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Park City, Utah – HollywoodChicago.com’s coverage of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival is far from over. This is the latest batch of reviews of movies that I’ve seen there. One film was a triumph while the other two are titles that I wouldn’t want to be stuck talking to at a party.
Image credit: Sundance Institute
Running equal portions of dry goofiness and finite inspired storytelling, Jared Hess’ “Don Verdean” is a rewarding comedy about Biblical archaeology that’s necessary for times in which religious institutions crave sensationalism to get their good word across. For those who read “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” before its child author said he made it all up, or those who saw “Heaven Is For Real” as a type of precursor to their own death’s aftermath, this movie is for them. It’s a brilliant take »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam Fendelman)
For Don Verdean, director Jared Hess reunites with Sam Rockwell and Jemaine Clement, who both starred in Gentlemen Broncos, Hess’ last feature length effort which was not released nationally due to the abysmal critical reception it received. In the review I wrote for Broncos back in 2009, like many other critics, I cited that the film’s use of feces and vomit would likely turn audiences off, unaware that complaints like mine would end up turning the powers that be off to running the film nationally at all. While I liked it more than most, looking back, the director did abandon quality storytelling for gross out humor and often overwhelming quirkiness. Hess dials back the zaniness in Don Verdean without losing his signature touches and provides a better stage for Rockwell and Clement, who gave great comedic performances in their last outing with the director but didn’t actually share any screen time. »
- Eli Reyes
The “Napoleon Dynamite” magic fails to re-materialize in Jared and Jerusha Hess’ latest comedy. “Don Verdean” has a promising premise: The titular protagonist is a self-appointed “biblical archaeologist” roaming the globe for famous relics that have mysteriously evaded far more qualified experts for centuries. But the expected satire of religious gullibility and charlatanism proves toothless; worse, a cast of very funny people is given very little funny to do. This Lionsgate title (its release Tba) looks to make its primary, modest impact in ancillary formats.
Things look encouraging enough at the outset, as we are privy to a highlight reel of low-end video clips from “Verdeen Acheological Discovery Prods.,” in which Sam Rockwell’s intrepid explorer for Jesus is seen allegedly wowing international audiences of the faithful with his amazing — or perhaps just credulity-stretching — finds in the Holy Land dirt. It seems whenever he thinks of a key memento from a biblical story, »
- Dennis Harvey
In the above clip, Danny McBride, who plays Tony Lazarus attempts to proposition biblical archaeologist Don Verdean (Sam Rockwell) to come work for his church the Lazarus fellowship. After offering to bankroll his endeavors, Leslie Bibb who plays Joylinda Lazarus, helps drive the nail in the coffin, so to speak. After very little actual convincing, Verdean willingly obliges. “I think it’s fair to say this might be a match made in heaven,” says Verdean with an obviously bad religious pun.
Don Verdean follows the title character (Sam Rockwell), a Biblical archaeologist hired by the local church pastor to find faith-promoting relics in the Holy Land. After proving unsuccessful in his attempts to find anything of substance, »
- William Fanelli
If you're betting on "Boyhood" to win big at the upcoming Academy Awards, think again! Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" was deemed to be the big Oscar frontrunner but a double-dose of guild awards over the weekend tamed those prospects down. First, the Producers Guild of America gave their top honor to Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Birdman," and the Screen Actors Guild followed suit!
"Birdman" took home the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award! But, since the movie is about acting, this award is just fitting.
My biggest surprise, and it'a welcome surprise indeed, was "The Theory of Everything's" Eddie Redmayne taking home the Outstanding Male Actor trophy. Sorry Michael Keaton! I think Redmayne truly gave the Performance of the Year award!
Amongst this years Screen Actors Guild Award winners are Eddie Redmayne, who won Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Steven Hawking in The Theory of Everything, Birdman, which took home Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, and Orange Is the New Black, whose star Uzo Uduba claimed the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series category.
Redmayne, dedicated his award to sufferers of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Als), the illness which Hawking himself suffers from. He also went on to congratulate fellow actors such as Bradley Cooper, David Oyelowo and Timothy Spall.
It has been a big weekend for Birdman, which not only won best ensemble »
- Alfie Nobes
Not the kind of mega-watt moment she was hoping for! Naomi Watts tripped on Emma Stone's dress while onstage at the 2015 SAG Awards on Sunday, Jan. 25. The Birdman actresses, along with Edward Norton, Amy Ryan, Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, and more, accepted the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. As per SAG tradition, the microphone was passed around from actor to actor, and Watts' speech kicked off with quite the spill. After Keaton had addressed his peers, the St. Vincent nominee, [...] »
In her acceptance speech for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards, Still Alice star Julianne Moore gave a shout-out to her early days on the soap opera As the World Turns. "When I was on As the World Turns," Moore, 54, said to cheers, "I was so excited when they wrote two parts for me, the classic twin sister role, the good and the evil one ... and then I realized it was super boring to act by myself. And what I really loved, what I really craved, was being with another actor. »
- Lanford Beard, @lanfordbeard
SAG-aftra presented its coveted Actor statuettes for the outstanding motion picture and primetime television performances of 2014 at the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in ceremonies attended by film and television’s leading actors, held Sunday, Jan. 25, at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center.
The Actor for a motion picture cast performance went this year to Birdman.
Honored with individual awards were Patricia Arquette, Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne and J.K. Simmons for performances in motion pictures and Uzo Aduba, Viola Davis, William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Mark Ruffalo and Kevin Spacey for performances in television.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards originated awards for the outstanding performances by a motion picture cast and by television drama and comedy ensembles.
- Michelle McCue
“Birdman” won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture on Sunday, and the ensemble’s acceptance speech was one of the more entertaining moments of the otherwise dull awards show.
See photos: SAG Awards 2015: Red Carpet Arrivals
“Wow,” she exclaimed after her foot got »
- Greg Gilman
The Screen Actors Guild handed out the 21st annual SAG Awards Sunday night live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Here is a rundown of all the nominees and winners as they are announced. And be sure to re-live our live blog of the show here! Theatrical Motion Pictures Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Steve Carell / John du Pont – "Foxcatcher" (Sony Pictures Classics) Benedict Cumberbatch / Alan Turing – "The Imitation Game" (The Weinstein Company) Jake Gyllenhaal / Louis Bloom – "Nightcrawler" (Open Road Films) Michael Keaton / Riggan – "Birdman" (Fox Searchlight Pictures) **Eddie Redmayne / Stephen Hawking – "The Theory Of Everything" (Focus Features)** - Winner Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Jennifer Aniston / Claire Bennett – "Cake" (Cinelou Films) Felicity Jones / Jane Hawking – "The Theory Of Everything" (Focus Features) **Julianne Moore / Alice Howland-Jones – "Still Alice" (Sony Pictures Classics)** - Winner Rosamund Pike / Amy Dunne – "Gone Girl »
- Kristopher Tapley
It was a big weekend for “Birdman,” which moved into front-runner status with its SAG win, combined with the Darryl F. Zanuck award for best picture from the Producers Guild of America on Saturday night.
The winner of the SAG ensemble trophy has matched the Oscar best picture winner just nine times in 19 years, and last year “American Hustle” won the SAG cast award and was shut out at the Oscars. “Argo” won both awards two years ago.
Fox Searchlight-New Regency’s »
- Dave McNary
I know that most of you have seen Napoleon Dynamite. I am equally certain that most of you can quote one, if not more, lines from that aforementioned film of awkward hilarity. But you might not be aware of what Jared and Jerusha Hess have done since they unleashed Napoleon and his weird clique on an unsuspecting world. Lionsgate is hoping that you will still have some passion left for their work, though, as they picked up the Hess’ new film Don Verdean very quickly at Sundance.
Lionsgate acquired the film for U.S. distribution several days in advance of its premiere at Sundance – which either says that the studio is hard up for new releases, or that they have great faith in what the Hesses have produced.
- Lauren Humphries-Brooks
Though Alejandro González Iñárritu's fluidly moving one-take illusion pivots on the backstage antics of Michael Keaton's leading man Keegan Thompson, this black comedy is as much about women as it is men. The spiky quartet of Emma Stone (also up for a Supporting Actress Oscar), Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan and Andrea Riseborough drives the female side of the film's SAG-nominated ensemble, complicating Keegan's attempt to mount an unmountable Raymond Carver story. In this new featurette, exclusive to Thompson on Hollywood, Iñárritu and his leading ladies open up about building these idiosyncratic characters, and why the parts proved such a fruitful challenge for these four knockout actresses. Read More: Edward Norton and Andrea Riseborough Dig Into Actors' Egos and "Birdman" »
- Ryan Lattanzio
There has been a lot of heat going into Sundance that this year's festival could be another buyer's market for mini-majors and indie distributors looking to fill out their 2015 slates. Fox Searchlight already picked up Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's "Mistress America" and now Lionsgate has surprised by acquiring another premiere title, Jared Hess' "Don Verdean." A potential comeback for the man behind "Napoleon Dynamite," "Verdean" finds Sam Rockwell playing the title character, a biblical archeologist brought on by a small town church pastor to find "faith-promoting" historical items in the Holy Land. He has to get creative when his expedition comes up short. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Jemaine Clment, Amy Ryan, Danny McBride, Leslie Bibb and Will Forte. Hess' first break was when "Napoleon Dynamite" exploded out of Sundance in 2004. A decade later he returns after one major hit, 2006's "Nacho Libre, »
- Gregory Ellwood
The 2015 Sundance Film Festival won't even begin until tomorrow, but Lionsgate has already picked up a film debuting in Park City this month. It's been 11 years since director Jared Hess made a huge splash at Sundance with Napoleon Dynamite, and now he's back with Don Verdean, a new comedy starring Sam Rockwell, Jemaine Clement, Amy Ryan, Danny McBride, Will Forte and more. And now Deadline reports Lionsgate has already picked up the distribution rights to the film before it premieres next week. Does this mean that Hess might finally have another good film to follow his breakthrough indie sensation? We certainly hope so, especially since it's one of our 10 most anticipated films of the festival. More below! Here's our first look at Jared Hess' Don Verdean from the Sundance film guide: Don Verdean is directed by Jared Jess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre), who co-wrote the script with his brother Jerusha Hess. »
- Ethan Anderton
11 years after director Jared Hess and his wife/co-writer Jerusha Hess brought their debut Napoleon Dynamite to the Sundance Film Festival, Lionsgate has picked up their new comedy Don Verdean, one week before its world premiere at this year's Sundance fest. Sam Rockwell stars as the title character, a biblical archaeologist hired to find "faith-promoting relics in the Holy Land." After he comes up empty in his journey, Don must get creative in what is described as "a comedy of faith and fraud."
The supporting cast is rounded out by Amy Ryan, Jemaine Clement, who starred in Jared Hess' Gentlemen Broncos, Danny McBride, Will Forte, Leslie Bibb, Steve Park and Sky Elobar. Jared Hess also produces alongside Brandt Andersen and Dave Hunter. Grindstone Entertainment's Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb brought the project to Lionsgate.
It isn't known when Lionsgate may release Don Verdean at this time, but it's possible »
The hugely anticipated comedy drama Birdman co-written, produced, and directed by Alejandro González Iñárrituhas has won the maximum Oscar nominations with a total of 9 as recently announced including Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Director, etc.
Releasing on 30th January here, Bollywood’s leading personalities got an early glimpse of the hugely anticipated movie at a special screening held in Mumbai!!
Starring Michael Keaton with Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts, Birdman will open the first month of 2015 with a bang at the cinemas in what’s fantastic news for movie connoisseurs out there. Keaton plays a faded Hollywood actor famous for his superhero role struggling to mount a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver story. »
- Press Releases
Chicago – This Thursday marks the beginning of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and yours truly will be in attendance to cover the fest for HollywoodChicago.com. Last year, the Park City, Utah event introduced the world to its 2014-defining sensations like “Whiplash” and “Boyhood”.
Those titles followed in the paths of indie landmarks such as “sex, lies and videotape,” “Clerks,” “Hoop Dreams,” “American Movie,” “Memento,” “Frozen River,” “Winter’s Bone,” and “Fruitvale Station,” among many others.
In pursuit of new favorite films for a new year, I’ve composed a relatively solid schedule so that I can devour as much diverse Sundance goodness as possible. Narratives, documentaries, white supremacists, nasty babies, Neil Hamburger, Chiwetel Ejiofor, stolen cop cars, and much, much more are all in play. But with hopes that everything I witness is the next “Boyhood”-like zeitgeist, I’ll be sure to report back here on what’s worth, »
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
Take another look @ the critically-acclaimed, award-winning, superhero comedy feature "Birdman" written/directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, starring Michael Keaton ("Batman"), Emma Stone ("The Amazing Spider-Man"), Edward Norton ("Fight Club"), Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts ("King Kong") and Amy Ryan:
"...'Birdman' tells the story of an actor (Keaton), famous for portraying an iconic superhero, as he struggles to mount a Broadway play.
"In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself..."
Click the images to enlarge and Sneak Peek "Birdman"...
- Michael Stevens
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