Imagination Connoisseurs are have concerns about the state of creativity – as well they should. It’s what interests them most. So what can be done about it? 

Will smaller production budgets push filmmakers to be more creative?

Hi Rob and the PGS,

Again thank you for answering my letter on studios not taking risks.

You have stated that with cinema closes, the studio can’t afford to carry on making the 100 plus million dollar films, because they can’t make their money back from VOD or selling it to a streamer.

This is why those expensive films that are yet to be release are getting pushed back and back and back. I am looking at you NO TIME TO release I mean DIE.

However the studio still needs to make money. So some studios are biting the bullet and putting some films on VOD and WB has decided to release all of them in theatres and on HBOMAX at the same time. We will see how well that work for them in time. Though doing that also means that they are losing a huge chunk of change as here in the UK we have been in LOCKDOWN since New Year, and it looking to last at least another two months. We don’t have access to HBOMAX and with the cinema closed that a lot of money left on the table. Yes they did release WW84 to VOD here in the UK, but there was no marketing for it so not a lot of people know about it.

Even once we come out of Lockdown and everything starts opening back up again. Do you really see the numbers pre Covid rushing back to the big screen? Personally, I don’t think that will happen and it may be at least year or more until pre Covid numbers return and that assuming we don’t go back into lockdown.

So this bring me to the point of this letter. If the Studios are not able to make the 100 plus million dollar films for the foreseeable future. This means that they have to make smaller budget films so they can keep the studio afloat. With these small budget films, can’t the studio take more risks?

With cheaper films it more likely to make money from VOD or selling it to a streamer or even physical media. Yes it would mean less CGI etc, but that not a bad thing as it would mean that the film maker would have to be more creative like they were back in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. Big name stars that appearing in them would have to be willing to take a pay cut.

Let’s face it they can’t ask for million dollar pay days with these smaller budget films and if they want to carry on working they have to take a pay cut, as I said it may be some time until those 100 plus million dollar films start happening again if at all.

What are your thoughts Rob and the PGS.

Peace and Long life
-Dean M.

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Re-discovering the future of sci-fi storytelling while bingeing ST:DS9 and pondering the power of streaming.

Hi Rob,

Congrats on Tango Shalom becoming an official selection in Garden State Film Festival – a really fun film! May the film continue to get into more film festivals and garner a larger audience.

After watching a video on You Tube on some of the best episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – I decided to watch the episode “A Call to Arms.” Now, to give you a brief history on me as a Star Trek fan. I started watching the original show at age 4 with my Mom when it was on in syndication. Not long after that, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was on HBO and I would watch the film anytime it was on. Then I saw STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN a few times in the theater – loved the film to this day about as much as I did when I was four.

Growing up, I was a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation – but was a casual fan the first two seasons. I really couldn’t get into the show until the third season and watched it almost religiously. When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was announced – I was kind of perturbed by the point of the show – not really a show about exploration and at the time Babylon 5 was going to be released.

I would watch ST:DS9, but I wasn’t really into the show until Worf showed up. I would watch the show off and on until it was over. Same thing went for Star Trek: Voyager – I wasn’t as passionate about these shows as ST:TNG. Same with Star Trek: Enterprise. Loved STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT – doesn’t really hold up for me now, but probably nostalgia more than anything. STAR TREK: INSURRECTION was a fair film, STAR TREK: NEMESIS was so bad that I walked out of the theater wishing ST:TNG ended with “All Good Things.”

I was irked about the idea of J.J. Abrams Star Trek back in 2009. However, on the first viewing – I loved the film! Saw it five times in the theater, but after STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS, reassessed my opinion of the first film. I loathed ST:Into Darkness, despite being an acquaintance with one of the main cast members – he was the best part of the film! I was pissed at what they did with Khan.

Later that summer while working on a show, I overheard two young ladies saying they cried when Kirk died in ST:Into Darkness, I couldn’t help but approach and ask if they saw ST:Wrath of Khan? When they replied, “no,” I was really close to flipping a table over and doing a Pacino yell. That’s the divide though. New types of fans and film makers are revitalizing what we loved!

You’ve heard it so many times.

I was hopeful with Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard and those shows are terrible – not a “Gatekeeper” talking here, just someone that loves films and shows and also the industry – seeing what’s going on with these franchises is troubling.

It’s early in the morning and I’ve watched 13 hours of ST:DS9 – the show is not brilliant, but it’s close. There are still issues that aren’t really addressed – the music is overbearing at times and the universe of Star Trek is sacrificed for the current show – like the whole war with the Dominion? Why is Sisko in The Defiant leading? Seriously – he’s been in charge of a station.

Cardassians prepare for war against the Federation in the ST:DS9 episode, “Call to Arms”

Where’s Picard? Oh yeah, Picard is waiting to film ST:Insurrection. That kind of takes me out of the show – yet the show even now is so invigorating – that I’m giving it my full attention. From “A Call To Arms” to the scene where Dukat has experienced his personal tragedy – I was hooked again – appreciating the stories and loving the characters.

Thirteen episodes – the amount of a season of Discovery – is ten times better than current Trek. Worf and Dax’s relationship works, the friendship between O’Brien and Bashir is also engrossing. The wedding of Worf and Dax – you love these characters and love watching the episode – there was real chemistry between those actors and characters it didn’t feel forced like Worf and Troi. With characters in current Trek it’s like being force fed vegetables as child!

It’s like the creators think if you don’t love their characters – you’re an asshole! Also, Dax was captain of The Defiant for a period of time – yet ST:DISC acts like they are the first type of Star Trek show to have a woman as a captain – when ST:DS9 and ST:VOY did, plus the captain in STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME.

Inclusion has always been in Trek – yet these new shows pat themselves on the back like they are getting a merit badge. So much works in ST:DS9 and now I’ll probably be watching season 6 and 7 over the next few days. Although, like ST:TNG, it seems like ST:DS9 really peaked at season 6.

The writers we have in the industry now – not all– but most are spoiled. They couldn’t hack it if they were writing for 1990’s Trek – they were making 23-26 episodes a year and they write 10-13 and those shows are train wrecks.

I worked on one show where the writers couldn’t even get into place the 10 episodes they said they would have by the deadline date. As a result – the show I was on almost went overbudget and there were page one re-writes after the table reads. It’s amazing how the writers of ST:DS9 and ST:TNG came up with episodes that can be watched and appreciated years later. Whereas some of the shows in our revamped franchise don’t hold a candle.

Look at the talented writers that came out of Star Trek! Ronald D. Moore – he proved with the first season of Carnival and the whole run of Battlestar Galactica – it’s probably a blessing in disguise that he left ST:VOY after his term on ST:DS9. Not only that – Moore’s writer rooms are full of differing voices and viewpoints – he doesn’t agree with all of them – and that’s great – that’s life! Whereas it seems the current Trek writers’ room is like a Borg cube of assimilated thought.

The sad thing is that ST:DS9 didn’t need virtue signaling or to make a big deal about women characters kicking ass like Kira – they just told a story! Good stories never get old, but new ideas that only amount to something that seems polled by a focus group never age well, instead they show the loose narrative threads.

I really wish that Star Trek, Doctor Who, even Bond just end already. We’re spoiled enough as it is – we may not be getting better new versions of our beloved franchises. Okay, the new versions are beloved to some, but we do have hours of great content to revisit. Now, the new content – it’s just a cash grab for these new shows – well, maybe not cash grab since the ratings may not be through the roof – attention grab!

The “will they or won’t they” romance between Trip Tucker and T’pol on ST:ENT drove some fans wild and other fans crazy.

Fans and writers of Trek bitched about Berman. Say what you will, he kept the ship right for the most part. Even though it wasn’t great towards the end of the 18 year run, he kept the spirit of the franchise we love. Berman was probably fatigued with Trek over time and that’s why ST:VOY and ST:ENT seemed like repeat viewing of previous shows.

The industry is extremely risk adverse – rebooting almost everything it seems. I think I’m done with all of these revamped franchises! I gave up on Doctor Who – I’m done with Bond after NO TIME TO DIE. If they want to bring in Idris Elba – fine, but the Bond films have gone downhill for a while now and I don’t think changing the race of Bond will add anything new – that’s like saying a blonde James Bond will add something new – wait a minute.

Well, at first it did, but Bond slowly descended into a serious version of the plot of Austin Powers. Blofeld was like a brother to Bond … come on! Austin Powers did that in the third film! You want a black Bond? Go watch Tenet. I loved John David Washington’s portrayal in that film, plus I thought the film was great (I might be in the minority there). The Bond formula is just a watered down vodka martini now.

I don’t need a new Bond film or Trek or whatever. Give me something new. Netflix is generating inspiring new content for the imagination – why can’t the other studios figure it out – I mean Netflix looks like it will be the only one in the black here soon. Netflix keeps generating water cooler content.

I think our societies fast food/instant gratification mentality has infected corporate studios – they want the show or film to be a hit right away. It takes time to build a following. Look at John Wick. Look at Ozark. Look at The Office – that show wasn’t a huge hit on NBC and now it’s huge for Netflix or wherever it streams.

Like you Rob, I see potential in streamers – it’s the wild west in the industry right now – we’ll see what happens, but hopefully, the studios that keep rebooting everything figure it out soon – that audiences will just move on.
-James W.

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Is The Expanse lost in a deep space stall?

I wanted to say hello and have you talk about something that is bothering me. What has happened to the Expanse?

This show has been the sole beacon of Sci-fi for in the past few years. This was a crew that I grew to admire and care about. No matter the adversity, they would keep getting tighter and work together to overcome almost any obstacle. It now seems they can’t get past some poor writing. I am not sure if this due to covid causing shooting issues.

Naomi Nagata has done a lot of crying in Season 5 of The Expanse … but with good reason. Maybe she doesn’t like the pacing of the storylines either?

The season had a great shocking event that made my jaw drop, and then so did the story progression. It has felt like it has been endless episodes of Naomi crying. Holden has been on screen for about 15 minutes combined. Alex and Bobbie (my favorite character) have been in that same small set for an eternity. Madam Avarasala is no longer that powerful leader pulling strings throughout the solar system to do what she feels is best.

The best part of this season is the Amos and ‘Peaches’ sub-story. The interesting part is Amos’ talk on tribes but the show has done nothing but tear apart the tribe we care about for no discernible benefit. The story arc of Drummer seems so wasted as well. She was a tough belter leader who is now diminished in a sea of lackeys. I was hoping her character would be the breakout star of this season with Ashford dead.

Only one episode left is concerning. You can’t effectively wrap this up, so we will be stuck with some cliffhanger. I may not be interested enough to carry me through. Granted, this is not Game of Thrones Season 8 bad. The Battle of Winterfell proved that the writers had no idea what to do after they ran out of Martin material. I stopped watching after that episode and never finished the series.

Here is to hoping this improves. The one bright spot I feel is Breck Eisner. There is something about his pacing in his episodes that keeps me engaged.

Thanks for your time.
-Rick H.

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Do Xenomorphs come from the planet “Meh”?

Hi Rob, moderators, and Post Geek Singularity,

This letter is in response to a viewer of the show, Adnan Kabir, who suggested I watch the remaining Alien films in the franchise, as I had previously only ever seen the first 2 films, ALIEN and ALIENS.

I finally did see, for the first time, ALIEN 3, ALIEN: RESURRECTION, PROMETHEUS, and ALIEN: CONVENAT. Here are quick reviews for them.

I found ALIEN 3 to be just alright. The only version I saw was the Assembly Cut, so I cannot compare it to the theatrical cut, since I haven’t seen that version. There were interesting ideas, like a prison planet, but I don’t think it worked overall.

I did think all the acting was good, though. Considering there was so much studio interference, as David Fincher kept having his spine breathed down by Fox, that probably explains my lack of enthusiasm for it.

According to our reviewer, the best way to neutralize the Xenomorphs is to put them in more movies.

ALIEN:RESURRECTION was a bit similar with ALIEN 3, where I did not watch the theatrical version but only the extended cut. The film had some really good action, visuals, and sets, as well as an interesting plot point about breeding the xenomorphs, but I just did not find it that interesting. As with ALIEN 3, I also liked the acting performances.

When it came to PROMETHEUS, I tried, but could not get into it. I liked the story idea, about finding the origins of humanity, but didn’t think it worked overall. I think it was visually great to look at, but I didn’t find the plot and characters to be very interesting, though the acting performances were very good. It is possible the movie might have been better if the original script, ALIEN: ENGINEERS, written by Jon Spaihts, was used. I’ve never read it, but it has been said to be better than the final film, but Damon Lindelof came in and reworked the script it into the final film.

ALIEN: COVENANT was like PROMETHEUS for me, the most part. It was visually great to look at, and the acting performances were really good, but I just did not find the plot to be very interesting, as it felt a little bit like a mix of the original ALIEN and PROMETHEUS combined.

Overall, the first 2 Alien films are the only ones I liked in the franchise. The others had good aspects, but they were not for me.

Thanks, live long and prosper.
-Omar.

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Lubna throws a Bollywood Dance Party!

Hello!

Again I’m writing apropos, not about, Tenet. (Though, as I said before, I liked it. It’s not my favourite Nolan film – but I do believe I like it better than Interstellar.

Of course, if I were to tell you which my favourite Nolan film is, this would astonish and amaze you – but that is a shocking revelation for another day. Today I mean to talk about something else entirely.)

In the first scene in Tenet set in India, when John David Washington’s Protagonist is on the phone, in the background you can hear a song. This is “Jhumka gira re” (“My earring fell off”) from the film “Mera saaya” (My shadow) from 1966.

The woman entertaining the crowd is actually in cohoots with a band of bandits. Not that that is what the film is about, however. It is more of a courtroom drama.

Sunil Dutt plays a widowed lawyer, still grieving his wife, who died in his arms. Then a woman appears who claims that SHE is in fact his wife. (She is played by Sadhana, who also portrays the wife in flashback scenes/songs.) He refuses to believe her, and decides to take up the case against her in court.

These are my favourite songs from the film:

and:

And this is one of my absolute favourite songs, sung by my favourite singer of all time, Mohammed Rafi:

Note: It’s not often that I can drag in my love of Indian ’50s and ’60s cinema apropos of anything whatsoever, so naturally I will avail myself of the most tenuous pretext to do so.;)

-Lubna K.

PS – For anyone curious, here are the lyrics of the Rafi song, in my (less than accomplished) translation:

Coming to your side, I wept.
Telling my tale of sorrow, I wept.

Whenever life saddened me,
fearfully I came to the destination.
I bowed my head, and with bowed head, I wept.
Coming to your side, I wept.

When eveing came, shedding tears,
everywhere the gloom of sorrow spread.
Lighting the candle of memories, I wept.
Coming to your side, I wept.

I cannot endure the grief of separation any longer.
I cannot remain without you any longer.
Having lost everything in love, I wept.
Telling my tale of sorrow, I wept.
Coming to your side, I wept.

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