Duncan Jones

temple-run-repetitive

Video games have been a part of popular culture for decades now, and whenever anything is a part of popular culture, you can bet that Hollywood is going to try to piggyback off of its joojoo in some way. Because of this, the history of movies that were adapted from video game properties is a long and rich one, wherein just about every game you can think of that’s reached a critical mass of popularity has been turned into a movie. That’s what makes it so depressing that we still haven’t really gotten a video game movie that’s been received warmly enough to legitimize the genre and shut up everyone who keeps saying that video games are not art, or that they at least make for really crappy source material for movies. What’s even more depressing though is the news THR recently broke that Temple Run, a game that’s become popular on iOS and Android mobile devices, is the next property set up to inspire its own big screen feature over at Warner Bros. Making a movie out of a game like this just proves that Hollywood still has no clue which types of video games could inspire a film version that audiences would accept and which absolutely won’t.

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Paula Patton 2 Guns

According to Deadline Hollywood, Legendary has offered lead roles for the Duncan Jones-directed World of Warcraft to Paula Patton and Colin Farrell, although there’s still (by their calculations) an even chance that Farrell won’t accept. Who will they play? Hunters? Mages? Night Elves? It’s unclear — as is what the movie dipping its toes into the expansive universe will cover. The only sure thing is that it has to be more than humans and orcs to avoid feeling like a Lord of the Rings clone. After 5 years of stop-and-go development, this is the surest sign yet that their announcement to start production in January isn’t just a pipe dream. Patton and Farrell are both interesting choices, but regardless of who they cast, this is still an In-Duncan-Jones-We-Trust situation. The studio may want names and faces to put on the poster, but this will always be the filmmaker behind Moon becoming the mayor of an insanely popular fantasy landscape. Look for an avalanche of developments in the coming months.

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World of Warcraft Aubrey Plaza

It’s been a long, harrowing journey, but it’s almost close to starting. Blizzard has been developing World of Warcraft for a very long time, initially earning excitement for hiring Sam Raimi in 2009, but after the director dropped out last year, the news of Duncan Jones replacing him was bittersweet. He’s undoubtedly a great choice, yet after waiting so long for it to happen, it was natural to question whether the movie would actually happen. Well now it will. Or at least someone’s paying rent. Production Weekly has posted that Legendary Pictures has set up its offices for the film at Canadian Motion Picture Park (apparently Azeroth is in Vancouver) with an eye to start production January 13, 2014. So far, the plan to release it in 2015 is still on target. No word yet on whether Aubrey Plaza and Mr. T will star. In fact, there haven’t been any casting announcements yet, but they’re almost guaranteed to land in the coming months.

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World of Warcraft

Briefly: After years of stops and starts, Legendary Pictures’ World of Warcraft movie has finally locked in a director who sounds determined to make the live-action project work. THR reports that Moon and Source Code director Duncan Jones will helm their feature. The script has been written by Charles Leavitt and the film is aiming to start filming this fall, with a 2015 release eyed.

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Over Under - Large

Ask any movie geek what their favorite horror movie is, and there’s a good chance they might say Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Ask them what their favorite war movie is, and there’s a good chance they might say Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Stanley Kubrick is just that kind of director. Perhaps his most beloved movie ever though is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ask any movie geek what their favorite sci-fi film is, and it’s very likely they’re going to name drop this tale of evolved apes, space ships, murderous computers, and space babies. It’s got very deliberate, very beautiful photography, it’s long and slow paced, and it contains plenty of subtext that’s ripe for dissection. This movie is basically movie geek catnip, and it’s become so popular over the years that even regular folk who don’t know much about movies are aware that it’s considered to be one of the top “classics” of all-time. A similar movie that was much-loved by film geeks but that hasn’t broken through to having mainstream recognition among regular folk is Duncan Jones’ directorial debut from 2009, Moon. Here’s a movie that has quite a bit in common with 2001 as far as look, feel, and thematics go, but that combines all of the good stuff from Kubrick’s art film with a human story that’s so much easier to follow and relate to. And yet, Moon is also a movie that came and went without causing so much as a ripple outside of the […]

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Culture Warrior

For filmgoers frustrated with a visionary filmmaker whose films’ quality provided diminishing returns as he became ever more prolific, Prometheus was anticipated as a welcome return to form. For those hungry for R-rated, thinking person’s science fiction, Prometheus provided a welcome respite from a summer promising mostly routine franchise continuations. For those who see the 1970s and 1980s as the height of modern Hollywood filmmaking, Prometheus promised a homecoming for a type of blockbuster that was long thought to be dead. Prometheus even beat out The Dark Knight Rises as the most anticipated summer film of 2012 on this very site. But then the reviews came in. And thus began the qualifying, criticizing, parsing out, hyperbolizing, dissecting, backlashing, and disappointed exhaling. There were many responses to Prometheus, but very few of them were the songs of praise that a film this hotly anticipated – and highly desired – by all means should have satisfyingly warranted.

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Duncan Jones burst onto the scene three years ago with his debut film, Moon, a quiet slice of science-fiction perfection that featured Sam Rockwell as a lone space station astronaut counting down the days to his return to Earth. Jones followed that up two years later with the sci-fi thriller Source Code. It was a far more traditional film than its predecessor, but there was still lots of speculative fun to be found. Sophomore slump successfully averted the question became what would Jones do next? He was rumored for several projects (including the Superman reboot) and has spoke openly of his plans to return to the sci-fi genre with his original script, Mute. Per Variety, Jones has signed on to direct a biopic about 007 creator, Ian Fleming. The film will follow Andrew Lycett‘s biography “Ian Fleming, The Man Behind James Bond,” but there’s no confirmation yet if it will focus on a singular section of Fleming’s life or be more all-encompassing. Fleming worked briefly as a journalist before finding his niche in British Naval Intelligence during WWII, and later went on to create the most famous fictional spy in the world.

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Aural Fixation - Large

Los Angeles’ Largo at the Cornet is a small venue where even the last row in the house is a good seat. There is no preferential treatment here, no seats sectioned off for “special” guests. In previous trips, I did the non-spoken eye move indicating that the two seats in my row were open to a tall man in a baseball cap (who I later realized was Rainn Wilson) proving that everyone here is equal, we have all gathered for the same reason and that unspoken knowledge makes the link between each person in the room (at least for those few hours) palpable. The man of the hour this particular night even pointed out that while he had put him on the guest list, he was not sure Moon director Duncan Jones had actually made it out only to have Jones confirm his presence by shouting, “I’m right here, mate!” from only a few seats down from me. This layout gives the sense of an intimate and unique experience that makes you feel like the artist is performing from the couch in your living room. There are no backstage passes here or over inflated egos, just a group of people who have come together for a common interest, and on this night it was the music of Clint Mansell.

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What is Movie News After Dark DRINKING? It’s what happens when Neil leaves and Kate Erbland and I joke about me doing this column drunk and then don’t realize that’s probably a bad idea until the next day. So hello and welcome to maybe the only installment ever of Movie News After Drinking, brought to you by Old Crow Bourbon. Old Crow Make it a Double! (Note: We should get paid for this). I think my introduction needs to be longer before I put that page break thing here and before I get fired for making a mockery of this column. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance came out today and it should come as little surprise that most people hate the movie. Our boy Jack Giroux reviews the flick over at TheFilmStage where he politely points out that Jerry Springer jokes are old enough to be getting paternity tests themselves (that means they’re like 15 years old).

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This past March, the Mark Gordon-produced, Ben Ripley-written, Duncan Jones-directed science fiction thriller Source Code hit theaters to both critical and commercial success. So much commercial success apparently that the film is being commissioned by Gordon and CBS for a TV adaptation without Jones or Ripley involved. According to EW, the series will focus on “three former federal agents who are part of a top-secret program. Each week, they’ll use “Source Code” technology to jump into the consciousness of people involved in tragic events.” Clearly that’s a fairly big leap from the film where the main protagonist (Jake Gyllenhaal) had no clue that he was inside the Source Code. The series will mark the first time ABC Studios will produce an off-network show. But as this will clearly be more of a procedural, it will fit right in at CBS who has actually been taking stabs lately at more high concept versions of the genre (like Person of Interest).

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Source Code…and, for that matter, Avatar. Recently in Hollywood, the physiological capabilities of our heroic protagonists have owed a great deal to modern medicine and technology, specifically from the military. Whether it be the unique opportunity provided for the paraplegic Jake Sully in Avatar, the incredible and unwanted responsibility of the nearly-dead Colter Stevens in Source Code, or the intravenous hyper-bulking of Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, Hollywood has given us a spate of unlikely protagonists connected specifically by the fact that their initial disabilities provide for them a unique opportunity to become exceptionally enabled.

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Duncan Jones is a movie-making treasure. These days, saying that you’re going to go see a science fiction film pretty much means you’re going to watch a movie about space ships blowing up the Earth, and that’s about it. There aren’t many people making science fiction that’s based heavily on ideas rather than action, like the greats of the genre used to in pulp magazines like “Astounding Science Fiction,” these days. But with his first two directorial efforts Moon and Source Code, Jones proved himself to be a strong voice capable of making sci-fi the way it should be; full of forward thinking ideas and philosophical quandaries. The good news coming out of an interview that Jones did with DIY is that he’s currently readying his third science fiction project. The bad news is that it could potentially be his last. When talking about what will make his third film different from his first two, Jones said “Moon was done at a tiny budget and we really squeezed everything we could out of it. Source Code was a chance to work on a bigger budget with name actors, but on a project that wasn’t my own. Hopefully, this third film will be the kind of sci-fi I want to make, on a budget where I can afford to do it as I see it in my head,” he then added, “After that, I’ll change genres.” Jones paired with a hefty budget and creative freedom sounds great to me, but if […]

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This editorial contains spoilers for Source Code. Consider yourself warned, and consider yourself given another excuse to go see the movie. You’re waiting for a train, a train that will take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don’t know for sure. But it doesn’t matter. How can it not matter to you where that train will take you? Because that train is going to explode, killing everyone on it. In fact, that train has already exploded, but you’re waiting to board it in a very peculiar way. You’re Colter Stevens from Source Code, and you have a ticket in your pocket because a man who was on the train earlier in the day (when it blew sky high) has a ticket in his pocket. Your mind is inside the short term memory of a dead man. Source Code plays around with identity philosophy in at least three key ways, and it seems directly influenced by the story of a man who loses his head in order to play hero. Hold on tight to your brain, and let’s try to find Colter.

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Editor’s Note: This editorial contains spoilers for Source Code, so if you haven’t seen it 1) you should and 2) you probably won’t get the jokes either. It comes from guest writer James Kopecky who has thought far too much about what happened at the end of Duncan Jones’s latest. When I see a movie, I take it as a two-hour-long glimpse into a reality that has a rich history, as well as an ongoing, unwritten future. After the credits roll, I assume that the characters and the story keep moving, most likely in the direction they were headed when the picture ended. So when I saw Source Code, I thought about what happened to the characters after screen faded to black. This turned out to be problematic for me, because the ending of Source Code raised a slew of questions, some more perplexing than others.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It is a nightly movie news column dedicated to featuring painfully overtread characters from the part of the Marvel universe owned (cinematically, at least) by the 20th Century Fox corporation. It might as well be called X-Men After Dark. Hmm… maybe Fox will buy some sponsorship rights. They need all the help they can get after X-Men Origins: Wolverine. “A good Wolverine film could be an amazing thing.” Duncan Jones said this mere days before he confirmed that he will take a meeting with 20th Century Fox about the possibility of directing The Wolverine, taking a director’s chair left empty by the departure of Darren Aronofsky. As geek cred goes, Jones has perhaps as much as anyone working right now following Moon and Source Code, and he’s smart enough to pull it off. Here’s hoping the project is a good fit and that Fox makes the right call.

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Culture Warrior

This editorial contains spoilers for Source Code and Moon. If you haven’t seen the movies yet, go check it out first before diving in. When I watched Duncan Jones’s sophomore effort Source Code, I couldn’t help but think about how much it resembles, nearly beat for beat in its structure, his first film Moon. This is not necessarily a criticism of Source Code or Jones, as repeated thematic occupations and narrative revisitation can be the sign of the auteur, and I’ve enjoyed both his films. But the films are, admittedly, structurally identical in several ways. Both involve a lone protagonist who discovers something unexpected about their identity that changes their relationship to their given tasks (Sam Bell realizing he is a clone in Moon, Captain Colter Stevens’s “near-death” state in Source Code), and combat some form of repression against a bureaucratic organizational body (a private corporation in Moon, military scientists in Source Code) while being assisted by an empathetic, benevolent subordinate of that organization (GERTY the robot in Moon, Vera Famiga’s Captain Goodwin in Source Code). But it is rather appropriate that both of Jones’s films be so structurally similar, for the major themes connecting them, and the narratives by which those themes are exercised, are enveloped in the topic of the repetitive structures of everyday life.

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If most thoughtful action films snagged a GED after dropping out of high school to train full time, Source Code is the kind of action film that went to college. Maybe it didn’t make it much farther than sophomore year philosophy, but that’s a good thing, because the movie knows how to drop some knowledge and still play a wicked, fun game of beer pong. Source Code is the best movie it could possibly be. Stream-lined and smart, refusing to condescend to its audience, filled with tense moments and active frustration – it may not have the hardest impact, but it’s a movie that sticks in your brain even after you’ve tossed the popcorn bag into the trash. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens – an army helicopter pilot who wakes up on a train that’s about to explode. He’s confused, frightened in a way that won’t allow him to show it, and when the train explodes, things get even weirder. He wakes up in a military training pod and told he has to go back in to find a bomb in order to stop another attack from happening.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr recovers from a full day of watching Armageddon back-to-back to crawl back to the multiplex. He re-lived the last eight minutes of Source Code over and over, thoroughly confusing himself. Then he stumbled into the theater next door to learn about the true meaning of Easter from Russell Brand and James Marsden. Things take a decidedly creepy turn when he watches Insidious and wets himself more than once. This led to a very unfortunate scene while he watched the sexual-predator cautionary tale Trust. No one would believe him it was just wee wee.

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Source Code really solidifies a suspicion we all have had about director Duncan Jones: he’s a real people person. Yes, unlike most sci-fi filmmakers, there is very little cynicism or dread to his films. While both Moon and his successful sophomore effort, Source Code, do explore the idea of man abusing science, ultimately, there’s a huge amount of hope in his work. Not only that, but he follows generally fun and – if a tad flawed – good people. That’s right, there’s no mopey, emo action lead in Source Code. Colter Stevens, the hero of the film, is the Han Solo archetype. He’s charming, brash, and sometimes, thinks more with his fists than his head. Stevens is quite similar to Duncan Jones’s previous antagonist, Sam Bell. There’s an everyman quality to both leads. They’re not macho. They’re not invincible. And they’re both flawed individuals. Like Bell, Stevens doesn’t shy away from acting like a jerk here and there. The predicament he’s in – once again, just like Sam Bell – raises ethical questions. Although Source Code isn’t entirely hardcore science-fiction, Jones does what all classical films of genre should do: ask a few questions. If you’ve ever seen Jones an interview before, then you already know he’s a personable and fun-seeming filmmaker. He manages to take that upbeat spirit of his and interject that good nature in his films, and as was the case with Moon, it works. WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers.

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Colleen Goodwin is a risky character in Source Code. Goodwin is the most exposition-reliant character, and if she was handled wrongly, this GPS machine could have been the most ham-fisted character of the year. Nearly every line Goodwin has is exposition. As an actor, as Vera Farmiga discusses, walking a fine line of being a character instead of a device is no easy task. For exposition to generally work, it requires a sense of urgency. Considering most of Farmiga’s screen time involves her talking on a computer screen, that must have made matters even more difficult. This type of exposition either flies or falls completely flat, so it was a smart move on Jones’s part to hire a pro like Farmiga. Although Goodwin is the main key to explaining things for Jake Gyllenhaal’s Colter (and for the audience), she’s also important for raising the main ethical questions of the film. By the end, Goodwin makes for a bit more than a lifeless and pandering talking head. Here’s what the well-spoken Vera Farmiga had to say about the art of bullshit, the difficulty of discussing Source Code, bringing realism to exposition, and more:

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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