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INTERVIEW: Drew Cullingham on The Devil’s Bargain

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Thu, 16/01/2014 - 19:45

Drew Cullingham is well on his way to gaining a notable reputation for creating challenging cinema. His new film, The Devil’s Bargain, was shot using an innovative pinhole technique along with the ambitious storyline of an impending apocalypse. Dave Wain caught up with Drew to quiz him on his new picture, his career, as well as life behind the camera...

You’ve worked with two of the leads in The Devil’s Bargain before. How much of a benefit does such familiarity give the film-making process?
A huge benefit, especially given the already-mentioned nudity. I've worked with Jonnie Hurn many times and with that comes (hopefully mutual) trust. I always know that he will come up with the goods in terms of performance, but it also helps to have a good understanding of how each other works – it saves a lot of time when you're under pressure.  I'd only worked with Chloe once before this, but know her well enough that there is that important trust.  Given the nature of this film, this certainly affected the casting decisions.

Some of the initial promo for the film underlined its full-frontal nudity. After watching the movie though, it’s actually really subtle and refreshingly natural as opposed to the usual exploitative nature of horror movie nudity. What was your thinking behind this aspect of the film?
I think it may simply be a matter of just how much nudity is in the film.  It is there as a natural state of being, rather than necessarily a purely sexual one (though there's plenty of that too!).  There's also not the usual horror trope you'd get in, say, slashers of associating nudity or sexualisation with sin, which in turns usually presages a grisly demise. It was also absolutely necessitated by the story and the themes at work within the story.  It's a credit to the actors, and possibly the way in which it was shot, that it feels so natural, as you say.

2013 saw films such as Ethan Race’s Temple Wood and Robbie Moffat’s Seven Crosses appear first on VoD with other’s debuting on Vimeo or either YouTube. Why did you decide to debut The Devil’s Bargain on VoD?
It's really a matter of embracing what will in some fashion or other become the norm.  It's also a way of maintaining control of the film, and having a direct line, through using social media etc, to the people that matter – the audience.

How does this method of release alter the way you prepare, shoot and ultimately market the film? Does it give you more artistic freedom?
I wouldn't say that it's all that different in terms of the prep and the shooting, although it does mean it's easier to make the film you want to make.  The marketing onus is certainly more on the filmmakers, and reliant on social media and word of mouth as much as anything else.

What is the current status of Monk3ys and Black Smoke Rising? I see they’re both available to rent via your Facebook page.
They are indeed.  Both those films were premiered at Raindance (Monk3ys winning best micro-budget feature there), who then offered to use them as flagship films in the upcoming launch of their own VOD service.  Most of us practically live online these days, and again, the most important thing to me as a filmmaker is that people actually see the films.  Making them available easily through either the Raindance site, or to stream on the films' websites and on Facebook just makes reaching people that much easier.  That said, Monk3ys will also soon enjoy a North American DVD release!

Your career to date seems to epitomise going in the opposite direction of most people establishing routes in the film industry. You’ve shot on black and white, you’ve done a one location character piece, and now with The Devil’s Bargain you made the bold decision to use this pinhole technique. Bold decisions considering many are happy to opt for the predictable zombie / slasher avenue.
Well when you put it that way, it's little wonder that I'm still broke!

Finally, what’s next for Drew Cullingham?
Something very different again, for me!  I'm about to embark on a raunchy comedy called Skinny Buddha. Oh, and there is a zombie comedy in the pipeline as well as a WW2 psychological thriller.

• The Devil’s Bargain is released on VoD on January 17 at Facebook

REVIEW: The Devil’s Bargain

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The Best Films You Didn’t See This Year

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Thu, 26/12/2013 - 12:27

By David Watson

Ho, ho, ho, ‘tis the season to drink yourself into a coma while consuming your bodyweight in dry roast fowl and being secretly disappointed by the Doctor Who Christmas Special before the evening devolves into long-nursed grievance an bitter recriminations.

‘Tis also the season when every film critic on the planet publishes their Top Ten Films of the Year list, lemming-like anointing Gravity the BESTEST FILM EVER! while rounding up the usual suspects to fill out the other nine spots.

Well, screw that!  You don’t need yet another smug, self-satisfied countdown of the films you saw anyway! Instead here’s my smug, self-satisfied list of the films you probably didn’t see but should have.

The following list doesn’t claim to be the best films of the year (though three of my favourites are on it), I’m not even sure if I like some of them, and there’s a lot of films that equally deserved to be here (Metro Manila, Starred Up, The Gatekeepers, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, low-budget Brit sci-fi The Machine, Europa Report, You’re Next, Rebellion, Bullhead). It’s just a list of the films that my mind keeps returning to which I think really deserved more love than they got.

1. Short Term 12
Forget the bloated, brainless flopbusters that filled multiplexes over the Summer, forget the wildly over-rated, vacuous Gravity, forget the buttock-numbing tedium of Desecration of Smeg, the best film of the year was the one that made me weep like the cutest little jailbird Number 47 ever did see, Dustin Cretton’s fantastic Short Term 12, a genuinely heartbreaking, uplifting, beautiful piece of cinema with a wonderful central performance from Brie Larson as the dedicated social worker managing a foster home for children in crisis.  One of the most affecting films I've seen in years with the highest quota of "honest, it's just a piece of grit in my eye" moments, Short Term 12 is close to perfect.

2. Upstream Colour
Perhaps one of the most perplexing films you didn’t see at cinemas this year was Primer director Shane Carruth’s Upstream Colour which mixed sci-fi, paranoid conspiracy theories and animal husbandry into a conventional mumblecore romance featuring fantastic performances from the wonderful Amy Seimetz and Carruth himself.  Imagine James Herriot channelled Philip K Dick to write a paranoid love story for Terrence Malick and you’d be within spitting distance of Carruth’s beautiful, obtuse, headscratcher.  I genuinely don’t know if I like this film or what I think of it but I’m still thinking about it almost a year after first seeing it and that’s why it’s on this list.

3. Only God Forgives
A gorgeous fever dream dedicated to male impotence, sublimated aggression and displaced violence, Only God Forgives is simply stunning; a beautiful, grubby morality play that leaves you wanting to curl up in a foetal position and weep in the shower like Elizabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas.  And Only Gosling Makes A Waistcoat Look This Cool.

4. To The Wonder
Hypnotic.  Sensual.  Lyrical.  Soulful.  Pretentious.  Cod-profound.  Shallow.  Utter bollocks.  Like Upstream Colour, how I feel about Terrence Malick’s undeniably beautiful To The Wonder changes from day to day, moment to moment, but I’m fairly sure Malick’s ode to the nuttiness of French birds is utter tosh.  But it is also kinda wonderful and Olga Kurylenko, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem are mesmeric, almost convincing you that you aren’t wasting two hours of your life watching the captivating Kurylenko dance around a supermarket with a mop while breathily lending Malick’s teenage poetry/narration a profundity it doesn’t really deserve.

5. Leviathan
A non-narrative documentary that’s closer to experimental art cinema than the smug, cod-gonzo, Broomfield-lite wank that too often passes for documentary filmmaking these days, Leviathan defies conventional description and is quite simply the best horror film of the year. If Stan Brakhage directed an episode of The Deadliest Catch it would probably look a lot like Leviathan. Like being chased into an alley and given a refreshing kicking, it’s a bruising, ultimately cathartic, experience.

6. The East
Sound Of My Voice director Zal Batmanglij once again collaborated with the sublime Brit Marling on zeitgeist-courting eco-thriller The East. Morally ambiguous and tense without being overwrought, The East is that rare beast; intelligent, adult multiplex fare that credits its audience with at least as much intelligence as its makers and Marling is ably supported by Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard.

7. Byzantium
A wintry, melancholic, truly Gothic take on the vampire myth that drives a stake through the hearts of Twilight’s sparkle fairies, Byzantium is closer to Angela Carter than Stephanie Meyer and may just be director Neil Jordan’s best film since The Company Of Wolves.  Dark and erotic, with nods to Kumel’s classic 1971 Daughters Of Darkness, Byzantium is a sensual, seductive adult fairytale of gender politics with career best performances from Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan.

8. Klown
Dark, transgressive and subversive, if Lars Von Trier made a Hangover movie it’d look a lot like Danish comedy Klown.  I laughed so hard a tiny bit of wee escaped.

9. Midnight Son
The second vampire movie on the list, Midnight Son is a subtle, intelligent, erotic, swooningly romantic little horror flick that makes the Twilight movies look anaemic.

10. The Day
Made back in 2011 and bypassing UK cinemas completely, Canadian post-apocalyptic horror thriller The Day snuck out onto DVD at the start of the year without anyone even really noticing which is a shame as it’s a bleak, relentless, visceral little End Of The World flick with nods to ‘70s classics like The Ultimate Warrior which pitches five desperate survivors (including The Last Exorcism’s wonderful Ashley Bell) up against an army of peckish cannibals in a savage last stand.  Think The Road – only good - with the machete-wielding Bell kicking mucho cannibal ass.

Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!

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Mark Searby's Top 10 Films of 2013

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Thu, 26/12/2013 - 11:51

By Mark Searby

Here is a film that made me terrified while watching it, it's been years since I felt like that in the cinema. It made me grip the armrests and scrunch my feet for the whole 90 minutes. A real tour-de-force of filmmaking, and I thank Alfonso Cuaron very much for that.

Captain Philips
Just when you think Tom Hanks has stopped making real emotional films he delivers a one-man emotional journey. The tension racks up another notch every 20 minutes. Damn if I didn't shed a tear at the end through sheer exhaustion.

Before Midnight
Having been there at the beginning with these films, it feels like Jesse and Celine are extended family. The third outing is the most humanistic of the trilogy and shows how life has evolved as they grow older; we all have to have those conversations at some point in our relationships.

Kings Of Summer
This beautiful indie story of teenage life captivates from the opening scenes. Wishing you were older and able to escape the clutches of your parents, and here it shows kids are growing up faster and more intelligent that adults think. But some things have to be realised in real life rather than told to them. I would have loved to have built such a magnificent tree house when I was that young.

Oz The Great and Powerful
Not being a huge fan of The Wizard Of Oz, I was surprised how much this film mesmerised me. Gorgeous CGI with a stellar cast and a fun story, all done with Sam Raimi's magical touch. It's a great family film.

It's difficult to let this documentary slip out of my mind. The deaths of the trainers are very upsetting (along with some of the footage); it's more the self-aggrandising from SeaWorld that made my blood boil.

This Is The End
Crazy, stupid fun that probably only appeals if you like the main cast (who doesn't?) that make up most of the new Hollywood and are all playing to type, and each have their insecurities picked apart with comical precision from the others. Also the endless cameos are a delight - Emma Watson and Michael Cera being standouts.

Star Trek Into Darkness
In a year which I felt most Hollywood blockbusters failed to deliver, JJ Abrams gave a fantastic exhibition in Sci-Fi. Great big popcorn fun with an excellent turn from man of the moment Benedict Cumberbatch. Larger in scale but the story doesn't lack any less punch.

Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow's film based on a true story deserves all the plaudits it receives. Even from the opening water boarding scenes it's clear that there is no holding back, and the final third is a rip-roaring, action charged piece all under cover of darkness and immense silence.

You're Next
Sure it's not doing anything different to any other horror home invasion movies, but what grabbed me was the lead actress Sharni Vinson's ability to properly kick some ass in a genre mainly reserved for women as scream queens only. On top of that, it's got some great banter and a very interesting twist.

Worst film of the year: Movie 43
A film so terrible that no one involved will talk about it, or even apologise for inflicting it on us.

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Mon, 23/12/2013 - 21:53

Christmas lead-in sees Anchorman 2 beaten by The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

By Rich Matthews

The last weekend before Christmas saw Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues open in second place at the US box office, with $26.8m. The much-hyped comedy has now taken $40m since opening on Wednesday last week, plus $13.4m internationally, which is three times as much as the first Anchorman took in its entire run. That means the $50m sequel has already grosses a global total of $53.4m and looks set to easily eclipse the first Anchorman's worldwide tally of $90.6m in the US alone.

But that wasn't enough to knock The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug off its perch atop the box office, with Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings prequel sequel consuming a further $31.5m to swell its domestic total to $127.5m. That's nearly $25m behind where the first Hobbit, Un Unexpected Journey was at the same point, but it's keeping better pace internationally where it has so far grossed $276.3m for an excellent global tally of $403.8m. Ultimately, Smaug should reach the same $1bn mark as Journey, even with its slight lag in the US.

The last wide release saw TV spin-off Walking With Dinosaurs flop at number eight with a paltry $7.3m The BBC-based CGI animation has already taken $13.6m but is unlikely to make any significant dent on final holiday grosses. In comparison, niche release Dhoom 3 opened in only 236 theatres compared to Dinosaurs 3,231 and managed to make ninth place with a gross of $3.3m.

Of the two big expanding films this weekend, American Hustle – starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper – fared the best at number four with a gross of $19.1m taking it's total to $20.2m, with a new projected final domestic gross north of $100m. Meanwhile, Disney's Uncle Walt making of Mary Poppins drama Saving Mr Banks, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson disappointed with a gross of $9.3m, taking it's domestic total to just shy of $10m.

Frozen continues to hold strong at number three, grossing a further $19.2m to climb close to $200m domestically while also taking $152.6m in the rest of the world for a global total of $344.2m, while big YA sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Jennifer Lawrence's second title in the top 10) took a further $8.8m to reach $371.7m in the US and $765.3m worldwide. Rounding out the chart, Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas grossed $8.5m to land at number seven and raise it's total to a ho-hum $28.3m, while Thor: The Dark World's $1.3m at number 10 saw Marvel's Asgardian demigod superhero cross the $200m mark domestically and soar to $627m worldwide.

Coming up is the usual Christmas tussle for business in the US, with Keanu Reeves in 47 Ronin, Stallone vs De Niro in the ring in Grudge Match, Ben Stiller directing and starring in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf Of Wall Street all vying for the festive dollar, so expect a big shuffle in the rankings come next weekend.

Merry Christmas, Screenjabberers!

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Doug Cooper's Top 10 Films of 2013

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 22/12/2013 - 22:14

By Doug Cooper

1. Gravity
The best use of 3D I've ever seen in a movie – a visually stunning, awesomely exciting space adventure deftly delivered by Alfonso Cuaron, all in a welcomely lean 90 minutes.

2. Captain Phillips
Paul Greengrass' riveting true life tale grips like a vice and is superbly realised, with an outstanding turn from Tom Hanks giving it his all, especially in the emotionally shattering closing stages.

3. Before Midnight
The sublime, semi-improvised performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy make this third affair detailing the lives of bickering couple Jesse and Celine the best so far – insightful, funny, wry and absorbing.

4. Metro Manila
This subtitled crime drama is a slow burn effort, sneaking up on you slyly and ultimately packing a sizeable wallop. Atmospheric, unpredictable and very compelling. Seek this one out.

5. The Great Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann's vibrant, in-your-face re-imagining of F Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel was not for every taste – but I loved it. Leonardo DiCaprio was perfectly cast as the enigmatic millionaire. A marvellous movie.

6. The Sessions
John Hawkes gives a wonderful performance as polio sufferer Mark O'Brien in this nuanced, heartfelt and amusing true life tale. Helen Hunt partners him splendidly as his "sex surrogate".

7. The Way Way Back
The year's best coming-of-age tale – a funny, touching affair recounting a troubled teenager's experiences at a holiday water park, with top notch performances by all. One feels great affection for it – you can't help but like it.

8. A Late Quartet
This quiet, soulful drama about a classical string quartet never received the attention it deserved. The exquisite performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Imogen Poots, Mark Ivanir and Christopher Walken make it a most satisfying and rewarding endeavour.

9. Philomena
All the elements mesh perfectly for Stephen Frears' unfussy and very assured helming of this lovely, moving and heartwarming story – boasting a customarily excellent turn from Judi Dench and a career best performance from Steve Coogan.

10. Pain & Gain
Who would've thought that Michael Bay of all people could've come up with one of the most goofily enjoyable movies of the year? A consistently hilarious, high octane, guilty pleasure of the first order.

The Five Worst Movies of 2013
1. After Earth
2. Pacific Rim
4. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
5. Only God Forgives

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Stuart O'Connor's Top 10 Films of 2013

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 22/12/2013 - 12:16

By Stuart O'Connor

This has not been too bad a year for film – my favourites list outweighs my "hated" list by three-to-one, easily. The following may not be the BEST films of 2013, but among the ones I actually got to see, they were the ones that I enjoyed the most. As usual, they are listed in no particular order (although the top one may well be my favourite of the lot).

An old-school animated Disney musical, Frozen was a sight for sore eyes (and music to my ears). A conventional Disney Princess story, based on the classic Hans Christina Anderson fairytale, but given a modern feminist twist and a Broadway sensibility (have I mentioned yet that the music is to die for?). A brilliant voice cast, beautiful animation, solid 3D  ... and talking snowman Olaf is the icing on the cake. Frozen is easily the best Disney musical since The Lion King, and the big number Let It Go is a shoo-in for the Best Song oscar come March.

I've never been much of a fan of Formula 1 racing, but Rush is not really about funny little cars going very fast round and round tracks; it's about the men who get behind the wheel and put their lives on the line. Although the script doe take some liberties with the truth, it's a gripping drama and one of Ron Howard's best films in years.

Cuaron's space survival drama is a stunning peice of cinema. It's been criticised for its plot, script and dialogue, but those people are just wrong – Gravity is a feast for the senses.

Tarantino on top form and brilliant performances from Foxx, Waltz, DiCaprio and Jackson in this slavery drama. Shame about Tarantino's "Australian" accent though.

Jackman and Gyllenhaal face off in this kidnapped kids drama. Gripping and twisty.

From the gorgeous slow-motion opening scenes of children playing hide and seek, Big Bad Wolves is a dark fairytale about a nasty child killer that will leave you breathless and shattered. With just two features under their belts, writer-directors Keshales and Papushado have shown themselves to be filmmakers of superior quality – as good as Hitchcock, Scorsese and the Coen brothers.

Chan-wook Park's first English-language film is beautiful, intriguing, lush, moving, unsettling and compelling. It's a tale of murder, mystery, double-dealing and yes, even incest, that's been told a hundred times before. But Park brings a clever set of fresh eyes to it, giving us something that we haven't seen before.

If you want to know what to expect from this film. the clue is in the title: MAN of Steel. This is a very human story, a story of Clark Kent's search for identity. It's also a very modern and original take on the character, with Goyer and Snyder bringing a gret deal of freshness to the Superman mythos.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his writing/directing debut with an absolute corker, a tale of a porn-obsessed Jersey boy who's rather fond of one-night stands and daily gym workouts. Everyone is on top form here (and it's great to see Tony Danza on our screen's again) by Scarlett Johansson's Jersey girl steals the show.

A late entry (it's showing in London but doesn't go nationwide until January 1), this is simply a joy. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence are all on top form in this 70s-set tale of conmen and and FBI sting. It seems that director David O Russell can do no wrong.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: American Mary, Maniac, Compliance, Trance, Papadopoulos and Sons, The Place Beyond The Pines, Olympus Has Fallen, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Mud, Byzantium, Behind The Candelabra, World War Z, Despicable Me 2, This Is The End, Frances Ha, The Conjuring, You're Next, No One Lives, White House Down, Blue Jasmine, Filth, Enough Said, Bad Grandpa, Drinking Buddies, Philomena, Nebraska.

DISHONOURABLE MENTIONS (the disappointments of 2013): Movie 43, Flight, I Give It a Year, This Is 40, The Lords of Salem, After Earth, The Last Exorcism: Part 2, Now You See Me, Grown Ups 2, Planes, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Call, Runner Runner, Getaway, Powder Room.

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Screenjabber Pubcast Finale: This Is The End

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sat, 21/12/2013 - 19:33

Join Simon Thompson, Mark Brennan, Mark Searby, Andrew Jones, David Watson, Doug Cooper, Christa Ktorides, Steve Boxer and host Stuart O'Connor as Screenjabber takes a look back at the year in film and video games.

You can listen to and download the podcast – or subscribe to it on iTunes ... plus you can follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook.

PubQuest: We're looking to take the Screenjabber Pubcast on the road, and want your input. Know a great pub in London we should visit to record the show? Drop us a line and let us know.

WriterQuest: We're seeking some more writers, particularly those who want to cover video games for us. Please get in touch if you're keen.

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Showbiz Simon Says ...

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Wed, 18/12/2013 - 08:58

By Simon Thompson

Already a shoo-in for Oscar glory, 12 Years A Slave looks set to also dominate at the London Critics' Circle Film Awards. Steve McQueen's movie is up for nine awards including Film Of The Year, Best Director, British Actor Of The Year for Chiwetel Ejiofor, and supporting role nominattions for Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o. There are five nods for Philomena including British Actress and British Actor Of The Year for Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan respectively. Just behind in the nomination tally stakes are Blue Jasmine, Filth, Gravity and The Wolf Of Wall Street, which all get four nominations each. The London Critics' Circle Film Awards will be handed out on 2 February 2014.

★ Josh Gad is off to Gilligan’s Island. Warner Bros has confirmed it is moving forward with the moie adaptation of the classic TV show and has signed Gad up for a lead role – the studio isn’t saying which one yet though. (Justin Long will be Gilligan, so our guess is the Skipper – Ed.) The original show ran for 98 episodes on CBS from 1964 to 1967. There were also three TV movies. The show starred Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr, Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Dawn Wells, Russell Johnson and Tina Louise as a bunch of castaways stranded on an uncharted island.

★ Can you smell what The Rock is counting? It’s money. Dwayne Johnson has been named as the top-grossing actor of 2013 – that’s in terms of how much his movies have earned though and not his actual salary. Robert Downey Jr is in second place after Iron Man 3 brought in $1.2 billion. Thanks to Fast and Furious 6, GI Joe: Retaliation and Pain and Gain, Dwayne’s big-screen exploits earned a total of $1.3 billion. Sandra Bullock is to top female on the list, published in and complied by Forbes magazine, but “only” clocked up $862 million via box office hits Gravity and The Heat. Just behind her is The Rock’s late F&F6 co-star Paul Walker – it was the biggest hit of his career.

★ A fourth instalment in the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is on the way. According to the book’s Swedish publishers, David Lagercrantz will write a new story about the characters of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist created by Stieg Larsson. Larsson had already started work on a fourth book in the series before he died in 2004. Apparently some plot lines from the existing novels will be picked up it’s not known if any of the original, unfinished work will form any part of the new book. The novel, which as yet doesn’t have a confirmed title, is due to hit shelves in August 2015. The original trilogy sold more than 75m copies worldwide and has been turned into three Swedish and one Hollywood movie.

★ Staying on the resurrection theme... Brian Griffin is BACK! The makers of Family Guy are bringing the family dog back just weeks after he was run over by a car in an episode called Life Of Brian. The talking pet returned in a Christmas episode. Called Christmas Guy it saw Stewie Griffin travel back in time to save his friend after asking the Father Christmas at a local shopping centre to bring him back. Around 75,000+ fans signed an online petition to get showrunners to save the popular character. Following his death, Brian was replaced by a new dog called Vinny, voiced by Sopranos star Tony Sirico, but it’s not known if he’ll appear in the show again.

★ He may have been killed off in the last film, but it seems that won’t stop Channing Tatum possibly returning for a third film in the GI Joe franchise. The threequel’s been greenlit with Jon Chu returning to direct. The helmer’s been quoted as saying: "We're taking it in a whole new direction... taking it to another level with this one." If Tatum does return it wouldn’t be the first time a character in the series has come back from the dead. Chu has teased: "Storm Shadow was killed in the first one and came back in the second one. The 'GI Joe' world... the best thing about it is you never know who's coming back and who's not."

★ New Zealand is to be home to the next three Avatar movies. The move is part of a $412 million deal between the New Zealand government, 20th Century Fox and James Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment. Part of the deal means that, in addition to spending $412 million in the country, the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the movies must contain a featurette on New Zealand PLUS the country must host at least one red carpet premiere. Production is due to kick off next year with Avatar 2 due for release December 2016 and Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 following in December 2017 and 2018 respectively.

★ Even The Bible is getting a sequel. NBC has greenlit the 12-hour miniseries A.D. as a follow-up to the miniseries passed on the religious text after it proved to be a ratings, if not critical, hit when aired on the History channel earlier this year.  It’s recently aired on Channel 5 in the UK and hits Blu-ray and DVD on December 26, 2013. Jennifer Salke, president at NBC Entertainment, has been quoted as saying: "You might think the story is over at the Crucifixion, but as most of the world knows, that was only the beginning." Jesus Christ...

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PRESS RELEASE: Kick-Ass 2 fans get creative

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Tue, 17/12/2013 - 13:21

Last weekend, fans of the Kick-Ass franchise marked the release of Kick-Ass 2 on Blu-ray and DVD at the Kick-Ass Comic Canv-Ass, recreating writer and executive producer Mark Millar’s favourite scene from the superhero blockbuster.

Comic-book buffs and aspiring artists proved they could give John Romita Jr a run for his money at the Rockwell House Rooftop in Shoreditch, contributing to a giant comic strip that is currently being showcased at the venue and on the official Kick Ass Movie Facebook page.

The fans sketched out the dramatic battle between Hit Girl and Mother Russia under the watchful eye of one of the most foremost street artists in the UK, EndoftheLine creative director Jim Vision, and his team of talented artists including Rufus Dayglo, Dr Zadok and Ed Hicks.

People travelled from across the UK to take part in the event. Louie Moselhi, a student from Aberdeen University, said: “I saw the event on Facebook and had to come down as I’m a massive fan of both Kick-Ass and Jim Vision. I’ve never spray painted before but the artists showed me the ropes and I’m really pleased with my finished scene.”

Millar said: “The event was a fantastic opportunity for fans of Kick-Ass 2 and anyone with a talent for cartooning or a passion for comic books to be involved in the creation of an exciting piece of art. The turnout was amazing and shows just how supportive Kick Ass fans are. The reason I chose the scene with Hit-Girl versus Mother Russia in the final act is because it shows Hit-Girl, who's always been the bad-ass of the franchise, up against someone she's slightly scared of and I loved seeing her really showing us what she's capable of.”

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News Jab: US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 15/12/2013 - 21:23

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug No.1 but softer than Unexpected Journey

By Rich Matthews

Peter Jackson's second part of his Hobbit Lord Of The Rings prequel trilogy, The Desolation Of Smaug, opened some 13% lower than 2012's first outing (which took $84.6m to notch up the biggest ever December opening), An Unexpected Journey, but still took $73.7m with a worldwide opening of $204.9m.

That softer opening may not be the film alone, however, because the first Hobbit had no competition to speak of, while Smaug is fighting off strong holdovers Frozen (at number two with $22.2m, a US tally of $164.4m and a worldwide gross of $266m) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (number four with $13.2m, US total of $357m and a global haul of $730m, surpassing the first Hunger Games' $691m).

And we haven't yet mentioned Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, which opened at number three with a disappointing $16m, nearly $10m less than Perry's last Madea flick, Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection in June 2012. However, both Madea and The Hobbit will likely gain momentum during the Christmas period, so both may come close to matching or surpassing the respective $65.7m US and $1bn global grosses of their last entries. Thor: The Dark World rounded out the top five with $2.7m, a US gross of $198.1m and a worldwide tally of $620m.

The back five of the top 10 was compromised of smaller fry, with Christian Bale underperformer Out Of The Furnace at six ($2.3, $9.5m), Vince Vaughn flop Delivery Man at seven ($1.9m, $28m), Judi Dench/Steve Coogan dramedy Philomena at eight ($1.8m, $11m, $28.3m), Geoffrey Rush Holocaust drama The Book Thief at nine ($1.7m, $14.9m) and Jason Statham vehicle (penned by Sly Stallone) Homefront at 10 ($1.6m, $18.4m).

In the specialist front, David O Russell's 70s heist flick American Hustle – starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – posted a stellar per screen average of $115,000 to take its total to $690,000 from only six theatres, while Disney's Saving Mr Hanks – starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins creator PL Travers – only managed an average of $28,000 and a $421,000 gross from 15 theatres.

The market starts to get even more cluttered this week as Will Ferrell returns as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues on Wednesday, while Friday sees the 3D film version of Walking With Dinosaurs stomp into view as American Hustle and Saving Mr Banks both expand nationwide. Then there's the traditional Christmas Day flurry that this year includes Keanu Reeves in 47 Ronin, Ben Stiller's The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and Leonardo DiCaprio getting mental for Martin Scorsese in the long-awaited The Wolf Of Wall Street.


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