Neill Blomkamp

District 9

This week’s Culture Warrior looks at District 9′s place amongst the very best of smart science fiction.

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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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Blomkamp and Copley

Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium may have received lukewarm reviews from critics and its box office performance this past weekend wasn’t ideal (even if it did end up on top), but even with a mixed reception, Elysium is proof of one indisputable fact: Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley are a perfect pair. Copley’s performances have been far and away the best aspects of both Elysium and their previous collaboration, District 9. Sony and MRC must feel the same way, because the two studios are joining forces to finance the next Blomkamp/Copley team-up. Titled Chappie, the pic will be a comedy, showcasing a lighter side of science fiction where (presumably) fewer people will be liquified by futuristic explosives. Along with the film’s studio backing, an official synopsis for Chappie has also been released: “Chappie tells the story of a robot imbued with artificial intelligence who is stolen by two local gangsters who want to use him for their own nefarious purposes.” Copley will voice the titular robot, while Ninja and Yolandi Visser will also star. Two members of the rap-rave group Die Antwoord will be playing the robot-thieving gangsters.

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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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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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district9-commentary1

Four year ago, Neill Blomkamp directed the surprise hit District 9, a speculative sci-fi film about the integration of aliens into human culture. Based in his home country of South Africa, District 9 was embraced by critics and audiences, earning three somewhat expected technical Academy Award nomination and a completely unexpected Best Picture nod. However, before the film was released anywhere, Blomkamp recorded his commentary on the film, giving a unique insight into its production with no knowledge of its eventual success. At the time of recording, Blomkamp had been present to show the film in public once, at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Com, and he was feeling pretty good about the movie based on the audience reaction. At least this time, the Comic-Con love translated into box office success and critical acclaim.

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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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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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Elysium

Director Neill Blomkamp has, thankfully enough, not kicked any of his thematic interests while making the transition to his sophomore effort. The District 9 helmer returns to theaters later this summer with his Matt Damon-starring Elysium, another sci-fi epic that deals with the inherent evils of rigid class division and the true measure of a man modified by technology far beyond his control. Put simply – if you were into District 9, you’re going to be into Elysium.

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image_elysium sharlto copley

One of the more anticipated films hitting theaters next year is Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium. The sci-fi epic is the director’s long-awaited (well, since 2009 anyway) follow-up to his breakout hit District 9, and it follows a similar path melding action, science fiction and social commentary. It stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Diego Luna, Talisa Soto and Sharlto Copley. He played the hero in District 9, but Copley’s turn here is of a far darker flavor. Empire Online has just debuted the first glimpse above of Copley in full bad guy gear, and he’s nigh unrecognizable. Elysium is set in the year 2159, and pits the oppressed people of the ruined planet Earth against the privileged elite aboard the Elysium space station. Matt Damon is ex-convict man-on-a-mission Max, fighting with the Terrans for equality, and Jodie Foster is the dastardly government official intent on enforcing anti-immigration laws and keeping Elysium for the Elysians; Kruger is her relentless attack dog.” Elysium invades theaters August 9th, 2013.

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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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Elysium at Comic-Con

When you venture into the multiplexes anymore, one thing becomes abundantly clear: the suits are firmly in control of Hollywood. Sure, movies have been a business since practically the dawn of the medium, but lately the corporate and marketing stranglehold is so tight that the cold plastic from the action figures and the wax from the fast food drink cups can be tasted in the air by the time the first reel gets moving. So with this near insurmountable obstacle of commercial influence, any time an intelligent, well-crafted genre film sneaks through the board rooms and the  farcical focus groups is a victory for geeks like us.

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The flames are hot here in development hell, and there’s way too much cocaine. Way, way too much. So why wouldn’t we come back? When we first examined 8 Promised Movies That Still Haven’t Been Made, it was an exploration of the complex world of filmmaking where the smallest issue can derail an entire project potentially worth millions. Nervous executives, scheduling conflicts, hangnails. Getting a movie made is a miracle, and even those that get hailed in the press as moving forward are sometimes abandoned. Considering our national grand obsession with hypotheticals, here are 8 more movies we were told would happen that haven’t (including some that won’t).

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It’s always difficult to figure out how a studio will factor into the filmmaking process, but considering how well the partnership between Sony and Neill Blomkamp for District 9 turned out, this seems like a match made in Joburg. According to Deadline Rustenburg, Sony will distribute Blomkamp’s forthcoming film Elysium – starring Matth Damon and Jodie Foster – to the entire planet. It’s a huge science- fiction endeavor that just recently got Blade Runner and Tron effects legend Syd Mead to sign on as well. The production is shooting for a late 2012 release. On top of that, Media Rights Capital has worked out a deal with Blomkamp for another movie, called Cappie (an original script), which will begin pre-production as soon as he’s done with Elysium. We’ll be keeping an eye out for plot details on it as they come out. Busy, busy, busy. Just the way fans like it. Sadly, the collateral damage here is that District 10 may never exist or it might be until 2014 before we get a chance to see it.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this shit late at night, what do you expect?

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As we all know, Elysium was the section of the underworld reserved for the heroes and ethically near-perfect. What that has to do with Neill Blomkamp’s latest science fiction outing, Elysium, is anyone’s guess, but now the film has 100% more Jodie Foster in it. She’ll be working alongside Blomkamp’s go-to for District 9 Sharlto Copley and Matt Damon (how dya like them apples?). Plus, Blomkamp has described the film before as being “very violent” which is something to look forward to. Hopefully no one steals Foster’s child and makes her angry. You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry. [Deadline Muncy]

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