MT VOID 08/14/98 (Vol. 17, Number 7)

MT VOID 08/14/98 (Vol. 17, Number 7)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 08/14/98 -- Vol. 17, No. 7

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-447-3652 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.

MT Chair/Librarian:
       Mark Leeper   MT 3E-433  732-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  732-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  732-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
       Rob Mitchell  MT 2E-537  732-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  732-957-2070
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URL of the week: For all the old-time book collectors among us, the story of the "Armed Services Editions," including pictures. [-ecl]

Diets: Diets go and come, but the girth abides. [-mrl]

Hugo Winners: This year's Hugo winners are:

          Best Novel: FOREVER PEACE by Joe Haldeman
          Best Novella: "Where Angels Fear To Tread" by Allen
               Steele (ASIMOV'S, October-November 1997)
          Best Novelette: "We Will Drink A Fish Together"
               by Bill Johnson (ASIMOV'S May 1997)
          Best Short Story: "The 43 Antarean Dynasties"
               by Mike Resnick (ASIMOV'S December 1997)
          Best Related Book: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FANTASY,
               edited by John Clute & John Grant
          Best Dramatic Presentation: CONTACT
          Best Professional Editor: Gardner Dozois
          Best Professional Artist: Bob Eggleton
          Best Semiprozine: LOCUS, edited by Charles N. Brown
          Best Fanzine: MIMOSA, edited by Nicki & Richard Lynch
          Best Fan Writer: Dave Langford
          Best Fan Artist: Joe Mayhew
          John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction
               Writer of 1996-1997: Mary Doria Russell

Upcoming Films (a film report by Mark R. Leeper):

This year the film trailers at the World Science Fiction Convention were about as lackluster as I can remember. There is not even one film that I can say holds a strong attraction for me. This does not mean that all the films I saw trailers for will be bad. Last year I saw little in the trailer for GATTACA that made me want to see the film. The film could have been intelligent or just a shrill dystopic film based on what I could tell from the trailer. The film proved to be downbeat in style but undeniably it was an intelligent piece of science fiction. But the films this year are big on violence and really look weak on ideas. It is hard to be very enthusiastic about these films. Nothing looks very original. The films that seem the most promising are PLEASANTVILLE and FREE ENTERPRISE.

FARSCAPE is one of two TV projects planned by Jim Henson Studios for Saturday mornings. It is a science fiction series taking place in space. The visuals look fairly nice, but it is hard to tell much beyond that. There seem to be a lot of spacecraft being designed and a lot of different alien puppets. The sort of alien faces I was seeing reminded me a lot of Lou Gossett's makeup in ENEMY MINE, though they were mostly activated by animatronics rather than mask. Most seem to be being done full-scale. What I saw was not a trailer but a short production film done to the music from DARK CRYSTAL.

BRATS OF THE LOST NEBULA, the other Henson, looked almost identical. It would have been hard to tell the two apart except the figures looked a little cuter and more doll-like. This could be a children's program where FARSCAPE looked more adult.

SINBAD AND THE WELL OF MISTS is a computer-animated film using techniques like we saw in TOY STORY, except that it does have animated humans. Pixar does not want to do humans just yet, trying to improve the quality of the portrayal. So this is not from Pixar and actually is being made by an (Asian) Indian company. We cannot tell much of the plot, but we do see a scene of Sinbad fighting a giant spider. Voices will be done by people like Leonard Nimoy, Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davis, and Brendan Fraser.

A VERY BAD THING is not a fantasy film at all but a black comedy about some young people who it looks like are arranging a bachelor party. They arrange for a prostitute. Something goes wrong, the prostitute is killed and her body is left in a desert. Hard to tell what the plot is, but it involves trying to hide the crime, making matters much worse. Starring is Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz.

VIRUS, directed by John Bruno, was covered last year and is still in production by Gale Anne Hurd, who produces James Cameron's action films. The main characters are on a tugboat lost after a typhoon. They find a Russian boat that is empty like the Marie Celeste. What happened to the crew? They had downloaded a transmission from the Mir Space Station and with it came an electronic lifeform. The alien makes the computer create monsters out of metal and out of people (somewhat Borg-like) or insect-like fusions of metal and people. Jamie Lee Curtis stars (as well as Donald Sutherland). Curtis calls this a "sci- fi summer movie." That sounds pretty accurate to me. The action looks a lot like that of ALIEN and is based on a comic book. The alien lifeform considers human to be a virus that needs to be destroying with razor-edged robots. Having the aliens so misunderstand and misuse the concept of what a virus is is a bit like having Dracula haunting the night with his pants unzipped. I would like to think a human is a little more complex than a virus. The aliens are really blowing the air of awe and mystery.

Blade, from the film BLADE, is a half-human, half-vampire, and a nasty guy to meet in the dark. (These action hero guys always have names like Blade or Shaft that reek of violence. Why do we never get an action hero with a name like Tubbs or Applebaum? Doesn't anything exciting ever happen to an Applebaum?) In any case Blade is what results when a vampire hits on a pregnant woman. You get a vampire with martial arts skills who has no problem with daylight (and who has a cornball name like Blade). The story has Blade facing a Mafia-like cadre of vampires who claim to own the world. The publicity is full of blood, swords, guns, and special effects. Not surprisingly this story is also based on comic book. In fact it is a Stan Lee comic. The film has Wesley Snipes in the title role and features Kris Kristofferson. Just from the ad I learned vampires are killed by hollow point garlic filled silver bullets. Now there are a lot of different vampire legends if you read Montague Summers, but in the generally accepted cinematic canon garlic is only an irritant for vampires, like citron candles for mosquitoes. And silver is for werewolves. In any case this looks like a big bloody comic book for the screen with far more style than substance. The film has a big, and I am sure unacknowledged, debt to the Richard Matheson novel I AM LEGEND.

Earlier we talked about the SINBAD movie that looked like Pixar animation. The genuine Pixar film coming out is called A BUG'S LIFE. This is somewhat like another upcoming film, ANTS, whose trailer is currently running in theaters. The A BUG'S LIFE trailer did not give much plot, but smaller bugs are endangered and will get larger bugs to defend them. It is hardly an exciting trailer without more information. This film seems to owe a debt to commercials for Raid.

The Wachowski Brothers made BOUND, a very nice modest little film, almost a stage-play on film. It really stood out for its simplicity and its good script. The film was unusual and caught the public attention. So what kind of unique film are they going to follow it with? Of course, a violent action sci-fi movie, THE MATRIX. The film is set in Australia and has lots of martial arts and gunplay. The Wachowski Brothers are very proud of their Hong Kong style action. As the producers proudly announce, the second biggest expense on the film is medical, that is how good the action is. The story is about something taking place in the film's future as told in the film's present. Got that? It has something to do with everybody in the world in a computer-generated virtual reality called The Matrix. THE MATRIX stars Laurence Fishburne, Keanu Reeves, and Karen Anne Moss. The film seems to be a lot of violence, martial arts, and special effects. But it is the degree of intelligence of the script that for me will be the real determinant of THE MATRIX.

URBAN LEGEND is a dead-teenager film about a killer who makes Urban Legends come true. Flash your lights at him and he follows you home and kills you. Or he harasses you by putting your cat in the microwave. Ask him for his cookie recipe and he charges you $500. You know, that sort of thing. Richard Englund plays a professor of urban legends. Is that really an academic field these days, or do you also need a Masters Degree in Frisbee-throwing? This film is from the same people who brought you I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER which won the hearts of American by introducing their latest fun- villain "the Man with the Hook."

The presentation also had a trailer for I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (but somehow I've misplaced your address). In the ad the Man with the Hook is still called the "Man with the Hook" so evidently you never find out who he was in the first film, removing the only possible reason I might subject myself to the first film. What is more since they have given the man a sort of permanent sounding name, I am sure his identity will never be revealed in any of the films. That could be wrong, but if they don't have a satisfying conclusion in the first film, why should I expect any of their films will come to a satisfying conclusion?

From Warner Brothers comes WRONGFULLY ACCUSED. This stars Leslie Nielsen in a satire of the film THE FUGITIVE in the style of THE NAKED GUN. Richard Crenna plays the policeman stalking Nielsen. The gags in the trailer were not particularly funny to me, but that is all very subjective.

HOME FRIES has possibilities, but it is hard to tell. It is a romantic film about young people who work at a fast food hamburger restaurant. It stars Drew Barrymore and Jake Busey, who played a dangerous fanatic in CONTACT.

From Bryan Singer, the director of THE USUAL SUSPECTS comes APT PUPIL, based on a story by Stephen King. This is the same trailer that has been in theaters for a while. Apparently a young teenager, played by Brad Renfro, discovers that an elderly man in his neighborhood is a Nazi war criminal. What is more as a reminder of the good old days the Nazi has something really n*a*s*t*y in the basement. That is the bad news. The good news is that Ian McKellan plays the Nazi. The rest of the film may or may not be trash, but I can tell you right now that Ian McKellan will be a joy to watch. You may remember McKellan from his really great adaptation of RICHARD III.

Next comes a film that looks entirely too much like BLADE. John Carpenter has made his own vampire film, VAMPIRES based on the novel VAMPIRE$ by John Steakley. Now we all know that the monarch of all vampires is usually Dracula. Steakley has chosen to invent his own alpha vampire. (Nothing wrong with that.) This is supposed to be the most adept vampire and the source of all other vampires. He is sort of the vampires' zero case. Apparently he is a former priest and his vampirism was an invention of the Vatican in sort of religious plot. (There is a problem here since vampire legends go back to ancient Greece and predate the Vatican. But historically the Church really did exploit the fear of vampires claiming that Catholic symbols like the cross and the host was protection against vampires. All is fair in the battle to win souls, I guess.) The best feature of the film seems to be James Woods as a famous vampire hunter. Woods is a lot like Jack Nicholson. He may not have much range as an actor, but he has one screen persona that he plays superbly well. This film may be worth seeing just for his performance. So we an extremely violent vampire film with James Woods as a legendary vampire hunter and he is trying to destroy the alpha vampire while looking for some mysterious McGuffin called the "Black Cross." The king of vampires knows what the Black Cross is and wants to get it first. The race isn't pleasant. These vampires are not just allergic to sunlight, they explode in flames. I don't expect JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES to be great, but it has a really good shot at being better than BLADE.

By the time this article is published film critics will have already reviewed THE AVENGERS. The ad we saw was much like the one that has been playing in theaters for months. The story does look like it is the sort of thing might have been done on the Avengers during the Emma Peel period. (The series always had Steed and some attractive female agent. Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale was an early partner in Britain. Later the series featured Diana Rigg as Emma Peel who is probably the best remembered partner.) Even the dialogue of the new film sounds like what Patrick McNee and Diana Rigg would have said. Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman seem well cast to recreate these characters. Sean Connery will make a good villain as a mad Scotsman who controls the weather. The trailer makes the film look like a promising revival, but I understand that there are serious doubts about the final film. I am told that critics are not being allowed to see the finished film before it is released. That generally means that the distributor itself thinks the word-of- mouth is going to be bad.

PLEASANTVILLE had possibilities to be a good. In the story one of the most popular television programs is reruns of a 1950s comedy called "Pleasantville." (They seem to have modeled it on different comedies, perhaps it is part Andy Griffith but mostly on "Father Knows Best." That latter series also provides the music for Pleasantville show. Bill Macy and Nancy Allen are the parents on Pleasantville.) I take it that one teenager just loves the banal show and his sister does not. Fighting over the remote control they fall into the TV set, and into the monochrome world of Pleasantville. They have to try to act natural in this world of the 50s. (Didn't I see this in BACK TO THE FUTURE?) Also there is something about their presence that is bringing color to the town... literally. Starting with one red rose in their black and white yard, the liberating effects of color are coming to Pleasantville. Jeff Daniels stars as one of the residents of the town in a script that plays with visual entertainment media like his THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO.

In RUSH HOUR the daughter of an important Chinese-American man is kidnapped. A super-screw-up cop, played by black comic Chris Tucker, is assigned to the case. After he makes a real mess of things the victim's father arranges for a special policeman to be brought to America from Hong Kong to be put on the case. It turns out to be a martial arts expert played by Jackie Chan. So basically we have a buddy picture with Chan and Tucker.

ENEMY OF THE STATE, a Tony Scott film produced by Jerry "ARMAGEDDON" Bruckheimer, looks like a case history in what has gone wrong with the political thriller the past several years. In ENEMY OF THE STATE Will Smith plays an ordinary man who has unknowingly been passed information the US Government wants kept secret. The trailer doesn't say it but the person who passed Smith the information apparently has been killed in some way that proves to the audience how powerful and implacable the government is. Now they have satellite cameras and super-scientific gizmos dedicated to finding Will Smith and killing him. Government representative Gene Hackman follows Smith along and tells him encouraging things like "If you live another day I'll be very impressed." Will Smith plays Robert Redford and Gene Hackman plays Faye Dunaway. Compare this film to SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, which gets by with no explosions and one subdued chase. In those days you could do that if you had characters and plot. And it worked in black and white.

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG is obviously a remake of the 1949 film of the same title. The original film showed off the special effects talents of both Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen, the first and second generation masters of stop-motion animation. The story here is of a very large tame gorilla from Africa to Hollywood where he clearly is out of place. Through obviously mishandling he becomes dangerous, but proves to really be decent in much the way a human is or can fail to be decent. The film generated some good will toward gorillas that two or three years later was destroyed by GORILLA AT LARGE and similar films. The original film did not offer adults much besides an opportunity of appreciating of the special effects. The remake looks to be much the same. Curiously, the host said something about Rick Baker working on the film. I assume that was a joke that nobody noticed. I hope. Rick Baker is a supremely good makeup man. He also is an ape actor using his own makeup. He played the title role in the remake of KING KONG. But I doubt Baker worked on this film since the gorilla clearly is not a man in a suit.

Christopher Lloyd is MY FAVORITE MARTIAN based on the TV situation comedy. There is no plot obvious. There are a lot of special effects in the trailer reminiscent of THE MASK and FLUBBER. Don't expect any awards to go to this one.

No trailer, just an announcement. THE 13TH WARRIOR will be based on Michael Crichton's novel EATERS OF THE DEAD. THE WILD, WILD WEST will have Will Smith as James West, Kevin Kline as Artemus Gordon, and Kenneth Brannah as Dr. Arliss Loveless.

In PRACTICAL MAGIC Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are sisters and modern day descendants of a witch. Bullock wants to keep her talents a secret. Kidman wants to make the most of all her talents, magical and sexual. Somehow this involves them in a killing and someone gets buried in the yard. Aidan Quinn is a policemen who investigates. Eventually the Bullock character decides not to hide what she is.

FREE ENTERPRISE looks to be one more film expanded from a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit. Two friends, one approaching 30, are absolutely life-long fanatic STAR TREK fans and not much else. One is depressed to be turning 30, seeing it in images from LOGAN'S RUN. Then they run into their hero William Shatner. Shatner is depressed to see that they are letting life pass them by as they worship the TV series and its icons. He decides to counsel them on how to get a life and somehow he becomes their mentor, a lot like Bogart's ghost or whatever does for Woody Allan in PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM. The hitch is that not all of his advice is good. There are some possibilities but I suspect there will not be a lot good done with the concept. The fact that it seems to be inspired by a Saturday Night Live skit gives me an uneasy feeling.

Richard Matheson is a fine writer and the word that a new film coming out is an adaptation of one of his novels should be good news. However, the new film is WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, the only piece of writing from Matheson I have ever hated. It is absolutely the most maudlin treacle. A man dies and goes to heaven where he discovers it is a wonderful, spiffy, beautiful place. The one problem is that he pines for his wife who pines for him. His spirit returns to Earth to be near enough to touch his loved one. How do you think it all ends? At the time I read the novel I assumed it was just something Matheson needed to get out of his system, perhaps this was how a consummate writer dealt with the loss of a loved one. A good director might be able to do something marvelous with this, like making it watchable. In this case the director is Vincent Ward, who previously did NAVIGATOR and MAP OF THE HUMAN HEART. The film has a lot of special effects and a lot of super-saturated color. Robin Williams stars and I will have to be convinced that this film can rise above the bunch of perfumed posies that the book is. The publicist, who frequently can be depended upon says that this was the best film he has seen this year, but bring handkerchiefs because you will cry. The last film the publicists at the convention really praised like that (I am not sure it was the same publicist) was L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. I loved L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. So I will keep an open mind. The film also features Annabella Sciorra, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Max von Sydow.

Of the films represented here, I am picking PLEASANTVILLE as being the one most worth seeing. Talking to people they seem to think I should add FREE ENTERPRISE to my list, but I am unconvinced. [- mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

Quote of the Week:

     Bourgeois morality is largely a system of making
     cheap virtues a cloak for expensive vices.
                                   -- George Bernard Shaw