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Future shock: unearthing the most cutting-edge sci-fi movies of 2018

Charmaine Blake

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With films from Steven Spielberg, Duncan Jones and Alex Garland in the pipeline, theres plenty to get excited about beyond the superhero franchises

If the 2017 box office was typified by any one movie, it was surely Rian Johnsons Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a smart, intelligently curated yet ever so slightly soulless example of machine-honed franchise film-making. It ticked every box for fans of the venerable space saga, without ever really pushing the envelope; a movie that eventually made the Kessel Run, but 40 years or so after Han Solo and Chewie had already achieved that legendary feat.

The Last Jedi, like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and Wonder Woman before it in 2017, proved that Hollywood probably has the tools and talent to keep churning out episodic blockbuster fantasy until at least 2050. To complain at this state of affairs would be churlish, especially when studios are delivering substandard and ill-considered material such as Justice League. But it does feel as if the Hollywood zeitgeist has crystallised in recent times, and we are in an era of fabulously made yet increasingly homogenous Marvel and Star Wars flicks that leave us only semi satisfied. Perhaps this is why the years greatest celluloid treasure, Blade Runner 2049, failed to gain traction with modern audiences who had perhaps never seen anything like it.

In that spirit, heres a guide to upcoming films that might just move things on this year. Sequels, remakes and mega-franchise fare are therefore largely banned as we go looking for the films with the best chance of leading us into a brave new world of sci-fi and fantasy in 2018.

First up is Alex Garlands Annihilation, due out in February, which would merit a place solely because the British film-makers last effort, Ex Machina, was a singular example of a cerebral, gripping futuristic think piece. Annihilations premise, on the face of it, is not all that exceptional, with Garland adapting Jeff VanderMeers novel about a biologist (Natalie Portman) who heads into an environmental disaster zone in search of answers after her soldier husband (Oscar Isaac) returns alone injured and close to death from a mission there. A quick dip into the book, however, suggests a discombobulating trip into the heart of darkness, where unknown, unearthly horrors lurk. Could Garlands movie be the Alien on Earth movie we were promised as far back as 1992, but have so far never got to see?

Garland has perhaps taken the mantle of Duncan Jones as the coming man of sci-fi. After the disaster that was Jones adaptation of World of Warcraft, the Moon director is returning to more intimate territory with the futuristic mystery thriller Mute. Described as a spiritual successor to Moon, it is also said to be inspired by the original Blade Runner, which can never be a bad thing and might sate the appetites of those of us longing for yet more mesmeric visions of the android-strewn dystopian future. Word is that Sam Rockwell will return as Moons Sam Bell (or perhaps one of his clones) but the main storyline centres on a mute bartender with a violent past (Alexander Skarsgrd) searching for his lost lover in mid 21st-century Berlin.

Next up is Captive State, in August, from Rise of the Planet of the Apes Rupert Wyatt, the British directors first science fiction movie since leaving the man-versus-simians saga. With a budget of just $25m, it will be fascinating to see how Wyatt delivers a story set 10 years after an alien invasion of Chicago. Neill Blomkamps District 9 was shot for $30m in 2009, while Gareth Edwards completed Monsters a year later for $500,000, so it can be done.

Steven Spielbergs Ready Player One, due out in March, has the unenviable task of trying to convince us to get excited all over again about virtual reality worlds, the best part of two decades after The Matrix gave us the definitive inner digital wonderland on the big screen. Based on Ernest Clines hugely popular novel, early trailers suggest this means swapping out Trinity, Morpheus et al for pop culture stalwarts such as Freddy Krueger, Lord of the Rings orcs, The Iron Giant and Deadpool, which all seems a little corporate. And yet if anyone is due a late-career renaissance it is Spielberg. If he proves he can still cut it in this realm, others will surely follow the three-time Oscar-winner back down the digital rabbit hole.

On to another long-lost subgenre: steampunk. Not since Chris Weitzs ill-fated The Golden Compass a decade ago have we seen a memorable big budget example of the mode in cinemas, unless one counts Martin Scorseses splendid Hugo. Is it time for a renaissance? If so, Christian Rivers Mortal Engines, about a world in which technology has regressed to Victorian levels and wheel-mounted carnivorous cities chase each other across the plains might be the answer. Based on an adaptation of Philip Reeves post-apocalyptic novel by the Lord of the Rings team of Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, it stars Irish actor Robert Sheehan alongside Rings alumnus Hugo Weaving. Avatars Stephen Lang plays the films main baddie, a murderous cyborg known as Shrike, and there are three more books in Reeves series if audiences get a taste for this future-retro blend.

Finally,only only one superhero flick looks like it will break new ground: 20th Century Foxs The New Mutants. With a fine cast including The Witchs Anya Taylor-Joy and Game of Thrones Maisie Williams, Josh Boones comic book tale will dip its toe into the resurgent horror genre. Its set in a secret facility where several future X-Men types find themselves imprisoned and in imminent danger, and is being talked up as the first in a potential trilogy. With Deadpool and Logan emerged as two of the livelier comic book entries of the past few years, it seems that Fox is finally carving out a place for the X-Men at the more mature end of the superhero spectrum. If we have any hope that 2018 will mark the beginning of a new era in fantasy film-making, this could be a very welcome mutation indeed.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jan/03/cutting-edge-sci-fi-movies-2018-steven-spielberg-alex-garland

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Ron Howard reveals George Lucas’ involvement in ‘Solo’

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Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo) with George Lucas and Ron Howard at the Hollywood premiere of ‘Solo.’

Image: kevin winter/Getty Images

“He may have retired from the galaxy far, far away after he sold his company for $4 billion in 2012. But Star Wars creator George Lucas has his fingerprints all over the latest movie in the Disney-Lucasfilm canon — according to his friend, Solo director Ron Howard.

Not only did Lucas come up with the idea for a Han Solo spin-off first — long before Rogue One was a thing — but he was there on set to offer advice on how his creation would behave. And he even tried his hand at acting: pitching one scene, “he played Han Solo,” Howard says.

In a wide-ranging interview with Mashable, Howard also recalled how Lucas first told him about Star Wars on the set of American Graffiti in 1972, explained why the look of the film is a homage to  Lucas’ signature style, and dangled the possibility that Lucas could return to direct more Star Wars films — if the fans wanted.

Here’s our Q&A, which has been edited for length, clarity and the removal of spoilers.

Mashable: One of my first responses to seeing Solo, and I mean this in the best possible way, was: it’s the dirtiest Star Wars ever.  

Ron Howard: Good! That sort of visual honesty was really important to the cinematographer, Bradford Young. I really agreed with it. The idea that really hooked him was that he could shoot some of this in [1971 Western] McCable and Mrs. Miller style. I was thinking of gritty, existential 1970s car movies like Bullitt and Vanishing Point.

M: That was George Lucas’ breakthrough with Star Wars; he talked about the used universe, making space feel lived-in. Did you feel like you were kind of dropping the mic on the used universe? Like, it can’t get more used than this. 

RH: [Laughs] Well, the more you begin to really drill down on the way of life and the characters — and this is probably the most character-driven of the movies. I mean, it’s not an epic war story. It’s not political. It really is: how do these relationships impact Han?

The more up close and personal we get with the characters, the more used the universe is going to feel. It’s those details about how things really work — that’s the stuff prop makers and set designers just love to explore. They pull out references from different corners of our Earth and find ways to adapt them.

M: Were you there saying “throw more mud at that Wookiee?”

RH: Oh yeah, that was part of the promise of this. As action adventure movies go, I always loved Road Warrior. And while there’s nothing post-apocalyptic about Solo, we are in a lawless time. Some of it takes place in frontier towns. [Han’s homeworld] has this grimy port culture with a seedy underbelly. That grime is part of what’s interesting about this movie.

Ron Howard and George Lucas on the set of ‘American Graffiti’ (1973).

Image: Universal

M: Let’s go back to American Graffiti. I’ve talked to other actors on that movie and they have these…”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/05/23/solo-ron-howard-interview/

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Charlize Theron will play Megyn Kelly in a movie about Roger Ailes

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Charlize Theron at a screening of Tullyin New York City.

Image: John Lamparski / WireImage

Charlize Theron is ready to take on Megyn Kelly.

The Hollywood Reporter writes that Theron has been cast as the former Fox News anchor in an as-yet-untitled project about the downfall of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.

The script, by Charles Randolph (The Big Short), is said to center on the sexual misconduct allegations raised against Ailes in 2016 — first by Gretchen Carlson in a lawsuit, and then by numerous other women including Kelly. Ailes was forced to resign later that same year.

Carlson is also expected to be a character in the film, along with other prominent Fox News figures like Bill O’Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, and Rupert Murdoch. Theron is the only cast member announced so far.

Theron has excelled at playing complicated and even unlikable characters — she won an Oscar in 2004 for playing serial killer Aileen Wuornos. She currently stars in Tully, which reunites her with Young Adult duo Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody.

The Fox News project is being helmed by Jay Roach, who’s gotten into the habit of making films about recent political events. He also directed Recount, about the 2000 presidential election, and Game Change, about the 2008 one, and is attached to direct the TV adaptation of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury.

Annapurna Pictures is producing the movie, which does not yet have a release date.

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Rashida Jones addresses her departure from ‘Toy Story 4’

Charmaine Blake

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Rashida Jones at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in 2018.

Image: Presley Ann / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

It’s hardly news that Hollywood tends to favor white men, to the exclusion of everyone else. And Rashida Jones is done putting up with it.

Jones called out Pixar’s lack of diversity in an interview with Net-a-Porter, while explaining why she and writing partner Will McCormack left Toy Story 4 last year.

Describing the situation as “complicated,” Jones said:

You look at [Pixar’s] track record and it was one woman directing one film in 25 years, and she was fired. But that doesn’t look different from most studios in Hollywood. All I can be is myself, and speak up and be honest when I feel things don’t reflect the world as it today. As a corporation, you will be held accountable.

The one female director Jones is referring to is Brenda Chapman, who was to be Pixar’s first female director before she was taken off of Brave and replaced by Mark Andrews.

While Jones did not go into further detail about her experience at Pixar, her comments echo the statement she and McCormack issued last November, when they decided to depart the project.

At the time, the pair were pushing back against a Hollywood Reporter article claiming they’d left due to an unwanted advance made on Jones by now-disgraced Pixar chief John Lasseter.

That statement read:

We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences. There is so much talent at Pixar, and we remain enormous fans of their films. However, it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.

A look at Pixar’s future releases indicates that the studio won’t be breaking its all-male director streak anytime soon. Upcoming titles include Incredibles 2, directed by Brad Bird; Toy Story 4, directed by Josh Cooley; and an untitled suburban fantasy film, directed by Dan Scanlon.

On the other hand, the studio is getting its first female-helmed short this summer: Bao, from Domee Shi. Maybe change is coming for the studio, even if it’s a lot more slowly than we’d like.

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