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Dan Gilroy will direct from his own script. The project re-teams Gilroy with “Nightcrawler” stars Gyllenhaal and Russo in which the former played an ambitious cameraman and the latter a local news producer.
Gyllenhaal stars Netflix’s “Okja,” directed by Bong Joon-Ho, which competed at the Cannes Film Festival last month. The movie also starred Korean child actress Ahn Seo-hyun alongside Tilda Swinton and Paul Dano. Netflix will make “Okja” available to stream on June 28.
- Dave McNary
Chicago – His films were more popular than his name, but director John G. Avildsen did put his mark on the last 30 years of 20th Century movies. Avildsen died last week at the age of 81. He is known best for the Oscar Best Picture-winning “Rocky” (1976), but also did the controversial “Joe” (1970), “Save the Tiger” (1973, Best Actor Oscar for Jack Lemmon), John Belushi’s last film “Neighbors” (1981), “The Karate Kid” (1984), “Lean on Me” (1989) and “8 Seconds” (1994). Patrick McDonald, Spike Walters and Jon Espino of HollywoodChicago.com offer three essays on their Avildsen favorites.
Photo credit: United Artists
John G. Avildsen was born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, and graduated from New York University. He started as an assistant director for Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger, before breaking out on his own in the low budget “Joe,” featuring Peter Boyle, in 1970. He scored his biggest success with “Rocky” in 1976 – winning the Oscar for Best Director – and revisited the franchise later with “Rocky V” (1990). He also directed both sequels to “Karate Kid” with “Part II” (1986) and “Part III” (1989). At his peak, he was the original director for “Serpico” (1973) and “Saturday Night Fever” (1977), but was let go from both films. His final film as director was “Inferno” (1999), featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Avildsen passed away in Los Angeles on June 16th, 2017, of complications due to pancreatic cancer. He was 81 years old.
Patrick McDonald, Spike Walters and Jon Lennon Espino of HollywoodChicago.com pay tribute to the director who was nicknamed “King of the Underdogs,” with the following film essays.
Photo credit: MGM Home Entertainment
“Rocky” is a miracle of a film, considering both its eventual prize (Oscar Best Picture) and the way it made it to the screen the first place. A broke actor named Sylvester Stallones writes a desired boxing movie script that has one caveat… he must portray the title character. As a gambit, he proposes a budget of only one million dollars, and the film gets the green light. For all of the notion of Stallone as Rocky’s prime creator, it is actually director John Avildsen who delivered the on-screen goods – the famous running scene, the freeze frame on the top of Philadelphia’s “Rocky Steps,” boxing sequences that had never been seen before and the third use of the (just invented) Steadicam by a major motion picture.
Avildsen loved to tell the stories of having Stallone write additional dialogue because the budget was so tight they couldn’t afford to match Rocky’s boxing shorts with the on-set posters or send back his too-big ring entrance robe. And remember the classic song “Gonna Fly Now”? It was Avildsen who brought in composer Bill Conti from his previous directorial effort of the Burt Reynolds film, “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings.” The underdog of underdog films was delivered to a Bicentennial audience, and the little-movie-that-could took home Oscars for Best Picture, Director and Editing, in addition to being the highest grossing film of 1976. No wonder Avildsen became the “Ka-Ching of the Underdogs.”
Gonna Fly Now: The portrayal of the character of Rocky by Stallone was never better in this film, with Six sequels now in the culture. Director Ryan Coogler of the latest Rocky adventure, the excellent “Creed,” seemed to use the John Avildsen template in approaching the sequencing of that story.
The Karate Kid (1984) by Spike Walters
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
John G Avildson was a bit of a journeyman… his Oscar notwithstanding. He wasn’t one of those visionaries who develop a signature style, but his subtle gift was making a formula work. And they don’t come much more formulaic than 1984’s underdog/odd couple buddy movie “The Karate Kid.” Yet Avildson knew how to inject heart into this story of the undersized “Kid” and his quiet but powerful teacher. As the listless remake and some of its later sequels show, this is not nearly as easy as Avildson makes it look here – this is the 1980’s classic that scored Pat Morita an Oscar nomination and holds up relatively well today. It’s not exactly groundbreaking but director Avildson knew how to make the most of it.
Gonna Fly Now: You’d expect the man who directed the original “Rocky” to find the right beats in the inevitable training montage, but Kid Daniel’s “crane kick” training – which predictably but winningly leads to a triumph at the end – still delivers the goods.
Lean On Me (1989) by Jon Lennon Espino
Photo credit: Warner Home Video
High school sometimes get a bad rap as a physical hell on Earth. John G. Avildsen’s “Lean On Me” does nothing to make anyone think otherwise. Avildsen, like many of his films, has fun with this one. He shows us an exaggerated look at a public school system after minorities have taken over the neighborhood. The director has long had a fascination with creating hero stories, and in this one, he gives us a breakout performance by Morgan Freeman… his performance and approach to the character is everything! This movie lives on the over-the-top action of Freeman, breathing a fun air into the entire film as he does things that may be extremely illegal in real life, but are completely entertaining within the scope of the film. Avildsen knows exactly how to set a scene, which you know right away after the opening montage that is essentially a music video. His films often have an after school special feel, but “Lean On Me” shows just how well it works even when school is still in session.
Gonna Fly Now: The opening credits where we are taken on a tour of the school while Guns-n-Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” is playing. He hilariously frames and choreographs the fighting to simulate feral animals in the jungle.
John G. Avildsen, 1935-2017
By Patrick McDONALDWriter, Editorial CoordinatorHollywoodChicago.firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2017 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com »
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
While Morgan Freeman is known for being an incredible actor, he’s equally well known for his amazing voice. Freeman has a velvety smooth voice that is both soothing and animated. He is the perfect choice for narration in films, documentaries, anything, and had put his voice to great use over the years. The aging star still has a strong and steady voice with a deep and distinctive tone that could melt butter. Here are the top narration performances by Morgan Freeman in feature films specifically: 1. “Shawshank Redemption” This 1994 film was Freeman’s first film narration job. He also
Ranking The Top 5 Narration Performances in Movies by Morgan Freeman »
- Nat Berman
Author: Cai Ross
By the time he came to worldwide prominence in 1976, John G. Avildsen had already done what some of Hollywood’s greatest ever directors had failed to do: win Jack Lemmon a Best Actor Oscar. It was an an acknowledged truth, at that time, Lemmon was one of the great masters, yet where George Cukor and even Billy Wilder failed (as he rarely did) Avildsen succeeded with Save The Tiger, the seventh in in a little-noted career of well-received, little-seen small-budget movies.
Lemmon played a small-time businessman going nowhere in ’70s America. Despite Lemmon’s oft-delayed Oscar, the movie was too downbeat to set the tills ringing. In America’s Bicentennial year however, Avildsen took on another no-hoper, going nowhere, but this time he added a happy ending. Moved by the fact that Hollywood-nobody Sylvester Stallone, with absolutely nothing whatsoever to back it up, had insisted on playing »
- Cai Ross
John G. Avildsen, who won an Oscar for directing the iconic Rocky and also helmed all three Karate Kid movies, has passed away at 81. While no cause of death was revealed, the director's representative confirmed his death in Los Angeles today. The filmmaker leaves behind a lasting legacy of telling some of the best underdog stories ever put on film.
Variety confirmed the director's death with his rep earlier today, although no further details were given. It hasn't been revealed yet if there will be any sort of public memorial service for the filmmaker. The man was born December 21 1935, in Oak Park, Illinois, USA, graduating from the prestigious Hotchkiss School and Nyu. He got his start in the movie business by serving as assistant director on movies helmed by Arthur Penn and Otto Preminger.
The late filmmaker made his feature directorial debut in 1969 with Turn To Love, which he also served as the cinematographer on. »
Avildsen’s son Anthony confirmed the filmmaker's death to the Los Angeles Times, adding that Avildsen died at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Avildsen won the Academy Award for Best Picture for his work on 1976's Rocky. Like the titular boxer played by Sylvester Stallone, the film was an underdog itself: Despite a minuscule million-dollar budget, Rocky became the highest-grossing film of 1976, winning three Oscars »
John G. Avildsen, who won an Oscar for directing the original “Rocky” (1976), starring Sylvester Stallone, and also directed all three of the original “Karate Kid” films, has died in Los Angeles. He was 81.
A rep confirmed his death.
Avildsen also won the DGA Award for directing “Rocky,” which also won Oscars for best picture and film editing and was nominated in multiple other categories.
In 2006 Variety interviewed Avildsen, who said that a film with a boxing story didn’t excite him at first, but he was “moved by the urban character study of Sylvester Stallone’s script.” He held out on directing part two in lieu of another project — a decision that Avildsen said was “one of my greatest mistakes.” He returned to the franchise to direct 1990’s “Rocky V.”
In 1983 he was Oscar nominated again, this time for the documentary short “Traveling Hopefully.”
Avildsen developed a reputation for making movies about losers, »
- Carmel Dagan
The mass incarceration crisis for people of color. The revolution in understanding gender identity.
DuVernay earned an Oscar nomination and a slew of other plaudits for her study of discrimination in criminal justice and prisons in “13th,” which premiered on Netflix in September. Couric offered a sensitive and revealing look at the new thinking about gender identity in National Geographic TV’s “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric,” which bowed in February and will be expanded to a multi-part series.
DuVernay and Couric sat down with Variety to talk about the determination and the curiosity that led them to tackle their respective docs, the craftsmanship that goes into exploring complicated subjects and the public’s new-found interest in heady non-fiction storytelling.
“Gender Revolution” and “13th” both take on very far-reaching subjects. How »
- Cynthia Littleton
Gambling and the movies have enjoyed a continuing relationship over the years. In the last three decades alone, the motion picture business has seen gambling and casinos play a huge part, not only in location settings, but as a huge part of the story. In this article, we thought we’d take a look at the films that have had their story influenced by gambling and had the narrative affected as a result.
The first film on our list is Rain Man, Barry Levinson’s 1988 Oscar-winner starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman where the two played the long lost Babbett brothers who are united after their father passes away, leaving the family’s fortune to elder sibling Raymond (Hoffman), an autistic savant. Charlie Babbett (Tom Cruise), who wasn’t even aware of his brother’s existence, and has only been left his father’s old car in his will. Learning »
- The Hollywood News
Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV.
Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, Oliver Stone’s Vladimir Putin documentary airs and “The Handmaid’s Tale” concludes its first season.
“The Putin Interviews,” Showtime, Monday, 9 p.m. (Critics’ Pick)
“The Putin Interviews” is a destabilizing documentary that challenges Americans’ narratives about ourselves and asks the viewer to engage in a conversation with a slippery subject. It’s riveting in how dangerous and intimate it feels, leveraging its multiple camera-angles and hand-held shots to make the viewer feel as if they, too, are in the room with Vladimir Putin. Foreign Affairs will likely have much to dissect in the dialogue, which often sounds like [Oliver] Stone and Putin are playing an invisible game of chess. It »
- Joe Otterson
- Jazz Tangcay
Lt. Tasha Yar, is that you? Oh wait, it’s actually Emma Stone!
The 28-year-old actress served some major Star Trek: The Next Generation vibes at Thursday’s American Film Institute (AFI) gala in Hollywood, channeling a black and gold uniform that was worn by crew members like Lt. Tasha Yar — played by Denise Crosby — in the hit TV reboot.
Stone’s unique, long-sleeve dress (by Loewe) featured a gold and black turtleneck top fading into a red and black checkered bottom.
Matched with her platinum locks, the star’s look was similar to the blonde-haired lieutenant’s (who sported »
- Char Adams
The old and new guards of Hollywood turned out in force for the AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony honoring Diane Keaton on Thursday night at the Dolby Theatre.
Even Woody Allen made a rare L.A. appearance to present Keaton with her trophy, saying, “This is a woman who is great at everything.
“Diane Keaton and I go back a long way,” he said. He roasted her looks, style (“She looks like the woman in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ who comes to take Blanche away”), and men who, he said, were the “most charismatic men in Hollywood and they always dumped her.”
- Shalini Dore
So it was no surprise when Streep, 67, stylishly took a page from Diane Keaton‘s fashion book to honor her at the American Film Institute (AFI)’s event in Los Angeles on Thursday, where Keaton, 71, became the 45th recipient of the Life Achievement Award.
Streep copied her longtime pal’s signature style, borrowing from the boys in a tie, hat, blazer and high-waisted pant that Keaton’s title role in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall required of her in »
- Karen Mizoguchi
Annapurna Pictures, which is launching Aug. 4 with Kathryn Bigelow’s historical drama “Detroit,” is already partnered with MGM on its international releases. “Hostel” director Eli Roth helmed the “Death Wish” remake and former MGM co-chairman Roger Birnbaum is producing.
Paramount released the original “Death Wish,” starring Charles Bronson, in 1974 with Michael Winner directing and Dino De Laurentiis producing. The original was based on the Brian Garfield novel about vigilante Paul Kersey, who goes after criminals when his wife is murdered and his daughter is left catatonic after being sexually assaulted during a home invasion.
Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Signs Distribution Deals for Japan, France, Italy
The $3 million film was a major success, grossing $22 million at the box office in 1974. Bronson starred in four “Death Wish” sequels, concluding »
- Dave McNary
A pair of Oscar winners have recently undergone new restorations ahead of theatrical releases. While one can’t get much better than The Criterion Collection edition of The Graduate, a new 50th anniversary 4K restoration will be coming to U.K. cinemas this month and a new trailer has landed for Mike Nichols‘ coming-of-age masterpiece led by Dustin Hoffman.
Following that, there’s a new trailer for Clint Eastwood‘s Best Picture-winning western Unforgiven, which turns 25 this summer. With the restoration premiering as part of the Cannes Classics line-up, it’ll fittingly come to France first. The new restoration of The Graduate hits U.K. theaters starting June 23 while Unforgiven returns to theaters in France two days prior. Stay tuned for updates on U.S. releases and check out both trailers below.
Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has just finished college and is already lost in a sea of confusion as »
- Jordan Raup
You knew what you were getting with Going in Style when you walked in, and the only question was whether or not these three icons of cinema were going to go full slapstick in this caper picture about retirees who decide they don’t have much to lose.
That’s probably why we spent a good deal of time going back to the whitewashing controversy surrounding Ghost in the Shell. Well, that and someone asked us about it.
It does go rather silly, and the reveal of their effort to outwit the system is a little far-fetched, but this is a decent enough “feel good” film as long as you aren’t expecting to be blown away.
Have a listen below, »
- Marc Eastman
Yara Shahidi has chosen a university!
"I committed to Harvard and I'm really excited!" Shahidi told Et exclusively at the 14th Annual Step Up Inspiration Awards presented by Coach. The former first lady will undoubtedly be proud as she is a Harvard alum herself, earning her Juris Doctor degree in 1988.
"Tracee as a Brown graduate was very disappointed, and yet so proud because it's Harvard!" Ross gushed.
"I was kind of rooting for Cal State Fullerton. I wanted to keep her close," joked [link=tt »
"We all have it coming, kid." Any big fans of this film out there? Clint Eastwood's Best Picture-winning classic western Unforgiven is being re-released with a brand new, restored 4K print. Eastwood was just at the Cannes Film Festival last month, presenting the restored version of film in the Cannes Classics section and talking at a masterclass seminar during the festival. Unforgiven "summarizes everything I feel about the Western,” director/star Clint Eastwood told the La Times. The film features Eastwood as Bill Munny, with Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Richard Harris, Jaimz Woolvett, Saul Rubinek, Frances Fisher, Anna Levine, David Mucci, and Rob Campbell. It was first released in 1992. Hopefully this 4K version will end up in Us theaters after first playing in France this summer. Watch the official trailer below. Here's the French trailer (+ poster) for the re-release of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, from YouTube: Retired Old West »
- Alex Billington
E’Dena Hines, the slain budding actress and step-granddaughter of actor Morgan Freeman, will appear in her final film in June — as her ex-boyfriend is due in court this summer on murder charges in her 2015 death.
Lamar Davenport is expected to appear in court on Aug. 2, according to a spokesman with the New York County District Attorney’s Office — just months after Hines’ final film, Landing Up, premieres in Los Angeles and New York City.
Davenport’s trial date has not been scheduled.
Hines stars as the street-smart Cece in the film about two young homeless women. She completed the »
- Char Adams
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