back to life.  First, there had been an animated series.  Which, just like the original show, was massively more popular with the public than anyone knew at the time it was being produced.  Then, there had been conventions.  Small conventions that got BIG turnouts.  Thousands showed up.  Nobody saw that coming.  Including Nimoy, Shatner, Kelley, Doohan, Koenig, Takei, Nichols, et al.  Even Roddenberry, who had been attending Star Trek conventions almost since the day after the last episode aired on NBC, had no warning as to the mobs that would eventually begin descending on those later conventions.  Then, in 1976, Star Trek went into syndication.  And everyone was watching.  STTASIt was instantaneously one of the highest rated syndicated shows in television history.  Nielsen had finally fixed their unique system of establishing somewhat accurate numbers, that matched programs with television viewers.  And POW !  Paramount wanted the show back on the air.  Which is precisely what Gene Roddenberry had been trying to accomplish for some time.  But then suddenly, Paramount did an about face, deciding they would rather try this Star Trek thing out as a film.  In theaters, to be precise.  Thus, Roddenberry oversaw the initial development of a grand vision of a screenplay, and the studio developed a short list of directors for the project.  But when they threw bait into the water, the only bite they got, was from director Philip Kaufman.  Kaufman would eventually leave the project after clashing with Roddenberry over the script (he wanted Toshiro Mifune to play Kirk’s arch nemesis in the form of a Klingon Commander,) and once the script was deemed by the studio brass to have been developed “by committee,” it was summarily shelved.  But the script cooked up by Roddenberry and his writers, was a unique story idea.  Kirk and crew (including Spock,) arrive to investigate a planet sending out a distress signal.  The planet is phasing in and out of our dimension, in intervals.  After briefly clashing with the Klingons, Kirk and a few Red Shirts beam down.  The planet unexpectedly phases away, and doesn’t come back.  Through subspace radio, Starfleet instructs Spock, now in command, to wait.  A protracted period of time passes, but finally, Spock must leave orbit.  Three years pass and Spock and crew are unexpectedly ordered by Starfleet to return to the planet.  Passing ships keeping a wide berth of the area, have reported the planet’s recent reappearance.  Soon, Kirk is returned to the Enterprise with a whopper of a story about the planet’s human inhabitants, and the bizarre alien race (the Cygnans) that both control the planet, and steal the technology of other races for their own purposes.  STTMPBut Spock intuits that Kirk is not telling them everything.  He’s hiding something.  And this generates conflict between the two men.  When the Cygnans eventually realize they aren’t going to get what they want (the Enterprise,) they utilize technology stolen from another civilization to generate a wormhole singularity, which pulls the Enterprise in, along with their own planet.  The scenario resolves with the Cygnans being defeated, but with the Enterprise and it’s Crew in orbit around the planet, in another distant time and place in the Galaxy.  The planet is dramatically revealed to be Earth, now relocated to its present location, the solar system we all know so well.  Upon beaming down to check on the human inhabitants, Kirk introduces his crew to the ancient civilization of human inhabitants, in residence.  And then reveals to Spock evidence of the Sumerian culture, including the history of the Cygnan race’s rule over them, inscribed on tablets.  And the kicker … before departing, Kirk and his crew are heralded as Gods by the inhabitants, and its clear that the Enterprise crew are in fact the source of the mythical Greek Titans recorded in ancient human history.  Kirk and crew beam up, and head back through the wormhole singularity, to their own time and proper place in history; making calculations and getting ready to contact Starfleet for assistance in closing off the wormhole singularity, for good.  The film was to be titled, Star Trek: Planet of the TitansInvasion of the Body SnatchersNimoy read it, liked what he read, but inquired yet again about resolving the dispute over his likeness being used without his permission, and without being compensated.  Paramount were tired of hearing about this.  As it turned out, they never even asked legal about it.  They didn’t give a damn and assumed the situation would resolve itself without their intervention.  Bad judgement call.  Without Nimoy, they were dead in the water.  A Star Trek movie was never going to be the same without Mr. Spock, anymore than it would be the same without Captain Kirk.  But until the legal situation regarding his likeness being used as product placement without his consent, was resolved, Nimoy of course, just kept declining to participate.  And without the Spock character, Paramount were hesitant to pull the trigger.  So they merely kept Star Trek in development.  Languishing.  It was a film, then it was a TV series, then there was talk it would be a series of made for TV movies, ala Columbo.  Then it was a feature film, then it was a TV series again.  The execs at Paramount were just playing with the idea, really.  But there was no real momentum.  Finally, they pulled the trigger, and began pre-production on Star Trek: Phase IIPhase_II_Enterprise,_aftA television show wherein the Enterprise crew had been away for a short time, and change had come to Starfleet, life had moved on, and the Enterprise had been refit.  They contacted Nimoy.  He asked them if there was any progress on resolving the dispute over his likeness being used without proper compensation or permission.  Paramount terminated contact with the actor, and another Vulcan character was created to take Spock’s place.  The show would go on.  Supposedly.  Paramount kept things moving slowly.  And Roddenberry took his time developing scripts.  Sets were built, actors were cast.  And then … one day … on May 25th, 1977 … it hit.  Star Wars.  And reportedly, the executives at Paramount were stilted.  Both by the vision of the film they were all “required” by the Studio hierarchy to see, as well as by the box office receipts that rollllllled in, week after week.  Only days before it was scheduled to begin shooting, Star Trek: Phase II was put into turnaround.  The Paramount brass had to think this through.  And while almost everyone involved in the production of Phase II suspected they knew why, it wasn’t until Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released, that they found out for sure.  The studio now made no secret of what they wanted.  They wanted a “big idea.”  In fact, many at the studio were chatting endlessly about the dazzling effects in CE3K, as well as the compelling and emotional momentum of the film’s storyline.  And the executives were saying, “This could have been us!”  Now it was a certainty.  There was going to be a movie.  From here on, they were only looking at making a motion picture.  Finally, Roddenberry understood what they were after.  And when Roddenberry turned in a quick rewrite of Alan Dean Foster and Harold Livingston’s script for the pilot episode of Star Trek: Phase II, Paramount felt that this was the big idea they were waiting for, and the project was given a green light.  Within days, a young executive asked to meet with Leonard Nimoy.  Nimoy acquiesced, but during their lunch, refused to read the new script until the lawsuit was resolved.  They parted ways, amicably, and soon after Nimoy got the script, a letter of resolution regarding the lawsuit, and a check for past due residuals for the use of his likeness as Spock — and a promise that it would never happen again.  Star Trek-TMPNimoy opened the larger envelope, read the script, had a meeting with the director of The Andromeda Strain, Robert Wise, and agreed to sign on.  It goes without saying, that Star Trek: The Motion Picture not only had production problems, but that the film was never actually completed by the director.  (*Star Trek The Motion Picture was finally re-edited by Wise in 2001, utilizing CGI and sound effects that had been recorded by Alan Howarth in 1979, but never used.  The Director’s Edition, was much favored by director Wise over the theatrical release, and is currently available only on DVD.  Paramount is said to be working to bring it to Blu-ray.)  In fact, according to Robert Wise, the film that was released to theaters was in fact his workprint.  And according to Leonard Nimoy, when he asked the head of the studio at the film’s premiere in Washington D.C. how long they had to finish the film before it’s release, the head of the studio replied that as far as he was concerned the film was done, and scheduled to open in theaters the following Thursday.  Simultaneous to their conversation, employees of Paramount were actually already getting the release prints from the film lab, and lining them up in a large empty sound stage in preparation for delivery to the theaters.  Nimoy was crushed.  And shocked.  He simply assumed, ‘Oh well, on to the next thing, I guess.’  Cast members on set of Star Trek: The Motion PictureBut Star Trek had a funny way of hanging on.  Shockingly, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, already nicknamed “Star Trek The Motionless Picture” by critics; and at the time, the second most expensive motion picture ever made — right behind Superman – The Movieactually made money.  With a final budget that had ballooned to almost $46 Million dollars, the film still brought in close to $140 Million.  And in 1979-1980 business climate, a film had to make three times it’s budget to clear a profit and be considered a success.  Paramount didn’t get a windfall out of it, but the film cleared a profit, and would make them additional money in cable and other ancillary markets, nonetheless.  So the consensus among the staff at Paramount, was simply, ‘Let’s get the next one right.  And let’s get it cheap.’  Dumber words were never spoken by a studio executive in such ironic conundrum.  Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan CastStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was produced with the assistance of a television crew to keep costs down.  Nicholas Meyer, the writer and director of Time After Time (a time travel story about H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper to the present in his time machine,) was brought aboard to give the film more life.  And he did.  st2He eschewed the tired cliched and boring pacing of early 70’s sci-fi that had dogged the first film, and looked for a fresh approach that would appeal the both Star Trek fans and the Star Wars generation.  He screened episodes of the Original Series, and discovered Ricardo Montalban’s character in the episode, “Space Seed.”  Then, he made the creative decision to take inspiration from Captain Horatio Hornblower, and instantly, Star Trek II (originally titled “The Undiscovered Country,”) was off and running.  There was only one problem.  Although Nimoy loved his character, he didn’t want to “only” be associated with it.  Spock hadn’t wrecked his career, but the Vulcan had definitely limited his options and opportunities.  Due mainly to the stigma inherently associated with typecasting.  So Meyer met with Nimoy, and asked, “How would you like to have a really good death scene?”  Nimoy was hooked.  nimoy and meyerAnd when news of Spock’s death leaked, Meyer and the film’s producer came up with a fun solution.  Fake the death of Spock early in the film, belaying the audiences expectation of it, and then hit them with that zinger in the last reel.  When another obstacle emerged, the producers dodged it with ease, as well.  The studio felt “Undiscovered Country” was too vague and irrelevant to the plot, so Meyer and Producer Harve Bennett changed the title to Star Trek II: The Revenge of Khan.  However, as soon as that title was announced, Paramount got calls from attorneys for Lucasfilm and 20the Century Fox Film Corporation.  “That’s too similar to the title of our next Star Wars film, ‘Revenge of the Jedi.’”  So Star Trek II became The Wrath of Khan, and 6 months later Revenge of the Jedi became Return of the Jedi.  Yea, thanks for calling.  Everyone involved thought the surprises were over.  Until they screened the completed film for the first time, and the director saw that his ending had been altered by Paramount.  There it was.  Spock’s shiny new torpedo coffin, resting on the surface of a planet that was created by a device designed to regenerate life from death.  All they could do was laugh.  Even Nimoy thought it was hilarious.  The movie was a hit.  And those who made it accepted that their Frankenstein monster was in fact, a real beauty.  And judging by the profits it made in June of 1982, every kid in every neighborhood saw it.  More than once, in fact.     Star Trek III The Search for Spock CastNimoy knew there would be a sequel.  And he knew what the fans were going to want it to be about.  So he moved quickly to get a meeting with Paramount, and told them that he wanted to direct the next film.  They balked at that.  Although Nimoy had, by that time, been working here and there as a director (mostly in television,) a had acquired a reputation for being a true professional — Star Trek III was slated to be a major feature film.  With a sizable budget, to match.  Leonard Nimoy Robin Curtis William ShatnerThey weren’t sure he could handle the responsibility that came with the monolithic task of directing a major motion picture.  Nimoy argued that he knew the character of Spock, knew Star Trek, and that he knew they needed Spock to be the momentum of the next story.  And Leonard Nimoy direct’s The Search for Spock, had a nice ring to it.  But Paramount still had reservations.  Finally, Nimoy dropped a bomb on them.  Either he directed Star Trek III, or this was the last conversation they were ever going to have with him again.  Star Trek III: The Search for Spock wasn’t as much of a critical success as the the previous film, but it was the 10th highest grossing film of 1984.  And whereas Star Trek II had made $79 Million, Star Trek III had made $76 Million.  Not bad, as far as diminishing returns goes.  But it wasn’t really Leonard Nimoy’s film.  The storyline was mostly cooked up by Producer Harve Bennett, with generous suggestions from the Studio brass.  And as a direct result, it was a very uneven storyline.  And while being entirely watchable (certainly for Star Trek fans,) it nevertheless had retained no semblance of spirit of what had made the previous film so incredibly popular.  But regardless, Leonard Nimoy’s work as a director, shined through.  And Nimoy was immediately asked back to helm the next film.  The studio told him, “the training wheels are off.  We want your Star Trek film.”  STAR TREKStar Trek IV: The Voyage Home was one of the most successful films of 1986, generating over $100 Million, and remains one of the most critically and commercially successful films in the history of the Star Trek franchise.  But it was something else: the most accessible to non-Trekkies.  And that was alllll Nimoy.  He wanted to lighten things up.  The first Star Trek film was pretentious to the point of boredom.  The second one was a bit gritty, and featured the death of a major player.  The third was was operatic, and featured the death of Captain Kirk’s only son.  Nimoy felt the fourth one should have something to say, but should also be light.  Even frivolous.  STIV Voyage HomeStill dealing with interference from Paramount, the initial draft was a retread on their biggest hit at that time, Beverly Hills Cop.  It featured a “fish-out-of-water” team-up between the crew of the Starship Enterprise, and Eddie Murphy.  And reportedly, the script came off as a Mad Magazine parody, similar in may ways to comedian Richard Pryor being wedged into the plot of Superman III.   Supes coming Supes goneThankfully, Murphy bowed out to do The Golden Child.  A film he later regretted making, stating, “I just walked through Golden Child.  I would have been better off doing Star Trek IV.”  Soon after he departed, Nimoy called the cavalry: Nicholas Meyer.  And the rest is movie history.  Thanks in large part to screenwriter Nicholas Meyer, and the one and only Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the one Star Trek film that everybody saw.  No matter who they were.  Star Trek had finally generated a story that appealed to the general movie going public.  And for a brief moment in time, those cult-like walls had come down, changing the fan base to include just about anyone and everyone.  It was a magical moment for Star Trek fans.  But it didn’t last.  As stated, the fourth film cleaned up at the box office, during the ’86 holiday season.  And by January, Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner had requested a meeting with the Paramount studio brass.  And as it had been agreed during secret contract negotiations for Star Trek IV, Shatner would indeed direct VStar Trek V PosterDuring production of the fifth film, Nimoy serviced as a consultant and confidant to his friend, but the film, and it’s story, was Shatner’s creation.  Nimoy had climbed into the backseat and made no derogatory comments about Captain Kirk’s driving skills.  The film was about the Starship Enterprise being hijacked by a religious evangelist who believes the intelligent source of all creation lies just beyond a barrier separating the outer areas of our Galaxy, from the large middle interior mid section thingy place, of our Galaxy.  Notice how awkward that sounds.  I did that on purpose; that’s what it’s like watching the movie.  And while fans had high hopes (based primarily on the teaser poster seen at right,) the film was a flop for Paramount.  And dependent on what sources you cite, the film cost just over $30 Million (much of it not even on the screen, due to some rather badly produced effects,) and had only made somewhere between $52 and $63 Million.  While Paramount’s other big summer release that year, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, cleaned up at the box office, the Studio essentially took a bath in red ink on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  The cast, including Nimoy, initially thought it was the end of Star Trek, once and for all.  Then, Paramount called again.  No kidding.  Literally days after the failure of the film was official, the head of Paramount called Leonard Nimoy.  “We want to do something for the Anniversary coming up.”  Nimoy quickly, and wisely, suggested Paramount also contact writer/director Nicholas Meyer (a prime factor in the success of both Star Trek II and Star Trek IV,) and put the two of them get together to toss around some ideas.  Trek 6So, on a long walk on the beach somewhere on the East Coast, Nimoy and Meyer chatted.  The Berlin Wall had come down in ’89, and and one of them (Nimoy says it was him, Meyer says it was him,) offered that there could be a Klingon parallel.  As originally planned by both men, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Meyer finally got to use his title) was to be an expansive, big budget 1970’s style political thriller in space; with shades of Rod Serling and John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May, in the background.  But Roddenberry was displeased with the direction and tone of the film.  As well as many of the plot contrivances.  And Paramount wanted to keep Roddenberry happy for the upcoming Anniversary.  On top of that, and for reasons unknown, Paramount quickly began slicing away at the film’s budget.  Star Trek VI storyboardA lengthy scene that came hot-on-the-heels of Captain Sulu’s observance of the destruction of a Klingon moon that was a prime energy producer for the entire Klingon economy, had to be cut.  Kirk was to be reactivated and sent to round up his retired crew.  He knows where Scotty is, so he tears him away from teaching a class in a Starfleet Academy hanger, utilizing the Bird of Prey from Star Trek III and Star Trek IV.  (Storyboard seen above.)  Scotty knows that Uhura is commuting to Mars to host a radio program, so they rescue her from utter boredom, leaving the mic open in their wake.  Next, they tear Chekov away from a chess game he’s loosing in Russia, and then, the group find Dr. McCoy drunk at a social gathering.  This all had to go.  And as mandated by Paramount, via Gene Roddenberry, the Seven Days in May subplot had to go, as well.  So no reason for the military ribbons on some of the uniforms of some of the Starfleet personnel is ever given.  The story behind that was that several months before the events of the film, the Military had re-organized and attempted a political coup to take over Starfleet.  It failed and the Military was simply ingested into the Starfleet ranks.  It made for great political intrigue and added more ingredients and red herrings to the plot.  But it was gone.  Then, there were small moments that cast doubt on many members of the Enterprise crew.  Did they possibly have a motive to get involved in sabotaging a peace summit between the Klingons and the Federation ?  Roddenberry wanted that gone, too.  Then, there was the massive battle at the end of the film, that involved a cloaked Klingon ship attacking the Enterprise, only to be set upon by the Excelsior, and then surprisingly, by another Klingon ship, and also a Romulan ship.  All four ships playing cat and mouse with a cloaked ship they cannot see, moving about the battlefield freely.  The effects for that alone constituted about $11 Million of the films budget.  Paramount simply told Nicholas Meyer, you no longer have $35 Million, you have $18, do what you can.  The result was a movie that is a shell of its former self.  Really.  A good film, but not the great film it could have been.  Not by far.  Nimoy, however, like all involved, enjoyed the reunion, and the chance to build a Trek film that would leave a better lasting impression that Star Trek V.  And now, finally, it was over.  Right ?  Nope.  Nimoy rightfully turned down a walk-on in Star Trek: Generations, due mainly to a badly designed script and opening scene.  (Shatner did the film and they reportedly shot his character in the back, before Paramount saw the scene and made them reshoot it; giving Kirk a more dignified death.)  But between audio book recordings, convention appearances, funny commercials, and even two returning appearances in J.J. Abrams Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, “Mr. Spock” never really parted ways with Leonard Nimoy.  ST into darkOver the years, he had written two separate books about his relationship with the fictional character.  “I’m Not Spock (1975,)” and “I Am Spock (1995).”  The first was highly controversial among Star Trek fans, but both sold well.  This added ‘Author’ to his colorful resume, and multifaceted career.  He even helped produce a comic book: Primortals.  And he made regular appearances on both The Simpsons and FuturamaHe never stopped working.  Even after he announced his retirement, Leonard Nimoy made appearances on Fringe, The Big Bang Theory, and others.  Nimoy The SimpsonsHe was a constant success, and truly a positive example to anyone wishing to achieve such success.  And, he was a man filled with philosophical insight and wisdom.  You only had to listen.  Without a certain journal, or road map of the man’s intentions in life, I am not certain of his personal goals, or his general target of accomplishment.  But I can say one thing for certain.  Lennie hit whatever he was aiming at.SpockIt !

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Log Entries: 04/26/2013

Jurassic Park 2JP UPDATE – PRODUCTION TRADES OUT OF HAWAII are reporting that Jurassic Park 4 will shoot on the island of Kauai.  Fueling suspicion that the story will return established characters to Jurassic Park … SCREENWRITER JOHN SPAIHTS (writer of the abandonded first draft of Prometheus) will pen Disney’s remake of 1979’s The Black Hole.  The “reboot” is said to be larger in scale and darker in tone.  Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) will direct … SPEAKING OF RIDLEY SCOTT, the director recently commented on the script for Blade Runner 2: “Yesterday I read the first script for Blade Runner 2, we have been working on it for six or seven weeks now with the original author (Hampton Fancher.) It includes some of the original characters. Everything is still in it’s early stages, but this draft is really good. ” … ON THE MAN OF STEEL horizon, just in case you’re the unfortunate soul who hasn’t seen it yet … the final trailer for Man of Steel:

PRODUCER JOEL SILVER will remake Weird Science for Universal Pictures.  weird_scienceThe original film, directed by John Hughes, will be reinvisioned by screenwriter Michael (Project X, 21 Jump Street) Bacall … ACTOR HARRISON FORD was a good sport recently for late night television, when he lampooned his professional experience as a major player in the Star Wars universe:


BY THE WAY, ATTENTION STAR WARS FANS!

Maythe4thBeWithYou

MEANWHILE, DAN AYKROYD had the following comments on the inevitable Ghostbusters III:  “I feel re-encouraged, reinvigorated by the pages that I have seen. I know that we’re expecting half of the screenplay to be completed very soon. It should be into production by the fall and be shooting by the new year. I won’t say anything, it’s very exciting. The Higgs boson and the particle theories, gluons and mesons, that really gives us a scientific base in terms of our fictional storytelling, to open up to another dimension and have something horrible come through.”  He added, “It’s going to be very, very exciting. I’ve been more encouraged than I ever have been. It sounds real now. We’ve got a sharp new writer on it, Ivan (Reitman) is on it, Harold (Ramis) is on it, I’m on it. And if I can put the catch-net on Billy (Murray) and bring him in, it will be wonderful, if he decides to do it. There will always be a hole for him.” … HERE’S A COOL NEW POSTER FOR PACIFIC RIM:

PacificRim

IN TV NEWS, THE SYFY CHANNEL (formerly Sci-Fi,) will develop and adapt a slew of new science fiction themed shows for cable viewing.  Including among these will be a four hour adaptation of Larry Niven’s “Ringworld.”  RingworldIn the book, a hastily-assembled team of explorers travels beyond charted space to investigate a massive object of alien origin nicknamed, Ringworld.  It turns out to be an artificial habitat the size of one million Earths. Crash landing on this enormous structure, they discover the remnants of ancient civilizations, technology beyond their wildest dreams, mysteries that shed light on the very origins of man and, most importantly, a possible salvation for a doomed Earth.  And joinging Ringworld, will be an adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s legendary “Childhood’s End.”  Produced by Michael DeLuca (The Social Network,) the story follows a peaceful alien invasion of Earth by the mysterious Overlords, whose arrival ends all war and turns the planet into a near-utopia.  Childhood'sEndEverything proceeds normally, with humanity mostly cooperating, and the expected splinter groups going literally underground in protest — and then we find out what the extra-terrestrials actually look like … Both miniseries films will join the previously announced adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s, “The Man in the High Castle,” produced by Ridley Scott’s company … AND IN TERRIBLE SCI-FI TV NEWS, Futurama has officially died.  The popular cult show will soon come to an end with finality.  futuramaResurrected numerous times between networks, Futurama will air it’s last episode on September the 4th of this year.  The first half of this final, seventh season began airing last summer, and the second half will screen the final 13 episodes this summer starting on June 19th.  No more changing networks, no more made for home video films.  Farewell cable staple … IRON MAN 3 was recently previewed in a theater in Nagoya, Japan using a new immersive process called 4DX.  The process involved the film being shown with a variety of added effects, very similar to the type of stuff William Castle used to do, but much more streamlined.  Tilting seats to simulate a change in audiences view, air blown to enhance the effect of on-screen wind, and various amounts of fox and odors.  4DXThere are also strobe lights and other equipment in the ceiling which reportedly drop on the audience.  Japan is planning to screen 12 titles a year in this format, which is already in use in theaters in China, South Korea, Thailand, Russia, Mexico, Israel, and several countries in South America.  The first film actually shown in this format was Avatar in 2009, in Seoul, Korea, where the company behind the technology is based.  The process/technology is said to be on its way to the U.S. late this year, and is eventually planned to be installed in 200 U.S. theaters over the next five years … RichardLeParmentiera2AND SADLY, ACTOR RICHARD LEPARMENTIER, best remembered for his role in the original Star Wars, playing the guy who got choked over a table by Darth Vader, i.e. “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” died recently at his home in Austin, Texas.  In addition to Star Wars, he also appeared in the original Rollerball, The People That Time Forgot, Space 1999, Superman II, Octopussy, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  LeParmentier was 66 years old … AND FINALLY, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING FILM CRITIC AND WRITER ROGER EBERT, has died.  Ebert, known by millions throughout the 1980’s and 90’s as one-half of the “Siskel & Ebert” team, succumed to cancer earlier this month in Chicago, IL.Gene&Roger

Ebert was an ardent supporter and fan of many films beloved by Sci-Fi fans, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, the original Star Wars Trilogy, E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek’s II, IV & VI, Dark City, Minority Report, and many, many more.  He worked with Gene Siskel for more than 30 years before Siskel’s untimely death in 1999 at the age of 53.  And throughout their relationship, the two of them seemed to play up their dislike of each other, endlessly.  However, after Gene died, Ebert wanted to set the record straight.  And in part, he wrote the following:  “I don’t want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn’t think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship.”  Two days before his death at the age of 70, Ebert wrote the following on his blog: “So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”  Roger Ebert was a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times for more than 40 years, and wrote literally thousands of reviews which shaped many peoples thoughts, opinions, and appetites toward cinema.  Here are some examples of how Siskel & Ebert loved some movies, and loathed others:

Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel went on the record during the taping of their show At the Movies, to discuss what each of them believed was the correct formula for film criticism, thus providing a perfect template to others wishing to become film critics:

Then there was the legendary and infamous appearance both Siskel & Ebert made on Nightline in 1983 to defend the new Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi, along with the Star Wars trilogy in general, from another film critic named John Simon:

Roger Ebert, one half of what was perhaps the most well-known and beloved movie critic team in history, is gone.  And his opinions, sometimes right on the mark, sometimes not, often funny, and periodically infuriating, will nevertheless be missed by movie lovers around the world, and even the movies themselves.

Rog