January 02, 2015

Tag Archives: Epic films

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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Gerard Butler is the “Hollywood Movie Star of the Week” – Photo Gallery

Our selected star to be included in our “Hollywood Movie Star of the Week Photo Gallery” is Gerard Butler. Gerard James Butler (born 13 November 1969) is a Scottish actor who has appeared on film, stage, and television.

A trained lawyer, Butler turned to acting in the mid-1990s with small roles in productions such as the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), which he followed with steady work on television, most notably in the American miniseries Attila (2001). In 2003, he played André Marek in the adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Timeline.
He garnered critical acclaim for his work as the lead in Joel Schumacher’s 2004 film adaptation of the musical The Phantom of the Opera. In 2007, Butler gained recognition through his portrayal of King Leonidas in the film 300. Since then, he has appeared in projects including P.S. I Love You (2007), Nim’s Island (2008), RocknRolla (2008), The Ugly Truth (2009), Gamer (2009), Law Abiding Citizen (2009), The Bounty Hunter (2010), and as a voice actor in How to Train Your Dragon (2010).His new movie Olympus Has Fallen will open March 22, 2013.
To read more go to GERARD BUTLER
Photos BY PRPhotos.com
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‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ breezy action-packed trailer

The only spoiler bit is at around 1:02, where Captain Pike has some facial scars that I don’t recall him having at the end of the first Star Trek (he was of course seriously injured, but I don’t recall scarring).
Perhaps Pike gets those scars when Cumberbatch escapes from his glass prison at the halfway mark, because “He planned to get caught the whole time!”. Otherwise, this is a quick (78 seconds) and breezy action-packed trailer.
It’s nice that they aren’t focusing as much on Benedict Cumberbatch’s mystery villain (I have a theory on that, broached by a friend of mine and backed up by what we’ve seen thus far, but I’m not sharing in case I’m right) and also showing off that the film isn’t all gloom and misery this time around. The initial trailers tried to sell the film as a generic ‘dark sequel’ or The Dark Knight meets Skyfall meets Revenge of the Sith.
This new trailer plays in the Return of the Jedi/Tron sandbox with phasers set for swashbuckling adventure.

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Disney confirms J.J. Abrams to direct Star Wars: Episode VII

J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars: Episode VII, the first of a new series of Star Wars films to come from Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy. Abrams will be directing and Academy Award-winning writer Michael Arndt will write the screenplay.
“It’s very exciting to have J.J. aboard leading the charge as we set off to make a new Star Wars movie,” said Kennedy. “J.J. is the perfect director to helm this. Beyond having such great instincts as a filmmaker, he has an intuitive understanding of this franchise. He understands the essence of the Star Wars experience, and will bring that talent to create an unforgettable motion picture.”
George Lucas went on to say “I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He’s an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”
“To be a part of the next chapter of the Star Wars saga, to collaborate with Kathy Kennedy and this remarkable group of people, is an absolute honor,” J.J. Abrams said. “I may be even more grateful to George Lucas now than I was as a kid.”
J.J., his longtime producing partner Bryan Burk, and Bad Robot are on board to produce along with Kathleen Kennedy under the Disney | Lucasfilm banner.
Also consulting on the project are Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg. Kasdan has a long history with Lucasfilm, as screenwriter on The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. Kinberg was writer on Sherlock Holmes and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Abrams and his production company Bad Robot have a proven track record of blockbuster movies that feature complex action, heartfelt drama, iconic heroes and fantastic production values with such credits as Star Trek, Super 8, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, and this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness. Abrams has worked with Lucasfilm’s preeminent postproduction facilities, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, on all of the feature films he has directed, beginning with Mission: Impossible III. He also created or co-created such acclaimed television series as Felicity, Alias, Lost and Fringe.
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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens with an expected (and record) $84 million

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (review/teaser/trailer) basically opened like a Lord of the Rings film, give or take various variables. Its $84.7 million estimated debut clobbered the December record, which is the $77 million earned by Avatar ($77 million, $80 million adjusted for inflation) and I Am Legend ($77.2 million, $89 million adjusted for inflation) in 2009 and 2007 respectively.
It soundly thumps the various other Lord of the Rings films, but this is where it gets tricky. The prior Peter Jackson Middle Earth pictures opened on the weekend before Christmas week, which I’ve long argued is the best weekend of the year to open your picture. So the fact that The Hobbit opened a week earlier makes this number a little more impressive, although the pre-Christmas weekend is more about legs than opening weekend. On the other hand, the prior films all opened on a Wednesday, meaning that their would-be opening weekend was spread out of five days. And of course, we have to take into account nine years of inflation and the whole 3D/IMAX price bump. So purely looking at inflation and comparing the Fri-Sun portion, this opening is about on par with The Two Towers ($62 million, but $84 million adjusted for inflation) and well ahead of Fellowship of the Ring’s ($72 million, but adjusted-for-inflation $66 million) and King Kong ($50 million, and $62 million adjusted for inflation) for what that’s worth. It’s a bit behind the $72 million/$95 million opening of The Return of the King.
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