June 30, 2016

Tag Archives: Entertainment/Culture

“The Fault in Our Stars” – Shailene Woodley: Awards Race

Directed by: Josh Boone
Written by: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (based on the novel by John Green)
Main Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, Mike Birbiglia, and others…
Past Oscar relations: Willem Dafoe is a two time Best Supporting Actor nominee, for Platoon and Shadow of the Vampire
Here now we have a brand new article in this series of mine on 2015 contenders hoping to compete for some sort of Oscar attention at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for us here is Josh Boone’s hotly anticipated adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, which looks to satisfy a legion of die hard fans and potentially branch out from there, amassing a cinematic following along the way.
This is Boone’s sophomore feature (after the very strong debut Stuck in Love), and he’s working for the first time with top notch scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (who I praised heartily a few days ago here). They’re all adapting the smash hit novel of the same name by John Green. Rising star Shailene Woodley takes the lead role, while the second lead goes to up and comer Ansel Elgort. Supporting players include Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern, and Nat Wolff in this romantic drama about teens dealing with cancer. It could have been manipulative and rang false, like some of the lesser melodramas out there, but with a deft touch by all involved, this one turned out pretty terrifically. Now, it can look to see if Oscar glory can be in its future.
What this flick has going in its favor is just how powerful it is and the strength of the acting/writing. Woodley gives what I think might be the best performance of her career so far and the screenwriting duo of Neustadter and Weber really outdo themselves in translating this tricky material to the screen in a way that feels totally organic. Costars Dern and especially Elgort are standouts as well, but Woodley really does blow you away here. Some of her best scenes are ones I think might be up there at the end of the year for me. Boone’s direction is tender and without artifice, which only increases the effectiveness of the script. Along with a soundtrack that’s among the best of 2014 so far, there’s tons to draw in a curious voter. If members of the Academy give it a shot, I […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Tom Cruise

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at a real A-lister, and that happens to be Tom Cruise. For some, he’s become just an aging action hero, while others long for the days when he still did drama. Personally, I’m still enamored with the star power of Cruise in anything he does. He also happens to be an underrated actor, which you wouldn’t have believed just a decade ago when he seemed poised to finally win an Oscar. Yes, he does seem mostly geared towards action these days, but Cruise built his career working with A-list filmmakers. He got to the top by acting in the movies of the best in the business.
Cruise has worked with a lot of top notch directors over his career. Names like J.J. Abrams, Paul Thomas Anderson, Brad Bird, Cameron Crowe, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann, Robert Redford, Rob Reiner, Martin Scorsese, Tony Scott, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, John Woo, and Edward Zwick litter his resume, and they’re not the only ones. This weekend’s Edge of Tomorrow adds Doug Liman to that list as well. If you look at his best performances, they often come from real auteurs like Anderson, Crowe, Kubrick, and Spielberg. I’d argue that the man has never given a bad performance, but those top tier ones have come from the biggest names in Hollywood.
If you look at his work, he’s shown an ability to do just about everything. He’s obviously become a tremendous movie star, and it was partially because he wasn’t pigeonholed. He was an action star in films like the Mission: Impossible franchise and something like Top Gun, a romantic lead in comedy/dramedy work like Jerry Maguire and Risky Business, a dramatic lead in awards bait like Born on the Fourth of July and Rain Man, and even could completely disappear into a supporting role in films like Magnolia and Tropic Thunder (where he demonstrated real comedy chops too). I’d argue there’s nothing that the man can’t do. He just needs to mix it up more. I’m fully confident that if he committed himself to doing a drama or an indie film every other year or so, he’d have another Oscar nomination before long and he’d probably be on pace to eventually win himself an Academy Award.
Overall, Cruise is an incredibly talented actor who still has a ton of miles still to […]

Bennett Miller: 2015 Best Director contenders

As you folks all know, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions at this point in the year in order to see what folks like myself think will happen six months from now, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know something about what will be in contention. To help out in that regard, I’m running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket.
Today I’m continuing with the second biggest one out there…Best Director.
Here are the ten filmmakers that I have in play for Best Director, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point:
1. Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) – I have Miller in the top spot for Foxcatcher due to how well received it was at the Cannes Film Festival. The director himself took home a prize, and for an awards bait American movie to do that, it shows some potentially strong legs to me. Miller is probably the closest thing to a lock that we have so far this year.
2. Angelina Jolie (Unbroken) – It’s basically a tie between Jolie and Miller for me, but I give the Foxcatcher director the edge due to his aforementioned Best Director win at Cannes. Without that, I’d probably have Jolie in the top spot. Her directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey showed off her skills and this war film seems tailor made for the Academy. If she nails it, she’s a surefire nominee in the directing category.
3. David Fincher (Gone Girl) – I think we can all agree that Fincher is going to win an Oscar one day, it’s just a matter of when. While I doubt he’ll be able to do it this year, he seems like he’ll very much be in contention for a nomination at least here. A lot will depend on if this is a Best Picture player or not. If it is, my guess is that he makes it in here.
4. Jason Reitman (Men, Women, & Children) […]

“Cinema Paradiso”: The Top 25 (Best Foreign Language Feature)

Here we go again folks with another Top 25 today. This time around I’ll be taking a break from the technical categories (partially because there’s only one more of those left to hit), this time going with a mini-major, as it were. What would that be, you ask? Well, this would be the rather eclectic Best Foreign Language Feature field. The category is one that usually has a more interesting list of nominees than the eventual winner that’s chosen, but there’s still lots more to it than that and plenty to like. The winners over the years have been very unique, with certain choices being almost downright inspired on the part of Oscar voters. I have a few specific titles I’ll be citing below in detail, but I know how the game works here. You all mostly just want to see the lists I do anyway, so I have no problem obliging you there in that particular regard once again. All you have to do is just be patient over the next few paragraphs and you’ll get the goods…
This time around, I’m once again going to be taking the overview route, especially since a handful of these Oscar winners I haven’t seen in some time. Also, it really just comes down to taste again, with your opinion depending on what sort of winner you’re partial to here, or if there’s a certain country’s work that you’re extra fond of. There are all different sorts that have won the Academy Award here for this category, so it’s pretty much a matter of taste once again. I know at least one of my selections is fairly controversial, especially when you see how high I ranked it. It’s a film that has become a love it or hate it sort of winner. You’ll see in a second though.
I’ll basically just discuss my top ten a bit here now. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been Cinema Paradiso. Maybe some of that has to do with my grandfather being a movie projectionist for a good portion of his life and my youthful experiences there, but I stand by it as a masterpiece. Not far behind would be another masterpiece in 8½, with my top five also including Fanny and Alexander, Life is Beautiful (I stand by my love for this flick), and A Separation (the most recent […]

LB Comic Con Draws Geeks, Freaks, Fans

Darth Vader mingled. Spider Man posed. Batman signed autographs.
Comic books came to life this weekend at the bi-annual Long BeachComic Con, located in the seaside Convention Center in the heart of the city.
A scaled down version of San Diego’s uber fest, it still drew crowds of geeks, freaks and fans looking to see stars, buy memorabilia, andogle some really crazy costumes.

When asked what the hot cosplay of today is, the answer people atthe convention was nearly unanimous: Mystique, Jennifer Lawrence;s blue alterego in ‘X-Men.’ But few in attendance were willing to pull off thenaked-looking outfit. One woman said, ‘I’m on a diet for San Diego’ (to wear that costume).
Richard Hatch of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ fame signed autographswhile the 501st (Vader’s Fist the world’s leading Star Wars organization) puton realistic battle scenes in full armor and artillery. When asked about thenew Star Wars, Storm Troopers were cautiously optimistic and hoped the heartand authenticity of what makes Star Wars special is kept in tact.
Cars from films like ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘The Blues Brothers’and Michael Keaton’s ‘Batman’ were on display, along with their costumedcharacters. Even in Long Beach it was all Hollywood as Doc Brown from ?Back tothe Future? was pitching a reality show.
The two-day conference ended Sunday.

Charlize Theron is our “Hollywood Actress of the Week”

Our selected star to be included in our “Hollywood Actress of the Week Photo Gallery” is Charlize Theron.
This weekend Charlize and Seth MacFarlane are starring in “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” It’s the story of a cowardly farmer who begins to fall for the mysterious new woman in town, he must put his new-found courage to the test when her husband, a notorious gun-slinger, announces his arrival.

Following a three-year hiatus from the big screen, Theron returned to the spotlight in 2011 with Young Adult. Directed by Jason Reitman, the film earned critical acclaim especially for Theron’s performance. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and several other high profile awards. Theron played the Wicked Queen in the film Snow White & the Huntsman, which began production in 2011 and was released in 2012.
In 2011, she described her process for becoming the characters in her film:
When I’m figuring out a character, for me it’s easy, since once I say yes to something, I become super-obsessed about it – and I have an obsessive nature in general. How I want to play it starts at that moment. It’s a very lonely, internal experience. I think about all the time – I observe things, I see things and file things, everything geared to what I’m going to do. I’m obsessed with the human condition. You read the script and become obsessed with [a character’s] nature, her habits. When the camera rolls, it’s time to do my job, to do the honest truth. You can’t do that part of the work when you’re [in the middle of] making the film. At least I can’t.
In 2012, she starred in Ridley Scott’s science fiction film Prometheus. On 7 February 2013 it was announced that Theron was cast as Libby Day, the lead character in the film adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel Dark Places. The film is to be directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, and Theron will also have a producer credit.
In 2013 Vulture/NYMag named her the 68th Most Valuable Star in Hollywood saying “We’re just happy that Theron can stay on the list in a year when she didn’t come out with anything … any actress who’s got that kind of skill, beauty, and ferocity ought to have a permanent place in Hollywood.

“Kill the Messenger”: Jeremy Renner – Official Trailer

Focus Features’ upcoming film, KILL THE MESSENGER. Two-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner (‘The Bourne Legacy’) leads an all-star cast (Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Paz Vega, Michael Kenneth Williams, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Andy Garcia) in a dramatic thriller, based on the remarkable true story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb.
See official trailer below:

Two-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner (‘The Bourne Legacy?) leads an all-star cast in a dramatic thriller based on the remarkable true story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb.
Webb stumbles onto a story which leads to the shady origins of the men who started the crack epidemic on the nation’s streets, and further alleges that the CIA was aware of major dealers who were smuggling cocaine into the U.S., and using the profits to arm rebels fighting in Nicaragua.
Despite warnings from drug kingpins and CIA operatives to stop his investigation, Webb keeps digging to uncover a conspiracy with explosive implications. His journey takes him from the prisons of California to the villages of Nicaragua to the highest corridors of power in Washington, D.C. , and draws the kind of attention that threatens not just his career, but his family and his life.
Director: Michael Cuesta (‘Homeland’)
Writers: Peter Landesman, based upon the books Dark Alliance, by Gary Webb, and Kill the Messenger, by Nick Schou
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Paz Vega, Michael Kenneth Williams, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Andy Garcia
KILL THE MESSENGER opens in theaters on October 10th, 2014!

The Academy Presents Top Arab Films

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in partnership with the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), will present “Arab Cinema Classics,” a two-day screening series of the best in Arab film on Friday, June 13, and Saturday, June 21, at the Bing Theater in Los Angeles.
With input from nearly 500 prominent film critics, writers, novelists, academics and other arts professionals, DIFF in 2013 compiled a tally of the 100 greatest Arab films of all time. The Academy will screen three selections from DIFF’s Top 10:
“The Night of Counting the Years” (“Al-Mummia,” 1970)
Friday, June 13, at 7:30 p.m.
Director Shadi Abdel Salam’s film is based on the true story of the Horabat tribe’s 1881 plundering of pharaohs’ tombs in the ancient city of Thebes. Long unavailable for exhibition, the film was restored in 2009 by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation.
“Cairo Station” (“Bab el Hadid,” 1958)
Friday, June 13, at 9:20 p.m.
Directed by the internationally renowned Egyptian auteur Youssef Chahine, the film takes place at Cairo’s main railroad station, commonly referred to as the Iron Gate, and offers a tense portrait of life at the margins of Egyptian society.
“West Beirut” (“West Beyrouth,” 1998)
Saturday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m.
With special guest writer/director Ziad Doueiri
This directorial debut of Ziad Doueiri is set in the tumultuous spring of 1975, as the Lebanese Civil War unfolds. Following the lives of two teenagers from the Muslim section of Beirut, the film blends the personal and the historical into a vibrant coming-of-age drama.
The screening series is part of the Academy’s International Outreach initiative, which brings together Academy members representing a range of cinematic crafts with filmmakers and film lovers from around the world.
“The vibrancy of Arab cinema today owes much to the rich legacy and proud history of Arab filmmaking,” said Sid Ganis, chair of the International Outreach Committee. “The Academy is pleased to embrace some of the region’s most influential films and artists through this Los Angeles presentation.”
Tickets for each evening of Arab Cinema Classics is $5 general admission and $3 for Academy members, LACMA Film Club members and students with a valid ID. Tickets may be purchased starting June 3 online at www.oscars.org. The Bing Theater is located at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art campus. For more information, call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.
# # #
ABOUT DIFF
The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is the leading […]

“The Hunger Games” go mobile

Kabam, a world leader in free-to-play games for traditional players, today announced that it has partnered with Lionsgate, the premier next generation global content leader, to create a mobile game based on the global blockbuster movie franchise The Hunger Games.
Kabam will produce an exclusive role playing, card collection mobile game that will deliver the action of the blockbuster film into the hands of avid fans around the world. In the game, players assume the identity of District members sent on a mission in order to build their alliance, liberate their District, and rebuild Panem.
‘Lionsgate has an unparalleled track record of developing and producing blockbuster movie franchises like The Hunger Games,’ said Kabam Chief Operating Officer Kent Wakeford. ‘Partnering with Lionsgate, Kabam will build a mobile game that’s as much fun to play as the movie is to watch.’
The blockbuster The Hunger Games franchise, starring Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence, is a global phenomenon whose first two installments have grossed more than $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the 10th highest-grossing domestic release of all time. The next two installments of the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, will be released on November 21, 2014, and November 20, 2015, respectively.
‘We are so pleased to be working with Kabam to give the fans an experience like they have never had before,’ said Danielle DePalma, Lionsgate?s EVP of Digital Media. ?Being able to role-play with the mentors straight from the world of The Hunger Games will let fans feel as if they are in the middle of the action.?
The game will be developed in Kabam’s China studio, the same place where the hit movie based game The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth was created and went on to generate more than $100 million in revenue during its first year.
Deep Hollywood relationships and access to blockbuster intellectual property (IP) is a key differentiator for Kabam in the free-to-play games sector. Kabam is a leader in taking an established film and extending that brand into mobile and web games that create new levels of engagement for global audiences long after a movie?s theatrical run. Kabam has experienced massive growth since its founding as a games company a little more than four years ago. The company now has more than 800 employees in offices throughout North America, Europe […]

“Begin Again”: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine

A new trailer for BEGIN AGAIN, starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine is now available via The Weinstein Company. The trailer features Adam Levine singing the new song, “Lost Stars”.
The latest film from writer-director John Carney (ONCE), BEGIN AGAIN is a soul-stirring comedy about what happens when lost souls meet and make beautiful music together. Gretta (Keira Knightley) and her long-time boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) are college sweethearts and songwriting partners who decamp for New York when he lands a deal with a major label. But the trappings of his new-found fame soon tempt Dave to stray, and a reeling, lovelorn Gretta is left on her own.

Her world takes a turn for the better when Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a disgraced record-label exec, stumbles upon her performing on an East Village stage and is immediately captivated by her raw talent.
From this chance encounter emerges an enchanting portrait of a mutually transformative collaboration, set to the soundtrack of a summer in New York City. BEGIN AGAIN is produced and financed by Exclusive Media and produced by Anthony Bregman, Tobin Armbrust and Judd Apatow.

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