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'Peak TV' or Peak Ott? From Louis C.K. to Seeso, Players Jockey for Position in a Crowded Market

2 hours ago

He isn't a streaming service, exactly, but when Louis C.K. dropped the first episode of his new series "Horace and Pete" last Saturday, it had the feeling of a gauntlet thrown. Written, directed, produced, financed, and distributed by the comedian himself, "Horace and Pete" isn't just the ne plus ultra of "auteur TV" — it's an attempt to cut out the middleman and connect with consumers directly in a market crowded, as C.K. wrote in a follow-up email, with "the usual promotion, banner ads, billboards and clips that tell you what the show feels and looks like before you get to see it for yourself."  Though C.K. described the decision to offer "Horace and Pete" through his website as an artistic one — designed to retain the element of surprise, and to emphasize the "live feeling" of the multi-camera format — the move also suggests one of several paths forward in »


- Matt Brennan

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Sundance Doc Audience Award Winner 'Jim: The James Foley Story' Paints Harrowing Portrait of Isis Captive

2 hours ago

Access often makes the difference between a good and a great documentary. When the family of the late freelance war journalist James Foley—who was executed on camera by Isis for the world to see, something that is not shown in HBO's "Jim: The James Foley Story"—decided to pursue a documentary about their son, they went to one of his oldest friends, New York graphic designer and filmmaker Brian Oakes ("Living with Lincoln").  His first solo feature world premiered in the Sundance U.S. Documentary Competition and won the Audience Award. Gravitas Ventures has acquired U.S. VOD and DVD rights. “I made this film to carry on the stories that Jim needed us to know,” he has stated. “It’s important that we understand the significant role of today’s conflict journalists and why they risk their lives to tell the world how bad it can be.” When »


- Anne Thompson

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Athena Film Festival to Honor Paul Feig with Inaugural 'Leading Man' Award

4 hours ago

The Athena Film Festival will present the director, producer, and screenwriter with its inaugural Athena Leading Man Award on Saturday, February 20, recognizing Feig for a body of work that's proven female-led comedies can attract both critics and audiences — from his big-screen breakout, 2011's "Bridesmaids" to "The Heat" (2013), "Spy" (2015), and his highly anticipated "Ghostbusters" remake (July 15), starring Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and frequent collaborator Melissa McCarthy. Feig is the first male to be honored by the Festival. Read More: "Athena Film Festival Honors Women in Entertainment with 'Suffragette,' 'Mustang,' and Mira Nair"  “We feel it is crucial to recognize and honor not only the women who are breaking barriers, but also the men who support and advocate for them," said Melissa Silverstein and Kathryn Kolbert, who co-founded the festival to celebrate women in »


- Matt Brennan

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'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' Director on Staying True to Jane Austen, Even During the Zombie Apocalypse

5 hours ago

Although Burr Steers dislikes the word "kitsch" for its cheap connotation, he had a hard time denying that "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" isn't kitschy, especially after admitting that the biggest influence was Tony Richardson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1968), which is great kitsch. And, arguably, so is Steers' big-screen adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's fresh twist on Jane Austen and monsters. Badass Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), a martial arts expert, teams up with arrogant rival Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) to fight the zombie apocalypse in 19th century England, replacing the Napoleonic Wars. There's action, wit, and smart social commentary all rolled into one. Read More: "'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies': World War Zzzzzs (Review & Roundup)"  But the key for Steers was tilting it more toward Austen than the horror. "I was trying to make it into one coherent story where this zombie pandemic has happened and. »


- Bill Desowitz

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Why 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Should Win the VFX Oscar

6 hours ago

Who ever thought you'd have to make the case for "Star Wars" winning the VFX Oscar? But with all the buzz surrounding "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "The Revenant" bear, which earned three additional Ves awards for Ilm, there are no guarantees. And that's the point: Ilm has done such outstanding photo-real work on the J.J. Abrams' record-breaking "Star Wars" reboot — zeroing in on $2 billion worldwide at the box office — that there might be a tendency to take the work for granted. Read More: "'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Seizes VFX Oscar Momentum" But, as Ilm has pointed out, "Star Wars" is part of its DNA and it changed the VFX industry. Besides, there's so much to admire about Ilm's accomplishment with "The Force Awakens": You’ve got realistic simulations and artistic-looking explosions for two great action sequences (the Millennium Falcon chase on Jakku and the attack on Maz's castle. »


- Bill Desowitz

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Sun Valley Film Festival Slate Features 'The Man Who Knew Infinity,' 'I Saw the Light' (Exclusive)

9 hours ago

This year's lineup also includes several favorites from the festival circuit, such as Trey Edward Shults' 2015 SXSW prizewinner "Krisha," Joachim Trier's Cannes competition entry "Louder Than Bombs," Don Cheadle's Miles Davis biopic "Miles Ahead," and popular Sundance 2016 selection "The Fits." Sony Pictures Classics' delayed "I Saw the Light," starring Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams, will close the festival in advance of its March 25 theatrical release. Read More: "Tiff: In Defense of the Conventional Movie, from 'Spotlight' to 'The Man Who Knew Infinity'"   In addition to screening more than 60 films in all, Svff will see the return of the festival's popular Coffee Talks with industry insiders, including filmmaker Oliver Stone — recipient of the 2016 Svff Lifetime Vision Award — as well as a Screenwriters Lab led by Mark Duplass and Nat Faxon. Additional »


- Matt Brennan

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Why George Miller Should Win DGA Award and Directing Oscar for 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

4 February 2016 1:58 PM, PST

When it comes to the Academy Awards, voters tend to think highbrow. They like to represent the best, most humane, classiest version of themselves. But don't forget the Steak Eaters. The Academy is full of them—they're red-blooded males (not just American), often directors, writers and craftspeople. They're the guys who voted for "Argo," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Braveheart," "Gladiator," "Avatar," and yes, "Crash" over "Brokeback Mountain." "They vote for big movies that make big money, good solid moviemaking with great actors and good storytelling," one veteran Oscar campaigner told me. Last year this faction of the Academy voted for such mainstream hits as Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper." And this year the Steak Eaters —and many women Oscar voters as well—came through for "Mad Max: Fury Road" with 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, as they »


- Anne Thompson

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Watch Slamdance Selections 'Coming To' and 'Courtesan,' Thanks to Digital Bolex and Seed&Spark (Exclusive)

4 February 2016 1:04 PM, PST

Digital Bolex launched a new distribution initiative for filmmakers shooting on its cameras Thursday, making 2015 Slamdance titles "Coming To," directed by Lindsay Haun, and "Courtesan," from Jeremy Osbern and Misti Boland, available on VOD via partner Seed&Spark. The films can be purchased for $2.99, or by using "Sparks" collected from pledging funds to Seed&Spark crowdfunding campaigns.  Read More: "Exclusive: Film Crowdfunding Platform Seed&Spark Launches Distribution Arm"  Haun's film won the Grand Prize at at the 2015 Fearless Filmmaking showcase, developed in partnership with Slamdance to encourage Digital Bolex owners and festival alumni to create "rebellious" films, and she joined Osbern, Boland, Paste Magazine editor Michael Dunaway, cinematographer Ben Kasulke, and director Leah Shore on the jury for this year's showcase — where the award went to Hilary Campbell's "Small »


- Matt Brennan

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Watch: Super Bowl Movie Spots and Star-Studded Ads

4 February 2016 11:53 AM, PST

Hollywood isn't shying away from the steep cost of Super Bowl ads this year — up to $5 million for a 30-second spot, per CBS president, CEO, and now board chair Les Moonves — as Disney, Fox, and Universal attempt to reach the biggest TV audience of the year. Last year's Super Bowl attracted an average of 114.4 million viewers, or more than six times that of TV's current top-rated scripted series, "NCIS" (17.5 million).  Read More: "Sumner Redstone Has Finally Resigned from CBS Corp. and Viacom, Replaced by CBS Chief Les Moonves and Viacom's Philippe Dauman" In the ad for "Eddie the Eagle" (20th Century Fox, Feb. 26), the "secret" Sundance title starring Taron Egerton as intrepid British ski jumper Michael "Eddie" Edwards, NFL stars Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, and Kurt Warner praise the inspirational, true-life sports drama, comparing it to "Hoosiers," "Rudy," and "Remember the Titans." The »


- Matt Brennan

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Universal Rejiggers Its Specialty Division Again

4 February 2016 11:27 AM, PST

Submitting to the inevitable—that replacing Focus Features CEO James Schamus with Peter Schlessel was an experiment that never gelled—Universal Pictures is merging Focus with its Universal Pictures International Productions (Upip). The idea seems to be that specialty production and acquisitions are a global enterprise, and combining resources will fashion a stronger entity able to leverage Universal's worldwide distribution machine with local language and English-language production and territorial acquisitions around the world. Current Managing Director of Upip Peter Kujawski, who started as Schamus's assistant at Good Machine and moved from Focus to Upip, is now the new Chairman of the global Unit, with London-based Upip Co-Managing Director Robert Walak as President (a grad of the Weinstein Co., and UK's Momentum), and Universal Pictures’ Executive Vice President of Film Strategy Abhijay Prakash as Chief Operating Officer. Schlessel will exit April »


- Anne Thompson

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Watch: Spike Lee on His Blistering Film 'Chi-Raq,' Now Available on Amazon Prime

4 February 2016 10:38 AM, PST

For Amazon Studios' first original movie release, they agreed to finance Spike Lee's rhyming reworking of Aristophanes' classic Lysistrata, "Chi-Raq" (Lionsgate/Roadside, December 4), betting that the Brooklyn filmmaker was back in his agit-prop sweet spot from the days of "She's Gotta Have It," "Do the Right Thing" and "Bamboozled."  Indeed, "Chi-Raq" is ripped from the headlines of violence between young black males on Chicago's South Side. It's what you expect from Lee: vibrant, lively, idiosyncratic, engaging, musical, chaotic and bombastic. It's never dull. Dapper Samuel L. Jackson serves as the film's narrator/Mc/Greek chorus, as we follow wondrous beauty Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris of "Dear White People"), who loves her raucous sex with her gangsta man Chi-Raq ("Drumline" star Nick Cannon), but hates the gun violence his posse wrecks on the people of their neighborhood. Lee »


- Anne Thompson

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Oscars: Evaluating the Best Editing Nominees

4 February 2016 9:58 AM, PST

1. "Mad Max: Fury Road": Ace winner Margaret Sixel became the ultimate problem solver in cutting husband George Miller's ambitious return to his post-apocalyptic wasteland. It was rhythmically challenging going from intense action to slower, more poetic moments. But the centerpiece is the 18-minute climactic race in the desert landscape of southwest Africa between the War Rig and War Boy's vehicles. Miller's mandate was to center the frame at all times, and Sixel had to cut fast yet maintain a seamless, continuous action so we're never confused. The result is a powerful and immersive visual masterpiece. Read More: "How They Edited the Oscar-Nominated 'Mad Max: Fury Road'"  2. "The Big Short": Hank Corwin, the other Ace winner, created just the right frantic mood in conveying Adam McKay's brilliant black comedy about the bursting of the housing market in 2008. He not only had to make such complicated economics understandable, »


- Bill Desowitz

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Watch: Alex Gibney and 'Omnivore's Dilemma' Author Michael Pollan Honor Culinary Tradition in Netflix's 'Cooked'

4 February 2016 9:25 AM, PST

In Netflix's "Cooked," from the ever-prolific Alex Gibney's Jigsaw Productions, bestselling author Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma," "In Defense of Food") travels the globe in search of the nourishing, soulful cuisine that's been lost in the age of mass-produced food. From Western Australia to Pollan's Berkeley, Calif. kitchen, the four-part docuseries — arranged around the themes of fire, water, air, and earth — covers as much ground as the streaming service's terrific "Chef's Table," which recounts the careers of six world-renowned chefs. But "Cooked" is more interested in homemade food than haute cuisine, focusing on techniques and practices that utilize local, fresh, unprocessed ingredients. "When you let a corporation cook your food," Pollan warns, "they cook differently than people do." With roasted lizards and cheesemaking nuns, Pollan drives home the surprising pleasures that coexist with his »


- Matt Brennan

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Sumner Redstone Has Finally Resigned from CBS Corp. and Viacom, Replaced by CBS Chief Les Moonves and Viacom's Philippe Dauman

3 February 2016 2:21 PM, PST

There was a time when I would have bet on billionaire Sumner Redstone—who survived a hotel fire by hanging onto a ledge with his burning hand until he was rescued—to win any game of "Survivor," well into his 80s. But even this wily media mogul, who started in Boston exhibition and until Tuesday wielded control of two empires, thriving CBS and struggling Viacom—including Paramount Pictures, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon—couldn't outsmart time. His age, 92, finally caught up with him, as his handlers tried to keep him away from reporters and cameras. He could barely speak at this point, and had stopped participating in Viacom and CBS earnings calls or annual shareholder meetings for over a year. The problem is that while Redstone has insisted that "I am not going to die," his senior executives, led by 60ish CBS CEO Leslie Moonves and Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, »


- Anne Thompson

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How Sony Pictures Classics Picked Up Four Pictures at Sundance

3 February 2016 2:01 PM, PST

Sony Pictures Classics did not sit on the Sundance sidelines as Amazon and Netflix gobbled up media attention. They left this year's fest with four films to fill out their 2016 release slate, not to mention the two high-profile movies they showcased at the fest, Don Cheadle's jazzy bio-portrait "Miles Ahead" (April 1)— which they picked up for the world after it was scheduled to close the New York Film Festival— and Rebecca Miller's romantic triangle comedy "Maggie's Plan" (May 20), starring Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore as brainy and confused New York academics. Watch: 'Maggie's Plan' Director Rebecca Miller on Finding Herself Through Her Films At Sundance, Barker and Bernard snapped up worldwide rights to Meera Menon's Wall Street drama "Equity," which features "Breaking Bad" star Anna Gunn as a high-powered senior investment banker who is trying to come out ahead on a controversial Ipo »


- Anne Thompson

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'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies': World War Zzzzzs (Review & Roundup)

3 February 2016 1:23 PM, PST

The Shaolin-trained swordswomen of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" — none other than the five Bennet sisters of Jane Austen's 1813 novel — never attend a ball unprepared. Knives sheathed under their elaborate gowns, the Bennets are as skilled in the art of war as the art of dance, and they eradicate an infestation of zombies at the wealthy, handsome Mr. Bingley's sprawling estate without batting an eyelash (or busting out of their corsets, for that matter). If only Burr Steers' adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's bestselling curio were as quick on its feet as its battalion of heroines: "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" holds out the promise of an energetic quadrille, but it staggers along like the undead. In the aftermath of a barely contained zombie plague — explained in the opening credits' lovely "Illustrated History," reminiscent of a pop-up book — the residents of Regency England come out from hiding to hold dances and arrange marriages, »


- Matt Brennan

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First Look: 'Carole King: Natural Woman' Explains How the Musician Made 'Tapestry' in Three Weeks for $22,000

3 February 2016 11:08 AM, PST

"Tapestry," which featured at least six of the most recognizable songs in American popular culture —"I Feel the Earth Move," "So Far Away," "It's Too Late," "You've Got a Friend," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" — is the subject of the above clip, from director George Scott's "Carole King: Natural Woman," which debuts as part of the "American Masters" series February 19.  The singer-songwriter, 74 this month, appears in archival footage performing "I Feel the Earth Move" in her inimitable voice, and in old photos with pals Taylor and Mitchell, but the most remarkable details come from producer Lou Adler: "Tapestry" came together in three weeks, for an inconceivable $22,000. This may explain why the album is so timeless. With little inclination to dress it up the songs in latest fads, they became the template for »


- Matt Brennan

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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Seizes VFX Oscar Momentum

3 February 2016 10:40 AM, PST

Ilm came on strong Tuesday night at the 16th Ves Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" winning top honors for Photoreal Feature and "The Revenant" right behind with the Supporting VFX prize for its acclaimed grizzly bear. Ilm took home a total of 7 awards, while Pixar's box office disappointment, "The Good Dinosaur," beat Oscar frontrunner "Inside Out" — which won only for Joy's performance — for the big animation VFX trophy. And "Game of Thrones" earned best TV VFX honors, taking home three prizes. Read More: "How They Got Practical with VFX for the Oscar-Nominated 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'"  Therefore, the Oscar Force looks good for "Star Wars," which faces strong competition from both "Mad Max: Fury Road" — which won for The Toxic Storm — and "The Revenant." History reveals that the Ves winner has gone on to win the VFX Oscar nine out of the. »


- Bill Desowitz

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'Hail, Caesar!' Review & Roundup: Escapist Hollywood Comedy from the Coen Brothers

3 February 2016 10:04 AM, PST

You can't go wrong with the Coen brothers. Even their off films (see our worst-to-best ranking here) are far better than those of most directors, and are always packed with savory pleasures. Thus "Hail, Ceasar!" qualifies as B-tier Coens, but that doesn't mean it isn't often deliciously entertaining, especially for Golden Age cinephiles who will get a kick out of seeing Channing Tatum in a sailor uniform tap-dancing (almost) like Gene Kelly, or Scarlett Johansson squeezed into an emerald Esther Williams mermaid outfit, surrounded by Busby Berkeley-esque synchronized swimmers and spouting fountains.  The Coens put Josh Brolin front and center in this broad comedy, a 50s McCarthy era Hollywood valentine they've been planning to do with George Clooney ever since "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," but finally finished writing. Brolin is straight man Eddie Mannix, the studio fixer at Capitol Pictures (shot on the Warner Bros. lot), who is constantly trouble-shooting. »


- Anne Thompson

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Toh! Ranks the Films of the Coen Brothers from Worst to Best

3 February 2016 9:56 AM, PST

There are no really bad films from the Coen brothers. Where does "Hail, Caesar!" (February 5) fall in our overall ranking? See below, as Toh! ranks all 17 films by the Coens from worst to best. 17. “The Ladykillers” (2004). Painful remake of the 1955 Alexander Mackendrick comedy starring Alec Guinness and a dare-we-say masterpiece was misbegotten for a multitude of reasons, among them the fact that the Ealing comedies of post-war Britain were frothy, elegant, and understated, and the Coen Brothers are anything but. Tom Hanks, reprising the Guinness role —as the cockeyed mastermind of a nitwit band of robbers who decide they have to kill their landlady after she discovers their plans —is far less funny than he thinks he is, prosthetic teeth or no; the jokes are telegraphed from a mile away, everyone tries too hard and the whole thing lands with a thud. Perhaps the worst of the brothers outings, it has its fans, »


- TOH!

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