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Showbiz Simon Says ...

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sat, 08/02/2014 - 16:24

By Simon Thompson

Aca-mazing news! Universal Pictures has confirmed that Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson have both signed on to reprise their roles in the upcoming Pitch Perfect sequel. Elizabeth Banks, who appeared in the first movie, will direct it. Kay Cannon, who wrote the script for the original, is returning to write the sequel which is set to hit cinemas in May 2015. This news is so good it gives us a toner.

★ Will Smith won’t be back for director Roland Emmerich's upcoming Independence Day 2. It was originally thought he’d be up for returning as Captain Steven Hiller, but Deadline reports that the After Earth actor has told 20th Century Fox he won't be joining the sequel after all. Emmerich and co-writer Dean Devlin have got it covered though as they developed two separate scripts where one features Smith and the other is Smith-free. ID2 is scheduled for a July 2016 release, which is 20 years after the original movie hit cinemas.

★ Psych has been cancelled after eight seasons. US TV network USA has confirmed that final episode, The Breakup, will air on March 26. It’ll be followed by a live one-hour Psych After Show special, which will feature a Q&A with creator Steve Franks and the cast. However, there are already rumours that central characters Shawn and Gus may return in a spin-off show or similar project in the future.

★ The Intern will see Anne Hathaway star opposite Robert De Niro. She’ll play the founder of a successful company who, as part of a new program, takes in a senior citizen (De Niro) to be her intern. Reese Witherspoon and Tina Fey have both previously been linked to the latest piece from writer-director Nancy Myers. The Intern is expected to go into production very soon.

★ Lennie James could return to The Walking Dead – that’s coming from creator Robert Kirkman. He’s told Entertainment Weekly: "The writing team want to see [James's character] Morgan again as much as the fans do. It's entirely possible [he'll be back]. We all love Lennie James and we all want to see Morgan again so it may happen at some point, it may not." However, he said that Melissa McBride's character is more likely to reappear in a future episode, adding: "Carol was exiled from the prison... and now all of our characters have in a sense been exiled from the prison. So, you know... they're all pretty much in the same place now."

★ Jason Statham won’t be joining the reboot of the Transporter franchise. Luc Besson's EuropaCorp company is still moving forward with plans for an entirely new trilogy though, with a focus on the origins of Frank Martin. Meantime, the Stath has signed up for action sequel The Mechanic 2, although there’s no word on whether any other original cast members will also return.

★ Terry Gilliam’s told Empire magazine that he’ll start shooting his long-awaited Miguel de Cervantes adaptation The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in September. He’s revealed: "I'm going to try to do Don Quixote again. I think this is the seventh time. Lucky seven, maybe. We'll see if it happens." He’s returning to the project – it started filming in 2000 with Jean Rochefort as Quixote and Johnny Depp in the role of Sancho Panza – but it hit the skids and was never finished. This latest attempt will be shot in the Canary Islands.

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INTERVIEW: Scott Cooper on Out Of The Furnace

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Thu, 30/01/2014 - 16:48

After being a small-time actor, Scott Cooper turned his hand to writing and directing in 2009 and his debut film Crazy Heart bagged a handful of BAFTAs and an Best Actor Academy Award for Jeff Bridges. Now, in his second film as a writer/director, he returns with Out Of The Furnace, a steel-town action drama starring Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson. Screenjabber's Peter deGraft-Johnson managed to catch up with Cooper just before the film was released for a chinwag about the state of Hollywood cinema, his filmmaking style, and his new film ...

Scott, congratulations on a really tense film, it's always hard with these interviews because you feel desperate and obliged to say something nice, even if there's not much nice to say, but thankfully, I really did enjoy this, so I can compliment you without a guilty conscience!
Well, thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the film.

It's such a tense film almost constantly, where did that darkness and ominous tone come from?
Well, most films are overly verbose, in my opinion, so I wanted to draw in audiences in a different way. Perhaps with a look, or a movement, or a little bit of psychology or behaviour without resorting to over-explaining. Of course not all films are like that, but it's something I don't particularly like.

Is that also true of the political overtones to the relationship between the “straight-shooting”, mill-working Bale and the off-the-beaten-track, hedonism of Harrelson? Did you leave that in there, but not want to over-explain it?
I tried not to be overt with anything, especially not politically, that's not really my game, so I think's that's just down to those great performances again. Those guys really are extraordinary at what they do. I wanted audiences to engage with those questions without putting too fine a point on it. I just put as honest a portrayal of these two characters on the page as I could, and let the actors bring that to life.

Do you think that minimalism helps the film feel multi-genre feel then? The trailer sets it up as a standard action film, but when you're watching it, it covers a lot. There's a bit of action, revenge tragedy, thriller, family drama…
I mean, because there's less dialogue, it lends itself to more interpretations, that's just the way it is, and I love that. So there's that, but also, it's not just about the camera either, it's all about the actors to create that darkness, that nature. All of the other stuff is background to those incredibly subtle performances. I was working with a great crew that really got that, the production design, set design, costume design all understood what I was going for.

You mentioned the crew of this film, I think another great asset of this film was this creepy soundtrack that provides a really strong backbone for the film, could you tell us a bit about that?
Well, the score was written by the great Dickon Hinchliffe, and we even had Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam on there too, and it was, just like I wanted for the film, subtle, nuanced and like you said, a little bit creepy. I'm really happy with it. It helps give the film this really unsettling, elliptical feel.

Just as an aside, what was it like distributing and marketing a film like this? It's not exactly your traditional Hollywood picture – there's no nice ending or hot pink love stories? (It's all the better for it, in my opinion)

It's nearly impossible to get a film like this made. It's basically a film about two brothers, a blue collar steel mill worker and a soldier, and their lives, and it's something that could really happen. Also, Hollywood…they like their movies softer, easier and more digestible – and that's everything this film isn't, and I really hope people see the film because of that.

Lastly, what's next for you?
Well, I'm working on a few things I can tell you about, including a film around the story of Whitey Bulger, who was one of the most wanted men in the US until a few years back. I'm working with Johnny Depp on that one. I'm also adapting a Great Depression-era drama called The Road Home, and that'll be produced by Leo (DiCaprio), like this film was too. Safe to say, I'm keeping pretty busy.

Out Of The Furnace review

 

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Showbiz Simon Says ...

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Thu, 30/01/2014 - 11:19

By Simon Thompson

★ Captain America: The Winter Soldier isn’t even out yet, but it’s been confirmed a third film in the franchise is on the cards. Also, Marvel has decided to bring back Anthony and Joe Russo, directors of the sequel, as helmers. Although the official greenlight hasn’t been... err... lit, apparently test screenings of The Winter Soldier have gone down so well that they wanted to move fast, lock them in and get the ball rolling. No word on when Captain America 3 will see the light of day as yet.

SyFy’s Haven is getting a fifth season. The news was announced on Twitter by one the show’s cast, Emily Rose. The show been picked up for 26 more episodes and it’ll air in two parts – the first at the end of this year and the second in the first half of 2015. The show is about FBI agent Audrey Parker, played by Rose, who investigates strange happenings in the town of Haven. It’s loosely based on a Stephen King novel.

Strong DVD and Blu-ray rental and sales mean we haven’t seen the last of Vin Diesel as Riddick. The self-titled threequel took a decent but not amazing $98 million worldwide at the box office last year on a budget of $38 million. In a video on Facebook, Diesel confirmed that Universal Pictures is ready to move forward with a Riddick sequel.

It sounds like the team behind the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot have found their Thing. Chronicle’s Michael B Jordan will apparently play Johnny Storm – if the rumours are right – but a CGI Ben Grimm will seemingly have the voice of Frozen’s Josh Gad. That said, both castings have yet to be confirmed by 20th Century Fox. Fantastic Four will be directed by Josh Trank – he did Chronicle – and is set to hit cinemas in June 2015.

Sony invites us to Seth Rogen’s Sausage Party. It’s a new animated movie he and partner Evan Goldberg have come up with that’s due to hit cinemas in 2015. It’s about a sausage who, after being dropped from a shopping trolley, embarks on a quest through the supermarket to discover his reason for being… and it’ll be R-rated. The voice cast list already boasts Jonah Hill, James Franco, Michael Cera and Kristen Wiig as well as Edward Norton. We’re already thinking this is going to be so wrong… but so right!

★ Forest Whitaker is in talks for a leading role in Taken 3. Liam Neeson and director Olivier Megaton have also signed on to return for the third entry in the successful franchise – the threequel is apparently a $20 million payday for Neeson. Maggie Grace is also expected to return but that's not been confirmed as yet. No word yet on who Whitaker will play but apparently this will offer a new twist on the franchise formula. Taken 2 took $375 million worldwide, considerably more than the original's total gross of $226 million despite being far less well received critically.

Third time's a charm for M Night Shyamalan and Bruce Willis – after The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable they're reteaming for another film, Labor of Love. The film is based on one of the director's first professional screenplays that he developed in the early 90s. Due to start shooting in September, the film will have Willis as a bookstore owner who, after tragically losing his wife, decides to walk across the country to prove his love for her. Just be grateful it's not After After Earth.

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Taking Out the (Trailer) Trash

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Tue, 28/01/2014 - 09:45

By Norman Quarrinton

Trailers can sometimes spoil a film, but most of the time they fill you with a sense of anticipation, excitement and awe. So here is this week's roundup of what is coming soon to a cinema near you ...

22 Jump Street

Channing and Jonah are back for the sequel. Yes, that's correct, I am on first name terms with Channing and Jonah. I don't even their know their last names. Does anyone? When your first names are Channing and Jonah, your last names are irrelevant. Sorry Channing and Jonah, but that's just the way it is. Also: Nick Offerman and Ice Cube.
Watch if: You liked 21 Jump Street.
Don't watch if: You didn't like 21 Jump Street.
UK release: June 6
US release: June 13

Draft Day

A little fact about me: I have never fallen asleep during a movie trailer. I'm quite proud of that achievement. This trailer almost ruined everything. I quite like American football, and there's a chance this movie could do for American football what Moneyball did for baseball. But I'm not even sure if this movie is actually about American football, it appears to be about an American football team trying to acquire an American football player. How can that be interesting? I'm sure Kevin Costner and director Ivan Reitman will show me how.
Watch if: You're into sports and/or old guys threatening to fire other old guys.
Don't watch if: Sports movies repulse you.
US release: April 11
UK release: TBC

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

If you enjoyed 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you'd be a fool to ignore this brief but mouth watering trailer. It's been eight years since the apes went bananas and annihilated the planet, but now Gary Oldman's trying to make a monkey out of Caesar and Caesar is about to go apeshit. Cloverfield's Matt Reeves takes over the rebooted franchise from Rupert Wyatt. There's no James Franco this time around, but Andy Serkis is back in full motion capture glory as Caesar, the leader of the apes.
Watch if: Gary Oldman's American accent turns you on.
Don't watch if: Monkeys scare the shit out of you.
US release: July 11
UK release: July 17

Interstellar

If this trailer for Christopher Nolan's upcoming sci-fi epic doesn't bring a tear to your eye, you're either a soulless monster or a regular person who is unable to cry due to a blockage of the lacrimal glands. Space exploration is important, and Matthew McConaughey wants everyone to know just how important it is. Other than that, I have no idea what's going on. Check it out.
Watch if: You dig space stuff.
Don't watch if: You're emotionally vulnerable.
UK & US release: November 7

Transcendence

I ... I'm not sure what I've just witnessed. They put Johnny Depp's mind into a computer or something. The premise is not only insane, it's insanely awesome. Transcendence marks the directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, a long time collaborator of Chris Nolan's. Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall and Morgan Freeman also star.
Watch if: You have the slightest interest in sci-fi thrillers.
Don't watch if: Computers scare the shit out of you.
US release: April 18
UK release: April 25

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News Jab: US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 26/01/2014 - 19:34

I, Frankenstein dead on the slab as Ride Along keeps on going

By Rich Matthews

No studio releasing a $63m graphic novel adaptation starring an actor from the Dark Knight/Batman franchise is looking for a sixth place finish and an opening weekend gross of only $8.3m. But that's what happened to Aaron Eckhart-starrer I, Frankenstein, which will have to do stupendous international business to even have a hope of making any money for makers Lakeshore Entertainment and distributor Lionsgate.

The top spot was maintained by Ice Cube/Kevin Hart buddy cop actioner Ride Along, which declined a lower-than-expected 49 per cent to take $21.2m – that takes its domestic gross to $75.4m and further confirming Hart's rise in Hollywood. Also proving hardy, Peter Berg's Battleship comeback movie, Afghanistan War drama Lone Survivor, held on at number two to pull in $12.6m – mostly from America's heartland – and head ever nearer $100m, with its total now standing at $93.6m, just shy of Mark Wahlberg drama The Fighter.

Taking the last podium spot at number three, Open Road Film's animation The Nut Job was close behind with $12.3m, with its current total of $40.3m enough for the Open Road to greenlight a sequel to the Will Arnett squirrel flick already. We still haven't got past I, Frankenstein, with both Disney's mega-hit Frozen ($9m, domestic $347.8m and crossing the $800m mark globally) and Paramount's underperforming Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit ($8.8m, $30.2m, $76.7m) rounding out the top five.

A trio of Oscar contenders filled the seventh, eighth and ninth positions, with American Hustle taking $7.1m to hit a hefty $127m domestically and $162.4m worldwide, Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts ensemble drama August: Osage County grossing $5m, for a US tally of $26.5m and a global gross of $35.5m, and the latest Scorsese/DiCaprio epic The Wolf Of Wall Street also stealing a further $5m, to start lurking around the $100m mark with $98m, and a worldwide haul of $175m. Horror flick Devil's Due finished in tenth, scaring up $2.8m for $14.9m domestic and $18.8m worldwide.

Friday sees Jason Reitman's Kate Winslet/Josh Brolin hostage drama Labor Day and Zac Efron/Michael B Jordan rom-com That Awkward Moment open, so the box office will likely be uneventful until February 7 sees The Lego Movie and George Clooney/Matt Damon/Bill Murray Ocean's War flick The Monument Men open.

IN OTHER NEWS

Stephen Fry to play British PM on 24: Live Another Day | Deadline Hollywood

Sundance 2014: Whiplash wins jury and audience awards | The Guardian

Scorsese on Wolf of Wall Street: ‘I wanted to make a ferocious film’ | Variety

Oscars 2014: The long, expensive road to Academy Award glory | Independent

Alfonso Cuaron wins Directors' Guild award for Gravity | The Wrap

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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

Gravity
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.

Blackfish
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
3. RIPD
4. The Odd Life of Timothy Green
5. Only God Forgives

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