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Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall Celebrate at ‘The Judge’ L.A. Premiere

30 minutes ago

Though Wednesday’s West Coast premiere of Warner Bros.’ “The Judge” took place at the quintessential show business centers of Beverly Hills’ Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Spago, the evening evoked plenty of small-town nostalgia.

'I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland so I still have a lot of nostalgia for small-town life' – David Dobkin on directing 'The Judge'

— Dave McNary (@Variety_DMcNary) October 2, 2014

The Judge,” set in a fictional Indiana town, was shot last year in the small town of Shelburne Falls, Mass.

Screenwriter Nick Schenk allowed that he and director David Dobkin began work on the project through an odd confluence of events six years ago.

“We kind of bonded over the fact that both of us had lost our mothers and the impact of that on the remaining family members,” Schenk noted.

'I'm from Minnesota which helped give the script that stoic Midwestern tone, »


- Dave McNary

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Legendary’s Deal with SoftBank Actually Worth $1 Billion (Exclusive)

35 minutes ago

Eager to lock down content for its digital platforms, SoftBank Corp announced Thursday a $250 million in Legendary Entertainment and the formation of a new joint venture. The deal is far larger, Variety has learned, and is actually worth closer to $1 billion.

According to a letter sent to Legendary’s shareholders on Oct. 1 to secure votes for the pact, SoftBank’s investment in Legendary is actually broken up into three stages that began with the $250 million investment, which is expected to close within a week.

SoftBank has the right to make two additional $375 million investments in the company through 2018, said shareholders who provided details of the letter to Variety.

After the three rounds of investments, SoftBank, one of Japan’s largest tech congloms, has the first refusal right to purchase Legendary outright, should Thomas Tull choose to sell the company.

The first $250 million investment gives SoftBank control of 10% of Legendary, which »


- Marc Graser

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Film Review: ‘Annabelle’

42 minutes ago

The scares are cheap but periodically effective in “Annabelle,” a cut-rate spinoff from James Wan’s superlative haunted-house hit “The Conjuring” that (partly) makes up in crude shock effects what it lacks in craft, atmosphere and just about every other department. Designed mainly as a starring vehicle for the eponymous, creepy-as-hell doll (who easily outclasses her human costars), this WB/New Line quickie will slake the thirst of die-hard genre fans put out by the abysmal “Dracula Untold.” Mere casual fright fans are advised to wait for the proper sequel, “The Conjuring 2,” due in 2015.

Among the many objects from paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren’s cabinet of demonically possessed curiosities that got their close-ups in “The Conjuring,” the indisputable scene-stealer was Annabelle, a pig-tailed, rosy-cheeked wooden moppet who looked like Howdy Doody in drag, or Raggedy Ann after a long night in the wrong part of town. Now, in “Annabelle, »


- Scott Foundas

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Sarah Jessica Parker Set To Topline ‘All Roads Lead to Rome’

57 minutes ago

Rome – Sarah Jessica Parker (“Sex and the City”) will play the lead role in romcom “All Roads Lead to Rome,” which Swedish director Ella Lemhagen (“The Crown Jewels,” “Patrick Aged 1,5″) will direct.

Rome and L.A.-based Ambi Pictures, headed by Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi, and Paradox Studio’s Mikael Wiren are financing the picture.

Iervolino and Bacardi are producing with Silvio Muraglia of Paradox Studios. Wiren is executive producing. Ambi Group worldwide’s L.A.-based sales arm Ambi Distribution, headed by Julie Sultan, will handle international sales.

Ella Lemhagen will direct from a screenplay by Cindy Meyers, Josh Appignanesi and herself. Principal photography is set to start in October in Rome. Italy recently introduced a generous 25% tax credit for foreign productions.

“All Roads” revolves around an uptight woman named Maggie (Parker) and her former Italian lover, Luca, who go on a road trip across scenic Italy pursuing »


- Nick Vivarelli

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Abu Dhabi Festival Fosters Filmmmaking in Arab World

58 minutes ago

For its eighth edition, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival is boldly looking to bolster its standing as driver of the Gulf region’s still embryonic but increasingly vibrant film industry.

Fest’s opening film — Emirati director Ali Mostafa’s hotly anticipated pan-Arab road movie “From A to B,” about three Western-educated Arab youths who travel from Abu Dhabi to Beirut to mourn a deceased friend — heralds this ambition.

Co-produced by Twofour54, the media hub behind the fest, and film and TV outfit Image Nation, “A to B” marks the first time Abu Dhabi, now at its eighth edition, opens with a pic by an Emirati helmer. More significantly, “It’s by an Emirati filmmaker who goes out of the UAE and the Gulf and decides to make a 100% Arab film,” says fest director Ali Al Jabri, and in doing so, “makes a Western-style road movie with the Arab world in it. »


- Nick Vivarelli

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Documentaries at Abu Dhabi Film Festival Cast Spotlight on Arab World

58 minutes ago

The Arab world has long dished up heaping servings of documentaries, but there’s something different these days: the quality of the films is higher thanks in part to Arab fests and funds that are fostering what could become a new wave of more naturalistic cinema in the region.

The proliferation of Arab factuals first started about a decade ago as broadcasters Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya began producing plenty of low-budget straightforward pieces depicting regional turbulence.

But more recently docus from the region have become much more lively and original, as their helmers gain greater cachet and more international traction.

“Through documentaries, Arab filmmakers are moving towards a more structured and articulated storytelling narrative,” says Adff chief programmer Teresa Cavina. She cites 3D docu “Iraqi Odyssey,” by Switzerland-based Iraqi director Samir, tracing the migrations of his extended family, now scattered all over the world, weaving wistful and witty testimonies of »


- Nick Vivarelli

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‘Gone Girl’ Cinematographer Gives Dark Tale a High-Res Look

58 minutes ago

Despite “Gone Girl’s” murder-mystery trappings, director David Fincher doesn’t like the word “thriller,” says the film’s cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth. “He thinks it’s more of a dramatic mystery about humanity and two married people, and how that goes astray.”

To bring the dark story to life, Cronenweth shot with the Epic Dragon, an updated version of the digital Red camera he used on Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” (The duo also collaborated on “The Social Network” and “Fight Club.”)

The Dragon shoots at an impressive resolution of 6K, allowing it to capture sharper images in low light and giving filmmakers more quality control in the color-correction phase.

The story — shot on location in Cape Girardeau, Mo., standing in for the fictional town of North Carthage, a once-thriving community fallen on hard times — is based on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel about a writer’s wife, »


- Steve Chagollan

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Local Funds Hold Key to Financing Films in Middle East

59 minutes ago

For young directors in the oil-rich Emirates, just as in the rest of the Arab world, finding coin to make a movie is almost as hard as getting the proverbial camel to go through the eye of a needle.

Still, funding opportunities have increased in the past decade as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha launched film fests with affiliated funding entities.

Since 2010 when the Abu Dhabi fest started its Sanad fund for films in development or post, more than 100 projects have tapped into its support. Projects backed include Kurdish helmer Hiner Saleem’s Cannes Un Certain Regard entry “My Sweet Pepper Land,” set in a wild-west post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi Kurdistan; Iraqi orphanage docu “In My Mother’s Arms,” by Atia and Mohamed Al-Daradji, that went to Toronto; and Palestinian refugee camp docu “A World Not Ours,” by Emirati helmer Mahdi Fleifel, that traveled to Berlin.

More recently, Jordanian first-time »


- Nick Vivarelli

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Ron Perlman Added to Alex Garcia’s ‘The Jesuit’ (Exclusive)

1 hour ago

Rio De Janeiro — Boarding late in the day, Ron Perlman (“Hellboy,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Drive”) has completed the key cast of Alfonso Pineda Ulloa’s “The Jesuit,” L.A.-based Mexican producer Alex Garcia’s biggest action-thriller to date at Ag Studios, departing from a Paul Schrader screenplay.

A road movie actioner, “The Jesuit,” turns on an ex-con, wrongly imprisoned, called The Jesuit, whose ex-wife is murdered by her by-her boy-friend who then kidnaps his son. The Jesuit devises an elaborate plan to save his son and avenge the murder, embarking on a revenge rampage from Texas through Mexico to its deep, deep jungle in Mexico’s south. Perlman plays “The Jesuit’s” out-and-out villain.

“As is most always the case, I was impressed by the writing and the people involved in the process,” Perlman commented on his casting.

“And of course, it didn’t hurt that it was shooting in Mexico, »


- John Hopewell

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Simon McBurney Joins Tom Cruise in ‘Mission: Impossible 5′

1 hour ago

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” thesp Simon McBurney is in negotiations to join the cast of Skydance and Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible 5,” which is currently in production.

Tom Cruise will once again star in the latest installment of the action franchise. Alec Baldwin and Rebecca Ferguson are also on board with Jeremy Renner set to return. Chris McQuarrie is directing with Cruise, Skydance’s David Ellison and J.J. Abrams producing.

Plot details are being kept under wraps but sources say McBurney will play the boss of Ferguson’s character. Drew Pearce penned the script.

McBurney recently completed filming a lead role in the BBC/HBO mini-series “Casual Vacancy” and can also be seen in the new AMC show “Knifeman.” On the film front he last appeared in Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” and can be seen next in Focus’ “The Theory of Everything.”

He is repped by UTA, »


- Justin Kroll

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Film Review: ‘Left Behind’

1 hour ago

In what was surely a first in the annals of motion-picture marketing, an early ad for “Left Behind” featured a quote taken not from a film critic, but rather from Satan himself, who allegedly quipped, “Please do not bring unbelievers to this movie.” This presents a rare scenario in which Christian moviegoers ought to feel perfectly secure heeding the advice of the Devil, as this faith-based thriller is likely to inspire far more dorm-room drinking games than religious conversions. With a “Sharknado”-inspired visual style and a deeply weary lead performance from Nicolas Cage, “Left Behind” is cheap-looking, overwrought kitsch of the most unintentionally hilarious order, its eschatological bent representing its only real shot at box office redemption. The film hits theaters this weekend, but as for when believers can expect to see the tenets of their faith reflected with any sort of sophistication or intelligence in a mainstream genre film, »


- Andrew Barker

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Film Review: ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’

1 hour ago

An average American family becomes a giant human pinata in “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” a passable, tolerable, not unbearable, totally inoffensive adaptation of Judith Viorst’s beloved 1972 children’s book. Made to exacting Disney specifications, this is the sort of busily contrived, one-damned-thing-after-another farce where cars are smashed and Dad gets set on fire, but it all goes down with a spoonful of sugar and a cheery string of studio tie-ins — it’s PG-rated sadism with a smile. With Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner on hand to enliven the proceedings, the comedy at least zips along fast enough to wind up feeling almost shorter than its famous title, which could spark enough recognition among tots and parents to steal a decent-sized portion of the all-ages pie.

“I think I’ll move to Australia,” Alexander noted after the first of several groan-worthy setbacks in Viorst’s book, »


- Justin Chang

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Digital Audience Ratings: ‘Dracula’ and ‘Annabelle’ Bring Fear to Top 5; ‘Kingsman’ Trends Thanks to ‘Gotham’

1 hour ago

Each week Variety publishes ListenFirst Digital Audience Ratings (Dar), a measurement of fan engagement across all the major digital platforms as it relates to film (see the TV version here). Provided by ListenFirst Media, Dar measures what entertainment content is resonating most across Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia combined. For more on the methodology behind Dar, scroll to the bottom of the article.

Digital Audience Ratings (Dar) Weekly Top 5 Wednesday Sept 24, 2014 – Tuesday Sept 30, 2014 Rank Last Week Film Rating(000) 1 2 Dracula Untold 3,260 2 1 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 2,714 3 3 The Maze Runner 2,170 4 - Big Hero 6 2,167 5 - Annabelle 1,911 -

Key First time on the chart Pinnacle Rank -

Trending Wednesday Sept 24, 2014 – Tuesday Sept 30, 2014 Film Rating(000) % Change Blackhat 742 +22,124% The Wedding Ringer 614 +3,000% Kingsman: The Secret Service 1,260 +2,029%

 

Insights:

“Annabelle” frightened fans with an onslaught of tv spots and digital activations this week driving its debut on the Top 5. The frenzy on Facebook was especially high, »


- Jason Klein

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Watch: First Trailer for Jude Law’s ‘Black Sea’

2 hours ago

Focus Features has released the first trailer for thriller “Black Sea,” starring Jude Law as a rogue submarine captain seeking treasure at the bottom of the Black Sea.

“One of Hitler’s U-boats is just sitting on the sea bed, full of gold,” Law’s character intones. He recruits a ragtag group of of men who decide to change their luck. Greed and desperation soon take over.

Law’s costars include Grigoriy DobryginKonstantin Khabenskiy, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn and Michael Smiley.

Black Sea” is directed by Kevin Macdonald, who previously directed “The Last King of Scotland,” “The Eagle” and “State of Play.”

Focus Features opens “Black Sea” on Jan. 23 in the U.S.

»


- Dave McNary

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SoftBank Investing $250 Million in Legendary, Forms Joint Venture

2 hours ago

Japanese internet and technology giant SoftBank Corp. has closed a deal to invest $250 million in Legendary Entertainment.

As part of the pact, the companies will form a joint venture designed to promote and create business opportunities for Legendary’s films, television shows and digital products, especially in China and India.

Given the kinds of companies SoftBank has invested in — among them, it owns Sprint and Japan’s third-largest mobile carrier — the SoftBank deal particularly points out plans to exploit Legendary’s content across over-the-top mobile platforms.

The move comes days after talks between SoftBank and DreamWorks Animation stalled. The company had been looking at purchasing the animation studio in a deal valued at around $3.4 billion.

Legendary has backed such films as “Godzilla,” “The Dark Knight” and “Pacific Rim.” It has a distribution deal with Universal Pictures that began this year after the company concluded a prior deal with Warner Bros. »


- Brent Lang and Marc Graser

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Dune Capital Buys Out Elliott Management’s Relativity Stake

3 hours ago

Investor Steven Mnuchin, Relativity Media CEO and Chairman Ryan Kavanaugh and Dune Capital Partners IV have agreed to buy out much of Elliott Management’s stake in the film and television studio.

Elliott will remain a minority investor in the studio. In addition, Relativity announced that Mnuchin has been named co-chairman of Relativity’s board. In a release announcing the transaction, Relativity said he is being brought on to prepare the company for possibly going public in 2016. The move gives the studio’s management greater operational control, which would be helpful in pulling off an Ipo.

“Steven has been a trusted advisor for years, and I personally recruited him to join our board,” Kavanaugh said in a statement. “He brings an unrivaled perspective on the ever-increasing value of content in Hollywood and Wall Street, and his experience will prove invaluable as we continue moving toward an Ipo.”

In 2012, Elliott sold »


- Brent Lang

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Film Review: ‘The Pact 2’

3 hours ago

Following up a 2012 indie original that was a modest sleeper (especially in the U.K.), “The Pact 2” simply stretches out rather than elaborating on its predecessor’s already thin premise, creating holes that are poorly patched over with false scares and unconvincing character behavior. Unlikely to expand the audience for further “Judas Killer” antics, this soggy sequel from the writing-directing duo of Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath — neither of whom was involved in the first pic — launches theatrically Oct. 10 in New York, with Los Angeles following on Oct. 31. It’s already available on VOD in the U.S., and will likely make its primary coin in that format abroad as well.

The original “Pact,” directed by Nicholas McCarthy (whose sophomore feature, “At the Devil’s Door,” is in current release), generally made up in creepy atmosphere what it lacked in plot intricacy/originality, what with a decapitating villain who at »


- Dennis Harvey

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Video: Dakota Fanning Stars in Emma Thompson Scripted ‘Effie Gray’ (Exclusive)

3 hours ago

London – Dakota Fanning starrer “Effie Gray,” which is the first original screenplay written by Emma Thompson, world premieres on Oct. 5 in London, and opens in the U.K. on Oct. 10 through Metrodome Distribution. Variety has been given an exclusive clip from the film. The U.S. distributor is due to be revealed on Oct. 9.

The film, which is directed by Richard Laxton, explores the true story of the relationship between Victorian art critic John Ruskin, his teenage bride, Euphemia “Effie” Gray, and Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. It reps Fanning’s first adult starring role as Effie.

Other thesps in the film include Thompson (“The Remains of the Day,” “Howards End”), Julie Walters (“Harry Potter”), Tom Sturridge (“On the Road”), David Suchet (“Agatha Christie’s Poirot”) and Greg Wise (“Walking on Sunshine”).

The film is produced by Andreas Roald and Donald Rosenfeld, former president of Merchant Ivory Prods., whose credits »


- Leo Barraclough

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NDM Acquires Gust Van den Berghe’s Rome World Preem ‘Lucifer’ (Exclusive)

5 hours ago

Rio De Janeiro — Just ten years ago, a rapidly-plexing Latin America seemed like a wasteland for arthouse distribution, as U.S. and overseas exhibition groups constructed multiplexes ideal for the exhibition of Hollywood blockbusters to Latin American youth and families.

Now the boot is – just slightly – moving towards the other foot. In its latest move, NDM, the adventurous Paris/Mexico based sales company launched by Jaime Romandia’s Mantarraya and Carlos Reygadas’ No Dream Cinema, has acquired world sales rights to “Lucifer,” from the almost preternaturally young Belgian director Gust Van den Berghe. When just 24, Van den Burghe burst onto the scene with “Little Baby Jesus of Flandyr,” which played Directors’ Fortnight in 2010, as did his follow-up, “Blue Bird.”

His third feature, “Lucifer” will world premiere in the main Cinema d’Oggi competition for emerging talent at mid-October’s Rome Festival.

The pick-up comes just six weeks after Ndm pounced »

- John Hopewell

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Alison Thompson to Headline Film London Production Finance Market

6 hours ago

London — Alison Thompson, former Focus Features Intl. topper and now managing director of Sunray Films, will open the Film London Production Finance Market on Oct. 15 when she delivers the event’s keynote address.

Thompson will provide the 200-plus delegates and industry guests with an insight into financing, packaging, selling and positioning a diverse range of independent feature films across low and high budget ranges. She will also share her experience of spotting and nurturing talent, and her journey from indie sales companies to working for a studio-owned company.

Thompson has built up a formidable reputation as a sales agent, representing films such as “The Crying Game,” “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Blue Jasmine.” She launched sales and production company Sunray Films earlier this year, and presented its first feature film production, “Alone in Berlin,” starring Emma Thompson and Daniel Bruhl, at the Cannes Film Festival. She is also representing Mike Leigh’s “Mr Turner. »


- Leo Barraclough

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