CARS 3

Lightning McQueen Teams Up with Strong, Spirited Trainer Cruz Ramirez in a Quest to Beat Newer, Faster Next-Gen Racers in Cars  3!

If you want to win a super-fun CARS 3 hamper that includes an Umbrella and Jacket, tell us who is tasked with getting Lightning McQueen back on track after a devastating setback.  Send us your answer and contact details with Cars 3 in the subject line before 30 June, 2017. Enter competition here.  Read more about Cars 3 

NEXT-GEN TAKES THE LEAD — Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), a frontrunner in the next generation of racers, posts speeds that even Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) hasn’t seen. “Cars 3” is in theaters June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

NEXT-GEN TAKES THE LEAD — Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), a frontrunner in the next generation of racers, posts speeds that even Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) hasn’t seen. “Cars 3” is in theaters June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

McQueen is back on the big screen, but he’s not a rookie anymore!

Lightning McQueen raced into moviegoers’ hearts more than 10 years ago and remains an iconic character today in Cars 3 that pays homage to NASCAR with four characters based on real-life stock car racing legends.

NEXT-GEN TAKES THE LEAD — Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), a frontrunner in the next generation of racers, posts speeds that even Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) hasn’t seen.  “Cars 3” is in theaters June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

NEXT-GEN TAKES THE LEAD — Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), a frontrunner in the next generation of racers, posts speeds that even Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) hasn’t seen. “Cars 3” is in theaters June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Directed by Fee (storyboard artist Cars, Cars 2), produced by Reher (A Bug’s Life, “La Luna” short) and co-produced by Warren (LAVA short), Cars 3 is executive produced by John Lasseter, who directed the first two films in the franchise. With a story by Fee, Ben Queen (TV’s Powerless), Eyal Podell (actor Code Black) & Jonathon E. Stewart (Doing Time short), the screenplay was penned by Kiel Murray (Cars), Bob Peterson (Up, Finding Nemo”) and Mike Rich (“Secretariat, The Rookie).

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Piston-Cup champion finds himself suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. “The next-gen racers are cool,” says director Brian Fee. “You can see instantly that cars like Jackson Storm are effortlessly fast. We designed these younger, faster cars to be sleek and aerodynamic—and they’re a sharp contrast to Lightning McQueen.”

Producer Kevin Reher says the story is reflective of real-life champions. “Lightning McQueen has been racing for more than a decade,” says Reher. “He’s struggling with the kind of issues a lot of athletes face later in their careers. Do you go out on top or fight till the end?”

While Lightning is still the same self-assured, determined and fun-loving race car audiences fell in love with, his confidence is being tested by the new cars on the track. “When we first met Lightning McQueen, he was a young rookie—a superhero,” says Fee. “He had his whole life ahead of him. And while he’s done well since we last saw him, he’s not a young hotshot racer anymore. We kept circling the idea of what happens when an athlete like Lightning is in the twilight of his career.”

Enter Cruz Ramirez. Tasked with getting Lightning McQueen back on track after a devastating setback, Cruz isn’t shy. Her training style is high-tech, enthusiastic and steadfast—she’s not afraid to apply a little tough love. But there’s more to Cruz than meets the eye. “I love Cruz’s story,” says co-producer Andrea Warren. “She’s such an admirable, likable character. She’s so passionate about racing and her role to create champions. The movie isn’t just about Lightning McQueen—it’s Cruz’s story, in many ways.”

Cars 3 pays homage to NASCAR with four characters based on real-life stock car racing legends. Chris Cooper (“Adaptation,” “American Beauty”) voices Doc Hudson’s crew chief Smokey; team owner and NASCAR racing legend Junior Johnson lends his voice to Junior “Midnight” Moon; three-time Emmy® winner Margo Martindale (FX’s “The Americans,” FX’s “Justified,” Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete”) provides the voice of Louise “Barnstormer” Nash; and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (HBO’s “The Wire,” “Cedar Rapids,” HBO’s “Veep”) is the voice of River Scott. The film also features NASCAR drivers and the voices behind the sport, as well as a host of returning characters from Radiator Springs and the “Cars” racing world.

Says screenwriter Kiel Murray, “I think what will really resonate with audiences—especially adults—is this idea of finding meaning as we age, finding a way to be valuable in every phase of our lives, and giving back to the next generation in a way we don’t ever think about when we’re just getting started.”

Getting To The Heart Of The Story:  Filmmakers Trek to the Southeast and Consult Pros to Root Story in Realty

Cars 3 PosterLightning McQueen raced into moviegoers’ hearts more than 10 years ago and remains an iconic character today. It was that 10-year period that inspired filmmakers to explore what’s next for #95.

Filmmakers consulted NASCAR veterans, including four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham, who served as Gordon’s crew chief for three of his championships. Gordon proved to be a key resource. “He talked a lot about how young racers are full of energy,” says co-producer Andrea Warren. “They like to go fast and hard, while a more experienced driver knows he doesn’t have to do that. They get to know the game well enough that they can play it in a different way.”

“We did a lot of research,” says director Brian Fee. “We looked at athletes in other sports, but really focused on NASCAR drivers. They start at such an early age and their lives are centered around driving. We even talked to a sports psychologist who explained that many of these drivers can’t imagine doing anything else.”

The ideas resonated, and became the motivation for Lightning McQueen’s journey as he faces newer, younger racers. “It’s kind of a timeless story in sports,” says screenwriter Mike Rich, who’s behind movies like “Secretariat” and “The Rookie.” “We’ve seen it with so many athletes—whether it’s Michael Jordon or Peyton Manning, Wayne Gretzky or Misty May-Treanor. The thing that’s unique to athletes is that they’re thirty-something years old when they retire. They still have the rest of their lives to think about. We asked Jeff Gordon about it and he said, ‘I was just afraid that I would never find anything else that I could do as well.’ They feel this gaping hole.”

Lightning McQueen, threatened by the next-gen racers, makes a major misstep, culminating in a dramatic crash and a lot of time for self-reflection. “Lightning’s first reaction is that he wants to do whatever the next-gen racers are doing,” says Fee. “If they’re training on simulators, he’s going to train on simulators. If they’re using wind tunnels, he’ll use wind tunnels.”

He turns to a tech-savvy trainer at the all-new Rust-eze Racing Center to get back in the game. “Cruz Ramirez is a top trainer in racing,” says screenwriter Bob Peterson. “She takes on Lightning as her ‘Senior Project’ and calls it like she sees it: he’s older now, which he doesn’t want to hear, but certainly needs to hear.”

Cruz is all about technology and knows how to create winners on cutting-edge simulated racetracks. But Lightning isn’t part of the next generation, and things don’t go as planned at the slick and fancy high-tech racing center. Sterling, the brilliant new owner of Rust-eze, isn’t interested in watching his star racer plummet. “So they make a deal,” says producer Kevin Reher. “Sterling will let Lightning race in the season opener at the Florida International Super Speedway. If he wins, great, he can decide when he retires. But if he loses, he’ll have to hang it up and become a brand for the businesscar, promoting Lightning McQueen merchandise to his fans worldwide.”

“That triggers a life-changing journey in which Lightning and Cruz hit the road,” adds Fee. “Lightning is on a mission to win. If technology isn’t the answer, he’s determined to figure out what is.”

Lightning decides to return to his roots—recalling the wisdom imparted on him by his beloved mentor, the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet. Says Fee, “He’s chasing his youth, thinking if he can just harness what Doc taught him—get his tires dirty—he’ll find whatever it is that he’s missing.”

Ultimately, he turns to his coach’s coach—Smokey, who was there during Doc’s heyday—for guidance and inspiration, while filmmakers looked to real-life coaches like Evernham and their own lives. “If you’re really trying to share an idea with an audience as a filmmaker, you have to feel it,” says Fee. “So being a parent became my main resource to find and understand the emotion in the film.

“Like a lot of us, I struggled to find enough time to explore my passion projects—we all have responsibilities at work and at home that don’t leave enough spare time,” continues Fee. “Then one day, I spent a couple hours painting a simple picture to teach my daughters about art. Something changed after that. I found the experience so much more rewarding than I ever imagined. That’s what we’re trying to communicate in this movie with the relationship between Lightning McQueen and Doc.”

CARS 3 - (Pictured) Lightning McQueen. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

CARS 3 – (Pictured) Lightning McQueen. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Lightning’s desire to tap into Doc’s wisdom through Smokey deepens the story by exploring the relationships between key characters. Mentorship is an important theme in the film. “It turns out that the life lessons Doc imparted on his trainee aren’t over yet,” says Reher. “There’s still more to learn.”

The nod to Doc and his impact on Lightning McQueen’s career is part of what brings audiences back to the feeling of the original “Cars.” “Audiences connected with the first “Cars” film in a very special way,” says Jay Ward, creative director for the “Cars” franchise. “They saw the heart in Radiator Springs; they felt the emotion in the relationships between the characters.

“‘Cars 2’ was a spy caper that was fun and exciting,” continues Ward, “but it was really more Mater’s story. In ‘Cars 3,’ we wanted to get back to Lightning McQueen and the warmth and depth that resonated with so many people in the first film.”

Story supervisor Scott Morse says the story team wanted to highlight the emotional core. “We really focused on the relationships between the characters,” says Morse. “We wanted it to feel like a true sports film, but this movie has always wanted to be a mentor story. We wanted Lightning to realize what their relationship meant to Doc.”

Morse, a father of two boys, says he tapped into his own experience as a sports coach for his sons. “I’ve coached seven teams over the last five years,” he says. “Watching them improve and grow as athletes—and the impact it had on me personally—definitely made its way into our story meetings.”

And, says Morse, you don’t have to be an aging athlete to understand Lightning McQueen’s plight. “I’m at a point in my career here at Pixar when I’m not the young kid coming in—a 20-year-old intern who had a Lightning McQueen toy as a kid. They’re as good or better and looking for opportunities. But that doesn’t mean we all step aside; we look for the positives; we look for ways to help them. And hopefully they make us all better.”

Adds screenwriter Kiel Murray, “I think what will really resonate with audiences—especially adults—is this idea of finding meaning as we age, finding a way to be valuable in every phase of our lives, and giving back to the next generation in a way we don’t ever think about when we’re just getting started.”

 

 

REAR VIEW — The legendary #95 may be leading the pack, but the high-tech Next Gen racers are closing in fast. Directed by Brian Fee and produced by Kevin Reher, “Cars 3” cruises into theaters on June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

REAR VIEW — The legendary #95 may be leading the pack, but the high-tech Next Gen racers are closing in fast. Directed by Brian Fee and produced by Kevin Reher, “Cars 3” cruises into theaters on June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Film Welcomes Racers New and Old, Plus Fan Favorites

 On his journey in “Cars 3,” Lightning McQueen crosses paths with new and intriguing characters, and filmmakers tapped top talent to bring them to life. Ranging from a fiery trainer who’s determined to reignite Lightning McQueen’s career to a group of legendary racers who, back in the day, hit the track alongside the Fabulous Hudson Hornet himself—the characters in “Cars 3” will surely make their mark on the big screen.

Production designer Jay Shuster headed up the look of the characters. Shuster, whose first film at Pixar was “Cars,” considers himself a car guy. “It’s really how I got my job here,” he says. “My dad worked at GM for 43 years back in Detroit. So, I had a portfolio full of car sketches and an understanding of the car culture at large.”

In terms of characters, says Shuster, the “Cars” world is largely defined by its limitations. “It’s a different kind of automotive engineering that goes into the designs of these characters—it’s more like an experimental alchemy. We have a parameter of a body shell with four wheels on it, a windshield and a very constrained area around the grill and headlights to engineer into a mouth. Beyond that, we exploit space, paint and graphic to define each character.”

Jeremy Lasky, director of photography-camera, faced similar challenges. “The features on a human face appear on the same plane whether they’re facing camera or in profile,” he says. “A car’s mouth is six feet in front of his eyes—from the windshield to the grill. We play a lot with angles to make sure the character is on model in every shot. We learned a lot from the first two films. But we also pushed it to another level, bringing more energy to our shots and making everything feel more alive without distracting from what’s going on in the story.”

Since 2011, when “Cars 2” was released, Pixar Animation Studios has updated its rendering system. The introduction of a new renderer within the animation world is both welcome and feared. “What’s really great about the new renderer RIS is that it’s more physically accurate,” says Michael Fong, supervising technical director. “So producing images that look like the real world is much easier because it can correctly model how light bounces and interacts with materials. But it’s still new technology, and it takes time to figure out its peculiarities—particularly for the ‘Cars’ world, where the reflections both make us and break us.”

RIS presented “Cars 3” filmmakers with an opportunity. “If you look at a car in the sunlight, you can see tiny concentric scratches and metallic flakes within the paint schemes,” says Junyi Ling, character shading supervisor. “It’s one of the things that makes a car look like a car. Traditionally, it’s been really difficult to do that, but we were able to add those features into our shading.”

According to Sudeep Rangaswamy, global technology supervisor, technology was introduced that automated the level of shading detail in a given character, depending on how close to camera he or she is. “That makes the renders more efficient, despite the increase in detail we’re now capable of achieving up close.”

Kim White, director of photography-lighting, says that the lighters’ role in reflections was almost reversed thanks to the new renderer. “They had to cheat the reflections in previous ‘Cars’ movies,” she says, acknowledging that all new technology comes with a new set of challenges. “Our characters are cars and we want them to look really beautiful, which the reflections really help us accomplish,” she says. “But they’re still characters and the audience needs to read their emotions, their expressions. There are some reflections that can be distracting, so we have to manage that.”

Authenticity on all levels continues to be a priority at Pixar—right down to the last detail. According to Jay Ward, creative director for the “Cars” franchise, the team sought to get it all right. “We paid attention to vehicle dynamics, the way each car moves, front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel drive, etcetera. Lightning McQueen’s tires have treads when he races on the dirt; he runs slicks on the track. We do all of that on purpose because there are definitely people in our audience who will notice if we get it wrong.”

An ultimate biography of Michelangelo who, is considered one of the greatest artists of the renaissance – and perhaps of all time.

The final art documentary in the current Exhibition On Screen season explores Michelangelo’s tempestuous life and takes art lovers on a journey through the great chapels and museums of Florence, Rome and the Vatican, to the print and drawing rooms of Europe, and is screened exclusively at Nouveau cinemas from 17 June.

Michelangelo: Love and Death offers a full and fresh biography of Michelangelo who, is considered one of the greatest artists of the renaissance – and perhaps of all time.

MICHAELANGELO 36 Filming at Studio Nicoli Carrara -® David Bickerstaff

 

The film documents painter, architect, poet and sculptor Michelangelo, and explores his life and work. He was known as the original, famous artist of his time, having two biographies written about him during his life, biographies on which he worked closely with the respective authors. The Exhibition on Screen documentary delves into the man behind the monumental pieces of art that defined him as the genius of the Italian Renaissance.

Michelangelo: Love and Death explores his relationship with his contemporaries and his immense artistic practice. Among the works explored are the universally adored David in Florence, the frescoes of Sistine Chapel in Rome and the Manchester Madonna.

This film goes to the heart of just who this passionate, giant of art history and much loved genius was. While we know his great work, who was the man that sculpted the universally adored, David, capturing the intricacy of his pulsating veins, sinew and muscle of the human body that would make Michelangelo known as the greatest sculptor of all time?

This intriguing documentary releases exclusively at Nouveau cinemas in Rosebank Nouveau in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Nouveau in Pretoria, Ster-Kinekor Gateway Nouveau in Durban and at V&A Nouveau in Cape Town.

For booking information, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Download the Ster-Kinekor App on your smart phone for updates, news and to book. Follow Nouveau on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For more information, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

”I think, whatever you do, if you can bring a real joy and a sort of  passion to what you do, you’re going to be good at what you do because you’re going to be so engaged in it.”

Renowned British filmmaker Simon Aboud’s This Beautiful Fantastic is a contemporary fairy tale revolving around the most unlikely of friendships between a reclusive, agoraphobic young woman with dreams of being a children’s book author and a curmudgeonly old widower, set against the backdrop of a beautiful garden in the heart of London.

SIMON ABOUD

Director’s Note

At its heart this is a story of a man making his way to death and a young woman struggling to make sense of life who find each other and form an unlikely but magical friendship as Alfie teaches Bella about life and love through the metaphor of gardening and Bella reminds Alfie of what it feels like to be alive.

This Beautiful Fantastic is one of those rare scripts – a unique story with a beautiful voice that will blossom into a true cinematic gem. It is a deceptively layered piece – an adult fairy tale, a romantic story of blossoming love and a coming-of-age comedy.

My focus as a filmmaker is always on the emotional truth of the story and the characters and their journeys. In the same breath, I want This Beautiful Fantastic to be a truly cinematic entity, balancing emotional heartache and warmth with carefully choreographed cinematographic beauty.

It’s important to note that the garden itself is a major character in the film and as the garden takes on more importance in Bell’s life, so it starts to intrude more on our framing and consciousness. The garden will start to become part of the texture of the cinematography, finding its way into foreground and background.

We will be carefully building a world and a period – I like to think of it as ‘somewhere between now and then’ – that is quintessentially English, but not specific to a particular year or place. It is not present day, with all the associated contemporary technological gadgetry, but rather a nostalgic slice of fabricated Art Nouveau Englishness, reflected both in the designed architecture and sourced locations.

Music is also be an ever-present character in This Beautiful Fantastic. In addition to a pared back score led by piano and strings that follows the story and the seasons, I want to create a couple of moments where the music is more contemporary and led by a powerful female vocal so that it almost amplifies Bell’s emotions, shouts them out. In this regard, I am greatly influenced by the work of The Cocteau Twins and, more recently, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. When describing the tone of This Beautiful Fantastic, it is hard to avoid comparisons with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie (2001). All the comedy is played for real, not broad cartoon.

This Beautiful Fantastic will be quirky and warm, but never goofy or whimsical. In broad terms, it will embrace the sentiment of our story, without ever veering towards sentimentality.

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As a director, you have the ability to take the writer’s story and make it visual. This includes editing scenery and music to ensure what your writer, and you are both, that the vision is fully told. Is there any part of that process that is exhilarating or even difficult?

The whole thing is difficult. It’s an odd path to achieve to be the writer and director. For instance the work I’ve done recently, when I did the TV series  last summer in L.A., I didn’t write the story and I  found that more difficult. Because,  I think what happens is, if you’re the writer and the director, very clearly, when you’re writing you bring the director’s perspective. It should feel visual, it should leap off the page and you should hopefully elevate it to something that is visual not just one dimensional, obviously in just word. But, then also there comes a point where you take that hat off and you put a director’s hat on and hopefully, because you’ve been with it since the birth of the script, you’re so readily invested in it, so it becomes easier. However, you’ve got to be really hard with yourself to make sure you find real objectivity.  Because, obviously,  I am the writer and director with two minds on that. One is the writer and one is director – the same person as in one.

Making a small independent film is hard work. It’s absolutely difficult to get it even from the starting line; difficult to cast; difficult to raise the finance; it’s difficult to achieve the schedule. Because, if you’re doing a studio movie you’re given a few months and in a small production you’re given just a few weeks. You don’t have the finance or the luxury of doing this, that and the other.  But, in a small production,  you have far better creative freedom. Every thing balances out at the end of the day. Really, seriously, I am so lucky to have this job. I know that. I’m incredibly grateful to do what I do.

It is a gift when you’re able to finally do what you enjoy, or to find the thing that you enjoy…

I think, whatever you do, if you can bring a real joy and a sort of  passion to what you do, you’re going to be good at what you do because you’re going to be so engaged in it. But I think, in the creative business if you can get a chance to make a movie, it’s just such a privilege. It really is.

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Jessica Brown Findlay and Jeremy Irvine in This Beautiful Fantastic

Described as being a modern-day fairy tale, which have elements of magic and of the improbable. what would you say then were the elements in This Beautiful Fantastic that were magical or improbable?

What I  tried to do with the film, right, which is… I’m very glad people call it a  modern-day fairy tale. That’s what  I set out to achieve. But, I was very careful to make the film seem timeless and at the same time to ground in a reality. Which it’s  meant to be London today,  but I didn’t put any computers or mobile phones in there….I deliberately took away the things like cars, buses; I took away a lot of that. If you go through it very carefully you’ll realize the bus she gets on is modern-day where she goes is modern-day. I think, one part of fairy tale telling is the  ability to suspend belief, right. So, there’s a point I present them to you that these things are possible. But over the course of 100 minutes they hopefully, fingers crossed, take on the air of being slightly magical. So very clearly, the story that she’s telling about Luna, the bird, the whole thing has an element of magic to it. What you do is take elements of real life and you weave those into that story. Also, all the characters were slightly on the edge of reality. Yeah, that’s kind of the way I did it, but hopefully, the take out is I do believe it is magical…Well, that’s the best thing you can say to me. It’s great to believe that I achieved that.

Your story works when those working with you catch your vision. How much of your vision was realized through the actors you chose?

I think any character on the screen has got to be a collaboration between the actor and the director. They’re the two people that are going to make that character kind of live and breath. I was very, very lucky that I had four actors; all with strong will, all with creative vision, all very passionate. They all worked really hard on developing their characters. They all worked me really hard with making me justify every word I’d written for the script every day.  I think then, when you do that something special is going to happen. They were all very, very talented and I was super lucky to cast them.

Could it be that there’s a little bit of you in each of these characters?

Yes, yes, you’re very perceptive. This is not the first time being said, I think. Because it’s my first screenplay, I think it’s more autobiographical than anything else I’ve written. I’m very happy that it is but, I think what’s very interesting is that people ask me, in that I suffered from OCD, and people are saying to me, “well, so, are you Bella?” And I’ve always responded saying, “I think that I’m a bit of all of them. I really do…” What’s interesting is the most common  questions I get, “well, what’s the film about?”…And I now think, wholeheartedly,  that the film is about how important it is for someone to find a family…I don’t just mean a biological family…But, I think that it’s really  important that people find an emotional family;  where they are nurtured and where everybody helps bring about the best in everybody else. I suspect that it  also may be a kind of  reaction to what I said to you before. Which, is me remembering, you know, I said to my Dad, “I really want to be a film director.” And my Dad, well, God bless him, I loved him dearly… it’s that he just didn’t know how to praise us. He wouldn’t know how to make you a film director. But obviously now, if my son said to me “I want to be a film director”, I would say, “Yeah, bring it, I’m not going to laugh at you!”  I think the whole thing is about you have to take people seriously about their dreams. You have to try to help them get somewhere towards them.

You have a passion for gardening as well…is there somebody that instilled that in you?

Yes, I do! I have a great passion for gardening. It started with this movie. Because it got to a point where I needed to know what a Delphinium looked like. I needed to know just how big a Delphinium is and what colors they came in. So, I  eventually just started gardening and now I’m kind of obsessed with it. I love it. I’m very  passionate about it. Even to the point where the worst thing about me going to LA. to shoot this TV show was that I couldn’t see my  garden in the best time of the year, in summer. When I came back it was kind of overgrown. And I  found it quite depressing.  My wife would ask me, “What was wrong?” and I’d say “Just look at it.” So yeah, I love gardening.

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Do you think you may consider making this story into a book?

Oh yes, I have to say, I think it will be turned into a book. The book actually took on a bigger and bigger significance. What was funny was when I first started the detail of it was not super important. What was important was that it was coming out. But then, as I got further and further in to the draft, I suddenly realized I was thinking “Hang on, what happens to Luna now?” So actually there’s probably more, there’s more I ended up writing; more stories than there are in the film. So the answer is…Yes…The answer is I would love to do a children’s book.

 

 

 

This Beautiful Fantastic  Is A Great Film To Escape Into

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen (15/ 06/17)

The emotional truth British writer-director Sam Aboud forms with his utterly charming contemporary fairy tale This Beautiful Fantastic tells the alluring story of the unlikely bond between a reclusive, agoraphobic young woman and a cantankerous old widower. Read interview with Simon Aboud.

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It’s a sentimental and life-affirming film about hopeful dreams, lost love and newfound friendships, showing how rewarding it is escape from the prisons of privacy we create for ourselves, and welcome other people into our lives to awaken our humanity.

Jessica Brown Findlay is superb as the reclusive Bella who dreams of being a children’s book author, with Tom Wilkinson in top form as her wealthy landlord and amazing horticulturalist Alfie, with great support from Andrew Scott as a single father and ‘housekeeper/ cook’, and Jeremy Irvine as an impassioned inventor of mechanical toys.

At the heart of this story lies Bella’s neglected garden, and when she is forced to bring the garden back to life or face eviction, a magical friendship blossoms as Alfie teaches Bella about life and love through the metaphor of gardening and Bella reminds Alfie of what it feels like to be alive.

Ultimately, Aboud’s wonderful script is not simply a romantic story of blossoming love and a coming-of-age comedy, but a deceptively layered narrative that reveals the touching story of a man making his way to death and a young woman struggling to make sense of life who find each other and form an unlikely friendship.

This Beautiful Fantastic is a great film to escape into and make sense of the unnecessary complications that cause us to withdraw from life, instead of living it to the fullest and making the most of what is within our reach.

If there’s one thing this film will achieve, is for you to step out into your garden and bring it to life. And even if you don’t have a garden, you will create one no matter where you live, as The Beautiful Fantastic reminds us of the connection we should have to nature and how important it is to celebrate its magic.

”It’s a movie that people will feel. It’s very easy for Hollywood to become cynical and try to create something that will just provoke people… The intention of this movie is to celebrate little enthusiasms, to make people feel good and warm and to celebrate connection.”

Tom FlynnDuring the past 25 years screenwriter Tom Flynn has been selling spec scripts to studios in Hollywood, only seeing Watch It made (which he also directed). Now, with the success of Gifted, a story inspired by his one-eyed cat Fred, and his sister, whom he describes as “the most unassuming ridiculously smart person you’ve ever met,’ Flynn is back to writing full time… this time getting his movies made.

In Gifted, Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida.  But Mary is a brilliant child prodigy and Frank’s intention that she lead a normal life are thwarted when the seven-year-old’s command of mathematics comes to the attention of his formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan)—a wealthy Bostonian whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Mary and Frank.  As family tensions and disconnections flare, uncle and niece find support in Roberta (Octavia Spencer), their protective landlady and best friend, and Mary’s teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate), a young woman whose concern for her student soon develops into a relationship with her uncle as well.

GIFTED

Gifted began its journey to the big screen when producer Karen Lunder, who has produced an assortment of films including Arrival, remembers a conversation with producer Andy Cohen in which she asked: “‘What do you have that’s great and different? What is the thing you’re most excited about?’

‘’He sent me Gifted.  When I read the script, it had this timeless quality to it.  It felt like the kind of movies I grew up watching: it was a throwback of sorts to films of the 70’s and early 80’s that weren’t afraid to make you laugh and cry – that were both escapist and real.”

Says Cohen, “Screenwriter Tom Flynn had a written something special. Once in a while you get lucky and you read something that you absolutely fall in love with.  I was crying at the end of it, but I also kept laughing throughout. What I loved about it is was that it was all about the characters. They were fully realized and I knew we could get tremendous actors and a top director.” says Cohen.

“The next step was to find the right filmmaker, and Marc Webb ((500) Days Of Summer) was at the top of the list. But with a script like this,” Lunder says, “if you don’t get it right, it won’t find its audience, it won’t find its place in the world.  We had to find the right person,” and she was convinced that was Webb.

Cohen remembers, “Karen told me that she would try to get Marc to read it but not to get my hopes up as she knew how selective he was as well as being focused on another project.”

Like Lunder and Cohen, Webb responded to the writing. “I kept on waiting for this script to get bad, but it just kept getting better.  It was simple, warm and uncynical. The writing felt nourishing to me.  Mary and Frank are something like a comedy team with a lot of heart.  After spending so many years on bigger movies, I just wanted to hang out with these two.”

Says Webb: “I had been looking for a script about personal relationships, something that really gets back to the roots of what I love about cinema and characters and this just felt right.  I wanted to go away and just experience this little bit of joy, kind of under the radar. It’s a movie that people will feel. It’s very easy for Hollywood to become cynical and try to create something that will just provoke people. The intention of this movie is to celebrate little enthusiasms, to make people feel good and warm and to celebrate connection. I think we’ve done it in a way that is authentic. That’s rarer than it should be.”

In his career, Chris Evans has judiciously chosen a balance of blockbuster and smaller, more interior films. He picked Gifted for many reasons but says: “It was more the director than the role. You can have a great role and a great script. You can have a lot of pieces in place but if you don’t have a great director, you don’t have much. So for me it was Marc Webb.”

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Gifted was a story inspired by screenwriter Tom Flynn’s one-eyed cat Fred

Tom Flynn’s journey

Tom Flynn has had a successful career in Hollywood.  “He’d done really well selling big comedy scripts to the studios,” Gifted producer and Flynn’s literary manager Andy Cohen explains. “These were different spec scripts where he’d sell them and they never got made.

Flynn left Hollywood for Florida where he started selling real estate and semi-retired.  At the urging of his wife, he finally began to write the movie he really wanted to write.  He hunkered down in his sister’s empty beach house for five uninterrupted weeks. “In November and December there was nobody around and everything’s closed, so you don’t have anything else to do.” With little to distract him, Flynn walked the beach in the morning, created the dialogue in his head, and then went home every day and worked on the script.

His inspiration for Gifted was actually his sister, whom he describes as “the most unassuming ridiculously smart person you’ve ever met. When she was five everyone in the family was afraid of her, she was so determined. I had been around a brilliant mind all my life and I learned how important it was to have fun too, if she hadn’t she might have been doomed.”  She was the jumping off point for Gifted, along with his two nieces, one of whom really did punch out a bully on the school bus just like Mary Adler.  For the first time, Flynn says, he felt no pressure as he worked.  “Every other time I wrote something it was always with the market in mind, I always wrote it to sell it. This one I wrote for the characters and the story.”

“Before I knew it,” says Cohen, “I had a first draft that was nothing like anything Tom had written before. It was really something special. Once in a while you get lucky and you read something that you absolutely fall in love with. The characters were fully realized and I knew we could get tremendous actors and a top director.”

Lunder felt an immediate personal connection to Flynn’s story too.  She hunted Flynn down and persuaded him that she was the right person to get his film made and even shared the coincidence that her own no-nonsense, intimidating “Chanel grandmother” was named Evelyn like Lindsay Duncan’s character. “It’s like when you fall in love, now you have to figure out how you’re going to get married. I told him that there was something about it that I latched onto and couldn’t let go of.  I knew I had to take care of this project and make sure it got made right.”  The script eventually landed on Hollywood’s Black List, a survey of film executives’ favorite screenplays yet to be produced.

Other key players on Gifted also had serendipitous connections to components of the world that Tom Flynn had created. As it turned out, Webb himself, like Flynn, came from a family in love with mathematics.

“My father had been involved in mathematics for a very long time, so I had an immediate physical and emotional connection to the material. It just felt right,” Webb reveals. “I had been working in big movies for a long time at that point and I wanted something simple, something that got back to the roots of what I love about film, which is character, and then this came along.”

“I was really interested in working with kids,” he says. “It can be really challenging and it was new to me, which I think was the one intriguing reason I wanted to make the movie.”

Webb brought a unique vision to the film, Cohen says: “When he’s directing a scene, it’s like he’s choreographing a dance, not just where the actors stand or what they’re doing, but an emotional choreography. That’s important because each of them have their own unique arc.” Cohen adds: “You never know when you’re building your cast and your crew what you’re going to end up with. It’s this magical alchemy.  I do think it starts at the top with the director.  He paints what he wants the film to be.”

Webb is particularly pleased that Gifted is a movie in which all the intellectual powerhouses are women. “It’s a movie where women are really brilliant and it’s not done as a stunt. It’s something that feels weirdly rare, I don’t know why.  I love the idea of having girls who are good at math, women who are good at math. A woman just won the Fields Medal in mathematics [Note: In 2014, Maryam Mirzakhani, a math professor at Sanford University, was the first woman to win the most prestigious prize in her field also known as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics] I mean, it happens in the world but we just don’t always recognize that in cinema.”

Webb also thinks that fathers will respond to the message of the film, if his own reaction is any example: “I’m a forty-year-old dude, and I got choked up. All the burly grips hid behind the duvateen (light blocking fabric) because they were crying.  I think men are not encouraged to feel, which I think is one of the challenges that Frank has to face, but of course men are emotional creatures too.”

Karen Lunder says. “It’s what you hope for as a producer, to actually have each role played by the best possible person, a dream cast.”

Evans, a huge fan of (500) Days Of Summer and the Spiderman films says of his first meeting with Webb, “It just felt like we gelled. We quickly saw eye-to-eye on the process, and he gained this allegiance with myself and the rest of the cast. We just had trust. We believed in Marc’s internal barometer of what was good and what was bad.”

When Evans first read the script, he was drawn to the dialogue – “the music of the words, the exchange, the repartee” — and the story. “I love character pieces that involve family drama, they’re very relatable.” That, and the attraction of very intelligent people exchanging clever banter, he says, “is just very juicy for an actor.”

Evans worked with Webb to create who they wanted Frank Adler to be. “Frank’s a tricky guy,” Evans says. “He has a lot of guilt, which is tough to play because it’s beneath the surface. You can’t exactly show your cards and he’s kind of a closed-off emotional guy anyway. He’s tough to read. I think he’s exceptional but in a different way than his sister. There’s a lot of complexity in his past and he’s someone who didn’t cope as well with it as he does now.”

Webb says: “People often think of Chris as Captain America, this sweet all-American guy, and he is all that, but there is a dimension to him that you sense underneath, some melancholy that I think is really beautiful and hasn’t been explored a lot in his work. He’s incredibly skilled and very funny. There were a lot of actors who were interested in GIFTED, but Chris had a passion that was singular. I remember when I was meeting him, and I said, ‘We’re making a small movie.’ If he wanted to, he could exist solely in that atmosphere and I was a little nervous because I wanted him to do this one. And in about 30 seconds he said, I love this movie and we have to do it. He became an ally really quickly, a wonderful, creative collaborator and a good friend in the process.”

Lunder too thinks Evans gives “a very surprising performance…There’s something about him in the role of Frank where he’s messier, not just on the outside but on the inside. In every moment of this film Frank is carrying something from his part – his anger, guilt, resentment, fear and love. And the moment you see him with Mary, regardless of whether you know where the story is going, you can’t help but root for them.”

Director Marc Webb during filming of Gifter

Director Marc Webb during filming of Gifted

The casting of Mary was crucial to the success of Gifted, and led to an eight-month exhaustive search says Lunder. “We were not just looking for a great child actor, which is a challenge in itself.  We needed to find someone who could be funny, spunky, pull off the big emotional moments and be credible as a genius – a tall order, especially for an eight-year-old.”

Webb insists there was a good reason for the massive search: “I couldn’t have made Gifted unless I found the right Mary Adler. It was the biggest hurdle to making the movie.”   “We saw hundreds of girls but when Mckenna Grace auditioned with Evans, “their chemistry was palpable,” Lunder recalls. In Mckenna’s audition, Webb remembers asking her to prank the cat and pretend a stapler was the one-eyed Fred. “She made the stapler meow – she was hilarious. Chris couldn’t keep a straight face. But then two minutes later she would come in weeping, with her guts spilling out because she was left by the only person she knew. There’s an emotional depth and sophistication you don’t see very often in an actor, but for a child, that’s a level of virtuosity that is incredibly rare.”

Mckenna says she also learned a lot from working with Evans. “He was very focused on the set, and sometimes he would sit down and help me with my script.” Evans treated her “more like a friend, like he treats Mary. I really like that he treated me that way, except he did try not to say bad words around me.”

She allows that Mary is very smart for her age “and smarter than I am,” so it was a challenge to learn the math: “It was very hard to memorize all those numbers and those periods and all that math. I mean, I just learned all of my times tables and now I’m moving on to division while my character Mary was on calculus.”  Webb recalls that Mckenna found a way to memorize the equation that worked for her: “She made it into a song, singing along with sophisticated and very real equations with pi and alphas and absolute values and it was extraordinary. You felt like there really was some genius in the girl, a different kind of genius.”

The Original Monster Is Reborn in The Mummy

Frankenstein’s Monster.  Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The Wolf Man.  The Invisible Man.  The Mummy.

Those are but a few of the names of Universal Pictures’ iconic monsters from days past and present that conjure up unforgettably haunting cinematic images…ones that stay with us for a lifetime.  Now, Tom Cruise headlines a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: The Mummy.

MONSTERS

A massive undertaking that spanned three continents, 50 sets, 64 zero-gravity weightless sessions (mid-flight), 300-pound sarcophagi, thousands of special and visual effects, decades of imagination, more than one million feet of film—not to mention countless moving parts and pieces—the world creation and cinematic launch of The Mummy represents a labor of deep love for the hundreds of cast and crew who have spent endless hours painstakingly developing and crafting an epic action-adventure that has been 5,000 years in the making.

The creative team on this action-adventure event is led by director/producer Alex Kurtzman and producer Chris Morgan, who have been instrumental in growing some of the most successful franchises of the past several years—with Kurtzman writing or producing entries in the Transformers, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible series, and Morgan being the narrative engineer of the Fast & Furious saga as it has experienced explosive growth from its third chapter on.

David Koepp (Mission: Impossible, War of the Worlds) and Academy Award winner Christopher Mcquarrie (The Usual Suspects, Mission: Impossible series) and Dylan Kussman wrote the screenplay for The Mummy, which is from the screen story by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange) and Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married).

Thought safely entombed deep beneath the unforgiving desert, an ancient princess (Sofia Boutella of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond) whose destiny was unjustly taken from her is awakened in our current day, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia and terrors that defy human comprehension.   From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, The Mummy brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters.

Mummy

For almost a century, audiences have been drawn to the monster characters for many reasons.  Not only do these super-humans straddle the fine line between life and death, there is such allure to the power of creatures who are capable of so much more than we dare imagine for ourselves.  Truly, we empathize with their deep struggle between dark and light.

Curiously, our fascination with monsters has a fittingly cinematic beginning.

Although explorers had excavated the majority of mummified Egyptian royalty by the time that British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon unearthed a boy king called Tutankhamen in 1922, it was this discovery that coincided with an explosion of global entertainment.  Initially, the subject matter riveted worldwide audiences in traveling museum shows throughout the decade.  But none could imagine what would happen when, one year later, in 1923, the talking motion picture (“talkie”) was introduced and began shifting the silence in movie theaters across the world.

Nor, could audiences know the depth of cinematic terror to come until Boris Karloff, the man they had seen the year prior as Frankenstein’s Monster, emerge on the screen as the first theatrical Mummy, Imhotep, in Karl Freund’s 1932 masterpiece for Universal Studios.  Screams of terror that could only be guessed at a decade earlier were now filling up theaters, heard both on screen and from the audience.

Filmmaker Sean Daniel, who has had quite a storied history of his own with Universal—serving in 1985 as the youngest production president since the studio began—has been fascinated with the subject material since he was a boy.  Not only did he produce the most recent Mummy trilogy, the now-independent producer approached Universal more than four years ago about reimagining and rebooting the anti-hero for a new generation of audiences…ones ready to be transfixed and terrified by this dark creature, just as generations before them had.

It was Daniel’s deep belief that this immortal character—who speaks to us all in the darkest of the night—draws us under its spell.  Indeed, it’s drawn this godfather of the modern Mummy movies back to fascinating source material since 1994.  “From my early days at Universal, I’ve advocated that we continue to be in the Mummy business.  I feel that this character speaks to people’s sense of what life and death are about, and who has the power over that,” the producer reflects.  “It’s mysterious, dark, exciting and scary.  Over the years, I have always wanted to see Mummy movies in theaters, and that’s why I’ve championed them.  I just believe in monster movies as a genre, and that these compelling characters and stories are meant for global audiences.”

Once the Universal-based team of director/producer Alex Kurtzman and producer Chris Morgan, who serve as the narrative architects of the Universal monsters saga—partnered with Daniel, it was decided that The Mummy would be the first chapter in Universal’s new series.

Daniel felt strongly that enough time had gone by since the last film, and there was an opportunity to reimagine the entire idea.  Working from a screen story by Jon Spaihts and Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet, The Mummy team began the next stage of development, one that would lead Kurtzman to ultimately helm the production.

The production team felt that making a version that was contemporary would be both a challenge and a huge creative opportunity.  “Critical to this was the great partnership with Alex, who had a vision for how to tell this story and create a new character—making The Mummy a woman for the first time ever,” explains Daniel.  “He created a way for us to care about this dangerous creature with powers, one whose plight and agony mean something to the audience.  That was central to Alex’s vision, and to what I was advocating to the studio about how to do this anew.”

The Mummy filmmakers gave their team the time to precisely capture the mood and spirit of this world.  “What we are trying to create here is a texture and tone rooted in the Universal horror classic, while having one foot in the modern age,” provides Kurtzman.  “This serves as a nod to these classics, while also bringing these monsters to life in a whole new era for a global audience.”

“We knew that, in order to work, this film has to be scary,” reveals the director.  “Very scary.  Yet, we still want to be able to recognize that there in a human being inside these monsters, and empathize with them.  One of the things that’s so important about the monsters is that we find a way to love them while we fear them.”

Just as the characters had such an indelible imprint on Daniel and Kurtzman, so they did with Morgan.  The producer recounts the time he met them: “When you first are introduced to monsters, it tends to be as a child, and there’s something about it that grabs you.  I remember my brother was in Cub Scouts, and I was six.  They had a day where they went to the library, and they were going to watch a horror movie.  It was for Halloween, and it was The Mummy.

“I was too young; I wasn’t supposed to see it,” he continues, “but I remember sneaking to the doorway and peeking in.  This was right at just the wrong moment for a six-year-old, which is when they are mummifying Boris Karloff alive.  I was horrified.  I remember stepping back, and I was going to walk away, but then I thought, “What is going to happen?’  So I snuck back in and I watched the rest of the movie.  Ever since then, I have been hooked on the monsters.”

As the key team behind The Mummy, Daniel, Kurtzman and Morgan were joined by fellow producer Sarah Bradshaw, who has lent her talents to such epic retellings as Maleficent and Snow White and the Huntsman.  While the foursome began to reimagine an antihero for a new generation, they began to ask themselves what would be most astonishing to them as moviegoers.  What they have created—from a screenplay by David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman—is as big as it is intense…an epic action-adventure that is as full of scares as it is extraordinary fun, scary and bold.

The producers felt strongly that their version of The Mummy had to be grounded in the modern era, and looked forward to bringing her into a space and time that was foreign to her.  They wondered: “What would happen if a badass female mummy, fueled by an unforgivable betrayal and centuries of thirsting for revenge, was unleashed on today’s world?”  It was also crucial for the entire team that this version of The Mummy would be unlike anything ever before seen on screen.

Over the course of development of The Mummy, global superstar Tom Cruise, who portrays soldier of fortune Nick Morton, joined the production as star and creative partner.  As did his fellow collaborators, Cruise offers that he grew up watching monster movies, and that not only inspired him to become an entertainer, but it is what drove him to this particular labor of love.  “I love The Wolf Man, Dracula and The Mummy,” he says.  “It was terrifying as a child seeing these films.  This movie is genuinely terrifying as well, yet it has the kind of scope and elegance of the original ones.”

In their initial conversations, Cruise and his producers made a pact to honor the tradition of these monster movies, and respect what the characters mean to audiences…while giving them something entirely unexpected.  Explains Cruise: “You want to see the monsters win.  That’s what is interesting about the way these stories are told.  They both terrify us and yet your feel sympathy for them.  It’s transcendent.”

Cruise and Kurtzman, who previously collaborated on Mission: Impossible III, were very much on the same page when it came to their vision for The Mummy.  The director lauds that what makes his star connect so well with moviegoers is that we’re all on the same cinematic journey together: “We both feel a tremendous inheritance and a sense of responsibility.  Tom thinks how the audience thinks, and he brings everything to life in a unique and an exciting way.”landscape-1480604242-screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-144407

The filmmakers would soon be off to the arduous task of bringing Princess Ahmanet and Nick Morton together in a place that was unfamiliar, yet timeless, to both of them.  Daniel, who has lived with the world of ancient Egypt in the front of his mind for many decades, reflects upon reinventing the story with this chapter: “In keeping with the core idea of reimagining The Mummy, we are setting the film in modern London.  We knew this would be a movie in which The Mummy was an incredible woman, and that the story would be happening today…amidst all of our lives.  There’s nothing mythical about it.  Here she is, risen after 5,000 years, and walking through one of the world great cities—causing incredible mayhem.”

Similarly, Bradshaw enforced this mandate of “sticking to reality.”  She explains: “It was always about making The Mummy grounded in today.  We wanted to have a sense that you could believe that it could happen to you.  We not only try to achieve that with the sets, but with the lighting as well.”

The producer also advises that she appreciated having such an involved collaborator as Cruise on the production.  “You definitely have to be on your toes with Tom because, when he comes on set, everything is always about making it better.  Tom will see something that perhaps the rest of us haven’t seen and you’ll say, ‘Oh….okay.’”

As they worked together, Cruise and his producers created an experience that was as scary and exotic as it was bold and daring.  The Mummy for a new generation is as audacious as it is unexpected.  While people will recognize core elements from Universal’s monster universe—this film celebrates classic mythologies—The Mummy’s characters are grappling with all of their lives upended as Ahmanet enters today’s world.

The producers appreciated Cruise’s involvement at every step of the process in making The Mummy a reinvention, one that drew its key elements from the cinematic canon.  “In pre-production, Tom would gather us together to watch films such as The Shining and Seven,” recounts Daniel.  “He drove everyone to think creatively throughout all phases of pre-production, shooting and post.”

© 2017 Universal Studios.  www.themummy.com

”I really believe that superhero movies can encourage change and courage in one’s own life, to tackle difficult things and be a hero.  We all have that potential.”

Director Patty Jenkins’ larger-than-life hero’s journey Wonder Woman tells the long-awaited origin story of Diana, the only child of Themyscira, a secret island gifted to her people from the king of the gods himself, Zeus.

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Patty Jenkins directs Connie Nielsen in Wonder Woman

Patty Jenkins is a writer/director known for her debut feature, Monster, based on the life of convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and for helming the pilot and finale episode of AMC’s hit show The Killing.

Patty began her career as a painter at The Cooper Union in New York City. Upon transitioning to filmmaking, she spent eight years as a First Assistant Camera Person/Focus Puller. After attending the AFI in Los Angeles, she wrote and directed “Monster.”

Jenkins went on to direct many commercials and TV programs including AMC’s “The Killing,” for which she received an Emmy nomination and won the DGA award for Best Dramatic Directing for the series pilot. She directed several other television episodes, for such popular series as Fox’s “Arrested Development” and HBO’s “Entourage.”  She was nominated for a Directors Guild Award for “Five,” a series of short films about breast cancer for Lifetime.  She shared the nomination with fellow directors Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore and Penelope Spheeris.

When did you first become familiar with the character of Wonder Woman?

I first became aware of the character when I was in elementary school and watched the 1970s television show Wonder Woman, starring Lynda Carter. Wonder Woman was just the coolest, most beautiful and most exciting female character I had ever seen.  Later, I saw the character on the American animated TV series Super Friends. My friends and I were obsessed with being Wonder Woman on the playground.

In addition to the pressures of helming a long-awaited motion picture event, do you feel additional responsibility that this is one of the first films in which a female superhero is leading the action?

That’s always such a hard one to answer because I think the pressures and responsibilities of making the first Wonder Woman film were already intense.  You know, that’s as big as it gets.  I try not to only focus on the fact that it’s a female character and just make Wonder Woman a great Super Hero movie.

Patty Jenkins

Why is Gal Gadot the ideal choice to play Wonder Woman?

I had never met Gal and when I heard that Zack Snyder had cast her as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman, my heart skipped a beat.  But when I started to watch Gal’s other work, and met her, I was just blown away by how special, charming, warm, wonderful, kind and strong she is.  And now that we’ve collaborated on Wonder Woman, Gal has impressed me even more with her work ethic and talent.

I’m extremely picky about casting and feel unbelievably fortunate to have had Gal cast for me.  That doesn’t always work out, but I got really lucky with Gal.

What led you to cast Chris Pine as Diana’s love interest, Steve Trevor?

That casting was especially difficult because we were looking for someone who holds all of the weight and power of a true leading man.  It takes a special kind of actor to be incredibly strong, have a great sense of humor, and be a true partner to the title character.  Chris is such a wonderfully talented actor and is so comfortable with himself.  He really slipped into that role like a glove.  From the start I was obsessing over him as the perfect Steve Trevor.

 What drew you to cast Connie Nielsen as Diana’s mother, Hippolyta, and Robin Wright as General Antiope?

I was already a big fan of Connie’s work.  She has such a regal presence, as well as a warm, loving and supportive personality, all of which gave her the perfect energy for the role of Hippolyta.

For Antiope, I needed someone who seems under control and is not overly aggressive, but who is truly a badass.  Robin conveys all of that and is such a pro at everything she does.  She is truly a great actress and one I’ve always wanted to work with.

Did you follow the progress of what sounded like a rigorous physical training regimen that Connie and Robin and all of the women playing Amazons underwent?

I always wanted to but I was too busy making the movie, so I would walk by and watch the actors training and training and training.  Even during filming, the trainers were standing by and getting ready to train the actors. It was pretty intense.

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful spots in the world and served as your location for Diana’s home, Themyscira. What was it like filming there? 

In my imagination, Themyscira was like an idyllic Mediterranean island.  So what is the most incredible version of that? The Amalfi Coast!  Having that authentic landscape and architecture around us was pretty amazing, because we were able to follow that lead in building Themyscira.

Some of the locations there were difficult to reach and to film in, but it was always worth it.

You also filmed much of Wonder Woman in the UK, where you captured World War I battle scenes.  What was that experience like? 

We were based in the UK for most of the movie.  We filmed everything from the battlefield scenes to the stage work to the London location work. It was an amazing place to shoot with a terrific crew and great support.  We filmed there in the winter, and those conditions were appropriate for the context of the story, but it was pretty brutal for Gal to be out in cold weather in her Wonder Woman costume. But she was fittingly heroic about it and really made it work for her.

You’ve captured some epic action set pieces, both on the Themyscira locations and in the UK.  What was the most challenging aspect of those scenes?

They were all extremely challenging.  I think a battle scene set in the beach on Themyscira was the most daunting because of how complicated it was to shoot and the number of people involved.  But I was most obsessed about a World War I battle scene set in No Man’s Land, where Diana charges into battle by herself. I think it’s one of the most important moments in the movie for the character.  It’s an incredible moment for Diana, who is realizing what she’s capable of.  So, it’s a big action piece, but at the same time it’s one of the most important dramatic sequences in the movie. It remains one of the most important scenes, for me.

What do you hope audiences take away from seeing Wonder Woman in the cinema?

I hope the film inspires them to be heroes themselves, but I also hope they have a great time.  I think Diana is an inspiring figure, not only to women, who haven’t had many role models of this kind, but to everybody.  I really believe that superhero movies can encourage change and courage in one’s own life, to tackle difficult things and be a hero.  We all have that potential.

Power, grace, wisdom and wonder: inspiring qualities intrinsic to one of the greatest Super Heroes of all time, known the world over as Wonder Woman.

Allan Heinberg, who wrote the Wonder Woman comic for DC in 2006 and 2007,  was thrilled to make his screenwriting debut in director Patty Jenkins’ (Monster, AMC’s The Killing) larger-than-life hero’s journey Wonder Woman, marking the DC Super Hero’s first-ever stand alone feature film.

WONDER WOMAN

Patty Jenkins directed the film from a screenplay by Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, based on characters from DC. Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston.

“Wonder Woman has been my all-time favorite Super Hero since I was a first-grader watching ‘Super Friends’ on Saturday mornings in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” says Heinberg. ”To have had any part at all in bringing her story to the screen—and to have done so alongside a creative team that includes Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns—is a lifelong dream come true.”

Allan HeinbergHeinberg makes his feature film screenwriting debut as one of the writers of Wonder Woman. His television writing and producing credits include Party of Five, Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls, The O.C., Grey’s Anatomy, Looking and Scandal.  Most recently, Heinberg developed, writes, and is the showrunner of ABC and Shondaland’s The Catch, starring Mireille Enos and Peter Krause. For Marvel Comics, Heinberg created and wrote Young Avengers and its sequel, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, with co-creator/artist Jim Cheung. For DC Comics, Heinberg co-wrote JLA: Crisis of Conscience with Geoff Johns, art by Chris Batista, and re-launched Wonder Woman with artists Terry and Rachel Dodson.

WONDER WOMAN

Gal Gadot stars in the title role of Wonder Woman, an epic action adventure that tells the long-awaited origin story of Diana, the only child of Themyscira, a secret island gifted to her people from the king of the gods himself, Zeus.  Hailing from the world of Amazons, Diana has been preparing for combat her whole life.  But to become a true warrior, she will need to carry the courage of her convictions—and an arsenal like no other—onto the most harrowing battlefield the world has ever known.

But when an American pilot crashes off their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat.  Fighting alongside men in the war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers…and her true destiny.

“The time is absolutely right to bring Wonder Woman to movie audiences,” says Jenkins.  “Fans have been waiting a long time for this, but I believe people outside the fandom are ready for a Wonder Woman movie, too.  Superheroes have played a role in many people’s lives; it’s that fantasy of ‘What would it be like if I was that powerful and that great, and I could go on that exciting journey and do heroic things?’  I’m no different.  I was seven years old when I first read Superman, and it rocked my world because I felt like Superman.  The character captured exactly what I believed in then and still do: that there is a part of every human being that wishes they could change the world for the better.”  Director Patty Jenkins talks about Wonder Woman

Patty Jenkins

Then came Wonder Woman.  “I watched the TV show, and she was everything a girl could aspire to be: strong and kind, exciting and stylish, powerful and effective, and just as fierce as the boys.  She’s a badass, and at the same time she stands for love, forgiveness and benevolence in a complicated world.  I feel so honored to be making a movie about a Super Hero who stands for such important values.”

william-marstonThough creator William Moulton Marston first introduced Wonder Woman to readers in the midst of World War II, the film is set in 1918, at the tail end of the First World War.

Producer Charles Roven explains the filmmakers’ thinking behind the time shift, noting, “Juxtaposing this commanding female character who hails from a race of equally strong independent women with the early days of the suffragette movement was really interesting.

“Secondly,” he continues, “from a visual perspective, the subtleties of the era better convey the true horrors of modern war.  It was the first war where fighting went from close range in hand-to-hand combat, or if you shot somebody you had to be relatively close and face your adversary, to being fought from a distance.  You could bomb some place without even knowing what your foe looked like, or who it is that you might be killing.  It actually became easier to kill.  We wanted that new dynamic of war to be fresh for our character, Wonder Woman, because she is used to warriors being people you looked up to, and now she’s looking at a war where there’s no such thing as a hero, really, because you can’t be a hero if you don’t know who you’re fighting.”

And that is something Wonder Woman struggles to comprehend.

Producer Zack Snyder relates, “There’s a purity to Wonder Woman that I love.  She doesn’t have a broken past, she’s not seeking revenge on the people who wronged her and she isn’t coming from a dark place.  She had an idyllic childhood and was taught to value life.  She can be a hero purely from a place of wanting to do what’s right in the world, which is really cool, and I think both Patty and Gal found the perfect way to convey that in the movie.”

Producer Deborah Snyder felt that Jenkins completely shared that vision for the film, but, more importantly, had an unparalleled passion for the character.

“Patty’s excitement followed her all through shooting,” Snyder recalls.  “She looked up to the character, and she felt a great responsibility, as did the rest of the team, to make sure she brought Wonder Woman to the screen in the most honest way possible.  This is a figure who came before us and will outlast us, who fights for freedom and justice but also believes in love.  I think that makes her enormously compelling.”

When a man—the first one Diana has ever seen—comes to shore, he opens her eyes to the larger world outside of her sheltered island, an undertaking he begins quite by accident, by crashing off Themyscira’s shores.  Producer Richard Suckle notes, “She saves his life and, in turn, it’s Steve Trevor who teaches Diana about man’s world.  They’re a great couple in the canon, but I really love the way they are in this film.  There is chemistry, and the movie does allow for that to play out within this huge action adventure, and without a damsel or a dude in distress.  They need each other, they learn from each other, and they’re equals.”

Jenkins adds, “From the moment they meet, there is a spark, and the way their love story unfolds is captivating and unique, especially for this kind of movie and for the time in which it’s set.”

WONDER WOMAN

Chris Pine, who plays Captain Steve Trevor, enjoyed the parity between them, and appreciated what Steve is able to learn from Diana as well.  “I felt part of something very special, making this film, which I think is much more than a superhero movie.  It’s using the global medium of film and this bold manner of storytelling to depict the actions of this very powerful woman in a violent, male-driven world.  She shows my character—who has been a spy, who has seen evil up close and been fully immersed in the morally gray, toxic universe of war—that there is still room for idealism and for an earnest desire to do right by others.  It’s a story that resonates and that’s very a propos to today.”

“Every superhero has his or her strong points,” Jenkins contends, “but I think the greatest thing about Wonder Woman is how good and kind and loving she is.  Yet none of that negates her power; it enhances it!”

Wonder Woman

Much like her director, Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot says, “What attracted me so much to this character is that she is so many different things, and they live within her in such a beautiful way.  And because this is the first time we’re telling the story of this icon on film, Patty and I had many creative conversations about her.  She’s the greatest warrior in the comics, but she can also be vulnerable, sensitive, confident, and confused…everything, all at once.  And she never hides her intelligence or her emotions.”

“When we first meet Diana in the story, she’s a curious little girl who’s very courageous but also sassy and a little bit naughty,” Gadot smiles.  “She admires the Amazon warriors she sees all around her, and she wants to be like them, to fight.  However, Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta, is very protective of her young daughter, and does not allow her to train.  But Diana has a spark in her, and a fire in her eyes.  It’s clear that she will get her way, she will get what she wants, somehow.”

But it’s Gadot, Jenkins attests, who fulfills the image of the Wonder Woman the world has been waiting for, inside and out.  “Gal is literally the nicest, most beautiful, most dedicated individual you’ll ever meet.  All she wanted out of this whole process was to do justice to the character.  She genuinely wanted to embody the Diana everyone expects.”

And it wasn’t always easy, thanks to cold weather, extensive training, heavy action and the fact that Gadot appears in nearly every scene.  “When times would get rough on the shoot, it was Gal we looked to,” Jenkins states.  “She has such inner strength, such an iron temperament, that she could work through anything and always keep an upbeat attitude.  She’s a pretty amazing person.”

Gadot credits her director with keeping her spirits high.  “I am so lucky that Patty was directing me on this movie,” she says.  “She is so funny and warm, such a brilliant and talented person, and her vision and her passion were completely in line with mine.  I remember the first time we sat together, we talked about the film but we also talked about life, our families…everything was so similar.  To be able to work with someone you agree with creatively about almost everything is special.  And even if our ideas conflicted, we would have a fair debate and I think we not only evolved from the discussion, but the result was that we got the best we could out of the scene.  I’m grateful for her guidance and her friendship.”

A feminist icon to some, an example of love and wisdom and justice to others and a brave warrior who fights right alongside the men, Wonder Woman is all this and more.  When we meet her in the film, her experiences—or lack of them, really—have ignited an interest in everything around her, and a passion to help those in need.  She’s highly compassionate, and able to view the world in a way that we’d all like to, with a genuine curiosity.   She fights for good because she believes it.

“Diana is set apart from most comic book superheroes by her gender, but it’s her approach to justice that I believe really makes her unique,” Gadot claims.  “She not only wants to rid the world of evil by taking out the bad guys, she also wants to encourage men and women to be the best human beings they can be, and she does this through love, hope and grace.”

Jenkins agrees, further stating, “If only we could all see the world the way Diana does.  She sees the great darkness, but also looks beyond that to what mankind is capable of: great beauty.  She also has the powers of a god, a heart filled with compassion, and we wanted to give her a rich and layered and fun story to tell that everyone can connect with.  It’s just a great adventure that I hope fans—old and new—will love!”

 

“A Rosenkavalier not to be missed … Renée Fleming soars to new heights. A final chance to see one of our greatest sopranos sing one of the most moving characters in the repertory.”

The final opera in the current Met: Live in HD season is Strauss’s tragicomic romance, Der Rosenkavalier. The production, the Met’s first new staging of the piece since 1969, releases exclusively at Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas on Saturday, 10 June for limited screenings.

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Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs and Renée Fleming as the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The opera premiered at the Court Opera, Dresden, in 1911. Set in an idealised Vienna of the past, Strauss’s most popular opera concerns a wise woman of the world who is involved with a much younger lover, but ultimately is forced to accept the laws of time, giving him up to a pretty young heiress. Hofmannsthal’s fascinating libretto deftly combines comedy, dreamy nostalgic fantasy, genuine human drama, and light but striking touches of philosophy and social commentary. Strauss’s magnificent score, likewise, works on several levels, combining the refinement of Mozart with the epic grandeur of Wagner.

ROSENKAVALIERThe dream cast of Renée Fleming singing in her final performances of one of her signature roles as the Marschallin, and Elīna Garanča in her Met role debut as the Marschallin’s young lover, Octavian, star in Strauss’s grandest opera. This production also features Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs, the Marschallin’s oafish cousin; Erin Morley as Sophie, the innocent young woman who comes between the Marschallin and Octavian; Marcus Brück in his Met debut as Sophie’s father, Faninal; and Matthew Polenzani as the Italian Singer.

In this new staging of Der Rosenkavalier, Robert Carsen, the director behind the Met’s recent Falstaff, places the action at the end of the Habsburg Empire, underscoring the opera’s subtext of class and conflict against a rich backdrop of gilt and red damask.

Carsen’s staging features set design by Paul Steinberg, costume design by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, lighting design by Carsen and Peter Van Praet, and choreography by Philippe Giraudeau. Sebastian Weigle conducts the sparklingly perfect score.

“A Rosenkavalier not to be missed … Renée Fleming soars to new heights. A final chance to see one of our greatest sopranos sing one of the most moving characters in the repertory.” – Huffington Post

“As beautiful as ever, and a subtle, sensitive actress, Fleming gave a performance of deep feeling … Garanča’s mezzo overflowed with the warmth and richness of youth … Magical moments.” – Wall Street Journal

“Robert Carsen, in a brilliant move, has updated the original setting… Take this new production and savour it.” – The New Yorker

The running time of the opera is 4hrs and 12mins, including two intervals.

Der Rosenkavalier releases exclusively at Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town, and at select Ster-Kinekor cinemas on Saturday, 10 June for limited screenings: 10 June at 17:00; 11 June at 14:30; 13 June at 11:30; 20 June at 18:00 and 21 June at 11:30. Bookings are now open.

For more information on Der Rosenkavalier and to make bookings, visit www.sterkinekor.com or download the SK App. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz or on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

 

Exciting new titles for young and old!

a-united-kingdom-rosamund-pike-and-david-oyelowoWriter-director Amma Asante’s profound A United Kingdom tells the moving story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana and how his loving but controversial marriage to a British white woman, Ruth Williams, put his kingdom into political and diplomatic turmoil. In 1947, Seretse Khama, the King of Botswana, met Ruth Williams, a London office worker. The attraction was immediate: she was captivated by his vision for a better world, he was struck by her willingness to embrace it. Both felt liberated by the social upheaval that followed the war – Seretse sensed the opportunity for change as the Empire weakened, Ruth saw the possibility for a “bigger life” as women pushed for independence and equality. They were a perfect match, yet their proposed marriage was challenged not only by their families but by the British and South African governments.  The latter had recently introduced the policy of apartheid and found the notion of a biracial a-united-kingdom-moviecouple ruling a neighbouring country intolerable.  South Africa threatened the British: either thwart the couple or be denied access to South African uranium (vital for the British nuclear program) and gold (vital to replenish reserves following the war) and face the risk of South Africa invading Botswana. Despite the terrible pressures they faced, Seretse and Ruth never wavered – they fought for their love every step of the way, and in so doing changed their nation and inspired the world. The bonus features include an insightful making of documentary, Filming in Botswana, The Legacy of Seretse and Ruth, and the London Film Festival premiere featurette. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-main-castFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, whose seven beloved Harry Potter books were adapted into the top-grossing film franchise of all time.  Her script was inspired by the Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, written by her character Newt Scamander. There are growing dangers in the wizarding world of 1926 New York.  Something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets, threatening to expose the wizarding community to the No-Majs (American for Muggles), including the Second Salemers, a fanatical 2-jk-rowling-fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-1faction bent on eradicating them.  And the powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, after wreaking havoc in Europe, has slipped away…and is now nowhere to be found. Unaware of the rising tensions, Newt Scamander arrives in the city nearing the end of a global excursion to research and rescue magical creatures, some of which are safeguarded in the magical hidden dimensions of his deceptively nondescript leather case.  But potential disaster strikes when unsuspecting No-Maj Jacob Kowalski inadvertently lets some of Newt’s beasts loose in a city already on edge. The bonus features include two fantastic featurettes, Meet the Fantastic Beasts and The Magizoologist.  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

jonathan-2The uproarious local comedy Jonathan deals with a dreamer and wannabe stand-up comedian who embarks on a roller coaster journey of self-discovery. Jonathan, in his late 20’s, still lives with parents. After another failed open mic performance he gets drunk and crashes his father’s dream car on the way home. This is the last straw for his loving but fed up parents and his father kicks him out of the house. Sitting at a restaurant not knowing where to go, he watches car guards in the parking lot and decides that he will become a car guard just to stay afloat until the next big stand-up comedy completion that he firmly believes he can win. After a very hostile reception by the other car cards, the eldest car guard decides to take Johnathan under his wing and teaches him the finer art of being a car guard and more important he teaches Jonathan about life and how to survive as an outcast. Jonathan also falls in love with a girl way out of his league. Life takes a massive turn when Jonathan and his mentor’s LOTTO- ticket wins the lottery. Jonathan however manages to lose all the money in a matter of days. This put Johnathan on a journey to try and redeem himself. Will he be able to apply the lessons learned to make peace with his family, earn the forgiveness of his mentor and win the heart of the most beautiful girl he ever met? Read interview with writer-director Sallas de Jager / Watch the trailer

SingFor the kiddies and those who are young of heart, the delightful  Sing is set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, and stars Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a dapper koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times.  Buster is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it.  Now faced with the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition. Five lead contestants emerge: Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a mouse who croons as smoothly as he cons; Meena (Tori Kelly), a timid teenage elephant with an enormous case of stage fright; Rosita (Reese sing-dubladores-09-11-2016Witherspoon), an overtaxed mother run ragged tending a litter of 25 piglets; Johnny (Taron Egerton), a young gangster gorilla looking to break free of his family’s felonies; and Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a punk-rock porcupine struggling to shed her arrogant boyfriend and go solo. Each arrives under Buster’s marquee believing that this is their shot to change the course of their life.  And as Buster coaches each of his contestants closer and closer to the grand finale, he starts to learn that maybe the theater isn’t the only thing that is in need of saving. The fantastic bonus features include 3 new mini movies, and featurettes on how the film was made, the music video Faith, The Sing Network and The Best of Gunter. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

assassins-2Assassin’s Creed is a worlds-spanning tale of one man who finds himself at the center of an ancient battle between two powerful sects—only by harnessing the memories of his ancestor, which are contained within his own DNA, can he end the conflict and claim his own redemption. Based on the blockbuster video game series from Ubisoft, the film is directed by Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth) from a screenplay Michael Lesslie and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage. Marked by tragedy at an early age, Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is a convict assassins-creed-fassbender1280jpg-c8e5d5_1280wfacing capital punishment when he gains an unexpected second chance at life thanks to the mysterious workings of Abstergo Industries. Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA, Cal is sent back across the centuries to 15th Century Spain. There, he lives out the experiences of his distant relative, Aguilar de Nerha, a member of a secret society known as the Assassins who fight to protect free will from the power-hungry the Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to topple the oppressive Templar organization in present day. Bonus Features: A 5-part documentary, Take The Pledge, taking you behind the scenes of the film; The Legacy of Assassin’s Creed and Becoming an Assassin.  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

STORKSThe action-packed, animated adventure Storks takes audiences on a road trip like no other, as a super-focused stork with big ambitions, and a sunny 18-year-old orphaned girl with some wild ideas, rush to make one very special delivery. Braving danger and unforeseen setbacks, not to mention completely opposite points of view on almost everything, this unlikely pair of couriers makes the transformative journey of their lives, in an original story that celebrates friendship and family, amidst laughter and poignant moments of discovery. The bonus features include a featurette on Stork Mountain and the Master: A LEGO Ninjago short music video.  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

shut-in02Shut In is a heart-pounding thriller starring Naomi Watts as a widowed child psychologist who lives an isolated existence in rural New England. When a young boy Mary (Watts) is treating goes missing, and is presumed dead, she becomes convinced that his ghost is haunting her and her bedridden son. Director Farren Blackburn says he was intrigued with what he saw as the cinematic potential afforded by the script’s economical storyline and confined setting. “When I first read Shut In, I was excited by the fact that it was a genre movie that could be very beautiful and shot with great artistry,” he says. “I’m a big fan of those pared-down ’70s American movies that had a European aesthetic. Plus, Shut In has a protagonist you really care about and who has an interesting journey, so for me it was a no-brainer.” Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

jackreacher2Since 1997, readers have been riveted by the exploits of Jack Reacher, who first appeared in the pages of author Lee Child’s “Killing Floor” and continued on in a series now spanning twenty novels. Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) returns to the big screen with his particular brand of justice in the highly anticipated, action-packed sequel Jack Reacher:  Never Go Back. The film follows Reacher as he races to uncover the truth about active duty soldiers, once under his command, who are being killed. Years after resigning command of an elite military police unit, the nomadic, righter-of-wrongs Reacher is drawn back into the life he left behind when his friend and successor, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) is framed for espionage. Reacher will stop at nothing to prove her innocence and to expose the real perpetrators behind the killings of his former soldiers. Bonus Features: No Quarter Given:  The rooftop battle, and Reacher Returns. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

robinson1Robinson Crusoe is a wonderful fun-filled adventure for the little ones. From the over-exuberant parrot Mak to the snack-obsessed tapir Rosie, from the pernickety echidna Epi to the acrobatic pangolin Pango, from the ditzy goat Scrubby to the commonsensical kingfisher Kiki and the always-cool chameleon Carmello, things are larger-than-life on a tropical isle that is pure wild animal paradise. Then Robinson Crusoe, a marooned human, arrives in the midst of a furious storm, and their lives are forever changed by this bewildering new “creature.” No matter their differences, castaway human and quirky animals embark on a hilarious new adventure, building the island’s first tree-house and surviving together. But when two conniving members of the animal kingdom — the savage cats Mal & May – pounce into a battle for control of the island, Crusoe and his animal posse must uncover the true power of friendship against all odds (even savage cats).  Watch the trailer

PIRATES

Be a winner in our Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge Competition!

If you want to add a Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge bandana and a pin to your movie collection, tell us who wrote the screenplay and send your answer and contact details to us with Salazar’s Revenge in the subject line. Closing date. 30 June, 2017.  Enter competition here

Johnny Depp returns to the big screen as the iconic, swashbuckling anti-hero Jack Sparrow in the all-new Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge.

The rip-roaring adventure finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill-fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea—notably Jack.

Jack’s only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy. At the helm of the Dying Gull, his pitifully small and shabby ship, Captain Jack seeks not only to reverse his recent spate of ill fortune, but to save his very life from the most formidable and malicious foe he has ever faced.

Great new titles to add to your collection!

manchester-by-the-sea-casey-affleck-lucas-hedges-promoIn writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s heartbreaking Manchester By The Sea an uncle is obliged to return home to care for his nephew after his brother dies. Unknowing he is to be the guardian and struggles with the decision. Throughout the movie he recounts past memories that caused him to leave Manchester and distance himself from his past. Casey Affleck is sensational in his Oscar-winning performance as a man whose path to redemption is one you will remember long after watching this gentle and quiet human drama.  Read an interview with writer-director Kenneth Lonergan / Watch the trailer

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In the equally powerful drama Denial, An American professor finds herself the defendant in a high-profile British libel trial that would impact the way the history of the Holocaust is told in Denial, a taut courtroom drama based on one of the most significant international legal cases in recent memory. It recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt’s (Oscar winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team led by Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred. This provocative story about one woman’s relentless efforts to establish justice and remind the world about the tragedies of the Holocaust, offers a gripping, inspirational real-life account based on Deborah E. Lipstadt’s book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, and adapted for the big screen by esteemed playwright David Hare. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

hoener-3In the local comedy Hoener Met Die Rooi Skoene, Kaptein Hendrik Greyling (Louw Venter), who is known amongst his colleagues as the ‘Iron Rooster’, is always in control. When he falls in cold water during the execution of his tasks, he gets the flu. In his feverish condition, he is appointed as the investigating officer of a very abnormal murder scene, where the body disappears without a trace… and quickly finds himself in the midst of the chaos and confusion of more than one murder. The bonus features include a behind the scenes doccie and Jak de Priester’s music video. Watch the trailer

passengersPassengers is an exciting action-thriller about two strangers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early. Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora) and Chris Pratt (Jim) star in an exciting action-thriller about two strangers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early.  Jim and Aurora  (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) are forced to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction as the ship teeters on the brink of collapse, jeopardizing the lives of the passengers on the greatest mass migration in human history.  The bonus features include a visit to the set with Chris Pratt, Casting The Passengers, Creating The Avalon,  Outtakes from the set,  and Book your passage: Learn more about the Homestead company.  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

equityIn the drama Equity Naomi Bishop is an investment banker determined to overcome a previous stain to her professional reputation, which is a challenge in the male dominated financial sector she works in. As Naomi in that spirit makes her move managing a burgeoning new tech IPO, she has to endure not only the condescension of her colleagues, but also her imperious client even as troubling new developments cloud the venture’s future. Against that, the probing of a college friend turned Federal investment law prosecutor and the conniving of her double-dealing boyfriend seem to be manageable complications, until a betrayal by a trusted colleague threatens to ruin everything. The bonus features include a Q & A with Anna Gunn, Meera Menon, Alysia Reiner, Sarah Megan Thomas and Samuel Roukin at the LA Film Festival;  The Making of Equity, and  ‘’Girl Gang: The Equity of Empowerment’’. Watch the trailer

resident-evil-1Picking up immediately after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead in Resident Evil 6: The Final Chapter. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began – The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse. Bonus Features: Explore The Hive, The Bad Ass Trinity and the Women of Resident Evil. Watch the trailer

 

Inheriting one of Hollywood’s most successful franchises

When Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney got set to jump into making Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, the fifth chapter in the $3.7 billion Pirates of the Caribbean franchise,  they began a search for a new story that would take the series a few steps forward, while at the same time harken back to the elements of fantasy, action, comedy, and elements of the supernatural that had made the first film such a sensation.

Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-5-Dead-Men-Tell-No-Tales-2017-movie

With the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl back in 2003 came the dawn of Jerry Bruckheimer’s most successful franchise, one of the most successful series of films in the history of the Disney Studios. The film series was to become a game-changing, culturealtering, zeitgeist-boosting, history-making phenomenon, with the first film followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011). Collectively, these four films have brought in over $3.7 billion of worldwide box-office receipts, but, more importantly, inspired and delighted audiences of all ages around the globe.

Now, the rip-roaring Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar, escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea—notably Jack. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth, a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry, a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy. At the helm of the Dying Gull, his pitifully small and shabby ship, Captain Jack seeks not only to reverse his recent spate of ill fortune but to save his very life from the most formidable and malicious foe he has ever faced.

Searching for a screenwriter for Pirates # 5

The search for a screenwriter eventually led them to accomplished and talented screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who began to develop the story for Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge with veteran “Pirates of the Caribbean” screenwriter Terry Rossio, who shares a story by credit with Nathanson, and wrote the screenplays for the first four films of the “Pirates of The Caribbean” Series With His Writing Partner, Ted Elliott.

Terry Rossio (Story by/Executive Producer) co-wrote Shrek, the first ever Oscar winner for Best Animated Film. With writing partner Ted Elliott, Rossio also co-wrote the Pirates of the Caribbean” series, featuring two billion dollar grossing entries, Dead Man’s Chest and On Stranger Tides. Other credits include: Aladdin, The Mask of Zorro, Déjà Vu, and Disney’s The Lone Ranger. Rossio is currently ranked behind George Lucas as the second highest grossing screenwriter in Hollywood.

While fully respectful to all that came before in the first four films, Nathanson—who has written the likes of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “The Terminal” for Steven Spielberg—was eager to make his own mark.

Jeff NathansonJeff Nathanson has written three highly successful films for director Steven Spielberg: Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal and the story for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. His other credits include director Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist and the Rush Hour series. Nathanson also wrote and directed the dark comedy, The Last Shot. He is currently writing Disney’s new live action version of The Lion King, which will be directed by Jon Favreau and will be released in the summer of 2019.

“Jeff was unencumbered by the history of the franchise,” explains executive producer Chad Oman. “He was able to objectively look at the series and bring a fresh imagination and creative point of view. He’s also a very funny guy who brings a lot of humor to his writing.”

“I’m a big fan of the franchise and have enormous respect for what Ted and Terry have created,” says Nathanson. “It’s such a rich and wonderful world to step into, with so many great artists in front of and behind the camera working to bring it to life. I felt my job as a new writer coming into this established family was to both honor the spirit of the previous films while giving a new generation of fans a movie to call their own. ‘’

“The ‘Pirates’ franchise is very tricky,” continues Nathanson, “because it combines huge action with supernatural suspense, romance and comedy. It’s also a highly researched pirate epic that attempts to stay very true to the period. The key is to balance it all while telling an emotional good story, and finding ways to use these characters in ways we’ve never seen before.”

POTC Salazars Revenge PosterPirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge would continue what had become a subtext in the tradition of the previous “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies—a story about parents and children.

“It’s a theme that has given emotional backbone to the entire series,” explains Jerry Bruckheimer.

“The story of Elizabeth Swann’s sometimes trying but tender relationship with her father, Governor Weatherby Swann, is dealt with in the first two films. Will Turner’s desperate attempts to free his father, Bootstrap Bill, from bondage aboard the Flying Dutchman, is a crucial element of the second and third movies. Angelica’s tormented relationship with her father, Blackbeard, is an important element of the fourth film. In Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge  both Henry Turner and Carina Smyth are either trying to liberate, or search for, their fathers. ‘’

“And meanwhile,” Bruckheimer continues, “Captain Jack shares moments with his pirate dad, Captain Teague, in the third and fourth films, and with his long-lost Uncle Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge . The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies really are a family affair in more ways than one.”

Bruckheimer adds, “And speaking of family, we also wanted to bring Captain Barbossa, Will Turner, Gibbs and other old favorites back into the picture, but also invent a riveting new antagonist and other new characters to refresh the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ world.”

Like Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio before him, Jeff Nathanson also studied the original Disneyland attraction for tone and ideas.

“I have three kids,” he notes, “so it wasn’t hard to get the family on board for research trips to Disneyland. The ride is an incredible source of inspiration, and it’s hard not to use elements when writing the movie.”

And, in fact, the title of the new film would harken right back to the ominous words frequently and darkly intoned on the original attraction: “Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

As a result of his skill and appreciation for the franchise, Nathanson’s screenplay is laced with the massive action set pieces and comedy that have become the hallmarks of the previous “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies—with a considerable dollop of emotion and heart.

Captains At The Helm: Two Scandinavian fans of Hollywood cinema inherit one of its most successful franchises

While Jeff Nathanson was busy bringing the filmmakers’ vision and the spirit of the new adventure to life, the hunt for a director began in earnest. What no one quite expected, however, was that they would wind up not with one, but two. Or that they would hail from Norway, more than five thousand miles from Hollywood, a country with its own historic tradition of seafaring pirates…although they were better known as Vikings.

In truth, the Norwegian directing team of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg—who had impressed international audiences with their Academy Award-nominated epic tale of real-life ocean exploration, “Kon-Tiki,” followed by the highly rated, big-scale Netflix miniseries “Marco Polo”—aggressively pursued the job, having been fervent fans of the franchise.

Joachim Rønning and Espen SandbergGrowing up in the 1980s in Sandefjord, a small town south of Oslo, Norway, Joachim Rønning and his childhood friend Espen Sandberg spent their free time making short films with Joachim’s dad’s 30-pound home video camera—one of the few burdens for being the first of the video generation. In 1992 they both attended Stockholm Film School in Sweden, and graduated in 1994. Later that year, they served their mandatory time in the military making “propaganda” films for the Royal Norwegian Army. In 1993 they founded their own company. They called it Roenberg— their last names put together. Early in 1996, they began directing commercials and music videos professionally in Oslo. Their debut film was Bandidas (2006), a comedy/western, written and produced by legendary French helmer Luc Besson. Their second film was Max Manus (2008), a World War II drama telling the true story of famed Norwegian saboteur Max Manus and his battle to overcome his inner demons. Max Manus rose to become the highest grossing Norwegian movie of all time, shattering box office records by selling over 1.2 million tickets in Norway alone—meaning 25% of the country’s population went to see it in theatres. Rønning and Sandberg recently won the 2017 International Filmmakers of the Year Award at CinemaCon. Rønning recently completed directing the ABC drama pilot Doomsday and will next be helming Methuselah starring Tom Cruise, and the high-concept thriller Micro, based on Michael Crichton’s final novel.

Explaining his choice of directors, Jerry Bruckheimer says, “When you bring Academy Award- nominated filmmakers who are young, aggressive and hardworking to tell a story that’s been told four times before, they have a fresh approach. And that’s what we wanted. We wanted them to come in with their creativity and their great film vocabulary to make this ‘Pirates’ really special and really fresh.”

Continuing, he adds, “They bring a lot of style and a lot of flash to the film. It’s a whole reinvention of the making of a ‘Pirates’ movie, in the way that they approached it, how they did it and how they do the music. Everything is moving very fast.”

“Espen and Joachim are big fans of the franchise,” comments executive producer Chad Oman, president of Jerry Bruckheimer Films. “They bring a lot of enthusiasm and a youthful sensibility to the project, and are used to working on water and under difficult circumstances. Although Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is on a much bigger scale than their previous productions, their background really lent itself to help them accomplish the huge tasks they would be faced with on this one.”

For the directors, the opportunity to be part of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise was a dream come true.

“It’s the kind of movie we grew up with and love,” Sandberg says. “That mix of adventure, action and comedy is what we’ve always loved about big American movies.”

Confesses Rønning, “The Pirates films remind me about the kind of movies that inspired me to become a filmmaker when I was a kid. Now that I have kids of my own, it’s great to make a movie that they can watch, too. It’s a true family movie.  We know that trying to do something original with the fifth instalment was going to be a challenge, but that was important to us.’’

“It’s an amazing franchise, and a great responsibility for us,’’ says Rønning.‘’There are so many fans around the world, and we were fans as well watching the movies in Norway.”

Rønning and Sandberg were also somewhat astonished to find themselves in the employ of a producer they had admired for years. “When we were kids, we watched Bruckheimer films,” says Rønning. “But being from Norway, those kinds of movies felt very far away from us. I remember our first meetings with Jerry, and it was insane for Espen and me, because he’s a hero. We’re working with someone we grew up idolizing. He’s a legend.”

It was important to the directors that Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge  would be as fun for viewers who had never seen a “Pirates of the Caribbean” film as it would be for long time fans of the franchise.

Sandberg comments, “We made sure that we introduced all the characters and presented them in a thorough way. We also have two new main characters in the movie and a new villain. So it’s very much a movie that you can enjoy even though you haven’t seen the other movies. But if you have, it will definitely generate more depth for you. So it works on several layers.”

On their approach, Rønning says, “They’re all great movies, but the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was special. We wanted to try and go back a little bit to that to make it a little darker, a little raunchier. It was also very important for us that Jack Sparrow is always Jack Sparrow. We wanted to try, like they did very much in the first ‘Pirates’ movie, to create real characters that you can identify with. There’s a real love story and then Jack Sparrow comes in and crashes the party. That dynamic and that structure was something that we really went for and then at the same time keeping the darker elements intact.”

Sandberg adds, “We wanted to make the script and the movie, like Joachim said, in the spirit of the first movie, which had inspired us. But we were also really inspired by the ride at Disneyland because when you take that with a kid, it is fun but it’s also very scary. So we wanted to get that same thrill.”

Working on a movie of such grand scale and production value was new for the directors, but they approached it with confidence.

pirates-5-first-look1

“All the ‘Pirates’ movies are epic,” says Sandberg. “We wanted this movie to feel just as grand and be a fun ride. We wanted it to feel like the ride, to be fun and scary and emotional, and that means huge action pieces that are all very original and unique that you haven’t seen before. Also we wanted it to be up close and emotional, and have some touching scenes in there as well. Of course, it’s very, very funny thanks to Johnny and the other actors. It is a huge group effort, and we have an amazing team both behind and in front of the camera to make this into an epic, fun ride of a movie.”

Adds Rønning, “As Espen was saying, there’s a great tradition in the franchise to find that grand action piece that can go on for a little while and that you’ve never seen before, and that’s original. I remember in one of my first meetings with Johnny Depp, he was talking about the character Jack Sparrow and what inspired him, and he was talking about Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. So what we set out to do was to give him some of those Buster Keaton-esque comedy action moments, but for a modern audience.”

Summing up the experience of working on the film for both of them, Rønning says, “It was like a surreal moment every day on this shoot because not only is it huge in scope, production-wise, but we’re also dealing with iconic characters and iconic ships and elements that have meant so much to us growing up with this franchise as well. So, for us, it became more like a proverbial sandbox in a way, in that we had all these insanely big toys to play with. I felt there was some sense of magic walking onto that set and having these characters around. That was fantastic.”

Visionary Ridley Scott crafted a bold, uniquely terrifying, visceral experience flush with the attitude and swagger of a classic Alien movie

In space, no one can hear you scream. After nearly four decades, those words remain synonymous with the sheer, relentless intensity of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece of futuristic horror, Alien.

Now, the father of the iconic franchise returns once more to the world he created to explore its darkest corners with Alien: Covenant, a pulse-pounding new adventure, set ten years after the events depicted in Scott’s 2012 hit Prometheus, relentlessly returning to the roots of the director’s groundbreaking saga with a uniquely terrifying tale filled with white-knuckle adventure and monstrous new creatures.

With this, the sixth installment in the blockbuster series  (screenplay is by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green) , the visionary director edges ever closer toward revealing the mysterious origins of the mother of all aliens, the lethal Xenomorph from the original film.

Alien-Covenant-Ridley-Scott

All is quiet aboard the spaceship Covenant. The crew and the rest of the 2,000 souls aboard the pioneering vessel are deep in hyper-sleep, leaving the synthetic Walter to walk the corridors alone. The ship is en route to the remote planet Origae-6, where, on the far side of the galaxy, the settlers hope to establish a new outpost for humanity. The tranquility is shattered when a nearby stellar ignition shreds Covenant’s energy-collection sails, resulting in dozens of casualties and throwing the mission off course. Soon, the surviving crew members discover what appears to be an uncharted paradise, an undisturbed Eden of cloud-capped mountains and immense, soaring trees far closer than Origae-6 and potentially just as viable as a home. What they’ve found, however, is actually a dark and deadly world full of unexpected twists and turns. Facing a terrible threat beyond their imagination, the embattled explorers must attempt a harrowing escape.

Welcome Aboard The Covenant

From the beginning, Ridley Scott was out for blood.

“I think Ridley’s first line was, ‘We’re going to make a hard R-rated film, and we’re going to need a lot of claret,’ which is a term for film blood,” recalls Alien: Covenant producer Mark Huffam. “That was the very first conversation—we’re out to scare the pants off everybody.”

If anyone knows how to terrify audiences with smart, sophisticated storytelling, it’s Scott. His original Alien remains a standard bearer for the horror genre, a psychologically taut, uncomfortably claustrophobic film, as lean and effective as the sleek, vicious beast that first stalked Ellen Ripley and the crew of the starship Nostromo back in 1979. “In a funny kind of way, I always thought of Alien as a B-movie, really well done,” Scott says. “The subtext was pretty basic—it was seven people locked in the old dark house and who’s going to die first and who’s going to survive.”

Director Ridley Scott is a renowned Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker honored with Best Director Oscar® nominations for his work on Black Hawk Down, Gladiator and Thelma & Louise. All three films also earned him DGA Award nominations. Scott’s most recent release was the critically acclaimed box office phenomenon The Martian.

Scott and his late brother Tony formed the commercial and advertising production company RSA in 1967. RSA has an established reputation for creating innovative and groundbreaking commercials for some of the world’s most recognized corporate brands. In 1995, the Scott brothers formed the film and television production company Scott Free. With offices in Los Angeles and London, the Scotts produced such films as In Her Shoes, The A-Team, Cyrus, The Grey and the Academy Award®-nominated drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

In 1977 Scott made his feature film directorial debut with The Duelist, for which he won the Best First Film Award at the Cannes Film Festival. He followed with the blockbuster science-fiction thriller Alien, which catapulted Sigourney Weaver to stardom and launched a successful franchise. In 1982 Scott directed the landmark film Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford. Considered a sci-fi classic, the futuristic thriller was added to the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1993 and a director’s cut was released to renewed acclaim in 1993 and again in 2007.

In 2003 Scott was awarded a Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to the British Film Industry. He received the 30th American Cinematheque Award at the organization’s annual gala in 2016 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Picture Direction at the 2017 Directors Guild of America Awards.

For Alien: Covenant, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker sought to recapture the same foreboding atmosphere of constant danger and dread while also offering new insights that would add richness and depth to the larger Alien mythology. That approach was necessary, he says, to keep the storytelling fresh and surprising.

“You can’t keep being chased down a corridor by a monster—it gets boring,” Scott says. “It came to me that no one had asked the question, who made this and why. You could say monsters from outer space, gods from outer space, engineers from outer space invented it. They didn’t. Alien: Covenant’s going to flip that around.”

John Logan received the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle and Drama League awards for his play Red. This play premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in London and at the Golden Theatre on Broadway. Since then Red has had more than 200 productions across the US and has been presented in over 30 countries. In 2013, his play Peter and Alice premiered in London and I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers opened on Broadway. He also co-wrote the book for the musical The Last Ship and is the author of more than a dozen other plays including Never the Sinner and Hauptmann. As a screenwriter, Logan has been three times nominated for the Oscar and has received a Golden Globe, BAFTA, WGA, and PEN Center award. His film work includes Skyfall, Spectre, Hugo, The Aviator, Gladiator, Rango, Genius, Coriolanus, Sweeney Todd, The Last Samurai, Any Given Sunday and RKO 281. He also created and produced the television series Penny Dreadful for Showtime.

Alien: Covenant marks the third collaboration for Michael Fassbender and the director after Prometheus and The Counselor.

Together, the actor and filmmaker explored all the complex circuitry hard-wired into David, the Covenant’s loyal synthetic, even tapping into his sly, subversive side. “Ridley and I tried and find the humor in him, the funny beats with him,” Fassbender says. “We all let our guards down when we laugh, so we’re more likely to experience other things like shock and horror to a fuller effect when we haven’t been numbed because there’s been a lack of humor.”

“Alien: Covenant, for me, is in a lot of ways like the first Alien,” Fassbender says. “It’s gritty and dark, and from the get-go, when the Covenant hits the space storm, it sets a series of events in motion that don’t stop until the final frame. Ten minutes into the film, it becomes relentless. I think this is going to be the scariest one of all the films.”

It’s true. With Alien: Covenant, there’s no question that visionary Scott has returned to his element, crafting a bold, uniquely terrifying, visceral experience flush with the attitude and swagger of a classic Alien movie. Expect nothing less than relentless, heart-stopping, R-rated terror.

“I hope the film gets people very uneasy, helps your arteries start pumping, sets hearts pounding,” says the filmmaker. “I hope you have a very dry throat but can’t take your eyes off the screen. To really scare the shit out of people is quite difficult, but his might give them nightmares. And that’s a good thing.”

Alien: Covenant was shot over 74 days at the stages of Fox Studios Australia and on location in Milford Sound, New Zealand in 2016.

 

 

“Tom Stoppard’s comedy shines brightly.” – Guardian

Half a century after its premiere on The Old Vic stage, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, the mind-bending situation comedy that made a young Tom Stoppard’s name overnight, returns to the theatre in its 50th anniversary celebratory production, directed by David Leveaux.

This new production of the play was filmed live at The Old Vic Theatre in London for broadcast to cinemas around the world as part of the current National Theatre Live season for the big screen and releases in South Africa exclusively at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas on Saturday, 03 June, for limited screenings.

4. Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe. Photo by Manuel Harlan

“Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire’s split-second timing ensures this well-judged production of Stoppard’s classic fizzes with life’’ – The Guardian

‘’David Haig is on fantastic form as The Player’’ – The Independent

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead stars Daniel Radcliffe (the Harry Potter films, The Woman in Black), Joshua McGuire (The Hour, Lovesick) and David Haig (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Witness for the Prosecution) in Tom Stoppard’s brilliantly funny situation comedy.

Against the backdrop of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, two hapless minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, take centre stage.  Increasingly out of their depth, the young double act stumble their way in and out of the action of the Bard’s iconic drama, as their version of the story unfolds. In a literary hall of mirrors, Stoppard’s brilliantly funny, existential labyrinth sees us witness the ultimate identity crisis.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead releases on Saturday, 03 June 2017, for four screenings only: on 03, 07 and 08 June at 19:30 and on 04 June at 14:30 at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and at Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Durban.

The running time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including an interval.

For booking information on Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire and David Haig talk about the play:

Launched in 2009, National Theatre Live broadcasts have been seen by an audience of over 6.5 million people at 2500 venues in 60 countries. The first season began in June 2009 with the acclaimed production of Phédre starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren. Recent broadcasts include Hedda Gabler with Ruth Wilson, Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land, Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet, Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus, Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire, James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors, Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch in Frankenstein and War Horse.

The next productions from NT Live to be screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas include:

Obsession (24 June 2017)

Jude Law (The Young Pope, Closer, The Talented Mr Ripley) stars in this new stage adaptation of Obsession, broadcast live from the Barbican Theatre in London. Ivo van Hove (NT Live: A View from the Bridge, Hedda Gabler) directs this new version of Luchino Visconti’s 1943 film.

15. Jude Law and Halina Reijn in Obsession. Photo by Jan VersweyveldGino is a drifter, down-at-heel and magnetically handsome. At a roadside restaurant he encounters husband and wife, Giuseppe and Giovanna. Irresistibly attracted to each other, Gino and Giovanna begin a fiery affair and plot to murder her husband. But, in this chilling tale of passion and destruction, the crime only serves to tear them apart.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (01 July 2017)

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF by Albee ; Directed by James MacDonald ; Designed by Tom Pye ; at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London, UK ; 21 February 2017 ; Credit : Johan Persson /

Imelda Staunton (Gypsy, Vera Drake, Harry Potter films), Conleth Hill (Game Of Thrones, The Producers), Luke Treadaway (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Fortitude, The Hollow Crown) and Imogen Poots (A Long Way Down, Jane Eyre) star in James Macdonald’s new production of Edward Albee’s landmark play, filmed live at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London.

In the early hours of the morning on the campus of an American college, Martha, much to her husband George’s displeasure, has invited the new professor and his wife to their home for some after-party drinks. As the alcohol flows and dawn approaches, the young couple are drawn into George and Martha’s toxic games until the evening reaches its climax in a moment of devastating truth-telling.

Additional NT Live broadcasts in 2017 at Cinema Nouveau include:

  • Peter Pan (08 July), captured live at the National Theatre, this performance of JM Barrie’s much-loved tale screens as perfect cinema fare for the mid-year school holidays: All children, except one, grow up…
  • Salomé (22 July), directed by South African-born award-winning director Yaёl Farber
  • Marianne Elliott’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America – Part I & II (19 Aug & 02 Sept), with Andrew Garfield, Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey
  • Yerma (23 Sept), Simon Stone’s radical production of Federico García Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece, with Billie Piper reprising her award-winning lead performance.

 

“If music be the food of love, play on…”

Twelfth Night, the acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s classic comedy of mistaken identity – filmed live at the National’s Olivier Theatre in London – is the next National Theatre Live broadcast on the big screen and will be screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas from Saturday, 27 May, for limited screenings.

This joyous new production is directed by Simon Godwin (NT Live’s Man and Superman, The Beaux’ Stratagem), with Olivier Award-winning actress Tamsin Greig (Friday Night Dinner, Black Books, Episodes) as a transformed Malvolia in this new twist on Shakespeare’s play.

12. A scene from Twelfth Night. Photo by Marc Brenner

A scene from Twelfth Night. Photo by Marc Brenner

Viola (Tamara Lawrence) is washed ashore after her ship crashes on the rocks. Determined to survive on her own without her twin brother Sebastian (Daniel Ezra), she steps out to explore a new land. So begins a whirlwind of mistaken identity and unrequited love.

The nearby households of Olivia and Orsino are overrun with passion. Even Olivia’s upright housekeeper Malvolia (Greig) is swept up in the madness. Where music is the food of love, and nobody is quite what they seem, anything proves possible.

The cast also includes Doon Mackichan (Smack the Pony, Plebs) as a gender-flipped Feste, Phoebe Fox (The Hollow Crown, A View from the Bridge), Daniel Rigby (Eric and Ernie, One Man, Two Guvnors) and Oliver Chris (The Office, One Man, Two Guvnors, Green Wing).

Twelfth Night releases on South African screens from Saturday, 27 May 2017, for four screenings only: on 27 and 31 May and 01 June at 19:30 and on 28 May at 14:30 at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and at Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Durban.

The running time is approximately 3 hours, including an interval.

For booking information on Twelfth Night visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

Launched in 2009, National Theatre Live broadcasts have been seen by an audience of over 6.5 million people at 2500 venues in 60 countries. The first season began in June 2009 with the acclaimed production of Phédre starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren. Recent broadcasts include Hedda Gabler with Ruth Wilson, Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land, Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet, Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus, Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire, James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors, Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch in Frankenstein and War Horse.

The next productions from NT Live to be screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas include:

Rozencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (03 June 2017)

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, The Woman in Black), Joshua McGuire (The Hour) and David Haig (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Witness for the Prosecution) star in Tom Stoppard’s brilliantly funny situation comedy, broadcast from The Old Vic theatre in London. David Leveaux’s new production marks the 50th anniversary of the play that made a young Tom Stoppard’s name overnight.

Against the backdrop of Hamlet, two hapless minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, take centre stage.  As the young double act stumble their way in and out of the action of Shakespeare’s iconic drama, they become increasingly out of their depth as their version of the story unfolds.

4. Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe in Rozencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead . Photo by Manuel Harlan

Obsession (24 June 2017)

Jude Law (The Young Pope, Closer, The Talented Mr Ripley) stars in this new stage adaptation of Obsession, broadcast live from the Barbican Theatre in London. Ivo van Hove (NT Live: A View from the Bridge, Hedda Gabler) directs this new version of Luchino Visconti’s 1943 film.

Gino is a drifter, down-at-heel and magnetically handsome. At a roadside restaurant he encounters husband and wife, Giuseppe and Giovanna. Irresistibly attracted to each other, Gino and Giovanna begin a fiery affair and plot to murder her husband. But, in this chilling tale of passion and destruction, the crime only serves to tear them apart.

15. Jude Law and Halina Reijn in Obsession. Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Jude Law and Halina Reijn in Obsession. Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (01 July 2017)

Imelda Staunton (Gypsy, Vera Drake, Harry Potter films), Conleth Hill (Game Of Thrones, The Producers), Luke Treadaway (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Fortitude, The Hollow Crown) and Imogen Poots (A Long Way Down, Jane Eyre) star in James Macdonald’s new production of Edward Albee’s landmark play, filmed live at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London.

In the early hours of the morning on the campus of an American college, Martha, much to her husband George’s displeasure, has invited the new professor and his wife to their home for some after-party drinks. As the alcohol flows and dawn approaches, the young couple are drawn into George and Martha’s toxic games until the evening reaches its climax in a moment of devastating truth-telling.

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF by Albee ; Directed by James MacDonald ; Designed by Tom Pye ; at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London, UK ; 21 February 2017 ; Credit : Johan Persson /

Imelda Staunton in Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Photo by Johan Persson

Additional NT Live broadcasts in 2017 at Cinema Nouveau include:

  • Peter Pan (08 July), captured live at the National Theatre, this performance of JM Barrie’s much-loved tale screens as perfect cinema fare for the mid-year school holidays: All children, except one, grow up…
  • Salomé (22 July), directed by South African-born award-winning director Yaёl Farber
  • Marianne Elliott’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America – Part I & II (19 Aug & 02 Sept), with Andrew Garfield, Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey
  • Yerma (23 Sept), Simon Stone’s radical production of Federico García Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece, with Billie Piper reprising her award-winning lead performance.

 

 

 

Anna Netrebko Stars In The Met’s ‘Live In Hd’ Broadcast Of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

The next production from the Met in the current Live in HD season, acclaimed English director Deborah Warner’s production of Tchaikovsky’s romantic tragedy Eugene Onegin, releases at Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas from Saturday, 20 May, for limited screenings.

Soprano Anna Netrebko reprises one of her most acclaimed roles as Tatiana, the naïve heroine of Tchaikovsky’s opera, which the composer adapted from Pushkin’s classic verse novel. Peter Mattei stars opposite her as the self-confident title character, Eugene Onegin, who rejects Tatiana’s love until it’s too late.

Soprano Anna Netrebko reprises one of her most acclaimed roles as Tatiana, the naïve heroine of Tchaikovsky’s opera, which the composer adapted from Pushkin’s classic verse novel. Peter Mattei stars opposite her as the self-confident title character, Eugene Onegin, who rejects Tatiana’s love until it’s too late.

Eugene Onegin premiered at the Moscow Conservatory in 1879. The opera became popular in Russia but was slow to gain popularity outside the country. The first performance in the US was at the Met in 1920. The premiere was initially sung in Italian; however, today’s productions are sung in its original Russian.

The opera, a revival of acclaimed English director Deborah Warner’s staging that opened the Met’s 2013-14 season, is conducted by Robin Ticciati, music director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

Russian mezzo-soprano Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya suggested Alexander Pushkin’s popular Russian work, Eugene Onegin, to Tchaikovsky as the basis of an opera.  The composer originally felt the plot was not strong enough to sustain an opera. However, he kept thinking about the story as an opera and ultimately felt that if he used original verses from Pushkin’s novel, the opera could be a success. Since this story was well-known, Tchaikovsky reckoned the audience could fill in any details that were not included in the actual opera, similar to Puccini’s La Bohème.

Preview: Anna Netrebko sings an excerpt from Tatiana’s Letter Scene from Act I of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Screening times for Eugene Onegin at Nouveau (Rosebank Mall, JHB; Brooklyn Mall, PTA; SK Gateway Commercial, DBN; and V&A Waterfront, CT) and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas are as follows: 20 May at 17:00; 21 May at 14:30; 23 and 31 May at 11:30; and 30 May at 18:00.

For more information and to make bookings visit www.sterkinekor.com

All the ticket discounts and benefits offered to members of the Ster-Kinekor loyalty programmes, SK Club, Discovery Vitality and Edgars Club, do apply for the Met: Live in HD screenings, where applicable.

The running time of Eugene Onegin is 3hrs and 45mins, including two intervals. The intermission programme and interviews are hosted by acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming.

The final production in the current season is Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (10 June).

 

“Expect a gritty spectacular and a real thriller that draws on the lives and losses of the people from Tiger Bay, with a healthy dose of romance thrown in.”

Fans of musical theatre can anticipate the rare opportunity to attend performances of a large-scale new musical in Cape Town. Tiger Bay the Musical, a rousing epic set in Cardiff’s bustling multi-racial docklands at the turn of the last century, will have a short run at Artscape in Cape Town from May 20-27 before transferring to the UK in late 2017.

Luvo Tamba pic by jesse Kramer

Luvo Tamba in a scene from Tiger Bay The Musical – pic by Jesse Kramer

Prize-winning local author Michael Williams wrote the book and lyrics for Tiger Bay the Musical.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams

After uncovering fascinating facts about Tiger Bay’s cosmopolitan community, Williams, whose grandfather and mother hail from Cardiff, pitched the idea for a musical to the WMC, which was enthusiastic and commissioned him to write Tiger Bay the Musical.

The story is set in motion when Themba, a Zulu man who tragically lost his wife and son during the Boer War, arrives in Tiger Bay.

He finds work as a Donkeyman, hauling coal along the railway tracks, and meets Ianto, an orphan who has to live by her wits.

Tiger Bay the Musical explores the universal themes of love and redemption.

Some of the issues it examines, such as economic inequality and migrant labour, are especially pertinent in contemporary South Africa.

Daf James

Daf James

As Williams writes: “Tiger Bay the Musical is about how we can live and work better together by doing the little things right.”

Consummate musician, composer and performer Daf James has written a magnificent score that will be performed by a 20-piece orchestra.

Tiger Bay the Musical’s intensely modern, unique sound is rich in Celtic undertones.

 

 

Fusing local talent with an outstanding international creative team.

Tiger Bay the Musical continues the 12-year partnership between the Wales Millennium Centre and Cape Town Opera, combining local talent with an outstanding international creative team.

Leading the star-studded cast is Broadway musical sensation

John Owen-Jones

John Owen-Jones

. Acclaimed as the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, Owen-Jones recently appeared as Valjean on the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Misérables.

24 top South African performers join the cast, including Luvo Tamba, Judy Ditchfield and Andrew Laubscher.

Luvo Tamba

Luvo Tamba

Staging a large-scale musical is a massive undertaking and tasked to a highly accomplished creative team, led by acclaimed British director Melly Still, and co-director Max Barton, a rising star in British contemporary theatre.

Still and Barton say: “Expect a gritty spectacular and a real thriller that draws on the lives and losses of the people from Tiger Bay, with a healthy dose of romance thrown in.”

Tiger Bay the Musical is on at the Artscape Opera on 20.22.23. 24.25.26.27 May. Book seats here

 

 

Tiger Bay

”It is a quintessentially poetical and inwardly musical work. And where there is poetry, there is ballet.”

A Hero of Our Time, a riveting new production from the Bolshoi Ballet company, seen for the first time in cinema, dances its way onto the Nouveau screens from Saturday, 13 May, for limited shows.

BOLSHOI

The lead roles in the three stories are danced by Igor Tsvirko (Pechorin) and Olga Smirnova (Bela) in Bela; Artem Ovcharenko (Pechorin) and Ekaterina Shipulina (Undine) in Taman; and in Princess Mary, Ruslan Skvortsov (Pechorin), Svetlana Zakharova (Mary) and Kristina Kretova (Vera). The soloists are accompanied by the Bolshoi Ballet’s principal dancers and the corps de ballet.

The Bolshoi Ballet is the quintessential ballet company, presenting works of astounding skill, daring and bravura that leave audiences the world over spellbound. This season of ballets broadcast in cinemas is no different, with the company’s incredible productions set to feature some of the world’s greatest dancers.

A Hero of Our Time is based on the larger-than-life hero, Pechorin. The ballet has been adapted from Russian Mikhail Lermontov’s literary masterpiece in three separate stories – Bela, Taman and Princess Mary, that each recount his heart-breaking betrayals. Is Pechorin a real hero, or is he just a man like any other?

This brand new production for the Bolshoi Ballet company, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov with music composed by Ilya Demutsky, is a tragic poetic journey on pointes.

The ballet’s director, designer and author of libretto is Kirill Serebrennikov. A Hero of Our Time is one of Serebrennikov’s favorite books. But however much one might love a book, not everyone is capable of bringing it alive in ballet. “I find it surprising no one thought of doing it before,” says Serebrennikov, “as it is a quintessentially poetical and inwardly musical work. And where there is poetry, there is ballet.”

Pechorin, a young officer, embarks on a journey across the majestic mountains of the Caucasus, on a path set by his passionate encounters. Disillusioned and careless, he inflicts pain both upon himself and the women around him…

In each one of the three parts of the ballet, Pechorin is quite different. He is changed by circumstance, age, the way in which he is presented — in Bela he is seen through the eyes of another character, while in Taman and Princess Mary, he ’speaks’ for himself, via the chapters of his diary.

In all these different guises, there can be no question of Pechorin being an integrated character. Each Pechorin has his own character, as revealed in his opening monologue or his own musical characterisation, as conveyed to the audience by a particular solo musical instrument, positioned directly on stage.

Each ballet also features musical solo performances on stage. In Bela, the two solo voices are mezzo soprano Svetlana Shilova and tenor Stanislav Mostovoy, with a bass clarinet solo by Nikolai Sokolov. Taman features a cello solo by Boris Lifanovsky, while Princess Mary features soprano Nina Minasvan, with a piano solo by Nadezhda Demyanova and an English horn solo by Vladislav Komissarchuk.

A Hero of Our Time releases on South African screens on Saturday, 13 May for four screenings only – on 13, 17 and 18 May at 19:30, and on 14 May at 14:30 – only at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. Bookings are now open. The running time of this ballet production is 2hrs 45mins, including two intervals.

For booking information on the Bolshoi Ballet’s A Hero of Our Time at Nouveau, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz or on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call TicketLine on 0861 Movies (668 437).

 

“I think the best narratives take a man on a journey that transcends his limitations and allows him to evolve from his most basic nature into someone worthy of a bigger life,”

Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the epic fantasy action adventure King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, an iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne.

Everyone knows the fabled Arthurian legend…or at least thinks they do.  But in the hands of director Guy Ritchie, the tale takes on a decidedly gritty, modern edge and Arthur himself, not yet king, is instead a ruffian, a thoroughly reluctant hero compelled to discover his true destiny even as he fights against the very monarchy he is meant to rule.

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Guy Ritchie and Charlue Hunnam during the filming of Arthur: Legend In The Stone. Says Ritchie: “I’ll tell you what’s great about Charlie—everything. He worked very hard and he never moaned for a second, even though we asked him to do some pretty tough stuff. He’s a decent, kind, thoughtful and talented human being. I liked him at the beginning of production, I liked him more every day and I adored him by the end.”

“I think the best narratives take a man on a journey that transcends his limitations and allows him to evolve from his most basic nature into someone worthy of a bigger life,” says Ritchie, who also co-wrote and produced the film.  “In our version of the story, Arthur’s life starts small: an urchin in a brothel, running the streets, learning to fight and dodging the law with his mates.  Then the actions of others—some with good, some with not-so-good intentions—force him to expand his vision of who he could be.”

When the child Arthur’s father is murdered, Arthur’s uncle, Vortigern (Jude Law), seizes the crown.  Robbed of his birthright and with no idea who he truly is, Arthur (Charlue Hunnam) comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city.  But once he pulls the sword from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy.

For Guy Ritchie, it was the boy’s destination that held the strongest attraction for him as a landscape for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  The origin story called for an unusual setting, one far from anything royal.

“I was always fascinated by the idea of Roman London and the lack of physical evidence of it that remains now,” Ritchie relates.  “Though it’s arguably been the world’s capital for two millennia, apart from maybe Constantinople and Rome, London is a victim of its own success and has obliterated much of its history.  Very few people know that London was once Londinium, a thriving Roman city, most of which is 15 or 20 feet underground by now thanks to the sheer quantity of buildings that have been built on top of it.  So we created our own version of it.”

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Guy Ritchie (Director/Producer/Screenplay) is an accomplished storyteller who has been entertaining audiences with his dynamic cinematic style for nearly two decades.

Ritchie began his career in Britain’s film industry in 1993 as a runner on Wardour Street, working his way up to a director of music videos and commercials.  In 1995, he wrote and directed his first short film, “The Hard Case,” about four cockney guys raising money to enter a card game, which formed the basis for his first feature film.

Ritchie made his writing and directing feature film debut with Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.  Made on a modest budget of $1 million and breathing new life into its genre, the film premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, became one of the UK’s biggest hits and remains a favorite.

His recent credits include directing the acclaimed blockbusters Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series.

He directed King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from a screenplay by Joby Harold and Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, story by David Dobkin and Joby Harold.

A Q & A with Guy Ritchie

What is your first memory of King Arthur? Was it from a book or film?

GUY RITCHIE:  I think it was [director] John Boorman’s interpretation, Excalibur, which had an impact on me. It had bold music; everyone shouted at one another; and it was memorable. It was a commitment.

 What was the key to reimagining this timeless legend?

GUY RITCHIE:  The film is conspicuous with ideas, themes and style that come naturally to me. The fantasy aspect was necessary to make it worthy of cinema.  So it was a fusion of several components. There was a fantasy aspect, which made it worthy of the big screen, and which still fits within the King Arthur mythology.  I also liked the idea that Arthur’s origins really begin as a seriously urban, underprivileged youth—before reverting to his aristocratic roots. One could call that the journey of man, I suppose.

Did you have a favourite scene to shoot?

GUY RITCHIE:  Probably every day. I enjoy my job and I don’t think one scene trumps another.

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How did Charlie Hunnam fight to land the role of Arthur?

GUY RITCHIE:  Charlie wasn’t on my top ten list of actors for the role. But he insisted he was going to get himself in the room, and he was established enough to finagle his way into that room.  He just ground down the competition until I surrendered and cast him.  From there, I knew he was going to be the right man. We have a very similar sensibility, in terms of humour and our interest in film. So it was a shorthand with Charlie all the way through production.

How did Charlie change, physically, for the role?

GUY RITCHIE:  When he arrived to discuss the role, he was a bit slight, but his ability trumped that. By the time filming began Charlie had stuck on about 20 pounds of muscle.

 The film represents world-building on a greater scale than you’ve done before. What was that like for you?

GUY RITCHIE:  Honestly, I’ve worked harder on this film than any other I’ve done.  Creating this world involved music, fantasy, visual effects and humour—and then bringing together these components so that they don’t feel disparate.

 How did you communicate your vision for the music to composer, Daniel Pemberton?

GUY RITCHIE:  I find that the biggest challenge with many composers is simplicity. Some of the greatest pieces of music are some of the simplest pieces of music, and in my experience, musicians are inherently frightened of giving you something simple. Daniel is an original voice within that world, and I encouraged him to be bold, in being both exotic and simple.

Charlie said that you camped out on location with him and a few others during production. What can you tell us about that?

 I have a Winnebago that I converted into a log cabin. I’ve found that people are very happy to reside amongst wood, but not so with Formica. The world of film location trailers is Formica and plastic, so we changed that. The interior is like a log cabin; there’s a wood-burning stove and guitars on the walls.  I wish we’d done that sooner. We’ve created a mobile hotel that’s both aesthetically pleasing and utilitarian.

 Do you think the time is right now for a film like this?

GUY RITCHIE:  I think ultimately there’s a curious paradox between individual identity, cultural identity, national identity and a world identity—a collective identity. You have to have both and that’s the paradox. The paradox is to be authentic within your culture and environment but also exist in a world that’s accepting and broad.

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BallerinaBallerina (also know as “Leap!”) is an unabashed wish-fulfilment fantasy that sweetly checks off every conceivable follow-your-heart cliché, this elegantly animated French-Canadian production isn’t inventing any new narrative choreography with its slender tale of Félicie, a plucky, impoverished Brittany orphan who heads to Paris to realize her ambition of joining the ballet. In Paris, 1884, an orphaned girl arrives in Paris from Brittany. Felicie Milliner is 11 and has no money but one big, passionate dream: to become a dancer. With nothing left to lose, Felicie takes a big risk: she “borrows” a spoiled brat’s identity and enters the Opera Ballet School. But how long can she be someone else? Mentored by the tough and mysterious cleaner, Odette, Felicie learns that talent is not enough — it takes hard work to be better than her ruthless. Trailer / Read more about the film

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MAGGIEMaggie’s Plan is terrifically funny and enjoyable – a metropolitan comedy in the former high style of Woody Allen, directed with elegance and dash by Miller and co-scripted by her with publisher-turned-screenwriter Karen Rinaldi. Greta Gerwig stars in her idiot savant Annie Hall mode as Maggie, a New York art dealer who is trying to become a single mom using sperm donated by an old school contemporary who is now making a fortune marketing pickles. Her plan is to get pregnant within four months, but then she has an encounter with handsome, distrait John (Ethan Hawke), a lecturer in “ficto-critical anthropology”, who is unhappily married to scary intellectual Georgette (Julianne Moore), who has “tenure at Columbia” – the kind of phrase that doesn’t appear much in screenplays these days. Soon, Maggie has a different plan in mind.  Watch the trailer

 

 

A love story that explores the sometimes comical and sometimes sad consequences of American puritanism in the late 50s and early 60s.

Set in 1950s Hollywood, Rules Don’t Apply is an unconventional comedy that offers a window into the often surreal realm of Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, famed aviator and legendary eccentric – who was both a rule-maker for many young stars and a rule-breaker – challenging the industry’s social mores and restrictive moral code.

It was written, directed, and produced by Warren Beatty, who also stars as Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, famed aviator and legendary eccentric – who was both a rule-maker for many young stars and a rule-breaker – challenging the industry’s social mores and restrictive moral code.

Elements from the real Hughes’ life are woven into a fictional comic tale that explores the changing landscape for women, the meaning of love and the transformative power of redemption and family.

Alden Ehrenreich and Warren Beatty in Rules Dont Apply

 

Set in 1950s Hollywood, Rules Don’t Apply follows the burgeoning romance between aspiring actress Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and her ambitious driver Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich).  She is a small town beauty queen, songwriter, and devout Baptist.   He is a Methodist engaged to his junior high school sweetheart. Both are employed by billionaire Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) who has forbidden romance between his employees.  As Frank and Marla fall in love and defy the rules, the sexual and cultural repression of the 50s makes way for the more liberated 1960s.

Hollywood in 1958 was on the cusp of change.  The major studios were beginning to see their all-encompassing power wane as independent, artist-driven companies rose.  At the same time, the tightly contained Studio System – with its carefully cultivated idols under airtight contracts — would soon be declared over.  And the popular films of the day would soon begin to mirror not the conservative values of the 50s but the churning sexual, political and social revolutions of the 60s.

1958 was also when a young Warren Beatty was just starting his career.

Raised in Virginia within a Baptist family, he would arrive in Hollywood in 1958 and debut as a film star in 1961 opposite Natalie Wood in Elia Kazan’s Splendor In The Grass — a story of sexual repression’s consequences for two love-struck youngsters.  The film presaged a coming era at the movies that would question every societal precept – of love, family, industry, religion, war, sexuality, politics, right down to what makes a ‘meaningful’ life.

Beatty would himself develop into one of America’s premier Academy Award winning filmmakers. He has been nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won the Thalberg Award, among many others.  “In Warren’s films, there is always a sense of melancholy mixed with a sense of humor, no matter what subject he writes about” his wife and two-time co-star Annette Bening observes.  “Whether he’s making a film about Hollywood or politics or social mores.”

Bonnie & Clyde (1967) used the exploits of the Depression-era outlaws to explore the creation of anti-hero rebels and is considered one of the first films of the ‘New Hollywood’ era.  Shampoo (1975) looked at the atmosphere of Nixon’s 1968 election via the escapades of a Beverly Hills hairdresser and his wealthy clients.  Heaven Can Wait (1978)– adapted the 1941 classic Here Comes Mr. Jordan into a comedy not only about love, football and celestial errors, but one set against the increasing corporatization of late 70s America.

Reds (1981) followed real-life journalist John Reed into the Russian Revolution and romance but became equally a look at the rise of the American Left. Dick Tracy (1990) redefined the comic book genre in bringing the famed detective to life. Bugsy (1991), the story of the real-life gangster who created Las Vegas unraveled the inner contradictions of the Great American Con Man. The prescient Bulworth (1998) turned the 1996 political campaign into the tale of a plain-speaking U.S. Senator who becomes a pop sensation – in a satire touching on themes of globalization, race, media and the costs of our broken political system.

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After taking a break to raise a family, Beatty returns with Rules Don’t Apply, a film he had had in the back of his mind for many years, that reflects Beatty’s own upbringing and arrival in Hollywood at a time of societal change.

Beatty admits to a long-time amusement with Hughes: “He could do whatever he wanted to do but there was a certain level of Puritanism that he never quite kicked,”  but devised a story that utilized Hughes’ mystery and impact while avoiding a telling of the tycoon’s life. “I didn’t write a biopic of Howard Hughes at all,” says Beatty. “This is more a love story of two young people in 1958 who happen to be working for Hughes — a love story that explores the sometimes comical and sometimes sad consequences of American puritanism in the late 50s and early 60s when I first came to Hollywood.”

That theme is personified by the film’s romantic leads: Marla Mabrey, a Southern Baptist virgin pursuing Hollywood stardom despite her ‘square’ religious upbringing; and Frank Forbes, a Fresno Methodist and a member of Hughes’ vast stable of drivers who aims to follow in the tycoon’s business footsteps.  Both Marla and Frank vie to at least get a rarified chance to meet Hughes, who is hidden in a fog of rumors and speculation.  Yet as both are figuring out how to navigate the rules of their upbringings while getting ahead in Hollywood, their growing attraction makes them fall foul of Hughes’ most incontrovertible rule:  that drivers and starlets must never, ever date.

Comments Beatty: “The story of Howard Hughes himself has an inevitable downward trajectory, I was more interested in telling the story of two people who, like myself, came to Hollywood in the time of Hughes, and fell in love when the rules were against them.”

The film also hones in on how the shifting power differential between men and women makes its mark on Marla and Frank — as their relationship progresses from 1958 to the post-Kennedy era of 1964. “Over that brief period, the country saw a strong burst of feminism,” observes Beatty.  “Some refer to the late 50s and early 60s as the sexual revolution. I think it’s fair to say there were real developments in the liberation of women, and that it resulted in a lot of turmoil, re-thinking, acceptance and denial.  And it continues.”

It is in this context that Marla breaks free of the expectations of the time. As director of photography Caleb Deschanel puts it:  “We watch over the course of the film as Marla and Frank triumph over the restrictions of the 50s – and become modern people.”

The film also reflects the shifts in Hollywood in a time of cultural change. Beatty himself witnessed the evolving of the former Studio System into a new, more creatively free Hollywood that led to groundbreaking films of the 70s.  He recalls: “From the first picture that I did, I felt I began to see the handwriting on the wall.  That some actors were going to take on more responsibilities and control and I realized if I didn’t take the responsibility for delivering a movie, that I would never really get to do what I, at times, wanted to do.  Of course, there are times when you just want to act and play your character, but I’ve enjoyed doing both,” he says.

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Casting

At the center of Rules Don’t Apply are its two would-be, Howard Hughes-crossed lovers, who are up against Hughes’ controlling ways, traditional notions of sin and guilt, as well as their own highly individualistic ambitions, even as they are inescapably drawn to one another.  Beatty cast two relative newcomers to play the two Hollywood newcomers.

Lily Collins, who made her debut as Sandra Bullock’s daughter in the Oscar®-nominated The Blind Side and became the lead in The Mortal Instruments and Snow White in Mirror Mirror, plays small-town beauty queen Marla Mabrey.

“I read books on the 50s and studied actresses who worked under Howard Hughes.  But there was also a lot of just talking with Warren – who explains so well the feeling of that time – as well as with Caleb Deschanel, Albert Wolsky and Jeannine Oppewall.  I got so much from hearing them speak about the environment for women then,” she recalls.   “The more I understood the mindset of the times and the more that Warren told different stories, whether they were his personal stories or stories he’d come across in his career, I started to understand the moral shifts going on and the sexual repression.”

Alden Ehrenreich has appeared in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker and the Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar, and was cast in the coveted role of the young Han Solo in Star Wars Episode IV.

For Ehrenreich, part of the appeal of Rules Don’t Apply is that it’s about a search that has now become a defining part of modern life over the last half century:  the search for how we each can break out of the limitations we think are imposed upon us: “I think the film is about a lot of things,” says the actor. “But at its heart it’s about choosing your priorities in life – about whether you’re going to let yourself be controlled by one kind of system or another or if instead, you’re going to take the chance to create your own life free from society’s pressures and guilts.”

Having become a symbol of decline in more recent times, it would be easy to forget how powerful and popular Howard Hughes was at one time.  Long before he became the quintessential celebrity eccentric in the latter half of his life, Hughes was enormously influential on the culture – as a paradigmatic chaser of the American Dream.

While writing the character, Beatty combined fact, apocryphal stories and imagination presenting  a Hughes who is as lonely and misunderstood as he is wealthy and powerful. Beatty’s Hughes is a legend wrestling with his own smothering myth, a tangle of contradictions:  at once brilliant and more than a little eccentric. Both seducer and loner, buoyed by power but in search of something more while also battling  mental illness.

Beatty never had a personal encounter with Hughes, but Hughes’ presence was strongly felt in Hollywood when Beatty arrived.  He met many people who had worked with Hughes, which gave him a different perspective.  “I knew many people who knew Howard very well – and really everyone spoke very highly of him,” he notes. “By that point, I don’t know that Howard was terribly interested in making more money. He was interested in flying, in filmmaking, in politics and in other things.”

Still there was a sense that Hughes’ unusual life lent itself to a kind of constant dissonance between his image and his reality.  “I think sometimes if you have all the financial resources and power to do whatever you want to do in life, that can be trouble,” Beatty observes.

Beatty also points out that Hughes’ cryptic public image was partly of his own making.  The late 50s was a time when privacy was more attainable even for the very famous – and it was also more cultivated, something the film plays upon.

“Hughes created a kind of mystery around himself,” suggests Beatty, “that I don’t think you could create now with all the social media.  The interesting thing is that in the 30s, 40s and even the 50s privacy was actually possible for the very famous. And sometimes privacy was maybe overly glamorized as well.  Hollywood actors were taught very much then to control how they were seen in every aspect. I don’t know that it’s possible any more, unless one wants to become a complete recluse.”

A significant South African film – a vibrant visual experience with profound food for thought

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen  (5 May, 2017)

With Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie,  writer-director Christiaan Olwagen delivers a refreshing film that is as radical as the Voëlvry music movement that rebelled against the autocratic dictates of the apartheid government and changed the hearts of a generation of South Africans who wanted to break free from oppressive separatism.

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Roelof Storm as Johnny, with Albert Pretorius and Ludwig Binge,

Olwagen’s enthused adaptation of Malan Steyn’s play Eat Everything, referring to the “Reformed Blues Band” album “Eet Kreef” , is a significant South African film that reveals a truth about our lives that deserves to be seen and will most definitely spark lively debate.

Olwagen’s extensive experience as an actor, writer and   director in plays, cabaret, comedy, drama, puppet theatre, musicals, physical theatre, television and short films, infuses the film with a vibrant and savvy sensibility, reaping powerhouse performances from a potent ensemble cast.

If there’s one reason to see the film, other than for Olwagen’s daring vision and execution, it’s for the outstanding performances by Roelof Storm, Ludwig Binge, Albert Pretorius, Rolanda Marais, and Ilana Cilliers, who crawl under the skin of their characters and bring them to life with passion and sincere honesty.

The film vividly examines the impact of the Voëlvry movement on the personal and political development of a generation of Afrikaners, as well as the havoc the Bush War inflicted on the lives of thousands of young army conscripts – the Voëlvry (Outlawed) Movement was a group of South African musicians who rebelled against the autocratic dictates of the apartheid government and allied themselves around the group called the “Reformed Blues Band” (GBB) a deliberate reference to the Reformed Church.

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The story tells of a group of ordinary people whose extraordinary vision and beliefs challenged the world they lived in during the 80s in South Africa.

Their lives as young, drunken rebels – the grandchildren of Verwoerd – saturated in the protest music of Johannes Kerkorrel, Koos Kombuis and Bernoldus Niemand are severely confronted by the Kerkorrel’s suicide in 2002 when they gather for a braai and reminisce about their days as students in Stellenbosch during the time of the Voëlvry tour.

This tragedy forces them to redeem themselves and re-examine the bond of love and friendship that united and ultimately divided them.

Just as they used music as a weapon to express themselves in a war they had with the autocratic dictates of the apartheid government, so does Olwagen use the film medium as a way to visually tell their story.

The bold and full screen titles of the opening and closing credits, as well as the introduction to the characters and timespan, and style of filmmaking reminds strongly of Andy Warhol’s experimental Underground Films of the 60s that brashly challenged perceptions and traditional conventions, as well as the alternative underground movement in South Africa during an era when 1791 men lost their lives as a result of compulsory military conscription.

The story opens with Lise (Marais), who is awoken from a dream she had about Kerkorrel and throughout the film, Olwagen uses a free-held Steadicam that evokes the feeling of Kerkorrel watching the events unfold as his soul guides us into the mindscape of the characters.

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Director Christiaan Olwagen during filming of Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie

Olwagen’s choices as a visionary are sometimes risky, but ultimately rewarding and meaningful.

He tells the story in motion and brings it vividly to life through the lens of DOP Chris Vermaak, who shot the entire film on Steadicam to achieve Olwagen’s theatrical style of rehearsal on set and to execute the director’s vision of continuous movement whilst shooting.

One scene captures the turmoil and confusion of the characters chatting at a table by letting the camera continuously circle the event, almost intruding on their space, yet keeping a safe distance.

Another scene that stands out is a raucous party scene vignette of 13 minutes,   a continuous take that features the full cast, two rock bands, an accordion player, a violinist, an opera singer, and a full university choir.

This surreal-fantasy scene metaphorically takes us down Lewis Carrol’s Rabbit Hole and like Alice in Wonderland, a drowsy Lisa encounters the Cheshire Cat, a Mad Hatter Tea-Party, Croquet Ground, flamingos,  the White Rabbit, a bottle labelled “Drink Me” and a “caterpillar” smoking a hookah.

This signifies Olwagen’s brilliance as a director, his powerful vision overpowers the senses and offers moments of pure genius, giving the film a haunting realism that allows us to quietly intrude on their lives and thoughts; it’s an introspective journey of inner conflict that forces the characters to reveal their emotions.

Olwagen effectively balances physical confrontations with gentle intimate moments that results in a dynamic cinematic experience.

The film also has a heightened realism where Olwagen uses theatrical devises as exposition.

In one of the most important scenes, we find Johnny (Storm) sitting on a sofa in a garden, as if lit on stage, when he is joined by Hein (Binge); it is here where Olwagen subtly probes the essence of what might have caused Kerkorrel’s torment and forced him to take his own life.

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Forbidden desires and hidden secrets can ultimately destroy lives, and as Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie poignantly reflects upon, is how this impacted on Kerkorrel’s life; it’s very much a reminder of how easy it is to sacrifice ourselves and our sanity for a greater cause.

Sometimes, it’s our humanity that ignites a personal war that is never conquered, but lives on in the hearts of future generations.

The idealistic life and rebellious vigour of singer-songwriter, journalist and playwright Ralph Rabie, who shot to fame as Johannes Kerkorrel, also lives on in Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie, with Storm perfectly capturing the magnetic spirit and enigmatic passion Kerkorrel had in his role as Johnny.

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The film will most definitely allow a younger generation to make sense  of  “the sins  of  their fathers” to understand the world they live in.

Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie is a definite must-see film for discerning viewers looking for escapism that offers an invigorating visual experience with profound food for thought.

© Daniel Dercksen, published with permission in Biz Community Lifestyle (5 May, 2017)

”I wanted to make the best, most moving story possible. It’s about making a story that is worthy of who the Guardians are as characters and making a film that is about those characters that’s worthy of them, and I hope that we’ve done that.”

Writer-director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the action-packed, irreverent, epic space adventures of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord and his gang of eccentric characters as they patrol and protect the universe, doing mercenary work in the wake of the popularity and fame they garnered from saving Xandar.

When the uniquely creative and original film was released in the summer of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy became a worldwide box-office sensation, with audiences warmly embracing the eccentric cast of intergalactic characters.

James Gunn is the prolific filmmaker behind some of pop culture’s most notable feature films. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Gunn began his filmmaking career at the age of twelve by making a zombie movie with an eight-millimeter camera and an actor, his brother Sean. Thirty years later, Gunn brought to life what is now turning into one of the most memorable franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

James Gunn is the prolific filmmaker behind some of pop culture’s most notable feature films. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Gunn began his filmmaking career at the age of twelve by making a zombie movie with an eight-millimeter camera and an actor, his brother Sean. Thirty years later, Gunn brought to life what is now turning into one of the most memorable franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, the story follows the team as they fight to keep their newfound family together while traversing the outer reaches of the cosmos to unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.

Writer/director James Gunn recalls his reaction to seeing the characters being propelled into the pop-culture zeitgeist.  “It was truly gratifying and fulfilling that the Guardians’ characters spoke so profoundly to so many people all over the world,” says Gunn.  “At the core of the film, the Guardians are a group of outsiders who come together and find a way to make it work. I think that’s what speaks to such a wide array of people. It’s a great feeling when kids come up and say they loved the film and that their parents and grandparents loved it as well. These characters were able to connect to all generations around the world from Thailand to South America to London.”

Created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, the Guardians of the Galaxy were introduced in 1969 as a team of heroes in the 31st century—each member the last of its kind.

GOTG2 PosterWith the phase two expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Guardians of the Galaxy was the first franchise introduced outside of the core Marvel cornerstone characters. The film was also a dramatic departure in tone and style from any previous Marvel film franchises.

Looking back to the development of the franchise, Feige acknowledges it wasn’t always an easy sell.

“A number of years ago we were saying that we wanted to do a space movie,” he says. “And looking through the books, we realized we had this great group of characters that had been re-formed in publishing recently called the Guardians of the Galaxy and what an outrageous grouping of people it was—most outrageously that one member was a tree and another member was a raccoon.”

Continuing, Feige adds, “I took a lot of joy in pitching that to people who had never heard of it. But it took a huge leap forward when we hired James Gunn, who initially wondered what we were talking about, and then drove home and thought about it more and tapped into his love of these kinds of movies, his love of little animals and his love of characters.”

When they met again, Gunn was 100% on board with the project. “He rewrote the script, did a new outline and added some songs,” Feige recalls. “And we knew we had something even more special than we were anticipating, and the audience responded to that. The film came out and was the success that it was. It was great because that really proves the point of you don’t have to have ever read any of these comics. You don’t have to even ever have heard of any of these comics.”

Feige was convinced that “if we deliver the movie, that’s all that matters. We knew even before the film came out that we were feeling very good about it and that the buzz was very good. And we knew the film delivered.”

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Vol-2-Review

Crafting The Story

Postproduction on the Guardians of the Galaxy helped to provide director James Gunn with the roadmap to find the story in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, particularly when it came to audience reactions during screenings. The way audiences responded to the different elements of the first movie gave filmmakers a leg up in terms of story direction for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

“I knew where I wanted the story to go before the first film was out in theaters,” explains writer/director James Gunn.

“I knew what the general shape of the sequel was going to be, but the one thing I had to figure out was if I was going to tell the story of Peter Quill and his father as Volume 2, which I thought was the big reveal or save it for a later time. Ultimately I decided that it was the best story I have in hand right now and went with.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy successfully introduced the world to an eccentric group of selfish, self-interested, un-superhero like characters who are thrown together with the task of saving the entire galaxy.

For Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn was tasked with delivering a story that continued not just their exploits, but their evolutions as characters as well. When Gunn delivered his initial treatment for the story, it was a hit with his fellow filmmakers.

“What I loved about James’ vision for the film was that it was everything you love about the film—the characters, the humor, the action, the music—but it also evolved the story and franchise in a really interesting way that felt completely organic,” says executive producer Jonathan Schwartz.

“Every character is a different person at the end of the story than they are at the beginning. So keeping the characters moving forward keeps the franchise moving forward in a really honest way which is what made it really interesting to us.”

“I think one of the big advantages that James had the second time around was that he could write the script specifically for all of the actors’ voices,” adds executive producer Nikolas Korda.

“On most films you are not sure who is going play what when the script is in the development phase. Going into this film we knew almost all the characters’ voices and rhythms, what worked and what didn’t in the first film. So that really allowed James to dial the story in very early on and play to the strengths of all the actors in the film.”

And now what can fans expect from the highly anticipated sequel’s storyline? Producer Kevin Feige gives some hints: “When we started turning the wheels on a sequel, there were some very obvious clues at the end of the first film where the storyline could go. Peter talks about his father. Glenn Close, Nova Prime, tells us something very ancient, very unusual. Yondu tells us that he purposefully did not deliver Peter to his father. So James went back and started to work on where that would take us in a storyline. And it takes us to a place where we meet the Guardians only a few months after the events of Guardians 1.

“We meet them in the midst of a job, and we introduce some new villains. And more importantly we introduce some new heroes, most importantly Mantis, who is an amazing new addition to the Guardians. Returning characters Yondu and Nebula play surprising new roles in the film, and we continue to deepen the relationship between Peter Quill and Gamora, which we’ll see more of.

“Also we further the evolution of Rocket, who is not the nicest raccoon around, but who certainly has a begrudging loyalty to his team. Then we meet a new version of our beloved Groot who has crawled out of the little pot that we saw him dancing in in the first film and now is our new Baby Groot for this film,” Feige concludes.

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The Cast Of Characters Return

As the cast returns to inhabit the colorful, unique, dysfunctional Guardians characters, there is a new dynamic. The first movie was about becoming a family and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” focuses on being a family.

As James Gunn explains, “This movie is about all of the characters being a family. And being a family is a lot more difficult than becoming a family. It’s a much more complicated story. In the first movie, a bunch of characters are outsiders. They come together. But where does that leave them?”

And that’s exactly what audiences will discover as the characters’ relationships unfold, starting with Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, who faces a family issue that he is compelled to resolve—his true parentage. Chris Pratt reprises the role that propelled him into Marvel fandom and leading-man status.

On casting Chris Pratt as Star-Lord/Peter Quill, James Gunn says, “When I was auditioning Star-Lord the first time around I was looking for somebody who’d come in, do everything that was on the page, do it well, do it in a funny way, but also give that a little something extra that made Peter Quill a little bit of a different character. And Chris came in and did that immediately. Chris is a very unique movie star in that he is a combination of being a big, masculine guy but also a very vulnerable guy. He has a vulnerability that the classic movie stars hint at, whether it’s Humphrey Bogart or Gary Cooper. Chris really brings that to life on the screen, and I think that’s what makes him a truly modern-day movie star.”

For Pratt, “Guardians of the Galaxy” afforded him the vehicle to showcase both his comedic and physical talents in a way that he had not been able to do on film. “What appealed to me the most about this character was the opportunity to add my own personal brand of humor into it,” comments Pratt. “This was something that I knew I could do that was unique to me, and I had been dying for an opportunity to do that. I wanted to do something that was both comedic and physical. This role is a comfortable space to do that. What is so exciting to me is that I can just do the best version of my best stuff with Star-Lord.”

Zoe Saldana returns to the role of the deadly, green-skinned assassin Gamora, another character dealing with family issues related to the fact that her adoptive father is Thanos and her sister is Nebula.

“Gamora is surrounded by these idiots, the Guardians of the Galaxy, who are making her life very difficult,” adds Gunn. “She loves them. She knows she loves them. She’s aware of that. But then she has one guy, Peter Quill, who’s saying he’s in love with her, which she’s not that comfortable with. The boys are fighting constantly, and they’re all a pain. She doesn’t have any female companionship. She’s in a spot, since it’s only a couple months after the first movie, where they’re all having growing pains and sophomoric moments in their relationships. Then she comes face-to-face with her sister Nebula at the beginning of the movie. For Gamora there’s an emotional part of this. She has a fair amount of spite for her sister and on the other hand her sister says she just wants to kill her. And that is where we start Gamora’s story.”

Dave Bautista is back as the physically intimidating, tattoo-covered Drax.

According to Bautista, there is much to like about his character. “What I really love about Drax is he’s not what you’d expect from reading the comics,” says Bautista. “Everybody was expecting one thing, and we gave them another. It makes it more interesting. It’s easy just to be the big guy who’s always growling at people and intimidating people. We’ve seen it a million times. But when you get the same guy who looks the same way but just says the most ridiculous things that make you laugh, it makes him more interesting. And he’s also got that side to him that’s just all heart. He’s still heartbroken over the loss of his family. And I love that dynamic, man. I love playing with that. It’s challenging. It makes it’s interesting. It makes the character loveable and it makes people connect to him.”

When it comes to voices, James Gunn knows Rocket’s better than anyone as the director has many times professed that there is a little bit of himself in the character. Rocket, a tortured little beast who’s been torn apart and put back together, is still incredibly funny and heartfelt at times, particularly as voiced again by Academy Award® nominee Bradley Cooper.

Cooper acknowledges that both he and the filmmakers learned a lot about Rocket from doing the first movie and following the character’s journey. “We have a better understanding of who Rocket is,” Cooper says. “With the technology evolving, I think also the character has evolved. That’s been a fun process to be a part of. I’m just a small part of Rocket—so many people go into who Rocket is.”

A scene stealer in “Guardians of the Galaxy” with only the same three words of ‘I am Groot,’ was the wise, old, talking humanoid tree creature Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel. Despite his unique appearance and extremely limited communication skills, Groot embedded himself in the heart of audiences around world with just those three little words. A valuable ally and a loyal friend to Rocket and the Guardians, the character makes the ultimate sacrifice and returns in the sequel as a baby Groot.

Voiced again by Diesel, the little Groot is a totally different character. “He doesn’t have the memories of adult Groot and he is a baby,” explains Gunn. “He’s completely adorable, but has a lot more anger issues than adult Groot did. All of the other characters react to Baby Groot in different ways. Drax doesn’t like him. Rocket yells at him a lot, but he is okay with him.  Gamora definitely has motherly instincts towards him, and Quill barely acknowledges his existence.”

Here Come The Guardians

What can audiences expect when the Guardians of the Galaxy blast back into their lives?

“What I’m really hoping for is that they’ll get all of the different aspects they loved about the first movie but in a completely different way,” says Chris Pratt.  “People go the movie theater to have a profound life or mood-changing experience and this film is going to really knock their socks off.”

“This film has a ton of laughs, but it also tackles a lot of emotional issues like relationships with fathers, friends, siblings and asks the question what is family to you and how do you grow and evolve as an adult,” adds Zoe Saldana. “I love that about ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,’ because it gives you a very human essence even though it takes place in another galaxy and universe. I think audiences are really going to connect to this film and all of the heart and the great story it tells.”

Karen Gillan believes everyone will relate to the family theme of the movie. “There are so many aspects of that storyline throughout the film” Gillan says. “Everybody’s going to find something in this film that they can connect with and understand. Also, it’s so funny. People are going to have a really good time, and they’re going to be entertained. And they’re going to hear some good music.”

Dave Bautista is confident that audiences will connect to the film on a personal level as well. “The first film was more about people coming together for the greater good,” Bautista says. “And I think this film is more about relationships with people. It is the story of a family. Your family doesn’t always have to be blood family. They can be chosen family. So I think this is more of a relationship film, and everyone can relate to that.”

Producer Kevin Feige comments, “What James has done with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ is something very unique and very special that continues everything that was unique and special about the first film but really evolves it and takes it to new unexpected surprising places. James said, ‘Look, the first film was a creative risk. We all decided together to do something very different. We have to do that again.’ And that’s what he’s done. And I can’t wait for people to see it.”

On that thought, Gunn sums up, “I hope that we have picked up the mantle of the first film and taken it to another place. I wanted to make the best, most moving story possible. It’s about making a story that is worthy of who the Guardians are as characters and making a film that is about those characters that’s worthy of them, and I hope that we’ve done that.”

Be A Winner! Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2

GUARDIANS

If you want to win a Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 hamper that includes a Blu-Ray of Guardians of The Galaxy,  and awesome Mix Volume 2 – CD Soundtrack, and a Groot T-Shirt …

Tell us who wrote the screenplay and send your answer with your contact details and Guardians Of the Galaxy Vol 2. in the subject line to us before 31 May, 2017.  Enter competition here

Picking up where “Guardians of the Galaxy”—2014’s highest grossing film of the summer—left off, Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” continues the action-packed, irreverent, epic space adventures of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord and his gang of eccentric characters as they patrol and protect the universe, doing mercenary work in the wake of the popularity and fame they garnered from saving Xandar.

Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, the story follows the team as they fight to keep their newfound family together while traversing the outer reaches of the cosmos to unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.

From Comic Book To Box-Office Hit: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2

Art Documentary On The Curious World Of Hieronymus Bosch at Nouveau Cinemas

The next art documentary in the Exhibition on Screen season uncovers the fascinating world of medieval Dutch artist, Hieronymus Bosch, and is titled The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch.

After 500 years, Bosch’s paintings still shock and fascinate us, and this Exhibition on Screen documentary delves into the vivid imagination of this true visionary.

“A once-in-a-lifetime show.” – The Financial Times

“One helluva homecoming.” – The New York Times

This intriguing documentary releases at Nouveau cinemas on Saturday, 06 May.

Hieronymus Bosch The Ship of Fools c1500-1510_1

Hieronymus Bosch The Ship of Fools c1500-1510

Who was Hieronymus Bosch? Why do his strange and fantastical paintings resonate with people now more than ever? How does he bridge the medieval and Renaissance worlds? Where did his unconventional and timeless creations come from? The answers to all these questions and so much more, will be revealed in this remarkable new film from Exhibition on Screen, directed by David Bickerstaff.

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch features the exhibition “Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of Genius” at Het Noordbrabants Museum in the southern Netherlands – the largest ever Bosch retrospective, with 36 of his 44 surviving masterpieces on display. This amazing exhibition, which brought the majority of Bosch’s paintings and drawings together for the first time to his home town of Den Bosch, attracted almost half a million art lovers from across the world – and museum’s opening hours extended to 1am on days to accommodate the phenomenal demand.

Accompanied by expert insights from the exhibition’s curators and leading cultural critics, the film delves into Bosch’s fascinating life and explores the details and stories within his works – including close-up views of the curiosities hidden within his brimming canvases, from cannibalistic clergymen to three-headed birds – as never before seen.

The film brings to life the original form of Bosch’s famous altarpieces, long separated, which are now divided between the world’s great museums. It also reveals new discoveries made by the Bosch Research and Conservation Project during preparations for the exhibition, using cutting-edge technology to uncover yet further layers to Bosch’s multifaceted paintings. The film’s exploration of this great creative genius should not be missed, as it brings to a fitting end a year-long programme to honour the 500th anniversary of this celebrated artist’s death.

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch releases on Saturday, 06 May for four screenings only: 06, 10 and 11 May at 19:30, and on 07 May at 14:30 – at Rosebank Nouveau in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Nouveau in Pretoria, Ster-Kinekor Gateway Nouveau in Durban and at V&A Nouveau in Cape Town.  Bookings are now open, and the running time of this production is 100 minutes.

For booking information, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Download the Ster-Kinekor App on your smart phone for updates, news and to book. Follow Nouveau on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For more information, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

With Exhibition on Screen, award-winning arts documentary maker Phil Grabsky & Seventh Art Productions are again delighting art lovers in more than 40 countries, including South Africa.

In 2011 Phil Grabsky and his company, Seventh Art Productions, created art history when they brought major art exhibitions into cinemas across the globe with Leonardo Live from London’s National Gallery. This was the first ever live-to-cinema exhibition broadcast from a gallery or museum. Grabsky and Seventh Art Productions are also the multi award-winning film-makers behind films such as Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World, The Boy who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the acclaimed In Search Of series (about Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Chopin), Escape from Luanda and The Boy Mir – Ten Years in Afghanistan.

Among Phil’s many other films are over 120 Tim Marlow art shows that have played on TV over the past decade. Phil made the world’s first 3D visual arts film: Tim Marlow on British Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts. He has also made six award-winning history films with Monty Python’s Terry Jones. Working with co-director David Bickerstaff, Grabsky also completed the lauded short documentary Heavy Water: a Journey to Chernobyl, as well as The Making of Swallows and Amazons – the Bristol Old Vic Sets Sail and Making War Horse – both films exploring the creative processes behind theatrical productions.

Phil has written four books, including The Great Artists, with Tim Marlow. All are available in printed, audible and e-reader formats. Phil has been honoured with awards for Services to Television, Lifetime, Best Director and Services to the Arts and Education.

For more information, visit www.seventh-art.com.

 

 

Treat yourself to the best of European Cinema

The European Film Festival is back for the 4th time at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban from 5 to 14 May.

The line-up of films represents 12 countries, including Ireland and Croatia for the first time. Each film reflects the skills and take on the world of filmmakers who are not limited by national borders.

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Festival Director Katarina Hedrén who returns as the curator for the second time is delighted with the pickings: “With this year’s selection which includes films of different genres, textures and moods, the aim is to entertain, amuse and offer opportunities for reflection, new discoveries and recognition,” she says. “The theme binding the films together is cinematic excellence through acclaimed and award-winning films from 12 European countries.”

The 2017 selection is a mixed pot in terms of film themes which span from animal rights to family dynamics. Dramas and documentaries, comedies, tales of grief and a children’s adventure sit side by side on this eclectic and exciting programme.

 

For booking information, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.com. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437). Normal benefits and ticket discounts apply to members of SK Club, Discovery Vitality and Edgars Club loyalty programmes.

Venues:

Johannesburg: Rosebank Mall (Level 1), cnr Bath & Baker Streets, Rosebank

Pretoria:Brooklyn Mall (Lower Level Shop 12), Bronkhorst Street, New Muckleneuk

Cape Town: Nouveau – V&A Waterfront : King Warehouse, Red Shed, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Durban: Ster-Kinekor Nouveau – Gateway Theatre of Shopping, 1 Palm Blvd, Umhlanga Rocks

Listing of Films

American HoneyAMERICAN HONEY (United Kingdom)  Acclaimed British director Andrea Arnold returns with a road-movie set in the US Midwest. The film tells of drifting teenager Star who joins a crew of wayward magazine-selling youth led by the uncompromising Krystal (played by Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough). Under the guidance of the slightly older and seductive Jake, the strong-minded Star is expected to master the art of selling magazine subscriptions needed by nobody to anybody – rich or poor – using whatever capacities at hand. Among its achievements are the Jury Prize at Cannes (2016), the FIPRESCI Prize at Stockholm Film Festival (2016) as well as awards for Best Independent Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Outstanding Achievement in Craft for cinematography at the British Independent Film Awards (2016). It was nominated for a BAFTA for Outstanding British Film of the Year.  Director: Andrea Arnold / Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough/ Genre: Drama / 163min / English (20

 

Farewell to EuropeSTEFAN ZWEIG: FAREWELL TO EUROPE (Austria) Actress-come-director Maria Schrader’s second feature film recounts the last years of Austrian novelist and playwright, Stefan Zweig’s life, which he spent exiled in the Americas, away from the war together with his wife. The agony of being uprooted is as present in the ailing author’s life as the abhorrence of meaningless counter-gestures and the sense of powerlessness in the face of fascism. It was Austria’s entry to the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The film won Schrader the award for Best Direction at the Bavarian Film Awards (2017) and Josef Hader the award for Best Actor by the German Film Critics Association (2017). Director: Maria Schrader/ Cast: Tómas Lemarquis, Barbara Sukowa, Josef Hader/ 106min/ German, English, Portuguese, French Spanish with English Subtitles (2016)

King of the BelgiansKING OF THE BELGIANS (Belgium) On a state visit to Turkey, the dutiful but uninspired King Nicolas the 3rd of Belgium learns of a coup back home (the Walloons have declared themselves fed up and independent). Prevented to go back by air, but filled with a renewed sense of purpose, the king embarks on an unorthodox road trip through the Balkans, accompanied by his reluctant aides and led by a resourceful British documentary filmmaker, initially commissioned to improve the dull monarch’s image. This thoughtful and hilarious drama was awarded by the Circle of Dutch Film Journalists at Rotterdam International Film Festival and has screened at Venice and Hamburg Film Festivals. Directors: Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth / Cast: Peter Van den Begin, Lucie Debay, Bruno Georis, Pieter van der Houwen /  94min / Flemish, French, English, Bulgarian with English Subtitles (2016)

 

The High SunTHE HIGH SUN (Croatia) Three love stories, unfolding in two Balkan villages over three consecutive decades – in 1991, 2001 and 2011 – and featuring the same key cast, capture the moods of each time – from the initial sense of doom, via the determination to survive and rebuild, to the dream of leaving the past behind though wounds are still festering. Skillful writing coupled with stellar direction and performances has seen The High Sun and Matanic win numerous awards, among them, Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes (2015), The International Confederation of Art Cinemas at Sarajevo Film Festival (2015), Best Artistic Contribution at Cairo International Film Festival (2015) and the Slovenian Art Cinema Network’s award for Best Film (2015). Director: Dalibor Matanic / Cast: Tihana Lazovic, Goran Markovic, Nives Ivankovic / 123min / Croatian with English Subtitles (2015)

Things To ComeTHINGS TO COME (France) Isabelle Huppert is as brilliant as ever in her earnest portrayal of philosophy teacher Nathalie Chazeaux. As Nathalie is trying to carve out a new direction in life amidst student demonstrations, the questioning of her intellectual relevance, defining relationships coming to an end and becoming a grandmother, her former star student Fabien unexpectedly becomes both a compassionate friend and a fervent intellectual sparring partner. Things to Come has screened at numerous film festivals and won Hansen-Love the Silver Bear for Best Director at Berlin International Film Festival 2016. Isabelle Huppert’s performance won her several awards for Best Actress, incl. The New York Film Critics Circle’s and the Los Angeles Film Critics Associations’. Director: Mia Hansen-Love / Cast: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka/ 102min / French, German, English with English Subtitles (2016)

 

Toni ErdmannTONI ERDMANN (Germany) In Ade’s outlandish and outstanding third feature, eccentric music teacher, father and practical-joker Winfried Conradi joins his corporate-ladder climbing daughter Ines in Bucharest following his dog’s passing. In an effort to rekindle family bonds, he infiltrates the multinational firm she works for, disguised as the life coach Toni Erdmann. Toni Erdmann was Germany’s submission for the 2017 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, and until the very end, a highly touted winner. Among its numerous and prestigious nominations and awards are nominations for the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs (2017), the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes 2016, the German Film Critics Association Awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Edit and several International Cinephile Society Awards. Director: Maren Ade / Cast: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn / 162min/  German with English Subtitles (2016)

 

The Queen of IrelandTHE QUEEN OF IRELAND (Ireland) Conor Horgan’s heartfelt documentary tells about the life and activism of Irish drag queen Pandora Panti Bliss. Born in Ireland in the late 1960s and instrumental in revolutionizing the Irish LGBT-scene, the charismatic, sharp and outspoken performer Rory O’Neill almost seems destined to play an influential role at the time of the 2015 Irish referendum for marriage equality rights. The film traces Panti’s spectacular career, public controversies as well as more personal aspects of Rory O’Neill’s life. The Queen of Ireland has screened at film festival across the world and won awards for Best Film and Best Documentary presented by Dublin Film Critics Circle. Director: Conor Horgan / Cast: Declan Buckley, Phillip McMahon, Una Mullally /Genre: Documentary/ 86 min / English (2015)

Sweet DreamsSWEET DREAMS (Italy) The course of celebrated Italian author and journalist Massimo Gramellini’s entire life changes on the day his mother dies. Sheltered by his well-meaning but distant father, the 9-year old is left to deal with the void as best as he can. Partly in denial and partly kept in the dark, Massimo grows up in a rapidly changing Italy. Though his professional star is fast rising, he remains stuck emotionally until the day he is asked to reply to the letter of a newspaper reader in distress.Based on Gramellini’s autobiography, this cinematic gem opened the Directors Fortnight at Cannes 2016 and won the International Cinephile Society’s Award for best film not released in 2017. Director: Marco Bellocchio / Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Valerio Mastandrea, Fabrizio Gifuni / 134 min / Italian with English Subtitles (2016)

 

Reijer Zwaan

Reijer Zwaan

STRIKE A POSE (Netherlands) When seven young men became Madonna’s backup dancers for her legendary Blond Ambition world tour in 1990, their lives changed. The mythical documentary Truth or Dare – shot as they traveled the world – contributed to cement Madonna’s status as an icon and one of that time’s most prominent voices for gay rights and AIDS-prevention. The cost for the superstar’s outspokenness and daring image was paid by those who returned to normal life once the dream was over. Dutch documentarians, Gould and Zwaan, give voice to these men. Strike a Pose has screened at Tribeca Film Festival and Hot Docs. It won the Jury Award for Best LGBT-film at the Key West Film Festival (2016) and was the runner-up for the Panorama Audience Award at Berlin International Film Festival (2016). Director: Ester Gould, Reijer Zwaan / Cast: Luis Camacho, Oliver S. Crumes III, Salim Gauwloos, Jose Gutierez, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn and Gabriel Trupin / Documentary / 83min / English (2016)

 

SpoorSPOOR (Poland) This scenic and original mother-and-daughter directed thriller tells of part-time school teacher, retired civil engineer and passionate animal-lover, Janina Duszejko, who lives alone in a village where hunting is the preferred pastime of the small community’s big men. When one by one, these prominent pillars of society are found dead, without any trace of a perpetrator, the question on everybody’s mind is, ‘Who or what did it?’ With a career, spanning over continents, three-times Oscar-nominated director Agnieszka Holland returns with a fresh film, based on a novel, which she calls ‘a fairytale about anger’ and which competed for the Golden Bear at Berlin International Film Festival (2017). Director: Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik / Cast: Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka, Wiktor Zborowski, Jakub Gierszal / Genre: Drama / 128min / Polish with English Subtitles (2017)

 

 

Game of CheckersGAME OF CHECKERS (Portugal) Five close friends gather after the passing of their common friend Martha, at a tourist resort that the deceased was about to open. The group spends the entire night after Martha’s wake reminiscing, eating, drinking, smoking, opening up old wounds, and revealing secrets, in addition to alternately forgiving and judging one another. When the morning comes, the question of the women’s future friendship remains open. Experienced TV-director Patrícia Sequeira’s first feature has won several awards, incl. Los Angeles Movie Awards for Best Narrative Feature, Best International Film and Best Actress (2016) and Cyprus International Film Festival’s awards for Best Director, Best Leading Actress and Best Script in a First Feature (2016). Director: Patrícia Sequeira / Cast: Ana Nave, Ana Padrão, Fátima Belo, Maria João Luís, Rita Blanco / 87min / Portuguese with English Subtitles (2016)

 

ZIP & ZAP AND THE CAPTAIN’S ISLAND 2ZIP & ZAP AND THE CAPTAIN’S ISLAND (Spain)  When the unruly brothers Zip and Zap commit an offense out of the ordinary, they are sentenced to a boring family boat trip with their parents. At least that is what it seems like. Stranded at a remote and mysterious island after a storm, they are invited to stay with Miss Pam, whose home is a children’s paradise with no rules. At first pleased, their parents’ sudden disappearance begins to bother Zip and Zap, who set out to find them together with their newfound friends Flecky and Macky. The visually stunning second feature film about comic book heroes Zip and Zap has screened at BFI London Film Festival (2016) as well as Miami Film Festival and the Audi Dublin International Film Festival in 2017. Director: Oskar Santos / Cast: Elena Anaya, Carolina Lapausa, Teo Planell, Tom Wilton, Toni Gómez / Genre: Drama (children’s’ adventure) PG +8 /105min / Spanish with English Subtitles (2016)

“This is a father daughter movie. It’s about being human, about being a parent, and having a family with issues. Those themes aren’t period. They’re timeless.”

Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut and stars in the outstanding American Pastoral, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Philip Roth’s novel, following an all American family across several decades, as their idyllic existence is shattered by social and political turmoil that will change the fabric of American culture forever.

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In a post-war era booming with optimism and innocence, the legendary high-school athlete Seymour “the Swede” Levov (Ewan McGregor) marries an alluring Miss New Jersey (Jennifer Connelly) , inherits his father’s multi-million dollar glove factory, and starts a life of civic and domestic bliss, raising his beloved daughter Merry in a big country house in the serene, upscale neighborhood of Old Rimrock, New Jersey.

By all appearances, the Swede is a pillar of his community, a paragon of the “greatest generation” – admired as a self-reliant businessman, charitable boss and devoted family man, and gifted with an unerring belief in all the promises of the American Dream.

In the 1960s—amid the unrest fueled by the unpopular Vietnam War—an angry, and increasingly radical, 16 year old Merry (Dakota Fanning)becomes the lead suspect in an astonishing act of deadly violence in the Levov’s halcyon rural town, upending her father and his vision of the world.

Determined to come to grips with what has happened to his loved ones, the Swede goes on a quest not only to find Merry – now on the run as a fugitive from justice – but to restore the Levov family and his own heart.

American Pastoral is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that chronicles the profound changes in the last half-century of American life, by Philip Roth.

Phillip Roth

Philip Roth

The adaptation focuses in on the Swede’s search for his daughter and the resonant themes of uncertainty, shifting fates, family and loss, that took the filmmakers nearly thirteen years to bring to the screen.

Lakeshore Entertainment producer Gary Lucchesi reflects on what drove him to stay on course throughout the long but steadfast creative process: “I have always wanted to make a father daughter story. I read the script, I cried, and I knew I had to make the movie one way or another,” he recalls. “I saw in it the story of a man who has an uncompromising love for his daughter through thick and thin. I love dramas about human beings that you can relate to and experiences that you can imagine. That’s what really turns me on as a filmmaker. Every now and then, you get a chance to do something like this that you covet—so you give it everything you have.”

Producer Tom Rosenberg was equally moved by this portrait of a seemingly picture-perfect American family, led by a decent man, yet teetering on a foundation that is cracking perilously beneath their feet.

“Swede spends his entire life trying to get Merry back and I don’t think he ever gives up. Nothing could stop him,” he says. The production itself had to have a sense of resilience. “This was a tough one to get made,” Rosenberg concludes, “but it was worth it.”

The Adaptation

John Romano

John Romano

Screenwriter John Romano, who holds a Ph.D. in Literature and has taught English at Columbia University, was drawn to a story that not only spans one of the most dizzying periods of transition in American life—from the postWWII positivity and conformity of the late 1940s through the uncorked turmoil and disruption of the 1970s—but also moves between huge historical events and their entwining with the most private family moments.

“I knew the book well and thought it was the best book about the sixties written from the perspective of the Vietnam War revolution on the home front,” recalls Romano.

“Roth was looking at the family and the psychological roots of youth revolt,” stated Romano. “His focus, and thus our focus, is on the human experience.”

Romano also knew he faced a gauntlet in trying to balance his urge to be faithful to Roth’s distinctive language and observatory powers with the narrative drive of cinematic storytelling. I approached the adaptation with a literary understanding of the novel and felt it was important to be faithful,” he says, “because Roth is brilliantly meandering in his writing, but a movie needs to grab you by the throat and keep going. There are some structural changes but I felt it was important to be as faithful as possible to what Roth created.” Romano also highlighted the characters and the relationships in his adaptation. “This is a father daughter movie. It’s about being human, about being a parent, and having a family with issues. Those themes aren’t period. They’re timeless.”

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Ewan McGregor – the two-time Golden Globe nominee known for his wide-ranging roles in films spanning from the innovative and edgy Trainspotting, Velvet Goldmine and Moulin Rouge to the acclaimed dramas Ghost Writer and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen — was attached to play the central character of the Swede in American Pastoral long before signing on to direct the film.

Ultimately, it was his love of the material that led to his decision to take a leap into his feature film directorial debut. “I was very moved by the script and I was completely taken by the Swede and the study of father daughter relationships,” he says.

“He’s a man who believes very much in living his life the right way. He’s a product of the postwar era and he absolutely embodies the idea that there was once a seemingly attainable American Dream. In a sense, the Swede is the American Dream and his daughter Merry is the ‘60s.”

McGregor knew this was a rare opportunity. “I’ve always wanted to direct, but I didn’t want to just direct for the sake of it,” explains McGregor. “I wanted to have a story that I was compelled to tell.” Recalls Gary Lucchesi: “It wasn’t as crazy as Ewan thought it was because we had already gotten to know him and we knew his passion for the project and also had really come to see him as an artist. Tom and I sat down with Ewan and had long conversations with him, and at a certain point we realized this was the director we were going to bet on. It was one of the best decisions we made.”

Adds Rosenberg: “He was meticulous, dogged and he put everything he had behind it. I’m very big on preparation, but he exceeded anything that I could imagine, so that was impressive. He also brought a great rapport with the actors. He had their total confidence and knew how to deal with their various personalities very well.”

Screenwriter John Romano says of his collaboration with McGregor, “Ewan understood Roth’s novel so well that when we began to collaborate, he pushed me even more towards the meaning of what Roth had written. The best example I can give is that the movie begins with a line that wasn’t there until Ewan became the director.”

Jennifer Connelly adds: “He’s a joy to be around and to work with. He’s so kind and generous and had a really nice way of communicating with everyone. He made a lot of time for his actors, we had a great rehearsal and very constructive rehearsal period.”

As he was prepping production, McGregor was also working to get under the skin of the film’s multifaceted and unravelling lead character. The role of Swede Levov is a particularly demanding one, beginning with the challenge posed by spanning a man’s entire adult life, from youth to old age.

In addition, McGregor faced another daunting task: bringing out the symbolic side of Roth’s iconic American athlete, industrialist and father, while also making the Swede distinctly real and human. For though the Swede never stops trying to be the upstanding man of American myths, the trajectory of his life plummets him in the opposite direction. “Throughout his life, Swede always does what people would like him to do, what’s expected of him. He never loses his moral beliefs in right and wrong. But in a way, it’s his downfall,” concludes McGregor. “Dawn, his wife, goes on to have another life. But the Swede is always looking to keep things together, to make things right again.”

Mozart’s first operatic masterpiece

Local opera lovers are in for a treat to watch South African-born soprano, Elza van den Heever, who stars in the virtuosic role of Princess Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo, of love and vengeance following the Trojan War, and will will be screened in Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas from Saturday, 29 April, for limited screenings.

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Elza van den Heever is joined by a stellar ensemble including Matthew Polenzani in the title role of the King of Crete, Idomeneo, with Nadine Sierra as Illia, Alice Coote as Idamante and Alan Opie as Arbace. This classic production from Jean–Pierre Ponnelle, which has its first Met revival in over a decade this season, is under the baton of the Metropolitan Opera’s famed Music Director Emeritus James Levine. He also conducted the first Met staging of this opera in 1982.

“Here is the Met at its best. … [James] Levine conducts, drawing a refined and affecting performance from the great Met orchestra and chorus and an impressive cast” (New York Times).

Matthew Polenzani gives a “poignant, gripping performance” (New York Times) as the king torn by a rash vow; mezzo-soprano Alice Coote “exudes noble passion and dignity” (Financial Times) in the trouser role of his noble son Idamante; soprano Nadine Sierra sings “with expressivity and tenderness” (New York Times) as the princess Ilia; and soprano Elza van den Heever “triumphs” (New York Times) as the volatile Elettra, who loves Idamante to the bounds of madness.

“Vocally and dramatically, the role is a tough assignment. The soprano Elza van den Heever triumphs in it. This Elettra has a very fragile majesty. When she gets her way, she turns vulnerable, singing with sensuality and warmth. But when crossed, she erupts with unhinged intensity and steely sound, as in her furious final aria” – New York Times

“With one aria, Elza van den Heever steals the Met’s Idomeneo…” – Broadway World

The opera was first performed at the Court Theatre (now the Cuvilliés Theatre) in Munich in 1781, conducted by the 25-year-old Mozart and starring the great 18th-century tenor Anton Raaff.

Idomeneo is set in Crete, about 1200 BC. Helen, the wife of King Menelaus of Greece, has been carried off by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, triggering the Trojan War.

As she is also the sister-in-law of Agamemnon, several Greek kings allied with him have joined forces to lay siege to the city of Troy. One of these kings is Idomeneo (Idomeneus) of Crete.

Having been away for many years, Idomeneo has, prior to his victorious return, sent ahead of him some Trojan captives, including Priam’s daughter, the Princess Ilia.

On her arrival in Crete she is rescued from a storm by Idomeneo’s young son, Idamante, who has ruled as regent in his father’s absence.

The two have fallen in love. Princess Elettra, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, also loves Idamante. After Elettra and her brother, Oreste, killed their mother and her lover, she was forced to flee their home in Argos and has taken refuge in Crete.

Screening times for Idomeneo at Nouveau (Rosebank Mall, JHB; Brooklyn Mall, PTA; SK Gateway Commercial, DBN; and V&A Waterfront, CT) and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas are as follows: 29 April at 17:00; 30 April at 14:30; 02 and 10 May at 11:30; and 09 May at 18:00. All the ticket discounts and benefits offered to members of the Ster-Kinekor loyalty programmes, SK Club, Discovery Vitality and Edgars Club, do apply for the Met: Live in HD screenings, where applicable.

The running time of Idomeneo is 4hrs, including two intervals.

For more information and to make bookings for Idomeneo, part of The Met: Live in HD season, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For information, call Ticketline on 0861-Movies (668 437).

The final two productions in the current season are Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (20 May), and Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (10 June).

”At this time in my life I continually think about — wonder about — faith and doubt, weakness, and the human condition, and these are the very themes that Endo’s book touches upon in a such a direct way.”

The screen adaptation of Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the Academy Award winning director’s long anticipated film about faith and religion, began in the late 1980’s with his writing collaborator Jay Cocks, and filming began in January 31, 2015 in Taipei, Taiwan at the city’s CMPC film studio.

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It  tells the story of two 17th century Portuguese missionaries who undertake a perilous journey to Japan to search for their missing mentor, Father Christavao Ferreira, and to spread the gospel of Christianity, and is based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 award-winning novel, examining the spiritual and religious question of God’s silence in the face of human suffering.

Silence-00450The film follows the young missionaries, Father Sebastian Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) as they search for their missing teacher and mentor and minister to the Christian villagers they encounter who are forced to worship in secret. At that time in Japan, feudal lords and ruling Samurai were determined to eradicate Christianity in their midst; Christians were persecuted and tortured, forced to apostatize, that is, renounce their faith or face a prolonged and agonizing death.

The Journey Begins

Martin Scorsese was born in 1942 in New York City, and was raised in the downtown neighborhood of Little Italy, which later provided the inspiration for several of his films.  Scorsese earned a BS degree in film communications in 1964, followed by an MA in the same field in 1966 at New York University’s School of Film. During this time, he made numerous prize-winning short films, including The Big Shave.

He is one of the most prominent and influential filmmakers working today. He has directed critically acclaimed, award-winning films including Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Gangs of New YorkThe AviatorThe Departed which garnered an Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture, Shutter Island, and Hugo for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Director. He was recognized for his latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street by receiving DGA, BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for Best Director, as well as a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for Best Film.

Scorsese is the founder and chair of The Film Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of motion picture history. At the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Scorsese launched the World Cinema Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of neglected films from the around the world, with special attention paid to those developing countries lacking the financial and technical resources to do the work themselves. Scorsese is the founder and chair.

In 1988, at a special screening in New York for the city’s religious leaders of his latest film The Last Temptation of Christ, Martin Scorsese made the acquaintance of Archbishop Paul Moore. At the event Moore, who was nearing the end of his tenure as the Episcopal Bishop of New York, presented the director with a copy of Shusaku Endo’s historical novel Silence. Silence had been published in Japan in 1966 where it was highly praised, the subject at the time of the most intense, thorough and rigorous analysis. When an English edition of the book appeared some years later, the novel’s reputation as a profound examination of, and meditation upon, religious themes was further enhanced.

The first time he read the book, Silence made a huge impression on Martin Scorsese – it seemed to speak to him personally.

“The subject matter presented by Endo in his book has been in my life since I was very, very young, “Scorsese says. “I was raised in a strong Catholic family and was very much involved in religion. The bedrock I still have is the spirituality of Roman Catholicism I was immersed in as a child, spirituality that had to do with faith.”

Scorsese says that while reading the book he was astonished to discover it confronted the very deep and profound issues about Christianity that, as he puts it, “I still cope with constantly.

“At this time in my life I continually think about — wonder about — faith and doubt, weakness, and the human condition, and these are the very themes that Endo’s book touches upon in a such a direct way.”

The Novel

From the first time he read Silence, Scorsese was determined to make a movie of the book. Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence (Chinmoku), set in Japan in the era of Kakase Kirishitan (the ‘hidden Christians”), has been hailed as a supreme literary achievement and described by critics as one of the twentieth century’s finest novels.  Published in 1966, Silence received Japan’s prestigious Tanazaki Prize. It was translated into English in 1969, and since appeared in various languages throughout the world.

Endo_Shusaku

Shusaku Endo

Silence became an instant bestseller in Japan, having sold over 800,000 copies. It takes as its starting off point an historical Church scandal that had wide reverberations– the defection in Japan of a Jesuit Superior, Father Christovao Ferreira, who renounced his religion, became a Buddhist scholar and took a Japanese wife.

Jesuits, members of the Society of Jesus, today form the largest religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church. Historically engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry, Jesuits are committed to doing good works in education (founding schools and universities), intellectual research, cultural pursuits, human rights and social justice. Ignatius Loyola founded the order in the 1530s and composed the Spiritual Exercises to help others follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.  In 1534, Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier and their followers took vows of chastity, poverty and obedience to the Pope.

In Endo’s novel, two of Father Chistavao Ferreira’s students, Father Sebastian Rodrigues and Father Francsico Garupe, travel from Portugal to the Jesuit University in Macao and then Japan where they place themselves in great danger searching for the truth about Ferreira’s mysterious defection as they minister to the faithful in Japan, the hidden Christians who worship and practice their faith in fear for their lives.

Endo, one of the few Japanese authors to write from a Christian point of view, was born in Tokyo in 1923. He was raised in Kobe by his mother and an aunt, and baptized into the Church at age 11. His university studies were interrupted by the Second World War, and he worked for a time in a munitions factory. After the war, he studied medicine and moved to France. Throughout his life, Endo struggled with severe respiratory ailments, including tuberculosis, and endured long periods of hospitalization.

Endo began writing novels in 1958, almost all concerned with Christian themes, including A Life of Jesus, inviting comparison between him and Christian writers in the west, notably Graham Greene. Most of Endo’s characters struggle with complex, moral dilemmas, and their choices often lead to mixed or tragic results. Graham Greene called Endo “one of the finest writers alive.”

Silence is considered Endo’s masterpiece and has been the subject of intense analysis and debate in the years since publication. Garry Wills, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian, compares Silence to Greene’s The Power and The Glory. He writes that whereas Graham’s hero “maintains a priestly ministry despite his own unworthiness…Endo explores a more interesting paradox. His priest defects, not from weakness but from love, to spare Christian converts the persecution mounted against them.”

Endo himself believed the book’s great appeal in his own country among Japanese leftist students was that they saw in the story of Rodrigues’s struggles with the Samurai the more recent struggles of the Japanese Marxists of the 1930s who were tortured by Japanese authorities and forced to commit ‘tenko’ – an ideological ‘about face’ or conversion.

Silence has recently been called a novel of our time. Paul Elie writing in the New York Times Sunday magazine says, “It locates in the missionary past so many of the religious matters that vex us in the post-secular moment – the claims to universal truths in diverse societies, the conflict between a profession of faith and the expression of it, and the seeming silence of God while believers are draw into violence on his behalf.”

The relevance of Silence continues to reverberate.

The Screenplay

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Scorsese’s great regard for Silence increased with further readings. As he had already begun working on a screen adaptation with his writing collaborator Jay Cocks in the late 1980s, he planned it as his next film project.

Fate, however, had a different scenario in store.

To begin with Scorsese says, “I wasn’t happy with the draft we came up with.” He also encountered other problems, he says, not the least of which was finding the funding for such an undertaking, and so he put the screenplay aside.

In the ensuing years, however, the director spent a great deal of time pondering the book’s themes and characters, continuing to work off on and off with Cocks on subsequent drafts of their screenplay. Overall it took more than fifteen years for the duo to complete what they both felt was a successful and workable script, one that incorporated and gave expression and life to the novel’s deepest and most profound meanings.

A forward Scorsese penned for a 2007 English edition of the novel gives insight into not only what these themes mean for the director but also a sense of what Scorsese’s film of the book would express.

Scorsese wrote, “Christianity is based on faith but if you study its history you see that it’s had to adapt itself over and over again, always with great difficulty, in order that faith might flourish. That’s a paradox, and it can be an extremely painful one: on the face of it believing and questioning are antithetical. Yet I believe they go hand in hand. One nourishes the other. Questioning may lead to great loneliness but if it co-exists with faith – true faith, abiding faith – it can end in the most joyful sense of communion. It’s this painful paradoxical passage – from certainty to doubt to loneliness to communion that Endo understands so well.

“Sebastian Rodrigues (the central character) represents what you might call ‘the best and the brightest of the Catholic faith.”

Scorsese labels him a ‘man of the church’ as described in Bernanos’s Diary of a Country Priest and writes that “Rodrigues would most certainly have been one of those men, stalwart, unbending in his will and resolve, unshakeable in his faith—if he had stayed in Portugal, that is.

“Instead he is placed in the middle of another, hostile culture during a late stage in a protracted effort to rid itself of Christianity. Rodrigues believes with all his heart he will be the hero of a Western story that we all know very well: the Christian allegory, a Christ figure, with his own Gesthemane –a patch of wood– and his own Judas, a miserable wretch named Kichijiro.”

Indeed Judas, who Scorsese calls Christianity’s greatest villain, embodies what the filmmaker refers to one of the most pressing dilemmas in all Christian theology.

“What is Judas’s role?” he writes. “What is expected of him by Christ? What is expected of him by us today?”…. Endo looks at the problem of Judas more directly than any other artist I know.”

This problem infuses Silence, and determines Father Rodrigues’ fate.

As Scorsese writes, “…. slowly, masterfully, Endo reverses the tide [for Rodriques].  Silence is the story of a man who learns –so painfully—that God’s love is more mysterious than he knows, that He leaves much more to the ways of men that we realize, and that He is always present…even in His silence.

“I picked up this novel for the first time almost twenty years ago. I’ve reread it countless times since… It has given me a kind of sustenance that I have found in only a very few works of art.”

Silence

Pre-production

With a screenplay finally completed to his satisfaction after so many years, Scorsese, Koskoff, and Winkler stepped up efforts to secure financing for the project. Scorsese and Koskoff also began to grapple with casting and location issues: who would be the perfect actor to play the all-important role of Father Rodrigues? How to find Japanese actors for other crucial roles? And where to make the film? None of these issues would be resolved quickly or easily.

JAY COCKS 2

Jay Cocks (Screenwriter) co-wrote with Martin Scorsese the script for the director’s film The Age of Innocence earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. His script for Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, which he co-wrote with the director, was also nominated for the Oscar as well as the BAFTA award for Best Original Screenplay. Cocks has also written the screenplays for Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days and Irwin Winkler’s De-Lovely. Among his other credits are the documentaries A Shot at the Top: The Making of ‘The King of Comedy’ and By Sidney Lumet. Before turning to film writing Cocks was a film critic for Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Time and various other magazines.

Finding financing for a serious, character-driven film dealing with profound religious and philosophical issues in today’s worldwide film market was a daunting challenge.

“This project has so much meaning for Marty, it’s so personal for him that it became personal for me as well,” says Koskoff who is Scorsese’s producing partner and President of Production at his company, Sikelia. “I was determined to get the film made and I wasn’t going to rest until that was achieved. Every possible avenue—I pursued them all.”

After a series of postponements, Scorsese, Koskoff and Winkler finally met with success. With the release of Scorsese’s hugely popular and commercially successful The Wolf of Wall Street, the principal financiers to come on board the film were Fabrica de Cine and Len Blavatnik’s AI Films with assistance from SharpSword Films and IM Global.

Fabrica de Cine, headed by Gaston Pavlovich, co-produced and co-financed the Tom Hanks drama A Hologram for a King and Richard Gere’s Oppenheimer Strategies.

Len Blavatnik’s AI Films has financed or co-financed Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes and Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge.

SharpSword Films is backed by Dale Brown and participated in the financing of The Ticket, starring Dan Stevens, Malin Akerman and Oliver Platt.

IM Global is one of the world’s leading international film and television production, sales and distribution platforms and is currently a co-financing partner on Hacksaw Ridge directed by Mel Gibson and Gary Ross’ Free State of Jones.

Even before the means to make the film became available, in 2008 and 2009, as various ways were being explored to secure financing, Scorsese, Koskoff and key members of the director’s creative team began to scout locations for a proposed production. Understanding that it would be prohibitively expensive to make the film in Japan, the filmmakers scouted New Zealand, Canada and other various locations in search of places to shoot the story on a more economically feasible basis, eventually finding the perfect locations in Taiwan.

Casting

Director, Martin Scorsese and Andrew Garfield on the set of the film SILENCE by Paramount Pictures, SharpSword Films, and AI Films by Paramount Pictures, SharpSword Films, and AI Films

Director, Martin Scorsese and Andrew Garfield on the set of the film

With so many essential elements falling in place, the process of casting, which had been temporarily put on hold, moved ahead in earnest. The main priority was clear – filling the role of Father Rodrigues.

“The actor who would play Rodrigues had to have the ability and understanding to deal with the complex issues that inform the character,” Scorsese says. “I understood also that we had to find someone who would want to play the part. Over the years I had seen many actors. Some said right off the bat they had no interest in the subject and that was that.”

Over the years Scorsese had encountered many young actors who were fascinated by the material and the story, and he considered several for the role. As time went by, however, and the film failed to move forward, these actors became too old. Rodrigues is young man in his twenties.

Stepping up the search with a production start date looming, Scorsese auditioned several young actors, when lighting struck in the person of Andrew Garfield. Fresh off his Tony-nominated triumph on Broadway in Mike Nichols’ production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” as well as his stint as The Amazing Spider-Man, Garfield seemed like Rodrigues incarnate to the director.

“The story confronts such deep and difficult material, timeless, huge in scope, huge in emotion,” Garfield says. “It’s a lifetime the character goes through that we witness. He wrestles with the great and most important questions we all wrestle with – how to live a meaningful life, a life of faith, and does that require you to live in doubt as well. That’s just scratching the surface of why I was attracted to this story and this character.”

As Rodrigues’ fellow priest Father Garupe, Scorsese cast another charismatic, up-and coming young actor, Adam Driver. Well-known for his role in the HBO series Girls, and for film appearances such as Inside Llewyn Davis and the latest Star Wars installment The Force Awakens, Driver stars in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson. Driver, too, was intrigued and challenged by the story and excited for the chance to work with Scorsese.

To prepare he immersed himself in Endo’s book as well as in Scorsese and Cocks’ script.

“I was really taken by the idea of a crisis of faith which is always universal, and always relevant,” Driver says.

The individual characteristics of the two young men, Father Rodrigues, and Father Garupe, Driver’s character, also appealed to the actor.

“I liked that they were disgruntled guys, and questioning, which is a big part of faith. I thought of St. Peter. Doubt is healthy – it relates to everything, to acting even. Is this the right way to make a living? Is this part right? Do I want to be with these people? Am I just bad in the role? Anything creative leads to doubt. Relationships, between parents and children are filled with doubt.”

Driver was also attracted to what he calls the atypical representation of priests in the story.

“You think of priests as calm and rational. But these Jesuits were pioneers, rough and hard. They had to be durable. Conditions were harsh in that period. These men were rough, not polished, not how we think of priests today. I think of them as explorers.”

An encounter between some of the best dancers in the world and masters of contemporary choreography

For one evening, the Bolshoi takes on a new challenge with audacity in an exhilarating encounter with the masters of contemporary choreography. The result is A Contemporary Evening, which will be screened at Nouveau cinemas from 22 April for limited screenings.

6.BOL_A CONTEMPORARY EVENING_Vladislav Lantratov and Ekaterina Shipulina (c)Damir Yusupov

Vladislav Lantratov and Ekaterina Shipulina (c)Damir Yusupov

This innovative production forms part of the current season of seven wonderful ballets from Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet company – one of the world’s great powerhouses of classical ballet – currently being screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres.

Don’t miss the encounter between some of the best dancers in the world and the masters of contemporary choreography in the form of ‘Hans Van Manen’s Frank Bridge Variations, Sol León and Paul Lightfoot’s Short Time Together and Alexei Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons.

This encounter between some of the best dancers in the world and masters of contemporary choreography results in an outstanding synthesis of bringing Van Manen’s formal beauty, León and Lightfoot’s intensity, and Ratmansky’s witty brilliance to a new level.

This exciting once-off production was filmed live from the Bolshoi on 19 March for broadcast into cinemas worldwide, including here in South Africa. With music from Benjamin Britten, Max Richter, Ludwig van Beethoven and Leonid Desyatnikov, the ballet features the Bolshoi principals, soloists and corps de ballet.

A Contemporary Evening releases on South African screens on Saturday, 22 April for four screenings only – on 22, 26 and 27 April at 19:45, and on 23 April at 14:30 – only at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. Bookings are now open. The running time of this ballet production is 2 hrs 40 mins, including two intervals.

For booking information on the Bolshoi Ballet’s A Contemporary Evening at Nouveau, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz or on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call TicketLine on 0861 Movies (668 437).

Coming Up

The final production in this season from the Bolshoi Ballet to be screened at Nouveau is A Hero of our Time (13 May). The ballets are brought to the big screen by Fathom Events, BY Experience and Pathé Live.

The Bolshoi Ballet is the quintessential ballet company, presenting works of astounding skill, daring and bravura that leave audiences the world over spellbound. This season of ballets broadcast in cinemas is no different, with the company’s incredible productions set to feature some of the world’s greatest dancers.

FF8

In Fast and Furious 8 a mysterious woman (Oscar winner Charlize Theron) seduces Dom (Vin Diesel) into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, our elite force will crisscross the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage…and to bring home the man who made them a family.

If you want to win a FF8 hamper that includes a key chain, car shammy, T-shirt and 2 Fast 2 Furious DVD, tell us who wrote the screenplay and send your answer and contact details with FF8 in the subject line to us before April 30, 2017.  Enter Competition Here

Fate of the Furious, The (2017)

 

”FF8 is really about the after effects of a profound moment that threatens to shatter everything you believe in.  What happens when the central figure of your family, the one who preached the lesson of never turning your back on each other, breaks those rules?  What happens if he goes dark and his family has to take him on and stand against him?  It’s unique and, at times, a little scary.  It’s great drama for the franchise, and it gave us a reason to move forward in a compelling way..”

On the heels of 2015’s Furious 7, one of the fastest movies to reach $1 billion worldwide and the sixth-biggest global title in box-office history, comes the newest chapter in one of the most popular and enduring motion-picture serials of all time: Fast and Furious 8, which had a record-breaking 3-day opening in South Africa at R17 777 495 – when including previews FF8 delivered the second highest opening weekend at R20 135 115, just falling short of FF7, which delivered R20 971 652 in 2015.

Fate of the Furious, The (2017)

In FF8 a mysterious woman (Oscar winner Charlize Theron) seduces Dom (Vin Diesel) into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, our elite force will crisscross the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage…and to bring home the man who made them a family.

As evidenced by the December 2016 trailer debut of the film—which currently ranks as the biggest ever, with more than 139 million views in the 24 hours after its unveiling in Times Square—audiences’ appetite for tales from the Fast & Furious saga has never been bigger, and the franchise has never been more popular or more global.  Although this group has experienced much on the road that has brought them here—as they shot cars out of planes, through skyscrapers and down mountains—the core idea that drives them has never wavered: family.

FF8 is directed by F. Gary Gray, the filmmaker behind such blockbusters as Straight Outta Compton—the No. 1 musical biopic in the history of cinema—The Italian Job, Be Cool and Friday, from a screenplay by series architect and fellow producer Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious series, Wanted), based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious).

Furious 7 proved to be an emotionally charged culmination of the beloved franchise built on speed.  Not only were the filmmakers and cast looking to pay homage to the legacy of Paul Walker, who was inarguably the heart of the films, but also to the very best of what The Fast and the Furious sparked in film audiences more than 15 years ago…and continues to do with another generation of fans.

Completing production of the film and then promoting it worldwide was both an exhausting and energizing labor of love for all involved.  But with the end of an era came the inevitable questions of whether this was truly the finale of the beloved franchise.

Neal H. Moritz,

Neal H. Moritz, p.g.a. (Produced by) is the founder of Original Film, and one of the most prolific producers in Hollywood today. Moritz is best known for The Fast and the Furious films—including Furious 7—which broke multiple box-office records to become the sixth highest-grossing movie of all time. He has produced more than 50 major motion pictures, which have earned a box-office total of more than $10 billion worldwide.

Faced with the decision of whether to continue the saga, producers Neal H. Moritz and Vin Diesel, screenwriter Chris Morgan, Universal Pictures executives and the rest of the cast had to think long and hard about their next step together.

The Fast family was in mourning, and, at the time, few could come up with a worthwhile reason to pick up the pieces and resume the collective saga.

The outlaws of East Los Angeles’ street racing underground had risen to infamy on the international stage pulling off daring high-stakes heists.  While they had lost friends and gained enemies along the way…any new tale would ensure they would remain true to their roots.

Whatever happened, the filmmakers felt they would need to do something completely different if the series were to continue.

When it was decided that the franchise still had more riveting stories to share, they opted to throw a curveball into the mix.  The new direction would be an explosive turn of events destined to rock the dedicated fan base to its NOS-loving core.  Since the beginning, the series’ deep-seated theme of family has been entrenched in every film, and that fundamental tenet would be put to the test.

A native of New York City, Vin Diesel has become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after film stars. In addition to his huge box-office success, Diesel is a prominent producer and filmmaker and has been honored with both a hands and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre as well as a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.

“I only wanted to continue the saga if we were going to collectively make the best final trilogy for ourselves, for the legacy of our brother Paul, and for Universal, who’s been so supportive over the years,” says Diesel, who has served as a producer on the series since Fast & Furious.  “With Furious 7, our focus was to not only make the best film in the saga but to honor what it has represented for almost two decades.  The key to this next chapter is to challenge those core themes that have endured, and to do it in a way that is compelling but still entertaining.”

Screenwriter Chris Morgan, who returns for his sixth tour of duty with the franchise, this time joins Moritz, Diesel and Fottrell as producer.  For the series architect who charts and crafts the interwoven multi-film story points, this arc would pose his biggest challenge; once Morgan delineated the team’s ideas for the final trilogy, it would be a mind-blowing achievement.

“Recalls Morgan of the tipping point: “FF8 is really about the after effects of a profound moment that threatens to shatter everything you believe in.  What happens when the central figure of your family, the one who preached the lesson of never turning your back on each other, breaks those rules?  What happens if he goes dark and his family has to take him on and stand against him?  It’s unique and, at times, a little scary.  It’s great drama for the franchise, and it gave us a reason to move forward in a compelling way.”

Chris Morgan

FF8 marks the ninth consecutive feature-film collaboration for Chris Morgan and Universal Pictures. The collaboration began with Justin Lin’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Morgan went on to adapt Wanted, which starred Angelina Jolie. Following that, Morgan wrote the next five installments of the Fast & Furious series, reteaming Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7.

It was an audacious premise and once Morgan, Moritz and Diesel blocked out the story points, they knew they could blaze down a new road with an original, high-octane tale while still maintaining the outlaw spirit that fans gravitate to time after time.

Remarks longtime franchise producer Moritz: “What always amazes me is how we’re able to develop and maintain that blurred line between good guy and bad guy over the course of this series.  We’ve allowed each of our characters, new and old alike, to grow in different directions.  We never go into a new chapter with any preconceived notions of what they should do, and let each movie organically grow each of these characters.  It has been satisfying to see how many different arenas we can enter and ways we can go with them.  That’s part of the fun for the audience: they love this cast of characters but are never sure exactly what’s going to happen with them.”

With each new installment in the series, Moritz and Diesel always want to keep fans on their toes and to allow them to be entertained by the unexpected.

Finding a director with the ability to deliver on every level, while retaining the series’ singular voice, has always been a prerequisite.  Justin Lin set the groundwork for a memorable four-film run when he reinvigorated the franchise with Tokyo Drift, and James Wan did it with the record setting worldwide box-office juggernaut of Furious 7.

Enter F. Gary Gray, whose versatile filmography includes the critically acclaimed biopic Straight Outta Compton, the thriller The Negotiator, actioner The Italian Job and cult comedy classic Friday, among many others.  One will see little similarities among these projects, and that’s the way Gray likes it.

F. Gary Gray

F. Gary Gray is recognized as one of the industry’s most prolific and versatile directors, known for pushing the envelope, and delivering innovative and exhilarating entertainment to a diverse audience. Throughout his career, Gray has excelled at bringing the most predominant themes from the pop-culture zeitgeist to the screen. With 25 years in the industry, Gray has been able to consistently and successfully maneuver between genres ranging from comedy to thriller to drama to action.

The director admits that he has long gravitated toward material that challenges him.  When faced with the tempting offer of taking on one of Universal’s biggest franchises, Gray was intrigued.  Still, he dug a little deeper looking for that one thing, that hook, to inspire and push his limits.  “Artists dig in more when they feel challenged, and this was a major challenge for me,” he reflects.  “I wanted to bring something different to the franchise, and it all starts with the story.  This is completely different; it’s nothing we’ve ever experienced in the Fast franchise.”

FF8 would allow Gray the opportunity to take a massive tent pole film and bring his singular approach to storytelling, eliciting performances and crafting narrative to deliver an unexpected experience on every level.

He was primed to take the series in a fascinating new direction.  Not only did Gray come to the table with innovative ideas to ground the series, he also arrived on set sharing longstanding relationships with many of the Fast cast.  The filmmaker had directed Diesel in A Man Apart, Statham and Theron in The Italian Job, and Johnson in Be Cool.  Additionally, he knows Gibson and Bridges socially from entertainment industry functions, as well as his early days in the industry, when he directed music videos and TV commercials.

Gary Scott Thompson

Gary Scott Thompson (Based on Characters Created by) is the creator and executive producer of NBC’s hit series Las Vegas and the co-writer of the hit film The Fast and the Furious. GST (as he is known by cast and crew members) was born in Ukiah, California, but spent a formative part of his childhood in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Diesel was very pleased to see the talented filmmaker join the Fast & Furious family.  “I knew from A Man Apart what Gary could pull out in terms of a darker character.  I knew he would be perfect,” he commends.  “Gary is a director who, first and foremost, focuses with exactitude on performance; that’s why we have Oscar®-winning actors in this film.  We knew he was going to pay that much-needed attention to the nuances of performance that this chapter would call for.”

Gray knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish when he first met with the producers to discuss FF8’ signature tone and direction.

“Dom Toretto is always about family, and with this storyline it’s the absolute opposite of what you expect.  I wanted to be a part of delivering not only this different story, but delivering a performance that you’ve never seen from the entire cast.”

When all was said and done, family remains the cornerstone for the Fast family, both in front of the camera and behind.  The last 15 years has left an indelible impression, and the hope is that the film’s fierce fans feel it renewed.  Concludes Gray: “FF8 definitely represents a new beginning.  This is a new chapter in the Fast saga, and we set it off, for sure.”

 

Add Disney’s classic animated feature Beauty and The Beast to your collection

Beauty Blu RayBeauty and the Beast was the first animated feature to receive an Academy Award® nomination for best picture and won two Oscars® (best original score and best song), three Golden Globes® and four GRAMMY® Awards, among a multitude of other awards. The film was the first animated feature to gross more than $100 million at the box office in its initial release and the first Disney animated feature to become a stage musical production, one which subsequently ran on Broadway for 13 years and was translated into eight languages, playing in over 20 countries.

The Blu-Ray of the animated classic includes three versions of the film, the special extended edition, the original theatrical release, and the original theatrical release with storyreel picture-in-picture; as well as a backstage peek at Composing a Classic: A Musical conversation with Alan Menken, Don Hahn and Richard Kraft’as well as deleted scenes.

BEAUTY POSTERThe live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast is a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most enduring and beloved tales ever told, and one that has touched readers for centuries. Now, thanks to the artistry and imagination of director Bill Condon and a brilliant creative team, audiences of all ages are sure to be captivated by the story’s adventure, passion and romance once again.

If you want to win a Blu-Ray copy of the sensational animated Beauty and the Beast, tell us who wrote the screenplay for the live-action adaptation, and send us your name and contact details, with Beauty and The Beast in the subject line before April 30, 2017.

Enter competition here

 

 

“The delightful animated film from 1991 plays as classic animation, but if you want to go a level deeper into the story and into the songs and into the emotions, that’s what this live-action film delivers: a greater depth of emotions.”

The live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast is a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most enduring and beloved tales ever told, and one that has touched readers for centuries. Now, thanks to the artistry and imagination of director Bill Condon and a brilliant creative team, audiences of all ages are sure to be captivated by the story’s adventure, passion and romance once again.

Emma Watson stars as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic directed by Bill Condon.

Emma Watson stars as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic directed by Bill Condon.

The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within.

Beauty Comes From Within

The classic tale of Beauty and the Beast – and its empowering message that true beauty comes from within – dates back to 18th century France and the first published version of the fairy tale, “La Belle et la Bête,” by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Today, the themes are still just as relevant and the story continues to enthrall storytellers, resulting in countless interpretations across all forms of media, but it is Disney’s Oscar®-nominated animated film from 1991 which has been the definitive version.

One of the studio’s most treasured titles, Beauty and the Beast was released during Disney’s second golden age of animation, along with “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin,” among others, and was immediately hailed as a cinematic masterpiece. As spellbindingly romantic as it is comedic, “Beauty and the Beast” is an unforgettable tale of love and friendship that transports readers to a magical fairy tale world where good triumphs over evil.

Bill-Condon-and-Emma-Watson-on-the-set-of-Beauty-and-the-Beast

Bill Condon and Emma Watson on the set of Beauty and theBeast

Beauty and the Beast was the first animated feature to receive an Academy Award® nomination for best picture and won two Oscars® (best original score and best song), three Golden Globes® and four GRAMMY® Awards, among a multitude of other awards. The film was the first animated feature to gross more than $100 million at the box office in its initial release and the first Disney animated feature to become a stage musical production, one which subsequently ran on Broadway for 13 years and was translated into eight languages, playing in over 20 countries.

The studio felt an adaptation of the story of a kindhearted maiden and her beastly prince had the potential to enchant audiences once again, but when the studio pitched the idea to Bill Condon, his initial fear was remaking something that is flawless as is. “I consider the 1991 film to be a perfect movie,” Condon says. “When the film was released it was groundbreaking, in the way the story was told and with that incredible score from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, so I initially did not want to go near it.”

But the Oscar®-winning director, whose resume includes such diverse films as “Dreamgirls,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts I and 2,” “Mr. Holmes” and “Kinsey,” soon realized the time was right for a live-action adaptation. A consummate storyteller, Condon could already visualize the story’s cinematic potential. “It is 25 years later and technology has caught up to the ideas that were introduced in the animated movie,” he explains. “Now it is possible, for the first time, to create a photo-real version of a talking teacup on a practical set in a completely realistic live action format.”

For the director, the allure of “Beauty and the Beast” was twofold: It was a chance to make a movie musical that is a tribute to the musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and an opportunity to revisit a story he connects with emotionally and to dig deeper into the characters to find out what makes them tick. The director has an encyclopedic knowledge of musicals and a clear understanding of how story and music converse with one another, and saw the film as a chance to bring back the musical genre.

He explains, “When I was growing up people would say theater was dying, and theater has been dying for centuries now. I think the same thing can be said about the movie musical, not for centuries, but it has sort of been dying for the last 50 years. I want audiences to embrace the form and understand that, at its best, music and movies and musical numbers in movies don’t distract, they don’t interrupt, they deepen and help create meaning. If you’re moved by something, you’re more moved when you hear some of those Alan Menken notes or hear some of those Howard Ashman lyrics.”

Emma Watson says, “Any time I hear music from ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ it connects me with that childlike feeling that everything is going to be okay and that there’s hope in the world, and it just gives me this sense that everything’s fine.”

According to Academy Award®-nominated producer David Hoberman (“The Fighter,” “The Muppets”), “Bill was the perfect choice. He has an intimate knowledge of the fairy tale ‘Beauty and the Beast’ going back to the first written version, he is a big fan of acclaimed French director Jean Cocteau’s 1946 avant garde take on the story and he has seen the Broadway production multiple times, so he was already an aficionado.”

Working with co-screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” “Hercules”) and Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Rent”), Condon set out to expand upon the story’s timeless themes and add more depth and dimension to the familiar characters while still celebrating the animated film and its legacy. “There have been some recent movies that have been top to bottom reinventions or stories as seen from another character’s point of view or something,” he says. “This is not that. What we wanted to do was bring the story more into reality, not create a new story.”

He continues, “It is an honor to have a chance to create something that is both reverential of the original and somewhat of a modernization at the same time, but it is also intimidating. This is a story that has lived in many forms and in many languages, and to have an opportunity to work with state-of-the-art technology and an amazing cast is such a blessing. I hope that, because this movie is so loved, we’ll be able to answer questions that fans may not have even realized they had about Belle and about the Beast specifically, and how they came to be who they are today.”

The film offers a glimpse into the Prince’s life before he became the Beast and what turned him into a man who deserves to be cursed. It also expands on Belle’s life before she goes to the castle and meets the Beast and helps explain what the two have in common and what made them who they are today.

Woven into the fabric of the story are outstanding new songs from eight-time Oscar®-winning composer Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas”) and veteran lyricist and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (“The Lion King,” “Evita”), and because Condon is a fan of musical theatre and knows all the songs and musical references, it made Menken’s job that much easier. “Bill really knows his stuff,” says the composer, “So we were able to begin working with a lot of tools already at our disposal and a lot of reference points we could discuss immediately. Bill is a micromanager in the best sense of the word because he is genuinely concerned with each element in the story and the music.”

In Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic, Emma Watson stars as Belle and Kevin Kline is Maurice, Belle's father.  The story and characters audiences know and love are brought to life in this stunning cinematic event...a celebration of one of the most beloved tales ever told.

In Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic, Emma Watson stars as Belle and Kevin Kline is Maurice, Belle’s father. The story and characters audiences know and love are brought to life in this stunning cinematic event…a celebration of one of the most beloved tales ever told.

Be Our Guest

The live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast” is a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most enduring and beloved tales ever told, and one that has touched readers for centuries. Now, thanks to the artistry and imagination of director Bill Condon and a brilliant creative team, audiences of all ages are sure to be captivated by the story’s adventure, passion and romance once again.

According to Condon, “The delightful animated film from 1991 plays as classic animation, but if you want to go a level deeper into the story and into the songs and into the emotions, that’s what this live-action film delivers: a greater depth of emotions.”

“It’s rare during principal photography when everyone on set is happy, but on this film where we had hundreds of people on set every day, everyone was genuinely pleased to be there,” says Ian McKellen. “Many of them had been working since the early hours of the morning, but I never heard a single word of complaint from anyone, technician or performer, and that speaks very well for the film.”

“I feel very lucky to have been given the chance to work with this material,” says Condon. “There’s something about this story – and specifically the score, which was written 25 years ago – that is just magical, and I think that’s what still draws people in and is what makes this such a special experience.”

 

As Europe recoiled against the work of Monet, Degas and Renoir, Americans embraced it and created their own style of impressionism.

Following the success of the previous seasons of Exhibition on Screen productions at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas, the fourth season is currently underway. The second docu-film is a fascinating look at the Impressionist movement from an American perspective, and is titled The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism.

The film, which releases at Nouveau cinemas on Saturday, 15 April for limited screenings, is directed by Phil Grabsky and narrated by actress Gillian Anderson.

Philip Leslie Hale, CRIMSON RAMBLER, 1909-PAFA (1)

Philip Leslie Hale, CRIMSON RAMBLER, 1909-PAFA

Taking its lead from French artists such as Renoir and Monet, the American impressionist movement followed its own path, which over a 40-year period reveals as much about America as a nation as it does about a much-loved artistic movement. It’s a story closely tied to a love of gardens and a desire to preserve nature in a rapidly urbanising nation. Travelling to studios, gardens and iconic locations throughout the United States, the UK and France, this mesmerising film is a visual feast.

In 1886, the French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel brought a selection of his huge stock of impressionist paintings to New York, changing the course of art in America forever. American artists flocked to the French village of Giverny, home to the master impressionist Claude Monet, and cheered the French new wave: painting outdoors with a new found brilliance and vitality. As Europe recoiled against the work of Monet, Degas and Renoir, Americans embraced it and created their own style of impressionism.

The timing of Durand-Ruel’s transformative visit was perfect. As America steamed into the Industrial Age, urban reformers fought to create public parks and gardens: patches of beauty amid smokestacks and ash heaps. These gardens provided unlimited inspiration for artists and a never-ending oasis for the growing middle class, made up of increasingly independent women, who relished the writings of English horticulturalists Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson. Meanwhile, the rise of wide-circulation magazines cultivated the idea that gardening was a path to spiritual renewal amid industrial blight and the belief that artists should work in native landscapes.

ARTISTS GARDEN

As America made its epic move from a nation of farmers to a land of factories, the pioneering American Impressionists crafted a sumptuous visual language that told the story of an era.

The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism features the sell-out exhibition The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887–1920 that began at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia – the birthplace of the American garden movement, and ended at the Florence Griswold Museum in Connecticut, widely considered the home of American impressionism.

With Exhibition on Screen, award-winning arts documentary maker Phil Grabsky & Seventh Art Productions are again set to delight art lovers in more than 40 countries, including South Africa.

The next two productions in the current season include: The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch on 06 May; and Michelangelo: Love and Death from 17 June. These films take cinema audiences behind the scenes to discover what lies behind the artists and their paintings, both creatively and technically. What each artwork reveals about the artist and the particular historical period is also uncovered.

Filmed exclusively for cinema at the exhibitions and on location, this ground-breaking series allows art lovers worldwide to enjoy, marvel at and delight in the amazing works of some of history’s most foremost painters on the big screen and in stunning high definition.

The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism releases on Saturday, 15 April for four screenings only: 15, 19 and 20 April at 19:30, and on 16 April at 14:30 – at Rosebank Nouveau in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Nouveau in Pretoria, Ster-Kinekor Gateway Nouveau in Durban and at V&A Nouveau in Cape Town.  Bookings are now open, and the running time of this production is 100 minutes.

For booking information, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Download the Ster-Kinekor App on your smart phone for updates, news and to book. Follow Nouveau on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For more information, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

 

 

This not-to-be-missed sensation offers everything you can ask of world-class entertainment and much, much more.

Review by Daniel Dercksen (10/04/17) 

If there’s one gateway to blissful showbiz, it’s the super sumptuous and glamorous Gate 69, a cosy and intimate pleasure palace where Brendan van Rhyn‘s divine creation Cathy and the Trolley Dollies offers five-star entertainment.
When you arrive at Gate 69 and are greeted by the regal Cathy Specific, you know you are in for a night you will never forget.
Trolley Dollies pic 3
With the art of drag being celebrated with the Priscilla musical, real-life drag divas Cathy Specific and her trolley dollies, the delicious Christopher Dudgeon and Rudi Jansen, are wowing audiences with this not-to-be-missed sensation that offers everything you can ask of world-class entertainment and much, much more.

Written by van Rhyn, Cathy and the Trolley Dollies is rip-roaring stand-up comedy meets musical revue, meets cabaret, a saucy satirical take on the airline industry as seen through the eyes of three 8ft aviation goddesses.

Big-haired beauties

This one-of-a-kind drag troupe, three Amazonian, big-haired beauties find themselves back at work after a three-month suspension. Demoted and down in the dumps, they capture our hopes, dreams, tears, fears, traumas and tantrums about flying.

They take us on a behind-the-scenes look at the glamorous or (not-so-glamorous) life of a flight attendant. Secrets are shared and stories are told as we indulge in a first-class dining experience during the show.
Entertainment today is largely dished up as yesterday’s left overs, but with Cathy and The Trolley Dollies we get a feast that is as fresh as daisies and colourful as a rainbow.

Polished and preened delight

When Van Rhyn as Cathy Specific pours his heart out singing Dr. Longjohn, it rips through your soul like a tidal wave. Van Rhyn is blessed with a unique talent of mesmerising his audience with the iconic Cathy, a classy act that knows no equal, his biting humour is infectious, and vocally he is at the top of his game.
Teamed up with Dudgeon and Jansen, it’s a match made in cabaret heaven, a polished and preened delight that amuses, astounds and leaves one breathless.
The trio’s alluring passion is genuine, without any pretense, and holds nothing back.
Equally memorable is Dudgeon’s dead-pan Grin It and Bare It and Jansen’s riotous Sewe Sakke Sout, as well as unforgettable renditions of Mein Herr, You Can Drive A Person Crazy and Proud Mary.
At the end of the show, you have made three new friends as these gals are women we all desperately need in real life, showing us that naughty can be nice, and that nice can be as spicy as hell.
Trolley Dollies pic 1

Deliciously devilish goddesses

What makes the show work effectively well is that it deals with relevant issues anyone can relate to, and gives us a unique opportunity to enter the wacky mindscape of those in the service industry who always welcome us with a smile and embrace us with motherly affection, killing us with their imperious affection.
Now we know! Behind the façade of friendliness lurk deliciously devilish goddesses of camp that masterfully turn frowns upside down and rattle our cages, daring to venture where angels fear to tread.
Escape into the world of Cathy and her Trolley Dollies at Gate 69 with friends, family or loved ones, a pleasure palace that also serves up delightful dishes with impeccable service, feeding our body and soul with meaningful and heartfelt entertainment.
There’s only one major problem with the show, you don’t want it to end and remain seated on their flight of eternal bliss.

Let’s hope that larger than life Cathy and her Dollies will keep on doing what they do best.Cathy and the Trolley Dollies runs every Wednesday and Thursday evening until the end of June. Tickets at R550 per person which includes designer mezze served on a double-tiered Lazy Susan, a separate hot soup and bread service and dessert. Go to www.gate69.co.za for more info.

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A dreamer’s tale, a cautionary tale, Gold, in the way of classic adventure storytelling, exposes the true nature of men. Whether you’re working out of a dive bar in Reno or in the gilded towers of Wall Street, the pursuit of gold reduces all men to their purest elements.

Gold, inspired by actual events, is the epic tale of one man’s American dream and everything he’ll do to keep it from falling apart.

GOLD

Matthew McConaughey stars as Kenny Wells, who embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of America, so he sells his last possessions and drops off the edge of earth, heading to Indonesia where he teams up with this mythic geologist, the “river walker,” Mike Acosta, played by Edgar Ramirez – they battle nature, the NYC financial establishment, conspiracies inside of conspiracies, but most of all they test their faith in themselves.

The screenplay for Gold was written by Patrick Massett and John Zinman (Friday Night Lights), who also serve as producers, and directed by Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan (Syriana, Traffic)

Matthew McConaughey stars as Kenny Wells, who embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of America, a man raised in the mining business, the type of men, like his own father, who aren’t afraid to go out in the mountains and dig fortune from the ground…

The Inspiration

The global financial crisis was destroying the economy, with many terming it the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was 2008. Everyone was struggling–losing jobs, losing homes.

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Patrick co-wrote Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie. His television writing career began with “Veritas: The Quest” at ABC, which he and his partner John Zinman co-created and executive produced. He then went on to co-executive produce the Emmy Award-winning “Friday Night Lights” at NBC, “The Chicago Code” at FOX and “Last Resort” at ABC with executive producer Shawn Ryan. He most recently co-executive produced “The Blacklist” starring James Spader at NBC. Patrick currently has the feature The Wild One Hundreds in production, starring Gary Oldman and directed by Gary Fleder. He and John Zinman currently have an overall television deal at Sony Pictures Entertainment. John co-wrote Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie. His television writing career began with “Veritas: The Quest” at ABC, which he and his partner Patrick Massett co-created and executive produced. He then went on to co-executive produce the Emmy Award-winning “Friday Night Lights” at NBC, “The Chicago Code” at FOX and “Last Resort” at ABC with executive producer Shawn Ryan. He most recently co-executive produced “The Blacklist” starring James Spader at NBC. John currently has the feature The Wild One Hundreds in production, starring Gary Oldman and directed by Gary Fleder. He and Patrick Massett currently have an overall television deal at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

In Los Angeles, screenwriter/producer partners Patrick Massett and John Zinman stumbled upon an article about the Bre-X gold scandal of the 1990s, in which the Canadian company Bre-X Minerals Ltd. reported the discovery of a huge gold deposit in Indonesia, courtesy of a mining entrepreneur who’d teamed up with a geologist. Initially a mere penny stock, Bre-X soared with billions in enthusiastic capitalization.

Money was on everybody’s minds now. Remembers screenwriter/producer John Zinman, “A lot was going on in the country with the financial crisis and the 1% movement with the growing disparity in the country, and this story seemed to ring a lot of those bells.”

So the screenwriting duo transplanted the notion to the US in the 1980s, creating the fictitious character of Kenny Wells, a Reno prospector with a loyal girlfriend named Kay, a brainy geologist partner named Mike Acosta, and a deep-seated desire to make something of himself. “We pitched it to a lot of places and everyone passed,” says Masset. “But we loved it and believed in it and thought there was such a great character in Kenny Wells and such a great world that nobody had ever seen in modern times, although there were some elements of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. But this is so global.”

The more they thought about it, the more they believed in Kenny Wells. Massett points out, “We really love characters that are underdogs, that have to fight from the ground up to prove themselves and have something to prove, and Kenny is so colorful and so wonderful but he’d also hit rock bottom.”

Kenny was getting older without success.  “You reach a certain age,” muses Zinman, “and you reflect on the men you knew in your life growing up – – my father, friends of my father, the idea of what it means to be a success in America, a man who provides.”

So in 2009, Massett and Zinman wrote GOLD, a fast-moving, character-driven spec screenplay with a colorful plot full of twists and turns, all of it brimming with wit and personality as it spanned a sprawling global scope. Plus, it had a provocative mystery at its core.

The screenplay got everyone’s attention, quickly making it onto Hollywood’s Black List of best unproduced scripts. The writers decided that rather than auction off the script, they wanted to partner with a production company so they could stay involved. And they wanted a partner who responded to the themes that intrigued them.

“Every single person at some point has to go out into the world and make something out of themselves,” reasons Zinman. “It explores ambition, ideas of self worth, and at its core it’s a story of friendship. These two guys—Kenny Wells and Mike Acosta–share certain needs. They both have the drive to be reconsidered in a more favorable light. They recognize something in each other – – whether it’s deception or collusion, the friendship is the glue that holds the other themes together.”

From Massett’s viewpoint, “Kay accepts Kenny as he is, but Kenny wants to be better than that. That’s a Western American theme in men – – our identity is so attached to our material value and our title.”

Suggests Massett, “In a nutshell, it asks, what profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul?”

Adds Zinman, “And it’s about belonging! Kenny thinks, if these fuckers won’t let me in their club, I’ll buy their fucking club. So the need to belong is a theme that propels Kenny’s character.”

Producers Join Up

Massett and Zinman found somebody who responded to those themes in producer Michael Nozik at HWY61, who read the script in 2010, optioned it, and began developing the project with them.

Suggests Nozik, “Kenny Wells is a classic American character who goes from rags to riches, to rags to riches again. It’s a terrific dramatic adventure story with an iconic character. It seems like the reinvention of Willy Loman in a more modern-day setting.”

Indeed, Death of a Salesman was one of the screenplay’s inspirations and a movie discussed more during development. “Loman is about the dream of being a great man,” says Massett. “I don’t think we get as dark as Arthur Miller with Willy Loman, but there’s certainly that broken American dream.”

Another influence was Glengarry Glen Ross. Points out Zinman, “Jack Lemmon’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross – – that humanity, the slight desperation beneath his bonhomie, that story was definitely a touchstone for us and he was a touchstone.”

Directors responded to the script—among them, Nozik’s partner Paul Haggis, then Michael Mann, but the financing didn’t come together.

Then Black Bear Pictures founder Teddy Schwarzman expressed interest in partnering on the project, and began talks with Nozik, Massett, and Zinman. In 2012, Black Bear became officially involved.

Recognizes Schwarzman, “Everything starts with a screenplay that captivates you. For me, the characters were so rich, the world was so diverse, but ultimately thematically it was a story about the American dream. It’s a story about what it takes to achieve that dream – – about the lengths to which you will go and the things you will sacrifice. I think that’s the struggle that every American feels and everybody across the world feels. While Kenny Wells is very distinct in his mannerisms and his style of doing business, I think there’s a little bit of Kenny in everybody and there certainly was in myself, and I was just captivated with the story and wanted to bring it to the screen.”

TeddySchwarzman_credit_Mia_McDonald

Teddy Schwarzman serves as president and CEO of Black Bear Pictures, overseeing all operations of the company, including development, production, and finance. Schwarzman has produced a range of filmed content, including Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, Academy Award winner for Best Adapted Screenplay and nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture

It all crystallized for Schwarzman, who points out: “It does hearken back to some great films like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Man Who Would Be King. There’s something classic about the storytelling here and the characters, and yet at the same time it’s completely contemporary despite being in the 1980s. It’s themes that we’re still dealing with today, and issues that we all struggle with in our daily lives – – greed, ambition, betrayal, honesty, hope, futility, desperation, it’s all here. It’s a wild ride that takes you from the small mining town of Reno to the heart of the Indonesian jungle to the board rooms of Wall Street, where everything that you think you know, you may not.”

Schwarzman became an avid proponent of the project, and wouldn’t give up. “We bought the script outright in 2014,” he remembers.

Massett and Zinman saw new momentum mounting, with Massett noting, “Teddy’s a trooper. He fights. He’s got passion. He reminds me of the old-school Hollywood producers. He gets behind the projects he believes in and he doesn’t let go. It’s rare and special. He’s a very special producer. A lot of times, producers just follow the money. They gravitate to the projects where money is flowing. Teddy pushes the projects he loves to the money, so they get made.”

Matthew Mcconaughey Becomes A Gold Producer

GOLD 2

Matthew McConaughey, showing again why he’s one of the greatest actors alive, made a complete physical transformation — with a bald head and some unfortunate local dentistry, the addition of 40 lbs gained through a diet of beer, cheeseburgers, and milkshakes – to bring to life this American original

Around now, Matthew McConaughey expressed interest in GOLD. Recalls Schwarzman, “Matthew got involved through a great deal of luck, to be honest. We were very much thinking of going to a director first, but the script got out into the ether and Matthew read it and there was something he responded to in a very personal way to the character of Kenny Wells.”

The actor had movies already booked out ahead for several months, but he wanted to join Gold as its star and a producer.

Explains McConaughey, “It was one of the few scripts that I said, I have to do this. I have to be this guy.”

Specifically, Kenny Wells reminded McConaughey of a fellow named Chicago John who his father had introduced him to briefly in 1987 in Texas. “My dad took me the day before Christmas to Wal-Mart to get some stocking stuffers. On the way, he pulled over behind this abandoned shopping strip mall. There was this old white van down there and out of that white van came this guy, Chicago John. In the back of that van, he had washing machines, dishwashers, old microwaves, telephones, gadgets, all kinds of shit,” recalls McConaughey. “My dad goes over there and swaps some cash. My dad gets back in the car and says, Here, here, and wraps this thing up in some paper towels and says, put that in the glove compartment.” After driving away, his dad let him unwrap the purchase. “And in there was this silver and gold watch. He goes, `God damn! This is a $24,000 Rolex made of titanium and I just bought it for four grand!’”

McConaughey explains, “And when I read this thing about Kenny Wells, it had who I thought Chicago John was, the story I had created for him over the years, and a little bit of who my father was. My father invested in a diamond mine in Ecuador. There were no diamonds in Ecuador! He got over there and got his machete and hacked through the jungle. We always used to like to say to dad, Boy, if it was a shitty deal, he wanted in. He’d rather that it be a shitty deal but work with some really fun people and have it be an adventure, than have it be a really good deal and work with a bunch of stiffs. And so, in my impression of who Chicago John was and who my dad was at that time, there is a whole lot of Kenny Wells.”

The way McConaughey perceives Kenny Wells is, “Kenny is a great big dreamer. He’s got a lot of dreams. When we meet him, he’s at the bottom of the barrel; he’s not doing too well. He took over his father’s company which was very successful and he’s run it into the ground. He literally gets drunk enough that he has a vision. He has a dream one night that there is gold over in this place that he’s been to some years earlier, and he’s brave enough to follow-up on that dream.”

Overall, McConaughey contends, “The story for me is really about what a man like Kenny Wells will do to keep his dreams alive. How far will he go? And he will go all the way.”

As far as producing, McConaughey says, “It was very important to me because I understood this story and this character that I wanted to be part of how the ship sails, where we go, what direction we head, from finding the director to all the characters’ stories and relationships. I wanted to make sure I had a creative hand in that, at least to the approval standpoint.”

Writer/producers Massett and Zinman had not envisioned McConaughey in the role when writing it, but, says Zinman, “Once Matthew entered the conversation, it was like a light bulb. He has the right energy!”

Director Stephen Gaghan Comes Onboard

Who to direct? Stephen Gaghan, the writer of Traffic and writer/director of Syriana, had certainly proven his cinematic prowess with global material dealing with current events.

If you meet Massett and Zinman you’ll think immediately the big guy is the brawler and the smaller guy is the poet. Then you’d have it backwards. Or maybe they’re both brawlers and poets. They did great work for years on “Friday Night Lights”.  I knew them long before I got a look at Gold. They’d say “we’re writing a script on a gold prospector, modern day. I’d say that’s a great idea. They’d say, oh Michael Mann is directing it. I’d say, lucky you. When I finally got my eyes on it, the films that leapt to mind weren’t just Treasure of Sierra Madre, and Wages of Fear, the classics of adventure storytelling with a point, but films like Midnight Cowboy, and The Last Detail, in other words my favorite films.

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Filmmaker Stephen Gaghan is probably best known for directing the critically acclaimed geopolitical thriller Syriana, and for writing the Academy Award nominated crime drama Traffic, for which he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Syriana, starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Jeffrey Wright, earned Gaghan his second Oscar nomination for writing and was awarded the National Board of Review “Best Screenplay of 2005.” Additionally, it was nominated for several Academy Awards, including a win for Best Supporting Actor for George Clooney. As with Syriana, Gaghan proved himself a master of orchestrating several parallel storylines and multiple settings on Traffic, a film that explores the corruption of America’s war on drugs. Gaghan garnered numerous awards and nominations including wins for the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and WGA. For his work in television, Gaghan won an Emmy for writing an episode of “NYPD Blue” and has more recently written and directed the 2011 pilot Metro (20th/NBC), and directed the 2014 pilot White City for AMC. Additional film writing credits include Havoc (2005), The Alamo (2004), Rules of Engagement (2000), and Abandon (2002), which he also directed.

“When Stephen read the script and came to us,” Schwarzman remembers, “he just knew the characters. He simply understood the world, understood the characters, and understood the struggle – – the struggle to matter, the struggle to prove yourself, not about how much money you can make, but about the impact you can have in the world and what that says about yourself. And it became a personal story for him as well.”

Producer Michael Nozik already had a relationship with Gaghan, having been a producer on Syriana, “So I knew he was particularly good at handling stories that have ambiguity in them. He loves to live in the world of ambiguity. And this is a story with essential ambiguity. Is the lead character guilty or innocent? Is he somebody you love, somebody you can be engaged with? Stephen has an interest in big themes, and themes about the American experience, and in some ways this is a story that reinvents itself.”

As for movie inspirations, “We all talked about The Treasure of the Sierra Madre as an archetype – – you go out in the desert and the blindness of gold and the ambition of greed blinds people to their own desires, and makes people do crazy things that aren’t part of their personality. Kenny is somebody who is at times blinded not by greed, but by the ambition to succeed,” reasons Nozik. “Stephen was very understanding of this character as an archetypal American. He’s very specific but he lives in the bigger realm of an archetypal character, a Willy Loman, who has become archetypal in American literature and the American experience – – the salesman that won’t ever die.”

The essential struggle to make a living resonated too with Schwarzman, who observes, “There’s elements of truth in movies like Glengarry Glen Ross, Wall Street, Boiler Room even, where you see art imitating life and our Three Greenhorns was very indicative of that: people who had been hit by the stock crash of ‘87, people who were trying to find their way through the world who believed that they were entrepreneurs who could find a way to succeed. What they were doing is no different than what people in lots of different industries who were hit by economic decline were trying to do, which is survive and thrive.”

Assesses executive producer Ben Stillman, “GOLD is a script that required a certain delicacy and intelligence while also being really fun. Steve totally understood that from the beginning. Part of his pitch was that the script would take care of itself on the intelligent side, while he would bring this energy and understanding of the relationships at the core, whether it would be Wells and Acosta and that buddy relationship, which he did great work to make even realer, or the relationship between Kay and Kenny, which is the central part of the movie, really the heart of it.”

McConaughey had his own questions for Gaghan: “I wanted to find out, as a producer and actor, do we have the same measure and threshold of what we consider excellence? Of what is a good scene, of what is a really good take? Of what is a really good choice for who could play Acosta or Kay or someone else? And do we have the same sense of humor? You know, behavioral humor. Kenny Wells is a really funny guy. He has his own moments where he’s trying to be his own standup comedian and tell his jokes, but it’s mainly real behavior from who the guy is. And another sensibility is, do you have a similar sense of what’s cool? And by that I mean, obviously trying to be cool is not cool. Characters and people that know who they are, for right or for wrong, that’s cool.”

Gaghan joined the project in 2014. McConaughey worked with him on fine-tuning scenes, as when Kenny and Acosta go to Danny Suharto. McConaughey reasons, “It’s their last chance! It’s like it’s fourth and one from our own one-yard line, and we have to throw a Hail Mary to get this deal and to get him to come on board and be a partner. What was written was originally a nice page of dialogue where Kenny sits down and says a very out of place joke about Cadillacs and pussy and stuff, and Mike thinks, oh geez, Kenny spoke out of tongue, we’re gonna lose the deal. Then Danny loves it. He goes, I love Cadillacs! I actually have a Cadillac.”

McConaughey remembers, “I told Stephen, we’ve seen Kenny use that version of salesmanship throughout the story. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This being fourth and one from our own one, something else has to happen! The stakes have to be higher. It has to cost more. It has to be harder to pull it off. Stephen came up with the idea that Danny owns a tiger.”

Sonya Yoncheva reprises her widely praised interpretation of one of opera’s most beloved heroines

Opera lovers are in for a treat when the next production from the current Met: Live in HD season – Giuseppe Verdi’s famous opera La Traviata – releases on the big screen at Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas nationally from Saturday, 08 April for limited screenings.

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Sonya Yoncheva reprises her widely praised interpretation of one of opera’s most beloved heroines, the tragic courtesan Violetta, a role in which she triumphed on the Met stage in 2015. Playing opposite her is Michael Fabiano as her lover, Alfredo, with Thomas Hampson in one of his most acclaimed Met roles as Alfredo’s protective father, Giorgio Germont.

Sonya Yoncheva has sung Violetta Valéry to critical acclaim at the Met in 2015, as well as with the Berlin State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, and Royal Opera, Covent Garden. She made her Met debut in 2013 as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, followed by widely acclaimed company role debuts as Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème and Desdemona in the Met’s 2015 season premiere of Verdi’s Otello. She can be seen later this year as a soloist in the Met’s 50th Anniversary at Lincoln Center Gala in May, followed by reprising Mimì at La Scala and Violetta at the Bavarian State Opera. During the Met’s 2017-18 season, she will sing the Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Mimì in La Bohème, and Luisa in Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

“Traviata shines anew at the Met” (Huffington Post), as Sonya Yoncheva “grows into her stardom” (New York Times) as Violetta opposite Michael Fabiano’s “white-hot take” (New York Observer) on Alfredo. San Francisco Opera Music

 

La Traviata is based on the play La Dame aux Camélias, which was adapted from the novel with the same title written by Alexandre Dumas, known frequently in English as Camille. The opera premiered at La Fenice on March 6, 1853 and received mostly negative reviews due to the casting of soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli as Violetta.

At the time, although she was an acclaimed singer, she was considered too old for the role at the age of 38 and too heavy to play a young woman dying of consumption. Following the opening, Verdi rewrote sections of Acts 2 and 3, and re-opened the opera on May 6, 1854 at Teatro San Benedetto in Venice to much greater success, this time starring a much younger coloratura soprano, Maria Spezia-Aldighieri.

Verdi’s opera is the fourth-most-staged work at the Met, with 996 performances to date. The opera premiered during the company’s opening season on November 5, 1883 starring Emily Lablache as Violetta, Victor Capoul as Alfredo, and Giuseppe Del Puente as Giorgio Germont. Many notable Met sopranos have sung the role of Violetta, including Maria Callas, Nellie Melba, Joan Sutherland, and Beverly Sills, with Licia Albanese singing a record number of 87 performances of the role with the company.

Director Nicola Luisotti conducts all performances, including the 11 March matinee performance that was filmed for broadcast to cinemas worldwide, including South Africa, as part of the 11th season of the Met’s Live in HD series, which now reaches more than 2000 movie theatres in 71 countries around the world.

Screening times for La Traviata at Nouveau (Rosebank Mall, JHB; Brooklyn Mall, PTA; SK Gateway Commercial, DBN; and V&A Waterfront, CT) and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas are as follows: 08 April at 17:00; 09 April at 14:30; 11 and 19 April at 11:30; and 18 April at 18:00. The running time is 2hrs and 33mins, including an interval.

For more information and to make bookings for La Traviata, part of The Met: Live in HD season, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For information, call Ticketline on 0861-Movies (668 437).

Now in its eleventh year, The Met: Live in HD series is screened in cinemas around the world, including exclusive releases at Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas in South Africa. The Met’s new season presents ten opulent, full-length operas including five new productions, three of which are new to the series. The series has become a global phenomenon with more than 19 million tickets sold since its inception ten years ago.

These grand operas, filmed at the iconic Metropolitan Opera House, feature some of the world’s most talented singers, conductors, composers, orchestra musicians, stage directors, designers, visual artists, choreographers and dancers.

With these exclusive productions, Nouveau continues to give local audiences the opportunity to witness these spectacular ‘live’ opera productions broadcast on the big screen, in full digital projection, at various sites across South Africa. Past productions have received critical acclaim and gained recognition around the world.

View the Met: Live in HD 2016/17 season trailer here: https://youtu.be/cEG9JfPWXs8?list=RDcEG9JfPWXs8

The Met: Live in HD – 2016-17 Schedule

The final three productions in the current season are Idomeneo by Wolfang Amadeus Mozart (24 April), Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (20 May), and Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (10 June).

 

See Ibsen’s masterpiece with fresh eyes and to recognise that, even in the age of instant divorce, there are still modern Heddas helplessly trapped in loveless bondage.

Hedda Gabler – the acclaimed production of Norwegian  playwright Henrik Ibsen classic play filmed live at London’s National Theatre – is the next National Theatre Live (NT Live) broadcast to be screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas from Saturday 1 April, for limited screenings.

Hedda Gabler stars Olivier and Golden Globe winner Ruth Wilson (Luther, The Affair, Jane Eyre) in the title role, and also features Prometheus’s Rafe Spall and Poldark’s Kyle Soller, with Nigerian-born actor Chukwudi Iwuji in the role of Lovborg.

Tony Award-winning director Ivo van Hove (A View from the Bridge, The Crucible on Broadway) returns to NT Live cinema screens with a modern production of Ibsen’s masterpiece in a new version by Patrick Marber (Notes on a Scandal, Closer).

In the play, new bride Hedda (Ruth Wilson) and her husband, Tesman (Kyle Soller), return from their honeymoon to find their relationship already in trouble. Trapped but determined, Hedda tries to control those around her, only to see her own world unravel.

Hedda Gabler releases on South African screens from Saturday, 01 April 2017, for four screenings only: on 01, 05 and 06 April at 19:30 and on 02 April at 14:30 at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and at Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Durban.

The running time is approximately 2hrs and 45mins, including an interval.

For booking information on Hedda Gabler, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

The next productions from NT Live to be screened at Cinema Nouveau are:

Twelfth Night (from 27 May 2017)

A ship is wrecked. Viola is washed ashore but her twin brother Sebastian is lost. Determined to survive, she steps out to explore a new land. So begins a whirlwind of mistaken identity and unrequited love.Directed by Simon Godwin (NT Live’s Man and Superman, The Beaux’ Stratagem), Tamsin Greig (Friday Night Dinner, Black Books, Episodes) is Malvolia in a new twist on Shakespeare’s classic comedy of mistaken identity.

Rozencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (03 June 2017)

Against the backdrop of Hamlet, two hapless minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, take centre stage.  As the young double act stumble their way in and out of the action of Shakespeare’s iconic drama, they become increasingly out of their depth as their version of the story unfolds. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, The Woman in Black), Joshua McGuire (The Hour) and David Haig (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Witness for the Prosecution) star in Tom Stoppard’s brilliantly funny situation comedy, broadcast from The Old Vic theatre in London. David Leveaux’s new production marks the 50th anniversary of the play that made a young Tom Stoppard’s name overnight.

Obsession (24 June 2017)

Gino is a drifter, down-at-heel and magnetically handsome. At a roadside restaurant he encounters husband and wife, Giuseppe and Giovanna. Irresistibly attracted to each other, Gino and Giovanna begin a fiery affair and plot to murder her husband. But, in this chilling tale of passion and destruction, the crime only serves to tear them apart. Jude Law (The Young Pope, Closer, The Talented Mr Ripley) stars in this new stage adaptation of Obsession, broadcast live from the Barbican Theatre in London. Ivo van Hove (NT Live: A View from the Bridge, Hedda Gabler) directs this new stage adaptation of Luchino Visconti’s 1943 film.

Additional NT Live broadcasts in 2017 at Cinema Nouveau include:

  • Peter Pan (08 July), captured live at the National Theatre, this performance of JM Barrie’s much-loved tale screens as perfect cinema fare for the mid-year school holidays: All children, except one, grow up…
  • Salomé (22 July), directed by South African-born award-winning director Yaёl Farber;
  • Marianne Elliott’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America – Part I & II (19 Aug & 02 Sept), with Andrew Garfield, Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey; and
  • Yerma (23 Sept), Simon Stone’s radical production of Federico García Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece, with Billie Piper reprising the lead role.

Launched in 2009, National Theatre Live broadcasts have been seen by an audience of over 6.5 million people at 2500 venues in 60 countries. The first season began in June 2009 with the acclaimed production of Phédre starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren. Recent broadcasts include No Man’s Land with Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart, Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet live from the Barbican, Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus from the Donmar Warehouse, Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire from the Young Vic, James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors, Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch in Frankenstein and the multi award-winning War Horse.

Some Great New Titles To Add To Your DVD Collection

Unforgettable Hell And High Water

Hell Or High Waterin Hell Or High Water Texas brothers–Toby (Chris Pine), and Tanner (Ben Foster), come together after years divided to rob branches of the bank threatening to foreclose on their family land. For them, the hold-ups are just part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that seemed to have been stolen from under them. Justice seems to be theirs, until they find themselves on the radar of Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last grand pursuit on the eve of his retirement, and his half-Comanche partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their scheme, and with the Rangers on their heels, a showdown looms at the crossroads where the values of the Old and New West murderously collide. Go behind the scenes of this not to be missed film

We review Don’t Breathe, our DVD of the month

dont-breathe-2016During a time where housebreaking has become an everyday occurrence, the superb Don’t Breathe is guaranteed to curb crime and stop criminals dead in their tracks. In this shocking and enthralling thriller, writer-director Fede Alvarez goes for the jugular with an unapologetically brutal and twisted horror-thriller that pits a trio of thieves against an unexpectedly dangerous adversary. Read review

 

alone-in-berlinThe profoundly moving Alone In Berlin is directed by acclaimed actor turned filmmaker Vincent Perez (La Reine Margot),  who adapted revered German novelist Hans Fallada’s international bestseller Every Man Dies Alone / Alone In Berlin for the big screen with Achim von Borries (Good Bye Lenin!). Two-time Academy Award-winner Emma Thompson (Saving Mr Banks), three-time Golden Globe-nominee and Emmy Award winner (Into The Storm) Brendan Gleeson (The Guard), and Golden Globe-nominee Daniel Brühl (Rush) star in Alone In Berlin, a powerfully moving, true-life drama-thriller set in Second World War Berlin. Berlin alone_in_berlin-554986535-large1940. The city is paralyzed by fear. Otto and Anna Quangel are a working class couple living in a shabby apartment block trying, like everyone else, to stay out of trouble under Nazi rule. But when their only child is killed fighting at the front, their loss drives them to an extraordinary act of resistance. They start to drop anonymous postcards all over the city attacking Hitler and his regime. If caught, it means certain execution. Soon their campaign comes to the attention of the Gestapo inspector Escherich and a murderous game of cat-and-mouse begins. But the game serves only to strengthen Otto and Anna’s sense of purpose and a renewed love for each other. Slowly their drab lives and marriage are transformed as they unite in their quiet but profound rebellion… Watch the trailer / Go behind the scenes

Max SteelIn the action-packed Max Steele 16-year old Max (Ben Winchell) has just moved to a new town–and is desperately trying to fit in–when he discovers his body can generate the universe’s most powerful energy. Unbeknownst to Max, a slightly rebellious and hilarious techno-organic extraterrestrial named Steel has been keeping an eye on him, hungry for his super-human energy. When they finally meet, they discover that together they form Max Steel, a superhero possessing powerful strength beyond anything in our world. These two unlikely friends soon find themselves hunted by sinister forces who want to control Max’s powers, as well as an unstoppable enemy from another galaxy. Watch the trailer / Go behind the scenes

ManhattanBased on Colin Harrison’s acclaimed novel Manhattan Nocturne (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year), Manhattan Nocturne tells the story of Porter Wren (Adrien Brody), a New York City tabloid writer with an appetite for scandal. On the beat he sells murder, tragedy and anything that passes for the truth. At home he is a model family man, devoted to his loving wife (Jennifer Beals). But when a seductive stranger (Yvonne Strahovski) asks him to dig into the unsolved murder of her filmmaker husband Simon (Campbell Scott), he can’t resist. In this modern version of a classic film noir, we follow Porter as he is drawn into a very nasty case of sexual obsession and blackmail – one that threatens his job, his marriage, and his life. Watch the trailer

underworld-awakening-kate-beckinsale-werewolfThe fifth installment in the hugely successful series, Underworld: Blood Wars celebrates a return to the brooding aesthetic introduced in the original 2002 hit Underworld, directed by Anna Foerster (Outlander, Criminal Minds) from a screenplay by Cory Goodman (The Last Witch Hunter, Priest), story by Kyle Ward and Goodman, based on characters created by Kevin Grevioux and Len Wiseman & Danny McBride. Vampire Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that has betrayed her. Aided by her only allies, David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance), she must end the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice. Go behind the scenes / Trailer

23-indignationBased on Philip Roth’s late novel, Indignation takes place in 1951, as Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a brilliant working class Jewish boy from Newark, New Jersey, travels on scholarship to a small, conservative college in Ohio, thus exempting him from being drafted into the Korean War. But once there, Marcus’s growing infatuation with his beautiful classmate Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon), and his clashes with the college’s imposing Dean, Hawes Caudwell (Tracy Letts), put his and his family’s best laid plans to the ultimate test. Go behind the scenes / Watch the trailer

surfsup2-wwesurfersIn the fun animated comedy Surf’s Up 2: WaveMania an adventurous penguin convinces The Hang 5, a notorious big wave riding crew, to accompany him to a surfing location known as The Trenches, where the biggest waves in the world can be found. Watch the trailer

center-stage-first-look-photos-lifetime-movieTo solve its financial problems in the romantic dance-drama Center Stage: On Pointe, the American Ballet Academy (ABA), headed by Jonathan Reeves (Peter Gallagher), seeks to expand its repertoire from ballet to add the more popular contemporary dance. Tommy (Kenny Wormald), Charlie (Sascha Radetsky) and Cooper (Ethan Stiefel) start a competitive camp to recruit new dancers for ABA.Bella Parker (Nicole Muñoz), has always been in the shadow of her sister Kate (Rachele Brooke Smith), a famous ballet dancer. She changes her last name to avoid comparisons, and to her surprise, she is chosen for the camp. Bella has trouble fitting in, and instructor Lorenza (Sarah-Jane Redmond), a ballet snob, is brutally critical of Bella’s dancing. When she is partnered with quiet Damon (Barton Cowperthwite), however, she gains confidence, as the two open up to each other.Rumors surface about one of the dancers, Allegra (Maude Green), and the dancers take sides. Bella strives to remain focused as the day of final audition arrives. When Allegra loses her partner, Bella generously lends her Damon; but in a surprise twist, Bella joins the two on stage, and all three are accepted to ABA. Watch the trailer

DesiertoMexican Screenwriter Jonas Cuarón,  who made his major feature film writing debut in 2013 with the Academy Award-winning Gravity, now makes his feature film directorial debut with Desierto, the terrifying story of a group of people trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States who encounter a man who has taken border patrol duties into his own racist hands. In Desierto, Moises (Gael García Bernal) is traveling by foot with a group of undocumented workers across a desolate strip of the border between Mexico and the United States, seeking a new life in the North.  They are discovered by a lone American vigilante, Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and a frantic chase begins.  Set against the stunningly brutal landscape, Moises and Sam engage in a lethal match of wits, each desperate to survive and escape the desert that threatens to consume them. Watch the trailer / Go behind the scenes

Jou RomeoJou Romeo is ’n romantiese tienerkomedie wat by Hoërskool Monument in Krugersdorp afspeel. Yvette en Tyler droom al van graad agt af om Shakespeare se ‘Romeo en Juliet’ in hulle matriekjaar op die planke te bring. Die hoof, Meneer Kirby Potgieter, het egter ander planne – deur die kuns- en kultuurbegroting te sny, kan hy die krieket-klubhuis opgradeer en gevolglik die skool se T20-kriekettoernooi ’n nuwe baadjie gee. In ’n poging om te verseker dat die produksie steeds plaasvind, vra Yvette en Tyler die gewildste ou in die skool – Marko Marais – om die rol van Romeo te vertolk. Maar die cool kinders frons wanneer Marko sy krieketkolf vir ’n paar sykouse verruil… Nietemin slaag Yvette en Tyler se plan en hul vertoning is uitverkoop. Marko bevind homself in ’n tweestryd as hy besef Yvette is meer as net ’n drama nerd terwyl Yvette Marko ook anders begin sien as sy besef die sogenaamde jock is meer as net spiere en ’n mooi glimlag. Mildred, die skool se blogger en VJ, sorg dat die leerders op hoogte gehou word van Marko en Yvette se skynbare romanse… ’n Leuen dreig egter om hul te vervreem en om die opvoering te kelder. Terwyl Marko op die krieketveld moet uithaal en wys om sy droom te bewaarheid en sy reputasie te behou, vra Yvette haarself af of Marko werklik haar Romeo kan wees. Lokprent / Webtuiste

 

 

 

 

Refreshing and invigorating viewing for those who are brave enough to take the plunge.

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen (24/03/17)

During a time where housebreaking has become an everyday occurrence, the superb Don’t Breathe is guaranteed to curb crime and stop criminals dead in their tracks.

In this shocking and enthralling thriller, writer-director Fede Alvarez goes for the jugular with an unapologetically brutal and twisted horror-thriller that pits a trio of thieves against an unexpectedly dangerous adversary.

dont-breathe

It’s the second feature film from Alvarez, who raised hell with Evil Dead, now showing what happened when a trio of friends breaks into the house of a blind recluse confident of an easy score only to find themselves in a terrifying life-or-death struggle.

It’s not an exploitative rip-off or B-grade seen-it-all-before, but cleverly shows how a seemingly harmless crime can erupt into a nightmarish hell where death is the only outcome.

When the film opens with a young woman being dragged by her hair down the middle of a suburban street during the quiet, early hours of the morning, you know you are in for an out-of-this-world experience that offers something unique: a scary film that is truly frightening.

It’s a masterful cat-and-mouse chase in the tradition of the classic Wait Until Dark, between a relentless hunter and ensnared prey , where the tables turn and constantly spirals into bloody mayhem.

The hunted in Don’t Breathe are three ordinary young people who make the mistake of breaking into the house of a supposedly harmless victim, an action they soon regret and one they cannot escape from as the blind man becomes a conniving killer who cunning bravado leaves no mercy.

Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto as the three perpetrators and Stephen Lang as the old man deserve medals for their outstanding performances; there are moments in the film where the fear is so real, that its heightened realism causes tension you can cut with a knife.

Don’t be surprised if you stop breathing during the film. The good news is that it only gets more frightening, a cold fear that grabs hold of you and never lets go, until the very last moment that will hit you like a ton of bricks, and even then, you won’t be able to escape its rapturous wrath.

During a time where the horror genre is drowned in an onslaught of sequels and nothing original, Don’t Breathe offers refreshing and invigorating viewing for those who are brave enough to take the plunge.

Believe the title, and be assured that Don’t Breathe promises what it delivers, and takes your expectations to extreme measures.

It’s a shocking film with cruel intentions that is not malicious, but it will upset sensitive viewers, so be warned.

The good news is that the film is now available on DVD and Home Entertainment has never been more suitable for a film than this, offering the added pleasure of a delightful audio commentary by the writer-director Fede Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues, as well as actor Stephen Lang; there’s also some insightful doccies on how the film was made.

Read more about the film

“A fairy tale for our gilded era.”

Opera lovers are in for a treat with the Met Opera’s new staging of Dvořák’s Rusalka, a haunting love story inspired in part by Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Little Mermaid,  ”

There will be limited screenings at Nouveau and selected Ster-Kinekor cinemas from March 25.

RUS_8254c-LKristine Opolais stars as the mythical Rusalka, with Brandon Jovanovich as the Prince, Jamie Barton as the witch Jezibaba, Katarina Dalayman as the Foreign Princess, and Eric Owens as Rusalka’s father, the Water Sprite

The opera’s world premiere was staged at the National Theatre in Prague in 1901. The only one of Dvořák’s operas to gain an international following (so far), Rusalka is in many ways a definitive example of late Romanticism—containing folklore, evocations of the natural and the supernatural worlds, and even a poignant interpretation of the idea of a love-death.

The story has a strong national flavour as well as universal appeal, infused by the Romantic supernaturalism of Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s novella Undine (previously set as an opera by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Tchaikovsky, and others) and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

RUS_1982a-LKristine Opolais in the lead “gives a vocally lustrous and achingly vulnerable performance” (New York Times) in the role that played a significant part in launching her international career, the mythical Rusalka, who sings the haunting “Song to the Moon”.  This production marks Opolais’s first American appearances, following internationally acclaimed performances in Munich in 2010.

Director Mary Zimmerman brings her wondrous theatrical imagination to Dvořák’s fairytale of love and longing, rejection and redemption, giving the work “an inspired staging” (Huffington Post). Zimmerman embraces Rusalka’s fantastical side, calling it “a wonderful opera for a director because you get to imagine a world that is connected to this world but that has never really been, that’s imaginative”.  Sir Mark Elder conducts “a magnificent rendering of the composer’s lush score” (Huffington Post).

Brandon Jovanovich as the Prince, Jamie Barton as the witch Jezibaba, Katarina Dalayman as the Foreign Princess, and Eric Owens as Rusalka’s father, the Water Sprite, complete “a matchless cast” (New York Times).

Screening times for Rusalka at Nouveau (Rosebank Mall, JHB; Brooklyn Mall, PTA; Gateway Commercial, DBN; and V&A Waterfront, CT) and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas are as follows: 25 March at 17:00; 26 March at 14:30; 28 March and 05 April at 11:30; and 04 April at 18:00.

The running time is 3hrs and 40mins, with two intervals.

For booking information on Rusalka, as part of The Met: Live in HD season, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Nouveau. For information, call Ticketline on 0861-Movies (668 437).

Traviata_4093-s-L

Michael Fabiano as Alfredo and Sonya Yoncheva as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata. Photo by Marty Sohl

The final four productions in the current season are Verdi’s favourite La Traviata  (08 April), Idomeneo by Wolfang Amadeus Mozart (24 April), Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (20 May), and finally, Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (10 June).

Now in its eleventh year, The Met: Live in HD series is screened in cinemas around the world, including exclusive releases at Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas in South Africa. The Met’s new season presents ten opulent, full-length operas including five new productions, three of which are new to the series. The series has become a global phenomenon with more than 19 million tickets sold since its inception ten years ago.

These grand operas, filmed at the iconic Metropolitan Opera House, feature some of the world’s most talented singers, conductors, composers, orchestra musicians, stage directors, designers, visual artists, choreographers and dancers.

With these exclusive productions, Nouveau continues to give local audiences the opportunity to witness these spectacular ‘live’ opera productions broadcast on the big screen, in full digital projection, at various sites across South Africa.

 

 

 

Great new titles to add to your collection

Captivating Girl On The Train

the-girl-on-the-train

Once this spellbinding thriller grabs hold you it never let’s go, drawing you deeper into a mystery shrouded in a web of deceit and lies, corrupting innocent lives. In the tradition of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, this film allows us to experience the narrative from different points of view, constantly shifting gears from what we think we know, to total disbelief, and then ultimate enlightenment.  Emily Blunt is outstanding in the title role as a commuter captivated by the lives of people who lives in the houses the train passes,  catching daily glimpses of a seemingly perfect couple, Scott and Megan, from the window of her train. One day, Watson witnesses something shocking unfold in the backyard of the strangers’ home. Rachel tells the authorities what she thinks she saw after learning that Megan is now missing and feared dead. Unable to trust her own memory, the troubled woman begins her own investigation, while police suspect that Rachel may have crossed a dangerous line.  Award-winning and internationally produced screenwriter and playwright Erin Cressida Wilson (who won the Independent Spirit Award for her first screenplay Secretary in 2003), wrote the screenplay, based on Paula Hawkins’ best-selling novel, with Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) in the director’s chair. If you are looking for first rate entertainment that’s intelligent and savvy, look no further. Rating: 5/5  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

Totally Awesome Life Of Pets

secretlife_sb_ogFor their fifth fully animated feature-film collaboration, Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures bring us the absolutely hilarious and heartwarming comedy about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day. For one bustling Manhattan apartment building, the real day starts after the folks on two legs leave for work and school.  That’s when the pets of every stripe, fur and feather begin their own nine-to-five routine: hanging out with each other, trading humiliating stories about their owners, auditioning adorable looks to get better snacks and watching Animal Planet like it is reality TV. The building’s top dog, Max (C.K.), a quick-witted Terrier rescue who’s convinced he sits at the center of owner Katie’s (Kemper) universe, finds his pampered life turned upside down when she brings home Duke (Stonestreet), a sloppy, massive mess of a mongrel with zero interpersonal skills.  When this reluctant canine duo finds themselves out on the mean streets of New York, they have to set aside their differences and unite against a fluffy, yet cunning, bunny named Snowball (Hart), who’s building an army of pets who’ve been abandoned by their owners and are out to turn the tables on humanity…all this and making it home before Katie returns at dinnertime. Entertainment at its best.  The bonus features include themaking of the film. Rating: 5/5  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

Fantastical Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-childrenRich with fantastical and immersive imagery, memorable characters, epic battles, and unique time travel manipulations, this film offer perfect entertainment for the whole family, brought to life by visionary storymaker Tim Burton, in the grand style of his films Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When his beloved grandfather leaves Jake clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds a magical place known as Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers – and their terrifying enemies. Ultimately, Jake discovers that only his own special peculiarity can save his new friends. Based on the novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” written by Ransom Riggs. Rating: 4/5 Read more about the film /  Watch the trailer

Bridget Jones’s Baby

Bridget Jones New BabyThe much-anticipated third installment of the Bridget Jones franchise is here!  Based on creator Helen Fielding’s heroine, the world’s favourite singleton is unexpectedly expecting.

After breaking up with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), Bridget Jones’s (Renée Zellweger) “happily ever after” hasn’t quite gone according to plan.  Fortysomething and single again, she decides to focus on her job as top news producer and surround herself with old friends and new.  For once, Bridget has everything completely under control.  What could possibly go wrong? Then Bridget’s fortune takes a turn and she meets a dashing American named Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), the suitor who is everything Mr Darcy is not.  In an unlikely twist she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch: Bridget’s uncertain if the baby’s father is her longtime love…or the newfound one from just across the pond. The bonus features include an alternate ending and the making of the film.  Rating: 3/5  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

 

Holiday mayhem is the order of the day in this contemporary South African family comedy.

Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with screenwriter and producer Morné Lane, whose film Kampterrein turns a family holiday inside out!

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The cast features a host of familiar names, including Louw Venter (co-creator of the cult comedy TV series The Most Amazing Show), Juanita de Villiers (Somer Son, 2015), Josias Moleele (Crazy Games, Zero Tolerance, 50/50) and Zenande Mfenyana (Generations), Jurgen Hellberg (Binnelanders), Edrien Erasmus (Vir die Voëls, 2016), Reine Swart (Die Pro, 2015), Kaz McFadden (7de Laan), Ruan Wessels (Agent 2000: Die Laksman, 2014), Johan Botha (Arende, Vyfster, 7de Laan), Lindie Stander (Binneland), Therese Benadie (Home Affairs), and Marlee van der Merwe (Sterlopers).

When the Fouchés, an Afrikaans family, arrive at the ATKV Buffelspoort resort for the holidays, only to find that their regular caravan spot has been taken over by the Khumalos. Much hilarity ensues as the two families engage in madcap tit-for-tat exchanges and shenanigans. Buffelspoort manager Oom Gert and his dopey assistant are doing everything they can to prepare the resort for a surprise visit by an inspector from the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa who will determine whether to award the venue an additional star, or not …Questions start to arise about the interest in a beauty salon that offers far more than manis and pedis … There’s an old lady on holiday with her dog which she struggles to hide as no pets are allowed …  a handyman who can’t fix a thing … and a couple of local celebrities who think they can get away with not being recognised – all set against the backdrop of the beautiful and peaceful natural environment of the resort. The tranquillity is most profoundly disturbed by the ongoing clashes between the Fouchés and the Khumalos. Will they be able to set aside their cultural differences and actually enjoy their escape from the rigours of city life?

‘Kampterrein’ is directed by Luhann Jansen whose previous projects include the acclaimed series Sterlopers 1 and 2 for Kyknet. It is produced by Marcus Muller and Morne Lane of Incense Productions, and the executive producers are Joost Smuts, Johan Mehmeyer and Lizelle Demos.

Tell me about Kampterrein, what inspired writing the screenplay?
Marcus Muller(Actor) approached me with the concept. I immediately saw the potential. We started writing the script. It was a combined venture between my self and Marcus Muller.
Was it a difficult story to bring to the big screen?
There are always challenges. But the making of Kampterrein was so much fun. With the amazing crew and cast that we had it was not that difficult.
Were you closely involved with the process of turning words into action?
As producer and writer I was on on set every day. It was amazing to see the words turned into action.
Kampterrein

Morne Lane was part of the camera crew of his first documentary film Play it as it Lies in 2006. Today, nine feature films, four television series, five live recordings and many corporate productions later, he and business partner Willie Olwage launched Pretoria-based Cross Kine. The company distributes Christian and faith-based movies produced by Incense Productions, including films such as Hartsbegeertes, Forsaken, Rowwe Diamante, ReLoad and Suiderkruis.He has worked with well-known actors and celebrities like Gerhard Steyn, Kurt Darren, Angelique Gerber, Marissa Drummond, Johan Scholtz, Hykie Berg, Gretha Wiid, David Louw, Solomon Cupido and many others.His productions have appeared on Supersport, Kyknet, TBN Africa, ASTV and Kruiskyk TV. He is also a seasoned scriptwriter.

It is said that great writers are born, not made … were you born with the talent to write?

I never knew that writing if so much fun. In one of my previous films, I wrote the story for Rowwe Diamante and David Louw wrote the script. It was my first script that wrote. I’m currently busy writing my next film that we will be producing in June 2017.
As a producer and writer, do you think this helps a writer taking complete ownership of his material? 
Definitely, as a producer you have much more knowledge about production, so that when you are writing the screenplay you can visualize the picture even before it’s been made. This helps with the writing process.
What do you think are 5 elements of a great comedy?
Timing is very important, good comedy acting, a director that understands the genre, and a good screenwriter are very important.
What inspires you as a writer?
Having a good story is a great beginning. I’m a dreamer so sometimes I get great ideas and I then immediately try to put them on paper.
What do you think makes a great writer? 
Difficult question. I’m not sure. I think every writer is different. It all depends what your vision is but if I can mention one thing it must be research. Lots of research.
Do you have a specific process or routine that you follow when you start working on a new story?
I do not write when I’m tired or when I’m not creative. Writing takes time and sometimes I just sit in front of my PC.
How personal are the stories you write, or is it pure fiction?
Kampterrein was not as personal because the concept was brought to me. But that said, I grew up in a family where my dad loved camping and we went camping once a month. This helped the writing because I understood camping and love camping. My next film that I’m busy with was also a concept brought to me by one of my students. It’s about relationships. This is very personal due to my own experience with failed relationships. It helps to have pain that you can go to or joy that you can use when you write.
Your views on the South African Film industry?
It is booming at the moment. It helps that we have the DTI supporting us with funds. We are still so far behind Hollywood but we are getting there. It is a challenge to change the views of South Africans.We are sometimes narrow minded and stuck in common slapstick comedy. It’s time for good, deep stories to be told. But it is great to be in the industry.
How do you see the future of our local industry?
It will grow bigger and bigger. We are getting there and South Africa had a few film up for nomination in the last few years. And the fact that more and more International films are shot in south Africa helps to uplift our Production skills in South Africa.
What advice do you have for new screenwriters who want to get their work on the big screen?
Never stop writing. It might takes 10 or 20 scripts to get to the one. Never be afraid to ask for opinions and always be open to suggestions. What might be good for us might not be good for others. We are making movies for the people. Always be teachable. Know your audience. And write for them.
What excites you about film?  About being a filmmaker?

The ability to take words on paper and converting it to picture and the fact that we can influence peoples life’s with film is amazing. All my previous films were inspirational and the testimonies that came from it was life changing.

What do you hope audiences will get from watching Kampterrein? 
Well first of all to see themselves in the film and have a good laugh. People need to feel good after watching Kampterrein. For the one and a half hour that they sit in the cinema they need to forget about their problems and just laugh.
What’s next for you?
I’m busy writing an Afrikaans drama about relationships. We will be producing this film with our students from Bright Light Film Academy. This is a exiting project. Working with my students that is only in High School is super exiting. What they bring with their excitement and skills is amazing. We will be mentoring them, but giving them freedom to express themselves is important. My next film will be my 10th film and is a milestone for me. I will be celebrating it by doing what nobody has done and using my film academy students. 99% of them are under the age of 19. This is exciting because they think different than the rest. They are kind of free spirits. I have worked with them last year when they produced their short films. It is an eye opening experience when you let youngsters run free.

Saint Joan: daughter, farm girl, visionary, patriot, king-whisperer, soldier, leader, victor, icon, radical, witch, heretic, saint, martyr, woman.

Saint Joan – the acclaimed production of the George Bernard Shaw classic play filmed live at London’s Donmar Warehouse – is the next National Theatre Live broadcast to be screened only at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas from Saturday 18 March for limited screenings.

SAINT

Gemma Arterton in the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Saint Joan. Dir Josie Rourke. Photo Jack Sain

Directed by The Donmar Warehouse artistic director Josie Rourke (Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Coriolanus) and starring Gemma Arterton (Quantam of Solace, Nell Gwynn, Made in Dagenham) in the lead role, this production puts a modern twist on this one-hundred-year old play that follows the life, times and eventual trial of Joan of Arc – a young country girl who declares a bloody mission to drive the English from France.

SAINT 2

As one of the first Protestants and nationalists, she threatens the very fabric of feudal society and the Catholic Church across Europe. From the torment of the Hundred Years’ War, the charismatic Joan of Arc carved a victory that defined France. The play depicts a woman with all the instinct, zeal and transforming power of a revolutionary.

Saint Joan releases on South African screens from Saturday, 18 March 2017, for four screenings only: on 18, 22 and 23 March at 19:30 and on 19 March at 14:30 at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.  The running time is approximately 180 mins, including an interval.

For booking information on Saint Joan, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

Launched in 2009, National Theatre Live (NT Live) enables audiences to experience the best of British theatre throughout the year, as the National brings cameras into the auditorium to record and broadcast performances from stage to screen. NT Live broadcasts have been seen by an audience of more than 6.5 million people at over 2 500 venues in 60 countries.

The next productions from NT Live to be screened at Cinema Nouveau are:

Hedda Gabler (from 01 April 2017)

HEDDA

Ruth Wilson and Rafe Spall in Hedda Gabler. Photo by Jan Versweyveld.

“I’ve no talent for life” – Just married. Bored already. Hedda longs to be free…

Tony Award-winning director Ivo van Hove (A View from the Bridge) returns to NT Live cinema screens with a modern production of Ibsen’s masterpiece, with Ruth Wilson (Luther, The Affair, Jane Eyre) in the title role, in a new version by Patrick Marber (Notes on a Scandal, Closer). Hedda and Tesman have just returned from their honeymoon and the relationship is already in trouble. Trapped but determined, Hedda tries to control those around her, only to see her own world unravel.

 Twelfth Night (from 27 May 2017)

TWELFTH

Twelfth Night – Oliver Chris as Orsino, Tamara Lawrance as Viola, image by Marc Brenner

Directed by Simon Godwin (NT Live’s Man and Superman, The Beaux’ Stratagem), Tamsin Greig (Friday Night Dinner, Black Books, Episodes) is Malvolia in a new twist on Shakespeare’s classic comedy of mistaken identity.

A ship is wrecked. Viola is washed ashore but her twin brother Sebastian is lost. Determined to survive, she steps out to explore a new land. So begins a whirlwind of mistaken identity and unrequited love.

Additional NT Live broadcasts in 2017 at Cinema Nouveau include:

  • ROSEN

    Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe. Photo by Manual Harlan

    Rozencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (03 June), with Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire and David Haig in Tom Stoppard’s brilliantly funny situation comedy, from The Old Vic theatre;

  • Obsession (24 June), starring Jude Law in this new stage adaptation, broadcast from the Barbican Theatre;
  • Peter Pan (08 July), captured live at the National Theatre, this performance of JM Barrie’s much-loved tale screens as perfect cinema fare for the mid-year school holidays: All children, except one, grow up…;
  • Salomé (22 July), directed by South African-born award-winning director Yaёl Farber;
  • Marianne Elliott’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America – Part I & II (19 Aug & 02 Sept), with Andrew Garfield, Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey; and
  • Yerma (23 Sept), Simon Stone’s radical production of Federico García Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece, with Billie Piper reprising the lead role.

 

Kong is the seminal big-screen badass, and continues to resonate as everything from a living tempest of nature’s fury to an avatar for our own primal selves.

First unleashed more than eight decades ago, King Kong has thundered off the big screen and into our world with a force that echoes through our collective consciousness still.  Now the time has come to restore the crown of the greatest movie monster myth of all in Kong: Skull Island, re imagining the origins of one the most powerful monster myths of all.

“Kong represents all the mystery and wonder that still exists in the world,” says Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts.  “That’s why he will never stop being relevant.”

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

A compelling, original adventure from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”), the film tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful.  Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature.  As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong.

Vogt-Roberts directed the film from a screenplay by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, story by John Gatins.

The quest to re-imagine cinema’s mightiest ape would reunite the producing team behind the 2014 blockbuster “Godzilla.”

For Thomas Tull, who produced the film together with Mary Parent, Jon Jashni and Alex Garcia, it was a prospect both thrilling and incredibly daunting.

“We wanted to create a fresh, new experience for the audience,” Tull offers.  “As fans ourselves, it was incredibly important to us that we honor the essential elements of this character that have connected with so many people around the world in a big, fun, epic adventure that delivers the pure entertainment and spectacle of an action-packed monster movie.”

The legend and iconography of Kong continue to strike consistently deep yet wildly varying chords with generations of fans.  “A lot of things define Kong—his size, his power, his animal nature, but also his heart and huge depth of soul,” observes producer Mary Parent.  “He keys into our natural affinity for other primates, and his gestures and expressions are much more humanlike than even natural primates—which is what has always set Kong apart from other monsters.  Even though he’s a terrifying predator, it’s impossible not to root for him.  In some ways, he’s been more like the classic romantic hero than a villain.”

Kong is the seminal big-screen badass, and continues to resonate as everything from a living tempest of nature’s fury to an avatar for our own primal selves.  Actor Tom Hiddleston suggests, “Kong embodies the internal clash between our civilized selves and the place in our consciousness that still has a very real sense of something bigger than ourselves.  How do you reconcile this massive creature who is both a terrifying force of nature and a sentient being with an intelligence that is different from ours but no less sophisticated?”

Kong

King Kong was originally conjured by revolutionary special effects master Willis H. O’Brien and sculptor Marcel Delgado to be the enigmatic central figure and unquestionable heart of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s groundbreaking 1933 classic “King Kong”—a dazzling mash-up of Beauty and the Beast, high adventure and giant monsters that would shock and awe millions of moviegoers across the world.  It played to sold-out crowds at the height of the Great Depression and broke records through decades of re-releases and television airings.  It was the original effects-driven blockbuster and monster movie milestone, and has been remade, parodied and spun-off on every sized screen.  Kong has also become embedded in pop culture, inspiring everything from video games to hip hop lyrics to college dissertations, and deploying armies of action figures, models, toys and games.

Kong’s defiant end from high atop the Empire State Building is among the most iconic of all time.  But for fans—and Tull counts himself among them—his provocative beginning remains the Holy Grail of origin stories.  In fact, his long-held goal of a 21st century MonsterVerse wouldn’t be complete without it.  The producers brought in writers Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly to craft the screenplay from a story by John Gatins.  Tull states, “One of the most fascinating elements of the Kong lore is Skull Island—a place with the most exotic, lethal food chain you can imagine, and Kong is the alpha predator keeping the rest at bay.  That’s the mythology we wanted to crack open in this film.  Our characters are not taking Kong off the island.  They have to survive his domain.”

Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Lt. Colonel Preston Packard, the human alpha among the film’s characters, relishes the notion.  “We want to see Kong in an environment that is as big and spectacular as he is,” says the acting legend.  “We know he lives in the jungle, but what else is in that jungle?  What’s out there that allows him to exist?  Are there others or is he an anomaly?  And we find out that he was once part of a community that got wiped out by something else that’s on that island.  Now he’s the guardian that keeps those things in check.”

With “Kong: Skull Island”—and “Godzilla” before it—the producing team is laying the foundation for a vast, shared universe of monsters, one grounded in our own world but heightened to allow for the existence of MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, in the “MonsterVerse” vernacular).  But to do it justice meant not only orchestrating the collision of two longstanding cinematic mythologies but merging two distinct timelines.

The key came in the form of a game-changing idea from Vogt-Roberts, an emerging filmmaker with just one feature under his belt—the acclaimed independent hit “The Kings of Summer.”  Producer Alex Garcia reveals, “The linchpin of our Godzilla story is the notion that the 1954 nuclear tests weren’t tests; the government was actually trying to kill something.  Jordan came in the door with the idea of setting the film in the 1970s, and that immediately lit up our imaginations.  Not only did the `70s jibe with the MonsterVerse, it’s a rich period to explore thematically and allowed us to bring ultra-real warfare and giant monsters together within the same movie.”

For Vogt-Roberts, “King Kong” had been the entrée to a lifelong obsession with film.  “‘King Kong’ is legitimately film history, and when I first saw the 1933 film, it completely shattered my brain with its endless cinematic possibilities,” he says.  “It was the first movie to transport audiences to an uncharted, untamed world.  Though it was on our own planet, we were confronted with things that we were told couldn’t exist here.”

A self-described “nerd,” the Detroit-born filmmaker came of age on a steady diet of monster movies, summer blockbusters and video games.  His discovery of ‘70s cinema would be the flashing neon sign guiding him forward into making movies of his own.  Though that generation’s bold, brash, socially conscious films had been produced long before Vogt-Roberts was even born, they spoke directly to his own contemporary experience and sensibility.  “The ‘70s are like a weird black mirror of our modern world,” he notes.  “Everything that was happening then—political scandals, civil unrest, divisive wars, distrust of the government—reflects exactly what’s happening right now.  At the same time, the `70s was kind of the last time when science and myth could co-exist.  Since then, we’ve been on a slow quest to destroy the unknown.”

By colliding Cooper and Schoedsack’s lost world of monsters into a chaotic era of choppers, napalm and rock n’ roll, then dropping the audience directly into the fray, Vogt-Roberts hoped to bring all the power and relevance of Kong to today’s moviegoers.  “I want this film to take people out of their comfort zone and thrust them into a balls-to-the-wall adventure that is visceral, intense and like nothing they’ve ever seen before.  I’m pretty sure you won’t find a gigantic ape-like creature punching a Huey helicopter in another movie,” he smiles, “but that was the movie I wanted to see.”

Moving the story from the 1930s to a more modern, but not modern-day, setting folded seamlessly into the themes the filmmakers were already exploring.  Hiddleston, who had signed on to play the film’s disillusioned SAS vet Captain James Conrad prior to the director coming aboard, states, “It’s a world before the tyranny of global satellites, near total surveillance and information overload.  We didn’t have the illusion—as we do today with the internet and cell phones and GPS—that we knew everything about the world we live in.  The period setting also gave us an extraordinary prism to explore what Kong might represent in a conversation about war, and the tendency of mankind to destroy what he doesn’t understand.”

For Brie Larson, who plays wartime photojournalist Mason Weaver, this dynamic gave the cast rich thematic territory to explore in their search for monsters.  “To me, this story feels like an allegory for the animal nature that’s within us all,” she remarks.  “We’re so far removed now from that part of ourselves; we seem to feel the need to overcome it in so many ways.  It also taps into the ways we deal with the world around us—how we treat nature and how we value it, and how we value other human beings as well.”

The year 1973 not only marked the end of the Vietnam War but the dawn of the Landsat program, when NASA began mapping the globe from space, which gave the filmmakers a credible hook for Kong’s exotic home to be discovered.  “But,” producer Jon Jashni comments, “Skull Island is a place where human arrogance can perhaps be your undoing, if you don’t look before you leap.”

Though Kong is the alpha on the island, he’s not the most vicious or terrifying thing in that order…by far.  “Skull Island has been completely closed off from the rest of the world, and followed its own unique and bizarre evolutionary path,” Garcia says.  “It’s extraordinarily beautiful but also the most dangerous place on Earth, with creatures unlike any we’ve encountered.  This is no place for human beings, and their very presence, in fact, will have a profound effect on this delicate ecosystem.”

Vogt-Roberts plunged into mapping the island’s dramatic shifts in feel and temperament and the effect each wonder and terror has on the characters and their choices.  “One of the most amazing things we’ve done as human beings is to remove ourselves from the food chain,” he notes.  “These characters come to Skull Island with all the presumptions of our place in the outside world and suddenly none of that matters…because they’re back in the food chain.  I wanted to explore what that would do to people:  Who breaks?  Who becomes stronger because of it?  Who rallies together?”

Those questions, the director adds, are the fulcrum upon which “Kong: Skull Island” spins.  “I love the idea of taking a handful of characters that have come out of the Vietnam War not believing in anything or quite knowing where they belong and thrusting them into this mystical place.  Kong is not just a giant animal in our film.  This isn’t a man versus nature story.  That’s why our Kong will be the biggest in Hollywood history—I want audiences to feel what it’s like to look up and see something conscious and ferocious and 100-feet tall looming over you.”

“Kong: Skull Island” will bring moviegoers face-to-face with a living mountain of majesty and sheer force.  But his mammoth stature is not the only thing the filmmakers are changing up.  Parent explains, “Kong is an adolescent when we meet him in the film; he’s still growing into his role as alpha.  And this is an island teeming with far more vicious creatures, including the Skullcrawlers, which killed his ancestors and made him last of his kind.  That’s what’s so exciting about exploring this piece of the mythology.  Kong is such a compelling figure anyway, but he’s facing the defining battle of his life in this film—the fight to claim his rightful place as King of Skull Island.”

kong_tan200_scp_txtd_bt1886_v12_e10c11_072216.0087984.tif

The quest to immerse today’s audiences in Skull Island would hurl cast and crew across the globe to some of the most intoxicatingly beautiful and exotic locales ever put on film.  Vogt-Roberts offers, “When you’re bringing a myth to the screen not as a symbol but in the flesh, it’s critical to place him in an environment that feels tactile, real and absolutely alive.  So it was incredibly important to shoot the film practically in environments the actors can interact with, as opposed to putting them on a green screen stage.  I want people to look up at the screen and say, ‘I believe that could exist.’”

The production of “Kong: Skull Island” spanned three continents—with locations in Australia, Hawaii and Vietnam—to capture footage that would later be seamlessly fused together to create a never-before-seen world.  The first major feature film to shoot extensively in Vietnam, it entailed a complex logistical operation to open up the pristine environments in northern Vietnam for filming and to safeguard the ecology before, during and after principal photography.

To bring the film’s seminal title character thundering back to the screen, Vogt-Roberts drew together an A-team of behind-the-scenes collaborators, who would push the envelope on design and effects, and raise the bar on digital character creation.

“Kong: Skull Island” marked only the second film—and by far the biggest—that Vogt-Roberts has made, but he was undaunted.  He reflects, “What guided me through this epic journey was to create an experience for the audience that will feel so real that it will open up a space for myth and mystery in their lives.  Even though we’re making a completely new movie with, with a very different narrative…this is King Kong.”

”The most difficult part of writing the novel was keeping it simple. I’m dealing with a dog, and a dog isn’t going to be thinking in complicated metaphors.  A dog is going to be mostly about nouns, much less about adverbs.  Its vocabulary is generally limited to around 40 or 50 words, and I wanted to write from the perspective of a real dog and not a dog that could understand English.”

Based on author W. Bruce Cameron’s beloved best-selling novel, A Dog’s Purpose shares the heartwarming and surprising story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.

Over the course of five decades, a single voice—that of an indefatigable dog—takes us along a riveting and uplifting path that speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever loved an animal.  Although he is reincarnated in the bodies of multiple canines through the years, it is his unbreakable bond with a kindred spirit named Ethan that carries and inspires one dog throughout his journey to find a true purpose for his boy.

“I made two movies about dogs previously—My Life as a Dog and Haichi—so this is my third dog story,” says director Lasse Hallström, who claims it is no accident he was attracted to the material: . ”If you have an interest in outsiders and emotions that seems irrational to humans, you can certainly relate to a dog’s feelings and a dog’s life.”

A Dog’s Purpose is adapted for the screen by Cameron & Cathryn Michon (Muffin Top: A Love Story) and Audrey Wells (Shall We Dance) and Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear) & Wally Wolodarsky (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days).

adogspurposetrailer-1-809x538A Joyous Concept: What Is a Dog’s Purpose?

After its publication in 2010, “A Dog’s Purpose” became an enormous hit, finding an audience with animal lovers across the globe who were charmed by its tender, poignant and humorous take on what our animal companions think of us and why they are truly here.  The No. 1-New York Times Best-Selling book spent more than one year on that list and has been translated into 20 languages, and published in 29 different countries worldwide.  It even spawned a sequel, “A Dog’s Journey,” which was published in 2012 and achieved similar acclaim.

The series author, W. Bruce Cameron, is well known as the writer of the best-selling humor tome “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.”  The book was adapted into a hugely popular ABC sitcom, which starred the late John Ritter, and Katey Sagal and introduced the world to The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco.

Cameron was moved to write the novel when the woman he was dating lost her dog, and she was having a difficult time processing her grief.  He explains the inspiration: “We were driving up the California coast on the 101 freeway, and I was hurting for her.  Out of nowhere, as if I downloaded it off the Internet, this story came into my head about a dog who doesn’t actually die, but is reborn again and again and again, and develops the sense that there might be some purpose why this is happening.”

The passenger Cameron was consoling was his future wife—as well as one of his fellow A Dog’s Purpose screenwriters—Cathryn Michon.  Michon remembers the day quite fondly: “On our way to the Bay Area, we stopped to get a latte, and when I came back to the car Bruce told me he had a story to tell me…and that it was going to be his next book.  He told this story for 90 minutes straight, and by the end of it I was completely in a puddle I was crying so much.”

For Cameron, watching dogs interact with each other and analyzing their behavior was the most helpful research he did before crafting his novel.  The writer explains: “The most important thing I did in researching the book was not reading about dogs, but going to the dog park and seeing how they behave.  Dogs have a crazy social structure.  Two dogs will be best friends, but when a third dog comes in the dynamic changes instantly.”  He laughs.  “It is 10 times worse than middle school.”

According to the story’s creator, the most difficult part of writing the novel was keeping it simple: “I’m dealing with a dog, and a dog isn’t going to be thinking in complicated metaphors.  A dog is going to be mostly about nouns, much less about adverbs.  Its vocabulary is generally limited to around 40 or 50 words, and I wanted to write from the perspective of a real dog and not a dog that could understand English.”

Producer Gavin Polone read “A Dog’s Purpose” while it was still in galley form, and at the request of Cameron and Michon, he would shepherd it through the development process.  During this time, it drew the attention of Amblin Entertainment.  “We wanted to find a producer to take the book to the next step, and Gavin has such a great reputation for protecting writers, so we sent the book to him,” reveals Cameron.  In their mission to find a champion to take the book to the next step, they needed a director that would have the same goal in mind.

Given Hallström’s track record of inventive filmmaking, and having already directed an Amblin Entertainment (then DreamWorks) film, The 100-Foot Journey, it was a unanimous decision that the filmic version of this story could not be in better hands.  The director claims it is no accident he was attracted to the material: “I made two movies about dogs previously—My Life as a Dog and Haichi—so this is my third dog story.  If you have an interest in outsiders and emotions that seems irrational to humans, you can certainly relate to a dog’s feelings and a dog’s life.”

While Cameron and his fellow script writers had to create rules for our story—in terms of what the dog was thinking and could process—Hallström also had to keep things logical…in what some might say is an illogical notion.

“Ultimately, the one rule we had was that the dog could not speak on camera,” offers Hallström.  “With the narration, the dog’s thoughts have human elements to it, and I have become more and more caught up in the idea of reincarnation because of this film.  But whether the possibility is real or not…who knows.  The point is to be open to the magic that there is something going on in the universe that we cannot yet explain.”

Hallström felt his most important task as director was to ground the actor’s and dog’s performances in reality.  His goal was not to stylize anything nor reach for the comedic aspects.  “I wanted a tone that feels authentic and has a light touch to it, while being rooted in real emotions—of both the dogs and the humans.  It was a fun challenge.”

One of the world’s most renowned directors, LASSE HALLSTRÖM (Directed by) is best known to audiences as the maker of such poignant but resolutely unsentimental films as My Life as a Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Cider House Rules. The son of an amateur filmmaker, Hallström was born in Stockholm on June 2, 1946.  He began his professional career in high school when, with the assistance of a group of friends, he made a short film about some schoolmates who had formed a band. In 1975, Hallström made his debut with the romantic drama A Guy and a Gal.  Two years later, he focused his lens on one of Sweden’s most famous exports in ABBA: The Movie.  He subsequently made a number of romantic comedies; but it was not until 1985, with My Life as a Dog, that Hallström had his international breakthrough.  A bona fide art-house hit, My Life as a Dog was the touching and wholly un-patronizing coming-of-age story of a young boy sent to live with relatives when his terminally ill mother can no longer care for him.  The film earned a score of international honors, including the Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globe Awards and a New York Film Critics Circle award.  Hallström received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

BRUCE CAMERON (Based on the Novel by/Screenplay by) is a Benchley award winner for humor and was named the 2011 Columnist of the Year by the National Society of newspaper Columnists. He has written for television (8 Simple Rules, based on his book) and co-wrote the feature film Muffin Top: A Love Story, which was released in November 2014. He produced and co-wrote the feature film Cook-Off!, which is in postproduction. His novel “A Dog’s Purpose” spent 52 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list.  The sequel, “A Dog’s Journey,” was published in May 2012, and was instantly a The New York Times Best Seller. Cameron has been a guest on Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, The Today Show, Oprah, Anderson Cooper and CBS This Morning. In 2017, “A Dog’s Way Home” will be published in May, the humor book “A Dad’s Purpose” will be published in June and the young readers novel “Molly’s Story” came out in September.

CATHRYN MICHON (Screenplay by) is a screenwriter, actress and feature film director, as well as the author of the best-selling “Grrl Genius” book series.  An alumna of The Second City, she has written for numerous Primetime Emmy Award-winning television series.  She co-wrote, co-directed and stars in the upcoming Lionsgate ensemble feature comedy Cook-Off!, which also stars Wendi McLendon-Covey, Melissa McCarthy and Gary Anthony Williams.  Michon also directed, co-wrote and starred in the award-winning indie film Muffin Top: A Love Story with David Arquette, currently on Netflix.

AUDREY WELLS (Screenplay by) is a screenwriter and film director from San Francisco, California.  She is the writer and director of Under the Tuscan Sun, which starred Diane Lane.  She also wrote and directed Guinevere, which starred Sarah Polley and Stephen Rea, for which she won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the jury prize at the Deauville Film Festival.  Wells wrote the original screenplays for The Truth About Cats & Dogs and The Kid.  Other writing credits include George of the Jungle, The Game Plan and the American adaptation of Shall We Dance.  Wells is currently adapting The Hate U Give for director George Tillman Jr. and Fox 2000, and writing an original animated feature screenplay for Oriental DreamWorks.  Wells serves as a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA.

MAYA FORBES (Screenplay by) began her career writing for The Larry Sanders Show.  She has since written numerous television episodes and feature films. Her television credits include The People vs. O.J. Simpson and her film credits include Monsters vs. Aliens and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.  All of these she co-wrote with her husband, Wally Wolodarsky. Forbes was named one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” for her directorial debut Infinitely Polar Bear, which starred Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana.  Her latest project The Polka King, written and directed with Wolodarsky, stars Jack Black and will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017.

WALLY WOLODARSKY (Screenplay by) began his career as a writer on The Tracey Ullman Show.  He received a Primetime Emmy Award for his work.  Wolodarsky was an original writer and producer on The Simpsons for the first four seasons, where he won his second Primetime Emmy Award.  He has directed three features and has written several features with his wife Maya Forbes.  The Polka King is the first feature they have written and directed together.

“This is not “another apartheid movie”

South African filmmaker, Mandla Walter Dube, makes his feature directorial debut with the human drama Kalushi – The Solomon Mhlanga Story.

Sacrificing his short life, through a brutal death in the hands of South Africa’s apartheid police has made Mahlangu a celebrated struggle hero in the revolutionary fight or freedom.

“Our movie follows the journey of this young man who, at the outset, is not at all involved in the politics of South Africa and was not involved in the student uprising on June 16, 1976.  He was trying to make a living as a hawker on the streets of Mamelodi and on the trains in Pretoria. When he had the hero’s call, he refused it, and then, something tragic happens to him which changes the entire course of his life.  When we are hit with adversity we have to start making certain decisions to help us change.  You either going to change or change is going to change you.”

Kalushi4_web

The all South African cast includes Thabo Rametsi (ITV’s Wild at Heart series) in the pivotal role of “Mahlangu”, alongside Thabo Malema (The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, helmed by The English Patient director, Anthony Mingella), Louw Venter (Semi-Soet, and Kite – alongside Samuel L. Jackson), Marcel van Heerden (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), Welile Nzuza (Vehicle 19 with Paul Walker), Shika Budhoo, and Pearl Thusi. Acclaimed poet and playwright, Dr. Gcina Mhlophe plays the role of Martha Mahlangu, and Kalushi’s actual brother, Lucas Mahlangu, serves as a cultural advisor to the production.

 

Kalushi is a true story about a nineteen-year-old hawker, Solomon Mahlangu from the streets of Mamelodi a ghetto township outside Pretoria in South Africa. He is brutally beaten by police.

Kalushi goes into exile following the 1976 Soweto uprisings to join the liberation movement.

He returns from military training in Angola en route to their mission, his friend and comrade, Mondi, loses control and shoots two innocent people on Goch Street in Johannesburg. Mondi is severely beaten & tortured; Kalushi is forced to stand trial under the common purpose doctrine.

The state seeks the highest punishment from the court, Death by Hanging.

Kalushi has his back against the wall and uses the courtroom as a final battlefield. His sacrifice immortalizes him into a hero of the struggle and an international icon of June 16, 1976.

Dube, makes his feature directorial debut with the human drama, from a screenplay co-written by Dube, and Leon Otto. Kalushi is produced by Walter Ayres (co-producer of Diana, starring Naomi Watts). Dube also serves as a producer.   Kalushi is lensed by American cinematographer, Tommy (Maddox) Upshaw (Iron Man 2, as camera operator) with Chantel L. Carter in charge of Production Design, and Costume design by Ruy Filipe (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom).

Director’s Statement

Mandla-Walter-Dube

Mandlankayise Walter Dube (Director/Producer/Co-Screenwriter) is a writer and award-winning Cinematographer who hails from in Mabopane, North West of Tshwane. Mandla lectured cinematography at both Wits Television and at Tshwane University of Technology and also consulted in both Cinematography and Heritage Management, obtaining a Master’s degree in both fields. Mandla’s diverse body of work includes documentaries, shorts, theatre and feature films. Sobukwe: A Great Soul, won SAFTA’s 2013 Best Film, Editing, Directing and Educational Documentary, Kalushi, (the Stage play), at the South African State Theatre, The Rivonia Trial stage play. He also produced music videos for Sony, City of Tshwane, and the South African Post Office. Mandla’s work in feature films includes Tsotsi, The Italian Job, Strike Back, Angel Heart, and Umtunzi we Ntaba Mandla’s experience in Short films includes Badger, Sunset Tuxedo, and A Single Rose. In addition to his qualification in Heritage Management, Mandla’s passion and commitment to South African Arts and Heritage has manifested in productions in various media, including the theatre production The Reburial of the Mapungubwe Remains, the photographic exhibition In Pursuit of Liberty in association with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and the music concerts Moves for Life, and Velvet Opera Sisters.

“This is not “another apartheid movie” the canvas that we are using to tell the story is not set in Apartheid South Africa alone. It’s about events that fuelled him to be able to leave the country, that and tragedies that happened to him and he transitions in a different country, Mozambique where he finds new challenges; he meets a child soldier who is an orphan and that’s the avenue that he uses to escape the challenges that he had as a kid. However, another change has to come, he can’t stay in Mozambique for too long, there’s a reason he went into exile and that’s was to get training to be equipped to fight against oppression.

“Initially, when he gets into the struggle it is because he wants to avenge what happened to him and then he learns that revenge is not a good thing, instead, he learns about the human spirit; being able to accept certain things and then to do something about the things that you can actually change.

“After 6 months he’s rescued from Mozambique, and in his new terrain, Angola, he witnesses civil war where black people are killing black people. This makes him question ‘why are we even doing this, why are we getting into the struggle against apartheid back home?’ He is exposed to literature such as The Pedagogy Of The Oppressed, The Art Of War, Ché Guevara, and he becomes cognizant about what love is: it’s not just about loving yourself, it’s being able to retain love and make it tangible, and you have to fight for it. So the loss of his family back home begins to grow in him, and he questions the reason why he left South Africa.

“The toughest task as a filmmaker was deciding which point of view to tell this story from, and from which angle to approach it. What we did is we played with it a lot, because it’s Court room drama as well. Our points of view include the system structure at the time; Solomon’s; his mother’s, his friends, as well the investigating officer. The entire story embraces human rights, and the strength of the human spirit triumphing over obstacles.

“Growing up we always look up to certain heroes; all of us need a hero to give us hope and courage. This is someone who comes from humble, poverty stricken background, yet he gets up to try to help his family and there are all these trials and tribulations that he overcomes, until he is eventually executed. I think there is universal appeal here, about personal valour and triumph.”

The People In Solomon Mahlangu’s Life

Dube was determined that the entire cast would feature South African performers. “It was critical to find a performer to play the pivotal role of Solomon, an artist who could have resonance from scene to scene, somebody who could carry the emotional beats”, says  Dube. He had already settled on an actor when he came across Thabo Rametsi.  “Actually I had cast somebody and just before we signed him up Thabo walked into the room and tore it apart. He has the look of innocence.”

“The themes of courage, hope and tragedy run hand in hand in this film. We see it not only in Solomon’s character, but also in the characters of Brenda, Van Heerden, Priscilla and Martha Mahlangu. The film focuses on 3 phases in Solomon Mahlangu’s life: his transition from youth to adulthood, his journey as a struggle hero and finally his significant and consequential rise to manhood, so it wasn’t just a matter of Solomon the “struggle icon”, he also represents the voice of all the young people who participated in the Soweto Youth Uprising of June 16th 1976, so I incorporated a lot of characters and let them sing their song through him.”

Expressing admiration for his director, Rametsi says, “Mandla’s vision and passion for the film was an interesting thing because he didn’t want to make a documentary, a docudrama, or an apartheid movie. He wanted to make a movie, to tell this story through film”.

Rametsi says his approach to playing Solomon was partly inspired by comments from his own brother. “He told me that Solomon never portrayed any emotion, he was very still even to his death he never showed any emotion whatsoever. That was a challenge for me as an actor because that ‘down’ type of character is not very interesting for the audience.  So instead of playing him as Solomon Mahlangu I decided to play him as a young man of that generation.”

Perhaps one of the saddest implications of Solomon’s execution is shown through Solomon’s mother, Martha Mahlangu, who not only loses her youngest child but has to live with the advanced knowledge of the date and time of when he will truly be taken away from her.

Dube considers his fortune in casting acclaimed storyteller and poet, Dr. Gcina Mhlophe, in the role of “Martha”, Solomon’s mother. “Martha was a quiet woman and I always wanted a storyteller to play the role, and Gcina brings to this character something I don’t think I could have found in any other lead. She comes from a stage, not film or television background. In her personal life Gcina has had to overcome many challenges and this is reflected in her writing. She is a strong matriarch and I specifically wrote the role for Gcina.”

“Mandla’s vision for Mama Mahlangu was a character who managed to endured unimaginable emotional agony. Martha did not actively fight in the struggle, but she wanted to keep the family together no matter what, pray for them and make sure they live as normal a life as possible. But, to hear the day when your child is going to die….? We know that everyone is going to die but to know the date and the time must have been unbelievable pain for her to endure.”

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Mandla,” says Gcina, “he was very clear about what he wanted from day one and throughout filming he stayed with his original vision. He cares very much about this story and he wants it told with the authenticity, respect and dignity that it deserves.”

Dube also specifically wrote the role of Brenda, Solomon’s girlfriend, with Pearl Thusi in mind. “When I met Pearl I knew she had something we could develop”, says Dube. “She goes through many changes from a privileged 17 year old who is very unaware of the political situation, to witnessing police beat and kill children during the Youth Uprising and then becoming a totally different person.”

“Brenda represents a beacon of hope for Solomon while he’s in Angola”, says Thusi.  “She is his reminder of the life he still has to live when he returns, but he never really gets to experience that, nor does he end up with her”. Here we are faced with one of the tragedies of Solomon’s life. We see what was taken away from him was not only his life but also the life he could have shared with others”.

Kalushi

“It’s about the relationships that we created within apartheid, where there was love and there was happiness. Some sort of happiness, some sort of goodness that people could focus on and the difficulty was how they dealt with that when it was taken away from them, even the little they chose to have in that time could be taken away from them at any time and they could do nothing about it. And it was just the strength of character in that situation, how they dealt with it and how they moved on or how they didn’t move on. It’s all about emotions and experiences.”

The theme of hope is significantly seen in the role of Solomon’s defence lawyer, “Priscilla”, played by award-wining stage actress, Shika Budhoo. “Priscilla plays a very important role in the story by encouraging Solomon to not give up the fight for his justice during his 2 year legal battle for justice. She’s a gutsy human rights lawyer, and you can see the fight in her as she fights for Solomon. She’s very close to him and they find a bond. I think all human rights lawyers have that, that otherness, it’s not just about you. She’s got this hope in her pocket that she almost transfers to him. I think she’s very important in the story in getting him to fight through the struggle.”

Kalushi looks at many aspects of South African life at the time and these multiple layers it apart from other stories set at the time. Dube affirms: “It is the story of many people not only about those who struggled and suffered. We see that the struggle transcended race and creed and this is captured by the role of security police officer, van Heerden (played by Louw Venter) who was handed Solomon Mahlangu’s case.  Van Heerden represents white Afrikaners of the time who have all been painted with the same brush by both history and art”.

Louw Venter unpacks “van Heerden”, a chief inspector forced to investigate this political incident. “I think he’s an empathetic character and it’s a very fresh and original approach to how the ‘apartheid policeman’ is generally portrayed in film. I was very attracted to it because I’m an Afrikaans person myself and I come from a family where there has been a number of policeman and in a sense my motivation of the character is quite human, and quiet noble”. Venter’s approach has been to create a multi-dimensional character on the screen.

Tommy London was another young voice of the struggle and is portrayed by Welile Nzuzas.  “He is the exact opposite of Solomon,” says Dube, “when we first meet Tommy he is murdering a man in an alley, and we know immediately that he is not as innocent as Solomon and we can only wonder what their journey together will bring”.

Nzuza notes that his character is far savvier than Solomon’s and he has experienced far greater oppression at the hands of the government.  “I think having seen oppression and being forced to speak a language that they didn’t want to speak affected Tommy’s brothers and sisters, and he joined the movement against apartheid at a very young age. He immediately stood up and decided to be an adversary of the system and he ended being the guy who took people to the military camps across the border, to Angola, Mozambique and Swaziland. With police all over we understand that he risks the danger in helping Solomon become the man that he was”.

 

In seeking to tell this tale that is not only a story-within-a-story but also an exploration of human desire, ambition and indulgence, Ford realized that he would be exercising both his directing and screenwriting skills to an even greater degree than with his first film.

Boldly exploring the psychological and emotional sea changes of men and women living – or trying to live –their own truths, the masterful Nocturnal Animals is the second film from extraordinary visionary, writer/director Tom Ford, following the acclaimed and award-winning A Single Man (2009).

4100_D002_00299_v3 (l-r.) Writer/Director Tom Ford and Academy Award nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon review a scene on the set of the upcoming romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

(l-r.) Writer/Director Tom Ford and Academy Award nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon review a scene on the set of Nocturnal Animals, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

 

Nocturnal Animals is a cautionary tale about coming to terms with the choices that we make as we move through life and of the consequences that our decisions may have. In an increasingly disposable culture where everything including our relationships can be so easily tossed away, this is a story of loyalty, dedication and of love. It is a story of the isolation that we all feel, and of the importance of valuing the personal connections in life that sustain us.
– Tom Ford

Nocturnal Animals follows one woman caught between her past and her present, while she consumes and is consumed by a story in the here and now. For the filmmaker, in adapting Austin Wright’s 1993 book Tony and Susan into a film, he found himself once again concentrating with equal intensity on both the written word and the moving image.

“Writing is one of the parts of film-making that I love the most,”says Ford.

4100_D011_01096_R4 Writer/director Tom Ford on the set of his romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

Writer/director Tom Ford on the set of his romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

”In the screenplay phase the process is entirely singular, and as the film at that point exists only in my mind it is in its most perfect form. When I write, I begin by collecting images that relate to the characters and their worlds. I look for images of interiors, locations, actual people who inhabit the different worlds of the characters that I am creating. I then start to write and often actually write into the screenplay the details that I have come across when doing photo research. The worlds our characters inhabit in Nocturnal Animals are two worlds that I am incredibly familiar with. Growing up in Texas and New Mexico, the part of the story that takes place in West Texas was easy for me to write, and the somewhat rarified world that Susan inhabits in Los Angeles is far too familiar to me as well.”

“I visualize every sound and image and often write in an almost shot-by-shot fashion. By the time that we actually get to filming, I have usually worked out most of the details of what I want to capture. The beauty of working with a strong production team and strong actors, however, is that more often than not spontaneous things happen while shooting that I could not have imagined and these can make the end product all the more rich and nuanced. It is important to keep an open mind when filming and to try to look at things with a fresh eye. While often they will be different than what I had imagined when I sat at my desk writing, more often than not the surprise of the actual moment and performance adds a great deal to the complexity and layers of the film.”

In seeking to tell this tale that is not only a story-within-a-story but also an exploration of human desire, ambition and indulgence, Ford realized that he would be exercising both his directing and screenwriting skills to an even greater degree than with his first film. While A Single Man transpired in 1962 with flashbacks to the years prior, it was largely one man’s world; by contrast, Nocturnal Animals bridges three characters’ odysseys while also closing off avenues of contact among them.
In adapting Tony and Susan into the screenplay for Nocturnal Animals, the contemporary lifestyle scenes drew him to visualize extremes for how isolated and lost the lead character of Susan Morrow truly is. He notes, “Style is not the ultimate goal for me when I make a film. Style without substance is hollow and empty. I do however pay great attention to style as it relates to the characters and the story. Sets and costumes can inform not only the audience but can help the actors inhabit the role fully. Consistency of tone is important to me, and the way that images are captured stylistically works with both the score and the sound design to create a cohesive world. I am of the mind that a picture does indeed speak a thousand words and that film is truly a visual medium. I think that a movie should play silently, and that words and language should be used only when necessary to move the narrative along.
“That having been said, I am told that I write very long scenes. It’s something that never occurred to me but that I think comes from my desire to form connections between the characters. In life I love nothing more than great conversation and so I suspect that without thinking I tend to create scenes with a good deal of dialogue interspersed with scenes where the audience is simply watching someone do something telling without speaking.”

(l-r.) Academy Award nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon star as Tony Hastings and Bobby Andes and Karl Glusman stars as Lou in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

(l-r.) Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon star as Tony Hastings and Bobby Andes and Karl Glusman stars as Lou in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

The adaptation process took some time. Ultimately, his final screenplay diverges from the book. Ford explains, “The book Tony and Susan is beautifully written. It is a great story. The concept of a moral allegory told through a piece of fiction – the book within the book – I thought was fresh and original. I loved it the moment I read it and felt that it would make a great film. It was however not the easiest book to adapt and it took me quite a while to decide how to approach it. A book and a film are vastly different things and a literal interpretation of a book often does not work on the screen. For me it is important to take the themes of a book that speak to me and then to exaggerate and explore them on screen. In that way, Nocturnal Animals is true to the book even though some of the story elements are original and the setting is actually completely different from that of the book.
“Tony and Susan is to a great extent an inner monologue that is taking place in Susan’s head. I had to create scenes in her life to convey the feelings that she expresses in the book in her mind, but do so visually in order that we would understand what she was feeling without resorting to what would have essentially been a voiceover throughout the entire film. Also, the basic theme of Edward’s novel is a bit vague in the book and I felt that it needed to be exaggerated in order to be clear on screen.”
He adds, “On a more practical note, the setting of the book has been relocated, in part because the book was written in the early ‘90s, before the use of cell phones was widespread. The method of the crime that the book centers on could not occur in today’s world of cell phones and online communication if I had not relocated the story to a place in which there might not be cell phone service. I chose to locate the story in West Texas –the original story takes place in the Northeast – as there are still places there where one could imagine that there would be no cell service. It is also a part of the world that I know well, and I subscribe to the old adage: write about what you know.
“In the book Tony and Susan, the character of Edward Sheffield comments that ‘no one ever really writes about anything but themselves,’ and I chose to keep this in the film as I believe completely in this statement. We all see things through the filter that is our being. When Edward writes his fictional novel Nocturnal Animals, it is literally made up of details and emotions from his past with Susan. Most of these were of my invention, but I wanted to emphasize that Edward was writing a personal story that was clearly about his life with Susan and an explanation to her of what he felt that she did to him. For example, in one of the flashbacks we see Susan reading one of Edward’s short stories and she is bored by it and he is devastated. In that scene she is lying on a red sofa. This clearly is imprinted in Edward’s mind, as when he chooses to kill the character who represents Susan in the novel he places her body on a red velvet sofa. The killer in the novel drives a green Pontiac GTO from the ‘70s, and this same car appears in a flashback scene when Susan leaves Edward. Details from their lives together are scattered throughout Edward’s fictional story and have clearly cemented themselves in Edward’s consciousness. In the same manner, many things from my own life have worked their way into the screenplay for the film.”
Ford confides, “One of the themes of the film that hit home personally for me was the exploration of masculinity in our culture. Our hero(s) Tony and Edward do not possess the stereotypical traits of masculinity that our culture often expects yet in the end they both triumph. As a boy growing up in Texas, I was anything but what was considered classically masculine, and I suffered for it. I empathize with the characters of Tony and Edward, and their perseverance speaks to me.”
The forward momentum of the narrative – the story-within-the story- is a literal page-turner. In retrospect it seems to have been destined to be replicated in an immersive movie going experience. What drives the movie is the characters’ respective needs for closure. Some have put into motion their efforts before we even meet them; others grasp at it seemingly out of sudden necessity.

_DSC5375_R3 (l-r.) Academy Award nominees Michael Shannon and Jake Gyllenhaal star as Bobby Andes and Tony Hastings in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

(l-r.) Academy Award nominees Michael Shannon and Jake Gyllenhaal star as Bobby Andes and Tony Hastings

The Actors

Conveying the full impact of three main characters’ epiphanies and decisive actions was something that Ford undertook in A Single Man. With Nocturnal Animals, the call for portraying the three main characters went out for two lead actors who had established both a rapport with moviegoers as well as a proven performance ability to access a spectrum of emotions.
Ford was drawn to Academy Award nominee Amy Adams “because of her spectacular ability to telegraph emotion without dialogue but with just her face and soulful eyes. Amy is truly a great actress. There is something in her eyes that feels raw, and truthful. I wanted the character of Susan to be sympathetic. It would be very easy to hate Susan because, as she says in the film, she ‘has everything’ and yet she is unhappy. She has chosen a path in life that is opposite to her true nature. She is in a sense a victim of her upbringing and of what is often expected of women in our culture.
“For much of the film the character of Susan is reading and reacting silently to what she has read. This is where Amy’s incredible ability as an actress stands out for me. She is so honest in her performance and was able to access Susan’s pain in a way that makes us empathize with, rather than hate, Susan. Her portrayal of Susan is subtle and nuanced, and was in many ways the most difficult role in the film as she could not rely on grand gestures or even language to convey the pain that the character feels.”
As evidenced in her portrayals in such films as The Master and American Hustle, Adams’ facility with steering her characters into shades of gray while still retaining audience identification meant that “the character of Susan could possess many layers of complex feelings while on the surface seeming to remain calm and composed,” says Ford.
Adams muses, “I’m a certain age so something that I can identify with is being at a certain point in your life where you become very reflective and you start evaluating choices and thinking about what your choices will be moving forward. I understood that aspect of Susan, as well as her feeling burnt out with artifice. She can never really let go of the conflict between the person she wanted to be and the person she chose to be.
“I felt I had the opportunity to experiment with this character. On the set, Tom would allow the camera to sit, and roll, for a long time. Sometimes you can get self-conscious, but then you have to work through that and struggle to find your way to something wonderful. So often, directors will call ‘cut’ when they see an actor struggle, but Tom knew it would get us to deeply emotional moments.”

Academy Award nominee Amy Adams stars as Susan Morrow in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

Academy Award nominee Amy Adams stars as Susan Morrow in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

Although they had not acted opposite each other prior, Ford felt that another Academy Award nominee, Jake Gyllenhaal, would match up well with Adams. He observes, “On a practical note, it was hard to find two established and strong actors who could be believable playing characters in both their 20s and early 40s. Jake and Amy have that ability, and their subtle changes in mannerisms and speech patterns between their young selves and their more mature selves were masterful. They both managed to carry this off beautifully.”
The filmmaker was equally confident that Gyllenhaal could put himself out there for the wrenching scenes in the story-within-the-story. Ford states, “I was drawn to Jake for the part of Edward/Tony because I admire the risks that
Jake takes in his performances. This was a tough and emotionally demanding role. I felt that Jake would do a brilliant job and I was certainly not let down.”

Gyllenhaal, upon initially reading Ford’s screenplay, found himself “profoundly moved, and shook, by it. The script communicated, in a lot of ways, what it feels like to have a broken heart. It’s also about how we want to be perceived and how we present ourselves to other people – so then, who are we really, what is someone’s real truth? I feel that Tom is at war with the idea of aesthetic over honesty, and that film-making is a medium in which he can express this.
“I found Tom giving me a tremendous amount of space and quiet – which I need, to be vulnerable in front of the camera. He’s extraordinarily detail-oriented.”

The crucial supporting roles of Lt. Bobby Andes and Ray Marcus, who would seem to represent different extremes of the law, were filled by, respectively, Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon and British actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Both actors were sought by Ford because of their versatility, a quality which has allowed each to disappear into characters from different eras and nationalities – so much so that filmgoers might not be able to remember where they have seen these actors before.

4100_D021_02649_R (l-r.) Academy Award nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon star as Tony Hastings and Bobby Andes in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Focus Features release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features
As Ford explains it, that quality was vital “to get at these men in full; the characters may only exist in the manuscript that Susan is reading, but the portrayals had to capture her imagination and rivet the audience’s attention.”
Shannon remarks, “I loved the idea of playing a character in a novel, and I do feel that Tony and Bobby are two aspects of their author, Edward. Bobby is a classic, iconic character; there’s a long history of characters like him that I may have referenced – some of his traits would come out of the subconscious. He is hardwired to pursue justice; dealing for years with nefarious people, he has seen a lot of lives adversely affected, so he wants to help Tony find the strength to confront the men who committed these crimes.”
Gyllenhaal reports, “Working with Michael is a joy. His interpretation of Bobby was fascinating to watch, as the situation Bobby and Tony are in is deeply serious – but Michael would still bring a wry quality to a lot of the scenes, which was really refreshing.”
Shannon smiles, “People hear ‘a Tom Ford movie’ and may think everyone will be walking around in tuxedoes. Bobby really doesn’t think about having ‘a look.’ Basically he just has cigarettes and a gun.
“Jake is a fearless actor, someone who always wants to go for another take – which I like because I’m kind of the same way. Aaron would show up in-character, he would come into the make-up trailer in the morning just on edge, unable to sit still; he harnessed a feral energy to play Ray.”
Taylor-Johnson reflects, “I read the script and thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to be able to do this.’ There was no angle for me to relate to this character. Then I met with Tom and listened to how he wanted to see Ray on-screen, and I put all my trust in him to go do this challenge. I started watching documentaries and reading about serial killers in American history. I’d never done a Texan accent before, and our dialect coach Michael Buster helped me get a resonance away from the twang of what people think a Texan accent is.
The filmmaker is satisfied with the enveloping quality of Nocturnal Animals as not only a compelling and suspenseful journey but also an inward-looking one. His expectation is that the viewer will be “open to identifying with more than one of the characters.”

The film opens a window into the lifestyle and subculture of modern-day Indian South Africans; their aspirations, dreams, challenges and the things that make them laugh and love

From the producers of Happiness is Four Letter Word, one of South Africa’s most successful films, comes an all new rib-tickling family comedy – Keeping up with the Kandasamys directed by Jayan Moodley (White Gold).keeping-up-with-the-kandasamys-2

“Keeping up with the Kandasamys has something for everyone,” says director Jayan Moodley.

“The universal story of neighbourhood rivalry, our desperate need for acceptance and the climb for perceived societal success, is something which touches everyone the world over. At the end of the day we can all recognize our quirks and foibles and the funny side of the weird, wonderful and strangely competitive world we live in.”

“I loved making this film in Chatsworth. It’s an iconic place, like District Six or Soweto. It’s vibrant, lively and spirited, and I believe we have managed to not only capture its idiosyncrasies but also its heart and soul, that will make global audiences fall in love with it too, over a barrel full of laughs.”

Produced by Junaid Ahmed and Helena Spring with screenplay by Jayan Moodley and Rory Booth, Keeping up with the Kandasamys, promises audiences some truly funny laughs about families, relationships and “neighbourhood-envy”.

Set in Chatsworth, it stars Jailoshni Naidoo and Maeshni Naicker as the matriarchal rivals of neighbouring families, whose young adult children become romantically involved despite their best efforts to keep them apart, with hilarious results, they are forced to acknowledge that in the end “love will always prevail.”

Shanti Naidoo (played by Maeshni Naicker) is a typical Type-A personality. Always on the move, going out of her way to please people, and overcompensating for her own perceived inadequacies by constantly cooking up a storm in her kitchen. Her life would be just fine, except that her neighbour Jennifer Kandasamy (Jailoshni Naidoo), always seems to have the upper hand.

When Jennifer realizes her daughter Jodi (Mishqah Parthiephal) is in love with Shanti’s son Prinesh (Madhushan Singh), she is determined to break them up. But in order to do that she will have to enlist her rival’s help. Together the two women scheme and plot, recruit prospective partners and generally interfere with their kids wherever they can.  Sound familiar? Just how far will one go to serve one’s own selfish needs? And will they learn that in the end, it really is just happiness that matters.

Director’s Statement

Jayan started her career as an educator with a National Higher Diploma in Education. She completed her BSc degree majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science thereafter.

However, she soon realized that her passion lay in the creative arts and embarked on this new journey in 2005. She has been involved in various projects for the SABC. Her particular interests lies within spirituality and the multi-faith concept. Some of the documentaries she has produced include The Shembes Walk to God, Buddhism – Finding the Peace Within and Ela Gandhi – the Hands that Serve. Her dream came true when she produced, co- directed and wrote the screenplay for the movie White Gold. Jayan takes a keen interest in youth development programmes.  She is currently the producer of the Hindu magazine programme on SABC 3  Sadhana which is into its fifth season.

Kandasamys#2_ASSixty years since the creation of apartheid’s dormitory township of Chatsworth, Keeping up with the Kandasamys is a legacy project that celebrates a unique, vibrant and colourful community in a democratic South Africa.

It is a film not just about space and identity and about place and people, but an in-depth exploration of the largely universal theme of family, love and happiness. It examines also the nature and fragility of complex human relationships, the importance of forgiveness, and ultimately about subduing personal pride for the realisation of our children’s happiness.

Entering the insular world of the two main characters who remain trapped within their contempt of each other, the audience is able to gently uncover their superficial layers to reveal a deep emotional scar that prevents them moving forward.  One an over-compensating mother and wife, and the other an untrusting and aloof professional, both neighbours build a metaphorical wall between their families.

Through the life journey of the two protagonists, the film is a subtle commentary on how personal pride can transform a somewhat peaceful existence into complete turmoil. It speaks to the age-old bane of overbearing and imposing parents, which takes on a new meaning in the insulated and close-knit Indian South African community. Without preachy undertones, it suggests the need for parents to give their children the space to make their own life decisions. Whilst exploring these key themes, it is always light and funny, and using the quirkiness of key characters, and comedic relief at important turning points to always guarantee entertainment value.

In the final analysis, Keeping up with the Kandasamys is a celebration of people, of love and unity, and of the importance of realising that in the end, only happiness matters.

Dr Alwyn Didar Singh, Secretary in the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, confirmed that Durban, KZN has the highest concentration of Indians compared to any other city state overseas[1]. This is an important and yet often underestimated fact, emphasising the unique geopolitical space that KZN holds globally.  The apartheid-created dormitory township of Chatsworth that was designated for South Africans of Indian origin has over the last six decades managed to preserve its unique character.

Keeping up with the Kandasamys is an attempt to provide local and international audiences with a glimpse into the lifestyle and subculture of modern-day Indian South Africans; their aspirations, dreams, and challenges. Like viewers get drawn into the inimitable characteristics of a Harlem or Bronx in New York, so too will Keeping Up transport them into the vibrant and colourful suburb, allowing them a first-hand authentic experience of the local nuances of Indian South African culture.

Whilst the setting for the film is indeed unique, its theme most certainly has universal appeal. Essentially it explores how a deep-seated rivalry between neighbours, Shanti and Jennifer, interferes with the happiness of their children who are madly in love with each other. The story comes alive as the two women scheme and plot, recruit prospective partners and generally create more and more obstacles to prevent their children from continuing a romantic relationship.

Light-hearted, and entertaining, the story is supported by an array of colourful characters that celebrate the rich way of life in Chatsworth, Durban through rib-tickling comedy. There is Jodi, Jennifer’s beautiful daughter, her friend Marlin, the local wedding planner – an epitome of fabulous flamboyancy, the sensitive medical student Pranesh, son of the crowd pleaser Shanti and the two husbands Preggie and Elvis, who always remain in the background, constantly over-shadowed by their dominating wives. Ayah, Jennifer’s elderly (and sickly) mother in law, represents that typical granny in most Chatsworth extended families, with one-liners and funny incites and eventually deep insights that are bound to strike a chord with any audience.

From a directorial point of view, Keeping up with the Kandasamys has been carefully scripted not only to entertain but to remind viewers of the important value of family in modern life. It aims to bring characters to life and to take movie-making in KZN to yet another level. It comes at a time, when the film industry in this Province has finally turned the corner, and will be a catalyst for economic development, whilst ensuring that local KZN talent remains in this beautiful Kingdom of the Zulu.

The story of a visionary trio of women who crossed gender, race and professional lines on their way to pioneering cosmic travel

Hidden Figures uncovers the incredible, untold yet true story of a brilliant group of Wonder Women who changed the foundations of the country for the better — by aiming for the stars.  The film recounts the vital history of an elite team of black female mathematicians at NASA who helped win the all-out space race against America’s rivals in the Soviet Union and, at the same time, sent the quest for equal rights and opportunity rocketing forwards.

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Everyone knows about the Apollo missions.  We can all immediately list the bold male astronauts who took those first giant steps for humankind in space:  John Glenn, Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong.  Yet, remarkably, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson’s are names not taught in school or even known to most people — even though their daring, smarts and powerful roles as NASA’s ingenious “human computers” were indispensable to advances that allowed for human space flight.

Director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) brings the women’s rise to the top ranks of aerospace in the thrilling early days of NASA to life via a fast-moving, humor-filled, inspiring entertainment that illuminates both the gutsy quest for Earth’s first, seemingly impossible orbital flight and also the powerful things that can result when women unite.

For all its joys and triumphs, Hidden Figures is also a film that takes place at the crossroads of the most defining struggles in American history:  the evolving fight for Civil Rights; the battle to win the high-stakes Cold War without risking nuclear war and be the first superpower to establish a human presence outside planet Earth; and the ongoing drive to show how the mind-boggling technological breakthroughs that create the world’s future have nothing to do with gender or background.

Says Melfi:  “This story takes place at the collision of the Cold War, the space race, the Jim Crow south, and the birth of the Civil Rights movement.  It is incredible territory for a rich and powerful story few people know about at all.”

Adds Taraji P. Henson:  “Now we know there were amazing women behind how John Glenn came to orbit the earth in space — we finally get to hear their story.”

Touchingly, Katherine G. Johnson, now in her 90s, finds the growing fascination with her life’s work and that of her fellow compatriots a surprise as she says she was always just doing her best for her job, her family and her community, as she believes anybody would.  “I was just solving problems that needed to be solved,” she says with characteristic modesty.

As for what she advises people facing challenges today, Johnson says:  “Stick with it.  No matter the problem, it can be solved.  A woman can solve it — and a man can too, if you give him a lot of time.”

Screenwriter Allison Schroeder, who not only studied high-level math but interned at NASA, following in the wake of her grandmother, a programmer at NASA from the early days through the shuttle program, and grandfather, who took part in the Mercury project.

Much as Schroeder knew about NASA history, she, too, had never encountered the names of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.  She couldn’t believe this inspiring story of women’s empowerment in the world of space science had been buried out of her sight, even as an insider.

“I did know about the ‘human computers’ at NASA, but I honestly never had heard there was a separate African-American pool of computers,” explains Schroeder.  “By the time my grandmother began working there, it was already more integrated.  I did know a lot of women worked at NASA. I remember NASA came to our school in the 8th grade and recruited women and minorities for internships. That’s how I got involved in NASA and in math and science.  So, I knew NASA was big on including everyone.”

At last, the story of a visionary trio of women who crossed gender, race and professional lines on their way to pioneering cosmic travel comes to the screen starring Taraji P. Henson (Empire, Benjamin Button, Hustle And Flow), Octavia Spencer (Allegiant, Fruitvale Station, The Help), singer Janelle Monáe making her motion picture debut and Kevin Costner (Black Or White, Field Of Dreams, Dancing With Wolves).

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Meet NASA’s  “Human Computers”­­­­

Few accomplishments in American history have been as celebrated as the nation’s space program and those first soaringly idealistic journeys to take humankind into the cosmos we’d contemplated since history’s dawn.  President Kennedy has been hailed for galvanizing the country to dream big; the astronauts who flew the perilous early flights into the unknown have become icons; and the meticulous male NASA engineers at mission control have been lauded for their grit and tenacity under pressure.

Yet there remain unsung and unlikely heroes of the space race – particularly, a team of female mathematicians who blazed multiple trails, trails towards greater diversity in science, equality in America, for human mathematical achievement and to launch John Glenn into mesmerizing orbit at more than17, 000 miles per hour as he circled three times around the globe in space.

It was a time in the country when opportunities could seem unjustly limited – that was true if you were a woman, if you were African-American, and especially if you were an African-American woman. Yet these dazzlingly smart NASA women flouted the limitations without fanfare, redefining the entire idea of what was possible – and who is vital to the nation — by proving themselves absolutely essential to America’s future.

For Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, the chance to use their knowledge, passion and skills opened up just as the demands of World War II were shifting the nation’s social fabric.  On the factory front, women were suddenly invited to become Rosie the Riveters. Less famously, the same thing was happening in science and math. Faced with a daunting shortage of male scientists and mathematicians and with new laws prohibiting racial discrimination, defense contractors and Federal Agencies began seeking out women and African-Americans with the skills to keep pushing essential research onwards.

Director Theodore Melfi explains:  “For NASA, at that moment in time, brains were more important than race or sex.  These were brilliant women who could do the math they needed, who were hungry for a chance, who really wanted the opportunity to change their lives – so who else were they going to turn to?”

At the Langley Memorial Research Lab in Hampton, Virginia – run by the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, or NACA, a precursor to NASA — the search was on for luminous minds from nonconventional backgrounds. They needed gifted people to serve as “human computers” – that is those rare people with the grey matter to complete rapid-fire, advanced calculations in their minds, before we had digital super computers that could precisely plot out rocket trajectories and re-entry paths.

The stakes felt high to all Americans.  In 1958, the Soviet Union launched their pioneering Sputnik satellite with a bang – claiming they now had the superior edge in the raging Cold War between the two nations.  This catapulted the space race into the number one U.S. priority and preoccupation.  Millions watched the race unfold, hoping America would be able to prove its strength as a society by beating the Russians into orbit and all the way to the moon.   In a time when fear of a hot, civilization-annihilating nuclear war was at a high, the space race became an alternate path for the USSR and the U.S. to compete no holds barred.  Both nations saw it as a chance to prove their system had the greater potential, as well as to reap new military and intelligence-gathering benefits, and become the first country to establish a sphere of influence beyond our globe.  By 1960, John F. Kennedy was running for President on an inspiring platform of closing the gap in the space race and taking the lead with American ingenuity.

Recalls Katherine G. Johnson of Sputnik:  “All our engineers were mad somebody else did it first.  But what most people didn’t know was that we were right behind the Russians and we were ready.”

It was in this context, that NACA became NASA and all of its scientists and mathematicians, including the “human computers,” shifted into the space program at high velocity.

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Director Theodore Melfi and Janelle Monáe during the filming of Hidden Figures

Despite the Jim Crow laws still undermining equality and human rights in Virginia, Langley hired an entirely female team of these “human computers,” a number of whom were African American math teachers. They remained segregated, with black women eating in separate quarters and working apart in a remote division known as West Computing.  They were paid less than their white counterparts.  Yet, their extraordinary work rose above – and ultimately so won over the men in their midst that they became utterly indispensible to the boldest mission yet:  putting John Glenn into full orbit around earth.

Even before NASA saw their untapped genius, these were astonishingly special women: Johnson was a West Virginia phenom who started high school at 10 and had graduated with degrees in Mathematics and French at 18 before becoming one of the first to integrate the graduate school at West Virginia University, starting at Langley in 1953. While she was working for NASA, she was also a single mother raising three children

Vaughan was equally accomplished, a Missourian who graduated from college at 19 and worked as a math teacher before joining Langley in 1943. She quickly became the head of the West Computing group.

Jackson was a local from Hampton, Virginia with degrees in Physical Science and Mathematics. She rose to Aerospace Engineer after joining Langley in 1951, specializing in wind tunnel experiments and aircraft data, always using her position to help others.

As special as they were, the women took their accomplishments in stride.  For Johnson, it seemed normal to possess extraordinary math skills, because they came to her organically from a very young age. “Almost as soon as I was born, I loved to count things,” she remembers.  “I was always counting the stairs, and we had a lot of stairs so I got a lot of experience.  I saw that counting was a way to understand things better, to see what things were and what they meant.”

Even at NASA, Johnson felt driven first and foremost by her curiosity about the world, and never drew attention to herself as a heroine.  “I approached it as:  if someone asked me to solve a problem, I did it,” she states matter-of-factly.  “But I always wanted to know more about the importance of what we were doing.  If we were doing a calculation, I wanted to know:  What is this for?  Why is it vital?”

As for leading a triple life as a mother raising children, an African American woman navigating Jim Crow laws and as a major asset for NASA, Johnson says she never felt she wasn’t up to the task. “A woman can always outdo a man in managing multiple things at once, so it was no problem,” she muses.  “And at NASA, we were all working toward the same goal, whether we knew it or not.”

It stunned author and executive producer Margot Lee Shetterly, whose father worked at NASA, that these women remained relatively unknown.  Shetterly wrote her novel Hidden Figures based on oral interviews, extensive research and archival information, chronicling how the women of West Computing met the challenges that faced them with grace and optimism, forged alliances that helped them gain respect and aided one another to change their own lives even as they were changing the country and technology forever.  She also founded the Human Computer Project, which has received two grants from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, an organization dedicated to archiving the work of all the women who contributed to the early history of NASA.

She was especially moved by how the women themselves downplayed what they faced.  Says Shetterly:  “These women were hidden in plain sight in a way.  They felt they had a chance to do jobs they loved – and they loved this challenging math — so they didn’t draw attention to themselves.”

But now is the time to draw attention to these women, Shetterly believes. “In the past, we’ve been blind-sighted about women in technology,” she comments.  “We have this image of what an astronaut or a scientist looks like, and since these women did not fit the profile, historians often looked past them.”

Shetterly set out to give the women their full due in her book.  One thing Shetterly wanted to get across is how much these women could do with pencils and sheer brainpower.  “There’s more computing power in a toaster today than was available in the 1960s,” laughs Shetterly, “yet we were able to send a man into space, then to the moon. That is because raw computing power came from these women.”

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Especially inspiring to Shetterly was how the women navigated clashing realities – as high-level minds on the one hand and as African Americans confronted with daily institutional bias on the other.  “It must have been something to be so into your work, so fascinated by these big mathematical problems — and then you have to go use the ‘colored bathroom,’” she muses.  “Then you come back and still have to hold your head high, despite having your status as a second-class citizen pointed out again and again.”

Bonding closely together helped the women find strength, says Shetterly.  “They were a band of sisters.  They knew they had to support each other and they encouraged each other to give 150% because they also knew they were going to be scrutinized in a different way.  I think they saw they had a rare chance to open doors to other black women in a future that would be different,” she concludes.

Now, there has been a burst of fascination with NASA’s women, especially as efforts to recruit more women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields take off.  “A number of people did historical work and published articles in the past,” notes the film’s NASA consultant Bill Barry.  “But it didn’t catch on with the public imagination until now.  Now there’s a growing interest now in how we can really encourage women to follow their passions in science, engineering and math.”

When the manuscript crossed Academy Award®-winning producer Donna Gigliotti’s desk, she too was shaken by the women’s hidden status and stirred by all they had accomplished at a time when their achievements went unrecognized.   “We develop a lot of material – but this story was so unique,” says Gigliotti.  “It’s a part of history that needed to be heard, and I knew this was a movie I had to make.”

Concludes Melfi:  “What united us was telling this story of how a group of people at NASA – black, white, men and women – came together to achieve something great by putting all differences aside.  Was it hard?  Yes.  Was it uncomfortable?   Yes.  Did it take time?   Yes. But great things happen when people unite on equal terms.”

 

“Like so many women in history, Jackie has never really gotten her proper due. She’s been portrayed mainly for her style and elegance, but she deserves more credit for her exceptional understanding of image, public relations and really creating the idea of Camelot after JFK’s death.”

Jackie Kennedy led a multi-faceted life of power and influence, but when it came to writing about her, screenwriter and journalist Noah Oppenheim came to feel there was one story that spoke to her psyche in the most compelling way – the very brief but remarkably consequential days that the First Lady spent nearly alone in the White House following her husband’s death.

Noah Oppenheim began his career in news. In addition to writing screenplays, he is currently Senior Vice President of NBC News and Executive-in-Charge of the “Today” show. He oversees all aspects of the morning show franchise – both broadcast and digital. He co-wrote THE MAZE RUNNER, a franchise that has grossed $600+ million to date. An Emmy winner, he co-created “Mad Money with Jim Cramer,” covered three presidential elections, and has reported from Iraq, Israel, Gaza, the West Bank and Libya. He is co-author of two New York Times bestsellers – The Intellectual Devotional and The Intellectual Devotional: American History. His essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Esquire and Men’s Health.

JACKIE takes audiences on a personal journey into one of the most extraordinary events of American history – and also into a deeply stirring drama that illuminates in fascinating new ways the woman, the times and the ways we cope with and tell the stories of the most intensely public of tragedies.
At the start of November 22nd, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy was among the most famed, admired and envied figures in the world. As the elegant, stylish and alluring wife of the youngest-ever elected President of the United States, she was also the first First Lady of the televised age… photogenic, captivating and yet barely-known beneath her near-mythical image of grace, youth and idealism.
Yet, within hours, Jackie’s world, along with the faith of the nation, would be shaken from their foundations when John F. Kennedy was struck down by assassin’s bullets while riding at Jackie’s side in a motorcade parade through Dallas. In a moment rife with confusion and shock, the world witnessed the First Lady’s composed grief in images that remain as poignant and mesmerizing as ever.

But what no one saw is what went on behind closed doors in Jackie’s private, tightly-contained world. Suddenly alone, save for her family, confidante and priest, the First Lady faced a remarkable series of challenges as a wife, a mother and a reluctant part of the political machine: consoling her young children, planning her husband’s funeral, preparing for the next President to rapidly move into the White House and most remarkably, fighting to maintain control over how history would forever define her husband’s legacy.

JackieIn a period of just a week, this fiercely private woman had to face unthinkable personal loss, hard political realities, a nation in the throes of a collective trauma and — amid all the uncertainty, Washington machinery and public scrutiny — the responsibility of keeping alive all that her husband wanted to stand for in America. Though today he is among the most beloved of U.S. Presidents, JFK’s legacy was hardly assured upon his death. He had spent just 2 years and 9 months in office, and the fear among those closest to him was that all he aimed for would be forgotten because the potential had gone unfulfilled. In the midst of her own anguish, Jackie steeled herself with a single-minded mission: to tell her husband’s story in a way that it would always be remembered, as brief but shining moment of American promise.
That week was a period of time, felt Oppenheim, that defined not only the icon Jackie would become but the beginnings of our image-saturated culture in ways that haven’t really been explored.
“Like so many women in history, Jackie has never really gotten her proper due. She’s been portrayed mainly for her style and elegance, but she deserves more credit for her exceptional understanding of image, public relations and really creating the idea of Camelot after JFK’s death,” says Oppenheim.

“When I read about that single week in 1963 — when she had to console two grief-stricken children, deal with moving out of what was really her only home, contemplate a whole different life moving forward, and at the same time had one last shot to solidify her husband’s legacy — it was extraordinary. I couldn’t imagine a more revealing moment to explore one of the most interesting women of the last century.”

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For Natalie Portman, the hope of committing as fully and fearlessly as she did was to find the part of Jackie that still resonates with us now. “I think every individual will have their own experience of who Jackie is,” she concludes. “But the one thing I truly hope is that you see someone who is not just an icon but a very human, complex woman who found her own way through a situation few of us could imagine.”

 

Oppenheim cut his teeth in the world of news and politics, serving as Senior Vice President of NBC News — where he often talked about Kennedy’s impact with fellow journalist and Kennedy biographer Chris Matthews — and a senior producer of the “Today Show.” He’s also the co-author of the bestseller The Intellectual Devotional: American History, a compendium of wisdom from American historical figures. Naturally, he dove with relish into the research, poring through the endless archives amassed about the Kennedy family and the short-lived but endlessly influential administration.
But research could only take him so far in his efforts to recreate the voice, personality and often-obscured emotions of Jackie.
Jackie poster“The blessing of writing about someone like Jackie is that there’s an overwhelming amount of information about who she was, how she behaved, the timeline of her life,” he admits. “This preponderance of information about her life enabled me to root her in reality, but it also provided me an opportunity to ask questions and use my imagination to fully breath life into her on the page. Because I had this wealth of research, I was freed creatively and was able to dig deeper and explore her beyond the bounds of the facts I was able to ground her in.”
As he researched and wrote, Oppenheim felt very strongly that he was writing a story not of the past, but one that resonates fully with today’s world — a story about a woman who in many ways was the first in Presidential history to forge the idea of leaving behind a visual legacy that lives forever.
“Jackie Kennedy’s story speaks to us today for several reasons,” says Oppenheim. “For one thing, it harkens back to a time when politics had a certain dignity to it, when we all admired the people who occupied the White House. I also think Jackie was sort of the first American queen, someone who showed us what it is to have the noblest grace under fire. And I think this is a time when people are desperately trying to cut through the fog surrounding what’s true and what’s not in our world — so it is a ripe time to explore how public figures craft their images and create mythologies around themselves.”

Director Pablo Larrain and Natalie Portman on the set of JACKIE. Photo by Pablo Larrain. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Director Pablo Larrain and Natalie Portman on the set of Jackie. Photo by Pablo Larrain. © 2016

 

Noah Oppenheim was immediately impressed by Chilean director Pablo Larraín. “Working with Pablo has been an incredibly gratifying collaboration,” Oppenheim states. He brought a really unique point of view to the material and he challenged me to push further in terms of exploring Jackie’s humanity and the contradictory sides to her personality. The script just kept getting better and better as we worked together.”

“In the beginning all that I knew about Jackie was really quite superficial,” Larraín notes. “I knew her as the woman always seen in pictures next to JFK, the woman known for her fashion, taste and style. I think that’s how most people know her in America and around the world. But I wanted to change up that point-ofview and dig further. The more I looked, the more I found a woman who was very sophisticated, very smart and who had an incredible political sense of her own. Most importantly, she was a woman who understood communication in a way very few people did in those times.”
Jackie 3Larraín also became fascinated, and moved, by the way Jackie allowed herself to become a kind of conduit for the public’s collective feelings of anguish and doubt in the wake of the only Presidential assassination of the 20th Century. “The United Stated never has had royalty and yet in that moment, Jackie became like a queen without a throne, a mother to a nation in mourning,” the director observes. “She shouldered all their sorrow and pain even as she was enduring so much grief and shock herself. She put it all on her back and she pushed on. She couldn’t have planned for these events, yet when the moment came, she carried herself with such grace and extraordinary love.”

During that turbulent week, Jackie unwittingly built a reputation as someone as courageous and beloved as her husband, planning his funeral to become a strikingly grand national catharsis. “That was not her intention — to make herself an icon,” observes Larraín. “But in trying to protect her husband’s legacy, she became one. There was a gap between her objective and the actual result which is one of many things I found interesting to explore in this story.”

Larraín was also compelled by the idea of mixing and matching historic events that are well documented — the Dallas motorcade, Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in to the Presidency on Air Force One, JFK’s grand state funeral and final burial in Arlington National Cemetery beside an eternal flame — with the moments no one can ever document and can only be daringly imagined. It was Larraín’s idea to incorporate the 1962 television show, “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy” — broadcast on Valentine’s Day and seen by over 56 million viewers — into the narrative. Taking unprecedented advantage of television’s new Golden Age, Jackie had invited America and the world into the newly renovated White House in a way that was both public and personal, and in a way that seemed to form a bookend with her more somber public appearances after JFK’s death.”

Larraín gives a boldly unconventional spin to the biopic genre, mixing historical footage with complete fictional re-creations, and excavating just one critical moment in Jackie’s life, but in all its intricately woven layers. Meanwhile, Portman explores the haunting territory of a woman juggling her incomprehensibly vast yet contained sorrow with a world watching, remembering and making meaning out of her every move. The result is an intimate portrait, yet one of epic themes, that provides a portrait of Jackie as we’ve not seen her: a deeply human, vulnerable woman confronted at once with the power of loss, love, self-preservation, public consciousness and history.

Jackie 2Natalie Portman knew this role would be her greatest challenge — and a heavy responsibility given the realities of Kennedy’s life and place in history. But Portman had instant faith in the script. She was attracted to the idea that what was going on inside Jackie was so much more than was ever seen in the public eye; that she was a woman whose profound understanding of what lasts and what matters most anchored her in solid steel when she would have been forgiven for falling to pieces.
“I thought Noah Oppenheim’s approach in the script was really smart — he took this one short piece of Jackie’s life, this incredibly traumatic event, and excavated it for how Jackie composed herself in front of the world while dealing with everything that was happening to her privately,” says Portman. “We’ve mostly known Jackie as an almost unapproachable icon, as someone we’ve seen as a facade, not ever as a real human, so I love that this story gives you new insight into her humanity.”
To give audiences that fresh insight into a woman renown for her stoicism, Portman had to plunge into two twined sides of Jackie: the masked and the unmasked, each with its own challenges. “Jackie was not very forthcoming about her emotions, so I really explored that idea with Pablo,” Portman says. “We both were completely open to trying anything the other brought up. It was exciting because there was no wall put up as to what was the right way to approach her. It was really a path of discovery for me, because it’s such an unimaginably horrific situation Jackie went through — and there were so many different reactions that were possible and human.”

“It’s a movie about loyalty and love and specifically a character, Logan, who has been stubbornly avoiding intimacy throughout his long life, finally letting it in.”

From visionary writer-director James Mangold comes the defining chapter in the cinematic saga of one of the greatest comic book heroes ever created. Logan sees Hugh Jackman reprise his iconic role as The Wolverine for one, final time in a raw, powerfully dramatic standalone story of sacrifice and redemption.

Logan

Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon.And God made it last too long.

It’s 2029. Mutants are gone—or very nearly so. An isolated, despondent Logan is drinking his days away in a hideout on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, picking up petty cash as a driver for hire. His companions in exile are the outcast Caliban and an ailing Professor X, whose singular mind is plagued by worsening seizures. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy abruptly end when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request—that Logan shepherd an extraordinary young girl to safety. Soon, the claws come out as Logan must face off against dark forces and a villain from his own past on a live-or-die mission, one that will set the time-worn warrior on a path toward fulfilling his destiny.

Logan stars Hugh Jackman in the title role, alongside Patrick Stewart (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant and newcomer Dafne Keen. The film is directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, The Wolverine); from a screenplay by Mangold and co-scripter Scott Frank (A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Wolverine) and Michael Green (Alien: Covenant).

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Hugh Jackman first brought his electrifying energy to the mutant known as Wolverine way back in 2000 in the film that launched the modern-day comic-book blockbuster, director Bryan Singer’s original X-Men. Since then, the acclaimed Australian actor has slipped into the skin of the world’s most famous mutant a record 10 times on the big screen. But this time, with Logan, Jackman had the chance to craft something truly special as a mean of laying to rest his longtime screen alter ego.

“We wanted something that would feel very different, very fresh and ultimately something very human,” Jackson says, “because it seems to me that the strength of X-Men and the strength of Wolverine is more his humanity than his superpower. In exploring this character for the last time, I wanted to get to the heart of who that human was, more than what his claws can do.”

From the outset, Jackman always had a gift for locating Logan’s humanity beneath his gruff, deeply scarred exterior. But with this nuanced, deeply moving performance, the actor brings the character full circle—the cigar-chomping, hard-charging loner is now a steadfastly loyal comrade-in-arms willing to sacrifice everything for what he believes.

Of course, Jackman and Logan co writer-director James Mangold had already taken the character to new, far-flung places with the character’s previous solo outing 2013’s The Wolverine. That earlier film, adapted from the landmark 1980 comic miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller and suffused with the spirit of Japanese noir and samurai films as well as American westerns, saw Logan plucked from self-imposed exile only to be drawn into violence and intrigue in Japan. It won praise from critics for its careful parsing of Logan’s inner tumult, rather than strictly relying on over-the-top action set-pieces for thrills.

With ten feature films to date, including such notable films as Heavy, 3:10 to Yuma, Girl, Interrupted and Walk the Line, James Mangold is a writer-director known for making sophisticated ensemble films in a wide range of genres while keeping constant the powerful themes, original characterizations, memorable performances and striking imagery that have come to define and unify his work. Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix’s performances in Mangold’s acclaimed feature Walk the Line earned them both Golden Globe Awards and an Oscar® for Witherspoon for Best Performance by an Actress. The film also won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and received five Oscar® nominations.

Mangold says that following their experience on The Wolverine, the duo hadn’t necessarily planned to partner on another project centering on Logan. “Hugh and I were both on the bubble about doing another one of these,” says the director, who first worked with Jackman on 2001’s Kate & Leopold. “If we were going to do it, I wanted to take it somewhere that interested me, someplace intimate and primal—a character-based story where we explore the fears and weaknesses of these larger-than-life heroes, a film that makes them more human.”

Even before embarking on the project, Jackman and Mangold understood that the story needed to exist apart from the dense and heady mythology of the larger X-Men franchise. “We both wanted a movie that was a standalone movie,” Jackman says. “This is far more realistic than we’ve done before in the X-Men franchise, maybe any of the other comic book movies. It’s far more human.”

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES

Scott Frank graduated from UCSB in 1982 with a degree in Film Studies. Since then, he has written and or directed over fifteen feature films and television programs. In 2008, Scott Frank’s directorial debut, The Lookout, won the Independent Spirit award for “Best First Feature.” Along with The Lookout, Mr. Frank’s other screenplays include Little Man Tate, Dead Again, Malice, Heaven’s Prisoners, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Minority Report, The Interpreter, Marley & Me, The Wolverine, A Walk Among the Tombstones (also directed) and the upcoming LOGAN. Out of Sight, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America as well as Best Screenplay awards from the National Society of Film Critics and the Boston Society of Film Critics. Minority Report won the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Screenplay. Get Shorty was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Writers Guild Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and, along with Dead Again, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Mystery Screenplay. Mr. Frank is currently in post-production on his six-hour western mini-series, Godless, that he wrote and directed with executive producer Steven Soderbergh and Netflix. Mr. Frank is also writing a TV series for Hulu based on the Walter Tevis novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and a second series for Netflix, Dept Q, based on a series of novels by Jussi Adler Olsen.

Specifically, Mangold, who wrote the Logan script with The Wolverine co-scripter Scott Frank (A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Wolverine) and Michael Green (Alien: Covenant), set out to create a character-driven piece that would focus on Logan, Xavier and Laura as they made their way across a barren landscape.

“I had this kind of strange vision in my head that I wanted to make a road movie with these characters, in a way almost trapping myself as a filmmaker,” Mangold says. “Putting them in a car and trapping them on the highway would tie my hands. We couldn’t do something about worlds colliding or an alien invasion—the movie would essentially force itself to operate on a more intimate level.”

Also important to Mangold, who has long viewed Logan as a spiritual descendant of great western heroes like Clint Eastwood’s Outlaw Josey Wales or Alan Ladd’s Shane, was robbing Wolverine of his invincibility to make the character more vulnerable, more exposed. “The idea with this film was to find him in a state where his ability to heal is extremely diminished,” Mangold says. “His strength is diminished. His own health and his mental state are dark.”

Although Logan takes place more than 50 years after the events depicted in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), it is firmly its own standalone tale that plays more like an intimate family journey—albeit one packed with high-stakes action scenes—than a conventional sci-fi adventure propelled by explosive visuals. “We wanted to go out with a bang,” says Mangold. “But the thing is—once cities and planets have been destroyed—you have to earn your bang as opposed to just getting louder.”

When the film opens, Logan is in a vulnerable and broken state, the curse of his immortality wearing heavy on him as he cares for a weakened Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in a derelict smelting plant at the edge of an abandoned oil field. They’re joined there by a third mutant, Caliban (The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant), sheltering in obscurity at a time when the world believes mutants have passed into history.

But Logan’s days of drinking in relative solitude are interrupted when he finds himself the reluctant guardian of a young girl, Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen) who has powers remarkably like his own: from her hands as well as her feet spring the same adamantium claws as Wolverine’s. Not that he’s exactly eager to accept this newfound responsibility—he’s far too weary to play the hero once more.

Michael Green

Michael Green is a television and film writer and producer who has received numerous accolades for his work, including an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series in 2007 for Heroes. Green penned 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh. His other current feature projects include the upcoming Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve; Alien: Covenant, directed by Ridley Scott; and LOGAN, directed by James Mangold. In television, Green currently serves as executive producer and co-showrunner of Starz’s American Gods, adapted from Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel by Green and Bryan Fuller. Green also created and executive-produced NBC’s Kings and ABC’s The River. He has additionally written and produced for numerous shows including Heroes, Everwood, Smallville, Jack & Bobby and Sex and the City.

“He doesn’t want to help. At all,” Jackman says. “He doesn’t want anything to do with it. He’s long past the stage in his life where he reacts to people’s pleas and cries for help. Basically, he has come to the conclusion that generally when he helps, things end up worse off. The people he loves end up getting hurt, that if he gets too close, or tries too hard, it ends in pain and loss and destruction.”

Tasked with protecting her from the murderous cybernetic criminal Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), Logan and Professor X set out to cross hostile territory to ferry Laura to a place called Eden, where young mutants are said to enjoy safe haven. But Pierce and his fearsome army of cyborg Reavers are determined to return the girl to the custody of Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), the sinister geneticist behind Alkali who triggered her mutations through a series of inhumane experiments in the hopes of creating a child super-soldier.

“He’s a sociopath who has no emotional understanding or feeling for the mutants that he creates,” Grant says. “He sees human beings as something to be cloned. He’s very scientific and intellectual about everything. He has no real emotional involvement whatsoever.”

With Wolverine’s tremendous physical abilities compromised by age and the passage of time, their relentless pursuit of the travelers takes a great and bloody toll.

It’s often said that a film is often only as great as its villain, and Jackman was quick to praise Holbrook’s turn as the unhinged Pierce. “Boyd is a phenomenally talented actor, a really gifted artist,” he says. “When I read the script, I told him that I thought Pierce was one of the hardest parts to pull off. The greatest villains seem to be having more fun than anyone else in the movie, and he embodied that and he did it brilliantly because he could turn on a dime and be very menacing as well as funny.”

But the actor had especially kind words for his young co-star, Dafne Keen, who makes her feature film debut with Logan with a virtuoso performance. “She’s a phenomenal actress, and it’s an honor to share the film with her,” Jackman says. “Laura, genetically, has Wolverine’s DNA, so there are elements of him in her personality and her physicality and that’s not easy to pull off. I found it hard to pull off when I was 30, let alone an 11-year-old-girl, and she’s not like that at all. She’s very bubbly, vivacious and energetic. Playing this constantly pissed off, rage-filled mutant who will take your head off if you look at her sideways is nothing like who she is, and she nailed it.”

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Because of their shared traits, Logan is in a unique position to help Laura come to terms with her feelings and channel that overwhelming rage. “Logan had a goodness to him, and if he just didn’t have that, he would have been the perfect killing machine because he goes absolutely berserk,” Jackman says. “He can take anyone out, but he had a heart. He had a conscience. He had a mind and didn’t just blindly follow whatever order he was given.”

If Logan serves as a surrogate father to Laura, he’s the prodigal son to Charles Xavier, who is battling a debilitating illness that threatens to harm others as well. “He’s old, he’s ill, but most importantly, he’s dangerous,” says Stewart of Charles. “His powers are out of control and have to be controlled. He’s in peril. And the person who looks after him, mothers him, nurses him, supervises him, argues with him, picks him up off the floor when he’s fallen down is Logan.”

Stewart continues: “The superhero aspect and the mutant powers are not the focus of attention as much as they were in all of the other movies. The sense of people, of individuals, of relationships, I think is stronger in LOGAN than it has been before. James has created a world which is recognizable and familiar and every day, and in its way, commonplace, yet wrapped in this maelstrom of fear and excitement and danger and the need to escape.”

Like Jackman, the acclaimed British thespian’s performance in LOGAN represents a culmination of years of work on screen. “He reveled in this character, and it shows,” Jackman says of Stewart. “It’s a heartbreaking, beautiful, layered, textured, complex performance—at times unbelievably lucid and clear. You see the relationship with he and Logan as very sort of father-son in all its colors: pride, disappointment, anger, frustration. It all plays out.”

Even Caliban, too, belongs to the unconventional family, and he and the famously anti-social Logan enjoy a certain measure of camaraderie. “I felt like it was important for me to not just constantly be antagonistic with Logan,” Merchant says, “that we could have a few moments where there was some warmth between us, again just to hit that idea of a surrogate family.”

“It’s a movie about family,” says Mangold. “It’s a movie about loyalty and love and specifically a character, Logan, who has been stubbornly avoiding intimacy throughout his long life, finally letting it in.”

Logan sees the wizened hero find a surprising human connection, but the film also offers its most authentic, unfiltered depiction of Wolverine yet, with Jackman unleashing his berserker rage as never before. It earns its R-rating, a first for any film in the X-Men series. “Wolverine may be one of the darkest, most complex characters in the comic book universe—all Jim and I were worried about was taking off the seat belt,” Jackman says.

Hugh-Jackman-announces-Wolverine-3-title-Logan

From a film making perspective, Mangold says the rating freed him to take Logan in a more mature direction, to explore human frailty, mortality and the complicated bonds that bind families together. “I didn’t want to make a more violent, sexier, more explicit, more obscene movie,” Mangold says. “I wanted to make an adult movie. This is not a movie for nine-year-old children. When your movie is rated R, you suddenly are making a movie about more grown-up themes. You’re not under the pressure to make a movie for everybody.”

But there’s no question that the movie absolutely will speak to those longtime fans of Wolverine, those who have followed Jackman’s portrayal over the last 17 years. In fact, it was critical for Jackman, as he said farewell to his extensive X-Man past, to put everything on the screen for this, his last mutant adventure.

“There was a moment that I came to terms with the fact that this was my last one,” Jackman says. “I love this character, and he’s been amazing to me. I’d be lying if I said that I would have been okay if I didn’t feel everything was left on the table. And I mean everything. Every day, every scene was a kind of battle to get the best out of that character, to get the best out of me.”

Concludes Jackman: “There was an element of life and death about it—I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s how it felt.”

 

Live Theatre At Its Best On The Big Screen.

The next National Theatre Live broadcast to screen at Cinema Nouveau nationwide is the 2016 National Theatre production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, and is screened from Saturday, 04 March for four screenings only.

Amadeus releases on South African screens from Saturday, 04 March 2017, for four screenings only: on 04, 08 and 09 March at 19:30 and on 05 March at 14:30 at Cinema Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.  The running time of this production is approximately 210 mins, including an interval.

7. Behind the scenes at the Amadeus camera rehearsal. Photo by Ludovic des Cognets

8. Adam Gillen - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lucian Msamati - Antonio Salieri, photograph by Marc Brenner

Adam Gillen – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lucian Msamati – Antonio Salieri, photograph by Marc Brenner

Starring Fresh Meat’s Adam Gillen and Misfit’s Karla Crome as Mozart and his wife, and Game of Throne’s Lucian Msamati as the composer’s great rival Salieri.

Tthe stage production of Amadeus, directed by Michael Longhurst, was filmed live for broadcast into cinemas globally at the National Theatre in London, with orchestral accompaniment by the 30-piece Southbank Sinfonia orchestra.

Shaffer’s iconic play follows Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Gillen), a rowdy young prodigy, who arrives in Vienna, the music capital of the world – and he’s determined to make a splash. Awestruck by his genius, court composer Antonio Salieri (Msamati) has the power to promote his talent or destroy his name. Seized by obsessive jealousy, he begins a war with Mozart, with music and, ultimately, with God.

18. Adam Gillen - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Image by Marc Brenner

Adam Gillen – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Image by Marc Brenner

After winning multiple Olivier and Tony Awards when it had its premiere at the National Theatre in 1979, Amadeus was later adapted into Milos Forman’s Academy Award-winning film.

Watch a video interview as the cast discusses what it’s like to perform Mozart’s music with Southbank Sinfonia

For booking information on Amadeus, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.co.za. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

The next productions from NT Live to be screened at Cinema Nouveau are:

Saint Joan (from 18 March 2017)

The Donmar Warehouse production of Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan is directed by artistic director Josie Rourke and stars Gemma Arterton as Joan of Arc.

Joan: daughter, farm girl, visionary, patriot, king-whisperer, soldier, leader, victor, icon, radical, witch, heretic, saint, martyr, woman. Bernard Shaw’s classic play follows the life and trial of a young country girl who declares a bloody mission to drive the English from France. As one of the first Protestants and nationalists, she threatens the very fabric of feudal society and the Catholic Church across Europe.

Hedda Gabler (from 01 April 2017)

“I’ve no talent for life” – Just married. Bored already. Hedda longs to be free…

Tony Award-winning director Ivo van Hove (A View from the Bridge) returns to NT Live cinema screens with a modern production of Ibsen’s masterpiece, with Ruth Wilson (Luther, The Affair, Jane Eyre) in the title role of a new version by Patrick Marber (Notes on a Scandal, Closer).

Hedda and Tesman have just returned from their honeymoon and the relationship is already in trouble. Trapped but determined, Hedda tries to control those around her, only to see her own world unravel.

Additional NT Live broadcasts in 2017 at Cinema Nouveau include:

  • Twelfth Night (27 May), starring Tamsin Greig and directed by Simon Godwin;
  • Rozencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (03 June), with Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire and David Haig in Tom Stoppard’s brilliantly funny situation comedy, from The Old Vic theatre;
  • Peter Pan (08 July), captured live at the National Theatre, this performance of JM Barrie’s much-loved tale screens as perfect cinema fare for the mid-year school holidays: All children, except one, grow up…
  • Salomé (22 July), directed by South African-born award-winning director Yaёl Farber;
  • Marianne Elliott’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America – Part I & II (19 Aug & 02 Sept), with Andrew Garfield, Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey; and
  • Yerma (23 Sept), Simon Stone’s radical production of Federico García Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece, with Billie Piper reprising the lead role.

A fresh new look at Monet, who is arguably the world’s favourite artist – through his own words

Following the success of the previous seasons of Exhibition on Screen productions screened at Nouveau, the fourth season is scheduled to launch locally from Saturday, 25 February with award-winning director Phil Grabsky’s feature-length documentary film about one of the world’s most famous artists, titled I, Claude Monet.

I, Claude Monet releases on Saturday, 25 February for four screenings only: 25 February, and 01 and 02 March at 19:30, and on 26 February at 14:30 – at Rosebank Nouveau in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Nouveau in Pretoria, Gateway Nouveau in Durban and at V&A Nouveau in Cape Town. 
Art

Claude_Monet_1899_Nadar_cropBased on over 2500 letters and narrated by Henry Goodman, I, Claude Monet reveals new insight into the man who not only painted the picture that gave birth to impressionism but who was perhaps the most influential and successful painter of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Monet’s life is a gripping tale, an endless quest, about a man who, behind his sun-dazzled canvases, suffered from feelings of depression, loneliness and even suicide. However, as his art developed and his love of gardening led to his glorious series of paintings depicting his Giverny garden, his humour, insight and love of life are revealed.

The film, shot on location throughout Europe at the very spots where Monet painted some of his most iconic paintings, I, Claude Monet is a fresh and intimate cinematic exploration of some of the most loved painted scenes in western art.

Claude Monet (French, 1840 - 1926 ), The Japanese Footbridge, 1899, oil on canvas, Gift of Victoria Nebeker Coberly, in memory of her son John W. Mudd, and Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg

Claude Monet (French, 1840 – 1926 ), The Japanese Footbridge, 1899, oil on canvas, Gift of Victoria Nebeker Coberly, in memory of her son John W. Mudd, and Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg

Following I, Claude Monet, which screens from 25 February, are: The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism on 15 April; The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch on 06 May; and Michelangelo: Love and Death from 17 June. These films take cinema audiences behind the scenes to discover what lies behind the artists and their paintings, both creatively and technically. What each artwork reveals about the artist and the particular historical period is also uncovered.

Filmed exclusively for cinema at the exhibitions and on location, this ground-breaking series allows art lovers worldwide to enjoy, marvel at and delight in the amazing works of some of history’s most foremost painters on the big screen and in stunning high definition.

With Exhibition on Screen, award-winning arts documentary maker Phil Grabsky & Seventh Art Productions are again set to delight art lovers in more than 40 countries, including South Africa.

The running time of this production is 100 minutes.

For booking information, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Download the Ster-Kinekor App on your smart phone for updates, news and to book. For more information, call Ticketline on 0861-Movies (668 437). Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau.

Claude Monet, Impression Sunrise, 1872

 

 

Broadway at its best on the Big Screen

A once-off screening of one of Broadway’s most successful musicals in recent years, the Tony Award-winning musical, Newsies – the Broadway Musical sings and dances its way onto the big screen in South Africa for one night only – Wednesday, 22 February at 19:45.

NEWSIES

Jeremy Jordan reprises his Tony Award-Nominated performance as newsboy leader Jack Kelly.

Based on the 1992 musical film of the same name starring Christian Bale, Newsies tells a timeless story about the power of standing up for one’s rights. Boasting award-winning song and dance performances, Newsies – the Broadway Musical promises to be one of the event cinema highlights to be screened at Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas in 2017.

Newsies is inspired by the real-life ‘Newsboy Strike of 1899,’ when newsboy Kid Blink led a band of orphan and runaway ‘newsies’ on a two-week-long action against publishing giants such as Pulitzer, Hearst and other powerful newspaper publishers.

Set in New York City at the turn of the century, Newsies tells the rousing tale of ‘Jack Kelly’, a charismatic newsboy and leader of the ragged band of teenaged ‘newsies,’ who dreams only of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. When publishing titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack finds a cause to fight for and rallies the ‘newsies’ from across the city to strike for what they believe is right.

Since opening on Broadway in 2011, Newsies has played 1 711 performances between Broadway and the North American tour, to more than 2.5 million audience members in 65 cities across the country.

One of these performances, captured live at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in September, is being broadcast into cinemas across the globe in February, including here in South Africa, thanks to Ster-Kinekor.

Newsies, a Disney Theatrical Production under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Newsies, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by Harvey Fierstein, starring Dan Deluca (Jack Kelly), Steve Blanchard (Joseph Pulitzer), Stephanie Styles (Katherine Plumber), Angela Grovey (Medda), Jacob Kemp (Davey), Zachary Sayle (Crutchie), Anthony Rosenthal or Vincent Crocilla (Les) and Matthew J. Schechter (Les) under the direction of Jeff Calhoun, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, North American Tour premiere Thursday October 30 Philadelphia

Newsies, a Disney Theatrical Production under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Newsies, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, book by Harvey Fierstein, starring Dan Deluca (Jack Kelly), Steve Blanchard (Joseph Pulitzer), Stephanie Styles (Katherine Plumber), Angela Grovey (Medda), Jacob Kemp (Davey), Zachary Sayle (Crutchie), Anthony Rosenthal or Vincent Crocilla (Les) and Matthew J. Schechter (Les) under the direction of Jeff Calhoun, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, North American Tour premiere Thursday October 30 Philadelphia

In the filmed production, Jeremy Jordan reprises his Tony Award-Nominated performance as newsboy leader Jack Kelly. Joining Jordan in this high-energy show from the original Broadway cast include: Kara Lindsay as Katherine, Ben Fankhauser as Davey and Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Crutchie. They are joined by North American Tour stars Steve Blanchard as Joseph Pulitzer, Aisha de Haas as Medda Larkin and Ethan Steiner as Les, together with members of both the Broadway and North American Tour ensembles, who fill the stage with more ‘newsies’ and more dancing than ever before.

Tony-nominee director Jeff Calhoun has bulked up the cast, giving Tony-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli even more jumps, flips, and kicks to work into the popular dance routines. The production features a Tony Award-winning score with music by eight-time Academy Award® winner Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, screenplay adaptation by four-time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein and is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions. The entire creative team has reunited to bring this break-out smash musical, which includes such hit songs as ‘Santa Fe’, ‘Seize the Day’, ‘King of New York’ and ‘Carrying the Banner’, to cinema audiences around the world.

NEWSIES 3

Newsies – The Broadway Musical releases in South Africa exclusively for one screening only – on Wednesday, 22 February at 19:45 – at the four Nouveau sites: Brooklyn in Pretoria, Rosebank Mall in Johannesburg, Gateway in Durban and V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, and at the following Ster-Kinekor cinemas: Bedford Square, Sandton and Cedar Square in Johannesburg; Mimosa in Bloemfontein; Somerset in Somerset West; and at Blue Route in Cape Town.

Running for 150 minutes, the cinema broadcast also includes exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with select members of the cast and crew.

Bookings are now open for this once-off special cinema event.

For booking information, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and @sterkinekor and on Facebook at Ster-Kinekor and Cinema Nouveau. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

The discounts and benefits for cardholders of SK Club, Discovery Vitality and Edgars Club loyalty programmes apply for all live theatre productions. Special prices for school and group bookings are also available on request.

Love, thrills and chills

The Local Romance Vir Die Voëls Soars Triumphantly!

Vir Die Voëls  was inspired by the true story of Irma Humpel (Simoné Nortmann), a surly tomboy who ends up in a wedding dress, in front of the altar, with the boy who relentlessly teased her as a child. She has always believed that independence was the only form of freedom, until Sampie de Klerk (Francois Jacobs) came along and challenged her convictions on all levels. The film is set in the late 1970s and will make you feel nostalgic. It’s a film about a strong, mature woman and an equally strong man who respects that woman enough to fight for her love. It’s a story about inner conflict and preventing external circumstances and emotional baggage from getting in the way of future happiness. Director Quinton Krog’s visual sensibility is impeccable, drawing you into the story and on a journey you will always remember. If there’s one reason to see this outstanding South African film, it’s for the endearing performances and sizzling chemistry between Nortmann and Jacobs.  This is what romance is all about!  The bonus features include a behind the scenes feature. The film is in Afrikaans with English subtitles.  Read interview with director Quentin Krog.

Thrilling And Captivating 9th Life Of Louis Drax

the-9th-life-of-louis-drax_0If you are looking for a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat, The 9th Life Of Louis Drax is a suspense thriller and psychological mind bender that offers first rate entertainment and plenty food for thought, testing the fragile boundaries of fantasy and reality.  After surviving eight near-death accidents throughout his unlucky life, Louis Drax [Aiden Longworth] plunges off a steep cliff on his ninth birthday. While police investigate the cause of Louis’ near-fatal fall and the whereabouts of his violent father Peter [Aaron Paul], acclaimed neurologist Dr. Allan Pascal [Jamie Dornan] uses unorthodox techniques to try to tap into the boy’s unconscious mind and reveal the truth about the events that led to his condition. But as he’s drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of Louis’ seeming ability to cheat death, the doctor finds himself falling for Louis’ mother, Natalie [Sarah Gadon]. As new clues emerge in the case, a shocking revelation changes the fates of Louis Drax and everyone around him. Read more about the film

Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween Will Kill you With Laughter

tyler-perrys-boo-a-madea-hallowee-poster1-759x477Blending Tyler Perry’s distinctive humor with elements of horror, this hilarious culture clash between generations –Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween – heralds a fresh turn in the Tyler Perry/Madea franchise: a movie that blends Perry’s distinctive humor with elements of horror. As the film begins, divorced dad Brian (played by Perry) must leave his rebellious teen daughter Tiffany home alone on Halloween.  He enlists his aunt Madea, Uncle Joe (both also played by Perry), and friends Hattie and Aunt Bam to keep an eye on her.  Determined to meet her girlfriends at a nearby frat party, Tiffany tricks her four gullible chaperones with a frighteningly realistic ghost story that convinces them to stay in their rooms so she can sneak out. All hell and hilarity break loose when Madea, Hattie and Aunt Bam crash the party to bring their baby girl home. And when the women call the cops to break up the Halloween rager, the brothers of Beta Psi Alpha dress as ghosts and ghouls to terrorize them. But of course, the boys soon learn that they are messing with the wrong woman. “This is a whole new side of Madea because audiences don’t think of her as someone who gets scared,” says Perry. “Watching Madea running from ghosts had everyone on set cracking up. They chase her right into a church — a place she swore she’d never go unless they had a smoking section!” Read more about the film

IntruderIn the thriller Intruder a young woman’s quiet night in becomes a free-fall into fear in this disturbing home invasion thriller. After she lands her dream job, a young cellist (Louise Linton) settles in for a relaxing few days holed up in her apartment-but as a violent storm rages outside, she can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching her every move. Cleverly toying with the rules of suspense, director Travis Z wrings maximum terror from everyone’s worst nightmare: you may not be alone.  Watch the trailer

John Taylor (MORRIS CHESTNUT) and Anna Walsh (JAZ SINCLAIR); 2am... John lets the last catering staff out... heads up to bed and hears music; John finds Anna playing music in the living room in Screen Gems' WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS.

John Taylor (Morris Chestnut) and Anna Walsh (Jaz Sinclair); 2am… John lets the last catering staff out… heads up to bed and hears music; John finds Anna playing music in the living room…

In When The Bough Breaks John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall) are a young, professional couple who desperately want a baby. After exhausting all other options, they finally hire Anna (Jaz Sinclair), the perfect woman to be their surrogate – but as she gets further along in her pregnancy, so too does her psychotic and dangerous fixation on the husband. The couple becomes caught up in Anna’s deadly game and must fight to regain control of their future before it’s too late. The bonus features include audio commentary with director John Cassar, writer Jack Olsen and actress Jaz Sinclair, as well as 9 deleted and extended scenes.  Watch the trailer

 

Fences is a story about broken dreams.

Two-time Academy Award-winning Denzel Washington co-produced, directs and stars in August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences.

Theatre buffs will delight in the potent big screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, driven by crackling dialogue and strong characters, allowing us to take an emotional journey into the lives of bruised souls seeking ultimate redemption.

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

A family drama set in the 1950s, Fences ran for 525 performances on Broadway, the longest residence there for any of Wilson’s plays, and collected the trifecta of playwriting honors: a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, and a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.

A 2010 revival on Broadway, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, won Tony Awards for best revival, best actress in a play for Davis, and best actor in a play for Washington. Now, of course, Fences will become the first of Wilson’s plays to be made into a feature film, directed by Washington and starring him and Viola Davis.

During his lifetime, Wilson received two Pulitzer Prizes, for Fences and The Piano Lesson, and an astonishing eight Best Play awards from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle. (Only King Hedley II and Gem of the Ocean went unrewarded.) All his works except Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf have received major revivals on or off Broadway, and his dramas are a staple of institutional nonprofit theaters from coast to coast and indeed across the Atlantic, where Britain’s National Theatre recently mounted an acclaimed production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It went on to win the Olivier Award, England’s equivalent of the Tony.

Wilson wrote his initial draft of the screenplay in the late 1980s and continued revising and refining it until his death. With Washington helming the film, Fences also posthumously honors Wilson’s longstanding desire that an African American direct the screen version.

Fences is the story of Troy Maxson, a mid-century Pittsburgh sanitation worker who once dreamed of a baseball career, but was too old when the major leagues began admitting black players. He tries to be a good husband and father, but his lost dream of glory eats at him, and causes him to make a decision that threatens to tear his family apart.

When and how did you first become aware of the work of August Wilson?

I saw Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in 1984, the year it came out, and I remember all the great performances. But Charles Dutton, in particular, just blew me away [in the role of Levee]. I never heard of this guy and then I did research about him and found out he’d been in prison and started acting there and gone to Yale Drama School and all of that. When I saw that play, I didn’t know who August Wilson was. I didn’t know he was going to write all these other great plays, but somehow his voice was a familiar voice to me. I just remember that night in the theatre and just being amazed and moved.

What do you recall from when you saw the original Broadway production of Fences?

I related more to Cory [played by Courtney Vance] because I was closer in age to Cory. And I remember how fragile Mary Alice [as Rose] looked compared to James Earl Jones. I’d seen James do Othello with Christopher Plummer on Broadway. And I’d seen him do Oedipus the King up at St. John the Divine. In fact, I went backstage. He didn’t know me, but I guess he sensed I was a young actor, so he let me hang around. He was meeting people, and I’m walking around looking at his makeup, and he had all of his rings from the play. I started putting them on, and you know James is a big man, so the rings were like bracelets. I just remember how big he was and that voice, that power.
What about his performance as Troy? It was James Earl Jones, so you know I’m going to see it. My career started in the theater. I was one of those Lincoln Center Theatre snobs. We weren’t thinking about movies. I was going to be James Earl Jones one day, hopefully, and make $650 a week and do Othello. And, in fact, my first two roles were the Emperor Jones [by Eugene O’Neill] and Othello. So I was thinking about James and Paul Robeson. That was at least the benchmark to shoot for.

Did your own father remind you in any ways of Troy?

My father wasn’t a tough kind of a guy. He was really a gentle man. He was a very spiritual man, a minister. But, like Troy, he was concerned about practical things for his son. I remember him saying things to me like, “Get a good trade.” He worked for the Water Department in the City of New York. He worked upstate on the reservoirs. He’d get water samples. He talked about how he could get me in the Water Department and I could move up and be a supervisor in 30 years. And my mother’s like, “No, he’s going to college.”

What did your father think of you becoming an actor?

I don’t remember what he thought when I started, but I do remember going to visit him in Virginia after I had started to get work. It was embarrassing, because we went to a supermarket or something and he’s telling people there, “You know who this is?” Nobody knew who I was. But I am Denzel Washington, Jr., so he, Denzel Washington, Sr., was bragging about his son.
I’m glad for both of us that happened. I remember I was on my way to New York in April ’91, to meet with Spike Lee to work on Malcolm X and my brother was at the airport. And he says, “Come, sit down.” I said, “I don’t need to sit down. Who died?” And it was my father who was on his way to death. And I just remember that connection.

How does Troy fit into the life of his family?

Fences is a story about broken dreams and where does that energy go. It’s about what happens to a dream deferred, as Langston Hughes put it. What happens when you were good enough and you didn’t make it? Where does that energy go when you’re not able to express your talent? Troy could’ve been a Willie Stargell, a great slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but change came too late for Troy.
And being fueled with his bitterness, he wants the best for his son, but he could only see so far. Rose is saying, “Hey, Cory can get a chance to go to college with a football scholarship.” And all Troy could see was Cory getting a trade. He doesn’t understand the possibilities. He doesn’t see the future. Like Rose says to him, “The world is changing and you can’t even see it.” Troy’s just stuck in time, ill-equipped to handle a changing world and frustrated about missed opportunity.

At what point did you get to know August Wilson himself?

I didn’t get to know him too well. I spent a lovely day with him, sometime in the early 2000s. I flew up to Seattle, where he was living then. It rained all day and he just smoked cigarette after cigarette. And he was writing. He was writing Gem of the Ocean [his next-to-last play] and my agent suggested I go up there. So I went up there to see him and we just talked all day. And he talked about how he writes plays, and he locks the doors and shuts the windows and basically writes what the characters tell him to write. So I guess he was telling me, “Look, I’m not just writing something for you, I got to write what I’m compelled to write.” Which was fine with me. And I just remember that day. It was just a lovely day.

August Wilson, of course, passed away in 2005. He had completed all the plays in his American Century Cycle. But he did not live to see his screenplay of Fences brought to fruition. Did you have an extra sense of obligation in making the film?

Not for me. I had enough already. I didn’t need more motivation.

Where did the motivation come from?

It came from the material. And it came from August. I was just trying to serve August the best I could. I felt a responsibility to not screw it up. When in doubt, go to the source, you know? If there are 25,000 words in the screenplay, 24,900 of them are August Wilson’s. I may have added a line or an ad-lib here or there, but it’s August’s words.
On the one hand, for people in theater and literature, August Wilson is unquestionably among the greatest playwrights in world history. And yet, a lot of people will have this film as their introduction to Wilson’s entire body of work.

What do you hope they’ll take away from it?

When people ask me what I expect people to take away, I always say that it depends on what they bring to it. I know they’ll be entertained and enlightened. I know that they’ll see great performances, some great actors up there on screen. And they’ll hear a voice that they haven’t heard before, yet is familiar. The rhythm, the music of it.

For you as an actor, what was the difference between playing Troy on stage and on screen?

I couldn’t imagine trying to do this film, having not done it on stage first to figure out who Troy is. There was no time to be trying to figure that out when we’re shooting a movie. So, number one, I had time to know the character. And I knew that we did a production that worked, that we got the response from the audience and the accolades and all that kind of stuff. I knew it worked. I don’t know if that’s more pressure. It’s like, “Don’t screw it up now.” But all I knew is that I just had to get the camera in front of the actors and let them do what they’d been doing all along.
Were there things you were able to use from the stage production? When I steal, I steal from the best. I mean, the shape of the film was fundamentally the shape that we had found or at least the characters that we had found doing the play with [director] Kenny Leon. Now we could take it inside the Maxsons’ house. It’s not all in the backyard, the way it was on stage. We go to different places. But other than obviously Jovan Adepo [as Cory] and Saniyya Sidney [as Raynell], the little girl, nobody else had to catch up.

You shot in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where August Wilson grew up and nine of his plays, including Fences, are set. Was that the plan from the outset?

Once I got there and saw it. I didn’t know what the Hill was until I got there and started seeing and meeting the people. I wanted to be in Pittsburgh, no question, on the Hill.
The neighborhood, though, has changed a lot since the 1950s, when most of the film is set. Entire blocks of homes are gone. Businesses have shut down. What were the challenges getting the Hill in 2016 to resemble the Hill in 1957? The area where August lived, the lower Hill, was gone. We went further up and we found some streets that were intact. Just take the bars off the windows and change the cars.

You shot this film sequentially, which is relatively rare in motion pictures. Why was that important to you?

I’m an actor first and I know how important that is. I know how I felt as an actor. You get there on Day One and we’re going to shoot the end first. Well, you don’t even know how your character got there yet. So we did try to shoot in sequence whenever possible.

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Stephen McKinley Henderson plays Jim Bono in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Stephen McKinley Henderson plays Jim Bono in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

Before we started this interview, you mentioned that you had a ritual of every day asking August Wilson—meaning, of course, the spirit or soul of August Wilson—what he thought of what you were doing.

It wasn’t just a ritual. If I didn’t have an answer to some problem or challenge or choice, sometimes I’d go, “Maybe that’s not what August wants.” That was throughout the process. Why didn’t he put this in there? Well, maybe he didn’t want it. Well, I wonder why. What would happen if you did? You know, sometimes you fiddle around with ideas like that until you realize, okay, that’s not a good idea. But you need to wake it up. You need to keep asking. I was just aware of not wanting to rely on our past success. We were very successful as a play and that’s great. Now we’re starting over or at least like to look at it that way. We’re starting fresh.

What do you think about August’s relationship with religion?

I like to use the word “spirituality” because “religion,” that’s when man gets in it. Oh, mine is right and yours isn’t, you know? August obviously has this spiritual essence, as do I. I try to make that a part of everything I do. I start my day with a prayer. I’m not telling you what you’re supposed to believe or I don’t even like that word religion. Because that’s, that’s a man-made thing, it smells like man to me.

Fences is set in a very precise time—1957, with a final scene in 1965. Do you find yourself thinking of how it can speak to the present day?

Malcolm X said that in order to know where you’re going, you got to know where you came from. So I think history is a big part of it—to embrace it, to acknowledge the struggles that were made, the sacrifices that were made before you got here. But you can’t force it. You can’t do anything on purpose to be “relevant.”

You spoke before about how the universal stems from the specific. In what way does this film hit universal chords? That’s what you do. You do what you do and then you see how it affected you or the feeling you got. I’m not trying to tell people what they should feel but, you know, August Wilson wrote a masterpiece, and God only knows how it affects people. And that’s the beauty of it. Come in, sit down, and we’ll find out or you’ll find out.

I’m happy now that Fences goes to the masses. I was reading about how much it is taught in schools. So a lot of young kids may know more about it than our generation might. So to be a part of spreading the words of August Wilson is an honor and I take it seriously and I know it’s a responsibility.

It’s part of our job, my job to, to share him with more people. So they’ll find out why he’s with the greatest ones. You’ve got Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee, August Wilson. I’m happy to do my part and to help share his brilliance with the world.

 

Atmospheric and visually breathtaking, the film is compelling and thought provoking.

From visionary director, Gore Verbinski, A Cure For Wellness is a chilling and mind-bending psychological thriller that explores the true meaning of wellness and the trappings of avarice and power, while asking what fulfillment really means.

Embarking on A Cure For Wellness, Verbinski wanted to make a thriller with the depth, insight and power of classics in the genre that he admired, such as The Shining (Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film), Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 film) and Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski’s 1968 film).

In the tradition of Verbinski’s indelible 2002 classic, The Ring, the Academy Award winning filmmaker brings his inimitable style and vision to A Cure For Wellness, from a screenplay by Justin Haythe, based on the story written by Haythe and Verbinski.

Dane DeHaan stars as Lockhart, a driven Wall Street stockbroker who is sent by his firm to a remote alpine medical spa. Lockhart is on a mission to retrieve the company’s CEO, Pembroke (Harry Groener), a patient at the spa, who has told his staff that he has no intention of returning to New York.

Lockhart arrives at the tranquil sanitarium where the residents are supposedly receiving a miracle cure.

In fact though, they seem to be getting sicker.

As he investigates the dark and baffling secrets behind the spa, he meets a young woman, the hauntingly beautiful Hannah (Mia Goth), a patient herself.

He also gets to know another patient, the eccentric Mrs. Watkins, played by Celia Imrie, who has done some detective work of her own.

Soon, Lockhart is diagnosed with the same condition as the other patients by the institution’s director, the ominous Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs), and finds that he is trapped in the alpine retreat.

Lockhart begins to lose his grip on reality and has to endure unimaginable ordeals during the course of his own ‘treatment’.

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The Inspiration

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A graduate of the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA, Verbinski resides in Los Angeles with his family where he runs his production company, Blind Wink.

The idea of a quick fix cure, together with society’s malaise and the obsession with perfect health were topics that fascinated Verbinski, whose films include the hugely successful Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise and the Academy Award winning animated film, Rango.

“We started exploring the notion of a health spa in the Alps, a wellness center that doesn’t actually make you well,” says Verbinski, “and it slowly evolved from there. It became pretty clear to us that this was going to be a genre piece, and we started playing around with the concept of inevitability. It’s the sense that there is a sickness, a sort of black spot on your x-ray that won’t go away!”

Verbinski sat down with screenwriter Justin Haythe (The Lone Ranger, Revolutionary Road).

“I had an idea bouncing around in my head for some time from various influences and preoccupations, but it mostly came from a suspicion of medicine,” says Haythe, who was inspired by the work of German writer Thomas Mann and by psychiatrist Carl Jung. “The film really concerns the pollution of our minds and bodies in the modern world and our obsession with purity as a result of that.”

Justin

Justin Haythe

A superb storyteller and a master of pacing, Gore creates an unsettling, ominous atmosphere throughout A Cure For Wellness, immersing the audience in the world of the spa, where nothing is clear or straightforward. “Well it is interesting, because I think the more enigmatic you make something, particularly in this genre, the more you can employ a sort of dream logic,” says Verbinski.

“Things can remain enigmatic because you sense there’s some other force, something inevitable happening. To me, that’s the big tease—to try to make everything feel like there’s this sickness that’s not going away; it is pulling you. You are pointing the camera down the corridor and leading the protagonist towards his ultimate epiphany. Once you have that working, you don’t need to have so much exposition, explaining how things work. You just feel like this is all happening for a reason.”

The opportunity of working with Gore was a formidable draw for everyone involved in the film, from the cast to the production team. Justin Haythe describes the experience as a pleasure. “He’s the best!  Gore is uncompromising,” says Haythe, “but only and always in pursuit of the best movie. Ego does not factor in. Design and sound have great power in this genre and Gore is a master of both.”

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What Ails Us: Is The Cure Worse Than The Disease?

A Cure For Wellness is unsettling and utterly riveting, but it also contains insights into the purpose of life, looking at the way in which people often don’t take time to examine what they really want for themselves. “I think the movie is actually a comment on wellness,” says DeHaan.

“The ultimate question is: What is the sickness? Maybe the sickness is what happens when you give yourself over to ambition and selfish desires for wealth and wanting to advance in this world. I think it’s an interesting question to ask, especially in the world we live in today. Ultimately people want to be healthy and people want to be successful,” continues DeHaan.

“If it appears that those things could come quickly with just a simple treatment or a simple trick and that would make life easier, people want it. So I think that is why fad diets exist and different spa treatments that promise to make people better or cure them. But when you go in for those quick fixes, is that ultimately what you are being given? Probably not. Some people are so healthy it is unhealthy. And some people are so successful that it is detrimental to them as human beings, so I think it is about finding balance, and anytime that balance is thrown off, it can have the opposite effect that you want it to have.”

It’s a subject that Verbinski says is right at the heart of the movie. “I think that there’s a whole wellness industry preying upon us,” says Verbinski. “The patients at Volmer’s medical spa are confident that they are getting better, despite evidence to the contrary. The sanitarium is a place that heads of industry and oligarchs come to for a cure, people who do whatever they can to win at all costs,” comments the filmmaker.

“These are people who might be vulnerable to Dr. Volmer’s diagnosis, to being told: ‘you’re not well but there is a cure.’ But in fact it is all a great con, and it is the thing that keeps them there. We are exploring that sense of there being a sickness that we are all in denial of. It is perhaps the sickness of the modern man, if you will. We must at our core have a sense that something is not right, to battle the human condition.”

The film explores what it means to lead a life that is examined and meaningful. “We look at the universe; we look at the stars. We’re born onto a treadmill and then we could get hit by a bus and I think it’s interesting to say, wait, is that all it’s about? More than anything it’s saying: ask the question, what’s the point of it all? That is the existential crisis in its purest form. We are not providing the answer in this film, but we are saying: ‘maybe it’s time to pause, just take a moment.’”

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The Psychology Of Fear

 The evocative world created by Gore and his gifted team, the treatments that the patients undergo at Volmer’s spa, and the dramatic tension throughout the film, combine to create a gripping and terrifying cinematic experience. Like the best films in the genre, A Cure For Wellness leaves the audience unsettled and unnerved, questioning the darker side of human nature. It’s the kind of unease that lingers long after the closing credits have rolled.

“It’s like people telling ghost stories around a campfire,” says Verbinski, explaining why moviegoers enjoy watching an engrossing psychological thriller. “There’s something about a group of people, particularly strangers who are watching a film together, which creates that kind of powerful experience. It is not quite Schadenfreude because it’s not an overt enjoyment at somebody else’s demise, I would say, but for me the power of enigma is that if you don’t quite know what’s happening, you (the audience) let me inside your head. You know, when you’re eating pizza and everything’s great you’re going to forget about that meal right after you walk out of the cinema. We’re trying to give you a meal that you’re going to remember. But the process of not quite understanding something and leaning into it and trying to follow breadcrumbs, rather than a ‘hand on your back’ is quite a different kind of storytelling. You are asking: What is this all about? If I can get you nibbling breadcrumbs, that can do a lot more in terms of giving you something that’s going to stick with you.”

“It’s almost like a huge roller coaster, but the film is also asking a lot of important questions,” comments DeHaan. “At times, you are really feeling terrified. But if you are in a communal setting like a theater, you know you are safe and you know that what is happening on screen is completely removed from reality.”

“I just think this is an opportunity to watch a movie that is compelling but also frightening,” says DeHaan. “It’ll be a good time, and it’ll be fun, but it is also a movie that leaves an impression on you, and a movie that’ll shock you.  I don’t even want to talk about it too much. You just have to go and see it. It is almost like a dare. I dare you to go and see the movie!”

“This is a movie about Chinese history and culture … Yes, it is a monster movie, but I believed I could still express myself through it.  It is a fascinating story with interesting themes and emotions.” Zhang Yimou

Directed by one of the most breathtaking visual stylists of our time, Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, House of Flying Daggers), the action-fantasy The Great Wall marks his first English-language production and the largest film ever shot entirely in China.

The Great Wall

Matt Damon (The Martian, The Bourne franchise) leads humanity’s greatest fight for survival in The Great Wall, from Legendary and Universal Pictures. When a mercenary warrior (Damon) is imprisoned within The Great Wall, he discovers the mystery behind one of the greatest wonders of our world. As wave after wave of marauding beasts, intent on devouring the world, besiege the massive structure, his quest for fortune turns into a journey toward heroism as he joins a huge army of elite warriors to confront this unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force.

Damon describes the story as “historical fantasy.  It’s similar to the way Game of Thrones feels like it takes place in the Middle Ages.  Even though we know there weren’t White Walkers or dragons.  Likewise, ours is not quite The Great Wall that exists today.

In The Great Wall, Damon stars as William Garin, a battle-scarred mercenary and master archer taken captive by a secret army of elite warriors known as The Nameless Order.  In a vast military outpost called the Fortress City, they fight to protect humanity from supernatural forces upon one of the greatest defensive structures ever built: The Great Wall.  On his journey, Garin is joined by Pedro Pascal (Netflix’s Narcos, HBO’s Game of Thrones) as his sword-wielding sidekick, Pero Tovar, a tough, wise-cracking Spaniard who has become a brother-in-arms to William; and Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Shadow of the Vampire, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Ballard, a shadowy prisoner inside the fortress who plans his escape from his longtime captors while hoping to pilfer their greatest weapon during his getaway.

Set in an alternate vision of ancient China (circa 1100 A.D., during the Song Dynasty), the story imagines that The Wall was built to defend against a mythical Chinese creature called the Tao Tei (historical spelling, “Taotie”), a malignant species and gargoyle-like figure from Chinese mythology that rises every 60 years from the heart of the Jade Mountain to attack in vast, swarming armies and feed on humankind.

“I remember being told when I was young that the magnificent Great Wall of China was the only manmade object one could see from space,” says producer and Legendary CEO Thomas Tull.  “True or not, I never forgot that, and when I set out to create a company known for its monster movies, I wanted to make one that combined my love of the genre set against this magnificent structure.

“I always wondered what was so important and compelling to have a country build a structure that big, that incredible,” Tull continues.  “At Legendary, we like monsters, so my geeky brain went to work on the idea of a country building this wall to keep monsters out.”

The thrilling adventure comes from an original screenplay by the writing duo Carlo Bernard & Doug Miro (Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, The Bourne Legacy).  It is based on a story by Max Brooks (World War Z) and Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskovitz (The Last Samurai, Love & Other Drugs).

MAX BROOKS (Story by) is the best-selling author of several novels, graphic novels and comic books.  His most notable novel, “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” (2006), is an original depiction of global war between mankind and zombies.

Born in Winnetka, Illinois, EDWARD ZWICK (Story by) Zwick began his feature-film career directing About Last Night and went on to direct the Academy Award-winning films Glory and Legends of the Fall,  as well as Courage Under Fire, The Siege, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance, Love & Other Drugs and Pawn Sacrifice.

MARSHALL HERSKOVITZ (Story by) is a writer, producer and director who has won numerous awards for his work in television and film.

CARLO BERNARD & DOUG MIRO (Screenplay by) have previously partnered on four screenplays, including John Dahl’s WWII adventure The Great Raid (2005); the ghostly thriller The Uninvited (2009); and a pair of Jerry Bruckheimer epics—Mike Newell’s sword-and-sandals spectacle Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) and Jon Turteltaub’s Medieval adventure The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010). They most recently co-created the new Netflix series Narcos.

TONY GILROY (Screenplay by) made his -film directorial debut with Michael Clayton. A veteran screenwriter, Gilroy also spent seven years working on the first three Bourne films—The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.  In 2012, Gilroy co-wrote and directed the fourth installment of the series, The Bourne Legacy.  He also wrote the screenplays for Dolores Claiborne, The Devil’s Advocate, and Armageddon. 

As Tull developed the idea with The Great Wall’s story and screenplay writers, he discussed the idea of a European soldier of fortune wandering Asia in the Middle Ages who comes upon a magnificent structure that covers the entire horizon.  When the mercenary approaches, he is told that the guardians are preparing for the attack.

“During the course of developing the screenplay, Western writers actually discovered the Chinese legend of a monster called the Taotie [historical spelling],” adds producer Peter Loehr, who has spent the last 25 years of his career working in China.  “The Taotie is actually quite well known in China.

“There’s a fantasy book called the ‘Shan-hai Jing,’ which dates back 2,500 years,” Loehr continues.  “In the book, they set out different types of monsters, goblins and demons, and the Tao Tei (our spelling) is one of them.  The Tao Tei, in the fantastical ‘Shan-hai Jing,’ as well as historical records, are portrayed as gluttonous.  They eat incessantly, so much so that when there’s nothing left to eat, they eat their own bodies.”

Producer Charles Roven, who is known for his indelible print on blockbusters from The Dark Knight trilogy (alongside Legendary), Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to the much-anticipated upcoming Wonder Woman and Justice League, was brought onto the production by producers Tull and Jon Jashni.  He walks us through his initial involvement in the film: “Alex Gartner and I were invited into the project by Thomas and Jon; thereafter, we were part of the original story development.”

Roven reflects on his intrigue at the premise of The Great Wall: “At the time period of our story, the Chinese were among the greatest societies…creating things the West had never seen.  The gunpowder they’d invented motivates the mercenaries in our story, who are Western savages initially only out for themselves.  When they come across this secret society that is trying to preserve humanity, it makes them reevaluate everything.”

Producer Jashni explains that the production team long aimed to acknowledge and honor both a bygone historical period and a long-ago era of filmmaking—one in which the sets were built to scale.  “These structures were built, both then and now, to incite awe and respect,” he notes.  “We knew we wanted to depict the inner workings of The Wall as practical.  One might think of it as going inside a clock.  It seems to do something fairly simple from the outside, but what allows it to appear so simple is rather complex.  The audience might rightly assume that The Wall is merely capable of defending—by virtue of its height and its impenetrability—that which is protected behind it.  We wanted to surprise them by also having The Wall be able to ‘fight back’ in clever and unexpected ways.”

Zhang Yimou_64530

Zhang Yimou

“When we began this process, Legendary wanted to make a movie that was truly an East-West collaboration,” states Tull, who opened his Far East production base, Legendary East, in Beijing in 2012 and garnered success not long after with the Chinese release of Pacific Rim in 2013.  “A movie that was not just a local story, but one with global appeal as well.  We found the perfect director in Zhang Yimou, one of the best in the world.  What a privilege to be able to have him direct this.”

In fact, Zhang Yimou is one of the planet’s most celebrated filmmakers.  Among his two dozen feature credits, he directed the first Chinese production to earn a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award® nomination, Ju Dou (1990), with two more nominations for Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and Hero (2002).

Among many career triumphs, he won global accolades for his magnificent staging of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympiad, a feat that fan and fellow filmmaker Steven Spielberg called “the grandest spectacle of the New Millennium from this creative genius.”  That accomplishment landed Zhang as runner-up for Time magazine’s 2008 Person of the Year.

“When I started learning about Chinese cinema 25 years ago, Zhang Yimou’s early work stood out to me,” offers Loehr, who speaks fluent Mandarin.  “His early work evolved into these great martial arts epics like Hero and House of Flying Daggers.  And who could forget the Olympics when you’re talking about that body of work?”

As Legendary considered filmmakers for this huge production, it required the ability to straddle two cultures, to tell a very Chinese story in a way that an international audience would love.  Loehr points out: “Zhang Yimou seemed like the natural choice because he had done that in his films.  He did it with the Olympics as well.  Here, he took something that was inherently Chinese and made something truly amazing.”

Roven agrees with his fellow producer, raving: “The Great Wall has all the visual splendor and spectacle of an extravagant film, and it is shot amazingly by one of the most iconic filmmakers working today.  His visuals are stunning, the colors that he uses are incredible, and the shots that he designs—whether they’re regular 24 frames or slow-motion—are art.”

The filmmaker also appreciated that Zhang Yimou embraced the throughline of cultural collaboration that permeated the story.  “Watching Yimou, with his cinematic vision, translate the script into a unique way of creating spectacle is an unforgettable memory.  He was quite interested in blending the cinema styles of Western tent-poles with Chinese filmmaking,” notes Roven.  “Here was material that was completely conducive to it, and we were thrilled that he wanted to join the production.”

Once the director was welcomed onto the team, Roven found him to be a unique collaborator, one whose thoughtful insights and fascinating inspirations brought life to The Great Wall’s story.  “Yimou contributed an enormous amount to what became the final vision of the movie,” says Roven.  “A few examples are the fog battle, as well as opening the film up with the climactic sequence away from The Wall.  It has been a great collaboration with Yimou and a thrilling experience working with our ‘East-meets-West’ crew.”

The-Great-Wall-Movie-Scene

“The Great Wall is in the lyrics of our National Anthem, so it symbolizes the same thing in the heart of all Chinese, which is our people, our country and our history,” reflects Zhang Yimou.  “We use it to express many things spiritual.  To all of us in China, The Great Wall is a symbol of China’s national spirit.  It resonates in every Chinese person, as a symbol of our traditions and our flesh-and-blood.”

The filmmaker believes that applies to this story as well.  “In the movie, The Great Wall symbolizes the safeguard of peace and national spirit,” he continues.  “I thought the screenplay was a special story, especially when you look at The Wall from a different angle.  The Wall was built to protect our homeland from invaders.  From this perspective, it makes little difference whether the enemy is people or monsters.”

For Zhang Yimou, to mount this undertaking would be to celebrate enormous pride.  “This is a movie about Chinese history and culture shot entirely on location in China,” he reflects.  “What attracted me most was the Chinese cultural elements.  Yes, it is a monster movie, but I believed I could still express myself through it.  It is a fascinating story with interesting themes and emotions.”

He elaborates on producer Loehr’s summary of the film’s antagonists: “For the monster Taotie, we did a great deal of research, including ‘Shan-hai Jing,’ the classic Chinese text and compilation of ancient myths, which is China’s oldest fantasy novel,” states Zhang.  “They were born because of human greed.  They eat massively.  We Chinese still use the word and terms to this day.  In traditional culture, ‘Taotie’ is a big eater.  So, it’s linked with great banquets and feasts in China.  Taotie has a cognitive position in Chinese culture.  Taotie exist because of humanity’s greed, so they are man’s worst enemy.  It’s the greediness of humanity that produced Tao Tei, and it now recoils on humans.”

According to Chinese mythology, fear of the monster led its image to be cast often on ancient and ritual bronze vessels, daggers and weapons.  Along with Taown, Hun Dun and Qiong Qi, it is one of the Four Fiends, prominent Chinese demons representing evil virtues.  So intimately are the Taotie imbedded into the culture, they have even been found on Chinese currency.

“To begin with, it has lots of mysteries,” he continues.  “What’s the story about the monsters?  How did they come into being?  What are their weaknesses?  How many years have humans fought against them?  What kinds of feelings and connections have been built among these warriors during the fight?  How do they survive, or do they die in the end?  There were many things to tell.  It is totally different from all other monster movies.”

Zhang Yimou appreciated the focus on such a cultural touchstone.  “What mattered most was the script,” he says.  “The script was written by Americans, and I provided suggestions from a Chinese perspective.  They welcomed and liked my ideas.  It was revised and polished, trying to make it acceptable and likable to both Westerners and Chinese.  That was the hardest job.”

“Every genre has its limitations, and that certainly applies to monster movies,” Zhang observes.  “You have to establish a set of rules. Taotie is an ancient monster that comes from our imagination.  The rest of this story stands on solid ground, based on actual history.  We didn’t want our characters to have supernatural powers.  In that case, there would be no limits.  So, what we did was to set strict and basic, but very real, limitations.  We placed ourselves in a realistic world, and we created an honest story.  We designed everything within those limits, such as the actions, the weapons.  Because The Great Wall is a very real object, a cornerstone that was built one brick at a time.  We approached the layers of our story in the same way.”

Tull, whose years-ago idea for a monster movie set on China’s Great Wall came to fruition and brought together two diverse cultures, concludes: “The Great Wall is something so iconic to China.  Now, we have a great big, intelligent and fun monster movie set on The Wall.  With the scope of everything that Zhang Yimou brought to the table, the colors, the scale, the weapons, the monsters it has so much eye candy.  I can’t wait until people get to see the movie.”

Zhang Yimou feels that The Great Wall has become an epic fantasy event that evokes the inspiration he felt when visiting China’s signature landmark as a teenager in 1967.  He ends: “The first time I saw The Great Wall was during China’s Cultural Revolution when I was 17.  I found it to be truly unbelievable.  In making this film, our balance was to integrate these Chinese elements and story concepts into a blockbuster.  Now, our film is the very first one made about The Wall in China with such a huge budget and grand scale.”

 

A dream­‐like journey through the classic fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty, complete with jewelled fairies, a magical kingdom, a youthful princess and a handsome prince in this purest style of classical ballet.

The next ballet to be enjoyed on the big screen, The Sleeping Beauty, is the third of three iconic ballets with music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to be screened in cinema from the Bolshoi Ballet stage in Moscow, which releases on Saturday, 11 March for limited screenings.

The Sleeping Beauty releases on South African screens on Saturday, 11 March for four screenings only – on 11, 15 and 16 March at 19:45, and on 12 March at 14:30 – only at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. Bookings are now open. The running time of this ballet production is 2 hrs 50 mins, including one interval.

With choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, the ballet stars the Bolshoi’s prima ballerina Olga Smirnova in the title role as Princess Aurora, with Semyon Chudin danding the role of Prince Désiré). Also dancing in the production are Alexei Loparevich as the Evil Fairy Carabosse, Yulia Stepanova as the Lilac Fairy, Vitaly Biktimirov in the role of Catalabutte, Artemy Belyakov as Bluebird and Anastasia Denisova as Princess Florine. The principal dancers are accompanied by the company’s highly accomplished soloists and corps de ballet dancers.

On her 16th birthday, a curse by the evil Carabosse causes the beautiful Princess Aurora to fall into a deep slumber for 100 years. Only the kiss of a prince can awaken her…

In this resplendent and magical classic of The Sleeping Beauty, the Bolshoi dancers take the audience on a dream­‐like journey through this classic fairy tale complete with jewelled fairies, a magical kingdom, a youthful princess and a handsome prince in this purest style of classical ballet. The Bolshoi’s sumptuous staging with its luxurious sets and costumes gives life to Perrault’s fairy tale unlike any other. This ballet is a must-‐see!

The Bolshoi Ballet is the quintessential ballet company, presenting works of astounding skill, daring and bravura that leave audiences the world over spellbound. This season of ballets broadcast in cinemas is no different, with the company’s incredible productions set to feature some of the world’s greatest dancers.

For booking information on the Bolshoi Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty at Nouveau, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz or on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call TicketLine on 0861 Movies (668 437).

Watch ‘The Fairy Variations”: scenes from the Bolshoi Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty.

The final two productions in this season from the Bolshoi Ballet to be screened at Nouveau are A Contemporary Evening (22 April) and A Hero of our Time (13 May). The ballets are brought to the big screen by Fathom Events, BY Experience and Pathé Live.

Chance For Ballet Lovers To See Prima Ballerina Svetlana Zakharova Dancing Her Iconic Roles Of Odette And Odile In Swan Lake On The Big Screen

The next ballet to be enjoyed from Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet company on the big screen is one of the classical ballets of all time, Tchaikovsky’s timeless Swan Lake, which released on Saturday, 18 February for limited shows.

In this quintessential ballet, lovers of dance will be treated to the ethereal magic of prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova as Odette / Odile, roles that she has made her own at the Bolshoi Ballet – and the world over.

The Bolshoi Ballet is the quintessential ballet company, presenting works of astounding skill, daring and bravura that leave audiences the world over spellbound. This season of ballets broadcast in cinemas is no different, with the company’s incredible productions set to feature some of the world’s greatest dancers.

Swan Lake opens at moonlight on the banks of a mysterious lake, where Prince Siegfried (Denis Rodkin) meets the bewitched swan­‐woman, Odette (Svetlana Zakharova). Completely spellbound by her beauty, he swears his faithfulness to her. However, the Prince realises too late that Fate has another plan for him…

Swan Lake is a ballet of ultimate beauty with a score of unparalleled perfection, which was born at the Bolshoi in 1877. In the dual roles of the white swan Odette, and her rival black swan Odile, Svetlana Zakharova exudes both vulnerability and cunning through superb technical mastery, alongside the powerful and emotional Siegfried, Denis Rodkin. Including breath-taking scenes with the Bolshoi’s corps de ballet, this is classical ballet at its finest.

Choreographed by Russian ballet master Yuri Grigorovich to the hauntingly beautiful musical composed by Pyotr (Peter) Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and also starring Artemy Belyakov as the Evil Genius and Igor Tsvirko as the Fool, Swan Lake promises to transport viewers into the magical world of the swans.

This production was filmed live at the Bolshoi Ballet on 25 January 2015, for broadcast into cinemas globally.

For booking information on the Bolshoi Ballet’s SWAN LAKE at Nouveau, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz or on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call TicketLine on 0861 Movies (668 437).

More Bolshoi Magic

The other productions in this season to be screened at Nouveau include: The Sleeping Beauty (10 March), A Contemporary Evening (21 April) and A Hero of our Time (12 May). The ballets are brought to the big screen by Fathom Events, BY Experience and Pathé Live.

 

 

The LEGO Batman Movie” welcomes audiences of all ages into a world of DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains uniquely realized for the big screen

In the irreverent spirit of fun that made “The LEGO® Movie” a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble—LEGO® Batman—stars in his own big-screen adventure.

But there are big changes brewing in Gotham City, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker’s hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.

LEGO

Back In Black…And Yellow

Bringing together the energy, imagination and memorable characters from both the LEGO world DC universe, “The LEGO Batman Movie” welcomes audiences of all ages into a world of DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains uniquely realized for the big screen. With plenty of action, fun, and laughs, plus Batman’s amazing arsenal of gadgets and vehicles and the Batcave as it’s never been built before—brick by LEGO brick—this brand-new adventure also asks the question, can Batman just get over himself and be happy?

The film’s star is LEGO Batman, the coolest, handsomest, buff-est, and most awesome leading man of all time….even if he does say so himself.

And he does.  Frequently.

“The ‘LEGO Movie’ version of Batman was such a favorite, breakout character, and I’m sure he would agree that he deserves to be the focus of his own movie and not some third banana.  He feels he’s definitely a first-banana kind of guy,” says Christopher Miller, who, along with Phil Lord, wrote and directed “The LEGO Movie” in 2014.  Keeping the creative collaboration both fresh and familiar, the duo returns as producers on “The LEGO Batman Movie,” directed by Chris McKay, their filmmaking partner who served as animation director and editor on the first film.

Joining Batman this time is the super-positive and freakishly agile young Dick Grayson, on his way to becoming Robin; Batman’s loyal and deceptively reserved butler, Alfred; Gotham City’s new police commissioner Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, who wields major girl power; and The Joker, who desperately wants the recognition he deserves—in a story that not only showcases Batman’s sick skills and enviable abs but also takes a searching look into his personality.  Specifically, this lone wolf’s need to work alone, to brood alone on his dark past and generally distance himself from everyone to a degree that is starting to make him seem, well, a little bit dysfunctional.

“Batman is beloved the world over and for good reason, yet no one could really behave the way he does and get away with it, which is what we’re exploring in the movie,” says lifelong fan Chris McKay, who nevertheless feels that even at the character’s most extreme, “he’s still very sympathetic.”

“What was so special about Batman in the first movie is that he was selfish and egotistical, but still loveable in his own way,” is the assessment of returning producer Dan Lin.  “He had no self-awareness and it was a new twist on the character, someone who often said the most outrageous things.  It’s a subversion of the Super Hero genre, but with a joyous heart and told in a family-friendly LEGO way.”

Adds McKay, “When we were figuring out what kind of movie this would be, we knew that he could be funny and charming, we knew there were plenty of opportunities for jokes, but we wanted it to be more than all gags and sketch comedy. It had to be an absurd, action movie.  But it also had to be moving, with an emotional core to these characters and a reason for people to get involved.  We wanted to have it all: to respect them as individuals with all their complexities and defining traits while at the same time looking at those traits in the funniest possible way.”

The best example of this is Batman’s perpetual state of somber introspection, never mind the fact that, as Lord points out, “He’s got a great life.  He’s a billionaire, he’s handsome, he’s strong, he has great cars and gadgets, and he gets to punch people in the face with no repercussions!  I mean, the guy should be grinning from ear to ear all the time.  So we thought the tension between how he feels and how he should feel was a great premise and something we wanted to poke fun at.”

The writers on “The LEGO Batman Movie” have roots in a range of comedic and/or animated projects.  Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was made into a successful feature; writing partners Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers have been recognized for their work on “Community” and “American Dad”; Jared Stern counts “Toy Story 3” and “Wreck-It Ralph” among his feature animation credits; and John Whittington is a staff writer on the upcoming series “Green Eggs and Ham,” based on the classic Dr. Seuss children’s book.

Reprising his role as the gravelly voiced DC Super Hero with issues is Will Arnett, who concurs, “It’s fun to take an iconic figure like Batman and play with the rules that have always been in place for him, to keep it consistent in terms of his being good at what he does and having that bravado and machismo, but play up his flaws and make him a little goofier without entirely losing his cool.  That’s the kind of license we took originally, and then expanded on that to really get down to what makes Batman tick.”

Speaking of ticking… The story opens with a spectacular action sequence as The Joker, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, gleefully leads the vast Rogues Gallery of baddies in a series of heists culminating in a full-scale attack on Gotham City, with a time bomb that Batman must quickly locate and defuse.  But it’s not just mayhem The Joker craves now.  After decades of unresolved conflict, point and counterpoint, the Clown Prince of Crime justifiably feels that he and the Caped Crusader have forged a special hero/villain bond that needs to be formally acknowledged.

Naturally, Batman refuses, even if the fate of the city rests on his uttering those three magic words The Joker wants to hear: that he is, in fact, Batman’s greatest enemy.

The filmmakers know, however, that putting Batman on the hot seat over his relationship with The Joker isn’t enough by itself to prompt real soul-searching.  So the story also introduces Dick Grayson, who comes to live under Batman’s guardianship through a series of events The Dark Knight can’t quite figure out.  Voiced by Michael Cera, this talkative and enthusiastic youngster, destined to become Robin, brings a ray of sunshine into Batman’s life but, along with it, a level of personal accountability he’s not ready to assume.

LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

Simultaneously, Batman is smitten by Gotham City’s fearless and capable new police commissioner Barbara Gordon, played by Rosario Dawson, as a law enforcement pro with her own ideas about crime-fighting, and who could be a powerful ally if Batman would only accept her help.  And, as if that’s not enough, Batman’s long-standing association with his butler and father figure Alfred comes to a crisis as Alfred, played by Ralph Fiennes, embarks on a tough-love campaign to force Batman out of the shadows and toward a healthier, happier lifestyle.

It’s a lot of upheaval for a guy who just wants to save the city on a regular basis, soak in some public adulation and then hole up at home with his old photos and chick flicks.  Or alternately, vent his deep angst writing heavy-metal rap.

While these storylines serve up a lot of laughs they also encourage Batman to recognize the value of teamwork versus going it alone, which is one of the film’s central themes.   Similarly, Batman’s coming to terms with the significant people in his life touches upon another of the film’s themes, which is the rewards of family, however a person comes to define that.

“The LEGO Batman Movie” again employs the digital animation technique that made “The LEGO Movie” look and feel so tactile and engaging.  Each scene and asset was built brick by brick, through a meticulous process of rendering and surfacing thousands of individual pieces and then assembling these as sets and props in the computer—much as people around the world do so to tell their own stories with LEGO play materials.  Though entirely CG, it suggests the same stop-motion quality that gave its predecessor its distinctive handmade and hand-held look.

However, McKay notes, while the two films share a continuity of style, there are subtleties that set them apart: “The look of this movie is different than ‘The LEGO Movie.’  It’s still within the same world but is more cinematic and photo real.  The scale is larger, with wider camera lenses, and the characters are more detailed.  Batman, for example, has a molded utility belt that he didn’t have in the first film.  We also incorporated some natural effects, like smoke and water.”

Because of the commitment to appropriately depict Batman’s classic environs, unlike the sunny brights of the first film, McKay sought to balance the thematic darkness of such places as Gotham City, Wayne Manor and the Batcave with super-saturated color.

Overall, he says, “We strove to make sure everything was up to the quality and standards set by ‘The LEGO Movie.’”

The creative team again honored the LEGO brand’s imprint by finding ways to work with its physical properties authentically rather than “cheating” movement.  Thus, the Minifigures only move, turn and bend the way their real-life counterparts can.  Referencing the director’s extensive experience with stop-motion animation, Miller says, “Chris is a genius at figuring out the tricks and challenges, how characters can move and how you can make them do things like clap or hug or scratch their foreheads, when their arms only go so far.”

“What’s compelling about the look of these LEGO movies is that it’s your toys come to life,” says Lin.  “And not only your toys but your imagination.  If you could have all these LEGO bricks and build these amazing sets and vehicles, this is what it could look like.”

Production ran concurrently in the U.S. and at the Sydney, Australia headquarters of award-winning digital design, animation and effects company Animal Logic, which provided the animation for “The LEGO Movie”— reuniting many of the artists who worked on that film, again with input from the LEGO design team based in Billund, Denmark.  For two and a half years, approximately 400 dedicated people collaborated to turn this beloved character onto his ear in a way that will delight adults as well as children.

“The LEGO Batman Movie” unapologetically deviates from the DC canon to a ridiculous degree…but, the filmmakers attest, with purpose as well as total love and respect.  “We all know, for example, that this is an inaccurate back-story for Barbara Gordon,” Lord acknowledges.  “It literally has nothing to do with the canon whatsoever, but everyone knows this is a tongue-in-cheek version and it’s all in good fun.  It gave us an opportunity to present Batgirl as a strong female role model with a contemporary point of view.”

“It doesn’t count as real canon because these are little plastic people,” adds Miller, with a laugh.  “And everything is done with affection for these characters.  Chris McKay was a big factor in why the first LEGO movie was so successful; his tone and his point of view are all over it.  He’s a real genius.  He’s also a crazy, super-fan of Batman and DC comics and their history, so the guy’s credentials are legit.  He even has a tattoo of Catwoman on his forearm.”

It’s true.  He does, and will readily roll up his shirtsleeve to prove it.

“These are our Greek gods and our archetypes,” McKay explains.  “So it’s irresistible sometimes to make fun of them, but also to find out what’s true and real about them and what they represent, and what they mean to us.  There are jokes here for people who want to delve deep and stuff that’s just going to be silly and slapstick. The live-action films have a very different take on Batman, and I think what we’re doing doesn’t take anything away from that.  We’re still playing in the world they created.”

LEGO 2

Despite the film’s short-legged, claw-handed protagonists measuring one-and-a-half inches high, with printed facial features, “The LEGO Batman Movie” was conceived, designed, lit, shot and scored like an epic action film.  Therein, the filmmakers feel, lies its appeal as well as the crux of its humor and heart.  Says McKay, “There’s something inherently funny about these little Minifigures taking things so seriously and having the action choreography unfold like some high-powered epic, with people rushing around trying to stop someone from detonating a bomb and all this crazy stuff.

“It’s fun to stage massive action on this level,” he adds, “because it’s all rendered in LEGO bricks so you still have the charm of something that is intimate and handmade.”

For LEGO Batman, defending Gotham City from takeover plots by its thriving criminal underworld is an ongoing exercise.  Time and again, this DC Super Hero and Master Builder swoops in to save the day, free the hostages, disarm the bombs and put the kibosh on whatever diabolical assault the city’s enemies have most recently launched.  Time and again, he is feted by police and politicians, gushed over by the media and cheered by a grateful public amidst parades and fireworks.  The citizens love him.  And he loves that they love him.

Then he goes home alone as Bruce Wayne.

It’s this self-imposed solitude that has always been part of the Batman legend and mystique, which McKay and his team have chosen to focus on in the extreme, with an aim toward making it both touching and hilarious.  “We’re taking the subtext of the character and putting that on the surface,” says McKay.  “Batman is so dark and brooding, so our premise was to explore that, like, ‘What’s this guy’s problem?’  Can he actually be happy?  Can he still function as a Super Hero but also learn to enjoy himself and learn to work with other people?  Let’s force him into a situation where he has to confront these issues and see how he does.”

 

Trimming the excess fat off your story and keeping it lean and fit.

By Daniel Dercksen

If there’s one obstacle that will prevent your story from being realised on film or television, it’s an overweight, or overwritten screenplay or manuscript.

Story Diet

 

Putting your story on a diet does not mean that you have to starve it to death, or force it into a dull and  lifeless creation.

It simply means that you have trim it down so that it is lean and mean, without drowning the reader with words.

It also doesn’t mean that you have to write your first draft starving for rich visual narrative.

A first draft is the equivalent of an actor clearing his throat before walking on stage to perform.

As a writer you have to purge your emotions and indulge your fantasies so that your first draft could end up up to 180 pages instead of the standard 125 page.

When you have been working on a draft for years, it is impossible to see the forest for the trees, or see the bigger picture.

This is where a story editor jumps in to put your story on a diet, trimming it down to size so it works dramatically and is effective structurally.

The story editor will build muscle and emotion.

Looking for a story editor that will trim the fat off your story?

The Write Prescription from your Script Doctor

The Write Journey – 12 steps of writing the perfect screenplay

Here are some common pitfalls of most first drafts:

Dull locations

When dealing with a visual medium, it is always about what we see. Once you have established where the scene takes place in the slugline (INT. ROOM – DAY) , it is important to let us see (1) what the location looks like (2) and tell us where we are.  Where does the story take place?  Where the character lives and where the story is set is an important visual dynamic. It has become an important aspect of filmmaking and needs to be rooted in the screenplay. Also make sure that the setting reflects your thematic purpose, if your story deals with death, your locations will be dark and intimate, if your story deals with emancipation, your setting will reveal the transformation from confinement to freedom.

Film Is A Visual Art that expresses its subjects in space.

The art in a visual art consists of how those subjects are composed in space.

  • A painter composes with colour, shapes, and tones.
  • A sculptor composes with shapes and spaces.
  • A photographer composes with real and sometimes unreal objects of light.

The visual side of the film is primarily in the hands of three members of the production team:

  • Production Designer/ Art Director: Responsible for designing sets and the total visual concept of the film.
  • Cinematographer: Who decides the lighting, and in some cases the composition of the shot to be photographed.
  • Director: Who supervises the mechanics of filming.

Weak character descriptions

In the description paragraph of the screenplay, when we meet a character for the first time, we have to know what that character looks like. You have to give a brief description of the character in your story.When you introduce a character you should always do it as follows:  JOHN (20), a ruggedly handsome charmer.

Not revealing important information

Be clear about establishing the relationship between characters.  Don’t write:  Two friends walk down the street.  Any information that you feel is important for us to know, should be revealed through exposition (visual or dialogue).

Scenes without a purpose

One of the most important aspects of a scene, and to establish the mood and context of the scene, is to know what the function of a scene is. Once the function of your scene is set in motion, it should amplify or reflect your thematic purpose.

Show don’t Tell

When writing for a visual medium it is always good to open up your story visually.  Unlike a stageplay where it’s all about talking heads (dialogue), dialogue in film should be lean.

When the writer takes on the role of editor

Don’t tell the editor where to cut. When you have a new slugline, it is clear where one scene ends and the next scene begins.  Remember that you are the writer, not the editor.

Overwritten visual narrative

Keep the visual narrative it lean and to the point. Don’t write what we can’t see. Also, keep different actions in the narrative separately.  If there are three things happening, write three short, succinct paragraphs.

Not showing emotions

When you describe how a character feels in the narrative, we need to know that.  It’s a visual medium.  When Matt feel rejuvenated and has writer’s block, we need to see these emotions.

Writing information we can’t see

If you are writing for a visual medium, it is essential to reveal emotions, thoughts, and introspective mindscapes visually. Don’t write:  He looks at her and thinks about what she was like as a young girl….  Show us what he is thinking so that we can see the character’s thoughts.

Looking for a story editor that will trim the fat off your story?

The Write Prescription from your Script Doctor

Copyright © 2017 Daniel Dercksen/ The Writing Studio

A taste of what to expect when a fairy tale doesn’t play by the rules.

Fifty Shades Darker, the second chapter based on the worldwide bestselling “Fifty Shades” phenomenon invites audiences to slip into something a shade darker.

Ghosts returning to haunt, helicopter accidents, sexual exploration, revenge, a billionaire’s lifestyle, Thomas Hardy, sadism, abandonment scars, charitable acts, Venetian masks, adult toys…no doubt the heady amount of subjects and objects E L James worked into her record-selling trilogy has helped to fuel the global desire to follow the tale of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.

The story continues as a wounded Christian Grey tries to entice a cautious Anastasia Steele back into his life…and she demands a new arrangement before she will give him another chance. As the two begin to build trust and find stability, shadowy figures from Christian’s past start to circle them, determined to destroy any hopes for a future together.

Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed were lensed simultaneously, resulting in two successive Valentine’s Day weekend releases in 2017 and ’18,  further exploring the compelling romantic tango of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.

The litany of reasons behind filming both chapters in the same period were clear to all involved.  Naturally, with films that are successive stories, characters and environments are common to both—with actors in character, production up and running, and sets and locations primed for shooting.  Economically, it made sense to maximize effort and time.  Viscidi reflects: “We also had other reasons that were more important than strictly the financial ones—for the actors and director James Foley, to have both scripts and to understand where their characters and stories begin and end.  It made it a more fluid process throughout the whole filming.”

Viscidi explains that while the first chapter was an awakening, the next two would delve deep into the characters’ motivations and world: “Dakota’s character in Darker has to evaluate what is it that makes her desire Christian, not just because he’s a good-looking man.  But she actually begins to want to be in the Red Room with him, to experience the sexuality she was unsure of in the first movie.  Now, she has to figure out what’s inside her that’s driving her, where she wants to participate in the same way that Christian wants her to participate.”

The dramatic thriller Fifty Shades Darker is directed by James Foley (Fear, House of Cards) and once again produced by Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips, The Social Network), Dana Brunetti (Captain Phillips, The Social Network) and Marcus Viscidi (We’re the Millers, How to Be Single), alongside E L James, the creator of the blockbuster series.  The screenplay is by E L James’ husband, Niall Leonard, based on the novel by James.

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Dark Side of the Fairy Tale

EL James

E L James is a former television executive, wife and mother of two, based in West London. Since early childhood, James dreamed of writing stories that readers would fall in love with, but put those dreams on hold to focus on her family and career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide and is published in 52 languages. “Fifty Shades of Grey” has been on The New York Times Best-Sellers list for 133 weeks (to date), and was No. 1 for 25 consecutive weeks. At the peak of sales, two copies of the trilogy were selling every second. In June 2012, James was revealed as Amazon U.K.’s best-selling e-book author ever (the book reached Kindle sales of more than one million, making it the No. 1 bestselling Kindle book of all time in the U.K.), as well as Amazon U.K.’s bestselling author ever. “Fifty Shades of Grey” was No. 1 on USA Today’s best-selling books list for 20 weeks in a row, breaking a previous record of 16 weeks. In 2012, James was named one of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People of the Year, one of The World’s 100 Most Influential People by Time and Publishers Weekly’s Publishing Person of the Year.

Producer Dana Brunetti discusses that it was long the intention to explore the decidedly dangerous turn E L James’ second novel takes: “Fifty Shades Darker is more of a thriller.  We have suspense, stalking, helicopter crashes…all in addition to the theme of this couple and their particular type of romance.  Suddenly, their relationship is confronted with many more obstacles than previously, a lot of them from Christian’s past life.”

E L James, who is rejoined by her fellow producers from 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey, reflects on the title progression: “For the second novel, I knew I wanted to keep ‘Fifty Shades,’ because it was quite memorable.  I thought, ‘Where are we going with this?’  Then, I knew that in the second book that we would discover what was behind Christian’s darkness.  Hence, ‘Darker.’”

De Luca found it difficult to believe it has only been a few years since he, Brunetti, Viscidi and E L James began work on bringing the first book to the big screen.  “Taking this journey with Erika and my other fellow producers has been surreal at times,” reflects the producer.

“We managed to take what was already a literary phenomenon and bring it to worldwide audiences over Valentine’s Day weekend in 2015, and here we are again.  We have all grown considerably in these roles and never stopped being the caretakers for Anastasia and Christian’s story.  It’s something we don’t take lightly, and my hat stays off to Erika for keeping us on track as we imagined this filmic world for her characters to inhabit.  I’m extraordinarily proud of how far we’ve all come.”

For the adaptations, production went back to the source: E L James herself, working with the writer who had lived with the characters—and their creator—since the beginning—E L James’ husband, accomplished screenwriter Niall Leonard, whose task it was to translate these massively popular novels with their bold new emblems of mainstream sensuality into two screenplays.

The journey from print on-demand paperback to the creation of one of the most iconic and memorable literary sensations in decades was as shocking to their family as it was to publishers.

“I retain that role as the person who is the first sounding board, so, ‘Fifty Shades’ crept up on me,” Leonard muses.  “Erika was publishing a story, and I knew it was interesting and dark.  I knew that it was gathering an online following, but even so, when it burst into life in the real world, it astounded me how big the phenomenon was.”

As the family grew adjusted to E L James’ skyrocketing fame, as well as the filmic reception of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” they focused their attention on assuring the purity of the subsequent books’ translations.

Niall Leonard

A native of Newry, Northern Ireland, Niall Leonard (Screenplay by) graduated from the National Film & Television School in the U.K. as a writer and director. After several years of directing British television classics, such as The Bill and The Tomorrow People, Leonard moved into writing screenplays fulltime. His versatility and his talent for comedy made him a regular contributor to long-running series such as Ballykissangel and Monarch of the Glen, along with crime thrillers such as Wire in the Blood and historical dramas like Horatio Hornblower 3, shows that won big audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2012, Leonard published his first novel, “Crusher,” a thriller for young adults, quickly followed by the sequels “Incinerator” and “Shredder.” Following his contributions to the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, the producers asked him to adapt its two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed for the screen.

“For Darker and Freed,” Leonard continues, “she was keen that the movies had to be done quickly and that they had to be close to the books.  Knowing the story and the fandom, I was very familiar with the parts that mean a lot to Erika and to her fans.  I was keen to see those properly included.  With experience as an adapter and screenwriter, I felt qualified to take on the project.  The studio was willing to have me on board to take these enormous, sprawling novels and condense them into something that was of movie length…without losing any of the relationship and the important parts that fans really wanted to see.”

E L James is the first to admit that it was an unexpected and unusual collaboration in bringing her Christian and Ana to life in another medium.

“It was an interesting time while Niall was writing,” she reflects.  “He would go off and do his thing, and then he’d bring me a draft and ask, ‘What do you think?’  Then, we’d have discussions until we were ready to submit it to the studio.”  In her typical dry fashion, the author adds: “He was very private about it, but we’re still speaking to each other.  So that it worked out well.”

Leonard offers that knowing your spouse will be your editor is a curious thing indeed.

“I was quite nervous.  Then I heard her laughing in the next room, and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m off the hook; she’s enjoying it.  We got over that first hurdle of her accepting my work.  Then, we had to work together revising it.  Sometimes, we’d have a bit of a ding-dong about particular scenes, and I’d say, ‘I really want to do this,’ and she’d respond, ‘That’s not true to the story.’”

To be certain, the screenwriter promised the creator of his source material one thing before they began adaptations.  “If it ever came down to the crunch, it was always to be her decision,” Leonard says.

“Christian Grey is not this cutesy, handsome, all-things-to-all character.  He’s dominant, dangerous and a real challenge.  His journey into being rescued by Ana is a tricky one, and the only person for this is Erika.  She knows every step, and is the North Star.  If you follow her lead, you can’t go wrong.”

Director on board

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James Foley is an American film director. His 1986 film At Close Range was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear Award at the 36th Berlin International Film Festival. Other films he has directed include Glengarry Glen Ross, based on the both Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play of the same name by David Mamet (the film version of which was nominated for the Golden Lion at the 49th Venice International Film Festival) Fear, which starred Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon; as well as The Chamber, based on the novel of the same name by best-selling author John Grisham. Foley also has an extensive background in television, having directed for hit shows such as Netflix’s House of Cards, Showtime’s Billions and NBC’s Hannibal. Following up on Fifty Shades Darker, Foley is in postproduction on Fifty Shades Freed, to be released February 9, 2018.

When he made the decision to take the director’s chair for both films, James Foley joined the rarefied ranks of very few directors who have maximized time and effort by filming back-to-back projects.

Brunetti discusses the process in finding the one who’d captain the team: “When we were determining who the next director was going to be, there was speculation on whether we were going to shoot Darker or Darker and Freed at the same time.  I knew James from House of Cards, as he directed a majority of the first season and was our show director/showrunner.”

Not only was Brunetti a fan of Foley’s work for Netflix, he has long enjoyed many of the filmmaker’s features.

Glengarry Glen Ross is one of my favorites.  We met with him, and his thoughts on the film were fantastic,” says the producer.  “We saw a lot of different directors after that for Darker and made a short list.  Then, when we began to discuss making both films at the same time, I knew that is how we shot a lot of House of Cards—two episodes at a time, and we would cross-board them.  I pushed for James, not just because of his experience shooting this way, but because of his understanding of the books and take on what the films should be.”

Viscidi agrees with the decision to which fellow producers De Luca, E L James and Brunetti arrived: “We needed someone of that caliber who could direct the actors in a strong, confident and accomplished style.  In the first meeting with Foley, he said he wanted to expand and open up the film.  He appreciated the first movie—thought it was good, sexy and provocative—but wanted the characters to be more a part of the real world, get them outside more in the next chapter.  He wanted to see Seattle more, and have the characters interact more with the world around them.”

Foley discusses his interest in joining the franchise: “‘Fifty Shades’ defied a genre; it’s full of elements, drama, romance, fantasy, all mixed together.  It is a special kind of combination—a special kind of brew—like you brew beer.  It’s has its own fizz.”

No stranger to adapting lauded work, the filmmaker felt a connection with the protagonists of E L James’ work.  He reflects: “I’ve always been interested in psychological realism—movies, dramas that have a psychological complexity to them.  What I got from the three books was that they were a master study in the field—particularly of Christian but also of Ana.  There was something interesting in the journey that they took together, and how each of these psychologies interacted with each other and wind up changing each of them over the course of the three books quite dramatically.  It was that evolution in their selves which was the most important thing to me.”

The relationship quickly established by director and author/producer was soon harmonic.  “Erika was very clear about the arc of the story and how she wanted Christian and Ana’s characters to develop between the two films,” observes Viscidi.  “James was able to take that information, turn it around and implement it in his vision.  It was a great working relationship, and Erika trusted him implicitly from day one.”

Foley addresses one of the key elements of working with E L James—indeed, one of the key elements of any successful film production—when he says, “It’s been the sweetest thing—we were pals throughout the process.  There was compromise—I compromised, she compromised—but the film was not compromised.  We got the best combination of our talent.  I was very respectful of the books—they have their own kind of magic that worked on so many people.  I sought to transfer that magic to the screen, and having her around was great.  Erika was very supportive and always respectful.”

“James Foley stepped into the Fifty Shades Darker production almost as if he’d been with us since day one,” says De Luca.  “He brought this deep respect—not only to the cast and crew who’d been part of the first production—but an honor for Erika’s source material and Niall’s distinctive, significantly darker take on the next two pivotal chapters.  Foley is the consummate filmmaker and gentleman, and the exact right filmmaker to bring innovative ideas about what Darker and Freed could become.  He has this ability to elevate our production to a level none of us could have expected.”

Fifty shades 2

No Rules, No Punishments:The Curious Couple Returns

While Fifty Shades of Grey introduced movie audiences to billionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey and curious college student Anastasia Steele, the next two episodes would challenge everything audiences expected of the couple who had ended their relationship at the end of the first film.

With the whirlwind of launching Fifty Shades of Grey behind them, Dornan and Johnson set to work on the Darker and Freed set, ready for the unique set of challenges that lie ahead.  “The evolution that we have seen in Jamie and Dakota has been nothing short of astonishing,” raves De Luca.  “They were dropped into this rarified on-screen space of iconic coupledom and asked to establish immediate intimacy…all while the world looked on and analyzed every movement in their nonverbal language with one another.  The Herculean task of embodying the characters of Christian and Anastasia would have made many a performer crumble.  But they rose to every challenge.  As actors, they continue to impress me to the lengths they’ve gone and the depths of their ability to discover nuance and emote passion.”

Fifty Shades

Darker is a deeper exploration into these two people,” says Johnson.  “It feels like they are on this tumultuous, twisted path, and they’re not simple characters.  It’s not lovey-dovey, easy-breezy bullshit.  It’s darker.  We are not sugarcoating any of the real, raw and difficult things in this relationship.  No matter what kind of relationship is going on between two people, there’s a universality in the difficult things, all of the particulars of Ana and Christian notwithstanding.”

One of the major players in Fifty Shades of Grey is a woman who never actually appears—but the wake in which she has left Christian radiates outward and affects everyone in his life.  Ana flippantly refers to her as Mrs. Robinson—in reference to Anne Bancroft’s character in the film classic The Graduate, who seduces the much younger man, played by Dustin Hoffman.  The duplicitous friend of Christian’s mother, she brings the 15-year-old Christian into her bed and her lifestyle.

The character—Elena Lincoln—is an integral part of the story of Darker, and who better to inhabit the enigmatic woman than the distinguished Academy Award®-winning actress whose C.V. includes her own cinematic venture into the dark side of a romance in the memorable and shockwave-causing 9½ Weeks.

Screenwriter Leonard took to the predatory character with a certain amount of glee.  He says: “It was great fun writing Elena, because she has this immense self-confidence.  She’s assured, sexy, experienced, intelligent and successful—all the things that Ana feels she isn’t—so she’s incredibly intimidating.  Ana feels utterly dwarfed by her presence and threatened by it.  Casting Kim Basinger in the part is an absolute dream, because she just comes across with this wealth of sophistication.”

With her “author” hat squarely on her head, E L James reasserts: “All of the ‘Fifty Shades’ books are romance books, full stop—they should be, and hopefully will be, romantic films.  In this one, we discover more, go deeper, and there’s also the first hint of Christian’s old life, with that coming back and infecting the couple as they try to get it together.  That’s one of the reasons why it’s darker, because there are these threats in the wings that come in to destabilize what should be a happy romance.”

”Historians can debate how the Holocaust took place, but the fact is, the Holocaust happened.”

An American professor finds herself the defendant in a high-profile British libel trial that would impact the way the history of the Holocaust is told in Denial, a taut courtroom drama based on one of the most significant international legal cases in recent memory.

A powerful story about one woman’s relentless efforts to establish justice and remind the world about the tragedies of the Holocaust, Denial is a gripping, inspirational real-life account based on Deborah E. Lipstadt’s book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, and adapted for the big screen by esteemed playwright David Hare.

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Tom Wilkinson plays Lipstadt’s quietly fierce, Scottishborn barrister Richard Rampton. Wilkinson was intrigued by Denial’s unusual story and its avoidance of what he calls the clichés of genre filmmaking. “The central story is about a fish out of water,” he says. “There are huge differences between the cultures, not only British vs. American, but also Jewish culture. Deborah Lipstadt was under tremendous pressure from survivors of the Holocaust who wanted the world to hear them speak. She also wanted to have her say in court. Yet her rather cool British lawyers saying, ‘No, you can’t. Once you get in there, you’ll get pulled to pieces.’” “And that’s essentially the core,” he continues. “He’s a Holocaust denier, for heaven’s sake. If that guy’s ever going to win a suit, then what does it say for any sort of justice? The emphasis in the movie will be on the sense of isolation that she feels in the context of this rather bizarre court case.”

Denial recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt’s (Oscar winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team led by Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred.

Lipstadt believes the film provides an opportunity for her to take her life’s work another step forward. “I’d like people to understand that the Holocaust is the best documented genocide in the world. There is no denying it. You can debate aspects of it – why it happened, how it happened, but not the fact that it happened. It is incontrovertible fact. It can’t be debated. And that’s not being closed-minded, it’s acknowledging the truth.”

Denial producers Gary Foster and Russ Krasnoff first became aware of Deborah Lipstadt and her work some eight years ago. “Our kids, who are the same age, were applying to colleges,” Krasnoff recalls. “I was researching Emory University in Atlanta, where Deborah is professor of modern Jewish history and studies. The university had just announced a $1 million grant to translate portions of her Emory-based website, HDOT: Holocaust Denial on Trial (www.hdot.org), which archives all materials from her trial into Farsi, Arabic, Russian and Turkish. “I thought it was amazing that a university would do this and I wanted to know more about her.”

This inspired Krasnoff to get a copy of Lipstadt’s book, Denial: Holocaust History on Trial [previously published as History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier], an account of the libel case brought against her by David Irving. Irving’s lawsuit against Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, asserted that the professor had committed libel against him. Lipstadt’s book was a first-hand account of the trial.

“In addition to being an important topic, it was wonderful storytelling,” he continues. “Gary and I thought it would make a great movie.”

Some preliminary research revealed that Holocaust denial was much more widespread than the producers had realized. It was espoused by several prominent voices in the U.S. and Europe, as well as throughout the Middle East — most notably by thenpresident of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“It was all opinion turned into fact,” Foster says. “You can have a conviction, a passion, a belief — but that doesn’t make it a fact. That was a big part of our decision to make the film and to stay with it for the eight years it took to get it to the screen.”

In 2008, while Foster and Krasnoff were making the film The Soloist in Los Angeles, Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King visited the set during shooting on the city’s Skid Row. When Skoll and King learned about the producers’ idea for a movie chronicling the Lipstadt trial, they jumped at the chance to be a part of it. “They bought the project on the spot,” Foster recalls. “Participant’s mission is to create entertainment that inspires and compels social change. This story fit perfectly, but it took some time to find just the right team to put it together.”

By 2012, Foster and Krasnoff were developing another film, My Old Lady, in partnership with BBC Films. Christine Langan, former head of BBC Films, suggested Foster and Krasnoff speak with acclaimed playwright and Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter David Hare about adapting the book into a feature film.

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Tom Wilkinson and Rachel Weisz

David Hare the ideal writer to adapt the book

Langan had worked with Hare on a trilogy of television films about MI5 and believed he would be the ideal writer for this story.

David Hare's plays and screenplays include Plenty, Skylight, The Blue Room, The Hours and Stuff Happens.

DAVID HARE (Writer) is a playwright and filmmaker. For the silver screen he wrote Wetherby, Damage, The Hours and The Reader. Television credits include “Page Eight,” “Saigon: Year of the Cat,” “Dreams of Leaving,” “Licking Hitler,” “Turks & Caicos” and “Salting the Battlefield.” He has written more than 30 stage plays including “Plenty,” “Pravda” (with Howard Brenton), “The Secret Rapture,” “Racing Demon,” “Skylight,” “Amy’s View,” “The Blue Room,” “Via Dolorosa,” “Stuff Happens,” “South Downs,” “The Absence of War,” “The Judas Kiss” and “The Moderate Soprano.” In 1997 the French government honored Hare as an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 1998 the British knighted him for services to the theater.

“Stories like this one aren’t the specialty of mainstream American cinema any more,” says Hare. “Spotlight was an exception, but it’s an unusual beast among American films. They were convinced such a factual political drama needed the BBC’s sensibility.” Hare, who received an Oscar® nomination for his adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, which revolves around a Nazi war-crimes trial, says he didn’t immediately recognize the historical significance of Lipstadt’s case.“I didn’t feel the weight of that until one day late on, when I had to write some dialogue spoken at Auschwitz. For the first time, I felt I had a special responsibility to the subject.”

It was the idea of defending objective historical truth that initially intrigued Hare enough to agree to tackle the project. “That meant I had to be historically accurate myself, so that enemies of the film, the people who agree with David Irving, couldn’t accuse me of distorting the record.”

To do so, Hare sifted through pages and pages of official records to document the courtroom scenes. “It took me four or five hours to read a single day in court,” he says. “So you can imagine my initial reaction: Have I really got to read 40 days of trial? I couldn’t fake drama in the courtroom that didn’t happen.”

In fact, there was no need to fabricate dramatic moments. All of the dialogue from the courtroom scenes was taken verbatim from the official record.

Hare also points to a reallife moment depicted early in the film in which Irving unexpectedly appears at a lecture given by Lipstadt in Atlanta and disrupts her speech.

“He started waving $1,000 above his head and saying, ‘I’ll give it to anyone who can prove Hitler ordered the killing of the Jews!’ That became a wonderfully dramatic opening to a film. The real mystery for me is why Deborah Lipstadt was chosen by David Irving in the first place. Why did he pick on her?” While he believes that decision reveals a great deal about Irving, Hare says he wasn’t interested in writing “a portrait of an anti-Semite.”

“The film is not about Irving’s psychology. He is seen almost exclusively from Deborah’s point of view, so I have no right to speculate or try to explain Irving. He simply behaves in the extraordinary manner he did throughout the trial and I offer no explanation. I’m not qualified to go into his psychology. There’s no ‘behind-the-scenes’ with him. There’s only information that is on the public record.”

Director Mick Jackson tackles Denial

British-born filmmaker Mick Jackson was chosen to direct Denial on the strength of an extensive résumé that includes major box-office hits (The Bodyguard), an Emmy®-winning TV movie (“Temple Grandin”), and a string of highly regarded documentaries and dramas for the BBC and Britain’s Channel 4.

DENIAL, Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos (left), Director Mick Jackson (cap), on set, 2016. Ph: Laurie Sparham /© Bleecker Street Media

MICK JACKSON (Director) is a British film and television director and producer. He is perhaps best known for The Bodyguard, starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, which was nominated for several MTV Movie Awards and became the second-highestgrossing film worldwide in 1992. His other feature credits include Volcano, The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest, Clean Slate, L.A. Story and Chattahoochee. More recently Jackson has turned his attention to television, directing the highly acclaimed 2010 HBO movie “Temple Grandin,” for which he and Claire Danes won Emmys. Jackson also shared in the telefilm’s DGA Award (his fourth) and Peabody Award. The director was previously Emmy nominated for the Lifetime movie “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” starring Emily Watson; HBO’s “Live From Baghdad” (2002), starring Michael Keaton; and “Indictment: The McMartin Trial” (1995), with James Woods. He is also a three-time BAFTA TV Award winner, for “A Very British Coup,” “The Race for the Double Helix” and “Threads.” Other small-screen credits include the miniseries “Covert One: The Hades Factor” and telefilms “Screen Two: Double Image” and “Tuesdays With Morrie.” Jackson has directed a number of TV documentaries, including “The Age of Uncertainty” and “The Ascent of Man,” on which he worked alongside Sir David Attenborough and won a Peabody Award.

 

“I started out in documentaries,” says Jackson. “I have a feeling for what’s real and I like shooting in that style. I try to shoot as much hand-held as I can and keep things very fluid. Deborah’s book was perfect for me. I loved her attention to the smallest details, like who sat where in the courtroom or the color of Richard Rampton’s tie.”

The director was also drawn to the timeliness of the film’s subject matter.

“We live in an age of unreason and lies, an age of violent outrages and all kinds of assaults on the truth,” says Jackson, who adds that he had a more personal reason for taking on the project. “When I was a very young director at the BBC, I worked on a landmark series of documentaries called ‘The Ascent of Man.’ We shot an episode at Auschwitz. Just being there touched me in a profound way. When this script came my way, I thought, ‘I have to do that.’”

According to the director, the film’s title has a double meaning. “To win this case, which is about Holocaust denial, Deborah will have to deny herself the glory of standing up in court and speaking to this monster,” he says. “That act of self-denial is her only hope of beating Irving’s charges.”

Jackson compares the film to a piece of music with repeated themes that stand on their own, but are also woven together in counterpoint. One thread is the progress of the trial and the anticipation of its outcome. Another is the human story of Lipstadt and her legal team.

“We see through Deborah’s eyes, with all her media savvy, that there are two trials here: the one in the courtroom and the one in the court of public opinion.”

Lipstadt involved during filming

Lipstadt was closely involved with the making of the film from the time her book was first optioned, providing the filmmakers with access to her life and insights into her experience. “I spent two days with Rachel Weisz and we talked afterwards on the phone,” she recalls. “I’d never met David Hare, but I knew his work. I’d seen The Reader and The Hours. David spent two or three days in Atlanta, meeting me, shadowing me, coming to my classes, even walking around my home. Then he shared some of the script and I offered comments.”

Portrait of actress and film director Judith Malina, New York, New York, 1999. (Photo by Chris Felver/Getty Images)

Rachel Weisz, left, and author Deborah E. Lipstadt on the set of their film “Denial.”

When the crucial courtroom scenes were filmed in London, Lipstadt visited the set, looking on as her own past unfolded on a soundstage. It was a vivid reminder of how isolated she felt when she arrived in London for the trial. Her A-list legal team had devised a defense strategy that shocked her — she would not testify in court, nor would they call Holocaust survivors to testify.

“We were, as they say, divided by a common language,” she says. “Lawyers talk in shorthand. I felt like a deer in headlights, not because of Irving, but because of the situation. I was in a foreign country, in a foreign arena.”

Lipstadt was unfamiliar with Britain’s two-tiered legal system and the strict division of labor between barristers and solicitors. Solicitors, like Anthony Julius, formulate strategy, undertake negotiations and draft legal documents.

While barristers, like Richard Rampton, provide specialized legal advice and represent individuals and organizations in court. In addition, Lipstadt was shocked to learn, the burden of proof in a British libel case lies with the defendant.

The basic American legal tenet of “innocent until proven guilty” is reversed. The historian agrees with Hare’s description of her as “a fish out of water” during the preparation and the trial.

“It’s not how I think of myself,” she says. “But it’s not untrue. For the sake of a dramatic arc, David emphasized my relationship with the lawyers. I had to learn to trust those lawyers, keep quiet and have faith in the process.”

Although she initially doubted her legal team’s strategy, she soon learned they had her best interests at heart.

“Anthony offered to do this pro bono because Irving needed to be fought. He was willing to fight as if it were the biggest commercial case to ever come across his desk. He’d already represented Princess Diana against the House of Windsor in her divorce and settled that. Now he talks about this as one of his most important cases.”

The trial took place almost 20 years ago, so reliving it on a film set had a surreal quality for Lipstadt.

“Some moments approximate the truth almost exactly. I also worked closely with Rachel, who is unbelievable — such a professional! I’m blown away by her. But still there’s something disorienting about it all. She’s even wearing some of my clothes — including scarves that belong to me. The costume department looked at some pictures of me from that time, and I told them I still had some of those clothes. Rachel looks different than me, but I do love that they tried to approximate the hair to a certain extent.”

Lipstadt calls the trial “a defining moment” in her life.

“It didn’t change me or what I had to say. It changed how people listen to me. It gave me a hearing I hadn’t had before. Suddenly what I had to say had more clout, more gravitas because I’d successfully faced down David Irving.”

At the time, she was advised by many not to fight the charges. “I was told by some academics that I was wasting my time,”

Lipstadt recalls. “Some of the leaders of the British Jewish community felt that whatever happened, he’d win. But if I hadn’t fought, then I would have surely lost. It would have become illegal to call the world’s leading Holocaust denier what he is. That would have been a terrible thing that legitimized all Holocaust deniers. In the end, all those people who had said I shouldn’t have fought came around.” In Hare’s opinion, Lipstadt behaved with extreme fortitude throughout the lengthy ordeal. “When somebody sues you for libel, it’s a long business,” the writer says.

“From start to finish, it took seven years. I’m sure she experienced many dark nights of the soul. But not a word of hers was proved to be inaccurate. And never during that time did she say anything inappropriate or out of order. She behaved with complete integrity.”

Lipstadt faced a particularly insidious adversary in David Irving, says Hare, because he gave anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial a respectable face. “Irving dressed like an English gentleman. He lived in Mayfair. John Keegan, an extremely distinguished military historian, said that David Irving was a first-rate historian who happened to take Hitler’s point of view and that there was as significant historical value in looking at history from the side of the loser.”

In retrospect, Lipstadt says, the point of the trial was not to crush David Irving, but to expose a destructive lie that he and others like him were perpetrating.

“This trial has importance over and above and beyond itself. In an age of relativism, kids grow up thinking, ‘it must be true, I saw it on the Internet.’ But not everything can be true. There are not two sides to every issue. My students often believe everybody has a right to their opinion, but facts are facts. Historians can debate how the Holocaust took place, but the fact is, the Holocaust happened.”

Lipstadt believes the film provides an opportunity for her to take her life’s work another step forward. “I’d like people to understand that the Holocaust is the best documented genocide in the world. There is no denying it. You can debate aspects of it – why it happened, how it happened, but not the fact that it happened. It is incontrovertible fact. It can’t be debated. And that’s not being closed-minded, it’s acknowledging the truth.”

According to Jackson, the trial has made a lasting difference in the world. “If Deborah Lipstadt had lost, it would have had a chilling effect on every other similar case,” he says. “All kinds of things that were controversial would have been very difficult to litigate, because people would have been afraid of losing. As Richard Rampton said after the verdict, it won’t bring any of them back. But now, no reasonable historian can ever doubt that the Holocaust took place.”

 

“The title Moonlight refers to shining light in the darkness or illuminating things you’re afraid to show. Everybody in life has had a struggle like Chiron’s at some point, whether it’s for a short period of time or an entire lifetime. Anyone who insists they haven’t put up a façade is living in some kind of darkness.”

Moonlight is a consummate masterwork from writer-director Barry Jenkins that takes you on an emotional journey into the heart and soul of humanity and will live in your heart forever. It won 3 Oscars in 2017 for Best Film, the screenplay adaptation by Jenkins and Taryn Alvin McCraney, based on McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,  and supporting actor for Mahershala Ali.

If you have a true life story that reflects the uniqueness of your culture, why not write the screenplay that can be turned into a film?  Our celebrated The Write Journey course will take your idea from page to screen. Take the first step in the write direction!

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André Holland and Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight. “Black is thrown a lifeline by the one person he’s allowed himself to be intimate with, and through André’s soulfulness, he attains a kind of freedom. Kevin is saying to his old friend, I’m not going to push you, I’m not going to force you, I’m just going to offer you this light…”

An unforgettable and not-to-be missed drama at the intersection of race, sexuality, masculinity, identity, family, and love, the film arrives eight years after Jenkins’ critically acclaimed romance Medicine For Melancholy, bringing audiences a  deeply felt cinematic swoon, following one young man’s tumultuous coming age in South Florida over the course of two decades.

One of the most powerful aspects of Moonlight is that it was conceived in cinematic form by a straight man working from material rooted in the personal experiences of an openly gay man

Featuring a trio of gifted actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) inhabiting a single character during three phases of his life, it tells the story of one young man’s coming of age in a tough Miami neighborhood.

As Chiron grows from an uncertain and tentative boy into a bullied teenager grappling with his sexuality and finally into a grown man, Jenkins skillfully shows through three distinct chapters a life in full, revealing how the powerful moments in each of our lives coalesce to shape our identities and define our fates.

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Taryn Alvin McCraney is best known for his acclaimed trilogy The Brother/Sister Plays, which include The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water, and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet. Other plays include Head of Passes, Choir Boy, and Wig Out! Tarell is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, the Whiting Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, the Evening Standard Award, the New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Windham Campbell Award, and a Doris Duke Artist Award. He was the International Writer-in-Residence for the Royal Shakespeare Company from 2008-2010, and a former resident playwright at New Dramatists. He is an ensemble member at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and a member of Teo Castellanos/D-Projects in Miami. Tarell is a graduate of the New World School of the Arts, the Theatre School at DePaul University, and the Yale School of Drama, and he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Warwick. He recently joined the University of Miami as Professor of Theatre and Civic Engagement as part of a three-year program, in partnership with UM, Miami-Dade County and the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center.

After reading Jenkins’ adaptation, producer Adele Romanski was immediately captivated by the script’s highly emotional take on coming of age under fire.

Although Moonlight is set in a very specific place, its themes apply to anyone who has ever felt out of place in the world.

“The script broke my heart,” Romanski shares. “Chiron’s story was something I could identify with even as a white female. A lot of people across race, gender, age, and sexuality can identify with feeling ‘other.’ While Moonlight is in essence a gay, black coming of age drama, the core of its story is the universality of its otherness.”

One of the most powerful aspects of Moonlight is that it was conceived in cinematic form by a straight man working from material rooted in the personal experiences of an openly gay man — yet the film’s sexuality is not its centerpiece or defining feature, owing to Jenkins’ penchant for subtlety and introspection over telegraphed moments or sermonizing. Ultimately, Moonlight transcends labels and definitions, telling a universal story through one young man’s cathartic personal struggles. “Barry is a very introverted and private person,” Romanski explains. “He doesn’t show much of himself outside a core group of people he trusts. Moonlight allowed him to tell a story that is unique to his own upbringing and history — yet he was able to access it through an adapted work that was Tarell’s story.”

Producers Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner were deeply moved by what they read. “The writing was incredibly beautiful and like its predecessor possessed a notable elegance and simplicity in its structure,” Kleiner shares. “Barry has the remarkable ability to create and capture intimate spaces between characters — specifically two characters. He penetrates interior emotional states in a way you don’t see coming and suddenly you’re in the depths of the human heart.” Adds Gardner: “Barry is someone who believes that whole worlds collide in the space of one conversation. It takes a skillful writer-director to bring that alive on the screen.” Plan B signed on shortly after reading, and financing on Moonlight was completed in early 2015, when A24 made their first foray into production and got behind the project.

The journey begins

In 2013, Romanski (Morris From America, The Myth Of The American Sleepover) was helping Jenkins sift through feature film projects for his eagerly anticipated follow-up to Medicine For Melancholy. The duo, friends since college, began holding bi-weekly meetings where they volleyed ideas back and forth until a dozen solid ideas took shape. One of them was McCraney’s evocation of his own Miami youth, which had fallen into Jenkins’ hands through a Borscht collective member. “Tarell did a great job of capturing what it felt like to be a poor black kid growing up in the Miami projects,” Jenkins explains. “I saw it as an opportunity to get some of my own childhood memories out of my head and onto the screen, filtered through Tarell’s wonderful voice. The root of his experience was also the root of my experience — it was the perfect marriage.”

By coincidence Jenkins came of age in the same rough and tumble Liberty City housing projects where McCraney grew up, and where much of Moonlight the film unfolds. He also contributed work to the Borscht Film Festival — Jenkins’ 2013 short film “Chlorophyl” was a sprawling 17-minute evocation of his native Miami emphasizing changes wrought through urban renewal. The short film incorporated some of the same themes as Medicine For Melancholy, including displacement, gentrification and yearning for love and connection amid urban anomie.

Jenkins and McCraney did not know each other as children but their formative years were remarkably similar. They attended the same elementary and middle schools (despite a difference in age) and both went on to become artists, treating subjects and themes close to their own experiences, including themes of identity and masculinity. Most notably, both grew up in households in which their mothers grappled with severe drug addiction. Jenkins’ mother survived her battle and has remained HIV positive for 24 years, while McCraney’s mother ultimately succumbed from AIDS as a result of her struggles.

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Barry Jenkins was born and raised in Miami, FL. After graduating from Florida State University with a BA in English and a BFA in Film, he relocated to Los Angeles where he worked as an assistant to director Darnell Martin on Harpo Films’ Their Eyes Were Watching God. His feature film debut, Medicine For Melancholy, was released in theaters by IFC Films and hailed as one of the best films of 2009 by A.O. Scott of The New York Times. In 2010, Jenkins co-founded the commercial collective Strike Anywhere Films. A nominee for several Spirit and Gotham Awards, Jenkins’ recent work includes a screen adaptation for Overbrook Films and staff writing on HBO’s “The Leftovers.” In addition to being a curator and presenter at the Telluride Film Festival, he is a United States Artists Smith Fellow and was recently named one of the “20 Directors to Watch” in world cinema by The New York Times. MOONLIGHT is his second feature film.

Adapting Moonlight

For his adaptation, Jenkins set about broadening the story’s three chapters, expanding on an adult interlude in Chiron’s life that was a mere phone call in McCraney’s source material, and giving equal shrift to three distinct eras in his young protagonist’s journey from childhood to adulthood.

McCraney’s original piece was rooted in the relationship between a young Liberty City boy and a local drug dealer, who becomes a kind of surrogate father as the boy contends with bullying, his mother’s addiction, and a pervasive feeling of loneliness and otherness that ultimately ends in tragedy. Jumping back and forth between youth and adolescence, yet deeply rooted in themes of masculinity, identity, and community, the non-linear “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” examined the burgeoning gay sexuality of its protagonist Chiron coming of age in a challenging milieu. “It was important to me to show from the beginning how the community is active in Chiron’s life,” McCraney says. “The community knows things about him before he knows them about himself. People want to place him in a category before he even understands what that means. This happens to all of us, whether we’re male, female, black, white, straight or gay. There are moments when our community decides to tell us what they see us as. How we respond to that makes our struggle very real, and deeply influences how our lives unfold.”

Casting the film

Casting Moonlight began with Jenkins’ bold decision to show Chiron’s progression during various stages of his young life beginning at age ten and extending into his early 30s, without aging a single actor through the course of the film’s three chapters. This considerable challenge required the casting team to find three distinct actors who could convey the same inner feeling across multiple years without ever meeting during the course of filming.

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Alex Hibbert

Moonlight opens with Chiron (Alex Hibbert) at age 10 (nicknamed Little in the movie), fleeing from bullies in his housing project until he is rescued by the drug dealer Juan, who becomes his mentor and unofficial guardian with the help of his saintly girlfriend Teresa. In the second chapter, Chiron grapples with young love in the form of his teenage schoolmate Kevin, the declining state of his mother Paula and a traumatic schoolyard incident that changes the course of his life. The third chapter follows Chiron in adulthood — now known by his street name Black — contending with the thwarted love that has hindered his identity through his inability to express his feelings. In a virtuoso sequence set in a Miami diner, Chiron reunites with Kevin in a thoroughly unforgettable and unexpected way.

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Ashton Sanders

For Chiron at age 16, Ramirez scouted teenagers all over the country, reviewing audition tapes and headshots and scanning the Internet for video clips of students who were graduating from high school performing arts programs. In the end the filmmakers chose Ashton Sanders, who Ramirez first discovered during one of her numerous Los Angeles casting sessions. Sanders had appeared in a previous independent film and had a brief role in Straight Outta Compton, but he stood out for his stillness and impassivity, crucial attributes for Chiron in the film’s second chapter.

 

Trevante Rhodes, a former track and field star from Louisiana who was discovered by a casting agent on his Texas college campus and immediately cast in a Nicolas Cage film, had originally read for the role of the adult Kevin in the film’s evocative third chapter. But his reading was interrupted by the casting team, including Ramirez, Jenkins and

Trevante Rhodes

Romanski, the common thread that pulled the three different stages together, which was an intense vulnerability. Each actor could express it in his eyes, helping to create a complete picture of this character’s life.” Adds Jenkins: “You don’t see black males on screen where they’re just allowed to emote instead of talking or being active all the time. All three actors were great at emoting.”

For Rhodes, the biggest challenge inhabiting Chiron as an adult came in staying true to the character’s deeply concealed emotional core despite physical “armor” like muscles and grills, and a decidedly opaque street name. “Black is an introverted, troubled man who is hiding his true self from the world because he’s frightened of letting people know who he really is,” explains Rhodes.

“The title Moonlight refers to shining light in the darkness or illuminating things you’re afraid to show. Everybody in life has had a struggle like Chiron’s at some point, whether it’s for a short period of time or an entire lifetime. Anyone who insists they haven’t put up a façade is living in some kind of darkness.”

At its heart, Moonlight is a story about masculinity and how it’s expressed in a specific community like the Liberty City housing project in Miami, where much of the movie was filmed. In this milieu, criminal life routinely overlaps with everyday domestic life and paternal figures come to take on the ambiguous qualities of provider and supplier.

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Mahershala Ali

In the case of Juan, the local drug dealer who takes Chiron under his wing while quietly supplying his mother with crack cocaine, the role required an actor who appeared ferocious on the surface but harbored kindness and nurturing underneath.

“There are so many different layers to a character like Juan,” Jenkins explains. “I’m examining black masculinity in this movie, but on a deeper level I’m exploring inner city impoverished black masculinity. We needed someone who could be menacing one moment and extremely caring the next.”

The filmmakers found their Juan in the Oakland-born stage and screen actor Mahershala Ali, whose most visible role to date is playing the lobbyist and former press secretary Remy Danton on Netflix’s “House of Cards,” and whose other works include this year’s Free State Of Jones, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and Netflix’s forthcoming “Marvel’s Luke Cage” series. Romanski had just finished working with Ali on another production, Justin Tipping’s KICKS, and had been deeply impressed with his work; while filming she thought of him for the role of Juan, and mentioned to him she had a project she was hoping to share with him as soon as it was ready.

In a brief yet astonishing performance, Ali in the guise of Juan imparts valuable information to Chiron that helps him survive inside and out through the years — until he comes to embody a version of Juan in his adult life. “He’s the father figure to Little, which is important because you want to feel like Little has someone guiding him through life,” Ramirez explains. “There’s also this dangerous level to Juan, which isn’t what you associate with paternal figures. Mahershala is a very intense, emotional actor, but he also has this ability to comfort.”

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André Holland

Showing a different side of masculinity in the quietly explosive third chapter of Moonlight is the actor André Holland (“The Knick,” Selma, 42), whose luminous and serene performance as the adult Kevin brings a sense of comfort and ease that ultimately helps Chiron emerge from his shell. Early in the casting process Holland — who has appeared in several of McCraney’s plays, including the Brother/Sister trilogy — was considered for the role of Juan. But the multi-faceted stage and screen actor submitted an audition tape as Kevin that reduced the casting team to tears, making it instantly clear where the performer’s strengths were best utilized. “André is so comfortable in his skin as an actor, signaling a way out for Chiron through his openness and giving nature,” Jenkins explains.

 

“Black is thrown a lifeline by the one person he’s allowed himself to be intimate with, and through André’s soulfulness, he attains a kind of freedom. Kevin is saying to his old friend, I’m not going to push you, I’m not going to force you, I’m just going to offer you this light…”

The last of the male actors to be cast in Moonlight proved to be the most difficult, owing to the frank sexuality depicted in the film’s second chapter between teenage friends Kevin — who is more experienced — and Chiron, who is only beginning to grapple with his sexuality. Ramirez auditioned hundreds of actors for the promiscuous, freewheeling Kevin, considering rappers, musicians, up-and-coming actors and non-professionals alike, with no Kevin in sight. Nearing production, in a state of desperation, she turned to the Internet and found upstart actor Jharrel Jerome in the theater program of LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in New York City, where he was just graduating. “A lot of great actors come out of that school and he had already turned 18,” Ramirez explains. “It was a relief to find someone we really liked instead of having to settle.”

Ultimately, Moonlight is a universal story of love, family and reconciliation, which through its electrifying atmosphere comes to liberate anyone who has ever felt distinct or apart, or has felt trapped inside their own emotions, yearning for change. Sums up Jenkins: “This is an immersive, experiential film in which characters over time negotiate what they will allow themselves to feel. What they project back to the world with those feelings becomes the universal process of claiming one’s identity. It’s amazing to watch someone yearn for something internally but not have the courage to express it.” Moonlight is an expression of that yearning.

Romance, Drama, Comedy and Horror.

Love rules In The Light Between The Oceans

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The Light Between The Oceans is a heartfelt film about love, truth and the secrets people keep in relationships, and what happens when those secrets are exposed to the light of day. The best-selling novel that swept readers away with its transporting story of fate, love, moral dilemmas and the lengths one couple will go to see their hard-fought dreams realized, comes to the screen as a lush, classically star-crossed romance starring written for the screen and directed by Derek Cianfrance. As mesmerizingly beautiful as it is heartbreaking, M.L. Stedman’s novel “The Light Between Oceans” was a literary sensation upon its publication in 2012. Set on the remote edge of Western Australia in the years following the devastation of the Great War, the book lured readers into a seductively old-fashioned tale of love and impossible choices beneath which lay roiling, contemporary questions of right and wrong, the effects of war and peace, the wonders of connection and the dangers of blind scruples. Michael Fassbender is sensational as Tom Sherbourne, a shell-shocked veteran, who devotes himself to his new job as lighthouse keeper on the otherwise uninhabited Janus Rock, surrounded by nothing but the vast sea, seeking solace in the solitude. He intends to remain alone, but unexpectedly meets Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander)a vivacious young woman from the town of Partageuse across the harbor, herself grieving two brothers lost in the war. Despite the obstacles, their love flourishes in the stark isolation and they are soon married. Passionate for each other and hoping to be part of creating a new life together, they try to start a family, but fate intercedes. Then, one night, a mysterious rowboat holding a dead man and an infant girl washes ashore, setting off a chain of decisions—some impetuous, others wrenching— that unravel with shattering consequences. “’The Light Between Oceans’ is a film about love, truth and the secrets people keep in relationships, and what happens when those secrets are exposed to the light of day,” says Cianfrance. “It is a moral drama, but at the core, it is a timeless love story.”  Go behind the scenes of the film

Hilarious Nine Lives Is A Film For The Whole Family

NineWhen a work-obsessed real-estate mogul suffers a magical accident that leaves him trapped inside the body of his 11-year-old daughter’s cat, he realizes he has to put his family first if he ever hopes to regain his human form in Nine Lives. He has built an empire at the expense of any sort of true human connection and is surrounded by good people who love him in spite of his skyscraper-sized flaws. But it isn’t until he finds himself with four paws and a tail that Tom realizes how lucky he’s been.  When the Nine Lives script crossed Kevin Spacey’s desk, he decided the time to get silly again was, well, right meow. “Barry Sonnenfeld has done some of the great films of all time, no doubt about it,” says the actor. “So when he came onto this project, I was enormously excited.” According to Sonnenfeld, Spacey’s unique qualities made him ideal for the duality of the role — first playing an insensitive human, then voicing the same person transplanted into a cat’s body. “Kevin is perfect for the role because he’s smart, funny, sarcastic, and can portray very warm or very cold,” says the director. “Kevin’s voice is also perfect for this because it’s recognizable, it’s droll, it can be sardonic — it’s all the things you want for the voiceover.” Go behind the scenes of the film

The Power Of Miracles Shines In Sully

Sully‘On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard.  However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career. Now Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood brings the story to the big screen,  from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, based on the book Highest Duty by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow, with Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Moments after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, a flock of birds strikes US Airways flight 1549, taking out both engines at only 2800 feet and causing an immediate, forced water landing.  It is, we will learn, unprecedented.  “No one has ever trained for an incident like that,” notes Tom Hanks, speaking as the titular Captain Chesley Sullenberger in director/producer Clint Eastwood’s “Sully.” Recounting the real events that took place on that cold day in January 2009, the film also explores their very real aftermath. Looking back on his experience from just seven-and-a-half years ago, able to now put things into perspective, he says, “Part of the emotional context of this story is that it happened in a time in our history when there was worldwide concern on several fronts: it was post-9/11, we had troops in the Middle East, there was the ’08 financial meltdown…people were worried.  That this happened in Manhattan and that we survived it, well, I think it gave people hope, even ones who were not directly connected with the flight.” The bonus features include a doccie on the man behind the miracle; the difference between disaster and deliverance rested on the character of the man with his hands on the controls.  Go behind the scenes of the film

Blair Witch Lives

Blair_Witch_reviewIt’s been 20 years since James’s sister and her two friends vanished into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland while researching the legend of the Blair Witch, leaving a trail of theories and suspicions in their wake. Now James (James Allen McCune of TV’s“Shameless”) and his friends Peter (Wreck-It Ralph’s Brandon Scott), Ashley (Corbin Reid of TV’s “Disney Star Darlings”) and film student Lisa (Callie Hernandez of upcoming La La Land and Ridley Scott’s upcoming Alien: Covenant) venture into the same woods in Blair Witch, each with a camera to uncover the mysteries surrounding their disappearance. The Blair Witch Project, which premiered in 1999 to become a global phenomenon, created lasting lore around our timeless fear of being alone in the woods. The nearly no-budget film grossed millions and set the gold standard for found footage movies, spawning a new generation of horror fans. “When it first came out, I was one of a billion high school kids taking a camcorder into the woods and doing a Blair Witch spoof with my friends,” says Wingard. “The film had a total dedication toward authenticity. No one has so completely committed to that type of realism before or since. Simon and I re-watched the film half a dozen times during pre-production to consider every option when creating our story, and were we were astounded by how well it held up — not just as a found footage movie but also as a horror movie.” Go behind the scenes of the film

“As a filmmaker, this was a chance to pay homage to the classic Warner Bros. gangster movies of the 1930s through the `70s.”

Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo), who directed, produced and stars in the dramatic crime thriller Live by Night, also wrote the screenplay, based on the award-winning bestseller by Dennis Lehane, marking the second collaboration for the Boston natives, following the acclaimed drama Gone Baby Gone – the film was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson under the Appian Way banner; and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Todd for Pearl Street Films.

Director/Screenwriter/Actor BEN AFFLECK on location during the filming of Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' crime drama "The Town," distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo by Claire Folger

Ben Affleck (Joe Coughlin) is a two-time Academy Award winner who has been recognized for his work as a director, actor, writer, and producer. Most recently, Affleck was seen in “The Accountant,” and in early 2016 playing crime fighting icon Batman/Bruce Wayne in the global blockbuster “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”Affleck first came to prominence in 1997 with the acclaimed drama “Good Will Hunting,” which he starred in and co-wrote with Damon. The two won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, as well as a Golden Globe Award and Humanitas Prize. In addition to his successful film career, Affleck is also a passionate advocate and philanthropist. In March 2010, he founded the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), the first U.S.-based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on the mission of helping the people of eastern Congo support local community-based approaches that create a sustainable and successful society in the long-troubled region. Affleck is also a longtime political activist, as well as a strong supporter of many charitable organizations.

What you put out in the world will always come back to you, but never how you predict.  Taking fatherly advice is not in Joe Coughlin’s nature.  Instead, the WWI vet is a self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlaw, despite being the son of the Boston Police Deputy Superintendent.  Joe’s not all bad, though; in fact, he’s not really bad enough for the life he’s chosen.  Unlike the gangsters he refuses to work for, he has a sense of justice and an open heart, and both work against him, leaving him vulnerable time and again—in business and in love.

Driven by a need to right the wrongs committed against him and those close to him, Joe heads down a risky path that goes against his upbringing and his own moral code.  Leaving the cold, Boston winter behind, he and his reckless crew turn up the heat in Tampa.  And while revenge may taste sweeter than the molasses that infuses every drop of illegal rum he runs, Joe will learn that it comes at a price.

Affleck

Live by Night was a true passion project for Affleck, who says, “As a filmmaker, this was a chance to pay homage to the classic Warner Bros. gangster movies of the 1930s through the `70s.  I grew up watching them and they had an epic, sprawling feel that really took you into a different world, a different era.”

“Joe fully acknowledges that he’s chosen to be an outlaw in a town run by gangsters, with the Irish and Italian mobs at war,” offers writer/director/producer Ben Affleck, wh