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20th Century Fox

It’s not exactly a surprise that Sigourney Weaver would be showing up again in the Avatar universe for the remaining three (count em!) sequels, but the question of how she’d manage to do so has been somewhat puzzling, seeing as she (gentle spoilers for a five-year-old film) died at the end of the first film. Dr. Grace Augustine may have been hit by a bullet from an angry Quaritch while his men are destroying the Hometree, but according to director and writer James Cameron, that doesn’t mean that Weaver’s talents can’t be used elsewhere.

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Paramount Pictures

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Bechdel Test

All this week, Film School Rejects presents a daily dose of our favorite articles from the archive. Originally published in September 2011, Ashe Cantrell applies the simple, ever-relevant Bechdel Test to a number of high profile movies…  The Bechdel Test, if you’re not familiar with it, is a benchmark for movies developed by Alison Bechdel in 1985. For a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, it must contain just one thing – a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation (that is, back and forth dialogue) about anything at all besides men. Anything, even if it’s something stereotypically feminine, like shopping or shoes. It could be about dog poo. It doesn’t matter. Sounds simple, right? Then it might be kinda shocking to find out that out of 2,500 movies, only about half pass the test. And to be clear, passing doesn’t mean the movie’s good or bad. Failing the test doesn’t mean the movie’s evil or anti-woman, or that passing makes it some sort of strongly feminist movie. It’s just to get people thinking about gender and how it’s presented in film. In fact, the example Bechdel gave as a film that passed the test was Alien, simply because Ripley and Lambert have a brief conversation about the alien. (Let’s ignore the fact that the alien was a walking penis-monster, as this was before the Xenomorphs had established sexes – the Queens weren’t introduced until 1986’s Aliens.) But it’s still surprising to find out that some of the […]

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The Clone Saga

Here’s a piece of surprising news. Stephen Lang, who portrayed the villainous Colonel Quaritch in James Cameron‘s Avatar, has been confirmed (by Deadline Hollywood) to return for all three Avatar sequels that Cameron is shooting back-to-back-to-back for some reason. It’s surprising, of course, because – and this will be a spoiler if you haven’t seen Avatar, but almost the entirety of Earth’s population saw Avatar four times over so spoilers shouldn’t really be a big deal – we all saw Quaritch snuffed out by a couple of well-placed arrows at the end of the original film. So how exactly will Cameron re-insert his scarfaced villain into the jungles of Pandora? Given that we know next to nothing about Avatars 2-4, almost anything could be possible. He could go the Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man route and for some beyond the grave taunting (although there are no haunted mirrors on Pandora; Quaritch may be relegated to haunted puddles). Or perhaps we’ll see the villain return via flashback.

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IntroFirstContact

There seems to be some kind of popular misconception that if aliens were to land on our planet, they’d somehow want to beat us up. In reality, it’s probably going to be the other way around. Want proof? How about the fact that we assume they’d do it to us. But not every film paints the extraterrestrial as the bad guy, as the following eight clearly show us, good old humanity, as the total asshole side of the exchange.

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avatar16

Not content simply making a sequel to a successful film, James Cameron has tacked on a third Avatar sequel to the two he already has in development. Deadline reports that all three films will be shot simultaneously in 2014, to be released in December 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively. Either because of the monumental task ahead of him or because he’s finally learned that screenwriting is not his strong suit, Cameron will be teaming with different writers for each sequel script. Avatar 2 will be co-written by Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds), Avatar 3 by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and Avatar 3 by Shane Salerno (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem). While this makes Cameron seem a little like a crazy person, remember that the Lord of the Rings series was filmed the same way, and Cameron was already planning to do two Avatars back-to-back in the first place. But at the same time, this Avatar-stravaganza is likely to be one of the riskiest moves Hollywood has ever taken. The first Avatar was one of the most expensive films ever made. Presumably shooting three at a time will demolish that record like a bulldozer composed entirely of other people’s money. There’s no doubt that the sequels will pull in lots of cash, but if the public was to suddenly lose their Avatar fever with future Avatars not yet released, this could be disastrous. Of course, that very thing was what analysts said right before […]

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Matt Damon in Elysium

While discussing his new film Promised Land and how boring he is, Matt Damon told Playboy (don’t click if you dislike looking at a lot of butts) about the experience of filming in a massive trash dump for Elysium and got humble about the roles he missed out on. “Having to say no to Avatar was tough because I particularly wanted to work with James Cameron, and still do, because he’s fantastic,” Damon said. “He knew he was the star of that movie and that everyone was going to go see it anyway. When he said, ‘Look, I’m offering it to you, but if you say no, the movie doesn’t need you,’ I remember thinking, Oh God, not only do I have to say no because of scheduling, but he’s going to make a star out of some guy who’s going to start taking jobs from me later.” Damon also talked about missing out on Milk and Brokeback Mountain, but ultimately concluding that Josh Brolin and Heath Ledger were the right actors for the parts because of how stellar they portrayed their respective characters.

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The Ingredients is a column devoted to breaking down the components of a new film release with some focus on influential movies that came before. As always, these posts look at the entire plots of films and so include SPOILERS.  Even the most visionary and original films can seem derivative, especially to those of us who watch tons of movies on a regular basis. Occasionally it’s intended for the audience to spot certain allusions and apply them to our experience with this new work, as in the case of Holy Motors. Other times it’s not so deliberate, and the fact that new movies trigger memories of older movies (and vice versa depending on when they’re seen) is all on us, yet not totally without reason given how there are really only a few base plots and themes in existence and also given that our comprehension of things, particularly imaginative things, has to be relatable to other things we’ve comprehended previously. That’s why a movie like Avatar can be “like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” but only to an extent. For it to be accessible to a wide audience — let alone be one of the biggest worldwide hits of all time — it has to “unfortunately” resemble other movies. And now Life of Pi can be likened by critics to Avatar for similarly giving us spectacle like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It sounds ironic but it’s not. Even if the magical island in Pi may even further remind us of […]

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James Cameron

First of all, thank goodness. Second of all, duh. Back in May, James Cameron basically informed the world that if a film wasn’t set in the world of his Avatar, he wasn’t interested in making it. At the time, the filmmaker said: “I’m not interested in developing anything. I’m in the Avatar business. Period. That’s it. I’m making Avatar 2, Avatar 3, maybe Avatar 4, and I’m not going to produce other people’s movies for them. I’m not interested in taking scripts…I think within the Avatar landscape I can say everything I need to say that I think needs to be said, in terms of the state of the world and what I think we need to be doing about it. And doing it in an entertaining way. And anything I can’t say in that area, I want to say through documentaries, which I’m continuing.” Turns out, Cameron found something else that he wanted to say, something that will (thankfully) get us the hell off of Pandora. THR reports that the director has snapped up the rights to Taylor Stevens‘ novel “The Informationist,” a feature film version of which Cameron will both produce and direct after he finishes up both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3. So who is said Informationist? Well, she’s a strong lady, one who sounds as if she’ll fit right in to Cameron’s canon.

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Rian Johnson’s new film, Looper, is a pretty awesome time travel flick, one with as many elements that are clever and original as there are purposefully derivative and influenced. It’s the kind of smart and stylish sci-fi cinema we expect every once in a while on the festival circuit, like Sound of My Voice (which hits DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday), rather than from a major Hollywood studio. Looper does fit the indie model, though, since Sony/Tristar picked it up for distribution only after it was done shooting, yet as Brian’s review of the film attests, we can still consider it a good sign for mainstream movies of this genre, and we can hope that Hollywood will see Johnson as the sort of directorial talent they need. But is it the best science fiction film since The Matrix? That’s a question posed in a headline from Time magazine yesterday, though its respective post doesn’t address such a discussion let alone attempt to answer the inquiry. Well, if we exclude superhero movies, animated features (Pixar, Miyazaki and The Iron Giant among them) and the Star Trek reboot, Looper is currently one of only two original studio films of its order to be battling for the status of best reviewed since the Wachowskis’ groundbreaking modern classic. The other is Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men.

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Culture Warrior

The upcoming election might make the air feel a bit more politicized than it usually does, but there’s one arena that is investigated and interrogated for its supposedly partisan leanings far more often than every four years: the mainstream entertainment industry. Hollywood and prime-time television are continually called into question for supposedly left-leaning tendencies. Hell, there are even entire websites that profit off the flimsy thesis that Hollywood is an evil institution devoted to the full-scale indoctrination of feeble young minds into sullying the name of Ayn Rand and buying Priuses (Priusi?). However, the latest accusation made toward Hollywood as a liberal indoctrination machine came from an unlikely source: Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine. While it’s interesting to hear these points articulated from a self-defined liberal rather than a conservative culture warrior (yes, I’m well aware of the irony of my column name when I write stories like this) who stands to benefit more from the critique, Chait makes several of the same stumbles that conservatives encounter when voicing this familiar argument, like failing to provide a stable definition of what institutions the term “Hollywood” describes or an adequate explanation for the process by which an institution made up of mostly liberal people actually translates into liberal products.

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It’s fair to say Jake Sully isn’t all that fascinating of an accent dropping character. He’s all stock, but the world of Avatar certainly was not. James Cameron apparently gets that, since he already plans on losing Sully for Avatar 4. That’s right, Cameron is already thinking of Avatar 4. After he completes his “thematic” trilogy, he’ll return to Pandora to give us a prequel.

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We’ve known from the very beginning that James Cameron intended on making a sequel to his wildly successful foray into 3D filmmaking, Avatar. We’ve had indication that he might even have plans for several sequels for Avatar, stretching the thing out to encompass an entire trilogy. Word was that the upcoming journeys into the world of Pandora were going to deal heavily with exploring its underwater locations, a prospect that sounded promising, given all of the development of underwater technologies Cameron has done over the years. But when the director started talking about how he might even make three more Avatar sequels, and how he didn’t plan on making movies that weren’t Avatar related ever again…the guy started to sound a little crazy. Well, crazy or not, it indeed looks like that’s going to be the plan. Showbiz 411 has quotes from Avatar actress Sigourney Weaver confirming that Cameron has plans for three more sequels, and that they’re all going to be shot at the same time. This all but confirms that we’ll have to sit through an entire block of films about blue-skinned eco-warriors. Weaver’s comments come with the addendum that she has no idea how long the filming is going to take, how any of it is going to work, and that her job is to “just show up.”

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What is Movie News After Dark? Tonight it’s all about learning. We’ll show you the world, pretty babes. Things like destination posters for the whole of Westeros, what can be learned from Batman, Veronica Mars, Morgan Spurlock’s mustache, The Hunger Games, the Marvel Cinematic Timeline, Felicia Day dancing in an elevator, Damon Lindelof, Kickstarter, James Cameron’s obsession with blue people and of course, the world of men’s grooming. It’s going to be a wet and wild ride for a Monday, friends. We begin this evening with something Game of Thrones related. Because Game of Thrones — be it books or show — is slowly taking over the life of yours truly. And that’s just fine with me. Artist Nicholas Hyde has begun selling very cool Game of Thrones destination posters, found via The Mary Sue. At one time there was one for The Wall, Winterfell and King’s Landing alongside the currently listed posters for The Eyrie and Pyke. It’s hard to say whether or not the others have sold out (and even harder to say whether or not I had anything to do with that. Above, you will see Winterfell. Below the jump, I’ve got The Wall and King’s Landing rounded up. Hopefully Mr. Hyde will print more soon.

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With a dormant development arm, James Cameron has fully committed himself to holding his breath underwater and exploring the depths of narrative that he can mine from Pandora and the world of Avatar. A sequal and a threequel were already in the mix, but The Playlist is noting that Cameron seems more than open about an Avatar 4. It was 14 years from first draft to finished film, and its been almost 3 years since that sci-fi epic was released, so if the prospect of 3 more seems like it would take up the rest of Cameron’s sane days, it’s because they just might. The director looks to be quitting the original story game. “I’ve divided my time over the last 16 years over deep ocean exploration and filmmaking. I’ve made two movies in 16 years, and I’ve done eight expeditions. Last year I basically completely disbanded my production company’s development arm. So I’m not interested in developing anything. I’m in the Avatar business. Period. That’s it. I’m making Avatar 2, Avatar 3, maybe Avatar 4, and I’m not going to produce other people’s movies for them. I’m not interested in taking scripts,” said Cameron.

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Culture Warrior

Way back in the summer of 2004, on the heels of the great success of I Love the 80s and (later) I Love the 70s, VH1 tested the bounds and justifications of the nostalgia market by releasing the initial ten-part I Love the 90s. Instead of simply reflecting upon the most memorable and oft-canonized popular culture products and national news events of the 1970s and 1980s (two decades whose iconography had become ever more apparent, stylized, and parodied during its reappropriation in late 90s/early 00s pop culture), VH1 instead attempted (perhaps unsuccessfully) to create a trend rather than merely follow the typical, perhaps “natural” cycle of nostalgia. Because I Love the 90s aired only a few years after the actual 90s ended, VH1 situated the early 21st century – a time that ostensibly marked a major temporal shift but (save for 9/11) had yet to be self-defined – as a time that uniquely necessitated an immediate reflection on how to understand the 20th century, even the years of that century that were not so long ago. The experiment was both engaging and bizarre. By 2004, the early 90s had come into stark, VH1-friendly self-definition. Yes, we could all collectively make fun of Joey Lawrence, Pogs, oversize flannel, and Kevin Costner’s accent in Robin Hood, and share in the memories and irony-light criticisms therein with Michael Ian Black and Wendy the Snapple Lady. However, by the time the show reached 1997-99, I Love the 90s seemed less like a program banking […]

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In 1989, James Cameron explored the fictional deep in The Abyss, and when he dove nearly 7 miles into the Mariana Trench, he unfortunately didn’t meet any gooey alien-like beings, but he did beat a solo dive record and figuratively witnessed a different world inside our own. But hasn’t that always been the job of a good storyteller? To witness and share other worlds within our own? Cameron is a visionary storyteller, and we have a lot to learn from him even as we enjoy his movies. Here is his TED Talk from 2010 where he discusses his unreal worlds and his limitless curiosity – something that seems incredibly relevant right now.

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Boiling Point

I’ve got a bit of an obsessive compulsive issue when it comes to DVDs and Blu-rays. I’m one of those suckers who will get caught every so often in a double-dip if I’m not paying attention. If I am being observant, I’m the guy who waits four extra months to get a disc with some special features attached. I really dug Transformers 3 and wanted to watch it again, but I’ll be damned if I was going to buy a disc with no extras on it! The issue that has my panties all aflame this week is all about special features and the lack thereof. Oh, most discs today come with some special features on them, but the “featurette” has become the bane of my existence. It used to just be what they called small extras on the disc, but now they’ve really emphasized the -ette, meaning mini, small, or useless.

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Boiling Point

Hollywood is a business. A big business. A ten billion dollar box office per year kind of business. While that is an impressive number, you also have to remember that I said “box office,” which is ignoring the home video market. If you include direct sales only, that’s another $5 billion. I swore that I would never do math again after college, so I’m not going to bother with rentals and licenses and all that shit. Suffice it to say, Hollywood is a big business. And they want to be bigger, like all businesses. Enter the shady world of rehashing. The repeated raping of your wallet. There was a time when it was as simple as releasing a Special Edition or Collector’s Edition of a movie. Now, films have two theatrical releases, get remastered in 3D and sent to theaters, and are then released on three to four separate DVD releases. As a super-fan, I’m excited to get Collector’s Editions – I’ll even double dip now and then, but the process has gone too far and offers too little.

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The film world has recently experienced a bit of a backlash against 3D movies. Not only have film writers of all sorts repeatedly harped on what a needless gimmick adding a third dimension to an already perfectly fine two-dimensional image is, but regular moviegoers have been using their dollars to vote against the format as well, with more and more 3D pictures seeing less income coming from their 3D screenings and more from their standard two-dimensional screenings. Whether that means audiences are tired of the 3D gimmick itself, or if they’re just tired of paying the premium to see a movie in 3D over 2D is up for debate, but the end result is the same: it looks like the latest 3D fad is on its way out. There are a couple of very vocal and very influential supporters of 3D technology in the movie world, however, and they’re not going to go down without a fight. Perhaps most famously, Avatar director James Cameron is a huge proponent of filming things in 3D, so much so that he’s developed a lot of the technology that makes new techniques possible. He’s even gone so far as to predict that everything we watch in the future will be filmed in 3D, all the time, and that any needed 2D versions will just be extracted from the original 3D copy. That’s a pretty bold stance, but he’s not alone. Director of the upcoming 3D family film Hugo, and Hollywood legend, Martin Scorsese, has […]

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published: 10.30.2014
B-
published: 10.29.2014
D+
published: 10.27.2014
C-
published: 10.24.2014
C-


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