According to an article in the March 28 Hollywood Reporter, the BBC’s crime-slash-science fiction drama, Life on Mars will be re-made for the U.S. ABC television network.

The story revolves around a modern-day detective who somehow gets transported back in time to the early 1970s. The BBC ran an 8-episode series earlier this year to critical and audience acclaim in the UK.

ABC has hired David E. Kelly (Boston Legal, The Practice, Ally McBeal) to develop the American version of Mars. It is being developed for the 2007-2008 season.

Underworld Evolution

9 out of 10
V for Vendetta (2005)
NO SPOILERS

V for Vendetta is a science fiction film made by the people who brought us The Matrix series and is based on the 1982 to 1985 graphic novels (long-form limited-run comics targeted to an adult audience) written by Alan Moore with the art of David Lloyd.

The world that this story inhabits is an alternate future United Kingdom. A series of events, including war and a plague-like disease has crippled most of the world, but miraculously left Great Britain largely untouched. Well, except for the fact that the country is now run as a fascist state that is a curious cross between Hitler Germany and Orwell’s Big Brother.

The basics: a masked man with a mission to overthrow an oppressive government befriends a scared nobody of a girl who is stronger than she realizes.

Trivia: This release of this 2005 film was postponed six months because of the London subway bombing.

Dystopia of V

Science fiction has a long tradition of showing dystopic futures where technology has been abused and society has suffered. Some of the best science fiction books and films such as Blade Runner, The Matrix, The Terminator, Alien, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale and Brave New World are set in dystopian futures. As a dystopic warning film, this movie works.

To understand the world of V, one must look at the time in which the story was written. The early 1980s was the height of the worldwide AIDS panic. Popular culture was dominated by extremes; either the rampant commercialism of Dynasty and Dallas or the nihilistic influences of such films as The Day After and The Hunger or musical artists as Joy Division and the Sex Pistols.

With that in mind, the producers attempted to update the story for today’s audiences. They partially succeed. But at it essence, V for Vendetta is a child of the 1980s with all of its neuroses intact.

Too bad it took almost 25 years for film technology to catch up and be able to do this classic science fiction story justice.

The art (and politics) of V

Back when I was in college – which coincidentally was in the 1980s, a professor challenged me and my fellow students to come up with one sentence that defined the difference between what is – and is not – art.

It took us more than one class period, but eventually we came up with a workable answer:

Art is the work product of a person that evokes an emotion in the audience whether they enjoy it or not.

Now, I’ve later learned that that definition of “art” doesn’t apply 100% of the time. But in the case of V for Vendetta, it does.

This movie is disturbing. It raises issues an audience going to a sci-fi action film will not be expecting. It asks disturbing questions of the audience. It deals frankly with issues and uncomfortable themes seemingly ripped from today’s headlines such as the elimination of gay rights, the use of religion as a shield for violence and supposedly-neutral television news organizations spouting partisan rhetoric.

I firmly believe that rabid conservatives will hate this film. They will probably mistakenly see it as a leftist attack on George W. Bush and his allies in Europe. That is naive being that the story was conceived in the early 1980s when the current President was busy running the Arbusto oil and gas exploration company in Texas.

Likewise, I firmly believe rabid leftists also will find much to hate in this film. Lines such as “Governments should be afraid of the people” and ruminations on the lack of an armed general public are enough to put a chill in the heart of most dyed-in-the-wool liberals.

This is because at its core, V for Vendetta is neither liberal or conservative – it is a film with a Libertarian ideal. Yes, Libertarian with a capital “L.”

The acting in V

Natalie Portman (Star Wars) as “Evey” and Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire, FearDotCom) as “Finch” carry this film. It is through their eyes that the audience discovers both the depths of fear and the true consequences of life in a totalitarian society.

Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) provides the voice of V, the mysterious masked man that tries to overthrow the government. Somehow he pulls off what may seem impossible, making a sympathetic and tragic character of a man in a mask that looks like a humorous cross between Batman‘s Joker and the Phantom of the Opera.


RATINGS
Overall: 9 out of 10
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Science Fiction
Sex: Minimal adult situations
Violence: Bloody deaths, attempted rape
Special Effects: Outstanding

CAST
Natalie Portman … Evey
Hugo Weaving … V
Stephen Rea … Finch
Stephen Fry … Deitrich
John Hurt … Adam Sutler
Rupert Graves … Dominic

When news broke that Battlestar Galactica’s third season premiere was bumped back to October from Sci Fi Channel’s traditional July kickoff, the fan rumor mill started churning.

Perhaps the most interesting theory, as reported on Digg.com, is that NBC wants to move Battlestar Galactica to the Peacock network instead of Sci Fi. That move seems highly unlikely.

But others, including the SyFy Portal blog, is that NBC will plug in BSG reruns into its otherwise dead-on-arrival summer schedule – possibly on Saturday nights – in order to promote the series’ return to Sci Fi with new episodes in October.

Perhaps Emmy voters may notice the outstanding acting on Battlestar Galactica, which is seen by many critics as the best drama show on television.

A little more than two months after SCIFI.com closed down its online science fiction portal, claiming the site was not a viable business, the void is partially being filled.

Australia’s COSMOS magazine of science, which launched in 2005, is putting all of its back issue content online – including the magazine’s science fiction.

Stories include short works by Joe Haldeman, Andrew Sullivan, Michael McNeil, Robert Hood, Paul Di Filippo, Charlie Stross and Gregory Benford.

Original art illustrations include work by Justin Randall, Jim Tsinganos, Dan Blomberg, Ken Wong, and Nigel Buchanan.

The website is: http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/sf

Last week, producers and the TV network confirmed that long-running WB series Charmed will not be back for a ninth season. This came a few weeks after three of the series four leads said regardless of renewal, they had no intention of returning for a new season.

Although Charmed will be no more after the series finale in May, it should be noted that as of its final episode, Charmed will enter the television history books as one of the longest-running primetime weekly series ever (genre or not).

It will end its run at 178 episodes. That will have Charmed tied as the 86th longest-running weekly TV series with Star Trek: The Next Generation (along with Barnaby Jones and Laverne & Shirley).

Charmed‘s final tally also will be more episodes than such TV classics as Family Ties (176 eps), Three’s Company (172 eps), Mary Tyler Moore (168 eps), Hogan’s Heroes (168 eps), Barney Miller (167 eps) and Marcus Welby MD (170 eps).

Additionally, Charmed will be one episode short of matching what could be the best-known and loved TV series of all time, I Love Lucy (179 eps).

Underworld Evolution

5 out of 10
Ultraviolet (2006)
NO SPOILERS

If you’ve been dying for the first big-budget live-action anime film, the good news is your wait is over. The bad news is that it comes in the form of Ultraviolet, the new wire-fu sci-fi flick from Sony’s Screen Gems genre studio.

The plot revolves around a concept that sometime in the future, scientists will stumble upon an ancient disease (one for human vampirism) and modify it in hopes of creating a super soldier with enhanced, speed, strength, intelligence and healing ability. Things go awry and the virus mutates to become very infectious. Society devolves into a war to save itself, led by a pseudo-religious inquisition bent on the extermination of the infected.

(No that wasn’t a spoiler because it is never fully explained in the film, although an attempt is made over the beginning credits.)

The film stars Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil, The Fifth Element) as Violet, William Fichtner (Invasion, Armageddon) as Garth, Cameron Bright (Stargate: SG1, The Butterfly Effect) as Six and Nick Chinlund (The Chronicles of Riddick, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Files) as Daxus.

A few things work very well in this film. A true fan of free-form plot anime or wire-fu (Matrix, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) films will probably thoroughly enjoy this film. The special effects are stunning, the camera shots are gorgeous, and the feel is very … Japanese.

As a semi-silent film or a work of visual art, this film succeeds.

But alas, films in the American action-adventure tradition tell a story with a clear beginning, a clear middle and an end that resolves something. Ultraviolet lacks these conventions. Now, for an audience that doesn’t care, that can be a good thing.

But, for an audience who wishes to find a good hour-and-a-half of swashbuckling fun, this lack of clearly defined story is not good at all. For the vast majority of the American film-going public, Ultraviolet will probably be seen as boring or confusing. The writers and director fail to explain to the audience why they should care if the main character lives or dies.

Otherwise it is a gorgeous, dreamlike and exciting film destined for cult status.

But as a mainstream film, something is missing – something big.

After watching Ultraviolet, I left the theatre with a definite feeling that I had witnessed a film with much potential that just didn’t live up to its promise. In essence, there was no there there … to borrow Gertrude Stein’s famous quote.


RATINGS
Overall: 5 out of 10
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre:Science Fiction
Sex: Minimal.
Violence: Fantasy violence.
Special Effects: Good.

CAST
Milla Jovovich … Violet
Cameron Bright … Six
Nick Chinlund … Daxus
William Fichtner … Garth

For: Fandominion

CBS’s Friday night psychic series Ghost Whisperer will be returning for another year, according to a press release by the network and TV industry reports.

The series is one of only three new shows on CBS to be picked up for a second season.

Although the show will be returning, CBS did not confirm it will be keeping its Friday 8/7c p.m. time slot.