July 14, 2015

Tag Archives: Epic films

R.I.P. James Horner: A top tier contributor to cinematic music

It was with great sadness that we learned yesterday of the death of composer James Horner at just 61 years old. Horner died in a plane crash, piloting a small aircraft that went down a day ago in California. The composer is a multiple Oscar winner, taking home Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for Titanic, marking just one of his many collaborations with filmmaker James Cameron. All told, Horner was nominated by the Academy ten times, with various other nominations and wins to his credit. He was a well respected musician and giant in the industry, so he will certainly be missed in a big way.
Horner was cited by the Academy for his work on not just Titanic, but also Aliens, An American Tail, Apollo 13, Avatar, A Beautiful Mind, Braveheart, Field of Dreams, as well as House of Sand and Fog. All of the nods came in Best Original Score, except for ones in Best Original Song for An American Tail (the song Somewhere Out There) and with one of his wins for Titanic (for his work making My Heart Will Go On happen). Those Original Score and Original Song noms just scratch the surface of Horner’s talents, but it gives you an idea just how beloved he was in Hollywood. This is truly a loss, and that’s putting it mildly.
Here’s how I’d quickly rank his ten best scores to date, though honestly everything he did was pretty top notch. You can’t go wrong with anything of his, but these scores from Horner really stand out from the rest, at least for me. No list is wrong, but off the top of my head, this is what mine would look like:
10. Windtalkers
9. A Beautiful Mind
8. Braveheart
7. Avatar
6. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
5. Titanic
4. Deep Impact
3. Apollo 13
2. Field of Dreams
1. Aliens
Honorable Mentions: The Amazing Spider-Man, Courage Under Fire, and Legends of the Fall
That list above makes for quite a career, right? Just think, that top ten list doesn’t even include An American Tail, Courage Under Fire, Glory, House of Sand and Fog, Jumanji, The Land Before Time, Legends of the Fall, The Rocketeer, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, or Troy. You could easily go 25 deep on his catalogue and only be talking about scores that you’ll recognize as some of the industry’s best. My honorable mentions merely scratch the […]

Celebrating Star Wars The Force Awakens Photos

New images from today’s STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS panel and activities at Star Wars Celebration.
A continuation of the saga created by George Lucas set thirty years after Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS will be in theaters December 18, 2015!

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” gets a New Trailer that will give you chills

A few minutes ago, Disney dropped a cinematic bomb on us by releasing the newest Trailer for the upcoming Episode VII of the Star Wars saga. This one, called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is the start of a new trilogy and a direct sequel to the main trilogy that ended with Return of the Jedi. Having seen the Trailer (which you can scope out below), I’m frankly stunned at how good it is, particularly in terms of one specific moment at the end. I can’t help but say it right at the forefront so we can discuss…seeing Harrison Ford back as Han Solo, standing next to Chewbacca, well, it gave me chills. Filmmaker J.J. Abrams might have gold here, if not better than that. I’ve already talked about how he seems to be the right man for the job, and he’s just proving it more and more.
Of course, it’s not just a quick look at Ford and Peter Mayhew that makes this Trailer work, but it’s what I want to focus on, because it highlights the success that I think Abrams and his crew have hit on here. They’re bringing just about everyone back, so we’ll see Kenny Baker, Warwick Davis, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill in Episode VII. The nostalgia and memories evoked by them are so strong, just the look of Ford here makes you believe that it’s like seeing Star Wars for the first time again. That’s the secret that the prequels never were able to capitalize on. When you can do that, everything else just falls into place. As a reminder, the film is co-written and directed by Abrams, with other cast members besides the aforementioned Baker, Davis, Fisher, Ford, Hamill, and Mayhew including John Boyega, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Daisy Ridley, Andy Serkis, and Max von Sydow. Lawrence Kasdan also returns to the universe to co-write with Abrams. There’s very little announced plot to go on, but we do know that it’s the sixth sequel and takes place decades after Return of the Jedi. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is looking much more like it fits in with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back in the Star Wars canon than with The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. As you all know, that’s the way to do it.

Time will tell, but I have […]

Principal photography has begun on “BEN-HUR” starring Jack Huston (“AMERICAN HUSTLE”) as Judah Ben-Hur and Morgan Freeman (“THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION”)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures, a division of Viacom, Inc., announced today that principal photography has begun on “BEN-HUR” starring Jack Huston (“AMERICAN HUSTLE”) as Judah Ben-Hur, Morgan Freeman (“THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION”) as Ilderim, Toby Kebbell (“DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES”) as Messala and Nazanin Boniadi (“HOMELAND”) as Esther. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (“WANTED”) and written by Keith Clarke (“THE WAY BACK”) and John Ridley (“12 YEARS A SLAVE”), the film is based on Lew Wallace’s epic novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ. The producers are Sean Daniel (“THE MUMMY” franchise), Mark Burnett (“SON OF GOD”), Joni Levin (“THE WAY BACK”) and Duncan Henderson (“MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD”). Serving as executive producers are Roma Downey (“THE BIBLE”), Keith Clarke, John Ridley and Jason Brown. Filming will take place in Rome and Matera, Italy with the film set for release February 26, 2016.
“BEN-HUR” also stars Rodrigo Santoro (“300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE”) as Jesus Christ, Sofia Black D’Elia (“GOSSIP GIRL”) as Tirzah, Ayelet Zurer (“MAN OF STEEL”) as Naomi, Moises Arias (“ENDER’S GAME”) as Gestas and Pilou Asbæk (“LUCY”) as Pontius Pilate.
?You could not have imagined a more perfect location to shoot this epic than Italy. We can?t wait to get started,? said Bekmambetov.
The film returns to the heart of Lew Wallace’s epic novel focusing on the nature of faith. The story follows a falsely accused nobleman who survives years of slavery to take vengeance on his best friend who betrayed him. Both must come to choose between retribution or forgiveness.
Behind the scenes, the creative team includes Director of Photography, Oliver Wood (“THE BOURNE IDENTITY”), Production Designer, Naomi Shohan (“AMERICAN BEAUTY”), Costume Designer, Varvava Avdyushko (“WANTED”), Visual Effects Supervisor, Academy Award® Winner Jim Rygiel (“THE LORD OF THE RINGS” Franchise) and Special Effects Supervisor, Andy Williams (“FURY”).
MGM will handle production with Jonathan Glickman, President, Motion Picture Group and Matt Dines, Vice President, Production, overseeing the project on behalf of the studio. The film will be distributed worldwide theatrically and on home entertainment by Paramount Pictures, with select international territories as well as all television distribution to be handled by MGM.

Spotlight on the Stars: Keira Knightley

For this week’s new spotlight piece, I wanted to cite an A-lister who doesn’t quite get the credit that she deserves. That lovely lady is none other than Keira Knightley, an Academy Award nominated actress mostly known for her period piece work but capable of far more than that. In fact, she proved that earlier this year, as I’ll mention below. Regardless, she’s very talented and someone still on the upswing of her career, so she made perfect sense as the latest honoree in this series. As such, the spotlight is now shining on her today.
Knightley got her start with some British television and a tiny part in the film Innocent Lies, but the first place you’d likely have seen her is in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, where she had a small but noticeable part. There was a bit more TV and such still to come, but Knightley became a name people began talking about when she co-starred in Bend it Like Beckham. That part really launched her career, leading to slightly bigger roles and soon, a huge part in a top tier blockbuster.
She became something of an A-lister early on when she was in the smash hit epic Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Around the same time, she also charmed audiences as part of the ensemble of the now classic romantic comedy Love Actually. There was also a turn in the indie thriller The Jacket and the large scale misfire that was King Arthur, but the combination of a huge swashbuckling action adventure and the rom com to end all rom coms really made her a star. Knightley was officially a big name, which would lead to her getting a part she could really sink her teeth into. When that came along, she got into period costumes again (something she’d do from time to time in her career) and knocked the role out of the park.
Knightley would receive the biggest praise of her career to date (along with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress) with the adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that she starred in. To some the definitive version of this timeless tale, mainly due to the work that Knightley turns in. She’s terrific here, giving what many consider to be the crowning achievement of her career so far. At the very least, voters considered her worthy of the […]

Spotlight on the Stars: James Cameron

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at one of directing’s biggest A-listers of them all. The filmmaker in question? Well, that would be James Cameron, of course. A filmmaker who also does his best to literally change the world, Cameron is pretty special. In many ways, he really is the king of the world, so it’s only appropriate that we take a look at him in this particular article series. In any event, here we go now.
Cameron got his start working behind the scenes on low budget exploitation before being given a chance to direct Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. He was fired from that project, but still has a credit. If ever there was an outlier on a resume, it’s that one. From there, he set out to make a true first feature, one that turned out to be none other than The Terminator. Basically from there, he was on his way to becoming an untouchable. The Cameron we all know was born once The Terminator was a hit.
Of course, he went on to make a succession of insanely popular and technologically advanced films, starting with the high octane Alien sequel Aliens. From there, he was allowed to push the visual effects envelope with The Abyss and then make a sequel to his own work, which resulted in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Next up was a bit of a change of pace with True Lies, but then came the monster that was Titanic.
In crafting that flick, Cameron not only won Oscars, but crafted what was the highest grossing film of all time, at least until he got behind the cameras again for a narrative feature and broke records all over again with Avatar. Between those two, he directed a pair of documentaries. They are Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep, both hybrids of The Abyss and Titanic. They showcased his interest in the ocean and also technology, something that continues to this day.
This weekend, Cameron has another doc hitting screens, one called Deepsea Challenge 3D. He didn’t direct this one, but he’s basically the star in all other ways. It’s an interesting look both at his real life work and also the man as well. At the very least, it’s a good delay before he gets back into fantasy land with sequels to Avatar.
Beyond films, he’s also someone who has done […]

“The Social Network”: The Top 25 (Best Adapted Screenplay)

Here we go again folks with another Top 25 article today. This time around I’ll be tackling one of the big eight categories in an effort not to save them all for last. Adapted Screenplay field. The category is one that usually has a big tie in with Best Picture, as you’ll below to some degree. Oscar tends to like their big glossy adaptations, but they do go for some offbeat things here and there in this particular category. I have a few specific titles I’ll be citing in detail later on in this piece, but I know how the game works here by now. You all mostly just want to see the lists I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good folks 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 front and center…

This time around, I’m once again going to be going with the overview route, especially since a bunch of these Oscar winners I’ll be discussing again when we get to Best Director and particularly Best Picture. Also, it really just comes down to taste again, with your opinion influencing what sort of winner you’re partial to. It’s pretty much a matter of taste once again for us all. I know a couple of of my selections are going to seem fairly odd, especially when you see how high I ranked it, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. You can’t please everyone all of the time.
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 The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin’s work there might actually be the best script ever written in my eyes, believe it or not. It’s just genius, complete genius. The runner up spot would be Casablanca, which is no slouch either. Also in the top five we have All the President’s Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Schindler’s List. All of those are masterpieces, no doubt about that. Rounding out the top ten we have the likes of Argo (yes, it’s that good), Forrest Gump, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Silence of the Lambs, and To Kill a Mockingbird. You can easily have a top 30 or 40 for this category, so narrowing things down to a […]

Vengeance is sought when “300: Rise of an Empire” arrives

Vengeance is sought when “300: Rise of an Empire” arrives onto Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD Special Edition and Digital HD on June 24 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Producer Zack Snyder teams up with Director Noam Murro to create the follow up to the 2007 hit “300” in the same visually stunning style as the original. The stylized epic follows two warring nations that fight for glory amidst a raging sea.
Adapted from a screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, and based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Xerxes,” Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ “300: Rise of an Empire” was directed by Noam Murro. Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder and Bernie Goldmann produced the film, with Thomas Tull, Frank Miller, Stephen Jones, Craig J. Flores and Jon Jashni serving as executive producers.
The film stars Sullivan Stapleton (“Gangster Squad”) as Themistokles and Eva Green (“Dark Shadows”) as Artemisia, alongside Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”) as the Spartan Queen, Gorgo; David Wenham (“Better Man”) as Dilios; Andrew Tiernan (“Ripper Street”) as Ephialtes; Andrew Pleavin (“The Borgias”) as Daxos; and Rodrigo Santoro (“The Last Stand”) returns in the role of the Persian God-King, Xerxes. The main cast also includes Hans Matheson (“The Christmas Candle”) as Themistokles’ closest friend and advisor, Aeskylos; Callan Mulvey (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Jack O’Connell (“Skins”) as father and son soldiers, Scyllias and Calisto; and Igal Naor (“Ambassadors”) as the Persian King Darius.
“300: Rise of an Empire” will be available on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack for $44.95 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack for $35.99. Both include a digital version of the movie on Digital HD with UltraViolet.* Fans can also own “300: Rise of an Empire” in Digital HD on June 24 via purchase from digital retailers.
SYNOPSIS
“300: Rise of an Empire,” told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster “300,” is a new chapter of the epic saga, which takes the action to a new battlefield—the sea.
The story pits the Greek general Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces, ruled by the mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and led by Artemisia, the vengeful commander of the Persian navy.
Knowing his only hope of defeating the overwhelming Persian armada will be to unite all of Greece, Themistokles ultimately leads the charge that will change the course of the war.

Star Wars casts some future Oscar nominees

One of the most interesting things that I took away from yesterday’s official casting news about Star Wars: Episode VII is just how great the cast will look a decade down the line (that and how much the powers that be must have enjoyed Inside Llewyn Davis when they saw it last year, but more on that in a moment). Yes, I have a suspicion that there will be a few Oscar nominations for the cast down the line, though most likely not for this film. It’s a cast that’s chock full of emerging talent, not to mention one acting legend who already has some big citations on his resume.
For those unaware, it was announced yesterday that John Boyega, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, Andy Serkis, and Max von Sydow would be joining original saga stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the upcoming sequel to be helmed by J.J. Abrams. Of that new group, only von Sydow is an Academy Award nominee, but Inside Llewyn Davis costars Driver and Isaac are well on their way to getting some nods before long. I could say the same for Gleeson too, considering his charm that I’ve seen to date for him. That could one day lead to a nom. There are also some still to be cast roles as well, so potential future nominees could still be in the mix, alongside actual winners like Lupita Nyong’o as well.
In my eyes, what this will do for the cast, especially someone like Isaac, is raise their profile perhaps tenfold, leading to a chance to really get some juicy parts. Some might caution that Star Wars defined the careers of Fisher and Hamill, but Ford certainly wasn’t boxed in. He had a whole other franchise he led (Indiana Jones) and managed to be Oscar nominated (for Witness), so it’s easy to see Isaac following Ford’s lead going forward.
At the same time, an unknown like Ridley can make a name for herself here. If she has a big role and nails it, there’s no telling how in demand she might become. The industry is always looking for a new young actress to fall in love with, so why not Ridley if she’s got the goods?
If nothing else, it was nice to see Abrams and the decision makers over at Disney and LucasFilm not just […]

From 1997 to 2009 there were five $1 billion film grossers. Between 2010 and 2012, we added an additional ten such films.

Just a few years ago, had I written a piece entitled “There are no films guaranteed to gross $1 billion this year”, you likely would have laughed and said “Of course not!”. As recently as 2010, the idea that any movie could or would gross $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales was somewhat of a pipe dream.
From 1997 to 2006, there were just two films to reach that milestone, they being Titanic (the biggest movie of all-time with a seemingly insurmountable $1.8 billion) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the Oscar-winning chapter to what can be argued is the finest screen trilogy of our time (that’s a debate for another day). In 2006, we saw the powerhouse success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest which parlayed the unexpected popularity of the first film into an even larger haul for its sequel, breaking the domestic opening weekend record at the time ($135 million) and earning a massive $423 million in America and $642 million overseas.
In 2008, The Dark Knight pulled another “massively popular sequel to unexpectedly well-liked original” trick to the tune of $533 million in America (good for the second biggest grosser of all time in America, if only for a year) and just over $1 billion worldwide despite not playing in China due to that pesky “Chinese gangster hides Gotham mob money” subplot. 2009 saw James Cameron do that trick that James Cameron does yet again, with Avatar earning $1 billion worldwide in about seventeen days and going on to earn an eye-popping $2.7 billion.
to read more go to Mendelson’s Memos
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