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NOpLAnCON Presentations on Current Films (Mark R. Leeper)
AT&T, Middletown NJ
(original, chuckle)

[ A nice article I found in rec.arts.movies ]

[ Nolacon was the World Science Fiction Convention, World SCI-FI Convention
  to some. ]

			Presentations on Current Films
			     (seen at Nolacon II)
		       Film comments by Mark R. Leeper

     One of the long-standing traditions of worldcons is the presentation of
upcoming film and television releases.  The tradition started with the 1976
Kansas City Worldcon (MidAmericon).  There one filmmaker, a George Lucas
famous for having made a successful rock-and-roll film, brought a low-budget
science fiction film he was working on.  It was a genuine mess.  Some of us
took the representative aside and told him what we'd really like to see.
Luckily it was not too late for them to incorporate our suggestions and the
result was a heck of a good film.

     If you believe that one....

     In any case, I cannot remember a worldcon in the last twelve years that
has such a set of losers coming up.  I have a positive expectation for only
two of dozens of films coming up.  Best looking is ALIEN NATION.  The
trailers have already started showing for this one in the theaters.  The
idea is that some time in the not-too-distant future aliens arrive in large
numbers and set up their own ghettos in Los Angeles (right on the outskirts
of Toontown?).  They look human except where you and I have hair on our
heads, their heads look like brown watermelons.  Hey, don't laugh.  There
are people in my family who look like that!

     Anyhow, the aliens become a protected minority affirmative action group
presumably because they have a long history of being persecuted and
discriminated against unlike, say, the Jews.  James Caan plays a Los Angeles
cop.  His partner is played by Mandy Patinkin, who usually plays a Jew but
in this film he plays either one of the aliens or a Jew disguised as one of
the aliens so that some Jew finally gets some benefit from affirmative

     ALIEN NATION (formerly OUTER HEAT but there were too many "Heat" films
already) has the look of an expensive film.  The mystery aspects are
reminiscent of SOYLENT GREEN, but the look of the film is crisper -- perhaps
even like BLADERUNNER.  Of course, at this point any decent-looking film
that is neither a sequel nor a remake is promising.

     A little less promising is the new BATMAN film.  I will give you the
bad news first.  The studio has signed a big star for the title role.  Now
let's try a little experiment.  Picture who you think would be a good
Batman.  Anybody picture Beetlejuice?  How about the gum-chewing geek from
NIGHT SHIFT?  Nobody?  I guess you just don't have what it takes to be a
Hollywood executive.  Yes, it's smash comedy star Michael Keaton who is
going to play Bruce Wayne.  But, I hear you ask, isn't he a little ... uh
... small to play Batman?  Well, he has been working out and of course
Batman was never that big anyway; he just wore a big suit with body armor.
Yes, he did.  Sure.

     The studio showed some sketches of the Batmobile.  The audience did not
like it.  The Batplane--some production sketches of it flying in the narrow
space between buildings--the audience liked it much more.  It reminded me a
lot of a scene from a certain science fiction film from 1977.  We will know
for sure if Robin has to fly in the trench between buildings to drop
missiles down a certain manhole.  The look of the city is supposed to be a
1990s city as seen from the 1930s.  Uh-huh.  Anton Furst is doing the set
design.  He did COMPANY OF WOLVES and is ready to move from wolves to bats.
They will get an unknown to play Robin.  Presumably Eddie Murphy had enough
sense to turn the role down.  Jack Nicholson will play the Joker.  I have
heard a lot of people say nobody else would look right in the role.  That is
interesting, since the Joker was drawn to look like a character in a then
well-known film.  The Joker was based on Conrad Veidt, whose face was
twisted in a rictus grin in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.  So for good reason Veidt
looked the part more than Nicholson.  Of course that was long ago.

     We are to be reassured, however, because the people putting together
the film are genuine fans of the comic book.  What they are not telling you
is that they only really get a chance to read the comic books when they are
done with their paper routes and when they aren't out trading baseball
cards.  I wonder if the people who make the "Care Bears" movies are genuine
fans of the Care Bears.  That might explain a lot.

     And while we are on the subject of having a lot to explain, we saw a
preview of the new WAR OF THE WORLDS television show.  The premise is that
somebody found a lot of never-produced scripts for the old INVADERS
television show and is recycling them.  Ooops, sorry.  That's my premise.
The idea is that the world really was nearly destroyed in 1953, just like
George Pal showed us.  The government bottled up a bunch of aliens--they're
not really Martians--and now they have escaped.  They should not be all that
hard to round up but for three little things: 1) these guys are a lot more
muscular and powerful than Pal let on, 2) they can inhabit dead bodies and
make themselves look human, and 3) nobody remembers that most of the world
was destroyed by aliens.  I'm going to say that again because you probably
think that was a typographical error.  Nobody remembers that most of the
world was destroyed by aliens.  What do people think destroyed most of the
major cities in 1953?  Well, most people have not given the question a whole
lot of thought.  Don't knock it.  The characters really look like people who
might forget little details like an alien invasion.  The first episode will
feature war machines that look like and make noises like the ones in the
film.  Unfortunately the war machines all get destroyed, but we are left
with a bunch of aliens walking around in human suits, just likes Wells might
have written if he had thought of it.  Yes.

     What else is on the drawing boards?  Take any popular film of the past
five years and increment the suffix by one.  COCOON I, for example, will
have a COCOON II.  ROBOCOP I will have a ROBOCOP II.  Of course, he gets
kicked off the force in it so the title is a misnomer, but who would go to
see ROBOCIVILIAN?  (There was a whole presentation on the making of the the
original ROBOCOP that I will discuss later.)  BACK TO THE FUTURE I will give
a DR. NO XV.  THE FLY I will have a THE FLY II, in which Brundle Jr. follows
in all six of his father's footsteps.  INDIANA JONES III (actually INDIANA
JONES AND THE LOST CRUSADE) will feature an older Indiana Jones, contrary to
the original plan, because Harrison Ford isn't getting any younger, also
contrary to the original plan.  Indy's papa will be played by Sean Connery
(whom many of us will remember from DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE and
similar films).  ALIENS II (or ALIEN III) will have Sigourney Weaver in a
coma as the Russkies play with the aliens to make new weapons, but Weaver
will back in ALIEN IV in full force.  There is no comment yet as to whether
she will stick iwth the ALIEN series after that or will call it quits after
IV or will ride the series for three or four more entries.  If her career
sours enough, it is probably comforting for her to know that she will always
be able to find work in the upcoming ALIEN sequel.  (All these sequels to
popular films will be a little late because the creative (?) geniuses were
all on strike.)

     CHILD'S PLAY, which may be a one-shot if it is not popular, is about a
child's toy inhabited by the spirit of a dead gangster.  The dark horse may
well be LIVING ON THE EDGE, which will either be great or will suck pond
water.  It is sort of an alternate universe LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.  Everything
in this world is familiar but different.  The family dog is about the
ugliest thing the screen has ever seen, with three-inch fleas constantly
chewing at him.  All technology in the world seems connected in some way to
using tubes to transport things.  The feel is probably like that of
TERRORVISION.  Time will tell.

     I also went to a presentation on the making of ROBOCOP.  It was
inspired by Stan Lee's neurotic superheroes in Marvel Comics.  This was a
very informative panel and told you how they did all those wonderful special
effects that are such audience pleasers.  The presentation included slides
of the process used to film how they shot pieces off of the main character,
fingers first, then hands, then whole arms ripped off.  Good stuff like
that, you know.  well, for example, the way they shoot an arm off a
character is by attaching a fake arm with Velcro and attaching a line from a
rod and reel.  Then a fisherman off-stage can just snap away the arm.  How
wonderful somebody figured that out!  Then for a touch of realism, there is
the scene where a man falls into a vat of toxic waste and when he crawls out
he is melting right on screen.  This was actually a reprise of an effect
that some of the same people worked on for a nearly worthless film called
THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN.  But the capper is when the melting man is hit
by a truck and sort of splatters.  To create the wonderful effect that was
clearly needed they took the table scraps of the people working on the film
and let them rot in an open garbage can for two weeks.  It was these scraps
that were used for the insides of the dummy that was hit by the car.

     What the producers of the film objected to was that the Hollywood
censors cut so much from the film.  The first killing by the ED-209 in the
film was supposed to really set the tone for the film as being humorous.  We
see the ED-209 gun a man down in a board room during a demo, but it is just
left at that.  In the original scene, the robot just pumped thousands of
rounds of ammunition into the body and it just kept quivering.  Test
audiences laughed very hard at this comically overdone scene but the
Hollywood censors cut it.  Now, silly me, I thought there were no censors in
Hollywood.  I thought that the issue was not one of censorship against
artistic freedom but rather one of artistic integrity versus money and the
producers, not wanting to accept the decreased profits that go with an X-
rated film, instead gave their audiences what they themselves call an
inferior product in order to boost profits.  And for having made this
decision they want sympathy. On its own merits I give this film a positive
rating, but well below what most people seem to have given it.

     It seems strange to say I hate to see a particular sort of special
effect used in science fiction but using gore effects in science fiction
films changes plot stress from wonder to horror.

     Well, that's the lineup, kiddies.

					Mark R. Leeper

(From the "Rest" of RHF)

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