Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Latest from duo behind 'Intouchables' and 'Samba' closes TIFF

Piers Handling, CEO and Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF, this morning unveiled the first round of titles premiering in the Gala and Special Presentations programs of the 42nd TIFF. Of the 14 Galas and 33 Special Presentations, this first announcement includes 25 world premieres, eight international premieres, six North American premieres and eight Canadian premieres.

“Festival-goers from around the world can anticipate a remarkable lineup of extraordinary stories, voices and cinematic visions from emerging talent and some of our favorite masters,” Handling said. “Today’s announcement offers audiences a glimpse at this year’s rich and robust selection of films, including works from Canada, USA, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, India, Chile, Egypt and Cambodia.”

Today's list includes the World Premiere of "C’est la vie!", which was announced as the festival's Closing Night Gala. Written and directed by award-winning filmmakers Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, the film stars Gilles Lellouche, Suzanne Clément, Eye Haïdara, and Jean-Pierre Bacri. "C’est la vie!" will screen at Roy Thomson Hall on Sept. 16.

"C’est la vie!" tells the story of Max, who has begun to grow tired after running his catering company for 30 years. While planning a large wedding for clients, a series of mishaps upends a very tight schedule, and every instant of happiness and emotion could veer into disaster and chaos. From the preparations to daybreak, we get a behind-the-scenes look at a wedding party through the eyes of the people working the event. They will all have to count on their one common quality: knowing how to throw a good party!

Nakache and Toledano make films that the whole world has embraced. We're thrilled to welcome them back with their latest,” said Bailey. “This will be a terrific way for Toronto to close out the festival.”

Bailey later added that the festival's Opening Night film has not been selected so far. However, he said the choice likely would be announced by mid-August, if not sooner. The 42nd annual film festival runs from Sept. 7-17.

Other festival world premieres announced today include: "Breathe" (directed by Andy Serkis and starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy); "The Catcher Was a Spy" (Guy Pearce and Paul Rudd) ; "Mary Shelley" (Elle Fanning); "The Wife" (Christian Slater and Glenn Close); "Woman Walks Ahead" (Jessica Chastain and Sam Rockwell); and "The Children Act" (Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci).

For more on festival films named today, read John's cleveland.com piece here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Trevorrow opens 'Book,' but dreams about galaxies far away

A lot of people talk about their big dreams these days, but it's extremely rare to meet someone whose huge ambitions really do come true.

Last week, 40-year-old writer/director/producer Colin Trevorrow came through northeast Ohio to talk about his latest film, "The Book of Henry," a very small movie compared to the anticipated blockbusters and sequels dotting the big-screen landscape during these warm viewing months.

Trevorrow seems content with a busy future.
Regardless, the Fandango movie site, among others, calls "Henry" this summer's "most anticipated thriller," and that's likely because Trevorrow, the dreamer with the track record of getting things done -- and very successfully -- is directing it.

The Oakland-raised youngster, who sang with the San Francisco Opera Chorus, later interned at NBC's "Saturday Night Live" while attending NYU, and just a few years later wrote and directed a short film ("Home Base") that eventually enjoyed more than 20 million online hits, has become THE Man to co-write and direct "Star Wars: Episode IX," now set for a trilogy-ending debut in May 2019.

"So, Colin," we asked, "in all of your wildest dreams, did you ever imagine that some day you would play such an important role in the 'Star Wars' saga?"

"It's weird," THE Man answers, "but it's like yes and no, because that's what wildest dreams are for. So, yes, in my wildest dreams I did imagine it, but there was a moment when they announced that they were doing these new 'Star Wars' movies that wasn't exactly a spiritual moment, but it went pretty deep, and I felt that I had to do this and, so, would do anything it takes to evidence that I can actually do it."

That "evidence" came up in spades in 2015 when Trevorrow followed-up his small sci-fi comedy, "Safety Not Guaranteed," by directing and co-writing (with college pal Derek Connolly) the massively budgeted "Jurassic World," which now, by the way, ranks as the fourth highest grossing film of all time at a remarkable $1.671 billion.

"Of course, I always loved the 'Jurassic Park' franchise," Trevorrow recalls, "so when they came to me with what was essentially 'Jurassic Park 4' and I was always a 'Star Wars' kid, anyway, my own thought process became: 'OK, if I do this well, and I make a film that shows that I can do this, then maybe I can get 'Star Wars.' So, 'Jurassic World' was really an audition."

 Certainly, that's nice work if you can get it. As a result, Trevorrow has moved his wife and two children (ages 4 and 8) from their Vermont home to what likely will become a three-year residence on "a really beautiful farm in the country (near London) with horses, and chickens and cows and rabbits around us all the time."

That's because, in addition to the much-discussed 'Star Wars' gig taking him there, he is also co-writing (again with Connolly) and executive-producing the untitled "Jurassic World" sequel, which began shooting in England last year for release next summer.

"The Book of Henry" family: Watts, Tremblay, Lieberher

Meanwhile, a theater filled with rabid movie fans warmly received Trevorrow's "The Book of Henry," when it was shown last Wednesday night at the Cinemark in Valley View. Believe it or not, it was the first public screening of the film, which opens Friday.

"I made a request that I could take this film to cities that were not just New York and L.A. to talk to people everywhere because I really feel like it can connect with audiences everywhere," Trevorrow explains. "I like to drive around the country and meet different kinds of people. I think it's important, especially for a filmmaker, to understand your audience and their needs and what their lives are right now because their lives are always changing."

In "Henry," Naomi Watts stars as a single mom with two sons, one the bordering-on-genius 11-year-old title character (played by Jaeden Lieberher of "St. Vincent" fame) and his adoring younger brother (little Jacob Tremblay from "Room").

"This was a very special film for Naomi because she has two boys of her own," Trevorrow says, "In fact, though, I think this movie has values that we all share. We have children, and we have fears about their safety, and we all live in the same world that is very scary and dangerous right now. In the same way that maybe a Grimm fairytale might address the darkness in the world in a sort of fable-like way, I think this movie allows us to confront those fears."

May the Force remain with us all.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Liev goes from TV 'Ray' to movie 'Chuck,' a fight flick with some local ties

"Chuck," a historically connected fight flick, finally gets a an opportunity to flaunt its cinematic stuff Friday when it opens at the Cedar Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights.

Cleveland even gets some mention in this funny and, at times, touching tale of boxer Chuck Wepner (engagingly played by Liev Schreiber), though, director Philippe Falardeau ("Monsieur Lazhar") makes it more of an affable profile/period piece than a sports movie. Still, for those who don't know, it actually was Wepner who inspired Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" movie franchise after taking champ Muhammad Ali into the 15th round at the former "Coliseum" in suburban Richfield, Ohio.

As detailed in Falardeau's film, Ali pummeled the never-say-die Wepner endlessly during the bout, Stallone certainly took notice, and the former New Jersey butcher became the still-living legend known as the "Bayonne Bleeder."

That's why "Chuck" was originally titled "The Bleeder" when it enjoyed its North American premiere at last September's 41st annual Toronto International Film Festival. That's also where Schreiber, the Emmy-nominated star of Showtime's exceptional, if grim "Ray Donovan," talked about Wepner and some other things.

Schreiber, as Wepner, in "Chuck," originally called "The Bleeder."
"It started with the story," Schreiber said, "but then it got personal for me. People knew I liked boxing but, to be honest, I wasn't that interested.

"I mean, I love Chuck's story, and I love who Chuck is but, over time, I started to parse it as this kind of cautionary tale about the pitfalls of celebrity and fame and narcissism and that got more interesting to me.

"Then I met Chuck," the actor continued. "He's a very likable character in a difficult story line, and  I thought, 'Well, that would be fun to play.' At least for me, I felt like as many mistakes as this character makes, you never stop wanting him to succeed. You never stop liking him. I thought, 'That's a really unique person.' 

"I rather quickly found out why Chuck is the kind of person who could do what he did that night in Cleveland (on March 24, 1975). It takes someone very special to accomplish that. Chuck doesn't perceive it as pain. You put him in front of a crowd and he simply wants to entertain, I think he uses it as motivation and inspiration in the ring as well."

By the way, the only real scene defined as "Cleveland" in the film actually was shot on a street in Yonkers, N.Y., Also, Ali is played by Schreiber's "Ray Donovan" co-star Pooch Hall.

"Pooch is a tremendous boxer," Schreiber said. "We've been fighting together for years on the ('Donovan') set. "Ray Donovan" begins its fifth Showtime season on Aug. 6. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Besson's new 'Valerian' film inspires comic book giveaway

An exclusive comic book featuring the stories that inspired the upcoming film Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets will be available to fans around the world for free at local comic book stores on Saturday, May 6, as part of “Free Comic Book Day.” 

In anticipation of the July 21 release of  the film, this 32-page, free issue will feature a preview of the story from the comics that inspired the movie, as well as exclusive, behind-the-scenes content from the summer flick developed and produced by EuropaCorp and distributed in the U. S. by STXfilms.

DeHaan and Delevingne star as Valerian and Laureline
The original ground-breaking French comic series of VALERIAN AND LAURELINE, published by Les Éditions Dargaud, was created by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières, and inspired a generation of artists, writers, and filmmakers. The series ran for 43 years and is collected in 23 volumes. This year, it is celebrating its 50th anniversary, thus coinciding with the feature film. 

”It gives me incredible joy to finally bring to the big screen, 50 years later, the work of comic book creators Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières that originally sparked my imagination and set me on this incredible journey,” said writer/ director Luc Besson. “I look forward to introducing a new generation of fans to the adventures of Valerian and Laureline.”

Besson's film is expected to be a visually spectacular new adventure film, starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, and Rutger Hauer. The film is produced by Virginie Besson-Silla,

STXfilms thanks Cinebook and Bliss on Tap, both apparently instrumental in bringing this preview issue to fans on Free Comic Book Day. The 32-page preview issue will be printed at its original, European size. Check with your local comic book shop for more details. Availability will be limited.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wheatley sends 'urgent' message on opening day of latest film

The gang's all here and then some in Wheatley's "Free Fire."
I know there’s a lot of movies to see this weekend... There are blowing up cars, talking candlesticks, and robot ladies who are confused about if they are real or if they are robots or something. But also thanks to the great men and women at A24 there is also a film called Free Fire.

Free Fire has many things going for it... It is under 90 minutes! Which means more time at the bar. It has Brie Larson swearing like a docker. It has Armie Hammer in the same beard he had in Birth of a Nation. It has many many laughs… which are needed in these dark and desperate times.

This film has also been proven scientifically to make you smarter (through its clever subtexts) but can also be enjoyed on the surface level (like all those action films that got you liking movies in the first place). It has Sharlto Copley acting in his actual accent (though maybe a slightly higher pitched version). And the film also features the work of John Denver and The Real Kids.

This, I’m sure you agree, is a compelling set of reasons to see Free Fire tonight, then return on Saturday with your friends, and then visit a matinee on Sunday with your elderly relations.

Thank you,
Ben Wheatley.
Director of Free Fire

Monday, February 27, 2017

Shining some light on last evening's major Oscar snafu

"Moonlight" wins it. It really, really wins it.
"La La Land" lost Best Picture last night to "Moonlight" in one of the most stunning Oscar upsets of all time, during perhaps the most wild and woolly Academy Awards telecast ever.

Certainly everyone is still buzzing this morning about the alleged "accountants' error" that caused presenters and iconic former co-stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to read the wrong winner. Now, our sources are spreading around a plethora of potential conspiracy theories about what really happened.

So, with apologies to David Letterman, the guy Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel calls his biggest inspiration, here are the top 10 best possibilities:

10. Matt Damon wanted "La La Land" to win; Kimmel preferred "Moonlight."

9. Kimmel sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez got drunk backstage with the "certified" guys and gals from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

8. There are continuing various reports of hidden figures when the lights at the Dolby Theater were shut off on two occasions.

7. The winning envelope was discovered behind the grassy knoll left over from the "Moana" number.

6. The audience's attention was more focused on trying to figure out what the hell Scarlett Johansson was actually wearing.

5. Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty have been plotting something like this ever since they were kids.

4. For the past year, a Hollywood Boulevard prophet has been billboarding the sign: "Dropping donuts from the skies brings moonlight."

3. CNN and the New York Times were trying to report fake news.

2. Bonnie and Clyde strike again!

1. Ratings prove that simply no one was watching.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Academy will whistle "la, la, la, la, la. . ." all night Sunday

Stone (shown with the also nominated Gosling) will lead a big "La La" landing.
Except for just a few possible upsets, races in the most notable categories (the ones with full nominees listed below) at Sunday's 89th annual Academy Awards likely are all but over. I mean, does anyone really expect "La La Land," with its 14 nominations, to dance away  from Hollywood's Dolby Theater carrying less than at least 10 Oscars? 

I sure don't. In fact, I've got the musical/romance/fantasy winning exactly that many. And, if  you haven't guessed, all of my prediction choices are the ones in bold, with comments below as needed.

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Since six of the above nominees were among my 10 favorite films of 2016, including "La La Land," I'd be hard-pressed to vote for just one if I actually did possess a coveted ballot. I suppose I would go with "Manchester by the Sea," but "Arrival," "Hell or High Water" and "Hidden Figures" would be right there as well. 

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, 
Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Expected victor Chazelle is just 32 years old, and his last film, "Whiplash," was my favorite movie of 2014. More importantly, it also was a Best Picture nominee that took home three other Oscars that year.

Casey Affleck, 
Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

The only legitimately close race on the big board pits Affleck, who I tabbed as the outright winner in September, when I saw his film at the 41st Toronto International Film Festival, against Washington, who directed his own tour de force performance. I'll stick to my guns, despite the latter's recent SAG victory and some allegations of  very bad behavior on Affleck's part.

Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, 
Florence Foster Jenkins

Huppert and Portman probably present the only stumbling blocks for Stone. whose awards momentum looks unstoppable right now.  

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, 
Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Ali's performance was another I greatly admired in Toronto (and even then picked for Oscar glory) out of a marvelous ensemble cast. Some are touting Patel to eclipse the Moonlight, but I don't see it. "Lion" is probably my least favorite of the heavily nominated awards films. It's fine, just not great

Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, 
Manchester by the Sea

Davis won a Tony award as Best Actress in a Play for the same role in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's "Fences." Really now, do you think there's any way she can possibly lose in this category? Seriously, it says here that she'd be the odds-on favorite for Best Actress, too, if she had decided to take that route to a first Oscar. 

Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

This is one that "La La Land" loses and rightly so. Kenneth Lonergan's somehow humorous take on tragedy is an all-time best.

Hidden Figures

Another wordsmith/director is Barry Jenkins, whose "Moonlight" script actually bested "Manchester" in Writers Guild competition for best original screenplay. It's in the "adapted" category here because the Academy deemed it to be based on a never-produced play. 

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls
“City of
Stars,” La La Land
“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana

My two little granddaughters just love to sing and dance to Justin Timberlake's terrific "Can't Stop the Feeling" but, alas, I don't expect Oscar voters to be humming anything but a "La La" tune on awards night.

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle

There's a whiff of the night's night's biggest upset here, simply because "Kubo," in one man's opinion, is easily the best film in the category. Still, did the voters really watch it? Probably not, so "Zootopia" completes its impressive awards-season roll on another positive note.

Finally, the rest of your Sunday night winners: 

Cinematography -- La La Land; Foreign Language Film -- Toni Erdmann (with"The Salesman" closing in fast); Documentary -- O.J.: Made in America; Original Score -- La La Land; Costume Design -- La La Land (but watch out for "Jackie"); Production Design -- La La Land; Visual Effects -- The Jungle Book: Editing -- La La Land; Makeup & Hair -- Star Trek Beyond; Sound Editing -- Hacksaw Ridge; Sound Mixing -- La La Land; Live Action Short -- Ennemis Interieurs; Documentary Short -- Extremis: Animated Short -- Piper.