Elysium

Pacific Rim

One of the top-ten highest-grossing movies of 2013 will be nominated for Best Picture, and that’s something that didn’t happen in the past two years. The same movie, Gravity, will very likely be the sixth in a row to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects to also be a Best Picture nominee. If it wins the top award, it will be the first to win both those honors since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  I know a lot of people consider Gravity to be a science-fiction film, while I don’t quite qualify it as such. So I merely see it as the closest thing to a genre movie contending for Best Picture this year rather than a true representative. It’s more The Right Stuff than Star Wars. Wasn’t the allowance for more Best Picture nominees intended to accommodate those more popular choices? The first year the Academy returned it to a ten-title category was 2009, and then we saw Avatar and District 9 plus Up, the first animated feature to get a slot since 1991. The next year we had another animated feature in the bunch, Toy Story 3, as well as the sci-fi film Inception. In 2011, Hugo nearly counted as a fantasy picture while Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was a kind of time travel film, but they stretched the definitions of genre film. Last year, the same went for the fantastically dipped Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild. […]

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discs toad road

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Toad Road James (James Davidson) is a slacker, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for meaning he sits around all day doing nothing. Instead, he sits around all day smoking, popping, and snorting anything he and his friends can get their hands on, but that starts to change when he meets the new girl, Sara (Sara Anne Jones). She’s new to the drug scene, he introduces her, and she gets hooked just as he wants out. He agrees to one last trip with her. Shrooms in hand, the two head out to the legendary Toad Road to investigate rumors of the seven gates of hell. It goes according to plan until he wakes up to discover she’s disappeared. Writer/director Jason Banker’s debut feature is low budget, raw, messy, unsure of itself, and yet oddly mesmerizing. The “horror” element introduced via the title feels almost like an afterthought added to make the film more marketable, but the core of the film works as a frequently intense and often painful look at the obvious and not so obvious struggles that come with drug addiction. The doomed love story adds to the film’s tragic allure, but the real life fate of Miss Jones sadly cements it. [DVD extras: Commentary with writer/director Jason Banker and friends, deleted scenes, featurettes, booklet]

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goodfellastable

This week’s list of movies to watch is not inspired by a single new release, because there isn’t anything big enough out this weekend to warrant such a focus. Instead, I’ve got a year-end feature for you inspired by the entirety of 2013 in film. I can’t sum up every title released this year with only ten recommendations, but the movies I’ve selected are, I believe, the best representatives of the more notable titles and trends seen in the past dozen months. Most of the selections are familiar. Chances are you’ve seen more than a few. But obviously this edition has to involve more popular fare because they have to be influential movies to have informed so much of this year’s crop, even if unintentionally. Just take it as a call to watch them again, along with whatever you haven’t seen before, as a special sort of year in review of the most important movies of 2013 released before 2013.

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penka_kouneva

Last year I posed the question, “Where are all the female composers?” The answer was not as dire as the question may have suggested. Yes – it may now be a year later and the majority of well-known composers are still male, but female composers such as Rachel Portman, Anne Dudley, and Miriam Cutler are pushing their way through, creating the music for films such as Never Let Me Go, The Full Monty, and Ethel. So why has it been nearly two decades since a woman was the lead orchestrator for a major studio release?

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rejectrecap081713

This week saw the return of our favorite anti-hero, and I’m not talking about any characters from Kick-Ass 2. Yes, Breaking Bad was the talk of the week, and while that superhero movie sequel was discussed a bunch, it was unfortunately for mostly negative reasons. Maybe that’s why we couldn’t stop thinking about bigger superhero movies, namely of the Avengers franchise. Last Sunday, we got the hint from Vin Diesel that he’s voicing Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy. A few days later, Simon Pegg messed with fans and movie bloggers by fake hinting that he’s playing the lead in Ant-Man. The former isn’t confirmed and the latter I don’t think is totally ruled out yet, but this trend of teasing us isn’t going too well. In the past seven days, FSR has brought you a look back at the hits and flops of the summer, a glimpse at the program for this year’s Fantastic Fest and new considerations of the work of Sam Peckinpah, David Gordon Green, John Frankenheimer and Katherine Heigl (one of these things is not like the other). We learned some interesting news about upcoming Pixar films and a fascinating fact about a classic Kubrick movie. And we gave most of the new releases grades in the C-range (at least we like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints). As always, the Reject Recap is here to get you caught up on all these goodies and more. Start your weekend right after the jump.

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Paranoia

Today marks the opening of Robert Luketic’s Paranoia, a film that, despite literally being titled “Paranoia,” has absolutely nothing to do with “paranoia” in the slightest. While the film, a corporate espionage thriller, sets its a solid cast of Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, and Amber Heard’s incredible skin in a twisted world of technology titan battles and criminal double-crosses, there’s no paranoia to be had here. Sure, Hemsworth’s Adam Cassidy may be a pawn in a seemingly never-ending war of one-upmanship between Oldman and Ford (both big-time tech guys who are apparently desperate to craft really cool flip phones or something) who constantly feels like he’s being followed and watched, but here’s the thing – he is being followed and watched. That’s not “paranoia,” and it’s not even some good old-fashioned intuition, it’s the gig Adam signed up for. Listen, if you take a job because you’ve been blackmailed into it and it’s a criminal enterprise and they give you a cell phone you always have to answer and there’s a weird guy (Julian McMahon) whose job seems to consist of threatening your life, you’re not being paranoid. You’re being observant. And yet, Paranoia isn’t the only film from 2013 to completely muddle the meaning of its own title. In fact, there’s a bevy of one-worders out there that possess little to no awareness of their own titular meanings. Fortunately, we’re here to rewrite the dictionary for you, 2013 blockbuster style.

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SONY DSC

Elysium features some impressive technology that not only includes improved health care (who doesn’t want to lay down in one of those “fix everything” beds?), but also features extraordinary Bluetooth range (allowing you to easily make calls from space to earth) plus weapons, shields, and exoskeletons not to be trifled with. But perhaps the most remarkable form of technology related to Elysium happened through YouTube and Skype. Composer Ryan Amon created the score for Elysium which features a captivating mixture of found sounds and instrumentation, but more notable is the fact that this was Amon’s first time composing for a feature film. Hailing from the world of film trailers, Amon was certainly familiar with the film world, but it was actually one of these trailer tracks (as posted on YouTube) that caught director Neill Blomkamp‘s eye (and ear) and caused him to reach out to Amon. The Society of Composers and Lyricists hosted a preview screening of Elysium last week which featured a post-screening Q&A with Amon where he revealed a bit more insight into his unique hiring process and provided advice on working within a tight budget without compromising creative vision. Naturally, we jotted them down.

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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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elysium02

Not everyone can have Isaac Asimov collaborate on their film’s screenplay, but if you’re going to go for an original work of science fiction it has to be solid. Otherwise, there are plenty of smartly written novels out there to be adapted. There’s something very appealing about not having any source material, though, at least in theory. And at least if you’ve previously shown a knack for being a fresh visionary, like Neill Blomkamp has. Yet Blomkamp’s strong suit is in his visuals, particularly his juxtapositions of effects-driven alien and tech stuff over Third World backdrops. Also, weapons that make people graphically explode into pieces. Maybe that all will get old eventually, but it doesn’t in Elysium. What does get old fast is the suspension of disbelief we try to hold onto during the movie’s many convoluted plot points and its overcooked political themes. As Rob wrote in his review, there’s some good world-building in the look of the film, but sadly the script tears it all down by failing to properly explain how and why that world works exactly. And the movie as  a whole leaves us with other big questions we just can’t shake or fill in ourselves. Find these below and add any you’re asking in the comments. (WARNING: SPOILERS ENSUE)

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Elysium

The fantastically talented TyRuben Ellingson has been painting the future for years. Getting his start as a VFX art director on Jurassic Park, he’s gone on to envision vehicles, worlds and weaponry for James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro and more. This summer his work can be seen stomping in Pacific Rim and flying through Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, and we were lucky enough to speak with him about his ever-expanding sci-fi universe. Plus, Geoff defends screenwriter Damon Lindelof for saying he’s tired of destruction porn with a straight face, and we challenge ourselves to sum up the week’s movie news in only three words. You should check out Ellingson’s website, and follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more fun stuff on a daily basis. And, as always, we welcome your feedback. Download Episode #28 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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blom

Neill Blomkamp became kind of a big deal after District 9. That film was the surprise hit of 2009, and it showed why Blomkamp was initially tapped to helm Halo. After a debut film makes that much coin, a director is fielding offers left and right, and Blomkamp was no different except that instead of jumping into bed with a big studio franchise-starter he took another risk with Elysium: an original 98 million dollar R-rated action movie. The movie plays with a relevant allegory, but for writer/director Blomkamp that’s just the sprinkles on top of his sci-fi actioner. The movie doesn’t dwell too much on its allegory or exposition, and for Blomkamp, it was important to give the audience just enough information to throw them into the deep end. Blomkamp had to plenty more to say in a roundtable interview about his specific approach to Elysium.

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Elysium

Expectations are a dangerous thing, and right now few people realize that as well as Neill Blomkamp. Four years after his debut film District 9 wowed audiences and critics alike he’s finally ready to unleash his follow-up, Elysium. Audiences looking to see if he can avoid a sophomore slump may also be hoping to be rescued from a fairly underwhelming summer for sci-fi/action films, so expectations are doubled. Well, at least they’re already familiar with disappointment. Max De Costa (Matt Damon) is an ex-con trying to keep out of trouble and stay employed, but the reality of Los Angeles in 2154 isn’t making things easy. The city’s population, much like the rest of Earth’s, consists entirely of the poor and oppressed who can barely afford basic health care and clean living conditions. Luckily they’re all pure of heart. Floating high above them, teasingly just out of reach, is the space station Elysium. Home to the wealthy and the healthy, life up there is little more than a dream for those below. When an on the job injury leaves Max with five days to live he reluctantly returns to his criminal ways to facilitate a quick trip to Elysium and a life-saving visit to one of the station’s all powerful med beds. Standing in his way are Elysium’s Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her black-op henchman Kruger (Sharlto Copley). Complicating things further is the reappearance of Max’s childhood love, Frey (Alice Braga), whose leukemia-riddled daughter is also in need of medical […]

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Elysium Art 4

If destroying a corrupt system of impoverishment was as simple as having a weaponized skeleton grafted onto our bodies and infiltrating the most secure fortress in existence, we’d all do it. That’s a given. Fortunately we don’t have to because Matt Damon is willing to take on the challenge for us in Elysium. As Neill Blomkamp’s first project since District 9, anticipation is at insanely high levels (according to our applause-o-meter), and while the trailers have paraded a drool-worthy design, we can now exclusively share a few pictures from the forthcoming “Elysium: The Art of the Film” from Mark Salisbury (like a movie with pages!) that give us a glimpse of the future. But first, a brief excerpt from Blomkamps’ foreword:

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the-worlds-end-new-movie-release-october-2013-1

This August has made for a tricky must-see guide to compile. If this were any other year, the honorable mentions alone would’ve made the final cut. There’s a lot of quality competition. As such, I’m both pleased and disappointed I couldn’t include Brie Larson’s performance in Short Term 12; a blood-drenched fun home-invasion movie, You’re Next; a new film from the director of Boy A; and more. Then again, having too many good movies on the horizon is a bit strange to complain about. Last month I called July the most promising month of this summer season, and I was wrong. I must’ve forgotten this loaded August, the fantastic lineup of major and specialty releases this month make it. If you were underwhelmed by this summer’s offerings, there’s more than a few here to make you feel more satisfied about this (extended) season.

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news elysium clip

Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium could be described any number of ways- gritty, futuristic, explosion-filled- but ‘funny’ is probably not the first (or even 20th) adjective to spring to mind. Well, prepare to be amazed, as the first clip released from the film (courtesy of Yahoo! Movies) shows off Elysium‘s lighter side. It’s not what you’d call a laugh riot, but there is something bitterly funny in Matt Damon‘s (as protagonist Max DeCosta) frustration over the poor quality of robot service in 2154. It feels very close to the little smidgens of black humor found in Blomkamp’s last feature, District 9 (especially the tabloid pieces that implied a sordid affair between the main character and the film’s alien life). Check out the clip below.

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Elysium

Man, they said that the economy was starting to get better. But from the looks of the new featurette from writer-director Neill Blomkamp and the stars of Elysium, the world in 150 years is a far bleaker place. In the sci-fi film, which stars Matt Damon and Jodi Foster, Earth has become a “third world planet,” devoid of fresh resources and plagued by overpopulation and poverty.

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trailer elysium full

It’s 2154, and the Occupy movement has essentially taken over the entire planet. Before you go thinking that’s a good thing though realize that it only happened because the 1% has left Earth to live in luxury aboard a space station designed solely for the elite. One man (Matt Damon) with nothing to lose has something to say about the arrangement. Writer/director Neill Blomkamp burst onto the scene with District 9 four years ago, and it’s finally time to unveil his follow-up. Elysium treads initially familiar ground with it’s mix of science fiction, action and heavy social commentary, but any worries that Blomkamp is being lazy with his second film are about to be smashed. The new trailer below shows all you need to know about the story alongside some spectacular effects, thrilling set-pieces and glimpses of the bad guys (Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley). Enjoy.

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Iron Man 3

Harmony Korine and friends already gave us a taste of sand, sun and heavy weaponry, but it doesn’t quite feel like summer yet. Maybe that’s because global warming is making everything so cool or because President Obama keeps delaying all of our vacation planes, but the hugeness of the season still hasn’t fully descended. That’ll change this weekend when Iron Man 3 drops an arc reactor into theaters. Then, the parade of unbelievably massive summer movies commences with buddy cops, mischievous teens, people probably named Khan, bald Matt Damons, super men, and the end of the world itself in tow. It’s a tight race this year. Optimism runs high, and the next few months are packed full with studios and indie outfits hoping to entertain and score big, so the task of naming the 13 most-anticipated summer movies was a tough one. So instead of hurting our brains over it, we let math do the work by putting the question to the whole staff and tallying up the results. It’s a slightly eclectic mix, displaying the powerful potential of cinematic storytelling to bring us into the cool, dark room with a single light source. As luck would have it, we found a fittingly seasonal place to start:

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Oblivion Trailer Screenshot

What with Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Elysium, Pacific Rim and the myriad other blockbusting sci-fi movies coming out, 2013 is shaping up to be a great year for the genre. If by “genre” you mean “these four ideas repeated over and over again.”

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BJ Novak in Spider-Man 2

Tonight in Movie News After Dark, we’ve got actionable items of to-do-ness for you. From learning about Neill Blomkamp’s latest to watching Marc Webb show off his Spidey-sets to remembering KFBR392, we’ve got a big list of things that every movie lover should be doing this evening. Lets get started.

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