James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction

DVD REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/28/20;
RLJ;
Documentary;
$34.97 DVD or Blu-ray;
Not Rated.
Featuring James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott.

This six-episode documentary series hosted by filmmaker James Cameron should prove a fascinating viewing experience for any fan of the title genre, primarily due to the high-caliber talent on display sharing their insights on the topic.

The series is structured with each episode taking on a different topic within the genre: “Alien Life,” “Space Exploration,” “Monsters,” “Dark Futures,” “Intelligent Machines” and “Time Travel.” They run a shade over 40 minutes each on disc, long enough to fill an hour-long time slot when commercials are added in (the series originally aired on AMC in 2018).

Much of the series follows a typical documentary format tracing the history of the episode’s topic, with analysis from various talking heads in the form of critics, authors, actors and filmmakers. Particular emphasis is placed on the various social, political and philosophical underpinnings of various sci-fi stories throughout history. One primary thesis that arises is the notion that science-fiction isn’t about predicting the future, it’s about choosing our future — an observation that demonstrates why there’s still considerable value to older sci-fi tales that might otherwise seem outdated.

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But the heart of the program involves Cameron sitting for a series of one-on-one interviews with other high-profile directors as they discuss each others work (with no shortage of praise for one another, as could be expected). The stories the directors tell range from the oft-repeated tales that every fan knows, to interesting insights into what guided certain filmmaking decisions, such as how Steven Spielberg adapted much of his childhood into Close Encounters and E.T.

The discussion with George Lucas raises some eyebrows during the A.I. episode, when Cameron says so many movies depict the machines as bad guys, leading to Lucas stating that’s why he decided to depict robots as the good guys in “Star Wars” — the pair apparently sidestepping the fact that Lucas made three “Star Wars” films in which the good guys fought entire armies of evil robots.

Still, the conversations are fun to watch and the various TV and movie clips offer enough nostalgia that any viewer should find something to like.

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The bonus section includes extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver. These run about three to four minutes each.

Warner Pulls ‘Tenet’ From Theatrical Release Schedule

In another of unending blows to the theatrical business model, Warner Bros. has pulled director Christopher Nolan’s international espionage thriller, Tenet, from its oft-changed release slate. The studio has not announced a new release date. The movie, which had originally been scheduled for July 17, was pushed back to July 31, then Aug. 12 as coronavirus infections began to surge in parts of the country.

The movie, along with Disney’s live-action Mulan a week later, were supposed to jumpstart the exhibition business following its mid-March worldwide shutdown. But with infections up across the country, and tepid consumer response in China to theater re-openings, Warner is not treating Tenet like other box office titles.

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“Our goals throughout this process have been to ensure the highest odds of success for our films while also being ready to support our theater partners with new content as soon as they could safely reopen,” Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman, said in a statement. “We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from exhibitors and remain steadfast in our commitment to the theatrical experience around the world.”

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Emmerich said the pandemic continues to cause us to “re-evaluate our release dates.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom July 13 announced that all movie theaters in the state should remain closed. Warner said it is vacating release dates for its next two box office titles. The Conjuring 3, Warner’s most-successful horror franchise has been pushed back to June 4, 2021.

“We are not treating Tenet like a traditional global day-and-date release, and our upcoming marketing and distribution plans will reflect that,” Emmerich said.

‘James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction’ Coming to Disc July 28 From RLJE

The sci-fi documentary series “James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction” will come out on DVD and Blu-ray July 28 from AMC Networks’ RLJE Films.

The series originally aired on AMC Networks in 2018 as part of the AMC Visionaries series.

The show, an intimate look at science fiction’s roots, its futuristic vision and our fascination with its ideas, is hosted by Academy Award winner James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic). It features interviews with ‘A’-list storytellers, stars and others whose careers have defined the field of science fiction movies and television. Interviewees include Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), George Lucas (“Star Wars” franchise), Ridley Scott (The Martian, Blade Runner), Christopher Nolan (Tenet, Interstellar), Will Smith (Men in Black, I Am Legend), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator, Terminator) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard, The Sixth Sense).

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Bonus features include extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Scott, Nolan, Guillermo Del Toro and Schwarzenegger.

Warner Bros. Re-Releasing ‘Inception’ in Theaters July 17

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending science-fiction film Inception, Warner Bros. will re-release the movie in theaters July 17. It’s the same date Warner originally planned to debut Nolan’s latest movie, Tenet. That release — like most studio movies — has been delayed due to the ongoing shutdown of most movie theaters due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Written and directed by Nolan, who also produced the film with Emma Thomas, Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who steals information by infiltrating the subconscious of his targets. He is offered a chance to have his criminal history erased as payment for the implantation of another person’s idea into a target’s subconscious. The ensemble cast includes Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine.

The movie’s original release generated more than $832 million at the global box office.

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The special Inception theatrical event will also offer moviegoers unseen footage from Tenet, which will now debut worldwide on July 31. Consumers will also be given an exclusive preview of select films on Warner Bros.’ upcoming slate.

Warner Bros. Delays Theatrical ‘Tenet,’ ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Releases

Director Christopher Nolan’s international espionage thriller, Tenet, was supposed to usher back a sense of normalcy in the theatrical business with its debut on July 17, but the Warner Bros. release has been pushed back to July 31.

The studio didn’t give a reason for the delay, but observers say the slow reopening of theaters — and questions about how eager consumers will be to return — as the key factors. The studio also pushed back for the second time Wonder Woman 1984, from Aug. 14 to Oct. 2. The sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman was originally slated for June 5.

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“We’re especially thrilled, in this complex and rapidly changing environment, to be bringing Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, a global tentpole of jaw-dropping size, scope and scale, to theaters around the world on July 31,” Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group, said in a media statement. “It’s been longer than any of us could’ve imagined since we’ve seen a movie on the big screen.”

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Emmerich said the studio would be re-releasing Nolan’s mind-bending sci-fi thriller Inception in theaters July 17 in honor of the movie’s 10th anniversary.

“Over these last months we have been keeping Warner Bros. closely informed of our work towards reopening our theaters in accordance with governmental health and safety requirements, and we are looking forward to audiences enjoying ‘Tenet’ in our theaters all around the world on July 31,” the National Association of Theatre Owners said in a statement.

Whether Warner’s delays impact Disney’s planned July 24 theatrical launch of Mulan remains to be seen. ViacomCBS’s CEO Bob Bakish, on the companys recent fiscal call, said he hoped the theatrical business would be back to a new normal in time for the August release of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.

Analyst: Q2 Box Office Down 100%

When sales decline 100%, it can’t get much worse for a business. But that’s the reality facing movie exhibitors. Through May 21 of the second quarter, the box office is trending down 100% year-over-year as the industry remains shut down due to the coronavirus.

Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter expects “very minimal” box office revenue in the current quarter, with most domestic theaters likely remaining closed through June 30.

The first-quarter domestic box office ended down 25.4% $1.79 billion as most theaters didn’t shutter until March. The North American box office in 2020 is trending down 58.1% compared with 2019.

“We do not expect attendance levels to begin to normalize until the end of the year at the earliest,” Pachter wrote in a May 26 note.

The analyst says theaters and studios have some incentive to release new content before a return to normalcy, as a theater would be able to show a single film on all of its screens thereby allowing for social distancing while still providing the studio with the opportunity to drive box office revenue.

Director Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (Warner Bros.) is poised to be the first in line to take that risk, although Pachter doubts the international espionage thriller will be able to hold its current release date target of July 17.

“Our estimates are clearly subject to change given the fluidity of the release slate and the mood on social distancing as stay-at-home orders begin lifting across the country,” the analyst wrote.

He thinks it unlikely consumers will return to cinemas with any semblance of normalvy before a vaccine is widely distributed. Additionally, the dearth of newly produced content may negatively impact theatrical attendance in 2021, while streaming services will be competing at the highest levels for content to bolster their offerings in an extremely competitive environment.

There are now 68 films that have been moved or pulled from the release slate, worth an estimated $7.5 billion. Of these films, seven moved to a streaming platform, worth an estimated $358 million in box office dollars. Fifteen have yet to be rescheduled or slated for streaming, worth an additional $652 million in potential box office dollars.

“All 15 are likely to be moved to streaming platforms, in our view,” Pachter wrote. “When taken together, we expect the negative impact to 2020 domestic box office to be $3.1 billion, only partially offset by a positive impact to 2021 domestic box office of $1.5 billion.”

LG Touts Filmmaker Mode at CES

LG Electronics touted support for the UHD Alliance’s Filmmaker Mode Jan. 6 at CES with video testimonials by directors Chris Nolan and Christopher McQuarrie hailing the feature that brings the home viewing experience closer to the filmmakers’ intention.

“We’re proud to be among the first to embrace the UHD Alliance’s new Filmmaker Mode,” said Tim Alessi, senior director of product marketing at LG Electronics.

Current TVs use advanced video processing capabilities to offer consumers a broad range of options in viewing various types of content, ranging from sports to video games. Filmmaker Mode allows viewers to enjoy a more cinematic experience on their UHD TVs when watching movies by disabling all post-processing (e.g. motion smoothing, etc.) so the movie or television show is displayed as it was intended by the filmmaker, preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates.

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LG also showed a 65-inch, 20mm thick TV; its rollup OLED TV, which Alessi said would be introduced this year; and support for DolbyVision IQ.

In addition, the electronics company touted Nvidia G-Sync-compatible TVs that can play games in 4K with up to 120 Hz. Alessi noted that game playing capability on TVs is increasingly important to consumers.

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Warner Bros. Re-Releasing Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ Movies on Imax Screens

In honor of the 80th anniversary of the first published appearance of the Batman comic in May 1939, Warner Bros. March 13 began selling tickets to special Imax screenings for all three movies from director Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy featuring Christian Bale as the masked crusader.

Moviegoers who acquire tickets for all three films receive a lanyard and special “Dark Knight” Trilogy collectible.

Christopher Nolan directs Christian Bale and Tom Hardy in ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’

On March 30, the films — 2005’s Batman Begins, 2008’s The Dark Knight and 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises— will screen back-to-back at the Universal Cinema AMC in Los Angeles. During an interlude between the second and third films, Nolan will join the audience for a moderated Q&A discussion on the movies.

On April 13, the three films will screen at AMC Lincoln Square in New York and AMC Metreon in San Francisco, followed by Cinesphere Ontario Place, Toronto, and Imax Theatre at the Indiana State Museum, Ind., on April 20, each accompanied by the footage of Nolan’s Los Angeles appearance.

In all five cities, all three movies will be seen in the director’s preferred 70mm format, providing an all-encompassing moviegoing experience.

Nolan with The Dark Knight (with Heath Ledger as The Joker) was the first director to shoot action sequences of a major feature film with Imax cameras, revolutionizing the integration of Imax and standard formats. He utilized Imax cameras more extensively in The Dark Knight Rises.

Heath Ledger as The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight.’

“Christopher Nolan broke new ground with the ‘Dark Knight’ Trilogy, and this is a rare chance for today’s audiences to experience these extraordinary films as they were meant to be seen,” Jeff Goldstein, president, domestic distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, said in a statement. “To have the added privilege of hearing Chris’s insights firsthand makes this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Director Nolan Presented with DEG ‘Vanguard’ Award at Nov. 6 4K UHD Summit

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Christopher Nolan was presented with the first-ever DEG “Vanguard” award at the 4K UHD Summit Nov. 6 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The event was produced by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group and the UHD Alliance (photo gallery).

Presenting the award to Nolan was Ron Sanders, president, Worldwide Theatrical Distribution and president, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

“For those of you who’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with Chris, you know that whatever project he is involved with he doesn’t take it on unless he is fully committed — and I mean all in,” Sanders said. “The good news for all of us in this room is that Chris immediately got the potential for 4K.”

The DEG Vanguard Award is in recognition of Nolan’s place at the forefront of filmmakers using groundbreaking technology to deliver increased scale and resolution, enhanced color and immersive audio to film audiences both in cinemas and in the home theater environment.  The director, writer and producer most recently earned dual Academy Award nominations, for Best Director and Best Picture, for Dunkirk, which in July 2017 received the largest 70mm release in the last quarter century. His filmography also includes InterstellarInception, “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” The Prestige, and Memento, for which he received his first Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay. With the December 2017 release of the seven film “The Christopher Nolan Collection” on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray by Warner Bros., Nolan became the filmmaker with the largest number of films available in the most advanced home-based viewing format, according to the DEG.

Sanders noted the director’s commitment to preparing his films and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey for the new format.

“He agreed to oversee the remastering of his entire film library for 4K,” Sanders said. “It took months and months out of his schedule. It was during the release of Dunkirk, by the way. But he was really determined to deliver the best of what our format offers to consumers in the home, and as a result I think he’s become the world’s foremost filmmaking expert on 4K and how to use the technology to present films for the home screen.”

Nolan has been a longtime advocate of the best home viewing experience available to consumers.

“It really puts us in a position where we can get closer and closer to a theatrical print in the home,” Nolan said of 4K UHD with HDR.

He also said he was a “big fan of the 4K disc because it removes the uncertainties of streaming.”

“It’s fantastic for the filmmaker to have a physical media that eliminates the variabilities, the compression and so forth,” he said. “That’s the gold standard that streaming is going to have to reach.”

He noted his generation of filmmakers came up with access to home video, which informed their art.

“I’m really part of the first generation of filmmakers who grew up with home video in the form that we know today, starting with VHS, and the idea that you could have access to a film and you could go back and look at different parts of it and have a different kind of relationship with it,” Nolan said.

He said home video affected his filmmaking on several levels.

“My generation of filmmakers, who were starting out just as DVD was becoming the dominant format, I think were very influenced by our relationship with that new way of looking at films with chapter selection and random access,” he said. “I think we started thinking of films and owning films more like books in a way. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of us at the time, myself included, started exploring various different narrative structures. I think the things are very related. I think my experience with home video has always informed my filming both narratively and technically.”

Nolan hailed the industry for expanding film viewing.

“Thank you to all of you for all the great work you do in positioning filmmakers like myself to be able to present our work to wider and wider audiences,” he said.

The 4K Ultra HD Summit focused on advancements in 4K UHD technology, increasing affordability of the technology, and widening availability of content.

“It’s about the splendors of the UHD format and what it does in delivering an experience to consumers that is beyond anything that they’ve experienced prior to this point in time,” said Michael Fidler, president of the UHD Alliance, in opening the inaugural summit.

“We’re really excited and bullish about 4K, the full 4K ecosystem, the TVs, the device players, the discs and of course the digital 4K movies as well,” said Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of the DEG.

Bob Buchi

“4K UHD has really transformed the home viewing experience and clearly consumers are getting it,” said Bob Buchi, president, worldwide, Paramount Home Media Distribution. “Product sales are up 87% in comparison to the first three quarters of last year. There are now 42 million homes with a 4K UHD television, and in terms of content, there are now 392 titles available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc and 595 titles available on digital, so the numbers keep growing and for good reason.”

Buchi said Paramount, along with the other studios, is “really expanding the number of films from our library available on 4K UHD with HDR, including in our case, all of the films from the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise.”

The latest installment, Mission: Impossible — Fallout, debuts on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format Dec. 4.

“I can tell you, hands down, the best way to see it is on 4K will all of the bells and whistles,” he said.

The format also offers preservation capabilities, he noted.

“We’ve been using 4K to scan classic titles in our library for archival purposes,” he said. “In fact, Paramount has preserved over 1,000 films in 4K.”

That includes such classics as Grease, Nashville, Chinatown, To Catch a Thief and the original War of the Worlds, he said.

“I think the detail, the color and the light that the filmmakers left us from the original film elements have never been more vivid, and the creative genius from these filmmakers is really coming through,” Buchi said.

He said the 4K edition of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life shows the Oscar-winning snow effect, an innovation from more than 70 years ago, “with greater detail and sharpness thanks to the innovation of 4K.”

“The success of the format really helps us deliver the content that better represents each filmmaker’s original vision,” he said.

Citing Nolan’s contribution to 4K UHD, Buchi said, “We worked with him on Interstellar, and I can tell you there’s no one who’s been a bigger and better champion for optimizing the home viewing experience.”

‘Dark Knight’ Tops FandangoNow 4K Survey

The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan,topped a FandangoNow survey of more than 1,500 film fans with 4K Ultra HD TVs asking which streaming movies they say require 4K viewings.

Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: Ragnarok and Dunkirk, also directed by Nolan, were the next in line that fans said were a must see in the highest resolution possible, according to the FandangoNow survey.

According to the FandangoNow survey, more than 60% of respondents indicated they are more likely to watch a movie at home if it is available in 4K Ultra HD.

“Our 4K survey reveals that fans are still excited about experiencing The Dark Knight at home in the highest resolution and with the best sound available 10 years after the film’s release,” said Fandango managing editor Erik Davis in a statement. “Watching a movie in 4K just enhances the entire viewing experience exponentially, and it’s no wonder that audiences are navigating toward the films of Christopher Nolan, because he is one of the top filmmakers to fully embrace the technology in every way.”

Filmmaker Nolan, who directed five of the movies (in addition to The Dark Knight and Dunkirk, The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar and Inception) among the top 44 FandangoNow 4K titles, will be honored at the 4K Ultra HD Summit with the DEG Vanguard Award Nov. 6.

The full list of Top 44 4K films in the FandangoNow survey is:

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. Avengers: Infinity War
  3. Thor: Ragnarok
  4. Dunkirk
  5. The Avengers
  6. The Dark Knight Rises
  7. Black Panther
  8. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  10. Interstellar
  11. Mad Max: Fury Road
  12. Inception
  13. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  14. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  15. Saving Private Ryan
  16. Wonder Woman
  17. Jurassic World
  18. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  19. Deadpool 2
  20. Incredibles 2
  21. The Matrix
  22. Spider-Man: Homecomng
  23. The Martian
  24. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  25. Ready Player One
  26. Blade Runner 2049
  27. Life of Pi
  28. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  29. Deadpool
  30. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
  31. Logan
  32. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
  33. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  34. John Wick
  35. It
  36. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  37. Baby Driver
  38. The Incredibles
  39. The Fate of the Furious
  40. A Quiet Place
  41. The Fifth Element
  42. Arrival
  43. Atomic Blonde
  44. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle