You know you like science fiction. You know you like Matt Damon. And you know you're on board with anything that showcases a handsome bald fella. So yes, you're pretty certain you're going to enjoy Neill Blomkamp's newest feature film, Elysium. There's only one thing you're not quite sure about: what the heck "Elysium" actually is.
The movie lends the name — one you might have heard before — to an exclusive utopia floating just beyond the reach of a decaying planet Earth's common man. The titular space station that plays paradisiacal home to political figures, law enforcement officers, and your everyday rich people, denying the benefits of pristine environments and universal healthcare to the working class schmoes confined to the big blue marble. Enter Max (Damon), a reformed criminal inflicted with a lethal dose of radiation poisoning, who vows to snag a spot in one of Elysium's venerated medical facilities before succumbing to his disease. But in order to get there, he'll need to sneak in — courtesy of a border-hopping underground organization led by a crook named, quite appropriately, Spider. And of course, when you ask a favor of a crook, you're bound to find yourself carrying out one or two illicit deeds in the process.
But hospice on Elysium is worth anything for Max. The proverbial "castle in the clouds" seems to represent all of the ideals to which humanity might aspire: safety, prosperity, uniformity, total submission... yeah, it's starting to get a little iffy there, isn't it? Although Elysium is stocked lovingly with the tropes of science-fiction movie classics — everything from pulp works like Total Recall to mainstream blockbusters like Star Wars to uncategorizable masterpieces like 2001: A Space Odyssey — the film is also clearly quite happy to emulate classic literature. In fact, Blomkamp's Elysium takes its name from one of the greatest and most well-known pieces of writing in human history: Homer's Odyssey.
Homer invented the Elysian plain, a temperate kingdom where mankind knew no trouble. In his epic poem, Homer described the mythical land as that "where life is easiest for men. No snow is there, nor heavy storm, nor ever rain, but ever does Ocean send up blasts of the shrill-blowing West Wind that they may give cooling to men." In a word, paradise.
In fact, so potent is the idea of Elysium as a flawless utopia that many classic minds examined it in their own writings: Greek historian Plutarch and Roman poet Virgil were among those to embed the facet into their work. And centuries past Homer's invention of the golden empire, popular culture keeps a stronghold on Elysium as its go-to heaven-on-Earth: fantasy television shows like Doctor Who, Xena Warrior Princess, and Sailor Moon have welcomed references to Elysium, as have movies like the historical fiction epic Gladiator, the comedy Wanderlust, and the spirited extended metaphor Beasts of the Southern Wild.
But instead of recreating the impeccable Elysium developed by Homer, director Blomkamp seems to draw a bit more directly from some more recent works: the novels of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley will jump to mind in the inspection of the rigidly controlled autocracy kept under glass by military figure Delacourt (Jodie Foster). The flawless sheath drawn over a scathing, fear-generated xenophobia is a staple of sci-fi fiction, with 1984 and Brave New World playing generous benefactors to this eager and inventive new twist on the genre.
We see a lot of "new" in Blomkamp's Elysium, though plenty of fun and familiar homages to Orwell and Huxley, to Philip K. Dick and the many cinematic attempts that have been made of his library, to Star Wars and Kubrick, and to Homer. The "perfect world," the heavenly kingdom just out of reach, is something that artists and scholars have dwelled upon for centuries. But Blomkamp proves that there are always new, fresh ways of looking at time-tested ideas.
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Whether you consider yourself a 1984 person or a Brave New world person (and there's no overlap, you have to declare your leanings one way or the other), you spent your teen years faring through a good share of futuristic dystopias. Whichever path in this dichotomy was spawned from your middle school encounter with The Giver, it made you quite familiar with the formula, which is adopted by Matt Damon's new sci-fi film, Elysium. As you can see in the trailer below, Elysium boasts a seemingly perfect society — free of war, disease, conscious thought — operating in conjunction with some safeguarded secret about oppressive corruption. And, as it always seems to be, it's up to some plucky young trooper to bring this treachery down. In this case, that plucky young trooper is Bald Matt Damon, or BMD, if you will.
In the trailer, BMD mops his sweaty, follicle-free brow while pledging to salvage his destitute society by invading the gated luxury of the elites. The themes will remind you quite a bit of your days spent with George Orwell and Aldous Huxley... although, with all due respect to the authors, Elysium has one advantage over their works: lasers. Lasers shooting from guns, from vehicles, from body shields, from pretty much everywhere. This trailer is jam-packed with amplified light. Also a stockade of traditional literary premises. But the lasers... that's the big thing here.
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Drugs are bad. Right? Well, most drugs are bad. (The one in Limitless doesn't seem to be too terrible if you discount the fact that it turns you into a enemy of Robert De Niro.) Actually the forced prosecution of victimless crimes generates a criminal class where there need not be one, that also taxes the state, where resources could be better spent on education, which has proven time and again to be a better deterrent from drugs than criminal charges.
Wow, that got way out of hand. Anyway, drugs are bad and sometimes people want to put them in their stories. But sometimes all the real drugs (and the wonders that they do) don't add enough to the storylines so screenwriters and authors have to make up some new ones. Here we have the six best of the fake drugs.
Soma - Brave New World
The original, created by the lovable (one would assume) Aldous Huxley. Basically, it’s a government sanctioned hallucinogen that kept the people in line. It really took that Marx maxim “religion is the opiate of the masses” to a new level considering it pretty much replaced religion. A fair trade if I ever heard one, but it also took over any sense of purpose a person might potentially feel. Bummersville. It's probably one of the few instances where just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should too. Plus, it enhanced the free and recreational sex everyone was having. Why was this a bad future again? Oh yeah, alcoholic babies. But it sure made high school English fun, no?
Felix Felicis - Harry Potter
My favorite of these fake drugs, this potion was introduced in the sixth Harry Potter book and turns fortune your way. Also known as Liquid Luck, it gently nudges you in the way of lady luck. So it won’t drop a fortune in your lap, it’ll just help you guess the lottery numbers. Highly addictive, difficult to produce, rarest of rare, and never quite works in the way you expect it to. Sure, its a pretty big deus ex machina (and not Harry’s first), but who cares.
NTZ - Limitless
It’ll turn you into Bradley Cooper! In a nutshell, it unlocks your brain and you realize your full potential. But I guess there is a reason we don’t use all of our brains: we’d go crazy (good looking! But that might only apply to Cooper). Also, it’s an interesting note that of all the drugs on the list, the others are modifiers: they add or subtract something to you. Whereas NTZ (the name of the drug) only opens up your natural ability. Interesting bit of note. Perhaps its not the drug then that destroys you. It’s your self. Or Robert De Niro’s horrible acting.
V - True Blood
In True Blood, Vampire blood is the new crack/meth of the world. It plays a big part in the show as its acquisition is the center of several plots throughout. V represents the drug war in contemporary America. Its uses seem fun in moderation, but the prohibition of it causes much of its conflict. Actually, it seems characters used it subtly. WHAT? True Blood being subtle? No way. Anyway, the stuff is dangerous to posses, acquire, and consume, but it can lead to Lizzy Caplan naked so... WORTH IT.
Quietus - Children of Men
Time for some depressing drugs! Quietus is a relief, but it totally kills you. And not like in a bummer way, no, it actually ends your pathetic life. But considering the world was facing human extinction in Children of Men, it seemed like a pleasant enough option. Women weren’t having babies, the youngest person in the world was 18, so you might as well pop a pill and end it all. My only question is how do you profit off something that is basically shrinking your market? I guess every successful suicide shows that your product works, but I bet that was a grim marketing meeting.
Spice - Dune
Spice pretty much gives you super powers despite being worm turds (whoops, sorry for the spoiler). By mixing the new world reliance on a single substance (oil! But a drug oil!) with the old world modifier (spice!), Dune found its powerful drug. Sure, it could cause you to see into the future, navigate your star ship going light speed, propel you to become a prophet and make you super strong. That’s all fine and dandy, but the real beauty is it made your food taste great. Yum!
I doubt Walt Disney ever imagined that his classic fairy tales would be shown in such brilliancy and vivid color but here we have it: a Blu-ray that delivers a picture that blows the original film’s colorful display out of the water. The 1951 classic cartoon rendition of a tale that was already considered classic when it was adapted from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with pieces from Through the Looking Glass comes to life on this new format. Yes we’ve since seen the modern answer to this timeless tale but Tim Burton’s outlandish twist on Alice’s journey will hardly stand the test of time the way this film has and will continue to for years to come thanks to this Blu-ray boost.
This trip into dreamland wherein Alice follows the White Rabbit right down the rabbit hole dances with oysters debates Tweedledee and Tweedledum paints the roses red celebrates her unbirthday with the Mad Hatter befriends the Chesire Cat and feels the wrath of the dreaded Queen of Hearts shows its age in voice and animation style only. Despite those factors the creatively animated adventure still holds steady as a lovely film to share with family or watch as an adult so you can relive the magic of childhood. The songs recall the wonder and beauty of your first viewing but are engaging enough to rein in a few first-time viewers as well.
The biggest bother with this 60th Anniversary edition is that now that widescreen televisions are the norm the film is forced to be presented with pillarboxes in order to fit on the screen. Up until 1954 all films were filmed in a standard aspect ratio of 1.37 : 1 to accommodate a standard optical soundtrack. What that means for modern viewers is that films from that time period cannot be viewed in widescreen because they were actually created in the narrower aspect ratio. Disney has a solution to help with those pesky black pillars on either side of the film though; they’ve added something called Disneyvision which decorates those plain pillarboxes with ambient art to help you forget they’re there. This works for most scenes but often makes the sweeping shots look a bit exaggerated. I’d opt for the regular boxes but I can see how the Disneyvision option might fare better with the young ones.
While Disney makes sure to note that this anniversary edition isn’t one of their “Diamond Collection” discs and thus we shouldn’t expect too many features the disc packs quite a punch. One interesting feature is a new take on the typical DVD commentary; the Blu-ray includes a commentary that weaves drawings historical information and talking heads style interviews with Disney experts allowing the commentary to accompany the film in a way that feels more like a documentary than a host of alien voices jumping all over the film as with most commentaries.
The Blu-ray disc also includes a Painting The Roses Red game that may be too hard for the littler tykes but could be fun for families to play together. (Yes it’s a DVD puzzle game that’s actually kind of fun.) The regular DVD also includes a game that gives you the chance to have a virtual Wonderland party; this one gets old faster but is a bit more universal.
Then we have a slew of featurettes; and for a Disney fan like me it’s the perfect way to spend a lazy evening. The videos are seemingly endless showing us long-lost animators’ reference footage featuring the voice actors actually acting out the scenes to help the animators get the motions right miraculously salvaged preliminary pencil sketches of Alice’s adventure a Disney television Christmas special hosted by the little lady who voiced Alice an Alice-inspired Mickey Mouse cartoon called “Thru the Mirror ” a deleted song for the Chesire Cat called “I’m Odd ” and plenty of other in-depth historical looks at a film that took years to come to fruition. The script was even done over by author Aldous Huxley at one point but he couldn’t pass the Disney standard – his version was too scary.
This list only scratches the surface of nuggets of Disney history that lie in wait in the special features of this anniversary edition. Any Mouse House fan can enjoy the old-fashioned magic of the hours of video features as well as the renewed beauty of the restored film itself. It may not have earned the Disney “Diamond” standard but it’s a classic that has finally achieved the level of care and attention it deserves.
Just days after it was announced that he will direct an Alien prequel, Ridley Scott is now also attached to another futuristic project, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
The dystopian novel's adaptation has been set up at Universal, where Scott will produce the project with an eye to direct, reports the Risky Business blog. Scott's sometime collaborator, Leonardo DiCaprio, has a strong eye to star.
Apocalypto writer Farhad Safinia has been brought in by the studio for script duties.
Leonardo and George DiCaprio will produce at Appian and Michael Costigan will also produce for Scott Free.
Scott has mentioned casually in interviews over the past year that he's interested in the 1931 novel, which Appian Way owns, notes the blog.
Scott Free and Appian execs have been meeting frequently during the past six months giving the project more momentum, although it is still at the development stage.
Scott is currently shooting Robin Hood and DiCaprio is shooting Christopher Nolan's Inception. The actor does not have a movie lined up after that while Scott does not have a go-project ready, says BIZ.
Huxley's book takes place in a seemingly perfect 26th century world that has achieved harmony by tightly controlling birth and outlawing family. The world is populated by a series of five castes, each with its own defined roles.
DiCaprio would likely play a character who is persecuted when the leaders of the society find his behavior antisocial.
Although dystopian works are often hard to film, Scott took the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and turned it into the 1982 classic Blade Runner.
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