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Review: Grandma

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9/02/2015

Scott Cooper May Direct Hunting Drama 'American Wolf' with Leonardo DiCaprio Producing


After Out of the Furnace didn't make a lot of waves and was panned by critics, Scott Cooper looks to be bouncing back in a big way with Whitey Bulger biopic, Black Mass. However he's already looking ahead to what comes next, and The Wrap reports he's in talks to direct an adaptation of American Wolf, Nate Blakeslee's upcoming non-fiction book that deals with the hot topic of big game hunting.

American Wolf centers on a hunter who accidentally kills an endangered American wolf in Yellowstone National Park, only to have it turn out to be O-Six, a popular female alpha wolf collared and tracked by researchers. The hunter would form an unlikely friendship with the park researcher working with wolves. There was a large outcry from the public over O-Six's death as the wolf had an impact on the lives of the humans around her.

This is just one of the many animal rights dramas Leonardo DiCaprio came aboard to produce last year, but he couldn't have known the subject of poaching would be such a big part of the national discussion right now. Obviously the killing of Cecil the Lion is still fresh in many minds and they'll be paying a lot of attention to how Cooper's film develops.

Cate Blanchett To Star As Lucille Ball in Biopic Penned By Aaron Sorkin


Something about the awards season doesn't feel right unless Cate Blanchett is up for some gold, and lately it seems everything she does is a potential contender. After winning Best Actress for Blue Jasmine a couple of years ago, not to mention her Best Supporting Actress win for The Aviator in 2004, Blanchett is back this year with Todd Haynes' Carol, which is already receiving Oscar buzz. Now she's lined up another major role, one that is guaranteed to draw similar attention as it has her playing legendary comedienne and actress, Lucille Ball.

While Blanchett in the role of Lucille Ball is reason enough for high expectations, throw in a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and the potential goes meteoric. The fully authorized biopic will center on the rocky 20-year marriage to Desi Arnaz, her co-star on I Love Lucy. Lucy Arnaz Jr. and Desi Arnaz Jr. are on board as producers.

On paper this seems like a match made in movie heaven. Sorkin has proven just as good at writing about real-life figures as Blanchett is at portraying him. It was her performance as Katherine Hepburn that earned her the gold for The Aviator, after all. She's also played Bob Dylan, Veronica Guerin, Queen Elizabeth, and will play 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes in the Rathergate drama, Truth, which also has Oscars potential.

No word on a director yet but you can bet it's going to be a major name that comes aboard. [TheWrap]

So Long To That Pesky Marvel Creative Committee


While Marvel Studios are entering a new phase post Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, they're also venturing into uncharted waters behind the scenes. Recently it was learned that Marvel's Kevin Feige no longer had to report directly to thrifty Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, a restructuring that has him reporting directly to Disney's Alan Horn. This was a major move as Perlmutter was the main reason why Marvel has had so many contract disputes over the years. He doesn't want to pay anybody anything. And now today comes word of another major shake-up as Birth.Movies.Death confirm the dissolution of the Marvel Creative Committee.

The Creative Committee were a bunch of Marvel insiders, such as Alan Fine, prolific comics writer Brian Michael Bendis, publisher Dan Buckley, chief creative officer and ex-Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, and more, who provided notes and opinions on Marvel movies through every step of the process. While that may sound like a decent enough idea, the result was often a "too many cooks" scenario, which may explain why so many Marvel films have exactly the same homogenized feel to them. This doesn't surprise me in the least since ALL of Bendis' major comics stories are practically indistinguishable from one another. Wonder why Edgar Wright suddenly bounced from Ant-Man after years of developing the project? It was those darn notes from the Committee, that's why. 

So this could be a really good thing for Feige and Marvel movies down the road if it allows more creative freedom to the filmmakers. On the other hand, Feige has no one to blame when or if one of these movies finally tanks. 


Enter for a Chance to See 'The Visit' Free and Early!


We're happy to offer our DC readers a chance to attend a free advance screening of The Visit, a new horror from The Sixth Sense director, M. Night Shyamalan. SYNOPSIS: Life appears normal for two siblings (Olivia De Jonge and Ed Oxenbould) until they discover that Grandma and Grandpa's (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) behavior has suddenly become deeply disturbing after being left to stay at their grandparents' house while their mother (Kathryn Hahn) is on vacation. They are warned not to come out of their room past 9:30 at night; but, after curiosity gets the better of them, they realize that there is something terribly wrong taking place. After failing to convince their mother to come to their rescue, they are left on their own to face the untold horrors surrounding the two now seemingly evil elders.

The screening takes place on Tuesday, September 8th at 7:30pm at Regal Gallery Place. To enter, simply use the contest form below. Winners will be selected and notified by email on Friday, September 4th. Good luck!

The Visit opens in theaters on September 11th.

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Sony Cut Will Smith's 'Concussion' Film Out of Fear of the NFL


The NFL is more than happy to put their support behind a big ol' wet kiss of a film like Draft Day. Heck, Commissioner Roger Goodell even showed up in it as himself. But make a movie about the connection between concussions and NFL players and...uh oh, better watch out. Earlier this week the trailer was released for Concussion, which stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the one who discovered and fought to reveal said connection. This is obviously a touchy subject for the NFL, but it was also a concern for Sony who took steps to make sure this wouldn't turn into a legal headache.

The New York Times dug into Sony's emails and discovered that changes were made to the screenplay to avoid legal hassles from the NFL. But of course. However, writer/director Peter Landesman says the moves weren't to bow down to the NFL, but to make the story “better and richer and fairer" without being antagonistic.

“We don’t want to give the N.F.L. a toehold to say, ‘They are making it up,’ and damage the credibility of the movie." He adds, “There were things that might have been creatively fun to have actors say that might not have been accurate in the heads of the N.F.L. or doctors. We might have gotten away with it legally, but it might have damaged our integrity as filmmakers. We didn’t have a need to make up anything because it was powerful and revelatory on its own. There was never an instance where we compromised the storytelling to protect ourselves from the N.F.L.”

This is contradicted by some emails which state that Sony lawyers took “most of the bite” out of the film “for legal reasons with the N.F.L. and that it was not a balance issue.”

Landesman has stated the film's goal isn't to attack the NFL, and touts Sports Illustrated writer Peter King's acceptance of the drama as evidence. He refers to King as the "insider of insiders" when it comes to the NFL, and on that note he's absolutely correct. So if Landesman's point was to show that the ultimate mouthpiece for the NFL thinks his film is sufficiently embracing of the league's position then he's done a good job. Surely it doesn't prove that Concussion is the exposé piece many thought it would be.

Concussion hits theaters on Christmas Day. [EW]


Karen Gillan Enters 'The Circle', Scott Eastwood Shifts Into 'Overdrive'


Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy's Karen Gillan has joined Tom Hanks, John Boyega, and Emma Watson in The Circle, James Ponsoldt's adaptation of Dave Eggers' novel. The tech thriller details the perils of life in the digital age, centering on a young woman who takes a job at an all-encompassing Internet monopoly known as The Circle. Gillan will play Annie, a warm, cute, goofy, old-money confident and fiercely intelligent member of the company. [Deadline]

The generically-titled Overdrive has had anything but a generic production up to this point. The action film has been in the works for years and the list of names attached at different times is pretty long: Alex Pettyfer, Matthew Goode, Jamie Bell, Ben Barnes, Garrett Hedlund, Karl Urban, while the most recent update saw Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke on board. Well the slate has been wiped clean and now it's Scott Eastwood (The Longest Ride) who is hopping into the driver's seat. Produced by Pierre Morel (Taken) and directed by Antonio Negret (Transit), the film centers on two handsome brothers, both car thieves, who fun afoul of a crime boss in the south of France. Next up for Eastwood is a role in DC's Suicide Squad. [THR]

Zoe Bell Set For Action Flick 'Camino'


If Zoe Bell is in it, I'm going to be there. Period. Point blank. The Death Proof and The Hateful Eight actress has reunited with Raze director Josh C. Waller for action flick, Camino, and it's already been picked up by XLrator Media for release early next year. Yeah, buddy! The film co-stars, strangely enough, Oscar-nominated director Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes, the upcoming Colossal with Anne Hathaway), and is set in 1985 in the Colombian jungle. Here's the synopsis:

Set in 1985, war photographer Avery Taggert (Bell) has built a solid career with her stark and honest imagery, all the while remaining emotionally distant from her subjects. When she embeds in the jungles of Colombia with a squad of missionaries led by a beloved and charismatic Spaniard known as “El Guero” (Vigalondo), she finds herself in the middle of a conflict as violent as any she’s photographed.

One night she happens upon El Guero committing a heinous atrocity, capturing the vile act on film, an image with the potential to discredit and destroy El Guero. Knowing this brilliant psychopath will employ every tactic at his disposal to destroy that photograph – and the photographer who took it – Avery flees into the harsh jungle with nothing but the camera hanging around her neck to escape from missionaries twisted into violent guerrillas by the madman intent on destroying all enemies.

The film was written by Daniel Noah and co-stars Sheila Vand, Dominic Rains, Francisco Barreiro, Tenoch Huerta, Nancy Gomez, Jason Canela and Kevin Pollak.

Bell is beautiful, a talented actress, a tough-as-nails stuntwoman, and I long for the day when she and Ronda Rousey star in an action flick together. Just as I looked forward to Raze I'll be keeping a close eye out for Camino when it gets a firm release date.

Review: 'Dragon Blade' Starring Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody


The emergence of China as the dominant motion picture market has led to an increase in Western stars appearing in Chinese productions. The result has been an influx of Hollywood stars, some major and some not-so-major, starring in films that largely appeal to the Asian audience, whether they are cultural dramas, grand-scaled historical epics, or cheesy comedies. Daniel Lee's Dragon Blade, already a global blockbuster with $120M in China alone, is a strangely entertaining mix of all three, thrusting the odd combination of Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody into the unfamiliar realm of swords 'n sandals warfare. 

First of all, the visuals alone are both jaw-dropping and kind of hilarious. It's tough to get over that you're watching Chan in a sword duel with Cusack because it's both ridiculous and awesome at the same time. Lee, who has taken much smaller budgets than the $65M allotted here and created massive spectacles, puts every penny to good use in detailing war-torn China of the Han Dynasty. After a cornball prologue set in the present, we're transported back 48 B.C. where Huo An (Chan) is the earnest and kind-hearted leader of the Silk Road Protection Squad, a loose knit group whose job is pretty obvious based on their title. Huo, an orphaned Hun who was taken in by Chinese general Huo Qubing, was raised with a respect for all tribes in the region, and fights selflessly to maintain harmony along the crucial Silk Road. 

While only about 100 minutes in length, the vast majority of the first hour is gorgeously-detailed setup. Huo and his men are framed for gold smuggling and exiled to Wild Goose Gate where they are forced to rebuild an entire city in two weeks or be executed.  An impossible task; but fortune smiles on them when a lost Roman army led by rogue general Lucius (Cusack) arrives and picks a fight. A battle ensues between Lucius and Huo, but the two end up becoming best buds, with lots of singing, drinking, parades, and corny expressions of mutual respect. It turns out Lucius is on the run with an ailing boy, Publius (Joey Jozef), the rightful heir to the Roman throne and target for assassination by his vile brother, Tiberius (Brody), who already murdered their father.  With the aid of Lucius’ men and other local tribes, Huo turns the city into a symbol of the peace he’s long fought for.

Put into a historical context, the film is about as accurate as Zack Snyder's 300, meaning not at all. But that's par for the course for Lee, who chose entertainment over accuracy with 2008's Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon. Once again it proves to be a wise move, as the film is never long without action or drama. The battles, of which there are many, are unique in that they combine Roman fighting techniques with traditional Chinese martial arts, a visual that never gets boring. There's also something refreshing in the friendship that emerges between Huo and Lucius, two outcasts from different lands with similar codes of honor. What doesn't always work are the endless number of songs and heavy-handed expressions of tribal unity, which only slow down the film's momentum.  A comedic subplot involving Huo's mistaken marriage to Cold Moon (Lin Peng) begins as a distraction but pays dividends as she becomes deeply entwined in the fight against Tiberius.


It's inescapable that the sight of Brody and Cusack as Roman gladiators is going to be a little bit funny, but at least Cusack settles nicely into a role he's rarely, if ever, been called on to play. Brody, on the other hand, is hilariously awful as Tiberius. Sporting a wild mane of hair and practically foaming at the mouth in every scene, it's like he just graduated from the Nicolas Cage school of B-movie overacting. Chan continues to be a dynamic force even at his advanced age. He's basically playing the same nice-guy role that he always plays, but he does it well and his martial arts skills are still a lot of fun to watch.  

Not since John Woo's incredible Red Cliff has a major Chinese war film made much of an impact in the United States. Dragon Blade has a pretty good shot at changing that with Brody, Cusack, and Chan, who is more popular here than his American co-stars, at the top of the marquee.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

'Supergirl' Adds Iddo Goldberg as Red Tornado and Dr. T.O. Morrow


Between Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, and now Supergirl, pretty much every member of the Justice League is going to end up on the small screen in some fashion. The latest to make the jump is the android Red Tornado, who will be seen in Supergirl's first season and played by Peaky Blinders' actor, Iddo Goldberg.

Goldberg has been signed to play both Red Tornado and his creator, Dr. T.O. Morrow, which is a pretty interesting move. Here's the description of the character for the series:

“Designed for the army by scientist T.O. Morrow, Red Tornado is the world’s most nefarious android who is capable of devastating National City. Once free from the U.S. government’s grip, Red Tornado sets out on a path of destruction that only Supergirl will be able to stop.”

In the comics, Red Tornado was the result of a merger between Morrow's android and the sentient entities known as the Tornado Champion and Tornado Tyrant. After battling the Justice Society and Justice League at different points, Red Tornado would eventually become a respected member of both teams, while Morrow remained a villain. While Red Tornado is being presented as a villain in the Supergirl series at first, don't be surprised if that changes and Morrow ends up being the real bad guy when all is said and done.

It's unclear when Red Tornado will debut, but the first season of Supergirl kicks off on Monday, October 26th.

Disney Moves Forward On 'Artemis Fowl' With Kenneth Branagh As Director


Published back in 2001 at the start of the YA craze caused by the first Harry Potter film, Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl is one of those franchises that has blockbuster written all over it. Harvey Weinstein took a special liking to it, snatching up the rights for Miramax immediately and sticking with it through years of headaches. Disney ultimately ended up with the film rights, and a couple of years ago they decided to team up with Weinstein to finally bring the book to the screen. Now we're seeing the first real steps towards making that happen as Kenneth Branagh, who is coming off the $500M+ success of Disney's Cinderella, is on board to direct.

Artemis Fowl is unlike anything else in the genre, as it follows a billionaire boy genius who happens to be a criminal mastermind. He exists in a world of amazing technology and supernatural creatures, which makes his stories a cross between James Bond and Harry Potter. In the first book he uses his gifts to kidnap a fairy for a large ransom of gold, although there's much more to his plan than mere wealth. Seven more books would follow, so if the film is the hit many expect you can bet Disney will adapt the entire series.

Lawrence Guterman was the first director attached but the project sat in development Hell for a decade. During that time Miramax was acquired by Disney, Jim Sheridan came aboard to direct, and Weinstein left Miramax to start The Weinstein Company. He never gave up on Artemis Fowl, though, and in 2013 he and Disney struck a deal to collaborate on the adaptation with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal as producers.. With Branagh in place new writer will be brought in to give the screenplay a shot and finally got this anticipated film off the ground. [The Tracking Board]