WEIRDLAND: June 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bradley Cooper's "Ghost Army", Sci-Fi novels, Charles Manson in "Aquarius"

The NBC Universal-owned cable network announced Wednesday that it is teaming with Bradley Cooper, Oscar winner Graham King (The Departed, Argo) and Todd Phillips (The Hangover) to adapt Dan Simmons' Hyperion as an event series. Set on the eve of Armageddon with the entire galaxy at war, Hyperion is the story of seven pilgrims who set forth on a voyage to seek the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope and a terrible secret — while one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands. Published in 1989, the novel is the first book in the Hyperion Cantos series and won the prestigious Hugo Award.

“It is an absolute honor to enter into the world created by Dan Simmons that is arguably one of the greatest works of science fiction, and help realize it for television audiences,” said Cooper, who is also executive producing and recurring in CBS' Limitless adaptation.

For Syfy, Hyperion comes as the cabler has been making a massive — and expensive — push to put the science fiction back into its programming with content like 12 Monkeys, Childhood's End, Brave New World, Krypton, Incorporated, The Magicians, Dark Matter, Hunters, The Expanse, Z Nation and more. "As Syfy continues to forge important partnerships with award-winning talent on and off screen, this powerhouse team led by Bradley Cooper, Graham King and Todd Phillips brings an extraordinary track record in producing entertainment of the highest creative ambition," Syfy president Dave Howe said. "Epitomizing the gold standard of science fiction story-telling, Hyperion tackles smart and provocative themes that help define Syfy's development vision.” Source: www.hollywoodreporter.com

Clearly enjoying the producer's hat he recently donned for Hyperion, Bradley Cooper is now also putting together a WWII project at Warner Bros. He's developing, along with regular honcho Todd Phillips and American Sniper's Andrew Lazar, the WWII tall tale Ghost Army. The stranger-than-fiction story involves a secret squad made up of artists, designers, advertising execs and other creative types who were tasked with making the US army look a lot bigger than it was, and in a lot more places than it was, in order to fool the Nazis. This really did involve inflatable tanks, as well as dummies on the ground and fake radio operatives cluttering the airwaves with disinformation. As with Hyperion, it isn't yet clear whether Cooper also intends to appear in front of the camera. But if we were betting people we'd put a few quid on him being part of this one's ensemble cast. There's no start date yet, while Gayden gets on with the script. Source: www.empireonline.com

A World War II vet and old-fashioned cop (the TV kind that can't understand the need for these newfangled Miranda warnings), Hodiak (David Duchovny) is unable to penetrate the counterculture hiding Emma (Emma Dumont). So he forces a young undercover cop, Brian Shafe (Grey Damon), to help him — which he does, despite his objections to Hodiak's old-school methods. While some attempts to recall the tenor of the times feel strained, there are intriguing moments in the generational, racial and sexual clashes swirling around the central story. Unfortunately, whenever the show meanders its way back to that central story of Charles Manson and Emma Karn and their newly formed family, momentum stalls and interest drains.

The problem isn't so much the performance by Game of Thrones's Gethin Anthony as Manson, though he's not always as convincing as he needs to be at conveying either the threat Manson posed or the magnetism he supposedly possessed. It's that the Manson who will, in two years, commit the Tate/LaBianca murders looms too large for this smallish vessel to contain — making Aquarius feel less like a prequel and more like a dull footnote. The Manson you see here is more of a future threat than a real, present person, so you may end up feeling Aquarius would have worked better had it just renamed its villain and gone on from there. Source: www.usatoday.com

"I think everyone is fascinated by a guy who has never been charged with or convicted of murder, but is probably the most famous mass murderer in America," John McNamara (Aquarius's creator) says. "Manson is not a monster, Manson is a very ordinary person with extraordinary psychological problems and extraordinary charm and drive who did monstrous, monstrous things. We can never forget he's not different than us in his DNA. He's not from Mars. He's not from Hell. He's a guy from Oklahoma, but, boy, did he make some bad, bad choices." McNamara insists he's not trying to change the way Manson is perceived. "I was highly aware that Manson represents possibly the darkest thread in the tapestry of the '60s, and also I believe personally that Manson single-handedly destroyed the 60s. Tate-LaBianca was the end of the '60s. It turned everything wonderful or explosive or radical or new or amazing into death, paranoia and murder." Source: www.seattlepi.com

One of the most popular novels among the literate cons was Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Its themes of alienation, government deceit, and redemption for the despised resonated with the incarcerated. Charles Manson was fascinated by the tale of fictional Valentine Michael Smith, born to human parents in a Mars space colony, raised by Martians and returned to Earth as a pawn of scheming politicians. Fascinated by religion, Mike Smith founds his own faith, experiences group sex, uses psychic powers to make enemies disappear, suffers a martyr’s death, and returns in spirit form. As he would with the Bible, Dale Carnegie, and Scientology, Charlie later incorporated elements of Stranger in a Strange Land into a beguiling, hybrid pseudophilosophy. —"Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson" (2013) by Jeff Guinn