Steven Soderbergh

Aural Fixation - Large

Audiences have been eagerly awaiting the release of soon-to-be retired (or so was once widely claimed) Steven Soderbergh’s latest film, Haywire, after advanced screenings confirmed what the trailer suggested – a literally kick-ass time at the movies. Starring a Hollywood unknown, Gina Carano is known more for her mixed martial arts skills and those skills are put to the test on the big screen as she goes up against a powerful boys club comprised of the likes of Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Fassbender. Playing a black ops solider betrayed by her company, Carano is forced to not only figure out why she was double crossed, but do so while trying to keep herself from being killed in the process (and leaving an impressive body count of her own in her wake.) Soderbergh turned to composer David Holmes to create the musical landscape for a film that is not only action-packed, but also dramatic, thrilling, emotional, even funny at times and overall – fun. But what made this film such a fun time at the movies? Many factors of course (the story, the actors, the direction), but the element that seemed to keep this idea of playfulness running throughout was provided by the score, and almost subconsciously so. Holmes is no stranger to scoring a film that flips the script every other scene and forces the audience to not only try and keep up with the action, but unravel the truth behind the story as well. He […]

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Back in November, we reported that newly un-retired director Steven Soderbergh’s next film would be a thriller about the world of psychopharmacology called Bitter Pill. Following Soderbergh’s projects has been kind of a roller coaster ride lately though, so having faith that Bitter Pill was actually going to get made was kind of a…ahem, tough pill to swallow. But things are now looking a lot better on that front. While this is still the Scott Z. Burns script that Soderbergh intends to work on, the film has now been retitled Side Effects, a seemingly arbitrary change that at least points to the fact that active work is being done on development. And that’s not even the big news. The big news is that heiress Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures is stepping up to fund the film, alongside Open Road Films, who will be handling the domestic distribution. That kind of makes this one a lot more official, and seeing as Open Road is hoping for a release in the first half of 2013, shooting is scheduled to start in April and the casting process should begin ASAP. I would imagine that Soderbergh is calling up Matt Damon and George Clooney as we speak. [THR]

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The Must See Movies of January 2012

With the gut-wrencher Shame, an uncomfortably funny Young Adult, Spielberg’s heart-string pullin’ War Horse, a high-flying Tintin adventure, the shining return of Cameron Crowe, the oversized popcorn blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the overlooked hilarity of Carnage, the pulpy thrills of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the subdued near-masterpiece that is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, last month was a pretty fantastic time at the movies. Now we’re entering January. While this time of the year is usually a dumping ground — and we’ll be getting plenty of films of that low-caliber — there’s a surprising amount of films to check out this month, mainly the award-ready expanding releases.

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Drinking Games

January doesn’t just mean it’s time for colder days and snowfall that makes traffic a mess. January also means that cold and flu season is fully upon us. And what better movie to watch during cold and flu season than Steven Soderbergh’s thriller about a killer virus that threatens to wipe out a significant portion of the world’s population. Watching Contagion on Blu-ray or DVD gives you a sense of security because you won’t be terrified every time someone in the movie theater coughs. And that sense of security can be helped by knocking back a few beers or glasses of wine while watching the movie. Just get your flu shot first.

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Color me shocked. After years of famously refusing to remove his clothing for films, Matthew McConaughey has finally given in and stripped down. Magic Mike must be a hell of a project to make him betray his own ethical stance against half-nudity in film. Either that, or Steven Soderberg must have convinced him that he had to get partially naked in order to co-star. Well, I hope it was worth it, Mr. McConaughey. I hope it was worth your dignity. As you can see, Warners has released the first official image from the movie (which is also the first image ever of McConaughey without any top cover) that stars Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, McConaughey and Olivia Munn. As we all know, it’s about male strippers. As we know because of this picture, it’s about patriotic strippers. And, as you can tell, we finally know why McConaughey refused to take his top off before now. Eesh.

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Well, this is certainly going to make my piece about the Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows (coming next week! only here at Film School Rejects!) press conference a touch more interesting. Deadline Ratcliff reports that Warner Bros. is currently “making a deal” with director Guy Ritchie and his new partner Lionel Wigram to “come aboard” their The Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature that was recently vacated by director Steven Soderbergh. That’s really just sort of vague – Deadline has really buried the lede on this one, finally getting to it – “the intention is for Ritchie to direct the film.” A ha! Elementary! Ritchie and Wigram recently formed their own production company after making two Sherlock Holmes films together. Wigram wrote and produced the first Sherlock Holmes film, and serves as executive producer on the next installment, opening next week. Wigram has a bevy of other titles under his producer belt, including four Harry Potter films, August Rush, and the upcoming films The Seventh Son and Arthur & Lancelot. Also – the dude was the second unit director on Cool as Ice, so you know what that makes him? Cool as ice. The film still comes complete with a script by Scott Z. Burns, but Soderbergh’s reasons for leaving – including budget struggles and trouble casting the lead – don’t just disappear with Ritchie and Wigram getting on board. Wait, what am I saying? We might as well cast Robert Downey, Jr. in this right now.

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Remember back when Steven Soderbergh was going to retire? Yeah, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. Recently the director was all set to make a big screen adaptation of the old TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which was going to be one of his last movies ever; but once casting and budget problems got too out of hand on that project, the director decided to drop it and move on with his life. That sounds like a pretty obvious decision for a man who has said repeatedly in interviews that he’s over the whole filmmaking thing and wants to move on. Why tear your hair out dealing with a movie that just isn’t coming together? But, in comparison, the newest move the director has made makes less sense, given the context of his recent comments. According to THR he has signed on for a new project called The Bitter Pill. This new film will see Soderbergh re-teaming with his The Informant! and Contagion writer Scott Z. Burns, and is said to be a thriller set in the world of psychopharmacology. Little else is known about the project, however.

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Considering that the casting process for Warner Bros. and Steven Soderbergh’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. adaptation has given me, a completely uninvolved outsider, nothing but headaches, it’s not shocking that The Playlist is reporting that the filmmaker has dropped out of the project for that very same reason. The outlet reports that Soderbergh and the studio were unable to reach agreements regarding both casting and budget, and that the helmer has since left the project, which he has been developing with scribe Scott Z. Burns for nearly two years. The film was originally set to star George Clooney, who dropped out due to an injury, which only paved the way for WB to jump on younger casting options, the last two of which included Bradley Cooper (last month) and Channing Tatum (just this week). Other rumored names included Michael Fassbender, Matt Damon, Joel Edgerton, Ryan Gosling, and even Johnny Depp. Of course, none of these names have signed on for the film (with most of them never even getting an official offer), and most of them have moved on to other projects. Adding to those woes? The studio also reportedly offered up a $60m budget for the film, one that will need to have an A-list star, a slick sixties setting, and a globe-trotting sensibility. Ouch.

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For some reason, Channing Tatum gets mentioned every time Bradley Cooper doesn’t do a project. It happened with The Crow, and now it’s happening with Steven Soderbergh’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. According to Deadline Quantico, Tatum is the latest name to be paraded out in an unclear casting situation. The film, which sees an American spy and a Soviet spy teaming up to save the world, has also got Joel Edgerton rumored (as the человек From U.N.C.L.E.). If that’s a done deal, it’s up to what male lead they’ll get for the American spook. Tatum and Soderbergh are currently working on Magic Mike – a story which plumbs from Tatum’s previous experience as a male stripper. Notorious for working with the same actors, Soderbergh may very well like Tatum for the project, but this is a role that would require a bit more suaveness and class from an actor more known for wearing tank tops and looking gruff. On the other hand, even though he’s had some flat performances and made some bad career choices, Tatum is still absolutely capable of delivering a solid performance, and he might be the big name that gets this thing right off the ground. Or maybe another leading man will surface next week. Or maybe Soderbergh will retire before then.

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Moving away from the feature-length hand sanitizer commercial that was this year’s Contagion, director Steven Soderbergh returns to the screen with another one of his trademark all-star cast outings, but one with significantly more ass-kicking delivered at the hands (and feet) of a particularly-picked leading lady. In Haywire, Soderbergh lets loose cinematic newcomer Gina Carano, a real-life MMA fighter who can more than hold her own with the boys club that rounds out the film’s cast (including Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Bill Paxton). Packaged as a double-crossing spy thriller, Haywire is big on impressive and crowd-pleasing fight scenes, but the film fizzles when it comes to delivering a particularly clever story for all those flying fists to play out against. The meat of Haywire’s plot is just a standard double-cross story that’s pumped up with the sort of stylistic flash and flair that Soderbergh can deliver handily. Carano plays a highly skilled ex-Marine who now works in the “private sector” on black ops jobs that involves messy endeavors like extraction and assassination. Carano’s Mallory Kane is very good at her job, good enough that she’s often a special request (an “essential element”) for a number of her company’s various contracts, a fact that irks her boss and ex-flame Kenneth (McGregor). Mallory is dispatched for an extraction job in Barcelona that goes well enough, but her performance there directly leads into her next job, a gig that’s ostensibly presented as glorified babysitting, done in […]

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Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming spy movie The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which is an adaptation of a popular television series from the 60s, has had some trouble finding a leading man. The movie will tell the tale of the teaming of two spies under the banner of the United Network Command for Law Enforcement. If Soderbergh’s vision of the material stays true to the TV show’s, then those men will be American secret agent Napoleon Solo and his Russian counterpart Illya Kuryakin. Originally, like in most of Soderbergh’s movies, George Clooney was just going to play the lead role. He had to drop out of the production due to the always looming scheduling conflicts or whatever though, so Soderbergh has been on a mad rush to fill Clooney’s shoes. Since all of the man’s movies that don’t star George Clooney usually star Matt Damon instead, he was the next guy to get a look for the role, but he ended up passing. Then things got desperate, Soderbergh went way out of his wheelhouse and tried to get Johnny Depp to play the part, but he passed as well. That’s a lot of Hollywood’s biggest leading men telling you that they can’t be in your movie. What is a director to do? What Soderbergh seems to be doing is moving on to the next big thing. According to Variety he is in intense negotiations with Bradley Cooper to step in and be his guy. Cooper has been in a good number of films […]

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Steven Soderbergh has been trying to get a movie about the life of Liberace off the ground for a while now. Or, more specifically, he’s trying to make an adaptation of a book called “Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace” that was written by Liberace’s long-time live-in lover Scott Thorson. Thorson’s book details his relationship with the famous singer, what their last meeting was like, and gives a little bit of insight into both men’s childhoods. Even though it won’t be coming to a theater near you, Soderbergh will still get his wish, as HBO Films has greenlit the project for production. Don’t think that because HBO is doing this and not one of the big studios that it’s going to be any sort of B-level affair though. Very A-list actors Michael Douglas and Matt Damon have already signed on to portray Liberace and Thorson, so this movie is set to be a big deal, no matter where audiences can find it. Of the HBO distribution model, Soderbergh had this to say, “From the inception of this project, we’ve had two priorities: getting it right creatively, and getting as many people as possible to see it. HBO’s fearless approach to original programming and their unparalleled ability to pull in viewers make them the perfect fit for us. Apart from my hair growing back, I couldn’t be happier.” Soderbergh himself will still direct the film from a screenplay by Richard LaGravenese. I’ll bet Douglas and Damon are off in a […]

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Culture Warrior

The month of September is typically regarded as one of the least exciting and least eventful in the calendar year. It’s something of an interval month, a strange in-between phase sandwiched in the middle of summer Hollywood blockbusters and the “quality” flicks and holiday programming of the fall. In strictly monetary terms, it’s the most underperforming month of the year, and has even been beaten by the desolate burial ground that is January in terms of event-style opening weekends. But this may ultimately be a good thing. In fact, if future Septembers continue to exhibit the same patterns as this month, the time of the year in which schools go back in session and you can no longer wear all-white may prove to be one of the most interesting and exciting months on the wide-release calendar.

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Culture Warrior

For the past few weeks, cinephiles, journalists, and critics have been grappling with the notion of what ‘post-9/11 cinema’ is, has been, will be, and/or looks like. What they’ve come up with are a group of wildly different, potentially specious, but ultimately quite fascinating explorations on the relationship between art, commerce, and life – and by ‘life’ I mean, in this case, that rare type of event whose effect takes on an enduringly profound, universally personal, omnipresent ripple. The overwhelming conclusion that most of these observations end with is, rather appropriately and naturally, “I don’t know, but here are some thoughts.” Besides those works of audiovisual media that were directly inspired by, intentionally referenced, or somehow directly related to 9/11, it’s difficult to say exactly what a post-9/11 film is unless one allows for literally every film made afterward to potentially enter such a category. But perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong question.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr heads into the MMA ring to battle Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, after being trained by a strung-out Nick Nolte who looks like he’s ready to have an aneurysm at any moment. Then he is sent into a bird flu panic when someone coughs on him at the airport. Not wanting to suffer the same fate as Gwenyth Paltrow, he takes a road trip down to the Louisiana bayou where he runs into a hillbilly redneck alligator mutant. But at least he didn’t have to see Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.

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When a young executive (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a business trip to China, she returns with a bad cough and even worse headaches. Not long after, her young son appears to exhibit the same symptoms. Before her husband, the boy’s step-father played by Matt Damon, can even whip up a bowl of chicken soup, the boy and his mother are dead. The doctors are baffled by the mysterious disease, and soon more cases turn up around the world and scores of people begin dying. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as The World Health Organization work to their furthest limitations trying to identify the disease, track its spread, and develop a cure. In many ways, this film is the essence of drama – an examination of what it is that connects people. The word contagion by its definition is the communication, or sharing, of a disease, and Contagion connects us through the most ubiquitous objects in our daily lives. Director Steven Soderbergh lingers on shots of coffee cups, subway handrails, and doorknobs; silently inviting us to ponder on all previous users. This device is microcosmic of his larger mission: to illustrate how a singular event can connect people of divergent backgrounds, nationalities, cultures, and personalities. This is nothing new for Soderbergh, as he used the flow of narcotics into the U.S. to create connections between very different people in Traffic. He also examines how bureaucracy and the media would factor into a global catastrophe just as much […]

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It’s easy to bemoan casting choices – romantic comedies that feature a male and a female star that seemed to have been picked just by virtue of the fact they’ve never appeared together in a rom-com before (Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore in Music & Lyrics, I am looking squarely at you), superhero flicks that cast leads that don’t meet rabid fan expectations, that insane Bradley Cooper/Crow thing, pretty much any film that involves anyone who has ever worked on One Tree Hill, the list goes on and on. But sometimes, just sometimes, casting is almost too perfect, too spot-on, so that we can only sit back and sigh, content and pleased and sated, as if we have just eaten a full Thanksgiving dinner. Matthew McConaughey is now set to play a former stripper turned strip club owner in Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike, simply because it could be no other way.

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A box just landed on my doorstep, and as the UPS man drove away, I opened it up to find a device that gets rid of germs on cell phones using some sort of UV light. Why would a marketing department send me that? Because inside was a USB drive containing the first trailer for Contagion – the forthcoming viral outbreak thriller from Steven Soderbergh. What better way to kick everything off? Plus, the trailer is gripping. Matt Damon brings the intensity, Laurence Fishburne brings the expertise, the rest of the cast (including Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law) bring anxiety, but behind every single performance is a major element of fear. Holy hell, this looks great:

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What is Movie News After Dark? It is our nightly promise to keep you on the up-and-up in the world of movie news, interesting links, strange occurrences and developments in the world of Breaking Bad. It is also breaking new ground this evening by defying popular opinion on the new Batman movie and featuring stories about not one, but two pop stars! Tonight’s top story, a first look at pop star Rihanna in Battleship, making her big screen debut as a member of the Naval squad who happen upon some Transformers-esque alien tech in the middle of the ocean and are forced to battle it out via a decades-old board game. B2! Oh, you sunk my interest in her character.

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Steven Soderbergh is perhaps the most versatile director working today. He hates to be pinned down, he enjoys non-actors acting, and he revels in action as much as dialogue. With Haywire it seems he gets to combine a lot of his creative interests into one throat-crushing experience. The trailer has hit, and it feels like every story ever told about an agent that’s the best of the best of the best being taken out back by her government. Of course, when it all goes wrong, she wants to know why and seek revenge. Beat by beat, it’s been told a hundred times, but Soderbergh is also a storyteller with tricks up his sleeve, and as for pure action, Gina Carano looks like she’ll pull everyone’s kidneys out through the hole she rips in their shoulders. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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