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J.J. Abrams Also Takes Himself Out Of Directing 'Star Wars 7,' Jon Favreau Curious

11 November 2012 12:58 PM, PST

Another day, another "Star Wars: Episode 7" nugget. Word around the sequel has been ranging from speculation to hard news (the latest being that Michael Arndt will be writing the screenplay, and that the movie is now in pre-production). But the biggest question facing fans right now is who is going to direct the next installment. Matthew Vaughn has been rumored, while Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Zack Snyder all took themselves out of the running. Now, a couple more fan favorite helmers have weighed in on the prospect of taking on the universe created by George Lucas. Already at the helm of one mega geek franchise, J.J. Abrams is well aware of the baggage that will come with 'Episode 7,' which seems to be the biggest disincentive from him taking it on (and we'd wager that's the case for many big name directors). “Look, 'Star Wars' is one »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Weekend Box Office: 'Skyfall' Scores Best James Bond Opening Ever; 'Lincoln' Smashes In Limited Release

11 November 2012 9:24 AM, PST

Casino Royale” proved to be the highest grossing Bond film of all time with $594 million in receipts worldwide six years ago. Will “Skyfall” beat that record within three week of its domestic bow? After wrecking international crowds with $320 million as of last Wednesday (becoming the biggest Bond in U.K. history), this massive first weekend American gross of $87.8 million bumped “Skyfall” numbers over $500 million today. That's $518 million in 17 days for the best November debut for a film that's not a 'Potter' or 'Twilight' film. Not too shabby. This opening obliterates the franchise record set by “Quantum Of Solace,” which collected $67 million worth of spy-lovers’ cash four years ago. Word of mouth is decidedly stronger for “Skyfall” than 'Solace,' and with a more expansive international market and a lower budget compared to its predecessors, "Skyfall" will likely »

- Gabe Toro

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AFI Fest Review: Kim Nguyen's 'War Witch' a Haunting, Brutal Surrealist Fable Matched by Powerful Lead Performances

11 November 2012 6:06 AM, PST

Before any political or societal context enters the brutal cinematic depictions seen in “Come and See” and “City of God,” each effort can first speak clearly enough from the image of a child holding a firearm. Gawky, nervous, and with an expression of terrified power, the isolated sight holds many questions to a decayed rationality and natural order, but as Canadian director Kim Nguyen's shows within his searing look at African child soldiers, “War Witch," those two aspects are the first to be excised in warfare. Blending a surrealist perspective of battle-tinged faith with the harrowing tale of one girl's resilience, the film is a laser-focused fable threatened occasionally by its drifts into character shorthand, but equaled by a wrenching lead performance by Rachel Mwanza that results in one of the finest of the year. As clear and evocative a picture of Sub-Saharan Africa that Nguyen paints, the film »

- Charlie Schmidlin

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Rome Review: Paul Verhoeven’s Partially Crowdsourced ‘Tricked’ Is A Short, Wickedly Enjoyable Soap Opera

10 November 2012 1:32 PM, PST

It’s actually just the tip of an iceberg that encompasses an online component, mobile apps and a TV show in his native Netherlands, but Paul Verhoeven’s 50-minute-long “Tricked” (“Steekspel") provided what the Rome Film Festival so far has rather lacked: sheer entertainment value. A twisty-turny arch drama in which a philandering man’s chickens come home to roost in every area of his life, it feels like not a single scene passes without a major revelation occurring somewhere. As a result it’s kind of a blast, with fully enough plot to fill a two-hour feature crammed efficiently into less than half that time in a manner that demands nothing from you except that you enjoy the ride. The story begins with a birthday party, shot in a loose, handheld style that almost seems dogme-influenced until the first of the soapy elements comes into play: Nadya, a young »

- Jessica Kiang

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Rome Review: 'Mental' With Toni Collette Is A Watchable Farce That Could Do With Going A Bit More Nuts

10 November 2012 9:53 AM, PST

Showing today Out of Competition at the Rome Film Festival, “Mental” marks director P.J. Hogan’s (“My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Confessions of a Shopaholic”) reunion with his “Muriel’s Wedding” star Toni Collette. The intervening years may have made them both older, but not necessarily wiser, as “Mental” seems content to rework the “Muriel’s Wedding” formula but with greater resources, like a now-established star and a supporting cast of notable Aussie actors (many of whom we had kind of forgotten were Australian) at its disposal. Both films take small-town Australia as their settings, both feature female characters marked by unpopularity and social inadequacy, and both are inspired by, and constantly reference, particular kitschy elements of pop culture -- ‘Muriel’ had Abba, ‘Mental’ has “The Sound of Music.” But where the former film kept its focus »

- Jessica Kiang

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Rome Review: Amos Poe’s ‘A Walk In The Park’ A Confused, Discordant And Ultimately Empty Ordeal

10 November 2012 7:48 AM, PST

By the end of “A Walk in the Park” ’s 96 minutes, you will know a lot about Brian Fass. You will know of his various ailments, his depression, his relationship with his mother, the medication he is on, the mountain he nearly climbed, his electroshock therapy and the titular walk in the park that marked some sort of turning point in his life. What you will not know, however, is why on God’s green earth you should care. “A Walk in the Park,” from New York indie director Amos Poe premiered today In Competition at the Xxi sidebar of the Rome Film Festival, which is a section dedicated to films of all lengths that “reflect the continuous reinvention of cinema in the contemporary audiovisual landscape.” Sad to report, this film reinvents the documentary portrait tradition into a thoroughly confounding and tiresome experience.  A self-consciously meta film that purports from »

- Jessica Kiang

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First Look & Trailer: Toni Collette, Liev Schreiber, Anthony Lapaglia In P.J. Hogan's 'Mental'

10 November 2012 6:58 AM, PST

Australian director P.J. Hogan burst on the international scene in 1994 with the smash indie hit "Muriel's Wedding," which also launched actress Toni Collette's career. In the ensuing years he's directed the Julia Roberts vehicle, "My Best Friend's Wedding," the underseen "Unconditional Love," and 2009's "Confessions of a Shopaholic" starring Aussie actress Isla Fisher. For his latest feature-length effort, "Mental," Hogan reteams again with his "Muriel's Wedding" star. The film centers on a a charismatic, crazy hothead who transforms a family's life when she becomes the nanny of five girls. The picture stars Collette along with Liev Schreiber and a huge cast that includes Anthony Lapaglia, Rebecca Gibney ("Packed to the Rafters"), Kerry Fox ("Cloudstreet," "Bright Star"), Caroline Goodall ("Dorian Gray"), Deborah Mailman »

- Edward Davis

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George Clooney To Star In Brad Bird's '1952'

9 November 2012 7:02 PM, PST

Well, damn. It's been very busy and very big day over at Disney. With Michael Arndt now locked in for "Star Wars: Episode 7," another big project at the studio has nabbed a bona fide A-list star. George Clooney is in talks to star in Brad Bird's mysterious "1952." Penned by Damon Lindelof, details about the movie are being kept under lock and key, but it's apparently a "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind"-esque project will center on a man not unlike Roy Neary. The title was inspired by Lindelof's visit to Disney last year to pitch the movie when he was allowed access to some stuff in the archives, including a box from Wed Enterprises, Walt Disney's personal development lab (which later became the Imagineering section of the company). There was one box labeled "That Darn Cat!" that had been crossed off with "1952" written instead, and inside was »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Michael Arndt Writing 'Star Wars: Episode 7' Screenplay, Pre-Production Begins

9 November 2012 6:48 PM, PST

...and one day after the news arrived that "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Toy Story 3" scribe Michael Arndt had penned a 40-50 page treatment for the new "Star Wars" trilogy, his involvement has just been kicked up a notch. It's now official, Arndt will be writing the screenplay for "Star Wars: Episode VII" and even more, pre-production has begun on the movie which is due in theaters in 2015. And of course, as far as details go, that's about it. We do know that numerous big name directors -- Brad Bird and J.J. Abrams among them -- will be looking at the script, and we have to wonder, with work already starting, is a helmer quietly already working on this in the background? Well, we do know Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Zack Snyder have ruled themselves out, but an Oscar winner writing the screenplay will certainly be an enticing prospect »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Neil Burger Out, 'Bullhead' Helmer Michael Roskam In For 'Animal Rescue,' Tom Hardy Eyed To Lead

9 November 2012 4:11 PM, PST

It's no surprise that "Mystic River," "Gone Baby Gone" and "Shutter Island" scribe Dennis Lehane has been able to attract top talent for his adaptation of his own short story "Animal Rescue." David Cronenberg and more recently, "Limitless" helmer Neil Burger came aboard, and with the latter now focused on the Ya franchise "Divergent," a pretty exciting new name has stepped in. "Bullhead" director Michael Roskam is in talks to direct, and he'll possibly have another burly lead to work with as Tom Hardy is being eyed for the lead. And frankly, given that he's currently developing two anti-poaching movies, we think this particularly story will be of interest. Here's how Variety breaks down the plot: "Crime drama follows a lonely Boston bartender who rescues a puppy from a garbage can and becomes the target of the dog's abusive and mentally unstable former owner, while simultaneously »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Patton Oswalt & Rosemarie DeWitt Added To Cast for Season 2 of 'The Newsroom'

9 November 2012 2:29 PM, PST

This summer, Aaron Sorkin dropped his highly anticiapted HBO series "The Newsroom," and to quote Brian Williams: "That happened." Unabashedly and at times embarassingly preachy, it was also tremendously compelling as uneven as it was, becoming the show many loved to hate to watch. But HBO has faith Sorkin and co. can turn it around, renewing it for a second season, and some new faces are coming along to possibly irritate the hell out of you. Patton Oswalt and Rosemarie DeWitt are joining as recurring characters, with the comic actor playing the VP of Human Resources at Acn, and the actress in the role of a litigator hired to defend the network. We like both of these folks, but let's hope the writing on the show improves overall, with less speechifying and more believable characters. And in particular, we really hope the women get better material because Emily Mortimer, »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Mads Mikkelsen, Ralph Fiennes & Jessica Chastain Rumored For John Le Carré's 'Our Kind Of Traitor'

9 November 2012 2:04 PM, PST

In case you weren't aware, Mads Mikkelsen is having a moment. The actor earned raves and a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his leading turn in Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt," and this weekend sees him give another strong performance in "A Royal Affair." And if that's not enough, he's going to be hitting arguably his biggest exposure outside of "Casino Royale" by taking a leading role in the buzzed about "Hannibal" on NBC. So, no surprise that he has his choice of projects. The Wrap reports that he's eyeing Justin Kurzel's (of the acclaimed and disturbing Aussie serial killer flick "Snowtown") upcoming adaptation of John Le Carré's "Our Kind Of Traitor." First announced in the spring, and tenatively scheduled to shoot this fall, that clearly didn't happen, but the material is promising. Hossein Amini ("Drive," "Snow White and the Huntsman") has »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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What Are You Seeing This Weekend? 'Lincoln' & 'Skyfall' Will Have 'A Royal Affair' In Theaters

9 November 2012 1:56 PM, PST

With Washington’s elections concluded, we cinephiles can now return our focus to the much more critical campaign ahead of us: the race toward the Oscars. Steven Spielberg releases his bait this weekend in limited release, a number of festival darlings (and stinkers, incidentally; but, hey, everything needs a little balance) hit the big screen, and one of Hollywood’s most time-tested blockbuster franchises gets its 23rd installment. Get your voting cards ready, folks! “Skyfall.” Directed by Sam Mendes. Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Bérénice Marlohe, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, and Ralph Fiennes. Our review: “Mendes gets a lot more right than he gets wrong, and in the process has found a confident new identity for the franchise -- not afraid of its past, but not chasing its competitors or being scared of the future either.” Metacritic: 82 Rotten Tomatoes: 93% The Playlist: B+ “Lincoln.” Directed »

- Emma Bernstein

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Ethan Hawke & Selena Gomez Are Making A Movie Called 'Getaway,' This Is What They Look Like In It

9 November 2012 1:30 PM, PST

Huh? We can't even remember hearing about this, but Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez are making a movie together called "Getaway." This is what they look like in it. The movie is coming from co-directors Courtney Solomon ("Dungeons & Dragons," "An American Haunting") and Yaron Levy (making his debut) and it's penned by Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker, neither of whom have any producing credits to their name. So what is it about? Well, according to OnTheFlix, "the movie is about a retired race car driver who tries to track down his kidnapped wife with the help of a younger female computer hacker." What? That doesn't make anything clearer, and just raises more questions. Dark Castle is producing, and Warner Bros. is already planning to dump it at the end of next summer on August 30th. Paychecks for all involved, we suppose. [Kinopoisk] »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Watch: Flirt & Fight With 2 Clips From 'Red Dawn'

9 November 2012 1:08 PM, PST

Oh, hey, "Red Dawn." This is coming out next week? Or wait, the week after? We can't really remember, but a half-hearted campaign is sort of happening for the movie and a couple of clips landed this week in case you missed it. In the first, Chris Hemsworth gets flirty, pre-Asian invasion with Adrianne Palicki and even his bro Liam Hemsworth agrees that she is indeed attractive. Though, seriously? Stealing food off the table: not a turn on. Anyway, in the next clip we see her run really awkwardly as she leads the nameless invaders into a trap. We're not sure what the signal was if she got caught, though we suppose that after a while if she didn't show up, those dudes would come out of their hidey holes and look for her. Anyway, this entirely necessary remake lands in theaters on November 21st. Give thanks.  »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Doc NYC Review: 'Shenandoah' A Sharp Look At A Community With Skeletons In The Closet

9 November 2012 1:01 PM, PST

There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Shenandoah, Pa, but its landscape and demeanor should feel familiar. Formerly a bustling coal-mining town, the area is now a bit destitute... but you wouldn’t know it from the warmth emanating from its inhabitants, nor from the exuberant passion the community displays during events such as their Christmas celebration or the local football games. There is unity, a we’re-all-in-this-together mentality that keeps the people from hanging up their gloves and calling it a day. One of the most excellent aspects of David Turnley’s documentary “Shenandoah” is the way it peers so intensely into this society, efficiently (and quickly) establishing the atmosphere while also making the smallest cracks discernible. Something awful happened here, and the filmmaker smartly takes his time in revealing just what exactly occurred -- as the investment into the populace grows deeper, tiny hints at the mysterious tragedy. »

- Christopher Bell

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How Paul Thomas Anderson Ruined A Day Of Shooting On 'No Country For Old Men' & More You Might Not Know

9 November 2012 12:40 PM, PST

At the start of 2007, the Coen Brothers were not in a good place in their careers. Even after the major success of "O Brother Where Art Thou" and the critical acclaim of "The Man Who Wasn't There," they weren't able to get their Brad Pitt-starring adaptation of James Dickey's WWII novel "To the White Sea" financed, and two commercially-aimed star-laden pictures, "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Ladykillers," had disappointed financially and seen them pick up the worst reviews of their careers. But that was all about to change, because at the Cannes Film Festival that year, the Coens premiered their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's brutal neo-Western "No Country For Old Men," the tale of an ordinary man (Josh Brolin) who comes across the spoils of a drug deal gone bad, only to be hunted by a remorseless killer (Javier Bardem), while a local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) follows the trail of blood and. »

- Oliver Lyttelton

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Benedict Cumberbatch Confirmed To Play Julian Assange, James McAvoy Joins Him

9 November 2012 11:57 AM, PST

Even though Julian Assange has gone from notorious hacker to exiled cause celebre (hell, Lady Gaga of all people paid him a visit at the Ecuadorean embassy in London), his saga remains fascinating and important. Which means Hollywood has come calling. And while there are a handful of competing features and documentaries out there, DreamWorks looks to be out of the gate first as their untitled project begins to take shape. First rumored last month, Benedict Cumberbatch is now confirmed to play the WikiLeaks founder, while his foil will be none other than James McAvoy. It will be the third pairing for the actors who've previously appeared in the enjoyable and underrated "Starter For Ten" as well as Joe Wright's "Atonement," and this time, it will be Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls," "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn") behind the camera. Based on the books "Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange At The World's Most. »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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The Weinstein Company Pick Up Bong Joon-Ho's 'Snow Piercer,' Summer 2013 Release Likely

9 November 2012 11:41 AM, PST

It looks like The Weinstein Company has been busy this week picking up movies. With an Oscar slate that already (potentially) includes "The Master," "Django Unchained," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "The Intouchables," they've got another ace up their sleeve. But first, they've nabbed a movie that's already high on our list for 2013. With Park Chan-wook making his Hollywood debut with "Stoker" in the spring, his fellow Korean filmmaking colleague Bong Joon-ho will also be unveiling his first movie with big name stars. The Weinsteins have snatched up "Snow Piercer" and are eyeing a summer 2013 release date for the movie. An adaptation of the French graphic novel "Le Transperceneige," that story takes place on a train carrying the only survivors of a post-apocalyptic future, as revolt brews. Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Song Kang-ho, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and Ewen Bremner round »

- Kevin Jagernauth

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Alan Arkin & Kim Basinger Get Into A 'Grudge Match' With Sylvester Stallone & Robert De Niro

9 November 2012 11:17 AM, PST

It’s one of those movies that sounds like it’s been thought up on a boozy night out -- wouldn’t it be great if there was a movie where Rocky and Jake Lamotta fight each other in the ring? Well, now there will be! Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro are stepping back into the ring as a pair of retired fighters who wish to settle an old score in “Grudge Match,” and now the movie is beginning to round out the rest of its cast. Alan Arkin (hot off a well-received turn in “Argo”) is in talks to appear as Harry ‘Razor’ Sharp’s (Stallone) former trainer, ‘Lighting’ Louis Epstein, who is rescued from a nursing home by the fighter who has taken the fight to pay his medical bills. Meanwhile, Kim Basinger will also join the cast as an old flame of Razor’s who questions »

- Joe Cunningham

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