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Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’ Is Sci-Fi With Something To Say

19 Aug

Matt Damon in Elysium

In 2009, Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut “District 9” punched audiences in the stomach with its gut-wrenching realism and gripping social commentary. The emotional bruising left in its wake didn’t just seize viewer attention though, it captured Hollywood’s too. Struck by Blomkamp’s creativity with a smaller budget, the industry decided to offer him a larger one for his sophomore effort “Elysium.” Working inside the Hollywood machine can be tricky however, since directors often compensate for greater resources with major creative compromises. What’s miraculous about Blomkamp’s flick is that it doesn’t seem like he sacrificed anything because “Elysium” is a grim, arresting picture.

Blomkamp’s tale takes place in the year 2154, where Earth has become polluted and overpopulated. People stuck there suffer crime, illness, and government oppression, as they toil away in dangerous jobs. Meanwhile the extremely wealthy live on a habitat orbiting the planet called Elysium, where there is fresh air, clean water, and medical devices that can cure any malady. A ruthless administrator named Delacourt (Jodie Foster) protects this community from riffraff by hiring thugs such as the psychotic assassin Kruger (Sharlto Copley) to do her dirty work.

Our protagonist is Max (Matt Damon), an orphan trying his best to play the shoddy hand life has dealt him. As we learn through flashbacks, Max has always dreamed of traveling to Elysium with his best friend Frey (Alice Braga). However his desire to get to there becomes a lot more urgent after discovering that he only has a few days to live. Desperate to heal himself, Max vows to get there by any means necessary. Unfortunately Delacourt and Kruger learn of his scheme, and attempt everything in their power to stop him.

Sharlto Cople in Elysium

Like “District 9,” this film is engaging because it’s just the right amount of believable. Technology in the movie is a fascinating hybrid of current devices with futuristic upgrades and space-age stuff that will blow your mind. A refreshing thing is that Blomkamp trusts your intelligence by dropping you into his unique world, without over explaining how everything works. He lets you soak it all in and use your imagination, providing definition only when absolutely needed. The result is a more immersive experience for the viewer.

Another fascinating tact that Blomkamp uses is to accentuate the differences between Earth and Elysium from an aesthetic perspective. Scenes on Earth are dusty and dingy with a lot of handheld camerawork, whereas Elysium is bright and clean with a greater number of stationary shots. In general though, Blomkamp relies way too heavily on the handheld camera. Not only is his shaky cam distracting, but frustratingly it prevents you from seeing all the neat happenings in the background of each scene as well.

Similar to “District 9,” this picture isn’t just a straightforward adventure, it’s a sci-fi movie with messages. “Elysium” has a lot of weighty points to make about how race, class, violence, and healthcare affect our society now and how they could impact us in a dystopian future like this one. Sadly the subtext is a bit excessive and some of these lessons get lost while you’re paying attention to the main narrative. This film has more to say to a global audience than “District 9” since it’s not just an allegory for Apartheid, although “Elysium” is ultimately less effective as social commentary because it’s so busy.

Despite this gripe, Blomkamp’s picture is still a compelling yarn filled with complex characters, sickening violence, and brilliant social critique that proves he’s not just a one-hit-wonder. Few working directors out there are as effective as Blomkamp at telling a serious, yet entertaining story with a moral. He truly is a master of sci-fi with something to say, and I look forward to seeing what his next film’s big message is.

My Grade: A-…as in Almost There! A Few Tweaks Away from Total Awesomeness!

Photo Credits: Sony Pictures Digital Inc. All Rights Reserved

Survey: Hugh Jackman Has The Sexiest Facial Hair, Brad Pitt The Worst

27 Jun

Hugh Jackman

They’re battling it out in the “Best Actor” category at the Academy Awards on Sunday, but Hugh Jackman has beaten Bradley Cooper in a less competitive race: sexiest facial hair.

In the battle of the beards, the “Les Miserables” star has bested the “Silver Linings Playbook” stud, according to a new survey conducted by British hair transplant center, Crown Clinic in Manchester.

“Hugh Jackman looks great whatever kind of facial hair he has – stubble, a moustache or a beard,” Crown Clinic surgeon and hair loss expert Dr. Asim Shahmalak told WENN.

Rounding out the top five on the list are David Beckham, George Clooney and Ben Affleck.

Stars with the least sexy stubble include Brad Pitt, Joaquin Phoenix and Jim Carrey.

Brad Pitt

Watch "Hugh Jackman’s Wife Responds To Gay Rumors"

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Sexy Celebrity Wives Courtney Mazza & Camila Alves Are Beautiful In Black

27 Jun

Courtney Mazza

One is pregnant and one just gave birth a couple of months ago, but both Courtney Mazza and Camila Alves looked lovely at the QVC Red Carpet Style at Four Seasons Hotel on Friday.

Courtney and her “X Factor” host husband Mario Lopez just announced they are expecting their second child. The couple, who wed Dec. 1, have a two-year-old daugther named Gia.

Courtney showed off her growing baby bump in a pretty black dress with lace features. Mario lovingly posed for photos placing his hand on his wife’s belly.

Matthew McConaughey’s wife Camila looked stunning in a black pantsuit with a plunging neckline. Camila gave birth in December and looked fab just two months after giving birth.

Check out more photos of the lovely ladies…

Courtney Mazza & Mario Lopez

Camila Alves

Camila Alves

Camila Alves

Sudden Death Begins On ‘American Idol’

13 Jun


This week “American Idol” moves to Las Vegas for the first ever Sudden Death round. For the next few weeks 10 singers will perform each night with half of them going home at the end of the night. First up were 10 of the girls. Idol mentor Jimmy Iovine was on hand to serve as a tiebreaker if needed.

For the sudden death round the singers may choose any song from any genre. Many of the first performances were of less familiar songs; unlike in the past when the singers took on diva songs.

Jenny Beth got the night started off that Keith said was a great way to start the show but his fellow judges were somewhat less enthusiastic about the performance saying that it felt jerky and needed to be more dynamic.

Randy called Teena’s performance the start of the night with his fellow judges calling the performance controlled and connected emotionally.

Idol’s first Alaskan performer Adriana earned a standing ovation for her performance. Keith proclaimed it the start of the night with Nicki gushing over Adriana’s stage presence and Mariah loving Adrian’s version of the song.

The judges questioned Brandy’s emotional connection to her song calling it a pageant performance. Mariah said that she would like to see Brandy make an album of classics.

Shubha took on the Lady Gaga hit “Born This Way” starting her performance at the piano, but the judges were less than impressed calling her performance confusing with too much going on. Nicki called Shubha a mash up between Christina Aguilera and PSY.

Randy said Kamaria’s performance was her worst performance and the pitch was all over the place. His fellow judges agreed questioning the emotional connection to the song; but loved her style.

Keith called Kree a natural born singer who was beautiful to watch. His fellow judges agreed and Mariah added that Kree got lost in the song and it was a beautiful thing to watch.

Noting that nothing could compare to Angele’s original song performance during Hollywood week, the judges said that she could do a lot with a little, had limitless potential, and was a budding superstar.

The judges called Isabell’s performance of “God Bless the Child” old fashioned and pageant like.

Amber topped off the night with her performance of “My Funny Valentine” that the judge’s praised as timeless and effortless with amazing vocal control. Mariah couldn’t wait to see Amber in the studio and Keith said Amber knocked it out of the park.

Coming out from behind the judge’s table to sit in stools on the stage, the judges rendered the decisions as to whom would stay and whom would go home.

Jenny Beth, Brandy, Isabelle, Kamaria, and Shubha all received nos from the judges but Teena, Kree, Angela, Amber, and Adriana will be moving on to the next round and sing for fan votes.

On Thursday it’s the guys turn to sing.

Miley Cyrus Defends Herself After Pot Smoking Photo Surfaces

4 Jun

Miley Cyrus Pot Smoking

Miley Cyrus has been forced to defend herself after a photo of what appears to be the singer enjoying some marijuana was uploaded on Instagram.

A black and white photo appeared on the Instagram account “mileyxxcyrus,” showing a woman that looks quite a bit like Cyrus smoking a blunt, with her face obscured by the smoke. The caption reads, “High as fvck.”

Cyrus quickly took to her Twitter account to defend herself. “Why is everybody trippin. My timeline is blowing up. Everything’s all good in my life just in a creative space right now,” she posted, followed by, “I don’t have an Instagram.”

However, many users were quick to point out the “equality” tattoo on the person’s ring finger in the photo, in the exact location Miley has hers. The rest of the photos on the Instagram account are of Miley. So we’re either looking at the real thing via a hacker or Miley thinking the account was private… or a really creepy stalker who thinks she’s Miley.

Hot London Fashion Week Photos: Kate Beckinsale, Freida Pinto & More!

24 May

Kate Beckinsale

Kate Beckinsale strutted her gorgeous figure at London Fashion Week today. The actress, along with several other celebrities, attended the the Burberry Prorsum Autumn/Winter Womenswear show at Kensington Gardens.

Beckinsale, who turns 40 (!) this summer, looked stunning in a white shirt dress with a beige belt and black pumps. She appeared in the 2012 films “Underworld: Awakening” and “Contraband” and stars in the upcoming “The Trials of Cate McCall” about a recovering addict/lawyer who works to get reinstated at the bar and recover custody of her daughter.

Freida Pinto joined Beckinsale at the fashion event, sporting a bright blue corset-like peplum blouse and green pants. Model/actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was red hot in a crimson pantsuit.

Check out more photos from London…

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Are Katy Perry & John Mayer Engaged?

16 May

Katy Perry & John Mayer

Reports have surfaced that Katy Perry is engaged to boyfriend John Mayer, and her publicist is neither confirming nor denying them.

On Valentine’s Day, the pop star was spotted with a ruby ring on her wedding finger during a romantic night out with the singer/songwriter, suggesting he had proposed. She was wearing the ring as they left Vicenti restauraunt in Brentwood, Calif.

Perry’s people aren’t commenting on the rumors.

The singer split from her husband, British actor and comedian Russell Brand, at the end of 2011.

Meanwhile, Mayer has opened up about his past womanizing ways, saying he regrets kissing and telling about past relationships to stars such as Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Aniston.

He told CBS Sunday Morning: “I was just a jerk. And it’s hard for people to process that.”

Watch "John Mayer Sees Himself Settling Down"

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‘How I Met Your Mother’: Robin Sparkles ‘Underneath The Music’

18 Feb

Robin Sparkles

HIMYM returned last night, a day after a wild Super Bowl on CBS. This also kicked off sweeps month for America’s #1 network. Two weeks ago I predicted that this would be the most watched episode in the history of the series, and I will be very interested to see the Neilsen ratings get tallied.

The story began with Ted on another Mosbian quest after having a run in with a girl on the subway. Lily and Marshall urge Ted to not go into stalker mode. However, the tables get turned when Jeanette tracks down Ted. It turns out that she was the one who was stalking Ted, and caused a fire at the building he was giving a lecture in order to cause an evacuation. Ted, the hopeless romantic, turns a blind eye to everything when she says, “I just couldn’t live with the idea of not meeting you.”

When Lily and Marshall voice their concern, Robin is surprisingly on the other side. She says that it’s easy for someone to get carried away. She confesses that she had an obsession with a man back in Canada that got out of hand. Of course, this leads Barney to go on a mission to find out everything about it.

Barney interviews all of Robin’s old boyfriends, including Simon (James Van Der Beek). He tells Barney that Robin had a dark spiral when she was the teen sensation Robin Sparkles, and that he could learn about it on the episode of Canada’s “Underneath the Music” that featured Sparkles.

Barney quickly procures a copy of the episode and watches it with the rest of the gang. The VH1 spoof contained a slew of Canadian guest stars doing cameos: Jason Priestley, Geddy Lee, Alex Trebek, Luc Robataille, K.D. Lang, Alan Thicke, Dave Coulier, and Paul Shaffer. It turns out Robin wrote a song called “P.S, I Love You” about her obsession, and there was a lot of debate over who the object of her affections in fact was. Finally, Robin confesses that the P.S. in the title of the song didn’t mean postscript, it meant Paul Shaffer.

As for Ted, he finally decides he must confront Jeanette about the fire. Nevertheless, he lets the romantic get the best of him. Older Ted says that everybody has to make one last big mistake before getting married, and says that Jeanette was that big mistake.

This was another episode written by show co-creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, and it showed. It was another nicely weaved story between Ted and Jeanette’s obsession with each other, Robin’s old obsession, and the story of Marshall and Lily first falling for one another. It was a lot of fun to see all of the cameos by Canada’s finest entertainers and the return of James Van Der Beek. We also welcome Abby Elliot to the show, playing Jeanette. Abby already had the HIMYM connection with her real life father, Chris Elliot, playing Lily’s father on the show. How big of a mistake will Jeanette end up being for Ted? We’ll have to tune in next week to find out.

The legend continues Mondays at 8/7c on CBS.

Ben Affleck Wins Best Director At DGA Awards

10 Feb

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck became only the third person to pick up a Directors Guild of America Award without an Oscar nomination since 1948 when he continued his awards season dominance on Saturday night.

The actor/moviemaker missed out on a Best Director Oscar nod last month but he has since picked up honors at the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes, among other events – and on Saturday he added a DGA gong to his haul.

Still stunned by his success, Affleck took to the stage at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood to accept the nomination for Argo just before his name was called as the category winner, and told the audience, “I look out and see all these great directors. I feel I should be auditioning.”

It was also a big night for Hollywood ‘it’ girl Lena Dunham, who took home the prize for Best Comedy Series (Girls), and Jay Roach, who picked up the Best Movies for Television & Mini-Series honour for political drama Game Change.

The winners list is:
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film – Ben Affleck (Argo)
Outstanding Directing Achievement in Documentary Film – Malik Bendjelloul (Searching For Sugar Man)
Outstanding Directing Achievement in Movies for Television & Mini-Series – Jay Roach (Game Change)
Outstanding Directing Achievement in Dramatic Series – Rian Johnson (Breaking Bad)
Outstanding Directing Achievement in Comedy Series – Lena Dunham (Girls)
Outstanding Directing Achievement in Musical Variety – Glenn Weiss (66th Annual Tony Awards)
Outstanding Directing Achievement in Reality Programs – Brian Smith (Master Chef)
Outstanding Directing Achievement in Daytime Serials – Jill Mitwell (One Life To Live)
Outstanding Directing Achievement in Children’s Programs – Paul Hoen (Let it Shine)
DGA Lifetime Achievement Award – Milos Forman
Robert B. Aldrich Service Award – Michael Apted
Lifetime Achievement in News Direction Award – Eric Shapiro
Frank Capra Achievement Award – Susan Zwerman
Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award – Dency Nelson

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