Every July, hundreds of thousands of fans descend upon the city of San Diego for a four-day celebration of comics, sci-fi, popular arts fandom and (growingly) previews of mainstream television and film blockbusters. What is this spectacular nexus of nerds? Comic-Con International, of course! From ScriptPhD’s comprehensive past coverage, one can easily glean the diversity of events, guests and panels, with enormous throngs patiently queueing to see their favorites. But who are these fans? Where do they come from? What kinds of passions drive their journeys to Comic-Con from all over the world? And what microcosms are categorized under the general umbrella of fandom? Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Spurlock attempts to answer these questions by crafting the sweet, intimate, honest documentary-as-ethnography Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. Through the archetypes of five 2009 Comic-Con attendees, Spurlock guides us through the history of the Con, its growth (and the subsequent conflicts that this has engendered), and most importantly, the conclusion that underneath all of those Spider-Man and Klingon costumes, geeks really do come in all shapes, colors and sizes. For full ScriptPhD review, click “continue reading.”
“Don’t talk to anyone, don’t touch anyone.” The austere slogan of the new film Contagion mirrors the gripping subject matter of the latest addition to the pandemic disaster movie club. One of the most science-oriented films to be released in the last few years, Contagion follows the path of several scientists, public health workers, and ordinary citizens as a full-fledged pandemic breaks out from an unknown virus. It explores scientific, moral, social and ethical questions for how we would prepare as a modern society if such a tragedy ever struck us. Additionally, Contagion is a cinematic ode to the visual and technical wonders of modern science, on full display here, both in the storyline and the beatifully-designed sets and costumes. For a full ScriptPhD review, including information on the behind-the-scenes science consultants that worked with the film’s producers to create scientific realism, click “continue reading” below.
About a year ago, a little publicized, unheralded documentary named Mountaintop Removal (which ScriptPhD.com reviewed) attempted to deconstruct the environmentally devastating practice of the same name literally destroying the Appalachian geography of West Virginia’s coal river valley. Honest, yet modestly shot and produced, the small-scale documentary needed a Hollywood touch to resonate on a human level to advance its powerful cause. It got what it needed in The Last Mountain, a celebrated selection of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This important new documentary succeeds in both relaying the urgency of a destructive coal mining practice that is literally zoning in on one last undamaged mountain as well as forging a human connection with the townspeople battling to save it. Full ScriptPhD.com review under the “continue reading” cut.
I was recently watching Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to the Oscar-winning 1987 financial cautionary tale. In the middle of a movie that had nothing to do with science, the lead character started explaining the financial investment potential of a national research facility loosely based on the ultra-exclusive National Ignition Facility in Livermore, CA (which ScriptPhD.com was fortunate to visit and profile recently). The film did such an impressive job of explaining the laser technology being used in real life to harness endless quantities of energy from a molecular fusion reaction that it could have easily been lifted from a physics textbook. Translating, explaining and visually presenting complex science on film is not an easy task. It got us to thinking about some of the greatest science and technology moments of all time in film.
In no particular order, with the help of our readers and fans, here are ScriptPhD.com’s choices for the Top 10 gamechangers of science and/or technology cinematic content that was either revolutionary for its time, was smartly conceived and cinematically executed, or has bared relevance to later research advances.
How many times have you said to yourself, “If only I didn’t have to sleep.” Or “If only I tap into my brain’s full neuronal capacity, imagine the things I could do?” Such neurocognitive superpowers would seem to be the stuff of science fiction…for now. In the new film “Limitless,” these wishes unexpectedly come true for a struggling writer, but the results—and unexpected side effects—cause him to wonder whether it was all worth it. Sleek, stylish, sexy and well-crafted, “Limitless” is part scientific inquiry into the limits of expanding the pharmacopeia beyond current human capacities and part thriller to see if the main character who dares to try will get away with it. ScriptPhD.com’s full review of Limitless under the “continue reading” cut.
Imagine the end-of-the-world, fiery destruction of Armageddon and Deep Impact. Now ratchet up the action with the artillery of Saving Private Ryan and the greatest war movies you’ve ever seen. Add in a dash of sci-fi with highly evolved aliens—a hybrid of the metalloid Cylons of Battlestar Galactica and a gooier version of the extra-terrestrial from Alien. Top it off with some of the best computer generated imagery (CGI) of any recent film, and you have Battle: Los Angeles, Sony’s much-anticipated spring blockbuster that first caught our attention this summer at San Diego Comic-Con. ScriptPhD.com was fortunate to get a sneak peek this week in Los Angeles. Click “continue reading” for our complete review of Battle: Los Angeles.
So ya wanna work in showbiz, eh kid, but all you’ve got is an astrophysics degree and the glint of stars in your eyes? Even five years ago, such
a notion would have been unthinkable. Not only has sci-fi traditionally been regarded as a niche segment across all media markets, research into scientific accuracy and integrity, let alone in-house science advisors, were nonexistent. Today, with science content proliferating every year in mainstream film and television, and with sci-fi movies grossing better than ever at the box office (two of the biggest hits of the last six months were Inception and TRON: Legacy), careers for scientists in entertainment are more sought out than ever. ScriptPhD.com Editor/Creative Director Jovana J. Grbić and Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist/renowned television science advisor Kevin Grazier recently spoke at an Emory University career panel geared towards aspiring science advisors and consultants. We kick-start 2011 with podcasts of both talks. We hope you find inspiration, ideas, and that this year is one of immense success for all of our readers, collaborators and clients.
It has been 28 years since the release of the enormously groundbreaking science-fiction adventure Tron, the story of Kevin Flynn, a video game programmer that gets sucked into the virtual grid of the very game he created. As Flynn’s son, now cyber-reunited with his father, points out, decades of technology have bestowed us with cell phones, wi-fi, the internet, and even virtual dating. But one immutable fact stands the test of time—great sci-fi is great sci-fi. Without upstaging the original, TRON: Legacy manages a sleek, stylish, clever sequel utterly germane to the times we live in. ScriptPhD.com got treated to a preview screening in Hollywood this week. Our full review under the “continue reading” cut.
Fewer topics in contemporary science and technology policy have generated as much controversy or vociferous debate as global warming (more recently branded as climate change) and more importantly, how to mitigate its effects. Recent international treaties such as The Kyoto Protocol and conferences such as last December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen have largely paid lip service towards actionable change and technology aimed at eradicating the precursors and causes of global warming. In the middle of this stalemate is an increasingly hostile rhetoric that has bifurcated into two divergent, unyielding camps—either you believe climate change and greenhouse emissions are a fraud, period, or you believe the problem is so imminently dire that surely, the end of the world is nigh. This dichotomy was no more apparent than during last year’s ”Climategate” controversy, in which hacked emails leaked from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in England were interpreted, depending on which report you read, as scientific fraud and tampering or reinforcement for climate science. Perhaps it is time, as the eponymous title of our latest Editor’s Choice suggests, for us all to Cool It. An environmental film about 21st Century problems, and the modern solutions they necessitate, Cool It presents an unapologetic, practical approach towards global warming and the problems that eclipse it. It’s time we all listened. ScriptPhD.com continues our ongoing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” series with a review of this thought-provoking, conversation-starting film. After seeing a recent screening in Los Angeles, we are proud to give Cool It our blog’s rare highest honor—Editor’s Choice. Join the conversation now under the “continue reading” cut.
Greetings from sunny San Diego, everyone! ScriptPhD.com is in the absolute epicenter of sci-fi, comics and the illustrative arts: Comic-Con 2010. Armed with a press pass, our wonderful correspondent Brian Stempien of Lefty Films, and an industrial-sized vat of Purell, we are proud to bring you four-day coverage that spans the nexus of sci-fi, graphic arts, design, technology, film, television, and of course, the forum that started it all, comics. Day 1 coverage includes an array of panels covering the origins that drive an artist’s imagination, the future of cultural arts in a digital age, the future of space exploration with Iron Man’s Stark Industries as a model, good sci-fi, bad sci-fi, sci-fi that will change your life, and a conversation with two leading visionaries of the sci-fi genre, J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon. ScriptPhD.com also got to chat with the stars and producers of our favorite forensics show, Dexter. Plus, we have a little secret teaser interview with a certain MythBusters star that we’ve been teasing for a good while now! As we always do at Comic-Con, we pick our Costume of the Day as part of our compete Day 1 coverage, under the “continue reading” cut.