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Star Wars, 2001 Among Top 100 Films

Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey were among 10 SF and SF-related motion pictures named to the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time. The genre films that made the Top 100 included: The Wizard of Oz at No. 6; Star Wars at No. 15; 2001: A Space Odyssey at No. 22; E.T. at No. 25; Dr. Strangelove at No. 26; King Kong at No. 43; A Clockwork Orange at No. 46; Raiders of the Lost Ark at No. 60; Close Encounters of the Third Kind at No. 64; and Frankenstein at No. 87.

The AFI released its Top 100 list--which was selected by a "blue-ribbon panel of leaders from across the film community"--on Tuesday, June 16. The nominated films were taken from the first 100 years of American cinema, dating from 1896-1996. The No. 1 film on the list was Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, which the film auteur wrote, directed, produced and starred in at the age of 25.






Bester Or Chekov? Koenig Likes 'Em Both

Does Walter Koenig prefer Star Trek's Pavel Chekov or Babylon 5's Mr. Bester? According to the legendary SF actor, who visited the Sci-Fi Channel's Web site The Dominion for an online chat to promote his new book Warped Factors: A Neurotic's Guide to the Universe, he likes them both.

"Well, you know, I'll always have a deep loyalty and abiding relationship with the character I played on Star Trek, Chekov," he said. "But certainly the greater challenge and more interesting artistic work was the work I've done on Babylon 5 as Mr. Bester."

The Hollywood veteran also revealed that he'd rather be a brilliant writer than a brilliant actor, and that he thinks Babylon 5 is the most innovative SF show on the air today. But while he has warm feelings toward B5, it may surprise some fans to know that Koenig and the rest of the original Star Trek crew didn't have quite the same emotions about Star Trek: The Next Generation.

"I don't know if anyone would admit it, but I think we were all a little threatened by it and hoped it wouldn't succeed," Koenig said. "None of us feel that way now, but back then we were all very proprietary with it."






Warner Bros. Buys Bester's Time

Warner Bros. paid more than $500,000 to buy the Alfred Bester short story "Time Is the Traitor" for Matthew McConaughey and Denise Di Novi to produce, Variety reported. McConaughey is not currently attached to act in the project.

"Time Is the Traitor" is the story of John Strapp, the world's most powerful man, who is obsessed with finding a girl identical to his long-dead love, Sima Morgan. The story was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1953 and most recently appeared in a collection of Bester's work called Virtual Unrealities.






Bear Tuning Darwin's Radio

SF author Greg Bear reports he's completed about two-thirds of his new novel, a book called Darwin's Radio that is tentatively due out from Del Rey in May 1999. Bear said a five-page outline of the book generated "a surprising storm of interest among developers and producers" in Hollywood, and that the studios are now waiting to see how the novel will turn out.

Bear described the book as "a new and startling take on human evolution. No aliens, no mutations, just sex and reproduction--on a species level." The author added that he's "cramming biology madly to have it all make sense."






Sci-Fi UK Picks Up B5

The Sci-Fi Channel UK has picked up seasons 1-3 of Babylon 5 and will air the series weekdays at 9:00 p.m. beginning August 3. "We're pleased that the Sci-Fi Channel there has picked up the show, which will help bring the B5 story to an even wider audience," said J. Michael Straczynski, the creator and executive producer of the show.






The Truth Is $30.1 Million

The X-Files: Fight the Future earned an estimated $30.1 million during its first weekend of release, a figure that didn't set any records but that did make executives at 20th Century Fox smile. The movie, which was the top box-office grosser over the weekend, is one of only a handful of theatrical releases that have been based on existing TV shows, in this case Fox's mega-hit series The X-Files.

The Truman Show, meanwhile, brought in another $12.4 million during the week ending June 18, bringing its ticket sales up to $85.2 million in 17 days. Godzilla continued its box-office drop, earning a mere $2.8 million, which gave it total sales to date of $129 million. Deep Impact rounded out the SF movies currently in theaters, generating an additional $2.73 million in sales for a total of $133.1 million.






University Plans Classic SF Book Line

The University of Nebraska Press plans to introduce a new line of classic science fiction books in the fall, starting off with Jules Verne's little-known 1905 novel The Chase of the Golden Meteor. The Verne book, which includes an introduction by hard SF author Gregory Benford, will be followed by a collection of SF&F short stories by Jack London that will be titled Fantastic Tales.

Gary Dunham, senior editor of the university press, said the new line was created to keep early SF&F works in print and to make them available to readers. "Major commercial publishing houses, who are primarily interested in large print runs, are letting many such early volumes go out of print," he said. "It's a shame, and we intend to do something about it."

The book line will be published as trade paperbacks and will be sold in bookstores nationwide. The University of Nebraska Press plans to release two more titles in the spring of 1999, including the 1924 Edgar Rice Burroughs trilogy The Land That Time Forgot, and hopes to follow those up with three or four books that fall.






Harper Creates Media Imprint

Book publisher HarperCollins is creating a new imprint called HarperEntertainment that will focus exclusively on media tie-in and entertainment titles, according to Variety. The first property to receive the new HE seal will reportedly be the X-Files franchise, which will be followed by Godzilla and Lost in Space.

John Silbersack, who created the HarperPrism line of SF&F books as well as HarperHorizon, will serve as senior vice president and publishing director of the new line. The HE imprint is expected to debut this fall and will include a variety of formats, such as hardcover, coffee-table and paperback books, along with calendars and other merchandise.






Sentinel Fans Take Protest To USA Today

Fans of UPN's TV show The Sentinel took out an ad in the June 15 edition of USA Today protesting UPN's decision to remove the series from its fall lineup in favor of the freshman SF drama Seven Days. The fans, who have organized a campaign called Support Our Sentinel or SOS, were particularly aggrieved by The Sentinel's season finale, a cliffhanger episode that promised viewers the story was "to be continued."

The USA Today ad ran with the slogan "When UPN said no...the fans said no way!" and directed readers interested in keeping The Sentinel on air to the SOS Web site. In response to the SOS campaign, UPN set up a Sentinel Hotline that, as of June 16, simply said there was no further information available on the status of the show.

Last month UPN released a fall programming schedule that did not include The Sentinel, but UPN has since ordered 13 episodes of the show as a mid-season replacement. A UPN spokesperson said the network was aware of the SOS campaign and that "all of that has to be taken into consideration. It's appreciated."






Bakula To Lead NetForce

Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula will play the lead role in the upcoming ABC four-hour miniseries Tom Clancy's NetForce, according to Variety. Bakula will star as Alex Michaels, the head of an FBI division called NetForce, which was created to police the online world.

After his best friend is murdered, Michaels is promoted to commander of NetForce and tasked with finding the killer. But he has other concerns as well, including attempts by someone to penetrate the NetForce computer system.

NetForce is being directed by Rob Lieberman from a screenplay written by Lionel Chetwynd. The miniseries is based on a story and characters created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik.






Mattel Plans Galileo Hot Wheels

Following the success of its popular Hot Wheels set based on the Mars Pathfinder mission, Mattel Inc. has acquired the license to create a toy version of NASA's Galileo spacecraft, which is currently in orbit around Jupiter. The Hot Wheels Jupiter/Europa Encounter Action Pack will debut in early 1999 and will feature toy versions of the Galileo craft, a descent probe that entered Jupiter's atmosphere in 1995, and one of the giant ground-based antenna dishes used to communicate with Galileo.

The deal is part of NASA's technology affiliates program, which allows NASA to enter into business agreements with the private sector. In this case the toys are being used as a means to "help educate and enthuse the public about the space program." The earlier Pathfinder Hot Wheels set proved to be a successful experiment for Mattel and NASA, selling far more units than expected.






Sci-Fi Picks Up Weird Science

The Sci-Fi Channel plans to air 15 episodes of the former USA Network series Weird Science, which was based on the 1985 John Hughes SF comedy film of the same name. Sci-Fi will run back-to-back episodes of the show from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays, beginning July 11 and concluding Aug. 29 (only one episode will run on Aug. 22).

The Sci-Fi Channel lineup of Weird Science includes six never-before-seen installments of the series, which stars Vanessa Angel, Michael Manasseri and John Mallory Ascher. Weird Science debuted on USA in 1994 and ran for four seasons. The Sci-Fi Channel is a division of USA Networks Inc.






Verne Set To Shoot In July

The upcoming TV series The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne will begin shooting in Montreal, Canada, on July 13, according to Variety. The Canadian production company Filmline International has joined the $30 million show as a co-producer, along with newly-founded Talisman Crest of London, U.K.

Verne was created by Gavin Scott (The Borrowers, Small Soldiers) and centers around the idea that legendary author Jules Verne lived out many of the adventures he later wrote about, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth. The series plans to take viewers around the world to such exotic locales as Paris, Russia, India and Egypt.

CBC and CTV are reportedly interested in the Canadian rights for Verne, while the show's producers are still looking for a U.S. buyer.






Diesel Gets Pitch Black

Vin Diesel, who has a starring role in Steven Spielberg's upcoming film Saving Private Ryan, has agreed to headline Interscope Communication's SF movie Pitch Black, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film is about a transport ship that crashes on an unknown planet. The survivors, led by Diesel's character Riddick, must fight the planet's inhabitants in a battle for survival.

Diesel first grabbed the spotlight two years ago at the Cannes Film Festival with the short film Multi-Facial, which he wrote, directed and starred in. He recently finished work on the Warner Bros. animated SF film The Iron Giant, in which he voices the title character.






Morgan, Wong Fly On Flight 180

Glen Morgan and James Wong, who created the series Space: Above & Beyond and who formerly served as writers and executive producers for The X-Files and Millennium, have agreed to take on New Line Cinema's upcoming film Flight 180, according to Variety. The pair will write the script for the movie based on a treatment by Jeffrey Reddick, and Wong also plans to make his directorial debut on the project.

Flight 180 tells the story of a group of students who skip an airline flight after one of their number has a premonition that the plane will crash. The accident does indeed happen, killing everyone aboard, but the students find they can't escape death so easily as each begins dying from mysterious causes.






Fisher Joins Gadget Flick

Former Ellen regular Joely Fisher has agreed to star alongside Matthew Broderick in Disney's upcoming film The Real Inspector Gadget, according to Variety. Fisher will play the role of Brenda, the surgeon who turns Broderick's character into the superhero Inspector Gadget by outfitting him with extendable legs and arms, along with a variety of high-tech gadgets.

Gadget is based on the cartoon of the same name and will also star Rupert Everett as the evil character Claw. Don Adams, who provided the voice for Gadget in the cartoon, may receive a cameo in the film, which is scheduled to start shooting July 20.






Arnold Honored By Cinematheque

Action star and former Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger will receive the 1998 American Cinematheque Award, which is presented annually "to an extraordinary artist currently making a significant contribution to the art of the moving picture." Schwarzenegger was singled out for his numerous achievements in the film industry, including his starring roles in hit movies such as Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, Predator, The Running Man and The Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

The award will be presented at the Moving Picture Ball, which will be held Sept. 12 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. The American Cinematheque is a non-profit theater dedicated to bringing "unique film experiences to Southern California." Previous Cinematheque Award winners include Steven Spielberg, Sean Connery and Mel Gibson.






New Line Buys Magill's Freaks

New Line Cinema has acquired Peter Magill's action/comedy script Freaks and plans to turn it into a special effects-driven event picture along the lines of Men in Black and Ghostbusters, according to published reports. The screenplay is about a band of tabloid reporters who investigate the paranormal and who stumble across the beginnings of the seven signs of the apocalypse.

Freaks is the first screenplay Magill has sold, although earlier this year his script www.death.com reportedly sparked interest from several Hollywood studios.






Fox Picks Up Moore's League

Twentieth Century Fox has picked up the film rights to comic book writer Alan Moore's upcoming six-issue series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, according to Variety. League is a superhero drama set in 1898 Victorian England that chronicles the adventures of a legendary group of real and fictional characters, including Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll, Allan Quatermain and John Griffin (the so-called "invisible man").

The League members are recruited by the Secret Service to combat a variety of enemies--including the evil Dr. Fu Manchu--seeking to destroy the British Empire as the turn of the century approaches. Alex Ayers (Marlowe) has agreed to adapt the series, which will be published by Wildstorm Entertainment starting in November.






Jane Joins Deep Blue Sea

Actor Thomas Jane (The Velocity of Gary, The Thin Red Line) has agreed to go swimming with sharks for the upcoming Warner Bros. SF film Deep Blue Sea, according to Variety. The movie features Jane as Carter Blake, a shark handler who convinces his coworkers to free a pack of bio-enhanced makos that are smarter, faster and meaner than normal sharks.

Deep Blue Sea is being directed by Renny Harlin.






Virus Release Moved to 1999

Universal Pictures' SF action flick Virus, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, will hit theaters in early 1999, not on Aug. 14 as originally planned, according to Variety. The move was reportedly made so that Virus won't run up against the release of Dimension Films' horror flick Halloween: H20, which also stars Curtis and which will debut on Aug. 5.

Virus, which co-stars Donald Sutherland and William Baldwin, centers around the crew of an American tugboat who discover a secret Russian research ship that has been infected by an alien organism. The film is based on a book from Dark Horse Comics.








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