Welcome to CinemaToast

(January 2004)

It's A Mystery
The Andromeda StrainUpcoming movies involving our favorite things always get us excited. However, sometimes we’re disappointed. Remember how eagerly we were looking forward to Timeline? For a multitude of reasons, we were all fired up.

  • A subject that just tickles our fancy- Time Travel!
  • The movie was based on a novel by Michael Crichton, an author who has had many stories brought successfully to the screen. Two favorites of ours here at The Toast are The Andromeda Strain (1971) and The Great Train Robbery (1979).
  • The director of Timeline was Richard Donner who has helmed such successful movies as Ladyhawke (1985) and Scrooged (1988).
  • One of the stars was the beautiful, talented Frances O’Connor. She who was so good in Bedazzled (2000) and A.I. (2001) and who on which we heaped such effusive praise.

With all that talent, the movie was very disappointing, bordering on just awful. The character development was non-existent; the special effects were pedestrian - not much better than 60s SF television, and the acting – even Ms O’Connor - was wooden. The movie had too much action-adventure in medieval times and not enough fun with the potential paradoxes of time travel.

This is not the first time very talented people have brought forth a turkey (Ishtar from 1987 or Gigli from last year come to mind) and it won’t be the last. The question is: even with great talent- why is a flop sometimes forthcoming, or better yet, despite everything- how does a successful movie get made? As Philip Henslowe, the theatrical producer (played by Geoffrey Rush) says in Shakespeare In Love (1998), “It’s a mystery”.

The Three Laws of Robotics
RoboticsIn 1954 that great scientist and prolific writer of both science and science fiction, Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), wrote the first of many novels set in the far future where robots are highly advanced and fully integrated into human society throughout the galaxies. That novel was The Caves of Steel. In these stories he created the “Three Laws of Robotics”. These laws were imprinted into the positronic brains (another word coined by Asimov) of all robots, at the time of their manufacture, primarily to prevent mankind from being overwhelmed and wiped out by their own creations. The three laws are:

  1. First Law- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. Second Law- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. Third Law- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The heart of most of the stories in the series follows a police detective and a robot psychologist as they try to unravel a crime where it appears a robot has violated one of the three laws. Naturally this is sIsaac Asimovupposed to be impossible and therein is the conflict in the narratives. It helped the stories that the police officer was robot-phobic and immediately concluded the worst in robot conduct. These laws were so popular that other Science Fiction writers co-opted them into their writings and for many years during the “Golden Age of Science Fiction”, it seemed that all robots in all stories written by all authors were imbued with The Three Laws.

Now we have a movie being made from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories. I, Robot is currently in post-production and slated to open this summer. It stars Will Smith as the policeman, Detective Del Spooner, and Bridget Moynahan is the psychologist, Dr. Susan Calvin. It’s being directed by Alex Proyas from a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman. So now we’re excited again.

  • A subject that tickles our fancy- Robotics and Artificial Intelligence!Will Smith
  • A movie based on the writings of Isaac Asimov. Another successful movie made from one of his novels was Bicentennial Man (1999) starring Robin Williams.
  • The director, Alex Proyas, also wrote and directed the brilliant Dark City (1998), the best of the alternate reality films that came out at the end of the last Century.
  • The screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman, recently won an Oscar for his screenplay for A Beautiful Mind (2001). He also has two Batman movies (1995 & 1997) under his belt
  • The star, Will Smith, has proven himself to be a durable and charming action star with Independence Day (1996) and two Men in Black movies (1997 & 2002) to his credit. Smith started out as a rapper; a very successful rapper without resorting to misogyny, homophobia or violence. Quite an accomplishment we think- kind of a “Candy Rapper” – and we say that with a great deal of admiration.

With all that talent, we’re eagerly looking forward to I, Robot and boy, do we have our fingers crossed. A couple of points here- Asimov eventually came up with a fourth law which he called the “Zeroth Law” which said “A robot must not injure a humanity or, through inaction, allow a humanity to come to harm”. He created this fourth law because, as a writer, he found himself limited by his first three robotic laws.

And finally- if indeed we reach such a high level of technology that we can create sentient robots; would it be moral for us to impose the Three Laws on them during their manufacture?

Our Apologies
Calendar GirlsLast month we misspoke about Helen Mirren’s next movie. We mentioned The Clearing but in fact, she is starring in the currently running comedy Calendar Girls. “You go girl”- the ever-erudite Roger Ebert gives your movie an enthusiastic Thumbs Up! and we heartily agree.

To Our Fans
To our readers and fans, everyone here at The Toast wish all of you a very Happy New Year in 2004. May the coming year bring you bountiful good health and much happiness. Remember this is just the Welcoming page for CinemaToast. There’s a lot more inside. Use the Table of Contents, or the menu on the left, or go to our Site Map (Index) for a detailed layout of what’s here. We also have a reverse Chronological Map (Timeline) of what's here on CinemaToast. Enjoy!

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