Entertainment Weekly #917 has more than a little fun in citing some pretty bad roles chosen by otherwise top notch talent. Most of them are genre films. Hmmm…are genre films big-money lanterns to money-seeking moths? Anyway, here’s the list. See the issue for the humorous writeups of each.

The 25 Most Shameless Paycheck-Grabbing Roles in History

  1. Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again
  2. Jason Alexander in Dunstan Checks In
  3. Bill Murray in Garfield
  4. Marlon Brando in Superman
  5. Matt Dillon in Herbie: Fully Loaded
  6. Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Chill Factor
  7. Elizabeth Taylor in The Flintstones
  8. Ben Affleck in Paycheck
  9. Buster Keaton in Beach Blanket Bingo
  10. Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich in Eragon
  11. Christopher Walken in Kangaroo Jack
  12. Richard Pryor in Superman III
  13. Faye Dunaway in Supergirl
  14. William Hurt in Lost in Space
  15. Laurence Olivier in Clash of the Titans
  16. Demi Moore in Striptease
  17. Michael Caine in Jaws: The Revenge
  18. Judi Dench in The Chronicles of Riddick
  19. Orson Welles in Transformers: The Movie
  20. Peter O’Toole in Club Paradise
  21. Dennis Hopper in Super Mario Bros.
  22. Tony Curtis in The Bad News Bears Go to Japan
  23. Sir Ben Kingsley in BloodRayne
  24. Richard Burton in Exorcist II: The Heretic
  25. Robert DeNiro in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

I might add to this list Jeremy Irons in The Time Machine remake. Can you think of others?

Filed under: Movies

EWs’ Top 20 Dystopian Movies

In light (or darkness) of the recent theatrical release of the dystopian Children of Men, Entertainment Weekly #917 lists…

The Top 20 Dystopian Movies

  1. A Clockwork Orange (1971; set in near future)
  2. Brazil (1985; set in 20th century)
  3. The Road Warrior (1982; postapocalypse)
  4. Escape From New York (1981; set in 1997)
  5. Logan’s Run (1976; set in 23rd century)
  6. 12 Monkeys (1995; set in 2035)
  7. Metropolis (1927; set in 2026)
  8. The Matrix (1999, circa 2199)
  9. Blade Runner (1982; set in 2019) [see SF Signal book review]
  10. Akira (1988; set in 2019)
  11. THX-1138 (1971; set in near future)
  12. Dark City (19; set in a not-so-far-off future)
  13. Alphaville (1965; set in a distant time, in another world)
  14. Fahrenheit 451 (1966; set sometime after the 20th century) [see SF Signal book review]
  15. The Omega Man (1971; set in the late 1970s)
  16. Soylent Green (1973; set in 2022)
  17. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970; set in the late 3900s)
  18. Death Race 2000 (1975; set in 2000)
  19. Back to the Future II (1989; set in 2015)
  20. Gattaca (1997; set in the near future)

Filed under: Movies

It seems like every couple of months there’s a media spotlight on book reviewing. Usually, the ones I see are within the science fiction community. However, the latest focus seems to from the world of mainstream literature.

The Valve points to a semi-confessional Newsweek article “In Literature, Size Matters“, in which Malcolm Jones says he only read 100 of the 928 pages of Sacred Games. The Valve focuses on the fact that Jones, a paid reviewer, did not finish the book because it was too big. As per the Jones article:

Book reviewers, if they’re being paid and if they’re being the least bit fair, finish the books they review. But this creates a strange, maybe unnatural, situation: the very people paid to be objective about a book are also duty bound to finish it, and believe it or not, this warps a lot of peoples’ judgment. Let’s say you read a 900-page novel and you don’t absolutely hate it. You even sort of like it. Are you going to say that? Apparently not, judging by most reviews I read. Most reviewers get invested in the books they review, one way or the other. So the books are either panned outright or praised.

I guess it all comes down to whether a reviewer can be truly honest with himself, even in acknowledgement of any psychological factors that may come into play.

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Filed under: Books

EW Reviews SF/F

Issue #917 of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Here’s a snippet…

Overclocked by Cory Doctorow

Studio Pitch: I, Robot meets Dr. Stangelove.

Lowdown: The four page opening fable is as absorbing an prescient as the gruesome 76-page war story that ends the book. Doctorow is rapidly emerging as the William Gibson of his generation.

Grade: A.

Ice Vladimir Sorokin

Studio Pitch: George A. Romero meets Nikolai Gogol.

Lowdown: Sorokin’s inventively sliced plot doesn’t make room for a proper climax, bu the particulars of his pulp allegory are eerie enough to chill.

Grade: B+.

Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber

Studio Pitch: Battlestar Galactica meets Master and Commander and the Protestant Reformation.

Lowdown: A thin sci-fi frame for a sometimes rousing, often sluggish age-of-sail epic.

Grade: B.

From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust

Studio Pitch: Super Friends meets Analyze This.

Lowdown: While fanboys might wish Faust had played it more straight, Brain is entertaining and impishly savvy about comics.

Grade: B+.

Elsewhere in the issue is a review of Voices in the Street by Philip K. Dick which gets a B+ rating.

Filed under: Books

Extreme Biblioholism

Rod Lott and Joe Rogers share their humorous misadventures in The World’s Most Dangerous Bookstore.

Bill’s Yesterday Books is not the nicely organized, aesthetically pleasing publication warehouse like a Barnes & Noble or even a typical trade store you’re used to visiting. Instead, it’s a whole damn house with no living space whatsoever. Books are literally (and pat yourself on the back, dear reader, if you caught that pun) piled to the ceilings, but not on shelves, with a foot-wide pathway rudely carved through the rubble that one must shimmy through sideways in order to travel. The place is so overflowing with reading material that the path itself is comprised of volumes. It is near impossible to see the walls. And a window? Forget about it.

Yikes! And look at those snapshots! Could my biblioholism be leading me down the same path?

On a similar note, the Solaris Books blog asks “What do you do if you own over 14,000 books?” The answer, obviously, is to build a house around them.

“What holds the house together is a vertical staircase that wraps itself around a tower of books that goes up three floors,” Mr. Tehrani said. (The family lives on the top three floors, while Ms. Bina’s mother, Aghdas Zoka-Bina, and a tenant occupy apartments on the first and ground-floor levels.) The stairway ends just below a skylight. “The tower of books appears to pierce the skylight, though it doesn’t in reality,” Mr. Tehrani said.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 1/19/07

Filed under: Tidbits

SF TV Reminders

For all you who are watching the SF(ish) shows on TV, here are a few reminders:

  • The short lived series, Daybreak, will be available on ABC.COM on January 29th. All episodes will be there, including the 6 never aired. I was into this show, although it was difficult to follow if you attention was split between the TV and your Sudoku puzzle book…
  • Battlestar Galactica returns this Sunday, January 21st, at 9pm CST. That’s right, Sunday. SciFi up and went and changed the date on us in an attempt, presumably, to halt sliding ratings. My fix would be to get back to what made the first show so enjoyable: the race through space to avoid the Cylons, since that appears to be what people want. Me, I still like the show, even if it isn’t as strong this season. It still doesn’t suck. And watch for something big for the season ender…
  • And now, the big new show of the season is set to return on Monday, January 22nd! That’s right, Heroes starts again! Finally. Hopefully you’ve been keeping up with the comic on the website so you have some more background on new characters. And in addition, NBC has greenlighted a second season. Go NBC, way to milk a cash cow!
  • LOST begins on February 7th and Jericho returns on February 21st.

No word on when Eureka starts again, or, if there is, I couldn’t find it in my 10 seconds of searching.

Filed under: TV

The Great Pratchett Reading Project

Thanks to super-faithful reader Fred K. and his blog post about the proper reading order for the Discworld novels, a scheme was hatched here at SF Signal HQ. Said scheme being: Why not read all Discworld stories, including the short stories? Hence, the Great Pratchett Reading Project (GPRP) was born!

Both Tim and I jumped at the idea. Me, because I thought of it, and Tim because he likes Pratchett. John is also in, but with some reluctance. Something about the time involved or some such silly reason. Scott claims to have read all the books anyway and the young adult titles are, basically crap (that’s a loose translation of his statement).

So what, exactly, are we going to do? Well, we are going to follow the Discworld Reading Order Guide 1.5 . I will start with the Rincewind Novels, Tim is taking the Watch Novels. We’ll read each track, left to right, then move on downward to the next track. This will allow us to avoid any potential book conflicts, while insuring that there is a steady stream of Discworld goodnes here on the blog.

So what will we be producing for SF Signal? Most likely, some sort of master page listing the books and our reviews for them. The reviews themselves may not be the bigger ones we normally write, but to make up for that, each book review will have our individual takes on that book. Look for the reviews to see how that will work. I haven’t quite figured out how we’ll notify you of updated reviews, RSS readers will see the updated review in the feed, readers who scan the homepage won’t. Maybe we can enlist John to create a patentet GPRP Widget for the right side bar. Stay tuned.

Now, you may be asking yourself, ‘What? Why?”. To which I respond: “Because”. Pratchett’s Discworld novels rule so why not read them all? I won’t be reading them all one after the other. I will intersperse them with other books. But because they are, usually, fast reads, they shouldn’t get in the way of the other books I want to read. And besides, who wouldn’t want to read the books by a man unafraid to have his picture taken with a duck…..on his head.

Feel free to play along at home. If you post a review of one of the books, let us know and we’ll add a link to our review of that book thus creating a ginormous repository of Pratchett reviews! The duck thanks you.

PS – I’m already 60 pages into The Color (Colour) Of Magic. Man, I had forgotten how funny it is…

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 1/18/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Is HBO Doing It Right? (A Song Of Ice And Fire)

Today, HBO has announced that they will be bringing George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series to the small screen. Now, before you go off, thinking “How the hell can they do that? It’ll take a bazillion movies.”, notice that they will be making this a series. With each book one season.

Think about that. Each book gets its own season to tell the story. That, my friends, is the way it should be done. A season gives you roughly 18 – 20 hours of time, which should be plenty to jam in each 1000 page book. Sure, you’ll have to trim stuff, but the sheer amount of time available works in your favor.

Plus, Martin will supposedly be working as co-producer on the show. Let’s hope that doesn’t take away form his time to actually, you know, finish the series. I’m also hoping that the SFX used don’t turn out to be cheesy. At least this isn’t on SciFi, where cheese isn’t just for movies anymore…

Filed under: TV

It’s a GOOD Life

I still have fond memories of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 1, a superb 1970 anthology of twenty-six short stories that were chosen by members of the SFWA as the best stories that existed before the institution of the Nebula Awards.

The reason I mention this is because it has come up three times this week while web surfing: first in Michael Cassutt’s The Canon of TV Sci-Fi, Part 2; second is a news item about The Mimzy, a movie based on Lewis Padgett’s (Henry Kuttner’s and C.L. Moore’s) “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”; and third in this video posting from Pistol Wimp.

The video is the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” and is based on the awesome short story by Jerome Bixby (free read!) that I first experienced in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 1. I would definitely include this story in my dream anthology.

Useless Trivia: As many readers know, the creepy kid in the episode is played by Billy Mumy who later went on to appear in Lost in Space and Babylon 5. Most people know about the episode remake in 1983′s Twilight Zone: The Movie, but according to wikipedia there was a sequel episode called “It’s Still a Good Life” that appeared in a 2003 revival of The Twilight Zone series. In that sequel, Bill Mumy returned as Anthony Fremont, his on-screen daughter was played by his real-life daughter Liliana and Cloris Leachman also returned as his mother.

Filed under: Books

Sentient Developments

A newsfeed picked up an eye-catching phrase today: Check out why the Sentient Developments blog is convinced that Star Trek‘s Prime Directive is stupid.

While perusing the Sentient Developments site, I found links to other interesting articles including the heavy read Developmental and ethical considerations for biologically uplifting nonhuman animals (in PDF).

On the not-so-heavy side, there’s Must-know terms for the 21st Century intellectual: Redux.

And if all else fails , there is always the ever-popular, previously-posted Bald Women in Sci-Fi. [Looks at Pete.]

Filed under: Web Sites

SF Tidbits for 1/17/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Unfilmable Science Fiction Novels

Over at Screen Head, they have posted an article detailing their List Of The Hardest Novels To Film. This list includes all your favorites such as Ulysses, 100 Years Of Solitude and Metamorphosis, among others. But I got to thinking, science fiction is the home of the strange and fantastic so there ought to be SF books that would be darn near impossible to put on film, at least in any comprehensible form.

But what makes a book unfilmable? Is it story structure? Narrative style? Perhaps its the sheer inventiveness and weirdness of a far-future univerese that any movie, full of needed CGI, just can’t capture correctly. I’m sure our group of faithful readers, as diverse and well read in the SF field as we are, can come up with an interesting list of titles. I’ll list mine, at least those I can think of, below.

Dhalgren

Dhalgren is Samuel Delany’s classic post-disaster novel of the city of Bellona. Strange things happen here: a river changes location, the protagonist looks in a mirror and sees someone else (someone vaguely familiar to the reader (hopefully)), and time passes differently for different characters. The reason for this becomes clear when the reader discovers what the central conceit of the story is, but if you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil it for you. Dhalgren is big, dense and complex and I don’t see how this novel could ever work as movie. It would be incredibly difficult to film correctly, and we haven’t even covered the themes of sex, gender and race, among others, that make this a difficult read, not to mention put on film.

In the interest of completeness, I must admit that I tried to read Dhalgren several times before I finally managed to work through it. I found it dull and tedious each time, even when I finished it. However, that was roughly 20 years ago, so I think as an adult, I might find it more bearable to read. But we may never know, as there are so many good, new stuff coming out, I may never get around to it.

Vellum

Vellum is Hal Duncan’s debut novel, and I think you could consider it to be this generation’s Dhalgren. At times challenging and complex, Vellum also play fast and lose with narrative and time. After a somewhat conventional start (if you consider motorcylce driving witches conventional), Vellum veers off into territory where time and space really have little meaning, preferring to focus on the characters journey of discovery. Again, with the unconventional use of time, I see no easy way to put this story on film. Its challenging enough to read, let alone try to watch and figure out what the heck is going on. See the SFSignal review for more.

Others

Both of the novels presented above make liberal use of unstructured narratives. But what about books that are just full of hard SF or big ideas? Could a film do these stories justice? Here I’m thinking about the Xeelee Sequence by Baxter and the Revelation Space series by Reynolds. Both are far future, but Baxter’s scope typically expands exponentially throughout the course of a novel and I’m not sure that the big screen would be big enough to show this. As far as Reynolds goes, I’m not sure todays film making is up to the task of doing his work justice on the big screen. Although, with the success of The Lord Of The Rings, its clear that SFX might be able image Reynolds’ ideas soon. As with Baxter though, I’m not sure even an Imax screen is large enough for the canvas Reynolds’ story is written on.

So now we throw it over to you, the readers. What SF novels do you think are ‘unfilmable’?

Filed under: Books

In 1949, Science Fiction Was a Just a Fad

Matt Cheney digs up a seriously retro review by Time magazine (?!?) of Stanley Weinbaum’s collection A Martian Odyssey which offers some reflections on the sf field we now call “classic”:

Small publishing houses devoted to science fiction such as Weinbaum turned out have been mushrooming during the last few years, and the business as a whole appears to be on the upgrade. Most of them are three-or four-man affairs. The half-dozen or so outfits in the field each print anywhere from two to a dozen books a year. Press runs usually hover around 5,000. Yet such midget firms as Prime Press in Philadelphia, Fantasy Press in Reading, Pa. and Shasta Press in Chicago eke out profits from their small printings, for two reasons: 1) they keep advertising and other overhead costs to a minimum, and 2) they can count on regular patronage from their own rabid fans.

There has been some speculation about the reasons for the science-fiction fad. The Saturday Review of Literature’s Harrison Smith has speculated about the relation of the “age of anxiety” to the “scientific fantasy story” as “a buffer against known and more conceivable terrors.” Publishers’ Weekly finds that the appeal of these stories lies “in their free flight of [imagination] . . . uninhibited by present reality, yet sometimes terrifyingly close to the advanced discoveries of modern science.”

The reader who reads science fiction dispassionately is likely to be struck by how closely the human imagination is tied to reality, even when it deliberately sets out to violate it. Stanley Weinbaum’s loonies and slinkers have been seen before. The shapes may be different, but his dream-beasts come startlingly close to what the human race has been running across, for a good many years, in its childish nightmares.

Apparently in 1949, science fiction was a “fad” that had “rabid” fans. Oh well, at least they got the “rabid” part right.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 1/16/07

Filed under: Tidbits

UPDATED: Important Note for Hugo Voters!

Hello Hugo voters! I’ve been asked to convey the following information…

Patrick Nielson Hayden has pointed out some questionable content on this year’s Hugo Awards nomination ballot. Before filling out your ballot form, you may want to check that any potential issues have been resolved, perhaps with PNH’s blog.

1/16 UPDATE: Frank Wu has some more information.

Filed under: Awards

2006 BSFA Awards Shortlist

The British Science Fiction Association has announced the shortlist for the 2006 BSFA Awards:

NOVEL

  • Darkland, Liz Williams
  • End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
  • Icarus by Roger Levy
  • The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow
  • Nova Swing by M. John Harrison

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Filed under: Awards

REVIEW SUMMARY: Reading this classic was long overdue.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Gully Foyle seeks vengeance on those who refused to rescue him from his derelict ship, the Nomad.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Textured prose; swift-moving plot; memorable main character; inventive and well thought-out societal backdrop.

CONS: A minor one: Foyle’s feelings for Olivia seem unfounded.

BOTTOM LINE: If you haven’t read this yet, do so.

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Filed under: Book Review

SF Tidbits for 1/15/07

Filed under: Tidbits

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