Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Edge of Tomorrow" (or "Live Die Repeat") plays the "time reset" game; fiasco over "The Interview" could pose significant issue for all "nuisance" media projects

Edge of Tomorrow”, (aka “Live Die Repeat”) is indeed a summer movie (from May 2014), directed by Doug Liman, based on the “light novel”, “All You Need Is Kill” by Horoshi Sakurazaka.
There is a premise which recalls another movie, “Source Code”, which I reviewed on my “cf” blog April 2 2011.  Another more distantly related film is “Vantage Point” on 2008.
Tom Cruise Mapother plays US Major William Cage, who is “detailed” to fight an alien attack in Europe.  The aliens are “colony” organisms with an “Omega” brain and many layers of tentacles, who can “reset time” (much as in “Source Code”).  Cage fights the aliens in multiple battles, getting “killed” each time but waking up in the same spot, prodded by his bosses for battle again, having learned more about the aliens’ weaknesses.  Emily Blunt joins in as Sgt. Rita.  There’s no problem with women in combat. 

I’ve never been particularly impressed by time-travel scenarios.  Generally, they confound logic, But I’ve actually proposed something a little like this for my own early novel “The Proles” (discussion here on my Wordpress blogs )  . 

There’s another idea that’s important here:  Cage doesn’t want to risk his own butt by going into combat himself.  He wants “proles” to be cannon fodder in his stead.  This sounds like the moral debate we had in the 1960s over the draft and student deferments.  He also doesn’t believe he has to report to European authorities. The script has lines like "the battlefield is redemptive" and that warriors are the most important people on the planet.  
The alien attack seems to cover Eurasia (including China and Russia) but not North America.  It would be interesting to dramatize what really would happen in the first days after public alien contact.  I’m working on it.

The film has a visually striking climax a the Louvre (I visited it once, in 2001).

Don’t confuse the film with “The Day After Tomorrow” or the expired soap opera “Search for Tomorrow”.
The official site is here    This is a typical collaboration of Warner Brothers and Australian production company Village Roadshow. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Louvre picture 
There’s another big movie story right now – the Sony hack.  This concerns demands that Sony not release “The Interview” (directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, with James Franco) in which two journalists, to be played by Rogen and Franco, are “stumped” by the CIA into an assassination plot against the “emperor” of North Korea.  The actual evidence tends suggest that the malware (and threats) perhaps did not come from the DPRK, but from someone with inside knowledge of Sony (although this could be a party overseas, like in China, familiar with Sony and "hired" by DPRK).  The threat "escalated" today and has been reported as physical, trying to intimidate Sony into not allowing the film to be shown in the US, at least in theaters, maybe not at all.  There will surely be much more news on this matter quickly.  The FBI and DHS might not have shared all they know yet with the media.  The most balanced account so far seems to be on Vox, which leads to a detailed link story by Timothy B. Lee. 
What is so disturbing about the matter is the psychology of it.  The idea that a foreign element would interfere with private business and activities of private citizens for a reason that sounds facetious and silly is indeed disturbing.  Imagine intimidation of studios over other movies, of book publishers over certain books, or of Internet hosts over certain politically motivated sites by specific UGC users or customers.  (The later idea of "nuisance content" -- not spam -- occurs in at least three of my other screenplay plots, most notably, “69 Minutes to Titan”).  The attention is on movie theaters right now, but that can always change with the next incident.  This whole matter also reminds one of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad Cartoon Controversy in Denmark in 2005, and the assassination of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh for the short film "Submission" (2004).  And remember Salman Rushdie and "Satanic Verses".  At the time, publishers stood up for freedom of speech from foreign threats. 
There is also the issue of when “fiction” in a film or book is taken as a representation of likely future fact – that is, a possible threat (as in the SCOTUS "Elonis" case, discussed on my main blog Dec. 1, what I call the "implicit content problem").  I talked about that in the review of “Blackbird”, and a parallel experience with my own script., “The Sub” (as now embedded in my layered screenplay "Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted", which really starts out as a kind of "Interview" and which, ironically has its own "time slice" concept).  As far as “threats” go, talk is cheap.  Any disenchanted person can make something up.  But, there’s always the real-world fact that anyone who says certain things at an airport will indeed be arrested. 
The New York Times has a more sobering story (by Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes) Tuesday night    The Wall Street Journal has a similar account (Ben Fritz, Dannny Yadron and Erich Scwartel) here.   All of this point to the idea that in an asymmetric world, the “disenfranchised” can try to interfere with the lives of ordinary Americans by making it appear that the “system” will no longer work for them.  I know from my young adult days, with contact with the radical Left, how strident the demand to “walk in the shoes of others” can become.  But, then, again, the leadership of the DPRK isn’t “disenfranchised” – its people are.  Others, though, can try to exploit this. 

As if all this weren't enough. there is a strong 1998 Australian film "The Interview" by Craig Monahan (Pointblank and Cinema Guild), where a detective and suspect (Hugo Weaving) duel verbally in isolation. I saw this at a film festival in the Twin Cities that spring.  

Remember, extraterrestrials and aliens still don’t care!

Update: evening, Dec. 17

Sadly, Sony is reported to have given in to the "heckler's veto" by North Korea, and for now has no plans to release the film "The Interview".  Maybe they will change their minds when things calm down.

The FBI is reported to have connected North Korea as having initiated the attacks and threats, as in this Fox story.  More formal announcements may be made Thursday.  The Obama administration had apparently "prescreened" the film in the early fall.

I see that I had reviewed "Team America: World Police, Uncensored and Unrated" (2004, Paramount, Trey Parker), animated, back on my older "doaskdotell.com", on a page where it is paired with "Southpark: Bigger, Longer and Uncut", complete with "blaming Canada", the USO, Big Gay Al, and libertarian support for personal responsibility.

Michael Moore says that "Fahrenheit 9/11" caused threats, and the company and theaters just hired more security.

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post writes a ballsy analysis of the idea that "The Interview", however very silly, may be more "political" than we admit. Of course, the DPRK fears that copies o the film would leak into the country and get seen by "ordinary people."

Update: Morning, Dec. 19

George Clooney has an "interview" on Deadline here. He discusses a petition that others in Hollywood would not sign.

CNN  says that early Friday morning Sony executives received another message late Dec. 19 saying "you did the right thing" and that no further damage would occur if Sony behaves.  Really?

Update: Dec. 23 

Sony has agreed to a limited release Christmas Day to standalone independent theaters.  CNN has a story here, with a list of theaters, including the Alamo Drafthouse in Loudoun County, VA.  I don't see the West End Cinema in Washington yet, but the owner had said that his theater would never give in to bullying, so I suspect it may show up there soon.  It would seem likely that shows will sell out online quickly, and that additional police will be on hand.  Moviegoers on Christmas Day will have to weigh other films that are, frankly, more "important" socially, like "Selma" and "Unbroken". I'll review the Seth Rogen comedy when I have seen it on a separate posting.

Update: Dec. 24.

The partial list of theaters is here. West End Cinema in Washington DC has an entry here.  The film can be rented on YouTube for $5.99 as of now, but I'm not sure if there are problems with huge sudden demand.  I will next discuss this film when I have time to see it.  Frankly, there are a few others, for artistic reasons and my own schedule, in front of it.  

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