April 19, 2014

Tag Archives: British people

“American Ultra” – Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg

Production is getting under way in New Orleans on the Lionsgate action comedy “American Ultra” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh (“Project X”) and written by Max Landis (“Chronicle”), the story revolves around a seemingly hapless and unmotivated stoner (Eisenberg) whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend (Stewart) is suddenly turned upside down when he discovers that he has a secret past as a highly trained, lethal sleeper agent. In the blink of an eye, he is forced to summon his inner action-hero in order to survive.
The cast also includes Topher Grace, Tony Hale, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman and Walton Goggins.
A PalmStar/Likely Story/Circle of Confusion production, the film is produced by Anthony Bregman (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Kevin Frakes, Raj Brinder Singh, David Alpert (“The Walking Dead”) and Britton Rizzio, with Ray Angelic as executive producer.

Theory of Everything given release date

Working Title’s romantic drama Theory of Everything starring Eddie Redmayne as theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has been given a Nov. 7 exclusive engagements domestic release date by Focus Features, CEO Peter Schlessel announced today.
Academy Award winner James Marsh (Man on Wire) helms the film, which explores the excitement of the 1960s for Hawking as he studies at Cambridge University. At the dawn of his brilliant life’s work, Hawking falls passionately in love with arts student Jane Wilde and their relationship leads him through personal and scientific challenges and breakthroughs.
The film is inspired by Wilde’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen with the screenplay written by Anthony McCarten, who is the producer on the film with Lisa Bruce (producer of Working Title’s Mary and Martha) and Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.
Redmayne (Les Misérables) will play opposite Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) in the lead roles.
The cast of Theory of Everything also includes two-time Academy Award nominee Emily Watson and David Thewlis (Harry Potter). The creative team includes cinematographer Benoît Delhomme (Lawless), production designer John Paul Kelly (About Time), costume designer Steven Noble (Under the Skin), and film editor Jinx Godfrey (marking her seventh feature with Marsh).
Mr. Schlessel commented, “This extraordinary love story between one of the greatest minds of our time, Stephen Hawking, and his first wife Jane is profoundly moving and inspirational, with heart and humor.”
Focus Features’ successful collaborations with Working Title Films have included such hits as The World’s End, Pride & Prejudice, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; and the Academy Award-winning Anna Karenina and Atonement.
Working Title Films, co-chaired by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner since 1992, is one of the world’s leading film production companies. Founded in 1983, Working Title has made over 100 films that have grossed more than $6 billion worldwide. Its films have won 10 Academy Awards, 35 BAFTA Awards, and prizes at the Cannes and Berlin International Film Festivals.
Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com) makes, acquires, and releases movies from rising and established talent and filmmakers. The company is moving forward with a diverse slate of films, with most being wide releases appealing to a range of moviegoers. Staying true to the company’s roots, the slate will also include several specialty films each year.
Currently in release from Focus Features is the subversive comedy Bad Words, directed by and starring Jason Bateman. In addition to Theory of Everything, upcoming Focus films [...]

Oscars®: Under the Skin – Scarlett Johansson – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
Written by: Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer, based on the novel by Michael Faber
Main Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, and others
Past Oscar relations: None, though Scarlett Johansson has received four Golden Globe nominations and twice came very close to Academy Award nominations
Here now is the newest article in this series on 2014 contenders hoping to compete for Oscar attention. Next up today is Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, which hopes to be the sort of heady indie contender that voters every so often can fall under the spell of. Glazer’s acclaimed Sexy Beast wasn’t able to attract enough votes, but can this one do better? Armed with an amazing performance by Scarlett Johansson and some incredible visuals/sound design, Glazer has a magnificent movie, though one that could prove to be a hard sell.
What this flick really has going in its favor is Johansson’s acting and Glazer’s ambition. She’s absolutely phenomenal here, possibly even giving the best performance of her career. It’s a brilliant turn by the talented actress, showing a brand new side to her. Glazer coaxed this out of her and it really turns heads. The film is presented in such a way that Johansson is front and center the whole time, so her success is very much the movie’s as well. She blew me away, quite frankly. In a fair world, she’d be a lock for a Best Actress nomination.
Working against Under the Skin is that the movie is very challenging and will leave some scratching their heads. Nothing is spelled out for you and a lot of the film is presented in a rather obtuse way. At times, it even comes close to pretentiousness, though it never reaches that point. Still, when you make voters work for it, sometimes they opt to just move on to something easier, and I expect that to be the case here with this one. It’s a shame too, since Johansson deserves to win an Oscar for this, but even a nomination will be hard to come by.
So, can this one be a player at all? Simply put, the odds are against it, though the independent precursors will likely love it. Basically, I’d be pretty surprised if it held on until the end of awards season in any substantial way, but stranger things have certainly happened. The flick will really have an uphill battle, but Under [...]

Thinking Out Loud: Oscar® nominees/winners and the ‘Star Wars’ casting rumors

For this week’s random assortment of Thinking Out Loud ideas, I wanted to start by focusing in on the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII casting rumors briefly. Specifically, how J.J. Abrams and company have recently seemed to be honing in on Oscar nominees and winners for the cast. I’ll have some other small things below as well, but that’s the main bent that the column will have today. Anyway, let’s get started!
-Star Wars loves awards darlings, that much seems to be true. Just look at the names being mentioned for roles in the sequel…Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Saoirse Ronan to name a few. What do all of them have in common? With the exception of Cumberbatch and Jordan, they’re all Oscar nominees, and in the case of Nyong’o, she’s an Academy Award winner to boot. If nothing else, Abrams and company seem to be meeting or at least considering folks who’ve given a few acclaimed performances over the last couple of years. That’s a good way to keep me interested this sequel, though in all honesty, we’re all going to be seeing the film, regardless.
-Could Godzilla be worth considering for some bigger Oscar categories than just the technical ones? Trust me, I’m not saying we’ve got a Best Picture nominee on our hands, but at the same time, those two trailers have been outstanding, and with an up and coming director in Gareth Edwards inspiring confidence in its potential, I’m starting to wonder if there’s at least an outside chance that we’ll discuss it at some point. Remember, a few years ago we had a similar situation with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I’m 99% sure that it won’t get that nomination (or Best Director, though I suppose a Screenplay citation is an outside possibility), but hey…you never know.
-Finally, I’m writing this from Atlantic City, where I’m spending my birthday weekend (yes, happy birthday to me), and it made me wonder what the last movie was to use the town in a contemporary setting. Was it that Nicolas Cage flick Snake Eyes? Well, I hope not. Anyway, that was on my mind when I arrived last night, so I figured I’d share it with you all. If any screenwriters are reading this, perhaps you might want to consider setting your next project here? Just a thought…
Until next weekend [...]

Oscars®: Will either of the movies about doppelgangers be up the Academy’s alley?

Today, a small movie called Enemy opened in limited release, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and, well…Jake Gyllenhaal. In May, another small flick called The Double comes out, and that one stars Jesse Eisenberg alongside, you guessed it…Jesse Eisenberg. 2014 seems to be the year of the doppelganger, in addition to biblical epics as I mentioned a week or so ago. These are acting showcases through and through, so could Oscar bite for one or both of them? Honestly, I think they’re both too offbeat and weird for Academy attention, so instead of doing specific preview pieces on them and just going through the motions of talking about a likely to be ignored pair of films, I wanted to sort of discuss both of them a bit here in this sort of an article. These could be independent contenders for other awards, so it’s important to give the pair a moment in the sun here, if nothing else.
First up we have Enemy, which is partially notable for being the other movie that Gyllenhaal shot with his Prisoners director Denis Villenueve (and actually was filmed first, though it’s coming out this year as opposed to last…both played festivals around the same time however). Written by Javier Gullón and costarring Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon, this is a very dreamlike and Kafka-esque (you’ll understand why if you see it) look at identity. Gyllenhaal plays a teacher who sees a doppelganger of his when watching a movie and set out to meet the man. Things obviously don’t go as intended. This is a psychosexual thriller of sorts and about as far from mainstream as it gets. That being said, it’s impeccably made by Villenueve and expertly acted, so an open minded audience member or Oscar voter could find something to like here, particularly in terms of Gyllenhaal’s performance(s).
Now we come to The Double, which is co-written (along with Avi Korine) and directed by Richard Ayoade. Eisenberg costars here with Sally Hawkins, Wallace Shawn, Mia Wasikowska, Chris O’Dowd, and Noah Taylor, to name a few. This is a pitch black comedy about a meek office drone driven mad by the appearance of a smooth talking doppelganger who at first seems interested in helping him before attempting to take over his life. This is very much a dark comedy that almost seems uninterested in laughs, so that immediately will turn off some voters, but Eisenberg has rarely [...]

Oscars: Get to know the Best Supporting Actress race

Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine, Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave, Julia Roberts for August: Osage County, and June Squibb for Nebraska
Notable precursor wins: Lawrence wins BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards, while Nyong’o wins Broadcast Film Critics and Screen Actors Guild Awards
Current frontrunner: Jennifer Lawrence (by a hair)
Next in line: Lupita Nyong’o (super close behind)
Dark horse: June Squibb (way behind)
Wrapping up my “Get to know” series, we now have the final piece of the puzzle as we focus today on the Best Supporting Actress race. As you can see in the vital statistics above, the gentlemen making up this category are Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine, Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle, Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave, Julia Roberts for August: Osage County, and June Squibb for Nebraska. Two of these ladies are way out in front, with predictions split between them. One’s got to emerge victorious though, so which one will it be?
From the very first of the precursors, it’s been a back and forth between Lawrence and Nyong’o. They’ve split the important precursors evenly, while both also picked up critics group attention in a big way. They’re all but tied, which means that something’s gotta give. Will Academy voters go full steam ahead in making Lawrence their new Oscar darling or will they crown Nyong’o instead, embracing a new face? It could go either way folks, though the late momentum has ever so slightly favored Lawrence.
Now then, one of them has to win, right? By a slim majority, my colleagues seem to be predicting Nyong’o, but my gut feeling is that Lawrence pulls it out in the end. An absolute shock would have Squibb sneaking in at the last minute, but I wouldn’t count on that. A Nyong’o win wouldn’t surprise me in the least, but I’m seeing a Lawrence victory at this current juncture. We’ll know for a sure in just a few days though…
That’s it for these categories, so stay tuned for the Academy Awards on Sunday night to see what actually happens!

Oscars: Get to know the Best Actor race

Best Actor
Nominees: Christian Bale for American Hustle, Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
Notable precursor wins: Dern wins National Board of Review Award, DiCaprio wins Golden Globe Award (Comedy), Ejiofor wins BAFTA Award, and McConaughey wins Broadcast Film Critics Association, Golden Globe (Drama), and Screen Actors Guild Awards
Current frontrunner: Matthew McConaughey
Next in line: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Dark horse: Bruce Dern
Time for the next version of my “Get to know” series, as we turn our attention now to the Best Actor race. As you can see above, the gentlemen making up this category are Christian Bale for American Hustle, Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. This was a wide open and highly competitive race for most of the season, though lately the tide has greatly turned in McConaughey’s favor. Right now, he’s the odds on favorite to win the Oscar.
Basically, once the crowded field competing to be nominated was whittled down to these five, things clarified a bit. Bale was just happy to be nominated, while the other four shuffled back and forth a bit. Then, the major precursors really rallied around McConaughey, resulting in his current frontrunner status. Dern hasn’t had a win in a while that gives him much of a shot, while DiCaprio and Ejiofor have some, but not nearly on the level of McConaughey.
Now, with the Academy Awards just days away, McConaughey is the smart bet for Best Actor. If there’s going to be an upset, it’s going to be from Ejiofor. A Dern or DiCaprio win would be shocking at this point. Still, Ejiofor is pretty far behind McConaughey, so look for him to pick up a statue on Sunday evening. Anything could happen, but things seem pretty cut and dried now to me…
Stay tuned for the rest of the acting categories this week, with Best Actress up next!

Oscars: Get to know a Best Picture nominee: “Philomena”

Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written by: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
Main cast members: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Peter Hermann, and Sean Mahon
Number of Oscar nominations in total: 4
Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Actress (Dench), Best Adapted Screenplay (Coogan and Pope), and Best Original Score
Notable precursor wins: Won Best Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTA Awards and Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival last year
Chances at winning Best Picture: Rather slim, though there’s supposedly a late surge going on to at least give it a long shot chance at a huge upset
Chances at other Academy Award wins: It’s potentially going to be shut out, though Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score are certainly in play
ANALYSIS OF OTHER OSCAR NOMINEES: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, HER, and Nebraska
Philomena is the eighth (and second to last) film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s another nominee that realistically has to look at the nomination itself as the only surefire reward it can count on here. Yes, co-writer/co-star Steve Coogan and his partner Jeff Pope could swoop in and steal Best Adapted Screenplay (while Best Original Score is an open field), but Judi Dench is way behind in Best Actress, so there’s nothing for this movie to hang its hat on. Still, it’s a crowd pleaser for the most part, and that’s always a dangerous contender in Best Picture, so be aware of that.
Working in Philomena’s favor is the Harvey Weinstein factor. Weinstein and his brother Bob have had some tremendous success running The Weinstein Company, especially when it comes to getting their films recognized. They pulled a bit of a rabbit out of their hats getting a Best Picture nominee for this flick and since then have been working overtime to make the case that this movie deserves to win. While Best Picture is a hard sell, they can certainly make the argument that the film should be recognized somewhere, which is why Best Adapted Screenplay is in play. If enough of the older and female voters (which is where the campaign is focused) are taken with this flick, I suppose anything is possible, considering how it’s made so many moves late in the game.
If you’re looking for something that’s not in this film’s favor, it’s the fact that it has the fewest nominations [...]

Roger Deakins won’t be returning to shoot the next James Bond film

I don’t know about any of you, but one of my absolute favorite parts of the last James Bond film Skyfall was the cinematography of Roger Deakins. Arguably the most talented director of photography in the business, Deakins is an absolute master and rightly was nominated for an Oscar for his work on that movie. That was his tenth Academy Award nomination at the time, and he’s since added another one this year for Prisoners. Sadly, he still hasn’t won, though it’s possible that he could pull an upset and finally score a win next month (don’t count on it though). Still, the job he did on Skyfall with director Sam Mendes was stunning, so I was looking forward to seeing them team up again on the sequel/next installment of the franchise. Alas, it appears like that won’t be happening.
Yes, reports have come out today stating that Deakins won’t be joining Mendes on the movie, most likely due to scheduling conflicts. He’s obviously one of the most in demand cinematographers in the business, so it stands to reason that the allure of something new trumped coming back to shoot a sequel. It obviously puts a bit of a damper on the Skyfall sequel, but with Deakins likely going to be teaming up with his longtime collaborators Joel and Ethan Coen again soon (though there’s nothing official about a new project for them right now), there’s a potential bright side to this news at least.
If you’re looking for when Deakins could finally win his long deserved Oscar, it could be next year for his work on the Angelina Jolie-directed World War II flick Unbroken, which could have some amazing visual components. That’s clearly putting the cart before the horse though, so I’ll steer clear of that for now, but keep that possibility in the back of your minds.
Regardless, this is our first Bond related news in a while, so that’s something, though it’s not exactly the most ideal news. We’ll all be there no matter who shoots the picture though, so it’s not exactly a deal breaker or anything of the sort. The technical prowess of Skyfall just spoiled us is all…

Oscars®: Get to know a Best Picture nominee: “12 Years a Slave”

12 Years a Slave
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Written by: John Ridley
Main cast members: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, and Alfre Woodard
Number of Oscar nominations in total: Nine
Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Director (McQueen), Best Actor (Ejiofor), Best Supporting Actor (Fassbender), Best Supporting Actress (Nyong’o), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ridley), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing
Notable precursor wins: Tied for Best Picture at the Producers Guild of America Awards, won Best Drama at the Golden Globe Awards, won Best Supporting Actress at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and and USC Scripter Award.
Chances at winning Best Picture: One of the top three contenders and main frontrunners for the award
Chances at other Academy Award wins: Frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay races

12 Years a Slave is the first film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s one of the main contenders in the category. The film is about the true life tale of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was tricked into slavery and kept for the dozen years that gives the movie its name. Ever since it was announced that the film was being made, pundits like myself speculated that it was going to be an awards juggernaut. Well, it didn’t disappoint and after being the most cited flick among the precursor season, it’s now one of the most nominated films by the Academy and deep in the fight for Best Picture.
Working in 12 Years a Slave’s favor is that it is basically a universally beloved film. There might be more passionate support for other contenders, but it’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t think that the movie is at least very good, if not great. That creates a situation where voters are basically assured of placing it high up on their ballot. Consensus is the key to victory in this category, and this is a flick that will not want for number one votes. The question is simply if the other two main competitors (American Hustle and Gravity) can amass a wider range of Academy members to vote for them as opposed to this one.
If you’re looking for something that’s not in this film’s favor, it’s [...]

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