Spotlight on indie sci-fi 400 DAYS – Q & A with writer/director Matt Osterman

400Days

400 Days is a psychological sci-fi film centering on four astronauts who are sent on a simulated mission to a distant planet to test the psychological effects of deep space travel. Locked away for 400 days, the crew’s mental state begins to deteriorate when they lose all communication with the outside world. Forced to exit the ship, they discover that this mission may not have been a simulation after all.

Starring: Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman, Grant Bowler, with Tom Cavanagh and Dane Cook
Directed and Written by: Matt Osterman

Available on VOD (Amazon) and iTUNES: January 12, 2016
Available in Theaters: January 15, 2016
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Rated: Not Yet Rated

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MattOstermanI love indie sci-fi films and I had seen the trailer a few months ago and was intrigued by it. When I later learned that it was made by a Minnesota-native, who still lives in the Twin Cities area, I definitely wanted to feature it on my blog. Thanks to my friend and fellow Twin Cities Film Fest’ staff Matt Cici who introduced me to Matt Osterman. He was one of the speakers at a TCFF Educational Events back in October, but I wasn’t able to make it then, so I’m glad I finally got the chance to meet with Matt to talk about his film.

Matt grew up in Wisconsin but since college he had made MN his home. Filmmaker wasn’t on his career checklist but he was a big movie geek. His parents gave him a black/white TV for his room so he could watch reruns of Twilight Zone from an early age. He had always been into writing and telling stories and one day he had a lightbulb moment that he wanted to go into making movies.

Here’s my Q&A with Matt:

Q: You wrote as well as directed this film. What’s the biggest challenge in adapting your own work?

A: Well, that in and of itself is literally the biggest challenge, not having the aesthetic distance to properly judge something. You get so close to it, and though you know it better than anyone else but that’s also a curse because you can’t take a step back and look at it objectively. So that’s difficult but what I did was I tried to get as many feedback as possible throughout the entire process. Hopefully they can be honest with you and say ‘hey this part sucks, what are you trying to do, etc.’ So I tried to incorporate that into the process, you know, just lose the ego and try to take it all in. Whatever makes the project better.

You chose to live Minneapolis, far away from the filmmaking mecca of L.A. and NYC. How have you been able to make it work somehow, as you’re also raising a family here in Minneapolis?

You know, it’s been ok so far. Luckily living here we have a great quality of life and it’s a lot cheaper to live here than it is out there. I have a family so living in Minnesota has afforded us a lifestyle that you can’t really get anywhere else without a huge bank account. So I have to travel up there quite a bit but I have a manager who lives out there in L.A. so he’s sort of my ear to the ground and he can set up meetings. I’d say, ‘hey I can be out there for a week so let’s get all of our meetings in.’ I don’t know what opportunities I’m missing because I’m here. But because I’m a self-generating writer/director, you can write from anywhere. I don’t have to be over there to write, and in some ways it’s better because you’re away from the ‘bubble’ y’know and you can bring your own unique voice and not get caught up in the industry’s crap.

Q: Now, let’s talk about casting. You have three actors from CW’s superhero series (Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz were in Arrow and now in Legends of Tomorrow, and Tom Cavanaugh’s in The Flash).

A: Well, Brandon, Caity and Tom weren’t [in those series] before we cast them in this movie.

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Q: Ah so that came afterwards. So did you have a lot of input into casting, a certain wish list if you will in terms of what type of actors you want for the roles or did you just trust your casting managers?

A: No, we actually cast them ourselves. So I had a say as to which actors we hire. We met with hundreds of actors out there, it was insane. We didn’t have auditions as we went with a higher level of actors who already had a lot of taping and projects to look at. You get a sense of what skills and range they have. Especially for a low budget film, it’s more like they did you a favor than the other way around. So with a lot of them you just met with them and talk about the story and try to understand it, and see if they have the right vibe for it. So I easily have met with at least a hundred actors for all the roles. Now, for these four in particular, I was familiar with all of them and I went back to watch some of the stuff they’ve done and was sold. It’s a business as well, so you want to get people that would get the distributors excited and people around the world would want to watch. So it’s always a mixture of who’s right for the role, who has talent and who is well-known enough to make it happen.

I couldn’t be happier with people we cast, they were all amazing and did an awesome job.

Q: Talk about the filming locations a bit. Where did you shoot this film?

A: The ship we built in a sound stage in L.A. It’s all custom-built and again, we’re very low-budget so we had to be very smart with how we build things. And since it’s all a simulation it didn’t have to look like a real working spaceship. So we’re afforded an extra wiggle room there where if it’s truly a spaceship, people might say ‘hey that didn’t look like…’ but luckily we didn’t have to deal with stuff like that.

When I wrote the script I knew I wanted to do it and I knew I wouldn’t have someone give me $20 mil to make the movie. So I made sure that the spirit of the story would fit into this film.

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Ben Feldman & Brandon Routh

Q: I just read an article on Metropolis.com that the future of sci-fi films are indies instead of big blockbusters. It made me think about indie sci-fis like Another Earth, Ex Machina, and The Machine which also stars Caity Lotz. So what are your thoughts about that, do you think the future of sci-fi films are independent films vs big-budget ones like say, Interstellar?

A: Well, Interstellar is sort of its own thing. It’s done by Christopher Nolan who pretty much could do whatever he wants right now. And that film, I’d say, still kept a lot of the indie spirit because it wasn’t afraid to tackle big ideas and challenging concepts, which are the opposite of what most studio films are right now. So they [the studios] usually go with something very broad so they could sell internationally and they’re very smart about what they do, obviously it’s a business and they’re doing it extremely well. So I can’t begrudge them at all for that. But yeah, you’re exactly right, indie films are more about challenging ideas which sci-fis need, it’s giving us a different lens or perspective to view things. You need that to be able to talk about various issues and what not, so I think we’ll see a huge explosions of indie sci-fi films. Especially where sci-fis has been traditionally effects-driven films and you can do that on the cheap now, or find ways to get more bangs for your bucks. Like what we did, a lot of the effects in our film are practical effects. We had a few visual effects here and there to elevate the rest of them.

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Tom Cavanaugh

Q: It makes me think of how good District 9 was, the film by Neill Blomkamp which was made relatively cheap by Hollywood standards ($30 mil) compared to its follow-up Elysium which was nearly four times more expensive to make ($115 mil). The latter was all CGI, explosions and had no heart. It was like a superhero Matt Damon in space or whatever. So a lower-budgeted sci-fis actually appeal to me more.

A: Yeah well, most low-budget films, you don’t have money to throw at a problem, y’know. So you have to think hard about how to solve those problems. A lot of the times with big-budget movies, they run into an issue and they’d just throw money at it to camouflage it. Whereas we, we have to find ways to organically incorporate something or find an interesting solution that’ll make a movie better because of it. And a lot of limitation is actually more freeing, and that’s the fun part for me, like engineering has always been interesting to me. Problem solving is always so fascinating.

Q: This is the first project out of Syfy Films out of the gate. How’s it been working with them. Were they involved from the beginning in terms or financing or just distribution?

A: Syfy has been absolutely amazing, real supportive and a real champion for the film. A lot of smart people over there so I’ve been really lucky to have been associated with them. They came in after we started shooting. I’m not even sure if Syfy Film had existed or not as an entity at that time, perhaps they were in the process but certainly they weren’t ready to buy anything at that point. We tried to finance this ourselves but we did have other partners come on that bought the film so we have a domestic and international distribution. XLrator Media for domestic and Content Media handles the international rights. So they bought the film a week into production so we didn’t even have anything to show, we had some footage and they saw the cast and they liked it so they jumped on board. Then later when we had the rough cut, Syfy jumped on it immediately.

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Brandon Routh & Caity Lotz

Q: If you don’t mind sharing, what’s the budget and financing process for the film?

A: It’s all privately-financed, so I partnered with producers that are L.A. based. So they have producers and financiers that they work with, and they said ‘hey we have this movie, it’ll be great, trust us.’ So they’re part of various production companies, not big studios, so they’re pretty much involved in the indie world. So they’re able to get the money and we went and made it. Our movie’s made for well under a million dollars.

Q: You mentioned that your film is like a puzzle. What do you want the viewers to get out of your movie, or what do you intend it to be for the viewers?

A: Going into it, and all the way into the process even up until now, I want people to watch it and after that they’d have a conversation afterward about their own interpretation. Because there are multiple interpretations that they can get out of this film. For me, I enjoy movies that aren’t wrapped up in a neat bow at the end and hand you the ending on a silver plater. Nothing wrong with those movies, in fact most movies are that way, y’know, nice resolution. But I really like movies that challenge the audience and say ‘we’re not going to connect the dots for you, you have to pay attention and come to your own conclusion at the end and then hopefully talk to someone else who perhaps have a different interpretation of it.

I also love movies that has those *refrigerator moments.* It’s when you watch a movie and you enjoyed it but something sticks with you. Then you find yourself a couple of nights later at 2 am, you can’t sleep, then you’re staring at your refrigerator looking for a snack and go ‘oh that’s what that meant’ or ‘ oh I get that now’ I love movies that live beyond the time you watch it and I find that it’s frustrating for people. Now that the film’s out internationally, and of course some are illegally downloading it, I’m getting angry tweets from people. Some said ‘how could you forget to write an ending?’ and I said, ‘well that wasn’t quite THAT, but there’s been a history of movies that didn’t get wrapped up in a pretty neat bow.


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Where to watch 400 Days


Have you seen 400 Days? Let me know what you think!

Breaking Emotions Blogathon: HATE + LOVE

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This is the last set of emotions from Mettel Ray‘s BREAKING EMOTIONS blogathon. Check out my entry on the previous two sets of emotions: Tears & Surprise and Smiles & Thrills.

HATE + LOVE

Here’s what Mettel had in mind about the set of emotions:

Finishing up the emotions are two of the most ultimate emotional states one could imagine, HATE is up first in this case because I wanted the good stuff to be the last thing everybody will read when it comes to the Breaking Emotions Blogathon. It is quite obvious that we all have those scenes that just bring up all the bad feelings and it’s not even awkward, it is just plain bad! Most of my hate is towards romantic comedies but I’m sure there are some serious scenes that have caused some of you some inner turmoil and this is the time and place to let all those emotions run wild.

And the last one, the very last emotion I’m asking you guys to break is LOVE – it doesn’t have to be a scene about love, hell no, it can be a sci-fi scenery, it can be the ending of a drama and yes, it can be a scene from Notebook as well but it’s not mandatory. I’m looking for scenes that you love and adore until the end of time, scenes that just pop up in your mind while walking to the store and are just simply awesome. What are the scenes that you love the most?

Check out Mettel Ray’s post on Breaking Emotions: HATE + LOVE


It should be obvious for posts like these, but just in case, if you haven’t seen any of these, BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

Ok, so here are my picks:

HATE

Schindler’s ListThe Balcony Scene

There are many, many instances where Amon Goeth (played with chilling realism by Ralph Fiennes) does absolutely revolting acts that makes your blood turn cold. But this is one that particularly stands out. The bloated second lieutenant just wakes up and goes to his balcony of his villa in Kraków, he nonchalantly grabs his rifle and starts shooting Jewish people at random, whoever happens to enter his eye-shot.

I so hated Goeth, but more than that, I hated Hitler and the Nazi party for corrupting people to such a degree that they lost their souls. I mean, they’re worse than alien body snatchers (if there were such a thing) as they’re SOUL snatchers, making humans worse than animals.

District 9 –  Test weapon scene

This is one of the most harrowing scene that made me so sad and so angry. I hated that the people at the lab forced Wikus to do this, it’s one of those sci-fi films that REALLY made me abhor the humans in it. I couldn’t bear watching this scene at the theater, and hearing Wikus’ pleading that he doesn’t want to shoot the aliens is so gut-wrenching. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll see the obvious allegory to racism and how the Prawns are treated like second or even third class citizens with nowhere to go. At this point, Wikus’ has been infected with the alien DNA and that’s why he’s the only one who could operate the extra-terrestrial weaponry. So he’s forced to shoot the Prawns who hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s infuriating how quickly the people at the military company turn on their fellow human being as Wikus’ been infected. On top of that, they have no qualms in manipulating him for their own gain. I hated this scene so much and it’s one that lingers with me most after the film’s over.

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Bel Ami – Robert Pattinson’s mis-casting

I’ve already made a post on this a while back on good/bad casting choices of 2012. Well I’m going to mention it again here as I really hated his performance here as R-Patz is so terribly mis-cast. Ok so teeny-boppers may think he’s like THE most beautiful man vampire in the planet in those abhorrent Twilight movies, but seeing him with the likes of the great Kristin Scott Thomas, Uma Thurman, and even Christina Ricci who’s closer to his age just highlights how ill-advised his casting was. On top of that, his character is so utterly unlikable, unsympathetic and just a plain douche bag. Now, a charismatic actor could make me like him or at least enjoy his performance but R-Patz just makes me want to punch him and kick myself for renting this [it’s on Netflix so at least I didn’t have to pay extra for it, but still!].

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The character of George Duroy from Guy de Maupassant’s classic novel is supposed to be seductive and manipulative [which is a juicy role for any actor methinks], but Pattinson’s portrayal is neither, he’s just annoying and lame. I hated what his character did to those women who loved him, but most of all, I just hated his sub-par acting that’s completely devoid of charm.

* I almost put his ex Kristen Stewart’s performance in Twilight and Snow White & The Huntsman on here, but you know what, I think I hated R-Patz’ performance here more. And that speaks volumes!


LOVE

Sleepless in Seattle – Finale

“Are you Annie?”

“Yes.”

“You’re Annie?”

“This is my dad… his name is Sam.”

“Hi Jonah… [sigh] Sam…”

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I only love a handful of rom-coms and three of them are by Nora Ephron. Out of the three, I think Sleepless in Seattle my favorite, one that I can watch over and over. I can easily list all the things I love about this movie, but I’ll save that for Valentine’s Day. I picked this finale as this is the only time the two main protagonists actually meets and oh, what a meeting it was. It was such a satisfying ending to all that build-up throughout the film and it was as perfect as a romantic scene can be filmed without resorting to banal over-sentimentality. It’s got just the right amount of sweetness and plenty of adorable things, such as Sam’s son Jonah grinning ear-to-ear when he realized it’s the woman he wrote his letter to (and when the elevator closes). It’s as much a love story between a man and a woman as it’s a love story for a family, whose tragic loss seems too impossible to recover from. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan at their loveliest, plus the music is just so enchanting!

Beauty & The Beast – There’s something there

There may be something there that wasn’t there before.

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Since I just talked about Disney movies at the last Five for the Fifth, I wanted to include one that always makes my heart soar. The song is lovely and whimsical, and though it may not be the most memorable one of the entire movie, this scene is just adorable. It always puts a smile on my face every time I think of it [so I guess it would fit under the SMILE Breaking Emotions, too!]. It’s the ultimate unlikely friendship that blossomed into well, something more. You could say that Belle and The Beast are the most developed characters amongst other Disney *princess* movies as you really see the gradual progression of their relationship. The ballroom dance scene is perhaps what people remember most, but I picked this one as there’s an irresistible innocence about it and Belle’s expression as she realizes her feelings for the Beast is wonderful to behold. The scenery, song, etc. all make up for one lovely scene.

Superman: The Movie – Superman rescues Lois scene

I know it’s predictable that I put this on here given how much I loved Superman, but we are talking about a scene that I will love and adore until the end of time, so I can’t possibly exclude this one. Every time the rousing theme plays on as Lois quipped, ‘You’ve got me, who’s got you?’ I can’t help feeling nostalgic and giddy as the first time I saw this when I was a kid. This is why the Christopher Reeves will always be Superman in my heart, inimitable and unrivaled to this day.

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There are SO many awesome things about this scene… the set-up, how Supes was introduced, the crowd’s reaction as he saw him fly [as well as the ‘that’s a bad outfit!’ quip the first time he’s seen in the red & blue suit] and of course, that iconic John Williams‘ theme song! It’s just brilliantly done by Richard Donner that is still the scene to beat even three decades later. This is what Man of Steel is lacking… at least one truly memorable scene featuring the Kryptonian hero that even if you remember nothing else about the film, you will always remember the one iconic scene. In the case of this one, it’s one I will always cherish for ever and ever, and one that never fails to fill my heart with joy.


What do you think of my picks? Which scenes would YOU pick for LOVE + HATE?

FlixChatter Review: ELYSIUM

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As a big fan of District 9, I had been looking forward to this for some time. I erroneously thought this was the follow-up to Neill Blomkamp‘s sci-fi thriller set in South Africa when I did this post but by the time the trailer came out, obviously this is an original story that doesn’t involve aliens from another planet.

This sci-fi fantasy takes place in 2154, where the gap between haves and the have-nots have reached astronomical proportion. 99% of humanity’s population are still slumming in a ‘diseased, polluted and vastly overpopulated’ earth, whilst the 1% of the elite and wealthy folks live in the lush and green ELYSIUM. It’s the ultimate ‘gated community’ aboard a lavish space-station where every mansion is complete with robotic servants and magical medical beds that can heal ANY ailments, yes including cancer and a full facial reconstruction surgery in a matter of seconds! Ok, so there’s no superhero in this movie but heck, who needs one when you’ve got a SUPER healing mechanism at your beck and call. Unfortunately, the machine only works if you’re a citizen, and Elysium’s border patrol is equipped with rockets ready to fire at illegal aircrafts entering its airspace.

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Elysium VS Earth – It’s definitely better up there!

Matt Damon plays a down-on-his-luck Max, a parolee who’s dreamed of leaving in Elysium ever since he was a little boy living in an orphanage. There’s one comedic moment in the entire movie where Max had to see a mechanized parole officer, as the rest of the law officers and other service workers are in the form of robots. Things just gets bad to worse when Max gets exposed to a lethal dose of radiation at the factory. With only 5 days to live, he’s desperate to get to Elysium. In order to get up there, Max has to somehow download crucial information from an Elysium citizen’s brain straight to his. That’s what those exoskeleton stuff you see on the film posters are for. The surgery scene is brutal, I have to shut my eyes as metals are drilled and screwed into Max’s body as if he’s a car in auto shop. When he finally comes out of it, Max practically looks like a robot with powered metals attached all over his body and a computer implanted into the back of his head.

I enjoyed watching all the fantastical futuristic elements, and Blomkamp surely isn’t lacking imagination and ambition. What this film also lacks is subtlety, just like D-9 was an allegory for apartheid, Elysium’s political and sociological themes on class warfare, healthcare and immigration are sure to divide audiences. He cites that growing up in South Africa is the main inspiration of the class division theme in this film, and despite the seemingly obvious commentary about border security and universal healthcare, he said that there’s no political agenda here. Even the über Liberal and politically vocal star Matt Damon downplays the political overtone. I think how much those stuff bother you depending on your political views and interest. For me, this is just another big Summer thrill ride that gives us a bit more food-for-thought amidst some bombastic (literally) action sequences.

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Speaking of Damon, I think he acquits himself well here though I didn’t really have as big of a emotional connection as I did with D-9’s character Wikus, who I think is a far more tragic character than Max. I also think that though Max is played out like an action hero (Bourne meets Terminator?) instead of a truly desperate and ruthless character hellbent on saving his own life at any cost. I read that Blomkamp originally wanted Eminem in the role, now I’ve never seen him act before but I wonder if he’d actually do a more convincing job. Jodie Foster as Elysium defense secretary Delacourt is distractingly awful here with her robotic acting style and absurd accent. Yes I know that Blomkamp intended the accent of Elysium residents to be an amalgam of different languages but it just makes me laugh! I wonder if having those residents speak multiple languages (like in the underrated sci-fi drama Code 46) instead of with a myriad of accents might’ve been more realistic.

It’s also too bad that Sharlto Copley is reduced to this sadistic special ops agent whose killing method of choice is blowing people up into pieces. His character can’t be more dissimilar than his debut in District 9, which proves he’s a capable actor, but his villainy role is written like a caricature.  I like the International cast here, Brazilians Wagner Moura and Alice Braga, Mexican Diego Luna, Pakistani-descent Faran Tahir, as well as veteran character actor William Fichtner made up the supporting cast.

In terms of special effects and production quality, clearly this film delivers, thanks to a much bigger budget of $100 mil. But having more money and A-list cast don’t always translate to a better film, in fact, D-9 with its uniquely organic style is still more compelling in terms of my the emotional connection I have with the protagonist. Plus, Elysium is decidedly more ‘Hollywood’ in that it’s more predictable and comes with a feel-good and simplistic ending. Yeah as if it were THAT easy to solve such an extreme class warfare. Seems that Blomkamp ends up being preoccupied packing the third half with relentless fight scenes and stuff blowing up that the finale feels rather out of sync with all the sense of realism and intriguing ideas that preceded it. At a relatively brisk 109 minutes, there’s barely room for character development either, the villains are just evil for evil’s sake with no real motivation.

Final Thoughts: Now, even though I think Elysium is a bit of a downgrade from D-9, there are still many things to appreciate. As I mentioned before, the futuristic space stuff are fun to watch and the story also gives us something to ponder even if we don’t necessarily subscribe to the idealism being presented on screen. It could’ve been a more in depth and compelling film though, alas the the typical Hollywood happy ending keeps this from being a notch above a cool Summer sci-fi escapism.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


UPVOTE please


What are your thoughts on this movie? Did you like this more or less than I did?

Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi thriller ELYSIUM’s Poster & Trailer Spotlight

Boy oh boy! I’ve been looking forward to this film for quite some time now. In case you didn’t know already, I’m a huge fan of District 9 which was a surprise to me as I didn’t even know much about it when I saw it on the big screen. Well, it’s been over three years since I saw that film and finally, South African director Neill Blomkamp and actor Sharlto Copley are re-teaming for another sci-fi thriller.

I was kind of hoping that Copley would have the leading role this time around, but I understand that with a much-bigger budget, they’d need a movie star. So we’ve got Matt Damon in the lead instead. Check out the awesome poster of him with all that robotic stuff attached all over his body!

ElysiumTeaserPoster

I originally thought this was a follow-up to District 9, as I’ve outlined on my Upcoming Flix Spotlight post a year ago. But now it’s clear that this film has a new storyline that’s not related to D-9 universe, though it still carries a similar social issue theme. Now, this film was first scheduled for release in March before being pushed back to August. I don’t think it’s a sign of trouble though, I think that’d give Blomkamp to release some viral marketing for it like he did for D-9 which was a smart move.

Now finally, a trailer!!


WHOAH!! I’m even more intrigued now after seeing this. I really like the look of this and the apocalyptic story looks very promising and thought provoking, with all the visual and thematic elements every sci-fi lovers would love. Blomkamp is working again with Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital so it’s to be expected that the special effect is going to rock! Even right off the bat, I like the stark contrast between the perfect world of the Elysium space station and the left-behind slum that is the Earth. I read that Blomkamp shot the Earth footage in Mexico City, and everything on Elysium in Vancouver.

Per IGN, like Blomkamp’s previous film, this one has a similarly impoverished and segregated society, but this time along economic lines rather than species. Where District 9 was a sci-fi allegory for racism, Elysium is about economic disparity.

In the year 2159, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined Earth. Secretary Rhodes, a hard line government official, will stop at nothing to enforce anti-immigration laws and preserve the luxurious lifestyle of the citizens of Elysium. That doesn’t stop the people of Earth from trying to get in, by any means they can. When unlucky Max is backed into a corner, he agrees to take on a daunting mission that if successful will not only save his life, but could bring equality to these polarized worlds.

Here are four more details I learned from this HitFix article, which summarized the SONY press preview event in L.A. with Blomkamp, Copley and producer Simon Kinberg:

  • Damon’s character is Max, an ex-con who’s working a factory job on Earth. A radiation leak prompted him to be cast off by the authoritarian government. He knows the only way to get rid of the toxic radiation is in Elysium, and he has to find a way to get there.
  • The robotic stuff on his body, and that data port on his head is the result of self-modification Max did as a mechanism to hijack security information from an Elysium citizen.
  • Sharlto Copley plays the bad guy, Kruger. He is an Elysium operative who lives on Earth, waiting to be activated. When an attack on an Elysium citizen occurs, he gets the signal.
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  • Jodie Foster plays a Senator, as Foster herself described in Movieline as “… the person who controls who gets to come in [to Elysium] and who doesn’t. She’s methodical, her antagonism has a point.” She also mentions that Elysium is an international place, as its residents comes from all over the earth.
  • Blomkamp said that 2/3 of the film would take place on earth and 1/3 in Elysium to emphasize further that the space station is truly a fantastical place every human being aspire to live in.

Elysium is out in theaters on August 9, 2013. I can hardly wait!


On a related note, two years ago, I wrote this post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama pitch where some humans live in another planet whilst the remaining earth population struggle to survive.
Check it out and let me know what you think 😀


Are you as stoked as I am about this one? What do you think of the trailer?

A ‘sequel’ I actually want to see: District 9 follow-up ELYSIUM

One of my favorite films of the last decade was the low-budget sci-fi movie District 9. In my review, I said that it’s such a distinctly moving, poignant and provocative film that makes you ponder long after the end credits roll.

Not long after I saw the film, there’s immediate buzz for an inevitable sequel, which I talked about here, but that was three years ago! It’s certainly taken a while to materialize but Variety reports that SONY has secured a release date of March 1, 2013. Now, with the recent casting news of the South African actor Sharlto Copley as the villain for the American remake of Park Chan-wook’s Korean action thriller Oldboy, it seems like a good time as any to update you on:

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Plot and Production Notes

Like a Christopher Nolan movie, the plot is shrouded in secrecy. Per Deadline, the movie will have the social allegory theme like in District 9, but done in a much bigger scale, set 100 years in the future. However, /Film reported this interview with the film’s producer Simon Kinberg that “… [the sequel is] a very different movie than anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s not necessarily an alien movie … Visually, stylistically it’s actually very different than District 9.”

Hmmm, what does he mean it’s not necessarily an alien movie?? I wonder if he meant that it’s more than just a genre film, much like 28 Days Later is NOT just a zombie movie, or that the film is dealing with something else entirely?

I presume those reading this article knows that at the end of D-9, the protagonist Wikus van der Merwe has transformed into this prawn-like alien being. The ending seems to lend itself to a sequel, but it sounds like the sequel doesn’t pick up the story where it left off.

South African director Neill Blomkamp is back at the helm and has hired famed set designer Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Aliens) to design the set for this film. The budget has jumped from $35 mil for D-9 to roughly $120 mil for Elysium [per THR]. Filming has wrapped last December and is now in post-production work. As Peter Jackson was the executive producer of D-9, his company WETA is now involved in the conceptual design and various special effects for this film.

Casting

One thing for sure, I’m looking forward to seeing Copley teaming up with D-9 director Neill Blomkamp again.

Mr. Copley’s star-power has risen considerably since starring in that film, though he’s only been seen in The A-Team since then. I think he’s perfectly capable in carrying a movie on his own, as he did in D-9, in fact I liked him so much that I wrote this article on how a lot of Hollywood A-listers can learn from him.

Well, two A-listers have in fact joined the cast: Jodie Foster and Matt Damon.

Damon had this to say just before filming started:

I’ve never done anything quite like this and I kind of responded to what’s out there and what’s in and what’s good. The movie is going to be good, he showed me basically the entire world which he’s going to build and it’s really, really exciting. And I can’t wait! – per MovieWeb

Jodie Foster is said to be playing a leader of an alien planet. She revealed to TotalFilm that the main reason she signed on to the film was because it was a chance to work with Blomkamp.

“Yes, definitely. He did District 9, which I think is as close to a perfect movie as you can get … It’s just an extraordinary film. And, this film has a lot of that social commentary in it, but uses sci-fi to get there. It’s great.”

There’s no news yet what role Matt Damon will be playing but judging from this Vancouver set photos of him with a shaved head wearing a prison jumpsuit and has some sort of futuristic weapon thing-y strapped on him, my guess is he’s an ex-con who managed to escape?

Anyway, the rest of the Internationally-diverse cast includes Mexican actor Diego Luna, Brazilians Wagner Moura and Alice Braga, and go-to New Yorker character actor William Fichtner.

Viral Campaign

What’s brilliant about D-9 is the bizarre but brilliant ‘Non-Human’ viral marketing campaign. Now virtually every major movie, for better for worse, have employed similar strategy. /Film posted this poster on the right spotted at Comic-con last year that points to a website with this video clip below. Basically it’s a recruitment video by a fake company called Armadyne seeking “zero g welders, mega-structure engineers, quantum networkers and experts in zero g coupling and multi-generational planning,” in order to accomplish “the most ambitious project ever undertaken by mankind.” Take a look at the video below from the ‘official’ company website:

… 

I hope the trailer is released soon. I do hope that Copley will have a prominent role here instead of being completely sidelined by Damon. What I like about the first one is how completely believable he was as Wikus and the strong emotional connection I had with the character. Now, both A-listers here are obviously very talented actors, so I’m optimistic in that regard. I’m also hopeful that the 31-year-old Blomkamp is more than a one hit wonder.


Are you a fan of District-9? If so, what do you think of this project so far? 

Happy Birthday to one of my fave directors – Peter Jackson!

I know today’s Halloween but I really don’t care for this pagan holiday and horror flicks aren’t my forte, so I’d rather wish one of my fave directors, Peter Jackson, a happy 50th birthday instead.

It’s an interesting coincidence that the actress I featured yesterday made her debut in his film, Heavenly Creatures. I haven’t seen that one but it’s Jackson’s later films that really left a lasting impression for me.

I’ve updated my sidebar with Peter Jackson’s trivia today, who’s born as an only child in a small coastal town near Wellington, New Zealand. Apparently his love for film-making started out when he was only eight years old when a friend of his parents bought him a super 8mm movie camera. It reminds me of the Spielberg film Super 8 (perhaps Peter was the inspiration for the chubby kid Charles? :D)

I love a lot of Peter Jackson’s films, and I’m also thankful for his technological contribution to the film industry. His company Weta Digital is behind the technology that has created the new generation 3D special effects used in groundbreaking movies like his own Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. So here are five movies I’m thankful for having Peter Jackson’s involvement. There’s a reason why he’s one of my 15 favorite film directors ever!

The Lord of the Rings

I was gonna list one of the best scenes, but really, that’s impossible. Besides, I’ve kind of done it in Viggo’s post not too long ago. So instead, I thought it might be fun to post this one of PJ doing a cameo in one of the LOTR movies, dressed like someone out of Battlefield Earth? I didn’t notice him in the battle scenes, well there’s always a reason to re-watch those LOTR movies!

King Kong

It’s a bummer that this film wasn’t as commercially-successful as they had hoped. I saw this on the big screen and was blown away by it. It’s technically-impressive — the SFX, the art deco look & feel, and of course, with his muse Andy Serkis embodying the giant ape with even bigger heart, we’ve got quite a monstrous epic of a film. Anyone who did not at least get a lump on their throat watching this ending really need to check their pulse!


District 9

Ok so PJ didn’t direct this one but he was one of the executive producers. In fact, if it weren’t for Jackson giving newbie director Neill Blomkamp $30 mil to make the movie he wanted, this movie might not have seen the light of day. I saw this on the big screen and was utterly blown away by it. It’s a gritty sci-fi that stayed with me long afterwards (read my full review). I was impressed by Sharlto Copley’s performance and I look forward to him teaming up w/ Blomkamp again for Elysium. This is by far one of the most heart-wrenching scenes from the film:


The Adventures of Tintin

As a big fan of the comics, I’m thrilled to see two directing legends are adapting this to the big screen! Yes I have high expectations for this one, but I do hope Spielberg and PJ won’t disappoint! So far the film has been quite successful overseas, earning about $55 mil in its first week. I wish it’d open sooner here, you’d think sometime around Thanksgiving would be perfect as a family-friendly feature. In any case, though I’m not typically a big fan of mo-cap technology, what I’ve seen so far gives me hope that there won’t be any ‘dead eyes’ syndrome in this one.

And last but not least … to the most-anticipated movie of 2012:

The Hobbit

Really, the worst thing about this LOTR prequel is the long wait! But I reckon it’ll be worth every second as PJ will take us back to the journey to Middle Earth. Forget The Avengers, I’d say The Hobbit won best ensemble cast in my book, what with the mix of LOTR alums: Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Elijah Woods, etc. and new cast members that include some of my favorites: Richard Armitage, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, and James Nesbitt. Oh man, I told my friend Claire that if I had all the money in the world, I might just move there for the entire time they’re filming The Hobbit. I’ll even work for free! 😀 These video journals definitely get me salivating even more!



So happy birthday Peter Jackson! What’s your fave film(s) from this directing genius?

Which Oscar’s Best Picture winner(s) are great for repeat viewings?

Three more days until Oscar time! I was going to publish my Oscar chatter post on my winner picks vs. predictions on the major categories, but allow me to digress. I had an email conversation earlier today with a colleague/friend of mine and she confessed how The Hurt Locker is not something she’d enjoy watching because she finds war movies really depressing. Then another colleague who might be going to see Precious with her friends told me she was a bit reluctant about it after reading about how some scenes might be too painful to watch. This is the same colleague who couldn’t keep her eyes open during A Serious Man last weekend. All three of those movies I mentioned are up for Oscar this year, which begs the question: are the Academy Best Picture nominees the kind of films that are really enjoyable to watch? What I mean by ‘enjoyable’ is that they’re the kind of flix that don’t make your skin crawl or depress/bore the heck out of you that you actually don’t mind, or even look forward to, watching them again.

Looking back at some of the older movies that won Best Picture, the Academy is notorious for nominating ‘powerful’ movies that aren’t necessarily ‘entertaining.’ For me, there are only a handful of past winners that I actually enjoy watching them over and over again: Gone with the Wind (1939), Ben Hur (1959), My Fair Lady (1964), and The Sound of Music (1965).

But amongst the contemporary best picture winners (let’s just say those released in the 80s up until now), I only count Gladiator (2000) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) as those I can definitely re-watch again, in fact I have all of the dvds in my collection. I’m sure The Godfather (1972), Rocky (1976) or Titanic (1997) are popular picks in that category. As for the rest, either I don’t have interest in seeing them or they fall in the category of ‘great movies one would only watch once’ because they’re just too overwhelming, disturbing, emotional or a combination of all three. So for me, those would be something like Schindler’s List, The Last Emperor, Braveheart, and The Silence of the Lambs. They’re all worth-watching but I don’t think I can bear watching ’em again.

Of the ten nominees this year, three of them I wouldn’t mind watching again: Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and Avatar (which in fact I have watched twice!). You know how I feel about The Hurt Locker, so suffice to say no repeat viewing on that one for me.

Anyway, how about you, readers? Please do share which previous Best Picture winners you could really watch over and over again, or which one(s) fall under the ‘great movies you’d watch only once’ category.