18 items from 2014
Spike Lee’s had a tough few years. While “Red Hook Summer” got decent notices and made a splash at Sundance that year, the indie picture was far from box-office hit, even as specialty pictures are concerned (it could not crack $350K theatrically, but of course the picture made most of its money on VOD). Then there was his “Oldboy” remake, which was a flat out bomb, and then his latest film… well, the jury is still out on that one, but there is some good news. Lee’s next project, the Kickstarter funded “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus,” has found theatrical distribution, and Gravitas Films will release the movie in 2015. It’s a loose remake of Bill Gunn’s 1973 horror cult film “Ganja & Hess.” Here’s the official synopsis: A Spike Lee Joint, Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus is a new kind of love story, one that centers on »
- Edward Davis
20 Feet from Stardom showcases some incredible talent. Women who had been hidden away were brought to the forefront by director Morgan Neville who ensured they would have their day. Unlike many singers featured, whose experience was in a time whereby supporting vocalists were integral to pop stars, Judith Hill emerged later. Considerably younger and only emerging after 2007, she has worked with Elton John, Barry Manilow, Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart and Robbie Williams. She was due to support Michael Jackson on the This is It tour, and featured in the film singing “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” alongside the King of Pop.
- Simon Columb
This list originally ran in August 2012, tied to Red Hook Summer, Lee's 21st theatrical film. In the two years since, Lee has released a remake (Oldboy), a Michael Jackson documentary (Bad 25), and filmed Mike Tyson's one-man Broadway show (Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth). This week marks the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. Spike Lee has been making films for a quarter century, and while he's had both misfires and masterpieces, the one thing you can say about his films is that they are never, ever boring. We went through the Lee canon and ruthlessly ranked his films, from worst to best. We included only his theatrical releases (Lee has made several television documentaries and even a TV pilot) with one notable exception, because it's one of his masterworks. Read on to see our choices, and then weigh in with your own rankings below. (Read »
- Will Leitch,Tim Grierson
The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya? “Do the Right Thing Turns 25, and Bam Hosts the Block Party” — Michelle Orange at The Village Voice braves the heat and sweltering chaos to look back on Spike Lee’s breakout moment and his work since. “Review: Spike Lee’s Kickstarter Exploitation B-Movie Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” — After a look into the past, Rodrigo Perez looks into Lee’s future, and grimaces. “But nothing about Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus is remotely subtle. Lee’s dealbreaking problem is the movie wants to be everything at once, and thus its tenor is disastrously incoherent and inconsistent. Equal parts self-serious drama with religious overtones, overwrought melodrama/romance, silly comedy and horror movie, tone is a serious problem for Lee’s picture; imagine Napoleon playing a drunken game of Risk, that »
- Scott Beggs
Although Spike Lee has made it clear from the start that his Kickstarter-funded “blood addiction” drama “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” isn’t a remake of 1972’s blaxploitation “Blacula,” it turns out that the closely guarded project is in fact a remake — at times scene for scene and shot for shot — of “Ganja and Hess,” playwright and filmmaker Bill Gunn’s landmark 1973 indie that used vampirism as an ingenious metaphor for black assimilation, white cultural imperialism and the hypocrisies of organized religion. Four decades on, “Ganja” still packs a primal punch, whereas Lee’s version serves as a gory yet oddly bloodless affair that’s been made with a lot of craft and energy but ultimately little sense of purpose. Lee’s name assures a certain amount of exposure for this hybrid arthouse/grindhouse attraction, but not that much more than his recent, far superior “Red Hook Summer.”
Coming on »
- Scott Foundas
As a distinctive voice in American culture, Spike Lee remains a more vibrant presence than ever. His record behind the camera has been spotty of late, but made on a shoestring with Kickstarter funding, the supernatural quasi-vampire drama "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus" proves it’s worth sticking with Lee -- even when the final result isn’t as good as the energy fueling it. A Difficult Track RecordLee's last few narrative credits were disheartening in the context of his earlier successes. "Red Hook Summer" marked a messy attempt to resurrect the community of "Do the Right Thing," though it occasionally overcame its shortcomings as Lee’s mixture of sympathy and affection for life in the projects burst through the melodramatic exterior. His "Oldboy" remake, released last fall, suffered from the opposite problem: It was slick but soulless. With "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus," Lee consolidates some of the best »
- Eric Kohn
Filmmaker Spike Lee continues to keep audiences on their toes. He’s seemingly always got one documentary in the works (the next is “Go Brazil Go”), he hasn’t strayed far from his indie roots (“Red Hook Summer”) and he won’t shy away from a big budget remake either (“Oldboy”). The 25th anniversary of “Do The Right Thing” is right around the corner (it's screening at Bam as part of BAMCinemafest soon). And then of course there’s his upcoming crowdsourced Kickstarter film, “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus.” Not a lot is known about this one and there’s certainly an element of mystery to it. The only synopsis Lee will unveil is that it's about "Human beings who are addicted to Blood. Funny, Sexy and Bloody. A new kind of love story (and not a remake of 'Blacula')." Though Lee also once said, “The reason I have not »
- Rodrigo Perez
Spike Lee has had better points in his career than this one. It's a full eight years since his last legitimate hit, "Inside Man," and recent attempts at a comeback have ended up disappointing somewhat: John Boyega-starring HBO show "Da Brick" didn't get picked up beyond a pilot, indie "Red Hook Summer" failed to find much of an audience, and last year's "Oldboy" was a critical and commercial washout. But you can't keep a great director down, and Lee didn't hang about: even before "Oldboy" hit theaters, the filmmaker had taken to Kickstarter to raise the budget for another movie, called "Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus," a rare dip into the horror genre that promises to be his own unique spin on the vampire movie, described by the filmmaker as being about "human beings who are addicted to blood. Funny, sexy and bloody." The film's mostly under wraps still, »
- Oliver Lyttelton
Jaden Smith (The Karate Kid, After Earth), the fifteen-year-old son of Will Smith, and Liev Schreiber signed on to star in "The Good Lord Bird," based on a best-selling book by James McBride (Miracle at St Anna, Red Hook Summer). Plot: Henry "Onion" Shackleford (Smith) is a young slave who links up with radical abolitionist John Brown (Schreiber) in 1856 Kansas and travels the nation with Brown's motley crew of freedom fighters. Story is told with a satirical bent through the eyes of Onion, who wears a dress and is at first mistaken for a girl, as he bears witness to Brown's historic campaign and encounters the likes of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman en route to the bloody Harper's Ferry raid that helped spark the Civil War. The book made Publishers Weekly's Top 10 Books of the Year list and has drawn comparisons to Mark Twain's classic novel "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. »
So, let's say you've optioned the critically acclaimed, National Book Award-winning novel "The Good Lord Bird" by James McBride. Now you're on the tough path of development, hoping to find somebody to finance, produce and distribute the slavery-era drama, and you want to put together an attractive package to lure deep pocket investors. And now, let's pretend you cast Jaden Smith. Curiously, it's McBride himself who is producing the film (he's also the screenwriter of "Miracle At St. Anna" and "Red Hook Summer," Fyi) so we'll give him the benefit here of seeing something in Smith that we clearly, do not. Liev Schreiber is also on board for this tale of a young slave and an abolitionist who team up and travel the country, trying to survive. Here's the Amazon synopsis: Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. »
- Kevin Jagernauth
The darkest chapter in American history has always been ripe for the Hollywood treatment, but after Steve McQueen’s searing 12 Years A Slave took Best Picture at the Oscars earlier this year, it seems clearer than ever that there’s still a large appetite for movies about slavery. Luckily, the next star-studded movie about the subject won’t be quite as painful to watch as 12 Years A Slave. Deadline is reporting that Liev Schreiber and Jaden Smith have signed on to star in an adaptation of James McBride’s satirical slavery novel The Good Lord Bird.
McBride’s novel, which won him the 2013 National Book Award, centers on a cross-dressing slave named Little Onion (Smith), a young boy mistaken for a girl when rescued from his master by famed abolitionist John Brown (Schreiber). Together, they set out on a journey across the country, encountering individuals like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass »
- Isaac Feldberg
In November, when it was announced that the slavery-era novel won the prestigious National Book Award For Fiction last year, I joked that, given the then interest in slave-themed films and TV series on both the big and small screens, this had a very good chance of being adapted to film as well. But I was only teasing, as I said. I never really expected it to actually become a reality. Well, it is. On Wednesday night in November 2013, author and screenwriter James McBride (Red Hook Summer, Miracle at St. Anna) was declared fiction category winner at the 2013 National Book Awards ceremony in New York, for his novel The Good Lord Bird - the memoir of a »
- Tambay A. Obenson
The Tribeca Film Festival announced its jurors for this year’s event, which runs from April 16-27. The list includes Toni Collette, Lake Bell, Whoopi Goldberg, Catherine Hardwicke, Heather Graham, Anton Yelchin, Paul Wesley and 26 other leaders of the filmmaking community.
In addition to the Festival’s main competition juries in seven categories, Tribeca named Delia Ephron, Natasha Lyonne, and Gary Ross to select the second annual Nora Ephron Prize, which awards $25,000 to a female writer or director.
Click below for the entire list of jurors, with biographical information courtesy of the Tribeca festival:
World Competition Categories
The jurors for »
- Jeff Labrecque
To enter for your chance to win, just send us an E-mail Here including your Full Name And Mailing Address. We’ll take care of the rest.
This contest will end at 12:01 Am on Tuesday, March 18, 2014.
Josh Brolin stars as a troubled advertising executive who finds himself kidnapped and held in an inescapable room in the thriller Oldboy, available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD UltraViolet on March 4th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Fans can explore the making of the film in two behind-the-scenes featurettes on the Blu-ray and DVD, »
- Uncle Creepy
Da’ Blood of Jesus
Director: Spike Lee
Writer: Spike Lee
Producer: Spike Lee’s 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
U.S. Distributor: Rights Available
While his “reimagining” of Chan Park-wook’s Oldboy was one of the biggest flops of 2013 (and, unnecessarily so), we’re still excited to see what the end product will be of Lee’s infamous Kickstarter funded film project. Details have been ominous and scant (and that glorious poster art, to die for). While his last self-funded film, 2012’s Red Hook Summer suffered from some wooden acting (though the second half of the film is actually quite well done), this marks an intriguing change of pace for Lee. While the biggest problem with the Oldboy rehash was perhaps the general lack of interest, the opposite effect should take place with the memorably titled Da’ Sweet Blood of Jesus. IMdB »
- Nicholas Bell
A hat-tip to Dylan Marchetti and his Variance Films posse for making another bold pick-up - going where others typically avoid. The company has been responsible for the releases of a handful of films we've covered on this blog - from Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer in 2012, to Terence Nance's An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty, John Sayles' Go For Sisters, and Roger Ross Williams' God Loves Uganda (the last 3 released in 2013).Today, Variance Films has announced that it will partner with director Chris Eska to release his powerful Civil War drama The Retrieval - a film we've covered quite comprehensively, reviewing »
- Tambay A. Obenson
Spike Lee's Oldboy (review) has had a really tough time of it on the road to home video, but the flick has made it through relatively unscathed. If you missed it in theatres, now's your chance to play catch-up!
From the Press Release
Academy Award® nominee Josh Brolin (Best Supporting Actor, Milk, 2008) stars as a troubled advertising executive who finds himself kidnapped and held in an inescapable room in the thriller Oldboy, available on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD UltraViolet™ March 4 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
In this gritty tale of vengeance from critically-acclaimed director Spike Lee (Inside Man), Joe Doucette (Brolin) is abruptly kidnapped and framed for the murder of his wife. After being held hostage in solitary confinement for 20 years, Doucette is released without explanation and struggles to reacclimate himself until he crosses paths with a caring social worker (Elizabeth Olsen) and sets out to find out who imprisoned him. »
- Uncle Creepy
Distributors GoDigital and Variance Films are merging and naming the new company Amplify, an all-rights film distribution company.
Marchetti will serve as Amplify’s exec VP of theatrical distribution and marketing, joining the recently hired Kent Sanderson in Amplify’s New York City office. Mulvey will function as CEO.
Amplify plans to release seven to 10 films annually with an emphasis on matching quality films with the proper release strategy. Amplify execs will be attending Sundance and looking to acquire titles.
Variance and GoDigital will continue to exist as individual brands under Amplify, with Variance partnering directly with filmmakers and GoDigital remaining a major player in the digital distribution space. Marchetti will lead Variance with Sanderson overseeing the core digital distribution business of GoDigital.
The deal was orchestrated by Kevin Iwashina on behalf of Preferred Ventures, »
- Dave McNary
18 items from 2014
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