Kodi Smit-McPhee

Michael Shannon in Young Ones

There wasn’t much hype surrounding Young Ones at Sundance. It was a movie on people’s radar, but after it screened, it didn’t generate much buzz. That’s a shame, because Jake Paltrow‘s second directorial effort is an excellent film. It’s a western with a twist of science-fiction. The sci-fi elements are mostly left in the background, though. Young Ones is a movie that could mostly do without all the futuristic machinery, it’s just an immensely cool cherry on the top. That CGI tech, by the way, is seamlessly rendered into these beautiful desert landscapes. They have a worn down, used quality that suits this old-fashioned story. Young Ones is about a family. At the beginning we see a father, played with charm and warmth by Michael Shannon, protecting his land from thieves. They’re there to steal his water supply. In this future — what year isn’t stated and doesn’t matter — there’s a serious drought going on. The father and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) hope one day to get some of the water that’s left to run through their land. Their journey leans more heavily on drama than genre thrills, but the trailer would lead us to believe otherwise.

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Jonah Hex

Not much is yet known about a new Western that’s in the works called Slow West, but when one of the only things that’s known about it is that its cast is going to feature a trio of talented actors headed up by the current master and ruler of all our acting affection, Michael Fassbender, then that’s really all you need to know to be on board—especially coming so soon after the disappointment of hearing that Fassbender was going to do a Western with Jane Got a Gun, and then having him drop out and nearly doom the project when everyone else started following suit due to heartbreak. News of Slow West’s existence comes from The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye, who says that the project was brought up to him by Fassbender during a conversation they were having at the Telluride Film Festival. While it’s true that the story was likely published just so the journo could rub it in all of our faces that he got to hang out with Fassbender while swilling some no doubt expensive hooch, his report contained too many other details to be seen as just hearsay. Bamigboye was also able to get the name of a director and two of Fassbender’s co-stars, for instance.

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Paranorman Commentary Track

The commentary tracks on animated films are destined to be different beasts than their live-action cousins if only because there’s little opportunity for onscreen performers to contribute. Sure the voice actors can join in, but they’re a minor element of production most likely severely lacking in anecdotes. So that leaves listeners with filmmakers unused to performing directly to an audience. But that doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining. ParaNorman is the only release I recommended buying in this week’s Blu-ray/DVD column, and it’s not difficult to see why. The makers of Coraline have returned with a funny, Amblin-like tale that finds real heart and drama in a story about a young boy who can see and speak with the dead. Norman is shunned by pretty much everyone, but when an evil witch’s curse threatens to raise the dead and destroy the town he becomes an unlikely and unexpected hero. Please note, there are spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet skip this and go read my ParaNorman set visit instead.

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Drinking Games

Even though October passed us by almost a month ago, Focus Features has decided to drop its brilliant stop-motion animated film ParaNornman during the Christmas season. Consider it a gift to all of us scary movie fans who can adore this sweet-yet-spooky film in the comfort of our own homes without kids in costumes ringing the doorbell, constantly interrupting to demand candy. Of course, since you’ll be enjoying this film at home, possibly eating the last reserves of your plastic jack-o’-lantern bucket, you can knock back a couple drinks in the process. But go easy on the spirits, considering this movie is good enough to remember without a hangover.

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Editor’s note: With FSR favorite ParaNorman opening today, we thought it was only appropriate to re-post our very special set visit from the film, originally posted on May 21, 2012. I recently visited a nondescript building outside Portland, Oregon that would feel right at home in any corporate office park in America. Nothing about the bland, uninteresting exterior even hinted at what to expect beyond the front doors. There’s no sign outside to tell you where you are. No iconic sculptures alluding to what they do inside. Nothing at all that even hints at the harmonious blend of magic and technology within. But make no mistake, what LAIKA Studios is hiding inside those four generic-looking walls is nothing short of a revolution in film production…a revolution 115 years in the making. LAIKA is the studio behind 2009’s critical and commercial hit, Coraline, a film that utilized creepy but beautiful stop-motion puppetry to tell Neil Gaiman’s dark childhood fable. Their follow-up feature is an original work called ParaNorman. It’s an Amblin-like tale of a small New England town, a very special boy who can see and talk with the dead, and a zombie uprising that threatens to destroy them all. And yes, it’s a comedy. Keep reading for a peek behind the scenes of LAIKA Studios’ upcoming production, ParaNorman, and their secret, high-tech weapon…Rapid Prototype 3D printers.

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“An episode of Scooby-Doo directed by Sam Raimi” is how directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell describe ParaNorman. Their horror-comedy wears its influences proudly. From the John Hughes-esque ensemble to Jon Brion‘s whimsical take on a John Carpenter score, it’s all obvious. Tonally, ParaNorman doesn’t share much in common with LAIKA Studio’s Coraline, a far darker movie. And not only is ParaNorman different from Henry Selick’s film in content, but also in terms of production. Butler and Fell didn’t want to approach ParaNorman as a stop-motion picture, as they saw the technical restrictions in going that route. Instead, they approached the film as if it was live-action, and it shows in the film’s scope and playful camerawork. According to Butler and Fell, they didn’t want to play by the rules of stop-motion. Here’s what ParaNorman directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell had to say about the film’s epic production, how The French Connection and Ronin influenced their zombie car chase, and the future of stop-motion:

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The latest film from the makers of Coraline, Laika’s ParaNorman has a lot to live up to – fortunately, the studio’s next film looks to be just as sweet, funny, and damn dark as their first. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee as the voice of Norman, he’s just not like other kids – he’s got wacky hair, his parents don’t understand him, he doesn’t really have a lot of friends. Oh, and he can see dead people. And he’s cool with it. “AbNorman,” as the mean kids at school call him, might be a little lonely, but with spirits swirling around him, he’s never alone. And hopefully, Norman’s prowess with the undead will work beyond just everyday ghosts, because his town is about to be besieged by zombies and witches. Oh, my. The film is one of our Most Anticipated Movies of the year, thanks to the strength of its first teaser and also, just how damn cute Norman is. The full trailer is finally here, and while it’s less atmospheric than the teaser, it does let us into Norman’s life, complete with a trainwreck pal, a cool sister, those parents who just don’t get him, the mean kids at school, and ghosts and zombies aplenty. Get hip to Norman’s lifestyle and watch the full trailer after the break.

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We continue our journey through a month of frightening, bloody and violent films. For more, check out our 31 Days of Horror homepage. Synopsis: Based on the novel “Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist the film Let Me In is relocated from Sweden to Los Alamos, New Mexico. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a friendless boy, a victim of bullies at school. Not a day goes by when he isn’t pushed, shoved, harassed and threatened. With no one to turn to, not a friend, or teacher, not even his parents who are consumed by a bitter divorce, Owen retreats into  violent fantasies of revenge. One night a man (Richard Jenkins) and his daughter Abby (Chloe Moretz) move into the apartment complex and Owen becomes curious about the girl who only comes out at night, sits in the cold with no shoes or coat, but seems untouched by the frigid New Mexico winter. She looks ragged, she smells bad, her hair is lank and her are eyes dull. But even so, Owen is drawn to her. The next time he sees her she’s been transformed, no longer sickly looking, she looks like a pretty little girl. Owen will learn she’s without a doubt different from any girl he’s ever met.

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What is Movie News After Dark? Whatever it was last night has been shed, and tonight it is back to its old self: a movie news round-up that appears nightly, pulls no punches and always delivers the goods. For those who were disappointed in last night’s non-entry — especially that guy who called me “LAZY” — please accept my apology in the form of tonight’s exquisite assortment of entertaining goodies. Tonight’s lead image comes from Pixar’s new short, Luna. It’s the coming-of-age story of a young boy who is taught the strange details of his family’s business. As with everything Pixar-related, it looks beautiful. And we can only imagine that it will have some sort of heart-warming human elements. Nothing plucks heart strings like a little lineage and a father with a massive mustache.

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Let Me In has the tough distinction of not only being a remake (or a recent second adaptation of a novel, if you want to look at it that way), but of being a remake of an incredibly popular cult horror film that only came out a few years ago. Still, even with that hurdle, director Matt Reeves sought to tackle the problems of adolescence, young love, and bloodlust with his version. I got a chance to sit down with him and lead actor Kodi Smit-McPhee to talk about tonal connections to Wong Kar-wai, choosing brutal acting roles, and the most popular method of securing the blood we so desperately need as fuel. Special thanks to Luke Mullen for editing.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr strikes out against… well, pretty much everyone reviewing movies by taking issue with The Social Network. Sue him if you don’t agree, or friend him at Facebook.com/FatGuysattheMovies. But while he cringes under the weight of Jesse Eisenberg’s smug Michael Cera impression, he also rejoices in October being officially here and all the horror movies the month of Halloween promises to bring. Up first, he cowers in a dark theater to the likes of Let Me In and Case 39.

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It’s cold, and there’s blood on the ground. There are empty streets to get lost in, but there’s a monster on the loose. Let Me In is nearly relentless in its tone of isolation and the chance of finding friendship in the eye of the puberty hurricane. There are few warm moments that emerge out of the kid’s eye view, and they’re as beautiful as the silence. In fact, the whole movie is an exercise in the careful crafting of something we can all relate to by using something none of us can. Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is bullied at school, left alone by a mother more wrapped up in her own impending divorce, and concerned mostly with eating Now And Laters and acting tough with a kitchen knife in front of his mirror. Abby (Chloe Moretz) moves into the building, and Owen’s life changes. He has finally found a friend. And that friend needs blood to survive.

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Filling up seconds with paragraphs of words, director Matt Reeves impressed a full Comic-Con crowd with his technical knowledge and his film fandom. Those who could keep up with him, at least. The man spoke in the knowing pace of a hundred miles a minute with an audience fortunate to catch words like Hitchcock, Kino, and Dutch Angle like pennies from Heaven amongst the strikingly long statements. It was his expertise and passion that held everyone captive, but it was also the names he dropped. Not in the form of famous talent he’s sat down to lunch with, but in the form of the films that truly inspired him while working on Let Me In. After some impressive footage, it seems like these films sunk in deep. Thus, by way of a mini-Masters class on the subject, here are the four films that Matt Reeves kept in the forefront of his mind while shaping his coming-of-age vampire film.

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Chloe Moretz in Let Me In

For Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, the road to remaking one of the most prized international thrillers of the past decade has been a bumpy one. Speculation, skepticism and the ability of fankind to hold tight to the original has caused unrest over the mere idea that they would remake Let The Right One In so soon. That, and how can you improve upon near-perfection? But with this first international trailer for the remake, titled Let Me In, he’s taking a big step in the right direction.

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Let Me In Movie

“Anyone expecting the frenetic pacing and whiplash visuals of Cloverfield . . . will be shocked by his new film’s stillness, as well as the patient and exacting mood that Reeves is working to create.”

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letmeincasting

We were all blown away by the original and now the U.S. will have a shot at it with Richard Jenkins, Chloe Moretz, and Kodi Smit-Mcphee. But are they headed in the right direction with this cast? You be the judge. That way we don’t have to form an opinion.

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theroad-header

We’ve been excited — like many of you — for the long awaited release of John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. And now, at least as far as we can tell, it finally has an official release date. Again.

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theroad-header

If there is one thing that makes me sad it is a good filmmaker — in this case John Hillcoat, director of The Proposition — who has a great piece of material that they’ve turned into a potentially great film — in this case Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” — and it just sits on the shelf, collecting dust.

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2009preview-header

In a country that has replaced the motto of “land of the free, home of the brave” with “make sure you Tivo it,” it only makes sense to throw away last year’s actors like a DVD of an Ashton Kutcher film at Christmas. But worry not, we’ve got you covered on who everyone will be talking about in 2009.

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Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Road

It takes true talent behind the camera and a little bit of movie magic to make Pittsburgh look this bad.

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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