Source Code

Rian Johnson’s new film, Looper, is a pretty awesome time travel flick, one with as many elements that are clever and original as there are purposefully derivative and influenced. It’s the kind of smart and stylish sci-fi cinema we expect every once in a while on the festival circuit, like Sound of My Voice (which hits DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday), rather than from a major Hollywood studio. Looper does fit the indie model, though, since Sony/Tristar picked it up for distribution only after it was done shooting, yet as Brian’s review of the film attests, we can still consider it a good sign for mainstream movies of this genre, and we can hope that Hollywood will see Johnson as the sort of directorial talent they need. But is it the best science fiction film since The Matrix? That’s a question posed in a headline from Time magazine yesterday, though its respective post doesn’t address such a discussion let alone attempt to answer the inquiry. Well, if we exclude superhero movies, animated features (Pixar, Miyazaki and The Iron Giant among them) and the Star Trek reboot, Looper is currently one of only two original studio films of its order to be battling for the status of best reviewed since the Wachowskis’ groundbreaking modern classic. The other is Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men.

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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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There were some supposed protagonists I loathed this year — everyone in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, that asshole narcissist Hal Jordan, the annoying Jack Sparrow — but there were plenty who showed honorable and, yes, badass traits. 2011 brought a few real American heroes (and from parts elsewhere), both in personality and actions. One doesn’t need superpowers or a gun to be a hero, but, as shown by a few choices I made, those simple good traits. And, even if one’s not the greatest of people, you can still be a great hero, as shown by the a*hole category that kicks off the list…

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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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As Hollywood continues to suck the blood out of 1980’s and 1990’s cinema to appease their hungry gods and their demands for still more crimson liquid, news on yet another remake has come to life. And, whereas this morning’s news about a Romancing the Stone remake had me chomping and gnashing and damning people I’ve never met, I can’t say that I entirely hate this newest idea, particularly because it comes pre-packaged not with a pie in the sky list of possible lead actors, but with a genre-appropriate screenwriter. Talented, inventive writing! How about that! Sony has just signed Source Code scribe Ben Ripley to a development deal to write “a contemporary reimagining” of Joel Schumacher‘s Flatliners. The original film hit theaters in 1990 with one of the most awesomely nineties-era casts to ever gather in service for a sci-fi flick about kinda dead people. It starred Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and William Baldwin, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon as medical students who begin to experiment with near-death experiences to see just what’s on the other side. Of course, there are consequences to having your heart stopped repeatedly to get a glimpse at a realm that the living aren’t meant to see. Who knew? Not much else is known about the direction Ripley will take the film, but the writer has already proven himself adept at traversing both experiences and locations by way of the human mind and its perceptions, so Flatliners seems like a perfect fit. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe not all […]

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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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This Week in Blu-ray

Back by popular demand, This Week in Blu-ray is here and ready to take on a big week of reviews in high definition. Sine we’ve been away for more than a few good releases, many of them have been included in this week’s entry. The highlights are many as we traverse through a world of major TV box set releases, great animated adventures, raunch comedy from the 70s and 80s, raunch comedy in the modern era, big action, big muscles, charming documentaries and at least one movie you should absolutely avoid at all costs. Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series Seeing as this column has been away for a few weeks and I’m going to be catching up with some of the best and brightest releases we missed, I’m calling for a temporary rule change and allowing myself two — count ‘em — two picks of the week. First, because it would be near impossible for me to choose between the two. And (b), because they fit so well together. The first of these two must-have television sets is Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off about a secret British agency led by a mysterious American named Jack Harkness who has one advantage over the hordes of aliens he comes into contact with: he can’t die. Led by this immortal man, a team of gifted, otherwise ordinary humans work to protect humanity from any threat, be it alien, supernatural or otherwise strange and interesting. Now, you may be thinking to yourself “I […]

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This Week in DVD

Sweet Jesus there are a lot of new releases this week. If there’s one common theme among them it’s that (with only a couple wide release exceptions) all of this week’s titles are smaller films, older films, or foreign films. I’m as much a fan of blockbusters as the next guy, but there’s something to be said for the small joy of discovering a movie that never had a chance at your local multiplex. Unfortunately, there’s a second theme in this week’s releases… specifically in the Avoid section. I love horror films, but most of the ones releasing on DVD today are simply not worth your time. Skip the three in the Avoid section below and instead check out some of the many titles worth Renting or Buying including Live Like A Cop Die Like A Man, Bodyguards and Assassins, Source Code, We Are What We Are, and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Trust A young high school student forms an online relationship with someone she believes to be a fellow teenager but who turns out to be a thirty five year old pervert. She quickly becomes the victim of sexual assault, but that’s just the beginning of her family’s nightmare as they all struggle with the truth of what happened. Director David Schwimmer does a fine and non-sensationalist job with a topic that could so easily have become exploitative, and he’s aided by two fantastic performances from Liana […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news round-up that’s a little tired, a little wired and it thinks it deserves a little appreciation around here! Alright, so that’s the insomnia talking. For now, lets just do the news like we always do, shall we? The headline photo of the night is a shot of two morons Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin in Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages, a film that will combine major Hollywood names with an infamously terrible director and a slew of over-the-top musical numbers. It’s so ridiculous that it just might work. But probably not.

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The Reject Report

The birds of Rio and the sugar-infused children were too much for the family crowd headed to see Madea’s latest outing this weekend. Madea’s Big Happy Family had anything but the worst opening for a Tyler Perry film, but it is the lowest opening film of his since 2007. It’s also the lowest of the three in terms of Tyler Perry films with Madea’s name branded on the marquee. That’s not to say Madea’s Big Happy Family had a bad opening. You can’t really scoff at over $25 million, and it isn’t like Rio completely trounced the #2 film. The gap is wide enough that we won’t be analyzing Monday’s official numbers to determine a clear-cut winner, but it’s way too soon to start the Madea retirement rumors. Big Happy Family is sure to be viewed as a success for everyone involved especially Perry who is sure to have another Madea film in the works by, say…oh, what time is it?

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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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The Reject Report

Imagine a quiet, two-story house on a dark small-town street. Inside, a group of teens prepare to watch a movie, something scary, something hi-def. They have wealthy parents. As they drink their respective beverages and the FBI warning sits on the screen unobserved, the phone rings. One of the teens answers. On the other end, a high shriek emits, a shriek the other teens hear coming from outside. They go to the window to look, and flying through the air, headed straight for them, is a tropical bird. It has recently been launched from a giant slingshot jutting up out of the front yard. The bird’s target has been set. The teenagers are unsuspecting. Some of them might die this night. They scream, and thus begins this week’s Reject Report, Rio vs. Scream 4.

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The Reject Report

It was really the battle of the two evils this weekend. Unfunny CG Russell Brand vs. Unfunny Russell Brand in a suit. The kids won out, and Hop was able to pull into the #1 spot for the second weekend in a row. Its drop wasn’t all that insignificant, about what was to be expected with there being no counter-programming for family entertainment. I guess kids just don’t have much interest in Helen Mirren these days. Hop was, however, able to pull ahead of its reported $63-million budget with its second weekend take and shed a glimmer of hope for those wanting more adventures starring the Easter Bunny. We can all pray for the best there.

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The Reject Report

Ah, remember Dudley Moore and how funny he was in Arthur with the top hat and the bubbles and slurred speech? What’s that? You know the name, but you’re both under 30 and can’t stand the classics? Warner Brothers is hoping for that, too, as they’ve now remade the film starring Russell Brand. Now they’re hopes rest on it returning an Arthur-sized fortune. That could be very well what happens here, and Brand will probably have his name splashed all over the #1 and #2 movies this weekend. He’ll have some competition from some pothead knights, a pair of adolescents. One is an assassin. The other is a surfer. The surfer might not be much competition, but that pairing would make one hell of a buddy movie.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a focused, coordinated strike upon the oppressive barrage of movie blogs who think you should really be reading 700 words on the latest third-tier casting rumors for the next Adam Shankman movie. We take all the interesting news and otherwise notable articles of the day and bring them together, in one place, where you can kick ass and gain knowledge quickly. It also includes some funny videos. Because everyone loves funny videos. With Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun finally getting to theaters (and iTunes — go watch it!), Canuxploitation is on its way. To celebrate, Quiet Earth asked Canadian grindhouse cinema expert Paul Corupe to write of Canuxploitation’s weidest, wildest Canadian exploitation movies. Yes.

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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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