Here Are The Ten Semi-Finalists For The Best Visual Effects Oscar


Yesterday, the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch Executive Committee  announced the ten semi-finalists for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

And here they are:

Elysium

Gravity

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Iron Man 3

The Lone Ranger

Oblivion

Pacific Rim

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Thor: The Dark World

World War Z

Five of the films listed above will receive actual Oscar nominations and then one will win the Oscar.  And that one will probably be Gravity.

It’s interesting to note that Man Of Steel, a film that basically was just 143 minutes of visual effects, failed to make the cut.

Quick Review: Elysium (dir. by Neill Blomkamp)


elysium-firstposter-full2In 2009, director Neill Blomkamp gave us District 9, a quiet film that amazed with its visuals of an Earth populated by refugee aliens from space. Produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, the film was a great success in some ways for both the director and its lead, Sharlto Copley. Both Copley and Blomkamp reunite in Elysium, also adding Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga, William Fichtner & Diego Luna.

I’ll admit that on seeing the film, I was impressed by the visuals, but my hype machine was cranked just a little too high. Any disappointments with the film are the result of my expectations after seeing the trailer. I thought I was going to see something similar to the upcoming game Watch Dogs, where maybe Matt Damon’s character would be able to hack & control a whole network, using it as he saw fit.  He’d flip cars, crash planes and cause all sorts of interesting mayhem. The kid in me jumped in his seat at the thought of that.

What I got, however, wasn’t quite that. It came off feeling like a cooler, much better written version of 1995’s Johnny Mnemonic. This isn’t a bad thing by any means. The first hour of the film was very solid, but the second half shifted gears somewhat (at least for me, anyway).

Elysium is the tale of Max Da Costa (Damon), a former car thief who lives and works on Earth in the year 2154. The world is divided into an even greater scale of the Have’s and Have-Not’s. Most live on the overpopulated planet under horrid working conditions, run down pavelas and broken down roads. Those who can afford it can buy a ticket to live on Elysium, a large habitat orbiting the planet, filled with Mansions and other luxury homes. The houses also contain medical systems that can cure any ailment. When Max suffers an accident on the job that leaves him with only 5 days left to live, his immediate goal is to get to Elysium to cure himself. With the help of his friend Julio, Max meets up with a former associate from his crime days for a job that could give him what he needs. In order to complete his mission, Max is outfitted with an exosuit that makes him stronger. Considering that most of his enemies are robot sentries, the suit becomes a necessary asset.

Elysium is protected by Delacourt (Foster), who makes sure that any unauthorized ship is diverted. When Max’s job directly intervenes with plans of her own, she enlists the aid of Kruger (Copley), a somewhat unstable mercenary to clean things up. Will Max be able to heal himself? That’s what you’ll need to see to find out.

Visually, the movie is pretty good. Elysium itself is a marvel. If there was ever a Mass Effect movie to be made, effects makers wouldn’t have any problems recreating the Citadel space station, based on what you see here. Robot Police using futuristic weapons are well rendered, though they don’t really have the cool factor of something like say, I, Robot or Total Recall. It’s minimal in some ways, but effective. For a budget of just $115 Million, Blomkamp and his crew knew where to put the money.

Musically speaking, I did a bit of searching and found that supposedly the score comes from newcomer Ryan Amon, who Blomkamp found on YouTube. The music does the film some justice, though it isn’t anything sweeping and grand. It does what it needs to for the film, at least that’s how I felt. I hope to see more in the future from Amon, actually.

Cast wise, Damon is effective as always and I’ll admit that I liked Jodie Foster in this one, though she didn’t seem like she was given too much to do. The same almost applies to Alice Braga, who plays Da Costa’s childhood friend, Frey. Both Diego Luna and Wagner Moura (as Spider, Max’s former associate) had some interesting moments. The standout by far is Sharlto Copley. His Afrikaans accent is pretty strong, and almost makes it hard for you to catch what he’s saying, but he’s creepy. If the Simpsons’ Groundskeeper Willy somehow caught rabies, his mannerisms would probably be what you get from Copley in this film. Very wild stuff there. He and the effects are the best parts of the film for me.

On the second half of the film, I felt as if the film shifted from a drama to an action film, but I don’t know. There was something odd about it. It wasn’t new for me – District 9 did the same thing in it’s 2nd half, but Elysium seemed as if with all the robots and all the guards, some of the events occurred just too easily and without their intervention. I didn’t get a feeling that there was danger around every corner, but that’s just me and it’s a very minor gripe on my part. There weren’t too many cheer moments for me (and by “cheer moments”, I refer to those scenes where you want to yell something but keep yourself in check – or forget to do so and yell anyway like with Pacific Rim). It was a little generic for me, despite the original and fresh elements leading up to it in the setting and Da Costa’s sense of purpose.

Overall, Elysium gives the audience an interesting situation, and populates it with at least 2 good characters (in Kruger and Da Costa). See it for the visuals and the solid first half, but don’t expect the story to be the best thing in the world. Just enjoy it for the escapism.

2013: What Type of Year Has It Been So Far?


2013

We are now at the halfway mark as far as 2013 is concerned.  This is the time of year that self-important film critics (both online and elsewhere) tell their readers what type of year it’s been so far.

So, without further ado — what type of year has 2013 been so far?

(By the way, you can also check out my thoughts from last yearJuly of 2011 and July 2010 as well.)

(Also, please understand that my opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the any other contributor here at TSL.  And I reserve the right to change my opinion.)

Upstream Color

Best Film Of The Year (So Far): Upstream Color (with The Bling Ring, This Is The End, Spring Breakers, Before Midnight, Frances Ha,  Iceman, and Much Ado About Nothing as close runner-ups.)

Best Male Performance Of The Year (So Far): Michael Shannon in Iceman (with James Franco in Spring Breakers as a close runner-up).

Best Female Performance of the Year (So Far): Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha (with Emma Watson in The Bling Ring as a close runner-up.)

Best Voice Over Performance Of The Year (So Far): Steve Carell in Despicable Me 2.

Best Ending of the Year (So Far): Upstream Color

Best Horror Film Of The Year (So Far): Maniac

Most Underrated Film Of The Year (So Far): The Last Exorcism Part 2

Best Bad Film Of The Year (So Far): Safe Haven

Worst Film Of The Year (So Far): Tyler Perry’s Temptation, which was a guilty pleasure up until it turned out that Tyler Perry is apparently a messenger from God.

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Biggest Example Of A Missed Opportunity For This Year (So Far): Man of Steel, which started out so strong before it became just another series of mind-numbing CGI sequences.

The Get Over It Already Award For The First Half of 2012: Disconnect.  Hey, everyone, did you know that the Internet makes people feel disconnected from others?  If this is news to you, then you’ll probably think Disconnect is a really profound movie.

The Cameron/Fincher Bandwagon Trophy (Awarded To The Upcoming Film That, Regardless Of Quality, Will Probably Be So Violently Embraced By People Online That You’ll Be Putting Your Life In Danger If You Dare Offer Up The Slightest Amount Of Criticism): Elysium

The Trailer That Has Most Outgrown Its Welcome: Elysium

The Sasha Award (Awarded To The Film That I Am Predicting Will Be The Most Overrated Of The Year): August: Osage County

The Stone Award (Awarded to the upcoming film that will probably get  positive reviews based on the film’s political context as opposed to the film itself): The Butler

The Roland Emmerich/Rod Lurie Award For The Film That I’m Predicting Will Be The Worst Of 2012: Could any film possibly be worst than Tyler Perry’s Temptation?

Films I’m Looking Forward To Seeing In The Future (An incomplete list): American Hustle, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, Carrie, Dallas Buyers Club, Foxcatcher, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,  Inside Llewyn DavisInsidious Chapter 2, Nebraska, Only God Forgives, Oldboy, Pacific Rim, Thor: The Dark World, The Wolf of Wall Street

Let’s hope that the second half of 2013 is better than the first.

Seriously, just because the Mayans were wrong, that’s no excuse for bad cinema.

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Trailer: Elysium (2nd Official)


Elysium

I know it’s been done and written for what seems like hundreds of times that Neill Blomkamp was given the chance to direct a planned live-action film adaptation of the highly popular video game franchise Halo. Seeing how his directorial full-feature debut with District 9 proved that Peter Jackson was correct in trying to give the mega-budgeted project to the young South African, but also set Blomkamp as filmmaker who had given himself that rare commodity in Hollywood: the ability to pick and choose his next projects.

He could easily have taken the money and accolades from that first film and taken the first major action project sent his way, but Blomkamp took that rare commodity and decided to do another sci-fi film that combined not just his flair for action and gritty sci-fi visuals, but what looks to be his storytelling style of using current sociological problems (immigration, class divide, etc…for his latest film) as themes for his film.

Elysium arrives with a new trailer from TriStar Pictures and it’s parent company Sony Pictures. The first trailer gave a taste of the ideas that drive the film’s plot. This second (and much longer trailer) gives us a much more detailed look into the film’s three main characters played by Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. It also gives us a longer look at the two contrasting art designs for society on Earth and that on Elysium.

Oh, did I also mention that the trailer almost makes it seem that it could be a trailer-run for any future Mass Effect live-action film. I saw more than one instance of what could be the use of “biotics” in the trailer by Sharlto Copley’s Kruger character.

Elysium is set to arrive in theaters on August 9, 2013 in both regular and IMAX screens.

Trailer: Elysium (Official)


Elysium

It’s not often that a filmmaker makes such a major splash in the industry with their initial full-length film becoming not just a commercial success but one which gained widespread critical-acclaim. South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp is one such filmmaker. Initially tapped by Peter Jackson to direct the planned HALO film adaptation Blomkamp ended up doing District 9 (based off of his own short film Alive in Joburg).

The film became the sensation of San Diego Comic-Con 2009 which raised the hype for it’s inevitable release a month later. It’s now been 4 years since District 9 and we finally get a chance to see the first official trailer (a 10-minute film reel was shown to invited industry and press which showed a bit more of what the film will be about) for Blomkamp’s much awaited follow-up to his hit first film.

Elysium looks to continue Blomkamp’s attempt to bring social awareness to the scifi genre and do so with a mixture of real-world gritty realism and scifi fantasy. just looking at the trailer the space station Elysium where all the rich and privilege live in a paradise-setting look like an amalgam of the HALO ringworlds and the Citadel Station from Mass Effect.

It’s still months away, but just this teaser of a trailer has just raised Elysium to the top of my list for most awaited films of 2013. If it’s as good or better than District 9 then Blomkamp will cement himself as one of his generation’s best instead of a flash in the pan like so many of his contemporaries.

Elysium is set for a wide release date of August 9, 2013.