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Film Review: ‘Transcendence’

1 hour ago

Transcendence” is a most curious name for a movie that never shakes free from those hoary old cliches about the evils of technology and the danger by which man plays at becoming a god. The man in question here is Johnny Depp, whose listless lead performance as a brilliant scientist in the field of artificial intelligence does little to aid this overplotted, dramatically undernourished debut feature from longtime Christopher Nolan d.p. Wally Pfister. Arriving at a crowded spring box office, the pic will test Depp’s drawing power outside of the Disney franchise factory, before weak word of mouth and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” send it packing.

One of the manifold pleasures of Spike Jonze’s “Her” was how elegantly it shrugged off decades of speculative fiction in which technological progress correlated to a loss of human individualism. In its place was the delightful suggestion that, rather than battling us for domination, »

- Scott Foundas

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Film Review: ‘Soul Food Stories’

3 hours ago

The Bulgarian documentary movement has another small gem to flaunt with Tonislav Hristov’s warm, witty exploration of gender, tradition and togetherness, “Soul Food Stories.” Shot in the southwestern village of Satovcha, population c. 2,000, “Stories” interpolates scenes of food preparation with more masculine activities (like sitting around) to dryly comment on the male-female divide, also showing how Orthodox Christians, Muslims and evangelical Roma can live side by side, united by a shared past and good cooking. Hristov’s gently ironic eye and uncondescending feel for the ridiculous will play well at fests awakening to the abundant pleasures of new Bulgarian nonfiction.

“Everything bad comes from TV and the capital, Sofia” is the message of a village elder, decrying the pernicious effect of the boob tube on womenfolk ostensibly taught to argue with their husbands. Feminism, if the word even exists, is an evil concept in Satovcha, a place almost out »

- Jay Weissberg

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Film Review: ‘Heaven Is for Real’

4 hours ago

After the contentious likes of “Noah” and “God’s Not Dead,” Hollywood’s season of Christian-themed cinema continues in relatively innocuous fashion with “Heaven Is for Real,” a bland, earnest yet appreciably restrained adaptation of Midwestern minister Todd Burpo’s inspirational bestseller about his young son’s miraculous glimpse of eternity. Audiences not inclined to suspend their disbelief, let alone take a leap of faith, will have no use for the film’s corn-fed sincerity or its clean-scrubbed celestial visions. Still, it’s something of a relief to report that the movie isn’t quite the vomitous bucket of spiritual saccharine the ads would suggest, and those willing to engage may be pleasantly surprised by some of its understated virtues: a carefully open-minded appeal to skeptics, a wry sense of humor that wards off sententiousness at key moments, and a fine cast of name actors (led by Greg Kinnear) who »

- Justin Chang

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Film Review: ‘Redwood Highway’

5 hours ago

A perfectly fine walkabout through the scenic roadways and nearby woods of southern Oregon, “Redwood Highway” delivers in high spirits and fine thesping what it lacks in dynamic tension and narrative consistency. Anchored by a warm, full-bodied turn by septuagenarian Shirley Knight as a spunky but troubled retirement-home resident, and backed by fine support from vets Tom Skerritt and James Le Gros, the film, which is rolling out in limited runs across the country, will stroll mostly to VOD and to femme- and family-themed cable networks.

We meet Marie (Knight) in motion, perambulating through the opening credits roll. She’s trying to avoid her son (Le Gros, “Justified,” “Scotland, Pa.”), who’s visiting the facility to which he’s engineered her relocation (though given her feistiness and his mellow vibe, it’s a bit unclear how he managed the feat). He’s intent on convincing her to attend the wedding of her granddaughter, »

- Bill Edelstein

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Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Talks to Become ‘Border Guards’ for Sony

6 hours ago

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are in talks to reteam on the Sony comedy “Border Guards.”

Adam McKay is in talks to direct. Jesse Armstrong will pen the script with Ferrell, McKay and Kevin Messick producing through their Gary Sanchez Productions banner.

Pic follows two friends who decide to patrol the U.S. border to keep out illegal immigrants only to find themselves in trouble after getting stranded across the border in Mexico.

Sony has seen boffo results from this pairing in the past with hits such as “Talladega Nights” and “Step Brothers.”

Ferrell is repped by CAA and Mosaic, and Reilly is repped by Wme and Framework.

Deadline Hollywood first reported the news.


- Justin Kroll

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Leave Your Hangups at Home: Hump! Amateur Porn Fest Hits the Road

7 hours ago

You don’t have to go back very far in Variety’s history to discover that its film critics once had a very different job description — one that involved reviewing not just mainstream theatrical releases, but also pornography like “Deep Throat” and “The Devil and Miss Jones.”

Saturday night, a small posse and I drove down to Long Beach, Calif., to catch the “Best of Hump! Tour.” For the uninitiated, Hump is an exhibitionist extravaganza hosted every year by sex columnist-turned-dirty-movie emcee Dan Savage in which ordinary folks become weekend porn stars, shooting sexually explicit short films designed to arouse and entertain a room full of like-minded strangers. (It’s the same contest that inspires two straight guys to test their boundaries in 2009 mumblecore darling “Humpday.”) “Normal” people agree to participate, safe in the knowledge that their work will be destroyed on the final night of the festival — which means that for the tour, »

- Peter Debruge

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Film Review: ‘The Love Punch’

8 hours ago

Building on the commercial proposition suggested five years ago in the late-middle-age romance “Last Chance Harvey,” writer-director Joel Hopkins once again attempts to woo the more mature cinemagoer with “The Love Punch,” a creaky heist-caper comedy that hopes to get by on sunny amiability. Reuniting with “Harvey” actress Emma Thompson, teaming here with Pierce Brosnan, Hopkins ups the stakes in terms of photogenic locations, ditching the picture-postcard London of the earlier film for Paris and the French Riviera. And with a solid cast that also includes Celia Imrie and Timothy Spall, the elements may be just seductive enough to sock targeted audiences into the ring.

Businessman Richard (Brosnan) and Kate (Thompson) are a divorced couple whom their best friends and neighbors, Jerry (Spall) and Penelope (Imrie), would love to see get back together. Richard, rebounding from his latest fling with a much younger woman, would like that, too. (“You get me, »

- Charles Gant

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Paul Walker’s Brothers to Help Fill in ‘Small Gaps’ in ‘Fast & Furious 7′ Production

9 hours ago

In the wake of Paul Walker’s unexpected death in November, his brothers Cody and Caleb will step in for him and help finish some remaining shots for Universal’s “Fast & Furious 7.”

According to a statement made on the film’s Facebook page on Tuesday, the two Walker brothers will help with some “remaining action” and other shots that were not completed before Paul Walker’s death. The statement reads that he had already shot his dramatic scenes and most of the action, which they called “among the strongest work of his career.”

“Having them on set has made us all feel that Paul is with us too,” the statement on the film’s Facebook page reads.

“We are just under a year away from the release of ‘Fast & Furious 7,’ and this film is the most important we’ve ever done together. It will allow the character of Brian O »

- Alex Stedman

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Wes Anderson, Tom Hiddleston on Working With Tilda Swinton

10 hours ago

Wes Anderson

“Tilda was at Sundance for ‘Orlando’ when we showed our short film of ‘Bottle Rocket’ there in 1993. I had never seen — as an audience member and also, from a snowy distance, in person — anyone remotely like her. And like everyone else in Park City, I was immediately captivated.”

Bong Joon-ho

“There is one particularly grotesque scene in (‘Snowpiercer’) in which Tilda suddenly removes her (prosthetic) dentures in front of Chris Evans. I don’t even remember if that scene was Tilda’s idea or mine. That’s how melded together we were as creative collaborators, and for me, the entire process

was pure joy.”

Jim Jarmusch

“Tilda is one of the most amazing creatures I have ever met. I first met her in Los Angeles backstage at a concert by a group called the Darkness. We just walked up to each other, and she said, ‘Jim.’ And I said, »

- Variety Staff

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Los Angeles Movies Surge 24.2%, TV Slides 9.2% in 1st Quarter

10 hours ago

Movies filmed on location in the Los Angeles area surged 24.2% in the first quarter to 1,588 permitted days while TV activity slid 9.2% to 4,624.

Permitting agency FilmL.A. issued the the report Tuesday, which showed a 1% decline in overall production to 13,265 permitted days from 13,361.

The report touted the benefits of the California Film and Television Tax Credit Program, noting that 25% of feature film production and 22% of TV drama production was generated by state-qualified projects.

FilmL.A. said that feature production outperformed its five-year quarterly average by 39.4%. Films that lensed on location in L.A. during the period included “Entourage: The Movie” (pictured above), “Horrible Bosses 2,” “Los Altos,” “Me, Him, Her,” “Night Crawler” and “The Zone.”

The report was issued two months after state legislation was introduced to expand the tax credit program, which currently provides $100 million annually and is usually capped at 20% of production costs — far smaller than rival programs in Georgia, »

- Dave McNary

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Manhattan Beach Studios Evacuated Due to Bomb Threat

10 hours ago

A bomb threat forced the evacuation of the Manhattan Beach Studios Media Campus for over six hours on Tuesday in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

The sprawling 25,000 sq.-ft. facility, formerly known as Raleigh Studios in Manhattan Beach, Calif., was previously the home of Marvel Studios and was the filming location for such films as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and the upcoming “Avatar” sequels.

Police spokeswoman Stephanie Martin told Variety law enforcement officials received a call at 9:56 a.m. of a bomb threat that was phoned into the busy film and TV production center, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of employees.

Martin said that all staffers were immediately escorted from the building safely and that bomb sniffing dogs were brought into the massive complex, in addition to police forces from Lax, Los Angeles port police, Inglewood and Beverly Hills divisions before police finished the search without harm at 4:32 p. »

- Nikara Johns

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Film Execs Talk Shifting the Focus to TV

10 hours ago

When it comes to the current film market — seek diversification, spread risk and focus on television.

That’s according to experts like Alcon Entertainment’s Scott Parish, E2B Capital’s Cassian Elwes, Weinstein CFO, Andy Kim and Ep Financial Solutions John Hadity. Execs talked money flow, casting, the reliability of the Monte Carlo Method and shifting the focus to television at Tuesday’s Film Finance Forum East presented by Winston Baker in association with Variety in New York.

“(Weinstein) is always looking to expand into other areas,” Kim said. “One is obviously television.”

While Weinstein Co. experienced past success in the reality genre with “Project Runway,” the banner has made a strategic move into dramatic television.

In January, Netflix announced a deal to exclusively distribute the Weinstein Co. produced nine-episode series “Marco Polo” about the famed 13th Century explorer. The series will be available to Netflix subscribers sometime late in »

- Addie Morfoot

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‘Hanna’ Writer Tapped to Pen ‘Who Is Jake Ellis?’ for Chernin and David Yates (Exclusive)

11 hours ago

Hanna” scribe Seth Lochhead has been set to write the adaptation of the Image comicbook “Who Is Jake Ellis?” for 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment.

David Yates is attached to direct, with Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping producing. Ford Lytle Gilmore is exec producing. Chernin Entertainment’s senior VP David Ready, who will oversee the project for Chernin and Jason Young will oversee for Fox.

Based on the original comicbook series written by Nathan Edmondson and drawn by Tonci Zonjic, the story revolves around a former spy on the run who is kept safe by a mysterious man known as Jake Ellis.

Given the similarities to projects like the “Bourne” franchise, it makes sense to bring in someone like Lochhead, a proven scribe in this genre.

Lochhead is currently doing a rewrite on the Sony pic “Shadow of the Colossus,” with Josh Trank attached to direct. In addition, his »

- Justin Kroll

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‘Magic Mike’ Sequel Set for Independence Day Weekend 2015

11 hours ago

Warner Bros. hopes to spark its own kind of fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend next year, dating its “Magic Mike” sequel for July 3, 2015.

The original, starring Channing Tatum as the titular male stripper, became a sleeper hit in 2012, grossing more than $167 million worldwide on a production budget of just $7 million.

Gregory Jacobs is directing the sequel, with a script co-written by Tatum and Reid Carolin.

The first film, which launched June 29, became a hot property for women and gay men. It also helped kick-start the rejuvenated career of Matthew McConaughey, while Tatum, who has gained considerable cachet with auds in the wake of “Magic Mike” and “21 Jump Street.”

Magic Mike 2″ will go up against Paramount’s next “Terminator” installment, which bows mid-week over the holiday frame.


- Andrew Stewart

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Leonardo DiCaprio Sets Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s ‘The Revenant’ as Next Pic

11 hours ago

After taking his time in figuring out what his next film will be, Leonardo DiCaprio has decided to go with New Regency and Fox’s “The Revenant” as that next pic with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu set to direct.

DiCaprio and Inarritu have been attached to the project for awhile but could not find the time to fit it into their schedules. The idea is to get the film into production this fall.

Pic is based on the Michael Punke novel centering on a 1820s frontiersman, who is on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling.

Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin, Keith Redmon and David Kanter will produce along with Inarritu, Arnon Milchan and James Skotchdopole. The film will be fully financed by RatPac and Worldview Entertainment.

DiCaprio, who is repped by Lbi Entertainment, is coming off a strong 2013 with hits such as »

- Justin Kroll

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Beijing Film Festival Aims for International Flavor

12 hours ago

Beijing Intl. Film Festival organizers have given this year’s event a stronger international flavor and more high-tech elements, moves that reflect the Chinese industry’s desire to go global. Festival runs April 16-23.

One big change? This fourth edition features an opening-night screening — something that is standard at other festivals, but which the first three Beijing fests dispensed with, in favor of a pomp and circumstance show befitting the city’s status in the emerging world order and its powerhouse backers, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the Beijing city government.

“The norm for major international film festivals around the world is for the opening film to enjoy a good reputation and respect within the industry. To reflect the international … and market-oriented nature of Bjiff, the organizing committee decided on ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ” a festival spokesman says. The Franco-German romantic fantasy by Asiaphile French director »

- Shirley Lau

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Tilda Swinton on Why She Doesn’t Consider Herself an Actor

12 hours ago

Tilda Swinton has always exuded an otherworldly aura. Maybe it’s the pale, almost translucent skin that highlights her steely blue eyes. She speaks with such rabid intelligence that even a casual conversation sounds like it was scripted by Dorothy Parker. She seems impossibly tall, a willowy figure whose striking, androgynous looks have been tilted toward a wide range of menacing characters.

In Wes Anderson’s latest fairy tale, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” the 53-year-old Scottish actress is virtually unrecognizable under droopy skin and wrinkles as octogenarian Madame D. In the just-released drama “Only Lovers Left Alive,” directed by Jim Jarmusch, she portrays Eve, a chic-looking (if 3,000-year-old) vampire. And in June, she’ll be seen Stateside in Bong Joon-ho’s futuristic “Snowpiercer” as a terrifying political leader whose inspiration draws from equal parts Kim Jong-un and Marilyn Manson.

Her versatility as an artist makes her impossible to classify.

Along »

- Jenelle Riley

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Alcon Entertainment Launches Music Division

13 hours ago

Alcon Entertainment, the production company behind such features as “The Blind Side” and “Beautiful Creatures,” has partnered with Sleeping Giant Media on a music division titled Asg Music Group.

The move is designed to help the banner contain costs on music licensing and diversify its revenue base by owning more of the underlying music in its films. The plan is particularly important as Alcon expands into TV production.

Scott Parish, Alcon’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, noted the launch of the division while speaking Tuesday in New York at the Film Finance Forum East, presented by Winston Baker in association with Variety.

“If your filmmaker wants a Led Zeppelin cue in a movie you are going to pay for that. It’s a one-time license, (carries a certain cost,) and you can’t really do anything about it. But if there is some music playing in a »

- Addie Morfoot

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Yash Raj Diversifies Beyond Bollywood

15 hours ago

Hong Kong – Yash Raj Films, the Indian studio known for its archetypal Bollywood output, has unveiled an increasingly diverse slate for 2014-15.

Works-in-progress range from a dystopian adventure through to a comedy about fear of the English-language and two vehicles for superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

The studio, which financed Cannes opening film “Grace of Monaco” (pictured) and recently released Indian romantic drama “Bewakoofiyaan,” will give its next release on Aug. 22 to “Mardaani” a female cop actioner with Rani Mukerji in the lead.

In Nov. it goes out with “Kill Dil,” a dark tale of two orphans who were given shelter and trained as killers, but whose dangerous routine is disrupted by the injection of Parineeti Chopra as a love interest. The picture is directed by Shaad Ali, with music by multi-award winning trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and lyrics by Oscar-winner Gulzar.

Between those two pictures, Yrf will give a Diwali-season release to “Happy New Year, »

- Patrick Frater

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BFI Leads U.K. Delegation to Beijing Festival

16 hours ago

Hong Kong – The U.K. will this week lead its first major film trade delegation to China to take part in the Beijing Film Festival, which kicks off Wednesday.

The trade delegation is organized by the British Film Institute (BFI) BFI in partnership with the British Council, China Britain Business Council (Cbbc), the British Embassy, the British Council and UK Trade and Investment (Ukti).

Some 12 leading British talent agents, producers, distributors, film sales companies, exhibitors, and representatives from the BFI, the British Film Commission and BBC Worldwide will meet with representatives from the private and public sectors of China’s film industry.

The BFI has identified China as a priority territory for the UK film industry. It is seen as offering opportunities across co-production, export and cultural exchange to drive growth, creatively, culturally and commercially.

Last December, BFI Chief Executive Officer Amanda Nevill joined British Prime Minister David Cameron’s »

- Patrick Frater

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