Prometheus

prometheus-truth1

When Prometheus came out in the summer of 2012, it wasn’t just the die-hard Alien fans that took issue with it. People with an interest in real science also had some problems with the film. Granted, there were plenty of silly actions in the movie by brilliant so-called scientists, like taking off their helmets on potentially hostile alien worlds, trying to make friends with an evil cobra-headed acid worm, and being unable to run in any direction but a straight line. However, the question of a DNA match between humans and Engineers is maybe the most interesting element. For a film that should have been grounded at least partially in hard science, there seemed to be some problems with its basic presentation of high school genetics. After Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) brings the head of an Engineer back to her lab, only to have it spontaneous wake up and explode, she runs a DNA test on the head’s genetic material. A few seconds later, the computer screen comes alive with a graphic comparison, declaring a “DNA Match” to human beings. So that got us thinking. If we ever find ourselves with an exploded kind-of-human head in our lab, what are the chances it will be a genetic match to our own DNA?

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IntroHorrorJudgment

Let’s not pretend for a second that most horror movie characters function past the same depth and motivation as your average porn movie repair man. Everything is a set up to get to the main course, which in this case is terrible bodily harm. All of that said, some characters do tend to be much stupider than others – or at least dip into an insane moment of stupidity from time to time. After all, how are they going to get killed in that abandoned house without at some point thinking it’s a good idea to enter it? Let’s all run up the stairs together:

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IntroFirstContact

There seems to be some kind of popular misconception that if aliens were to land on our planet, they’d somehow want to beat us up. In reality, it’s probably going to be the other way around. Want proof? How about the fact that we assume they’d do it to us. But not every film paints the extraterrestrial as the bad guy, as the following eight clearly show us, good old humanity, as the total asshole side of the exchange.

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Prometheus

Rejoice or groan, the sequel to Prometheus is moving forward. According to Variety, both Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender should return, and Jack Paglen – the writer of Wally Pfister’s directorial debut Transcendence — will be writing the script. Hopefully  all the cohesive elements of the screenplay that help make sense of everything will end up being in the movie this time around. But what else is there? Prometheus was so divisive that you’re either currently pumping your fist or pumping your fist with a sad look on your face. About the only general consequence is that it keeps Ridley Scott in this universe a little longer — theoretically preventing him from doing other projects. Although, presumably it’ll be holding him back temporarily from going back into other wells he’s drained before. So there’s that. The only confusing thing about this news is that Variety is claiming that this entry will “feel more like its own film” as opposed to Prometheus, which served to tie things into the Alien universe. That doesn’t make sense. How can a movie, a sequel, sandwiched between a universe-building story and a franchise with 6 entries, feel more like its own film? These and more questions to be answered if Fox decides they like the script enough to flash the green light.

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tyler-perry-as-madea

  Another week bites the dust, and here we are to digest what we’ve swallowed over the last seven-day stretch. It hasn’t been a very monumental week. Mostly we complained about Hollywood stretching its previewing potential to death with something now termed a “tweaser.” And we prepared the world for another release date crowded with unbearable crap (unless you’re lucky to see some of the indies, foreigns and docs we consider worth seeing). Not that we don’t have the usual contrarian or defensive perspectives going to bat for all that junk. These cases of labeling mostly panned productions as underrated or simply “not that bad” or at least “having some good ideas” was also interesting following a huge response at the beginning of the week to the latest Criticwire Survey asking writers, “What movie widely regarded as a cinematic masterpiece do you dislike (or maybe even hate)?” That turned into a discussion of the difference between something being bad or just disliked and some semantics about the term “overrated.” Surely there’s something to be said about the term “underrated,” as well. Anyway, once again the Reject Recap features ten significant stories — news, features, lists, opinions, etc. — that people were talking about this past week. As usual there’s a mix of FSR content and outside links. And we’ve additionally found some videos worth sharing, too, both this week being recut trailers playing with genre (this meme will never get old). Start your weekend right after the jump.

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Best Visual Effects

Best Visual Effects. Over the years, this award has been called a number of things. In 1928, it was given as the award for Best Engineering Effects to the World War I flying drama Wings. It has evolved in the years since, recognizing in equal measure effects that are practical and digital, but most of all that live on the line in-between reality and surreality on the silver screen. It’s the only award category to consistently recognize those pioneers of film who have dazzled audiences with the yet unseen, everything from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to George Lucas’ Star Wars. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. The core criteria for the award is that it’s given to the visual effects masters whose work most exemplifies artistry, skill and fidelity with which the visual illusions are achieved. Each of this year’s nominees has these elements. And each of this year’s nominees brings something unique to the table. We’ve got the year’s highest grossing, all-out superhero explosion; the return of Peter Jackson and his WETA wizards to Middle Earth; Ridley Scott’s return to the sci-fi genre; a classic tale with a digitally saturated twist; and of course, one arty epic that is as colorful a film as was printed on celluloid (or imprinted in ones-and-zeroes) this year. Still, it might be one of the most predictable categories that Oscar has to offer in his 85th edition. The nominees are below, with our pick for winner marked with red…

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IntroPreHistoric

The great thing about prehistory is that you can speculate pretty much any old hogwash about it. Sure – science has given us a reasonably educated guess, but when has science ever stopped us from making shit up? Who’s to say that dinosaurs didn’t talk, or that mankind wasn’t created by a super-species of cat-like beings? That would certainly explain their sense of entitlement. The film industry knows what’s up, and has given us some great depictions of pre-life over the years. Some are unique in their beauty and/or accuracy, while others are just downright silly. Both are great, so let’s celebrate 9 creative ways to look at the world before we came to be.

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2012-rejectawards

It’s funny. We spend so much time honoring the triumphs of 2012, and the big game won’t even roll around until February. The Academy Awards aren’t a paragon of perfection for some, and they aren’t the final word, but they are (like it or not) the closest thing we have to a standard for celebrating creative film talent. There job is to hand out the general cheers for performances, make-up, songs and the like, and since they’ve got those covered, it falls to us to hoist filmmakers and films on high for unique reasons. Reasons that might make the average Academy voter spit out their tea. From the far corners, here are the 2nd Annual Reject Awards.

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The Best Movie Trailers of 2012

Everyone knows you can’t judge a book by its cover, but were you aware that movies shouldn’t be judged by a trailer either? I know, seems counter-intuitive, but while the trailer advertises a feature the two aren’t interchangeable. Terrible trailers sometimes give way to fantastic films just as brilliant trailers sometimes reveal ridiculously bad ones. It’s a crap shoot really. The list below features twelve of our favorite trailers that premiered in 2012. Some of the movies turned out to be gems, others ended up being far less impressive and a few won’t be released until 2013, but all of them made us excited to watch one more movie…

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Culture Warrior on 2012

In this end-of-year editorial, Landon Palmer discusses the pattern that movies demonstrated in 2012 for telling stories through protagonists defined by their various personality traits rather than through conventional, straightforward characters. In so doing, movies this year showed how our individual identities have become divided within various aspects of modern social life. This trend made some of the year’s movies incredibly interesting, while others suffered from a personality disorder. Landon argues that movies ranging from The Hunger Games to The Dark Knight Rises to Holy Motors alongside cultural events and institutions like the Presidential election, social media, and “Gangnam Style” all contributed to a year in which popular culture is finally became open about its constant engagement with multiple cults of personality. Six years ago, Time magazine famously named its eagerly anticipated “Person of the Year” You in big, bold letters. Its cover even featured a mirror. As a result of the established popularity of supposedly democratized media outlets like Facebook and the home of the cover’s proverbial “You,” YouTube, Time declared 2006 as the year in which the masses were equipped with the ability to empower themselves for public expressions of individual identity. More than a half decade later, social media is no longer something new to adjust to, but a norm of living with access to technology. Supposing that Time’s prophecy proved largely correct, what does it mean to live in a 21st century where we each have perpetual access to refracting our respective mirrors?

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12year_disappointments

If there’s one word I think of that’s best tied to the story of film in 2012, it’s “disappointing.” That’s not to say that 2012 was a disappointing year for movies. I don’t know if it was the best in a while, as some of my fellow critics claim, but then I still haven’t seen a lot of the “best” titles of the year. What I do know is that there were enough movies that really, really, really disappointed a lot of people, and so I feel like I heard — or read — the word “disappointing” more than any other. Whether it was a long-awaited prequel to a classic helmed by the original’s director or the expected return to form for a filmmaker or a final installment of a much-worshipped superhero trilogy or a reboot of a beloved comic-based franchise or a new animated feature from a usually dependable studio, there were plenty of major releases that turned out to be less than satisfying. At least for some.

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sorel_pi

When contemplating my favorite films of the year, I keep forgetting about Life of Pi. Yet very few narrative features wowed me as much as Ang Lee’s spectacular adaptation. Given how much I enjoyed it in the theater, the film should have stuck with me more than it has. I blame the ending, which traded the magnificent visuals and wondrous sea adventure for a talky bookend that too directly spelled out the point of the story within the story. I don’t know that I’d say the ending ruined the rest of the film for me. I could go back and re-watch the whole thing and still appreciate all the effects and thrills and drama that excited me the first time around. But if that’s the stuff I want to remember first and foremost, I’ll probably have to leave a few minutes early next time. Lee surely is familiar enough with the craft of storytelling to know that endings are extremely important, that they can make or break an audience’s satisfaction with a movie by being the part that it is left with. He would presumably disagree with me that Life of Pi has a weak ending. And at least the staff of Entertainment Weekly believes the film actually has one of the best endings of the year. And that is fine, because a lot of people hated the endings of Prometheus, The Bourne Legacy and Savages, and I think those movies have three of the best endings of 2012. The […]

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IntroTwistedHoliday

If you’re anything like me, the same five holiday movies that run every year just aren’t enough to quench that festive thirst so deeply embossed on your very soul. You need more than that. If you are like me, you deserve more than that. You are also not wearing any pants. The general rule for holiday films is that they must at least take place around the season, right? And so, if we simply twist that logic to say that “takes place during the holidays = holiday movie”, then there’s a lot of fun to be had the next time mom and dad come caroling. Just go right ahead and pop in one of the following…

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Ender

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s news, discussion, opinions, things! It’s everything that a fan of filmed and televised entertainment could want right before bed. Tonight it’s all about Hobbitses and Guardians, with yet another “Mini-Review” for the masses and plenty of fun to be had. Staring Down Butterfield – We begin this evening with the first look at Ender’s Game, the film based on the book by Orson Scott Card. It’s kind of like Space Camp, but with a way cooler story, budget, cast. The only thing missing is the nostalgia. Oh look, it’s Harrison Ford playing a badass. There’s the nostalgia.

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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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Prometheus Engineer

Whether you loved it or hated it, there’s no denying the fact that Prometheus was pretty polarizing — most obviously because everyone reading this probably either loved it or hated it. Among those who hated it, the criticisms are generally focused on the script. Character motivations were unclear or nonexistent. People reached out to lovingly pet blatantly malicious monsters. DAVID, the most interesting character by far (largely due to Michael Fassbender’s amazing performance) is never explained, even though he incites the core conflict of the film. So naturally those who hated it (like me) are pretty upset with Damon Lindelof (Lost) for messing up what could easily have been a really great movie. Because as much as Prometheus sucked (for some people), it’s also pretty clear that the ghost of greatness is lingering just beneath the surface. So when we learned that Lindelof had done major revisions to the original script written by Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour, the unproduced Passengers), many assumed that the original script had been brilliant before Lindelof came along and Lost’d it all up. Because that’s a far more palatable reality. Turns out, we were right. The original script for Prometheus (then called Alien: Engineers) has been leaked, and it solves virtually all the problems with the original. Is it perfect? By no means — but at least it achieves a lot that the finished version doesn’t. Here are 8 terrible examples:

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“In a perfect world, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ would be a lock for a Best Original Screenplay nomination.” – Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit It must be frustrating to write for an awards blog (aka an Oscar blog, since the Academy Awards are always the main focus of these sites), and know that the best films of the year are not necessarily the ones that will be nominated. Magidson’s comment above, from his April review of The Cabin in the Woods, sort of sums that up. But at the same time I don’t know if the movie truly deserves the statement. Something to consider, semantically speaking, is that the Academy’s award is not for “Most Original Screenplay” but “Best Original Screenplay.” This isn’t to say that the script, by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, isn’t well-written, and you’re welcome to argue its case for a nomination. Is it the best-written original screenplay of the year, though? All my time as a movie lover and watcher of the Oscars, including the past few years of hate-watching, the original screenplay category is one I’ve constantly been excited about. It’s the place where you could find some of the more clever and creative efforts, including a number of films that might not get other nominations. You could find a good number of interesting foreign films outside of the foreign-language award ghetto (such as Bunuel‘s two nominations for writing), as well as an interesting showing of mainstream and blockbuster fare, especially in the […]

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Some of you may already know me by my Twitter handle: @thefilmcynic. It’s a name I’ve gone by for nearly a decade (so, before current social media outlets), because I’m very cynical about the film industry and try to keep my expectations low. I’m also very cynical about the Academy Awards and awards season in general, because we devote so much focus on them — with a wide spectrum of positive and negative angles — and they’re really a bunch of malarkey (much like the V.P. debate, which has inspired my newfound obsession with that word). So, the higher ups at FSR have asked me to write a cynical column devoted to the Oscars. The first one is inspired by the films Seven Psychopaths, Looper and Lincoln and their celebrated performances. As someone who has studied acting (I’m not very good at it), I’ve long taken issue with the way people look at film performances, because there are just so many different kinds. But there are two real distinct types that we tend to recognize while watching and writing about movies that aren’t acknowledged by the Academy: realistic and artificial. The former has been a big favorite since method acting came into play, though it doesn’t necessarily apply to that style nor does that style necessarily always mean realism. The latter could be more expressive and therefore goes back to the dawn of cinema and its silent performances or could even be more stiff, if that’s what’s intended. Directors who […]

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

Movies introducing slang prefixes are all the rage right now, with Pitch Perfect prompting us to put “a-ca-” ahead of numerous words and now Argo giving us a funny reason to put “ar-” before “go” whenever we use the latter (especially when we use it with profanity, as in the movie). So, let me now employ the pun to invite you to “argo” back through the week with us to revisit the best stories and features from the past seven days. Before the main roundup, let’s highlight the regular content that you can find links for around the main page. This week we posted and re-published a bunch of reviews of new releases (Argo; Seven Psychopaths; Sinister; Smashed; Middle of Nowhere) as well as interviews with Argo star/director Ben Affleck and actor-turned-director Matthew Lillard. There weren’t a whole lot of trailers showcased this week, but you should argo watch the new spots for Hitchcock, Room 237, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained and join the discussions of each. And finally, regarding our love of shorts here at FSR, in addition to the regular, daily highlights, we watched Pixar‘s new clubbin’ continuation of Toy Story, Partysaurus Rex, and took a look at the shortlist of eight documentary shorts vying for an Oscar nomination. Daniel has also reviewed shorts programs at the New York Film Festival, as well, but there’s a link to all that event’s coverage below. Check out our ten best features from the past week plus some other recommended […]

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Luis Bunuel once claimed that he kept rocks in his pockets during the first screening of Un Chien Andalou in case the crowd didn’t like what it saw. Whether or not that’s actually true, the audience reaction was never so bad that it came to violence. Apparently cutting open an eyeball wasn’t a real biggie in the 1920s. Of course, none of that changes how ridiculously hard that short film is to watch. It’s grotesque, nauseating, and a great starting point for decades of filmmakers continuing to make audiences freak the hell out. That grand tradition was continued with a second fainting at a screening of V/H/S and it’s a tradition we’d like to celebrate with 8 movies that caused some strong physical reactions.

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