Charlize Theron

Mad Max: Fury Road

Let’s take a little journey back in time, oh, say about five years, to when we first heard tell of George Miller‘s latest installment of the Mad Max franchise, a small, dusty feature called Mad Max: Fury Road. Back then, in September of 2009 (do you even remember September of 2009? here’s a hint — the number one song for most of that month was “Obsessed” by Mariah Carey), the film was set to star an impressive duo of talents — the just-rising Tom Hardy and the always-good Charlize Theron. While their involvement hasn’t changed in the five years since the film was first announced, plenty else has. Really, plenty, from the rumor that it was to shoot back-to-back with a sequel to the plan to lens the whole thing in Australia to the obvious buzz that it would be shot in 3D. There’s also the fact that we’ve been talking about this film for nearly half a decade and that it’s finally, finally happening. Really! Mad Max: Fury Road is indeed happening — in fact, it’s happening so much that it already happened. The film has already been shot and is in post-production but that doesn’t mean a whole lot without a fresh glimpse at its two stars, now does it?

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Seth MacFarlane in A Million Ways to Die in the West

You might think that Seth MacFarlane would be the perfect guy to make the boldest Western comedy since Blazing Saddles. After 40 years there’s still no topping Mel Brooks there in terms of genre parody, historical satire, sharp political incorrectness as social statement or even the lowbrow humors of slapstick, raunch and gross-out gags. But MacFarlane, who tackles all those areas of comedy in his TV series and movies, doesn’t even come close to being Brooks’ successor with his sophomore directorial effort, A Million Ways to Die in the West. What starts out as a funny guide to the Wild West and, as the title suggests, how dangerous that time and place was, the movie nosedives with a foregrounded rom-com plot, an underdeveloped and unnecessary villain and a retread of jokes recycled from the first few minutes. For an example of that last fault, and this is by far the worst offender, Giovanni Ribisi plays a guy whose girlfriend, played by Sarah Silverman, is a prostitute. She won’t have sex with him, though, because they’re Christians and are waiting for marriage. That’s a fine joke as an introduction to their characters, not terribly original but still played well and to the extreme with Silverman’s trademark smuttiness. But that winds up being their actual narrative arc, their only true purpose in the movie, so the constant bits where she tells him about her day at work and the gags involving what body fluids of her customers are still in her hair for him to find during their […]

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Can Seth MacFarlane carry a film to which he lends more than just his voice? Where his whole personage appears onscreen, rather than just his voice? We won’t find out for a few months, but this first trailer for his A Million Ways to Die in the West plays it very safe. Just in case MacFarlane’s charisma doesn’t extend beyond his voice, that damn talking bear still shows up for a few seconds. It’s just long enough to make a hand sex joke and then beat a hasty retreat. The millions upon millions of bros who saw Ted can rest easy. But unlike Ted, where MacFarlane more or less transplanted his Family Guy shtick into a bear-shaped package and called it a day, A Million Ways to Die calls upon the funnyman to venture outside his usual crass voice-acting turf. Here, he neither sounds nor acts like any of his staple cartoon character personas; instead, he’s Albert, a meek and unassuming sheep farmer in the old West. Albert shies away from a gunfight and loses his girlfriend  in the process. Yet when a new love (Charlize Theron) comes along, Albert sheds his cowardly exterior and begins learning the ways of the manly-man cowboy- that is, until her husband (Liam Neeson) rides into town, vowing revenge.

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cc young adult

Jason Reitman‘s fifth feature film, Labor Day, hits theaters this Friday, but while I haven’t seen it yet the advance word has been a far cry from the critical acclaim his movies usually receive. To be fair, it’s also by all accounts a different beast from Reitman’s previous films as it concentrates more on the drama than on the acerbic, darkly comedic wit. It’s for this reason that I decided to go back a few years to Reitman’s last film, the blackly comic, emotionally tragic, and sadly under-seen Young Adult, for this week’s commentary listen. Well, that and the fact that one of the best films to play this year’s Sundance, Listen Up Philip, reminded me positively of it. Both movies are excellent entries in the canon of “asshole cinema” in that their lead characters are irredeemable pricks struggling to conceal their humanity and causing all manner of hilarity and emotional distress along the way. Charlize Theron plays a young adult novelist who returns home to her small town to reclaim her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) in the hopes that it will knock her out of the doldrums of both her career and her life. Her efforts don’t quite go according to plan and instead she’s forced face to face with the reality of the person she’s become.

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Tetra-Vaal-robot

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.  Years from now (let’s say 2154), Neill Blomkamp’s significance in film history books will be that he was discovered through his short films. Specifically by Peter Jackson. And for a while he became a sort of poster boy for the situation where a young talented and economical filmmaker catches Hollywood’s eyes with a remarkable short film showcasing computer-generated special effects that make it look like it cost a million bucks. He will also be known for being part of the related trend of a new filmmaker turning his calling-card-functioning short into a debut feature. And as it turns out, another short of his is set to be adapted for his third feature. And another was a test for what was supposed to be his first (the famous failure of the Halo movie). Following film school and a short time working as an effects artist in Vancouver (he’s credited with animation on such things as 3000 Miles to Graceland and Smallville), the South Africa-born director made four notable shorts, one of which is really a commercial, before he moved into the big pictures courtesy of the mentoring Jackson. A fifth short was what originally came about through that partnership. You can watch all five below followed by links to watch six of his exceptional early ad works.

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Fred Savage

Unlike the bulk of child actors who generally grow into having unfortunate adult lives full of addiction and infamy, Fred Savage has transitioned from being the adorable little tyke in things like The Princess Bride and The Wonder Years into being a television director who works regularly and keeps himself out of the tabloids. You’ve got to think that anyone who can handle being handed money and fame at that young of an age without going off the rails probably has a pretty good head on his shoulders, so it makes sense that Savage should now be getting the opportunity to helm his own feature film. What kind of feature film is he getting the opportunity to direct? Glad you asked. THR is reporting that he’s currently in negotiations to take over a comedy called Ladies Night that has Charlize Theron attached to star as well as produce. Seeing as we’re living in a post-Bridesmaids world, Ladies Night is, of course, being described as a Bridesmaids-esque comedy about a woman who, deciding her boyfriend is never going to commit, has one last night of drunken debauchery with her lady friends before she uproots her life and starts over in New York City.

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Sean Bean

What is Casting Couch? It’s full of casting news! Read on to find out what Charlize Theron is up to. Sean Bean was already a star on the rise before he took one of the lead roles in HBO’s Game of Thrones, but since then he’s reached a whole new level of stardom that led to the spawning of a “Sean Bean dies in everything” meme here on the Internet. That’s how you know you’ve arrived. Makes sense, then, that he should finally get the chance to be one of the promoted names in a big-budget tentpole film and see how it works out. According to Deadline, makers of epic film Lana and Andy Wachowski have just signed Bean to play the Han Solo-type for their next big project, Jupiter Ascending. He joins Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, and Eddie Redmayne in a cast that’s starting to look like the strongest the Wachowskis have ever worked with.

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Tom Hardy

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting news roundup that’s bursting at the seams after Hollywood had a very gabby twenty-four hours. Dig in. Tom Hardy: quite simply, he’s awesome. But can he do a Russian accent? We’re likely to find out now that he’s signed up to co-star alongside the also awesome Noomi Rapace in a new film called Child 44. Deadline reports that this one is about a Soviet war hero who uncovers a mass murder and is suddenly faced with doubts about the country he’s spent his life believing in and fighting for. Michael R. Roskam will be directing the film, which is an adaptation of the first in a trilogy of Tom Rob Smith novels. So, if you like bleak Soviet Union-set murder stories, you might be getting sequels!

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Robert Downey Jr

What is Casting Couch? It’s a column that’s trying to talk about casting news on a day when Oscar nominations are king. Pity it. Paul Thomas Anderson is the sort of filmmaker who casts amazing actors in his movies and then directs them to the best performances of their careers. From Philip Baker Hall in Hard Eight, to Tom Cruise in Magnolia, to Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, to Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, this has always been true. According to Showbiz 411, Robert Downey Jr. may be adding his name to that list soon. They say that he and possibly Charlize Theron are looking like they’re going to be the stars of Anderson’s upcoming adaptation of reclusive author Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Inherent Vice. If this ends up being true it would, of course, be completely awesome for film fans, and probably be the biggest thing that’s happened to Downey’s career since he got cast as Iron Man. That’s a win-win for everybody.

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What is Casting Couch? It’s starting to wonder how many times Hugh Jackman can play Wolverine before his sideburns start to stick that way. Hot on the heels of the announcement that the original Professor X and Magneto, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, would be joining Bryan Singer’s X-Men: First Class sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, comes word that yet another actor from the original X-Men trilogy, Hugh Jackman, is also negotiating. This makes sense, of course, because Jackman’s brief cameo in First Class was the first indication we got that Matthew Vaughn’s reboot and Singer’s original films might actually exist in the same universe. Now that Singer has Stewart, McKellen, and Jackman on board, the only other actors he needs to poach from those first X-Men movies is…well, no one. It’s kind of amazing how well those movies cast these three guys and how poorly they cast every single other character. Hopefully this is the end of the colliding of worlds. [THR]

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Whether you loved Prometheus or hated it with every fiber of your being, you can’t deny the fact that it was at least successful in continuing a cinematic conversation about it long after it debuted in theaters. After the film’s Blu-ray release in October, the original script was leaked online, sparking a slew of articles to be written about the differences between it and the final film. (For a look at FSR’s take on that, check out J.F. Sargent’s The 8 Worst Parts of Prometheus Made Sense In the Original Script.) This week, coinciding with the leaking of that script, we’re going straight to the horse’s mouths about the writing of Prometheus. As interesting as Ridley Scott is, let’s lend an ear to the writers of the film as they discuss the differences in the many drafts of the film. If you haven’t seen the film yet, be warned: there are many spoilers in the discussion below. And on to the commentary…

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Drinking Games

Oh, K-Stew! How could you do it to us? You have tarnished the good name of Snow White and the Huntsman with your predictable affair with director Rupert Sanders! If you caught yourself saying this a few weeks ago, you probably aren’t interested in a drinking game about this movie and should crawl back into your Twi-hole. (You’re probably too young to drink, anyway, so off you go.) But if the tabloid news surrounding this film made you somewhat curious to see it (or even revisit it since its release this past summer), you can use these rules to enhance the experience, now that the movie is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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Prometheus

It was perhaps the most anticipated movie of the year after The Dark Knight Rises, but Ridley Scott‘s return to the Alien world in Prometheus has been anything but universally embraced. While many enjoyed the film, an equal (at least) amount disliked it. Regardless of what camp you fall into, I think we can all agree that the crew of Prometheus the ship and Prometheus the movie were pretty stupid, for being future geniuses and all. Here, we count down the ten stupidest decisions and actions made by the crew in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Of course, there are tons of spoilers inside.

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Boiling Point

Editor’s Note: The following article contains discussion of events from the third act of Prometheus. You’ve been warned.  Prometheus just can’t get a break. From poor reviews to my upcoming list of the 10 Dumbest Crew Member Mistakes, you’d think we’d have picked on Ridley Scott’s revisit enough. But we haven’t! This just isn’t about Prometheus though. Hollywood has a long history of illustrating stupid people doing stupid things. One that has always bothered me is when people are fleeing gigantic objects. Whether it’s a falling spaceship, a collapsing building, or a gigantic beast, there’s one tried and true method of escaping – and it ain’t running in a straight line.

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“Who doesn’t love an orgy, Jack?,” Prometheus co-writer Damon Lindelof asked me, possibly being the first person to ask me such a thing. But, really, who could disagree with Mr. Lindelof? Ridley Scott‘s sci-fi opus is filled with all kinds of beings, making for the vicious and high-minded brand of orgy. What does the film have to say about if we, our creators, and our creations all got together and “partied” for a few days? In short: we’d eat each other. Prometheus is a story of characters making mostly questionable decisions, leading to horrific events. Even at the end when a character acknowledges humanity’s greatest flaw, that said character continues to do what they all get wrong in the first place, which is: asking too many questions. The film is about the dangers of searching for answers, a hurdle Lindelof, as a writer, has famously faced before. Here’s what the screenwriter had to say about the dark and hopeful side of Prometheus, the egoism of David, and the Mad Libs-esque storytelling he’s drawn to in our spoiler-heavy discussion:

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Despite somewhat middling reviews and critics and pundits everywhere asking “who the hell is this film for?,” Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman has proven itself to be a force to be reckoned with (or at least looked at). The film has so far made nearly $120m in worldwide receipts in the last week and a half, and it opened to a surprising $56m first weekend in the U.S. alone. The studio set screenwriter David Koepp to pen a sequel back in April, but it’s still been a bit of a wait-and-see as to whether the studio would actually charge ahead with a new installment. Now Deadline Dark Forest reports that Universal is indeed plunging back into the thick of the gritty revisionist fairy tale, with the studio “making all the moves that indicate another chapter is in the offing, and on a fast track.” Koepp is still on the screenwriting beat, and Universal is reportedly interested in bringing back Rupert Sanders to direct (the film was the commercial director’s first feature). While Sanders has yet to commit, he’s apparently “interested” in the job, though he does have the same kind of optioned deal that would bring him back for another go – not like the actors from the film, who do (though Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth are clearly part of that package, it’s unclear if Charlize Theron is).

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Expectations can be dangerous things. Ridley Scott‘s twentieth feature film is a return to a genre that he hasn’t visited in thirty years, but it’s also one that’s simultaneously been quite good to him. Alien and Blade Runner are seminal works of science fiction that went on to influence a multitude of future films, and by any stretch of the imagination they set an impossibly high bar for anyone to reach (let alone the director of A Good Year). Like some ambitiously misguided mash-up of those earlier movies Prometheus features stark futuristic settings, scenes of graphic biological horror and grand questions on what it means to be human, but while its pieces excite and engage its whole fails to form anything resembling a finished thesis. Instead we have big ideas in the form of casual statements destined to go unchallenged. It can’t be overstated how frustrating this is when so many of the film’s smaller elements leap from the screen (in 3D or 2D) to make our eyes widen, our pulses race and our minds quiver at the possibilities. Stunningly beautiful visuals, both natural and effects-wise, help create a dangerously seductive world that wraps viewers in slime covered tentacles and thoughts. Call-backs (call-forwards?) to Alien tease us with answers and even more questions while other parts offer enticing glimpses of creation itself. This is epic science fiction storytelling that too frequently forgets it’s telling a story and yet still manages to be worthwhile spectacle in spite of itself.

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Mad Max 2 The Road Warrior

It seems like studios and filmmakers alike are trying to distance themselves from the terms “sequel” and “prequel,” despite a filmmaking world that’s seeing more of the damned things. Maybe they can sense a slight backlash against franchising, but instead of seeking original material, they’re more interested in pretending they’re not making what they’re making. Whatever the case, the most recent distancing comes from Charlize Theron, the star of the Alien prequel Prometheus and the forthcoming Mad Max: Fury Road – a project that’s been in the works for quite some time. According to Screen Rant, she’s prepping to travel to Namibia to begin shooting, but the movie is neither a prequel nor a sequel. “Like with ‘Snow White And The Huntsman,’ there is so much potential to re-imagine that world. It’s such an interesting world and how much it still resonates today after 20 years or whatever it’s been. We’re going back to that world but this is not a prequel or sequel or anything like that.” So, it’s what? A spin-off? There’s no real need to get hung up on labels, but this is getting ridiculous. You cannot make a movie called Mad Max 4 and it not be a sequel. Or a prequel. A re-imagining? Come on. We just got over the moronic “DNA” idea behind Prometheus, but when you’re going back to the well, could you just say so? Thanks.

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For those of you who didn’t dig on Tarsem Singh‘s giddy Mirror Mirror, here is what you thought you wanted. Do not expect characters to be joking around or having a good time in Snow White and The Huntsman, as all that fun stuff is simply not cool and edgy enough for this grim universe. Mirror Mirror was for the sophisticated and playful child version of you, while talented commercial director Rupert Sanders‘ dark modern take is for that goth High School you, the person who prefers everything — even the kiddiest of things — to be dragged through an edgy, gritty filter. Dour Snow White and The Huntsman certainly is. In a fifteen minute cliff notes introduction, we’re quickly, and yet slowly, introduced to the reactionary Snow White (Kristen Stewart) as a child. We’re told she’s best friends with a boy named Will, who later pops up as a runner in the competition for most disposable character of the year. We’re told she’s famed for her beauty. We’re told her kingdom is dying. We’re told far too much, while hardly ever being shown. After the death of her sickly mother and the murder of her father she’s banished to a jail cell by the evil Queen: the bird heart-eating Ravenna (Charlize Theron).

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Reel Sex

It only takes five minutes to realize Snow White and the Huntsman is going to be a storytelling disaster, and then another ten minutes to accept that short of taking a nap or switching your ticket out for the next showing of What to Expect When You’re Expecting that you are stuck watching as the fairy tale of your childhood is ripped apart in the most unsettling of ways. Normally, the twisting of classic stories for new audiences thrills me to no end, and I have to admit regardless of how terrible the trailers looked, I couldn’t wait to see Huntsman. A world where Snow White rejects her meek personality by embracing battles and carnage sounded better than Christmas.

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