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Evan Langweiler Promoted to Senior VP of Global Communications for Universal Pictures

28 minutes ago

Universal Pictures has upped Evan Langweiler to senior VP of global communications for the studio.

He will continue to oversee many aspects of the studio’s strategic media relations, including worldwide box office reporting, transactional announcements, dating of its films, and serving as the group’s primary staff writer.

He will be based in Los Angeles.

He will work closely with Universal’s international and brand teams as well as DreamWorks TV and NBCUniversal on issues relating to the business. Langweiler works closely with many of Universal’s filmmakers.

He will continue to report to Cindy Gardner.

Langweiler most recently served as VP of global communications for Universal. He has been with Universal since 2010 and prior to that was with NBC where he was based in New York. Langweiller attended Trinity college before working for NBC.

Related storiesNick Carpou Retiring as Universal Domestic Distribution Chief, Jim Orr Promoted'War for the Planet of the Apes' Producer »


- Justin Kroll

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Oscars: Predicting This Year’s Best Picture Landscape

1 hour ago

Getting into the weeds of full-blown “Oscar predictions” four months before the nominations are announced increasingly feels like a waste of time. The Academy demographic is changing rapidly and finding the pulse with any real authority is, more and more, a fool’s errand. But with the early festivals behind us and a handful more on the horizon, most of this year’s crop has already been seen. The best picture race has taken shape and it promises to be an exciting one, with no frontrunner in sight. Here are, at least in one observer’s estimation, the 10 strongest contenders for recognition in this year’s contest.

Call Me By Your Name” (Luca Guadagnino; Sony Pictures Classics)

Pros: It’s an important film and a landmark in queer cinema. As the Academy’s collective taste leans more international (and cinephile), movies like this will only benefit.

Cons: Thrifty Sony Classics always has an Oscar presence, but »


- Kristopher Tapley

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Katie Lovejoy to Write ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Retelling ‘The Season’ for Warner Bros. (Exclusive)

2 hours ago

Katie Lovejoy will pen the adaptation of “The Season” for Warner Bros. with Temple Hill producing, sources tell Variety.

The project is described as a modern retelling of “Pride and Prejudice” set in Texas high society. Adapted from the book published in 2016 by Jonah Lisa Marsh and Stephen Dyer, “The Season” follows Megan McKnight, a soccer star with Olympic dreams, but she’s not a girly girl. So when her Southern belle mother secretly enters her in the Dallas debutante season, she’s furious — and has no idea what she’s in for. Her attitude gets her on probation with the mother hen of the debs, and she is given a month to prove she can ballroom dance, display impeccable manners, and curtsey like a proper Texas lady or she’ll get the boot and disgrace her family.

Pete Harris and John Fischer are overseeing the project for Temple Hill.

A »


- Justin Kroll

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Netflix, YouTube to Pay Tax on Turnover in France Under New Law

2 hours ago

The European Commission has greenlit a long-gestating French draft measure to have foreign streaming services such as Netflix and video-sharing websites such as YouTube that distribute content in France but are not fiscally established there pay a 2% tax to France’s National Film Board.

Upon receiving the European Commission’s approval, the French government signed a decree Thursday to enforce the new measure. The 2% tax will be levied on revenues made in France from subscriptions, in the case of Netflix, and from advertising, in the case of YouTube.

The money will be used by the film board, known as the Cnc, to help finance French original content, from movies to TV series, video games and digital programs, via subsidies. The Cnc expects to receive 2 million euros ($2.4 million) from Netflix and 2.5 million euros ($3 million) from YouTube, according to a source at the organization.

Previously, the tax was applicable only to subscription-based VOD and pay-per-view services and video-sharing services »


- Elsa Keslassy

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Film Review: ‘Friend Request’

2 hours ago

We live in an era of second-screen-watching. It’s not just the theatrical experience that is being increasingly compromised by cell-phone addiction, but a majority of home viewers reportedly divide their attention between their TV screens, smartphones and laptops, too. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that Simon Verhoeven’s “Friend Request,” a disposable horror film destined to make more impact on recommendation algorithms and DVD bargain-buckets than the box office, purportedly cautions us against the evils of Facebook (or a Facebook-like site that remains unnamed for legal purposes) yet actually instills a longing for distraction, an urgent desire to share some funny cat memes with an old school friend. We might lament declining attention spans in general, but more chilling than anything in “Friend Request” is the idea that anyone’s whole attention could possibly be absorbed by so flimsy and forgettable a film, one that seems made with the sole aim of being perfectly adequate background »


- Jessica Kiang

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Nnamdi Asomugha on ‘Crown Heights’: ‘I Could Be a Voice for Something I Had Been Through’

2 hours ago

When Nnamdi Asomugha was growing up in Los Angeles, he briefly hoped for a career playing for the Lakers. “But that dream ended when I was like 10 and I realized I couldn’t compete with the other guys at that level,” Asomugha tells Variety. Instead, the self-professed “curious” guy listened to those around him when they saw his talents and wound up playing pro football for 11 years, mostly as cornerback for the Oakland Raiders. He began moonlighting as an actor in 2008, and has become a producer since the end of his football career, in 2013.

At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to move from the sports side of entertainment to film and television?

I was maybe halfway through my career, and I was shooting a Nike commercial, and the director came to the trailer and said, “Hey man, you’re really gifted at this. I get a lot of athletes that come in »


- Danielle Turchiano

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Tom Hanks to Star in Remake of Swedish Hit Comedy ‘A Man Called Ove’

2 hours ago

Tom Hanks is attached to star in “A Man Called Ove,” a remake of the popular Swedish film directed by Hannes Holm.

Hanks will also produce along with his producing partner Gary Goetzman through their Playtone production banner. Rita Wilson will also produce along with Fredrik Wikstrom Nicastro for his Nordic major Sf Studios.

“A Man Called Ove” was nominated for two Academy Awards earlier this year and was the highest-grossing foreign language film in the United States in 2016. In addition, the film was awarded best comedy at the European Film Awards in 2016.

Related

Watch Tom Hanks and James Corden’s School Bus Version of Carpool Karaoke

Fredrik Backman’s debut novel became an international sensation following its 2012 publication, hitting No 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and remaining on the list for a consecutive 77 weeks. It has been translated into 43 languages.

“This story about love, tolerance and hope amplifies the qualities in movies that are »


- Justin Kroll

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Luc Besson, EuropaCorp Face Day of Reckoning With Shareholders Over Flop of ‘Valerian’

2 hours ago

EuropaCorp has weathered storms before, notably after the flop of Luc Besson’s pricey “Arthur” animated franchise in 2010. But the studio, with record losses of $135 million during the last financial year, is now facing a crisis of much larger scope, as the numbers for sci-fi epic “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” trickle in.

The failure of “Valerian” to live up to expectations has forced Besson’s 18-year-old company, whose stock has dropped by more than 40% since July, to rethink its strategy and scale back its impressive ambitions. As executives gird for a Sept. 27 shareholders meeting, EuropaCorp is now focused on slashing overhead and shrinking its lineup of films, sources close to the company say.

After posting a $44 million loss in 2010, EuropaCorp began concentrating on building a slate of English-language movies to raise its global profile and seek bigger profits. The strategy worked with the three action-packed pics in the “Taken” franchise and Besson’s »


- Elsa Keslassy

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Disney Names Rebecca Campbell Its New Chief for Europe, Middle East, and Africa

2 hours ago

Disney has appointed veteran executive Rebecca Campbell president of its business across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Staring in January, she will replace Diego Lerner, who has been Disney’s Emea chief since 2009 and is returning to his native Argentina, taking an unspecified international role at the company.

Campbell, a 20-year employee at Disney, moves from domestic to international, transitioning from her role as president of the ABC’s U.S. local station group and ABC Daytime. She will be based in London and report to Disney’s international chairman, Andy Bird.

“Rebecca’s ability to manage and lead the many disparate and geographically diverse stations across the U.S. with such incredible success makes her the best choice to lead our efforts in such a complex region,” Bird said. “Given Rebecca’s leadership role in the ever-changing media and entertainment landscape, she is uniquely positioned for success. Her combination of creative experience, leadership »

- Stewart Clarke

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Film Review: William Friedkin’s ‘The Devil and Father Amorth’

3 hours ago

In “The Devil and Father Amorth,” director William Friedkin, still hale and hearty and hectoring at the age of 81, returns to the subject of his most legendary film, “The Exorcist.” The new movie is a documentary built around a video, recorded by Friedkin in 2016, of what purports to be an actual exorcism. If you think that sounds like material that’s ripe for a musty old episode of “Unsolved Mysteries,” you’d be right. But if you claim that you aren’t just a wee bit curious as to whether you’re going to get to witness something…demonic, you’re probably lying. “The Devil and Father Amorth” is Friedkin’s shot-on-the-cheap, reality-based version of a “Mondo Cane” stunt, yet for 68 minutes (it’s that short), it is often an oddly compelling tabloid foray, since it winds up shedding a crucial ray of light on the mad moment we’re in now. Whether »


- Owen Gleiberman

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Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ Trailer Depicts an Epic Journey to Find a Missing Pup (Watch)

3 hours ago

The stakes are set in the official trailer for Wes Anderson’s new stop-motion animated film “Isle of Dogs.”

The movie takes place in Japan, 20 years in the future. A canine saturation has reached “epidemic proportions,” the voicer in the trailer explains. And an outbreak of dog flu causes the government to take emergency orders — the dogs are banished to trash island.

“I don’t think I can stomach any more of this garbage,” one dogs says, as a pack of others agree.

Related

Wes Anderson’s Next Movie ‘Isle of Dogs’ Gets Poster, Premiere Date

Then, a young boy comes to the island in search of his lost pooch, Spot.

“We’ll find him. Wherever he is. If he’s alive. We’ll find your dog,” the other dogs console the boy.

Isle of Dogs” is Anderson’s first directorial effort since 2014’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” He has worked with stop-motion animation before in 2009’s »


- Seth Kelley

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Samuel Goldwyn Films Nabs Toronto-Venice Prizewinner ‘Sweet Country’ From Memento (Exclusive)

6 hours ago

Warwick Thornton’s critically lauded “Sweet Country,” a Western set in the Australian Outback, has been acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films, Variety has learned. The deal is for North American rights.

Sweet Country” won the top prize at Toronto’s Platform, the festival’s only competitive section. At the Venice Film Festival, where it world-premiered, the film won the Special Jury Prize. “Sweet Country” will next compete at the BFI London Film Festival and is generating buzz as a potential Oscar contender.

Memento Films International, which represents “Sweet Country” in international markets, has now sold the film nearly worldwide, including in the U.K. (Thunderbird Releasing), France (The Jokers), Spain (Wanda), Benelux (Cherry Pickers), Italy (102 Distribution), Switzerland (Praesens), Greece (One From The Heart), Turkey (Filmarti), Eastern Europe (HBO), Hungary (Ads Services), Romania (Macondo), former Yugoslavia (Megacom), Bulgaria (Bulgaria Film Vision), China (Lemon Tree) and Middle East (Falcon Films).

Set in Australia’s rugged Northern Territory, “Sweet Country »


- Elsa Keslassy and Brent Lang

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Toronto Film Review: ‘The Motive’

7 hours ago

The idea that art should be taken from life is taken all too literally by a protagonist with no imagination whatsoever in “The Motive.” This adaptation of prominent Spanish scribe Javier Cercas’ short novel revolves around a would-be author who begins manipulating people in his apartment building to provide fodder for the fiction he’s always wanted to write.

There’s an undeniable lurid pull to this premise and its increasingly odd progress. But director Manuel Martin Cuena’s neutral tone does little to maximize the black comedy or suspense in the story, making for a film with a great hook that plays as just a mildly outré divertissement. Nonetheless, it won the Fipresci critics’ prize at Toronto in the Special Presentations category.

Alvaro (Javier Gutierrez) is a 40-ish notary who toils daily in a particularly irksome law office, yet has always dreamed of being an author. It’s more annoying, then, »


- Dennis Harvey

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Film Review: ‘Boston’

8 hours ago

The resiliency of the Boston Marathon, both historically and in the wake of the 2013 terrorist bombing at its finish line, is roundly celebrated in “Boston,” whose title directly suggests the fundamental relationship shared between the race and its city. Breaking little ground but functioning as a handy primer on the event’s century-plus ups and downs, as well as its efforts to rebound from the tragedy that befell it four years earlier, Jon Dunham’s documentary gracefully achieves its admirable ends. Whether seen in L.A. theaters when it screens Sept. 22 or later at home, it’s a worthy tribute bound to illuminate and inspire.

The doc begins with race director Dave McGillivray, local officials and former champions discussing the importance — and logistical organizational hurdles — of the 2014 iteration. The need to safeguard participants and spectators predictably proves to be of primary importance, although Dunham’s film isn’t really interested in the nitty-gritty of how those ends »


- Nick Schager

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Why China’s ‘Wolf Warriors II’ Is Enjoying Surprising Success in Hong Kong

8 hours ago

To the surprise of some, China’s top-grossing film of all time, “Wolf Warriors II,” has been better received in Hong Kong compared to previous Chinese propaganda movies. The film’s modest success in Hong Kong theaters comes despite its unabashedly patriotic content, of a kind which in the past was strongly rejected by residents of the former British colony.

Wolf Warriors II” scored Hk$2.6 million ($333,000) during its opening Sept. 7-10 weekend, putting it fourth among new releases. The weekend’s winners were “It,” with Hk$3.97 million ($509,000), and “American Made,” which took $461,000. Also outranking “Wolf Warriors II” was “The Sinking City: Capsule Odyssey,” a dark comedy about the absurdity of the Hong Kong property market. It earned $448,000.

“Hong Kong audiences always show less interest in mainland Chinese films, particularly those revolving around a patriotic theme. Hong Kong audiences look for entertainment or stories they can identity with,” says Pierre Lam, a »


- Vivienne Chow

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Toronto Film Review: ‘Vampire Clay’

8 hours ago

In “Y Is for Youth,” his segment in the horror anthology “The ABCs of Death 2,” makeup artist-cum-director Soichi Umezama turned a teenager’s malevolent fantasies against her careless, neglectful parents into a five-minute showcase for his hand-crafted stop-motion creations: A woman transformed into a rabid dog, a french-fry vacuum cleaner head, a screen-filling middle finger. Umezama’s first feature, “Vampire Clay,” is 16 times longer and half as inventive, despite a premise that’s irresistibly silly and a central effect that’s infinitely malleable in its possibilities. A sinister pile of modeling clay could be anything, after all, but Umezama’s ersatz “Evil Dead 2” knockoff imagines few compelling forms for a plasticine demon that terrorizes a rural art school. Despite a high-profile launch at Tiff’s Midnight Madness and Fantastic Fest, the film’s shoddy craftsmanship stands to limit its schlock appeal.

The notion of “vampire clay” is a fun thought experiment, and »


- Scott Tobias

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Toronto Film Review: ‘The Journey’

8 hours ago

Several dramas in recent years have attempted to fathom the mindset of a suicide bomber. Iraqi-Dutch director Mohamed Al-Daradji comes up with a different, emotionally accessible approach in “The Journey” by surrounding his fictive terrorist’s mission within a panoply of train-station humanity, a gambit that at times is strongly reminiscent of vintage neorealist slices of life. Expertly juggling suspense and various narrative strands, never quite succumbing to the sentimentality it sometimes flirts with, this compact microcosmic tale should win over audiences on the festival circuit, and quite possibly beyond.

A young woman who says she’s called Sara (Zahraa Gandour) removes her headscarf before entering Baghdad Central Station in late 2006, when the facility is about to re-open after years of devastation. The place is crawling with military, police and other security. Grim-faced, she does her best to blend into the crowd while examining those unlucky travelers, peddlers and others who are unknowingly about to become part »


- Dennis Harvey

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Hong Kong Picks ‘Mad World’ for Oscar Consideration

9 hours ago

Hong Kong has selected mental-illness drama “Mad World” as its contender for the foreign-language film category of the Academy Awards. The selection was made by the Federation of Motion Film Producers.

Directed by Wong Chun, “Mad World” tells the story of a truck driver who cares for his bipolar adult son.

Despite its difficult subject matter and raw approach, it became a surprise hit on the indie circuit. It won the top prize at the Osaka Asian Film Festival in March. The following month it collected three prizes at the Hong Kong Film Awards, including best new director.

The film’s production was supported by the Hong Kong government’s First Feature Film Initiative (Fffi) for new talent.

The selectors worked from a short list of four films. The other titles were “Chasing the Dragon,” “Ferryman” (aka “See You Tomorrow”) and “Soul Mate.”

Related storiesOscars: Predicting This Year's Best Picture LandscapeWhy China's 'Wolf Warriors II' Is Enjoying »


- Patrick Frater

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Taiwan Picks Lesbian Documentary ‘Small Talk’ as Oscar Contender

9 hours ago

Taiwan has selected documentary “Small Talk” as its contender in the Academy Awards foreign-language film category. 

Directed by Huang Hui-Chen, the film is “a meditative exploration” into Huang and her lesbian mother’s past as a priestess and absentee parent. The film won the Teddy Award in Berlin earlier this year for best documentary.

Other films shortlisted for contention included Midi Z’s “The Road to Mandalay” and Chi Hsien-Jer’s “White Ant.”

Related storiesOscars: Predicting This Year's Best Picture LandscapeHong Kong Picks 'Mad World' for Oscar ConsiderationAre You Ready for the Most Exciting Oscar Race in Years? »


- Patrick Frater

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San Sebastián: Antonio Méndez Esparza Talks Race, Class and Understanding in ‘Life and Nothing More’

13 hours ago

Selected by Variety’s chief film critics as one of their 10 best movies at Toronto, “Life and Nothing More” turns on a struggling African-American family in northern Florida, its frustrated single mother (Regina Williams) and teen son Andrew (Andrew Bleechington), written off as a juvenile delinquent. Variety talked to director Antonio Mendez Esparza (“Here and There”) about the Toronto-festival bowing film, which is produced by Pedro Hernández.

Would you see “Life and Nothing More” as a coming of age film about family and its need for reconciliation? 

I’m glad you see the film that way. This film started out as the story of a single mother who works in a Walmart.  Along the way, it transformed. For me, when you stop filming, you stop looking. When you film, your gaze crystalizes, you hunt and capture, you aim to understand, to share, to aim to reveal truths and intimacies.

How did you come to make “Life and »


- John Hopewell

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