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OSCARS: Which Visual Effects Contenders Can Fight ‘Gravity’s Pull?

Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor.

Gravity Oscars vfxExpect Gravity to be as powerful and inevitable a force in the visual-effects category at this year’s Oscars as, well, gravity. Offering more than just snazzy visuals — about 95% of what’s on screen is digital — Gravity’s visual-effects supervisor Tim Webber fulfilled many artists’ dreams by working from the start with director Alfonso Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to completely embed the effects into the storytelling and filmmaking process.

The space drama also has some serious cachet as a more artistic use of effects — a quality Academy voters have AwardsLinerewarded recently with trophies for Life of Pi, Hugo and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. With Gravity offering a seemingly irresistible complete package, it looks as if the other nine Academy short-list contenders will just have to aspire to impress the effects branch enough at the Jan. 9 bake-off to score one of five Oscar nominations on Jan. 16.

In addition to Gravity, the short list includes Elysium, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Oblivion, Star Trek Into Darkness, Thor: The Dark World, Pacific Rim and World War Z. The most obvious question about the list is: How did the year’s highest-profile boxoffice dud, The Lone Ranger, make the cut and Man of Steel did not? Read More »

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Sony, MRC Team On ‘Chappie,’ Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’ Followup

By | Tuesday August 13, 2013 @ 10:07am PDT
Mike Fleming

Sony has kept Neill Blomkamp in the fold, making a deal with Media Rights Capital to co-produce, co-finance and distribute his next film, called Chappie. Blomkamp will direct the script he wrote with Terri Tatchell. He will also produce the film with Simon Kinberg. Production begins this fall. Chappie tells the story of a robot imbued with artificial intelligence who is stolen by two local gangsters who want to use him for their own nefarious purposes. Sharlto Copley, star of Blomkamp’s District 9 and Elysium, will voice the robot. Ninja and Yolandi Visser, voices of the South African Zef counter-culture movement and members of rap-rave duo Die Antwoord, will play the gangsters.

Said production president Doug Belgrad: “We’re huge fans of Neill Blomkamp – it’s a real thrill to be continuing our relationship with such a visionary and important filmmaker. Neill has proven that he is a true original voice and we expect that Chappie will strike a chord with worldwide audiences in the same way that District 9 and Elysium have. We love the script he and Terri have written and we’re looking forward to working again with our friends at MRC.”

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‘Elysium’ #1 But Can’t Break $30M, ‘The Millers’ #2, ‘Planes’ #3, ‘Percy Jackson: Monsters’ #4; ‘Smurfs 2′ Now $156M Global

Related: World War Z Cracks $500 Million Worldwide For Brad Pitt’s Biggest

MONDAY 7 AM, 7TH UPDATE: This weekend’s total moviegoing was $158M which is +11% from last year. Overall a too-crowded marketplace. Meanwhile, I’m seeing a big schism separating audiences and critics as Summer 2013 continues. CinemaScores are coming in higher and higher for pics that Rotten Tomatoes is rating lower and lower. Who’s out of touch: movie reviewers or filmgoers? Well, Rotten Tomatoes scored 3 of the 4 newcomers only 24%-34% for positive reviews even though they received high CinemaScores. Hmm, interesting development.

Sony Pictures’ futuristic Elysium (playing in 3,284 theaters) received only a ‘B’ CinemaScore from audiences but 67% positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. Starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster and written/directed by Neill Blomkamp, it was sitting in the #1 spot as of Sunday but didn’t break $30M domestic. Sure, Elysium was sci-fi, R-rated, and cool – yet it still underperformed because of summer movie fatigue. Film did deliver a best-ever August opening on IMAX screens. Opening weekend demos show audience was 61% male and 39% female and 52% was under 30. Studio is banking on foreign coin. Earning $10.9M from 17 markets, Russia, Tawan, and Ukraine launched #1 with Russia grossing $6.8M which was 46% bigger than the opening of District 9. Problem is that domestically pic hasn’t been as well-received as Blomkamp’s previous District 9 sleeper hit which opened to $37.4M in mid-August 2009 on its way to earning $210.8M worldwide. Elysium cost Sony $115M for worldwide rights since it was packaged, financed and produced by Media Rights Capital and produced by Bill Block, Neill Blomkamp, and Simon Kinberg.

R-rated comedy We’re The Millers (3,260 theaters) ended the three-day weekend with $26.5, good enough for #2, and $38M for its first five days in theaters. New Line used to wear the Hollywood box office crown when it came to laugh-out-loud comedy. Not so much anymore. (Remember that bomb The Incredible Burt Wonderstone earlier this year?) So parent company Warner Bros is pleased to see We’re The Millers look like a hit for only a $37M production cost. “That put Millers way in front of the costly Elysium including the entire IMAX footprint,” a Warner Bros exec snarked. Including $1.7M for Tuesday’s 8 PM late shows in 2,700 locations, pic came in around $6.8M Wednesday for an easy #1 opening. Its ‘A-’ CinemaScore built word of mouth helped by omnipresent marketing and endless flacking by the boring Jennifer Aniston. (Who was all-too-willing to show off her stripper moves to get attention. So, Stephen Huvane, can your funnywoman make as reliable movie coin these days as Melissa McCarthy?) Toby Emmerich has successfully reteamed Aniston and her Horrible Bosses co-star Jason Sudeikis to satisfy moviegoers’ craving for summer comedies since The Heat, Grown Ups 2, and This Is The End only whetted their appetites.

Disney’s 3D Planes (3,702 theaters) received an ‘A-’ CinemaScore but only 24% positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes – and placed 3rd. PG toon is a Cars spinoff and resembles a Pixar product but isn’t. Instead, it’s from direct to DVD unit DisneyToon Studios and this pic was supposed to debut on home entertainment but didn’t. Planes opened to underwhelming $22M weekend theatrical grosses after the hand-holder turnout stayed low. It also was too crowded a family fare market where Despicable Me 2, Turbo, and Smurfs 2 are still playing. Internationally, the little blue guys/gals earned $34.6M in its second weekend of release, bringing the overseas cume to $110M and $156.6M worldwide.

With a ‘B+’ CinemaScore, PG-rated Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters based on the best-selling book came in 4th through Sunday after opening Wednesday. With a CGI-heavy cost of $90M, this Harry Potter wannabe made only $23.4M for its first five days after pic’s TV ads ran incessantly during Discovery’s Shark Week. (Sea monsters, get it?) Exit polling showed that moviegoers were 59% female and 41% male with 61% under age 25 and 39% age 25 and over. Fox stressed that exits and CinemaScore were nearly identical to the first Percy with strength and playability in the middle of the country as well as Canada. The first Percy movie made $88.8M domestic and $138M international, so let’s see if this sequel can match both numbers. Percy 2 opened for $9.8M internationally after opening in 6 territories – Chile, Ecuador, Malaysia, Philippines and big markets Mexico and the UK – this weekend for 1,799 screens. More than 70 territories roll out through August with 15 more in September, and Japan and Venezuela in November.

Here’s the Top Ten based on domestic weekend estimates: Read More »

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Telemundo & Univision Battle It Out With Hollywood A-Listers (Video)

By | Monday July 29, 2013 @ 7:30pm PDT

It was a face-off today between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg on Telemundo‘s morning show Un Nuevo Dia and Matt Damon on Univision‘s Despierta America. Washington and Wahlberg promo’ed their new Universal pic 2 Guns on Un Nuevo Dia‘s sister Today with Savannah Guthrie. That was followed by an interview for Telemundo that was broadcast live on Un Nuevo Dia from the Today show plaza. At the same time, Matt Damon appeared on Univision’s Despierta America promoting Sony’s Elysium by participating in a live “guess that movie” game of charades with hosts. It’s a sign of the increasing competition among studios for the growing Latino market and the heated battle among Spanish-language TV broadcasters for that all-important morning space. Who fared better? Check out the videos: (beware auto play) Read More »

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Sony’s ‘Elysium’ Lands In IMAX Theatres August 9

By | Tuesday July 9, 2013 @ 5:00pm PDT

Elysium from District 9‘s Neill Blomkamp is being digitally re-mastered for the large-screen format and is set to hit IMAX theatres worldwide beginning August 9, IMAX, TriStar Pictures and Media Rights Capital announced today. Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star in the sci-fi actioner produced by Blomkamp, Bill Block and Simon Kinberg.

Related: Hot Trailer: ‘Elysium’

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Hot Trailer: ‘Elysium’

By | Thursday June 13, 2013 @ 4:58pm PDT

It’s 2154, and a new caste system is in place. Earth is populated by the have-nots, while the privileged live in a veritable utopia aboard a massive spaceship. Earth-bound ne’er-do-well Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) gets some souped-up surgery and invades the ship monitored by Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster). Much battling ensues. Elysium is the second feature from writer-director Neill Blomkamp, who scored an Adapted Screenplay Oscar nom for his 2009 debut, District 9. Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura and Faran Tahir co-star in the sci-fi actioner produced by Blomkamp, Bill Block and Simon Kinberg. Sue Bader-Powell exec produces. Check out the extended second trailer for the pic from Media Rights Capital and TriStar Pictures, which Sony releases August 9:

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CinemaCon: Can Star-Driven 2013 Slate Power Sony To Top Their Best Year Ever?

Pete Hammond

Sony Pictures played it lean and mean with a tightly produced program for exhibitors at CinemaCon on Wednesday evening that put the emphasis squarely where the theatre owners wanted it — on the product. And the studio delivered as promised with an intriguing 51-minute reel showcasing their 2013 movie slate — and in no particular order. Where other studios this week have put the emphasis on summer, Sony presented a year-round picture with a wide diversity of product and more than one potential Oscar contender.

Among the previously unseen footage in the reel were brief snippets from year-end awards contenders The Monuments Men directed by and starring George Clooney and an all-star cast, along with David O. Russell’s newly named American Hustle with virtually the entire cast of last season’s Russell Oscar darling Silver Linings Playbook. Also, Tom Hanks is starring as Captain Phillips (October) from director Paul Greengrass, a true story about a ship hijacked by Somalian pirates. If this weren’t enough to whet Oscar-watcher appetites there was generous footage from 2010 Best Picture Oscar nominee Neil Blomkamp’s (District 9) latest, Elysium, which those who have seen a rough cut tell me could be another contender for the director. Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star. There’s also a Russian production of a World War II epic, Stalingrad, from director Fedor Bonarchuk which the studio is partnering on for fall release that has “prestige product” written all over it. Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Elysium’

By | Tuesday April 9, 2013 @ 4:11pm PDT

Matt Damon and Jodie Foster star in Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 follow-up, set in a future where humanity is divided into the very wealthy who live on a man-made space station and the poor who still live down below on a ruined Earth. Sony releases Elysium, from TriStar Pictures and Media Rights Capital, on August 9. Here’s the trailer:

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Sony Upgrades ‘Elysium’ Into Summer 2013, Pushing ‘RoboCop’ To February 2014

By | Monday October 15, 2012 @ 5:21pm PDT

Sony Pictures said today it is moving its Neill Blomkamp sci-fi thriller Elysium onto the studio’s summer slate next year, giving it a August 9, 2013 wide release date. If that date sounds familiar it is: Jose Padilha’s RoboCop reboot, a co-production with MGM, was slated for that spot. Now, it will move off the summer and to February 7, 2014. That August date is familiar for another reason: Sony released Blomkamp’s first feature District 9 around the same time in 2009, when it grossed $37.4 million on opening weekend en route to a $200M-plus global cume. It has high expectations for his latest film, a TriStar pic that originally was given a March 2013 release date. Elysium stars Matt Damon and Jodie Foster in a tale about a future world where two classes of people exist: ones who live on a luxurious space station and ones who live on a ruined, overcrowded Earth. One man (Damon) takes on a mission to bring equality to the worlds. Read More »

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Comic-Con: Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’ Plus ‘Looper’, ‘Total Recall’ & ‘Resident Evil 5′

By | Friday July 13, 2012 @ 7:01pm PDT

Luke Y. Thompson is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of Comic-Con.

The most-anticipated moment of the Sony panel was easily the presentation of Neil Blomkamp‘s Elysium, and it did not disappoint, looking like a 2001/District 9 hybrid, or maybe even Wall-E with humans. It’s another stylish sci-fi class-struggle parable with Matt Damon as a shaven-headed working-class guy on an overpopulated earth (downtown LA is shown covered with tent encampments, even atop the skyscrapers). He was inadvertently exposed to toxic radiation and given a mechanical exoskeleton to help him capture a rich bureaucrat played by William Fichtner and infiltrate Elysium, an off-world space station created for the richest 1%, where disease Comic-Concan be eradicated and everything is perfect. Sharlto Copley’s also in there as a crazy bearded dude with a personal force-field. Robotic cops look not unlike the District 9 bugs. It feels like a potential smash. The footage shown had rough, unfinished effects but it didn’t matter. Panelists were Blomkamp, Jodie Foster, producer Simon Kinberg, Copley (hugely cheered by this crowd) and Damon. Copley revealed that his character is a villain, which wasn’t evident in the clips. He also begged fans to ask Blomkamp for a District 9 sequel, joking that he’s still looking for work.
Read More »

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Comic-Con: Movies, More On Display

Here are a few more snapshots from Deadline contributor Luke Y. Thompson of booths or displays set up so far. They’re fairly obvious, but clockwise from top left: Elysium, Iron Man 3, The Expendables 2 panel featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Hello Kitty, Game Of Thrones, After Earth.

Additional Comic-Con previews:

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Comic-Con: Getting A Head Start

By | Wednesday July 11, 2012 @ 7:21pm PDT

Comic-Con

Strolling around the San Diego Convention Center and grounds, Deadline contributor Luke Y. Thompson snapped a few photos as preparations for Comic-Con got underway. Clockwise from top right: A Marvel’s The Avengers tie-in, a promotion for NBC’s Revolution (which Warner Bros TV is screening tonight along with studio stablemates The CW’s Arrow and Cult, ABC’s 666 Park Ave. and Fox Broadcasting’s The Following), the new Robocop movie, NBC’s Grimm theme bar and a spaceship from Neill Bomkamp’s Elysium. Also tonight, Lionsgate is screening Dredd and hosting The Twilight Saga party.

Recent Comic-Con Stories:

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‘Elysium’ Brings Jodie Foster To Comic-Con As Movies Rub Elbows With TV Series

Luke Y. Thompson is contributing to Deadline’s Comic-Con coverage. This year’s event runs July 12-15.

Comic-ConJodie Foster at Comic-Con? Absolutely believe it. She and Matt Damon will be part of a panel that day for Elysium, Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to District 9, which launched its initial ad campaign at Comic-Con (“this restroom is for humans only”) a year before actually showing footage there that really hyped things up. This is the biggest unknown quantity announced so far, the “we didn’t even know to be excited about it yet” item that could end up being the big-buzz item a la 300 (or, ahem, Sucker Punch). This news emerged today as Comic-Con continued its day-by-day rollout of what’s in store this year, releasing its schedule for Friday July 13. Elysium is surrounded on the Sony panel by Total Recall (they gave that a big push last year, and movies about to open seem less interesting to Con-goers) and Looper, which got a great reaction at Wondercon. Screen Gems’ latest Resident Evil sequel, which shared space with Looper and The Amazing Spider-Man at Wondercon, gets a panel all to itself, featuring all the usual regulars from the movies plus Michelle Rodriguez, somehow returning despite being killed in the first film. Read More »

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Media Rights Capital Seals $350 Million Revolving Credit Facility Over Five Years

Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Media Rights Capital partners Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu have closed a five-year, $350 million revolving credit facility with funding provided by a group of banks led by JPMorgan Chase, Comerica, Bank of America, SunTrust and Union Bank. The syndicate includes East West Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank Leumi and City National Bank. The funds will be used to finance MRC’s feature and television productions. MRC’s last credit facility was also $350 million over three years, secured in 2008 in the midst of the economic downturn, from a consortium of banks that included JPMorgan Chase and Comerica.

MRC, which has enjoyed strong relationships with talents and the agencies, changed its feature structure from constructing pictures it licensed for distribution to  studio, (it famously made a $42.5 million deal for Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat follow-up Bruno with Universal for U.S. and English-speaking territories) to actually financing a lot of them through a five-year distribution deal with Universal Pictures. That studio has become a prime outlet for MRC fare, though it was District 9 distributor Sony Pictures that licensed the Neill Blomkamp-directed futuristic film Elysium, which stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. It was the second MRC film for Damon, who starred with Emily Blunt in the Universal-distributed The Adjustment Bureau, which grossed $128 million worldwide. MRC is also in production on Ted, the feature directing debut of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane that stars Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis and will also be released by Universal. MRC has two more projects with Blomkamp and two with Fincher, among others. MRC makes the case-by-case decision whether the productions are licensed to studios or fall under its new distribution deal at Universal.

MRC, after a failed foray that involved programming the Sunday night lineup for the CW, is active on the small-screen front. MRC has The Ricky Gervais Show on HBO and is developing series that include the CBS sitcom How to Be a Gentleman with Entourage’s Kevin Dillon, and a serialized political drama for Netflix that is being produced by David Fincher and stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. In all cases, MRC makes deals that grant talent at the ground floor an ownership stake in the film or TV project. Read More »

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Alice Braga Added To ‘Elysium’ Cast

By | Saturday May 28, 2011 @ 4:54pm PDT

UPDATE: So an idiot publicist can’t distinguish between Brazilian actresses even though they’re a generation apart and Alice Braga is the niece of Sonia Braga. It’s the former who’s confirmed for Neill Blomkamp’s latest project Elysium. The filmmaker won’t provide any details on the character she’ll play, but the actress will join the District 9 writer/director’s already-cast stars Jodie Foster and Matt Damon.

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3RD UPDATE: Sony Pictures Snaps Up Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’; Matt Damon And Jodie Foster Set To Star

By | Wednesday January 19, 2011 @ 4:04pm PST
Mike Fleming

3RD UPDATE: Sony Pictures has now decided to go it alone on Neill Blomkamp’s new scifi pic Elysium for worldwide distribution. So there is no Universal Pictures’ involvement, as the studio declined to take part. MRC put the deal together.

2ND UPDATE: Director Neill Blomkamp issued this statement: “I literally could not be happier.  I have a brilliant relationship with Sony. I loved them during District 9, they 100% get this film and they get me. Elysium is in very good hands.”

1ST UPDATE: EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has won the right to distribute District 9 filmmaker Neill Blomkamp’s next project titled Elysium. The producers are currently in negotiation with Universal Pictures to co-finance the film. Meetings with several other studios were cancelled as this scenario took shape. Matt Damon and Jodie Foster are set already to star along with District 9 star Sharlto Copley. Sony clearly values the relationship it built with Blomkamp after his $30 million low-budget first film became a sleeper hit that was nominated for Best Picture and grossed $210 million worldwide. That, too, was a distribution deal.

At the same time, MRC has signed an overall deal with Blomkamp, and has given a green light to a second movie. Titled Chappie, the film will go into production immediately after Blomkamp completes Elysium, which is now scheduled for a late 2012 … Read More »

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Jodie Foster Joins Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Though it hasn’t yet been shopped to studios by Media Rights Capital, Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 followup Elysium is looking better and better. He’s just gotten Jodie Foster to commit and join Matt Damon and District 9‘s Sharlto Copley to the sci-fi film he wrote and will direct as his next project. Simon Kinberg is producing. Plot is being kept under wraps. Foster most recently completed directing and starring alongside Mel Gibson in The Beaver, which Summit Entertainment will release April 11. Foster is also starring alongside Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly in God of Carnage, the Roman Polanski-directed adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning play. Foster’s repped by ICM.

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Matt Damon In Talks To Join Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’

By | Friday December 10, 2010 @ 7:55am PST
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Matt Damon is in early negotiations to star in Neill Blomkamp’s scifi film Elysium for Media Rights Capital. Damon will join District 9‘s Sharlto Copley in a film that is shrouded in secrecy. While a Damon commitment–they’re in the early stages of deal making right now–will make Elysium a more enticing piece of business, MRC won’t take it out to distributors until next year. It will come to the market when it has its major cast.

This will be the second MRC project for Damon, who stars with Emily Blunt in the George Nolfi-directed The Adjustment Bureau. That film, which is based on a Philip K. Dick short story, will be released by Universal in March. Damon, who starred for Clint Eastwood in Hereafter for Warner Bros, next stars in the Coen Brothers drama True Grit. He’s repped by WME.

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Neill Blomkamp Moving Ahead On ‘Elysium’



EXCLUSIVE I’ve just learned that Neill Blomkamp is reteaming with his District 9 star Sharlto Copley on his second sci-fi feature Elysium. Copley played Wikus van de Merwe in District 9 as well as HM Murdock in this summer’s The A-Team reboot. Meanwhile, director Blomkamp and Media Rights Capital now need to choose a distributor. “Neil is taking meetings all over town. There is a lot of interest from every studio,” an insider tells me. I hear Blomkamp is including a graphic novel in his presentation. Elysium is Blomkamp’s long-awaited story set in the far future on another planet and, like District 9, is filled with many sociopolitical ideas wrapped up inside a Hollywood action film. So far no one else has been cast. ”They have been working out budget and are now meeting with actor reps,” the insider tells me. Universal and MRC have a deal, but I hear this sweepstakes to distribute Elysium is wide open. Remember when Universal and Fox would have had to gamble on the then unknown filmmaker to make the videogame Halo into a big budget film but couldn’t get it together even though Blomkamp was to be backstopped by Peter Jackson and his WETA facilities? Morons!) Instead, Blomkamp and Jackson made District 9 which went on to gross $211M at the worldwide box office but the indieprod only had a negative cost of $30M. The alien apartheid film also snagged one of last year’s 10 Best Picture Oscar nominations. Sony Pictures is still pushing for a sequel, which Elysium is not. The secret … Read More »

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