Some of the very best science fiction movies to be birthed from human brainpans have traveled through the painfully low-budget artsy canal that is independent film. The super tripped out David Bowie vehicle The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), the absolutely phenomenal and nearly-shelved-over-creative-differences Brazil (1985), the mathematician/conspiracy nut favorite Pi (1998), the moody and heavily '80s soundtracked Donnie Darko (2001), and of course eXistenZ (1999), featuring possibly the only notable Jude Law performance outside of I Heart Huckabees (2004). Send any and all angry comments to Law himself, folks, 'cause it ain't my fault.
Anyhoo, missing from that list is the flick most would raise high up on the mantle of must-see-to-be-amazed sci-fi movies, Blade Runner (1982)--an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Since one of the film's production companies was Warner Bros., it doesn't technically count as an independent, but we love it sooo good anyhow.
For fans of sci-fi literature, anything written by the venerable Philip Kindred Dick is bound to make them as giddy as a gaggle of hipsters at a Champagne bar. However, with the exception of the afore mentioned Blade Runner--either theatrical or director's cut--when it comes to film adaptations of Dick's work, the critical claws are sprung open wide and the blood of producers, directors and actors alike are sought for revenge with cat-like speed. Tom Cruise in Minority Report? Really? Reeeally? No.
And so it is that anyone who dare take on the ginormous task of adapting a Philip K. Dick work to film better have two things goin' for 'em: 1) An all-access pass to the local 24/7 blood transfusion bank, and 2) a stellar cast and crew to ensure that pass goes unused.
As is known the world 'round, the fair state of Wisconsin consistently generates brave souls of all disciplines, one of whom is independent film producer Elizabeth Karr, originally of Whitefish Bay. Along with an equally stalwart writer/director named John Alan Simon, Karr recently announced the theatrical release of Radio Free Albemuth (2010), based on--you guessed it!--Philip K. Dickʼs sci-fi novel of the same name.
In the public interest, I dutifully reproduce the plot description from the press release here:
"Called his most prophetic science fiction thriller, Radio Free Albemuth is the story of Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe), a record store clerk in Berkeley, who begins to experience strange visions transmitted from an extra-terrestrial source called VALIS. He moves to Los Angeles with his wife, Rachel (Katheryn Winnick), where he becomes a successful music executive with a secret mission. With the help of his best friend, a science-fiction writer--Philip K. Dick himself (Shea Whigham)--and the mysterious Silvia (Alanis Morissette), Nick finds himself drawn into a conspiracy of cosmic proportions."
Transmissions from an extra-terrestrial source! Conspiracy of cosmic proportions! Alanis Morissette acting! This thing has got it all--maybe!
To date, Radio Free Albemuth has won several awards--including Best Film Adaptation at Sci-Fi London International Film Festival 2012--and, honestly, the trailer looks pretty great:
Hmmm? Not too shabby, right? Maybe even better than not too shabby? I thought so.
Okay, so Radio Free Albemut opened on June 27 in ten select cities, none of which were Milwaukee. That's right, you heard me. Not one of the first ten metropolis' to screen this movie in a proper, not-during-a-film-festival theater setting--a movie produced by a human being hailing from a town so close it may as well be in Miltown--was ours.
How, you may ask, can we remedy this sad case of a missed connection between what promises to be an intelligent, deep and independent sci-fi film and what has often proved to be a brilliant, insightful and free-thinking audience inhabiting the Greater Milwaukee area? Thanks to Karr and the good people at City Beast Studio, all can be put right by you simply clickin' on over to Tugg and pre-ordering tickets for a screening and Q&A session penciled in for Monday, July 14, at the Landmark Downer Theater. As of right now, just over 50 tickets remain to be sold to make this Big Screen Date Night happen and they must be purchased by Monday, July 7.
Well? What in the name of Philip K. Dick are ya waitin' for? Do it now!
(Thanks, Lisa Walker England!)