Category: Movies Spotlight

Sicario sequel gets a new title and director

Sicario sequel gets a new title and director

Emily Blunt won’t be returning for the follow-up that is set to focus on del Toro’s hitman.

Details on the sequel to Sicario – one of last year’s most underrated dramas – has begun to trickle in following its greenlight earlier this year.

Officially titled Soldado, the follow-up is moving ahead without original director Denis Villeneuve. Instead, Deadline reports that Stefano Sollima will step behind the camera. The filmmaker’s previous credits include acclaimed Italian miniseries Gomorra and gritty drama Suburra.

Casting-wise, it was previously reported that Emily Blunt would be reprising her role of idealistic FBI agent Kate Mercer. However, her decision to take on the role of Mary Poppins in Disney’s upcoming remake has officially rendered her unavailable with Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin sharing lead duties.

Their characters – hitman Alejandro Gillick and CIA Agent Matt Graves – will return in a story from Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan that continues to focus on the illegal smuggling of drugs across the border between Mexico and the U.S.

While the Spanish word ‘sicario’ means ‘hitman’ in English, the translation of ‘soldado’ is ‘soldier.’ Original director Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) is currently hard at work making Blade Runner 2 with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and House of Cards ‘ Robin Wright.

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Isabelle Huppert: ‘My characters are total foreigners to me’

Isabelle Huppert: 'My characters are total foreigners to me'

Isabelle Huppert talks about taking the opposite view of ‘misogynistic’ director Paul Verhoeven and gracing the London stage for the first time in two decades in Phaedra(s).

There is little in the way of false modesty from Isabelle Huppert. It’s the day after the screening of Elle at the Cannes Film Festival and the Paul Verhoeven thriller has received rave reviews. It’s a sensational film adaptation of the novel Oh by Philippe Djian and sees Huppert plays a rape victim who turns the tables on her rapist. The actress is in nearly every scene of the movie and comments, “That’s why I was never bored watching it last night.”

It’s hard to argue with the sentiment, because anyone who has seen many of her 100-plus roles, since her debut in 1971, will attest that she’s usually beguiling. The magic of Huppert is that she seems to do so much by doing so little. Verhoeven raved, “She’s the best actress I’ve worked with. I just followed her instinct and let her do what she wanted.”

At the age of 63, the Paris-born star is having a vintage year. So it’s our luck that she seems to be everywhere over the next month. There is a cinematic retrospective of her work taking place in London at the Cine Lumiere and the Barbican with accompanying screen talks by the actress, and in June the Barbican Theatre is putting on Phaedra(s), Huppert’s latest theatrical performance.

Isabelle Huppert: 'My characters are total foreigners to me'

It will be the first time in two decades that Huppert has graced the London stage. The play, directed by Polish auteur Krzysztof Warlikowski, has just had a two-month run in Paris; it is performed in French, so one can expect it to be a spectacle from the first night. Of course, Huppert thinks she’ll be great.

“I could do it in English, but that is not the agenda,” she chimes about the radical reconstruction of the Greek myth. “It’s not exactly Phaedra, it’s several different Phaedras, including Sarah Kane’s Phaedre’s Love and there are excerpts from the book Elizabeth Costello by JM Coetzee, as well as the text from Euripides.”

One imagines that even if the text was by a five-year-old, Huppert would bring something unique to the performance. She’s been at the top of her game for four decades. She won a Bafta as Most Promising Newcomer for her turn as the virginal Beatrice in The Lacemaker in 1977.

There is no other actress who could make Paul Verhoeven appear like a pussycat. The Dutch director has been described as a misogynist on countless occasions. After all, he’s famous for getting Sharon Stone to cross her legs in Basic Instinct and leaving nothing to the imagination in Showgirls; yet put Huppert in the picture and all of a sudden he makes a film that can only be described as classy, even one being referred to at Cannes as a “rape comedy”.

Isabelle Huppert: 'My characters are total foreigners to me'

“You have all this talk of Verhoeven as a misogynist, but to me he’s the opposite,” says Huppert. “Ever since I discovered his first film, I saw Turkish Delight, the film was also mistaken at the time. It was taken as a semi-porno film and was released in a porno video and it only got one good review and that was in Charlie Hebdo, who said it was a masterpiece and he was a good director. So there has always been this blurred vision of him as a director.”

Huppert has recently become a cinema owner. “I’m going to digress because my son programmes a cinema I bought in Paris. It’s in the Rue Christine, and was called Action Christine and we’ve renamed it Cinema Christine 21.”

Recently, Huppert has been a lot more open about her family. She recently appeared on the cover of a magazine with Lolita Chammah, one of three children she has had with her husband of 34 years Ronald Chammah, a producer she met on the set of a 1980 Claude Chabrol movie. “She’s a good actress,” Huppert says of her daughter. “I’ll play her mother soon. I have a supporting role in a film she is making in Luxembourg. The movie talks a lot about involuntary transmission between parents and children.”

The bonds that tie a mother and daughter are also something that takes place on screen, as well as off for the actress. In another of her great roles this year, Huppert plays a woman who discovers there is life after separation in Things to Come, directed by Mia Hansen-Love. The French director once played Huppert’s daughter in Olivier Assayas’s 2000 drama Sentimental Destines.

“And now she becomes my mother,” chirps Huppert. Explaining, “A director is always a bit of a mother to an actress. You can be young and have an old soul, or old and be a young spirit.” The latter is a category that Huppert seems to fit perfectly.

“As an actress, I felt like during the film she has the power and she directed me a lot, maybe more than other directors on other occasions. She had this vision of this character being very open, and very light and instinctively, maybe my deep nature, would be to go for something darker, a little harsher.”

Indeed, there is a certain sang-froid that Huppert instills in her characters. They get their strength from the fact that nothing seems to phase them, they are able to overcome the worst horrors. It’s what made her so magnificent in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, a film that Elle has echoes of in its opening scene. The norm is that as soon as you see Huppert onscreen, you have the idea that her character will overcome all obstacles.

“Well, it’s normal that you think that,” says Huppert, when I ask her if she references her past roles when making contemporary films. “But for me, as an actress there is no link to what I’ve done previously. Because it’s me, you make the connection. People seem to think that you have connections with the roles you play, but the more I think about it, the more I realise I have nothing to do with those characters, those people are total foreigners to me.”

Trainspotting 2: First pictures of Ewan McGregor

Trainspotting 2: First pictures of Ewan McGregor

Last month, the first glimpse of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting sequel hit the internet in the form of leaked set shots Ewen Bremner’s Spud strolling around the streets of Edinburgh.

From that moment on, numerous photographs have hit the internet, showing the cast of the 1996 classic reunited in character.

Thanks to some pesky photographers, the first shots of Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller as Mark ‘Rent Boy’ Renton and Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson have arrived.

Surprisingly, the down-and-out heroin addicts look relatively dressed up, both wearing suits as they enter a government building. However, Sick Boy still has his bleached blonde hair.

The sequel will be based on author Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting sequel, Porno, which was released in 2002.

Recently speaking about filming in Scotland, Boyle said: “I feel very fortunate and grateful to be able to make films, and to be able to always have a choice in what I do.

“Coming back to Edinburgh has actually been really fascinating, since filming the first Trainspotting Edinburgh has changed dramatically. You can see the gentrification massively in the city.”

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‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ tops foreign box office thanks to China debut

‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ tops foreign box office thanks to China debut

Chinese audiences powered “X-Men: Apocalypse” to the top of the foreign box office charts over the weekend.

The mutant adventure picked up $59 million from the People’s Republic, becoming the second-highest opening in China for Fox, the studio behind the superhero franchise. The latest “X-Men” earned a leading $84.4 million overseas from 66 markets including South Korea ($4.5 million), Brazil ($2.2 million) and the United Kingdom ($2 million). So far, “X-Men: Apocalypse” has earned $402.5 million globally.

In second place, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” picked up $34 million overseas from 40 foreign markets. The sequel disappointed in its domestic debut, opening to $35.3 million, a more than 40% drop from the first film’s $65.6 million launch in 2014. Paramount, the studio behind the $135 million film, hopes that the film can make up ground overseas. China, where the first “Ninja Turtles” earned $62.1 million, will be a critical test. “Out of the Shadows” opens in the country on July 2.

“Warcraft,” an adaptation of the hit video game series, is facing fierce headwinds as it braces for its domestic debut next weekend. Tracking has been soft, and it will have to hold off competitors such as “Now You See Me 2” and “The Conjuring 2.” Still, the fantasy adventure has done respectable business overseas. It earned $29.9 million from 28 territories last weekend to take fourth place on the charts.

The results bring “Warcraft’s” total to $70 million after two weeks of release. The film opened in first place in Spain with $2.5 million, debuted to $2 million in Italy, enjoyed a $3.8 million second weekend in Russia, and topped charts in Germany for a second weekend with $3.1 million. The Universal and Legendary release still represents a big gamble. It carries a $160 million price tag and is on pace to open to less than $25 million in the U.S.

Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and Sony’s “The Angry Birds Movie” snagged third and fifth place on the foreign box office charts, earning $30.9 million and $16.7 million, respectively. The big screen adaptation of the “Angry Birds” game has done solid business, earning $283.5 million worldwide. Not so “Through the Looking Glass.” The “Alice in Wonderland” sequel is shaping up to be one of the year’s biggest bombs. It has earned $176.3 million worldwide, but will have to fight its way into the black given its $170 million price tag and the tens of millions spent to market and distribute the film.

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‘Ninja Turtles 2’ Opens #1 with Soft $35M

'Ninja Turtles 2' Opens #1 with Soft $35M

The first weekend in June 2016 played out mostly as expected, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows taking the #1 spot followed by last weekend’s first place finisher, X-Men: Apocalypse. Warner’s Me Before You, however, did manage to break out well above expectations while Universal’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping may have received great reviews, but couldn’t find much of an audience. Overall, the weekend was a wash compared to last year with estimates for the top twelve coming in just $56,118 higher than last year’s actuals, but there are still some highlights to discuss despite something of a slow start to a sequel driven June.

Paramount’s Ninja Turtles 2 brought in an estimated $35.25 million, which, as discussed in our weekend preview, puts the film pretty much right on the average for so many of today’s sequels based on the original film’s performance. In the case of Ninja Turtles, this is a 46% drop from the 2014 film’s $65.5 million opening. Considering the $135 million budget for Turtles 2 is $10 million more than was spent on the original, that’s not exactly what the studio was hoping for when they flipped the green light.

The sequel is now looking to bring in $90 million or so domestically, which is around $100 million less than the original. Of course, box office grosses are just half the story with a film like this as ancillary merchandise is a big revenue driver for a film of this sort. From a demographics perspective, the film did score an “A-” CinemaScore and audience members under the age of 18 made up 40% of the audience and scored the film with an “A”. In all, 52% of the audience was under 25 and 54% male vs. 48% female.

In addition to its domestic total, Ninja Turtles 2 also opened in 40 international markets and earned an estimated $34 million. The UK delivered the highest returns with an estimated $5.3 million followed by Russia ($4.8m), Mexico ($4.5m), Indonesia ($2.3m) and Malaysia ($2.2m). The movie will continue to expand throughout the month and will release in China on July 2 where the first film brought in over $62 million.

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Thora Birch joins Adrian Grenier thriller ‘Public Affairs’

Thora Birch joins Adrian Grenier Thriller ‘Public Affairs’

Thora Birch has joined Adrian Grenier and Mimi Rogers in the political thriller “Public Affairs,” Variety has learned exclusively.

Eric Bross is directing from a script by Tom Cudworth. Producers are School Pictures’ Stephen Israel (“Swimming With Sharks”) and George Voskericyan (“Helicopter Mom”) of American Film Productions. Shooting starts this month in Norfolk, Va.

13 Films has international rights to the project, which was introduced to buyers in Cannes.

Thora Birch has joined Adrian Grenier and Mimi Rogers in the political thriller “Public Affairs,” Variety has learned exclusively.

Eric Bross is directing from a script by Tom Cudworth. Producers are School Pictures’ Stephen Israel (“Swimming With Sharks”) and George Voskericyan (“Helicopter Mom”) of American Film Productions. Shooting starts this month in Norfolk, Va.

13 Films has international rights to the project, which was introduced to buyers in Cannes.

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Television in the Sixties

Television in the Sixties

On September 23, 1961, NBC introduced its new series, “Saturday Night at the Movies,” featuring Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable in “How to Marry a Millionaire.” This broadcast was an astounding success and pointed to Hollywood’s growing inclination to release its post-1948 movies to television. Seven more series representing all three networks and every night of the week appeared over the next five years.

The culmination of this trend was an ABC Sunday telecast of “The Bridge on the River Kwai” in September 1966.” It would be some time before anyone tried to make the same case for American television, which had changed little from the way Newton Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, had described it to its producers in 1961, as “a vast wasteland”. Minow had just been appointed to his post by John F. Kennedy, and many in his audience might have expected gentler treatment from a president who had been elected, they believed, on the strenght of his appeal on television.

The precise birth date of the telefilm is arguable, although only a handful of contenders exist prior to 1961. Claims range from Ron Amateau’s 60-minute Western, “The Bushwackers, ” which appeared on CBS in 1951, to Disney’s “Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier,” which was broadcast as three separate segments during the 1954-55 debut season of “The Wonderful World of Disney.”

Star Trek in the Sixties

Also, it was not uncommon during the late 1950s for TV’s dramatic anthologies to present some of their teleplays on either film or videotape. Three shows especially, “Desilu Playhouse,” “Kraft Theatre,” and “The Bob Hope Show,” filmed a number of their one-hour offerings, while a few of these presentations were even expanded into a second hour airing the following week as a finale of a two-parter. Still, these haphazard examples have really more to do with trivia than historical precedent, as the man primarily responsible for pioneering the formal properties of the telefeature is Jennings Lang, a New York lawyer who became programming chief for MCA’s Revue in the late 1950s.

Television obliged politicians to become performers in a way radio never had. Kennedy, youthful, authoritative and almost handsome enough to play the lead in a TV doctor series, seemed perfectly cast. Pursuing a policy of accessibility to the camera, he held live press conferences, delivered an ultimatum to Khrushchev via television during the Cuban missile crisis, and encouraged his wife to take the nation on a Tour of the White House. The impact of his assassination was intensified by the fact that he was not just the President, but a television celebrity whom the viewing public had been encouraged to feel they knew through the intimacy of the medium. For the four days between the assassination and the funeral all three networks suspended their regular schedules and carried no advertising.

By 1960 half the population of the United States depended on television as its prime source of news. Network prime time had settled into a mixture of half-hour comedy shows and hour-long action/drama series. Drama, like comedy, was constructed around a repeatable situation, usually provided by a professional activity. Lawyer- and doctor -shows provided an ideal format for hourlong stories featuring guest stars as clients or patients, but the same formula was used for series on teachers and social workers.

The formula had its limitations. The central characters had to remain unchanged by the episode’s events, in order to be in their proper places by the following week’s episode. The serial form provided the programming stability necessary to deliver viewers to advertisers on a regular basis. Networks tried to carry their audiences from one show to the next, employing the principle of Least Objectionable Programming. This meant that the majority of viewers who simply watched television, rather than selecting specific programs, would wacth whichever show they disliked least.

As mentioned earlier, the fall of 1966 was when ABC first decided to begin telecasting a number of Hollywood “blockbuster” films, including “The Bridgeon the River Kwai” on the River Kwai” and later “The Robe.” CBS, on the other hand, strove for prestige programming to counterbalance its lineup of popular, though pedestrian situation comedies, such as “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” “Petticoat Junction,” the “Andy Griffith Show,” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”

These specials were composed mostly of important American plays, like “Death of a Salesman” and “The Glass Menagerie,” which actually pulled moderate, though respectable ratings for a time. Most important, however, Lang was first able to interest NBC in financially promoting the made-for-TV form in the spring of 1964. By 1966, it was apparent to both Universal TV and NBC that they had gambled themselves into developing a television genre of enormous potential, as economic dividends were realized almost immediately from this feature-length hybrid. In contrast, however, much of the aesthetic and socio-cultural possibilities inherent in the telefilm would lie dormant for another five years.

The unit of television viewing was not the individual program but the daytime or evening schedule as a whole. As a result, television placed little emphasis on the distinction between fact and fiction. In sports and game shows it offered its audience an engagement with an endless dramatic experience, in which consequences and conclusions mattered less than the exuberance of competition, choice and performance. Television had a peculiar capacity to dissolve distinctions between comedy, drama, news and commercials.

Television’s other typical form, the talk show, perfected its formula in the early 1960s with The Tonight Show, hosted by Johnny Carson. Talk shows packaged personality as a commodity, but all television employed it; even newsreaders became celebrities.

NBC and MCA, Inc., inaugurated 1964 by creating “Project 120,” a never fully actualized weekly film anthology whose very name echoed the live dramatic series of the 1950s. NBC allotted $250,000 for the first telefeature, as MCAUniversal hired Hollywood journeyman Don Siegel to direct “‘Johnny North,’ an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s short story, ‘The Killers,’ starring John Cassavetes, Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, and Ronald Reagan in his last role. The movie that resulted eventually cost over $900,000 and was deemed by the network “too spicy, expensive, and violent for TV screens.”

Clearly, it was evident to both NBC and MCA from the outset that the budgetary constraints and the dictates of content would be different for the telefilm from what was previously expected for the usual theatrical picture. As a result, “Johnny North” was retitled “The Killers,” and the film was subsequently released to movie theaters nationwide. Mort Werner, NBC-TV vice president in charge of programming at the time, reflected upon this experience: “We’ve learned to control the budget. Two new ‘movies’ will get started soon, and the series probably will show up on television in 1965.”

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Star Trek Beyond Theatrical Trailer

Star Trek Beyond Theatrical Trailer

The first leg of the USS Enterprise’s five year mission takes them into uncharted territory. There the Enterprise is nearly destroyed and strands Kirk and his crew on a remote planet with no means of communication. Kirk must then work with the elements to reunite his crew and get back to Earth.

Star Trek Beyond is an American science fiction film directed by Justin Lin from a screenplay by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, based on the series of the same name created by Gene Roddenberry. It is the thirteenth film in the Star Trek film franchise and the third installment in the reboot series after Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise their roles as Captain James T. Kirk and Commander Spock, with Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin reprising their roles from the previous films, and Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella joining them. Principal photography began on June 25, 2015, in Vancouver with the film scheduled for a July 22, 2016, release.

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Jerusalem Film Festival opens with Pedro Almodovar’s ‘Julieta’

Jerusalem Film Festival opens with Pedro Almodovar’s ‘Julieta’

Pedro Almodovar’s “Julieta,” which recently world premiered in competition at Cannes, will open the 33rd Jerusalem Film Festival.

“We are happy to open this year’s festival with a film by one of the world’s most beloved and acclaimed filmmakers in recent decades, Pedro Almodóvar. Julieta is a cinematic celebration – a colorful, exciting, fun and thought-provoking film,” said Noa Regev, topper of Jerusalem Cinematheque and exec director of Jerusalem fest. “The aesthetic experience offered by the film will no doubt be even greater when shown on the giant screen at the Sultan’s Pool. Like most of Almodóvar’s works, it is focused on female protagonist and deals with women’s power.”

Based on a trio of short stories by Pulitzer-winning Canadian author Alice Munro, “Julieta” stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte in the title role, at different ages. Rossy de Palma also toplines. Pic will be released by Lev Cinemas in Israel on July 8, a day after its festival opening.

Jerusalem fest, which previously opened with Almodovar’s “All About my Mother” and “Talk to Her,” will kick off with “Julieta” in “commemoration of two inspirational female figures of Israeli Cinema who are no longer with us – Lia van Leer, founder of the festival, and filmmaker Ronit Elkabetz,” said Regev, who works with artistic director Elad Samorzik.

Jerusalem fest will indeed host a tribute to Elkabetz, the actress and filmmaker who died of cancer in April and has been mourned by the Israeli and international film communities.

The tribute to Elkabetz will include the special screening of her feature debut “To Take a Wife,” in which she also stars. “To Take a Wife” was the first film of a trilogy penned and directed by Elkabetz and her brother, Shlomi Elkabetz. The trilogy was completed by “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” a Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight player that marked Ronit Elkabetz’s last film. On top of earning critical acclaim, “Gett” shed light of women who are faced with unfair, archaic divorce laws in Israel and prompted a heated debate at home and beyond.

The festival will also bow an international competition lineup which will be fully announced in the next few days. So far, Rúnar Rúnarsson’s Icelandic coming-of-age drama “Sparrows” and Danish helmer Tobias Lindholm’s Oscar-nominated “A War” have been selected to compete as part of the new international section that’s being backed by New Jersey-based Wilf Family Foundation.

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‘Warcraft’ faces tough battle at box office

‘Warcraft’ faces tough battle at box office

Ten years after first being announced, Universal-Legendary’s high-priced fantasy film “Warcraft” is generating only moderate interest among U.S. moviegoers.

Early tracking before the June 10 opening indicates that domestic performance for “Warcraft” may be held back by underwhelming reviews with projections for a moderate $25 million opening weekend — a downbeat result given its $160 million budget. Should that estimate hold, “Warcraft” will likely be heading for a third or fourth-place finish behind openings of New Line’s “The Conjuring 2” and Lionsgate’s “Now You See Me 2” along with the second weekend of Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.”

“The Conjuring 2” is looking to be the big winner of the trio with an opening weekend of $40 million-plus while “Now You See Me 2,” which Lionsgate expects to open strong, should finish in the $25 million to $28 million range.

Prospects on the domestic side may be iffy for “Warcraft,” given a harsh response so far from reviewers with a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety’s Geoff Berkshire called the film “pricey and preposterous.”

Based on Blizzard Entertainment’s multi-player fantasy game, the videogame adaptation began its international launch Wednesday, opening in France, Indonesia and the Philippines. This weekend it bows in Germany, Russia and Scandinavia, followed by most of the rest of Europe next weekend and China on June 8.

With extensive use of CGI to portray mythical creatures and magical realms, the film’s lofty budget will require solid worldwide performance to push “Warcraft” into the black — particularly on the international side, where it’s expected to deliver stronger results than in the U.S. Universal has indicated that North America is viewed as being a spoke in a larger wheel rather than the driving force for the film.

“Warcraft,” directed by Duncan Jones, is the first major release from Legendary Entertainment since it was acquired by China powerhouse Dalian Wanda in January for $3.5 billion.

Legendary produced such blockbusters as “Jurassic World,” “Pacific Rim” and “Godzilla.” It also partnered with distributor Universal Pictures on last year’s hit “Straight Outta Compton” before misfiring on “Steve Jobs” and “Crimson Peak.”

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