The Wachowskis

Jupiter Ascending

I went on the Coffee and Markets podcast this week to discuss Hollywood’s focus on remakes and reboots, and host Brad Jackson openly showed his frustration with the new tentpole culture of summer, asking questions that answered themselves about whether the move away from originality was purely about money. In the blur of superheroes, Transformers and ninjutsu-practicing turtles, director John Ross and I both brought up Jupiter Ascending as a bright spot of large-scale originality on the horizon of the hot months. Turns out we were wrong. According to Variety, Warners is not only delaying the release of the Wachowskis’ July adventure, but exiling it to the wasteland of February. There is no clearer sign of faithlessness in a film. It is a studio scarlet letter. Plus, on the heels of the fantastic and fantastically floppy Cloud Atlas, it’s easy to be cynical about the possibilities here. The Wrap claims that the delay is because the VFX isn’t and won’t be finished in time for the planned international release. Even if that’s the honest truth instead of positive spin, it doesn’t explain why the movie has landed in the dead zone. Jupiter Ascending is now scheduled for February 6, 2015, vacating a comfy position between all the other massive CGI epics (that came with name recognition) of the summer. The thing is, there are spaces in the calendar in December before the final Hobbit, and there are spaces in the calendar next March and April. February? Eesh. There’s no way to view this optimistically, which […]

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The Matrix Movie 1999

Want to feel old? Then consider the fact that The Matrix is 15 years old this month. This film was made before the turn of the century, before digital projection, before the 3D craze, and before any of the Star Wars prequels were released. It was a groundbreaking film, not just for its innovative action sequences but also for its brainy nature compared to many contemporary action films. One of the early releases on DVD, The Matrix was loaded with special features, including multiple commentary tracks. The original concept by The Wachowskis was to have two separate commentary tracks: one with philosophers who liked the movie, and one with film critics who did not. After wrangling with Warner Bros. a bit on this decision, those commentaries did not appear on the original release (though they are available on the Blu-ray and more recent DVDs for your listening pleasure). Two commentaries were recorded, including a music-only track commentary by composer Don Davis, and a traditional cast commentary, which has the most production information and trivia rather than analysis. This is what we’ll be covering here. However, I encourage fans of The Matrix to check out the additional commentaries on the Blu-ray for the philosophical and critical analysis that the Wachowskis originally intended.

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The Wachowskis

A day may come when the Wachowskis finally tire of their sci-fi bread and butter; when they abandon the giganto-huge science fiction epic spanning multiple timelines/nations/realities; when they finally make a film not bursting at the seams with CGI and occasionally questionable makeup choices. But it is not this day. No, today’s the day where the Wachowskis’ newest creative output, the Netflix series Sense8, reveals the siblings’ latest effort to take a seemingly unrelated group of ordinary folks, and relate them via a magical doohickey. According to TVLine, the group consists of the following: “a closeted Mexican telenovela hunk, an Icelandic party girl, a German safe-cracker, a Korean businesswoman, an African bus driver and a transgender American blogger.” All will experience some kind of violent premonition, and will then be visited by Jonas, a “magic African-American,” as well as the villainous Mr. Whispers.

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matrixtruth-1

Want to feel old? Consider that The Wachowskis‘ groundbreaking science fiction action film turns 15 years old this year. That’s old enough to start shaving and testing for a learner’s permit. Forget what you think about the polarizing sequels, The Matrix helped bridge the sometimes cheesy science fiction films of the 80s and 90s with the more modern, computer-dominated films of the 21st century. It wasn’t necessarily a new idea, but it was rather stunning how the Wachowskis presented it. It’s a staple of cyberpunk plots: man against machine. Still, as often as this device is used, watching the movie 15 years later got me thinking: Was the Matrix system even necessary?

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Mila Kunis origami

The Wachowskis hit it big as filmmakers with only their second movie, The Matrix, and while its two sequels are a mixed bag on the critical front they made massive amounts of the green stuff. That’s a good thing in this case as it allowed Andy and Lana some freedom in regard to making the movies they want to make with little regard for studio interference. Granted, one of the results was Speed Racer, but we also got the the big, beautiful mess that is the sadly under-appreciated Cloud Atlas. Some of you undoubtedly think the former is the unappreciated masterpiece and the latter the bust, but the takeaway is the same regardless. These are filmmakers who are perfectly content making epic films for small audiences. It’s not the most sustainable business model, but to each their own. The big question now though is what to make of their next sure-to-be-misunderstood-by-the-masses film, Jupiter Ascending. The film is a sci-fi adventure that sees the Queen of the universe put out a hit on an earthling named Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) because the human is destined to claim the intergalactic throne. A genetically engineered hunter named Caine (Channing Tatum) arrives as her sole protector against the dark forces aligned against her (which presumably includes a poisoned apple at some point). Check out the first trailer below.

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Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell’s book Cloud Atlas was long considered one of those infamous “unfilmable” books. However, that didn’t stop the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer from giving it a go when they made the epic sci-fi/historical/mystery drama. Tying together six different stories in six different genres, the film was seen as a triumph by some and a mess by others. Running close to three hours, and starring a cast of actors in multiple (and sometimes marginally offensive) roles, Cloud Atlas can be a bit of a challenge to get through, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be given a chance. You might need some liquid courage to make it to the end, that is the true-true, and that is fine. Just don’t be surprised if you start seeing double (or triple or quadruple). That’s just interesting casting and lots of prosthetics.

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Josh Hutcherson

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting column that has updates on the careers of some promising young talent. And Matthias Schoenaerts. Josh Hutcherson is one of the hottest young actors in the business right now, but when you first hear that he’s negotiating to star in a movie about Pablo Escobar, it sounds a little confusing. Never fear though, because Deadline has an explanation. Paradise Lost is the movie about Escobar that’s being written and directed by Life of Pi actor Andrea di Stefano and is starring Benicio Del Toro as the infamous drug lord. The reason that Hutcherson is said to be negotiating for the lead role is because, while Del Toro gets to do the showy stuff as Escobar, Hutcherson’s character is the one whose eyes we see the story through. If he signs on he’ll be playing an Irish surfer who falls in love with Escobar’s niece and then has to meet her murdering, drug-dealing uncle. Colombia sounds fun.

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Ben Affleck

We’re entering Awards Season, folks. For most of you, that usually means seeing your favorite films of the year lose to what you’d consider the “lesser” Weinstein picture. It’s always very frustrating, but one of those movies you may be cheering on — and has Oscar nominations written all over it — is Ben Affleck‘s Argo. The movie is a shoe-in for both the heavy hitter nods and countless spots on year-end top 10 lists. To GQ, this makes Affleck the director of the year, considering how he went from “loathed, frat boy Ben Affleck” to “esteemed filmmaker Ben Affleck.” It’s a transformation, for sure, and one to be proud of, but does continuing an epic comeback we all knew about really make him filmmaker of the year for 2012? Affleck proved himself as the director of the year in 2010 with The Town. That doesn’t mean he made the best movie of that year — and he certainly didn’t — but it was a big statement for Affleck the filmmaker. He proved Gone Baby Gone was no fluke — that he was the real deal. Although Argo is the best of these three films, it doesn’t say as much about his directorial career as his first two features do.

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The Wachowskis

The Wachowskis haven’t directed a ton of movies. They also haven’t given a ton of interviews. If we can look at their output versus their impact (and in the case of Speed Racer, divisiveness), they look an awful lot like auteurs. There’s a number of themes they enjoy working with as well as a brand of visuals that seem conflicting movie to movie even as they share a kernel of The Future between them. At the very least, it would be easy to call them auteurs, but they completely reject the title and the concept. After Bound, The Matrix series, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas and their non-directorial writing (most notably V for Vendetta), they’ve maintained a firm view of film as a truly, inextricably collaborative process. For them, that goes even above and behind the standard meaning. They’re a bit enigmatic, but that’s fantastic. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from two totally normal, crazy people named Lana and Andy.

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Cloud Atlas Review

Editor’s note: Cloud Atlas finally arrives in theaters today, so please dive deep into it with this review, first published as part of our Fantastic Fest coverage on October 3, 2012. It starts with an old, scarred, and obviously hard-lived man sitting near a campfire speaking to the audience, and it ends with the same scarred old man concluding his story at that same campfire talking to a group of children about past adventures. As the credits start to roll, it evokes a nostalgia that you may have just sat through the kind of immersive and imaginative tale that you wish you could recall all the details to tell it to your children exactly as it was told to you. All that was missing was a stick and a bag of marshmallows. In between these comforting bookends is a story that transcends time, tonal cohesiveness, or convention of almost any kind. Cloud Atlas an elaborate, beautiful, and ever-growing spiderweb of human causality and inter-connectivity that’s woven together by themes that support an idea that we are never unbound from one another or a purpose. Your life is not necessarily your own as you are tied to others in your time, others who came before you, and those who will come long after. What you do is what will define you and will determine the living conditions of those who follow. What you do may seem insignificant, or irrelevant to the plan at large, but most everything matters – and if […]

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The most interesting thing about this excellent behind-the-scenes look is that it’s focal point is David Mitchell, the author of the novel that The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer fell in love with so deeply that they had to make an insanely risky movie version. He becomes the entry point into a process that, typically, can seem alien to novelists. His glee at watching his story burst off the page is contagious here. Cloud Atlas is in theaters today, and the consensus seems to be that whether you feel the full force of its impact or end up hating it, the film itself is to be celebrated for trying some large and new. Adam certainly loved it, and now TIME has made “Bringing Cloud Atlas to Life: The Actors, The Filmmakers and David Mitchell Discuss the Film,” a fantastic companion to the movie which takes us from green screens to sandy beaches and beyond while Mitchell and the directors unpack the process (which apparently was a lot like playing with LEGOs). At the very least, you won’t be able to get Tom Hanks saying, “This is a violation!” out of your head all day.

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All evening I was prepared for the snarkily apathetic responses to a certain film holding its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Saturday night. Sadly, there was no Tweet expressing, “Cloud Atlas … shrug.” But there were indeed some claims of “meh” and “okay,” though perhaps not as many as there were declaring the ambitious effort either a monumental masterpiece or an epic failure. The film, which is based on the David Mitchell novel and adapted and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, seems to be this year’s Inception or Tree of Life, as it parts the waves of criticism more distinctly than even the current American political divide. And, hey, Cloud Atlas actually sounds rather relevant to the presidential election with its apparent themes of history repeating itself and debate over change. The funny thing about a movie like Cloud Atlas is that the negative reviews seem to be more marketable than the positive. Those who say it’s a narrative mess still tell us to see the film for ourselves, if only because it’s still a marvel of cinema. And critics with the highest praise cut their own exaltations down by stating that a lot of moviegoers are going to hate it, whether because they won’t have the patience or they just won’t get it.

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Michael Clarke Duncan

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that begins on a sad note this evening, then explodes into an exploration of some of the best long-form writing on the entertainment blogosphere. Every single link is worth a click. We’re quite proud of this accomplishment. Good job, team. We begin tonight with some sad news, that of Michael Clarke Duncan passing away at age 54. The Oscar-nominated actor was known best for his role in The Green Mile, but also stole scenes in everything from Armageddon to The Slammin’ Salmon. In person, he was described as a friendly, gentle man, quite the opposite of his intimidating stature. He died as a result of a heart attack, his fiancé confirmed today. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family. He will be missed.

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Cloud Atlas

If you’ve seen this particular opening to Portlandia, it’s almost impossible not to think of it as the video featuring Tom Tykwer and The Wachowskis discussing how and why they made Cloud Atlas soon devolves into a contest of finishing each others’ sentences. Of course, that’s with good reason considering the film (based on the novel by David Mitchell) explores the mutability of identity through time and location. (One more sign that Chris Marker and Bertolt Brecht live on.) The video, put out by Warners, is incredibly encouraging because it involves the filmmakers expressing 1) a desire to make a movie like the ones that first inspired them and 2) their difficulty in finding a studio home for this admittedly atypical film. Even with shifting tides, Warners seems like an incredibly safe haven for creative types looking for some freedom. From the looks of the recent trailer (and from how giddy the three are here), it seems like that’s absolutely the case with Cloud Atlas. Damn the naysayers. It’s good to see directors open about their passion and free to turn it into something epic. Check out the video for yourself:

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Channing Tatum

There’s good reason to believe that Channing Tatum‘s starring in The Wachowski‘s Jupiter Ascending won’t make it completely dull. According to MTV, the actor is confirmed for the role, but where this might have been bad news a year ago (a massive original sci-fi work from directors who made an indelible mark on the genre teaming with a “star” being hoisted upon us all), there’s hope now. Why? Because Tatum’s turn in 21 Jump Street helped to prove he had a personality beyond what blockbuster blandness was forced into the grinder. Plus, the Wachowskis took Keanu Reeves (the king of soporific acting) and made him into an iconic character). Plus, Magic Mike might do a lot to show off a glittery body butter-coated version of Tatum’s personality as well. In the forthcoming Jupiter, Tatum will play an alien of incredible intelligence sent to kill a character played by Mila Kunis. Unsurprisingly, he’s unable to kill her because, come on. Seriously. Could you? Instead, he falls in love. Most likely, bad things ensue. Hopefully a dance battle.

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Drinking Games

This past spring marked the thirteenth year since the release of the groundbreaking cyberpunk actioner The Matrix. This seems a bit arbitrary, but if American Pie can have a reunion of sorts thirteen years down the line, why not take this opportunity to revisit one of the true game-changers in cinema history? If you’re brave enough, follow this white rabbit of a drinking game through all three films, though we don’t recommend you do them in quick succession. It’s going to be tough to get through that first Agent Smith playground battle in The Matrix Reloaded as it is. Still, it’s a great time to pull out your VHS, DVD or Blu-ray of the original The Matrix and enjoy watching it from the desert of the real. You just might start to believe that you are not in Los Angeles in 1999.

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Hold your pitchforks back for but a moment, dear readers, as I confess that my interest level in Lana and Andy Wachowski‘s next project, Cloud Atlas, is minimal. While I am confident that the Wachowskis, along with co-director Tom Tykwer, will be able to turn a massive tome into something fluid and cohesive, I’ve been unable to rouse much emotion to the project beyond that. Much as I’d like to be proven wrong, I’m still much more excited about the siblings’ next project – an original sci-fi film called Jupiter Ascending that we’ve known about since October. While we still don’t know anything about the plot beyond just those slim details, it looks like we may soon be able to picture a starring pair in the lead roles – Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis.

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Back in October, word first broke about the Wachowski siblings‘s upcoming sci-fi epic, Jupiter Ascending. It’s apparently the next project they’ll work on after they finish up their adaptation of Cloud Atlas, and while not much is known about the specifics, it’s said to be a concept with serious franchise potential. As everyone knows, the best way to launch a franchise is to cast big actors in your lead roles. You can come up with all of the revolutionary ideas and breakthrough filmmaking techniques in the world and there is no guarantee that anyone will ever see what you’ve done, but if you stick Will Smith in the middle of all your hard work, success is pretty much a guarantee. To that end, the Wachowskis want to start their casting process off by locking up Natalie Portman. According to a report from 24 Frames, the Black Swan actress is being actively recruited by the Wachowskis’s people, and so far she’s shown quite a bit of interest in taking the role. The big potential of this casting is that this would be the first acting job Portman would be taking after her gigantic, career-making Oscar win for her work in Black Swan. A new baby forced her into a sort of acting hiatus, and this would be her first chance to follow up the great work she did in that film.

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With the Wachowski siblings in the midst of filming segments of the massive Cloud Atlas adaptation, it looks as if Andy and Lana are ready to jump back into the Hollywood machine in a big way. Warner Bros. is reportedly setting up a new project for the pair (unfortunately, not their long-discussed hard-R Iraq War homosexual romance drama) that will see them back on a familiar ground. The new film is called Jupiter Ascending, and while little is known about the project, we do know that it is an original sci-fi idea from the pair, and that the studio is already ringing the “franchise” bell. They are looking for a spring production start, which means that the buzz now revolves around finding an A-list star to lead the project. The Wachowskis’ previous original sci-fi franchise, The Matrix, was not only a huge financial and popular success (making a staggering $1.6b worldwide), but the first film is also one of the best-rated and reviewed sci-fi films of the past couple of decades. We won’t talk about Reloaded and Revolutions here (not a fan). But what the franchise proved was that the Wachowskis are adept at conceiving of and executing a large-scale sci-fi concept that can appeal to both critics and moviegoers. If Jupiter Ascending is of the same mold, everyone is in for a treat. Now, if we could just get a logline on the project (I’m already picturing an epic battle between the actual planet of Jupiter and everyone else […]

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Speed Racer is the young, hotshot kid that’s going to shake up the world of racing. With the help of his loving family and hot girlfriend (?), he’ll be able to stop the stock scheme of some villain and change the face of race car driving forever. Will Speed find the will to defeat some evil corporate schmuck? Since this is intended to be a kid’s movie, yes, you bet he will! Why We Love It: Dick Tracy + Sin City + The Matrix + The Wizard of Oz + Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory + Wall Street (yes, that Wall Street) + whatever visually eye-titillating movie you can think of = Speed Racer. This film is totally “cool beans,” and that, while featuring flavors of those movies listed, is its own colorfully bombastic beast.

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