Orion & Samuel Goldwyn Nab Philippa Lowthorpe’s ‘Swallows And Amazons’

Orion Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films have secured the North American rights to director Philippa Lowthorpe’s Swallows and Amazons, the film based on the classic 1930s children’s novel by Arthur Ransome.

Rafe Spall (The Big Short) stars, along with Andrew Scott (Sherlock) and Kelly
Macdonald (No Country for Old Men) in the tale four children who escape the summer tedium by camping on a remote lake island. As Goldwyn Films describes, “But when they arrive, they discover they may not be alone and a desperate yet whimsical battle for ownership of the island ensues, where both skill and luck play a hand. Simultaneously, the dangers of an adult world, on the
brink of war, encroach on their paradise and intertwine with their lives, in the form of a mysterious pair of Russian spies hot on the tail of the enigmatic Jim Turner.”

“I believe it’s important to bring a good family film to the market, and that’s what I found in Swallows and Amazons,” said Peter Goldwyn, President of Samuel Goldwyn Films. “The film has a talented cast, and I know this will be a classic like
the original book.”

The film was written by Andrea Gibb and produced by Harbour Pictures’
Nicholas Barton and BBC Films’ Joe Oppenheimer, with producers Harbour Pictures Productions in association with HanWay Films, Studio Canal, BBC FILMS, BFI, Screen Yorkshire, Electric Shadow Company and Maiden Investments.

The deal was negotiated by Peter Goldwyn on behalf of Samuel Goldwyn Films and Mark Lane of HanWay Films on behalf of the filmmakers.


Donald Trump Oddly Pronounces “Nazis”, Seth Meyers Takes Note

Donald Trump might today be looking back on that weirdly “unintelligible” Associated Press interview Sunday with a bit of nostalgia: As Seth Meyers made clear in his Late Night monologue last night, the President was all too intelligible in his odd pronunciation of the word “Nazis” during a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

After showing the clip, in which the president, who gives at least some outward appearance of reading his speech for the first time, demands that “humanity never, ever forgets the Nazis…” Meyers accurately describes Trump’s pronunciation as a rhyme for Fozzy, the Muppet.

“Is it weird that I’m a little relieved he doesn’t know how to say Nazi?,” Meyers asks, then, adopting an English accent, says Trump’s pronunciation sounds like British slang for sex. (Ok, it’s a funnier joke with the accent).

The monologue includes some other topics – airline travel, Hug a Plumber Day, Nordstrom’s $425 muddy jeans – but the Trump bit is a hard act to follow. Take a look above.


Front Row Filmed Entertainment Inks Deal With Iflix For Egyptian Sitcom ‘Tough Luck’

Leading Dubai-based indie distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment has struck a deal with the SVOD service iflix, a key streamer for the emerging markets, for Egyptian sitcom Tough Luck.

Under the deal, iflix will board as co-producers for the series with Front Row, KNCC and Shadows Communications and will additionally take exclusive SVOD rights for the show in the Middle East and North Africa, South East Asia, Sub Saharan Africa, Central America, Asia Pacific and Commonwealth of Independent States. The show will feature as an iflix original, with the platform launching in the MENA region at the end of this month where it will launch the whole first season of Tough Luck (30 episodes) to its subscribers during the month of Ramadan where family viewing is at its pinnacle.

The program is described as a comedy of errors as residents of a dilapidated tenement of Cairo’s renowned 5th district attempt to fix the crumbling building to no avail. The show has more than 40 guest appearances from top Arab talent including Egyptian star Ahmed Helmy, as well as Ahmad Sakka, Mona Zaki, Mai Kassab, Ahmad Fahmi, Shiko and Nicold Saba.

The deal with iflix marks an unprecedented move in the MENA industry, which typically sees free and pay-tv monopolize Ramadan and Arab content as a whole. The deal was negotiated by Front Row’s Managing Partner Gianluca Chakra and Head of iflix MENA Nader Sobhan.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with leading local producers, Front Row, KNCC and Shadows to create such compelling and groundbreaking content,” said Sobhan. “As one of our first original projects, we are incredibly excited to be able to showcase Tough Luck to our members across our markets globally.”

Chakra added: “A change is indeed needed in this part of the world and we are happy to be pioneering this with an SVOD service that is so committed to challenging the norms of the industry to the benefit of the user. It’s a brave step and happy to have found the right partners. This is only the beginning of what’s to come.”


Netflix Seeks French Compromise For Cannes Films ‘Okja’ And ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’

BREAKING: Netflix is trying to find a compromise after news that its first features accepted into the competition slate of Cannes — Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories – quickly drew the ire of France’s theatrical exhibitors guild. In a letter, the FNCF accused Netflix of skirting French regulations and fiscal obligations and called on the streaming service to release both movies in French theaters following their Cannes premieres.

That bucks up against the foundation of Netflix’s business model, which is first and foremost to provide product for its global streaming audience. At issue is France’s Media Chronology Law, which keeps films released in French theaters from playing on SVOD platforms for three years. On its highest profile titles, Netflix has accompanied releases with limited theatrical runs in the U.S., and that is essentially the compromise it seeks in the French marketplace.

The company this morning issued this statement: “We are working to protect great cinematic storytelling, like that of Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), that will connect films with audiences that will love them. Consumer choice and improved distribution options have helped to make this the most vibrant time in the history of cinema for fans and filmmakers alike, and above everything we want to offer our subscribers in France the opportunity to watch these films wherever, whenever they want — like the rest of our members around the world. We are certain that French film lovers do not want to see these films three years after the rest of the world. With that said, we are exploring theatrical distribution of these two films in France, for a limited theatrical run, day and date with the films’ release on Netflix. We are thrilled to explore any and all options that will give these films an opportunity to be viewed by as large an audience as possible, on a variety of screens, because similar to French exhibitors, we want to continue to contribute to the development and financing of films.”

It remains to be seen how the Netflix gesture will be greeted by the French film community, which like some other European territories has its own long held customs that seem odd to the Hollywood business model, including the prohibition of P&A spends for TV commercials to promote theatrical releases. Cannes is a big step in legitimizing the feature film program of Netflix, which in past years didn’t have its films accepted at the festival in comparison to Amazon Studios (whose model allows for wide theatrical releases). Amazon had five titles in last year’s festival lineup, including Woody Allen’s fest opener Café Society.

By exploring a day and date theatrical release in France, Netflix is hoping the compromise gets around triggering the 36-month SVOD ban law. The idea is to give French theatergoers the chance to see the films by prestige directors Bong Joon-ho and Noah Baumbach, at the same time as its streaming service providers. It’s another local customs obstacle that Netflix has had to overcome as it has grown a streaming service that is now in 198 countries, and is making a deal with a third party in China to show some of its product in that country.

There are other issues that the government-subsidized film industry has with Netlix, which it has accused of using a movie festival as a promotional tool after shuttering its Paris office last year and gaining advantage over other distributors that contribute to the French film ecosystem. But the streaming service is hoping this starts a dialogue on the most pressing issue at hand, its Cannes films.


AMC Networks Teams With Charter To Co-Produce Original Content

Is Charter Communications entering the content business? Kind of, it seems, with a deal announced this morning to co-produce “distinct, high-quality original programming” for its customers in a partnership with AMC Networks’ AMC Studios.

“The partnership will give Spectrum customers access to content created specifically for them, further differentiating Charter’s platform and services,” the companies say.

They offer few details about the arrangement, but say that the first co-produced show will debut on Charter Spectrum in 2018. The cable company will have “an exclusive initial window in the U.S.” while AMC Studios keeps other rights — including international distribution.

“As AMC Studios becomes an increasingly important part of our business, this first-of-its-kind partnership represents a new horizon for us,” AMC Networks COO Ed Carroll says.

Charter’s EVP of Programming Acquisition Tom Montemagno says the deal “will further differentiate our customer experience and the value we provide in a competitive marketplace.”

Charter And AMC shares each are up about 1% in early trading.


Stephen Colbert Takes On Alex Jones, George Soros And Big Yogurt

Stephen Colbert knows all about right-wing blowhards, and he apparently knows the real purpose for yogurt (spread it on your head and it keeps the Clinton Foundation from reading your mind). So it’s only natural he weighed in on the new legal battle between Chobani and the red-faced Info Wars poobah Alex Jones.

Chobani is suing Jones for promoting a nonsensical conspiracy theory accusing the yogurt maker of spreading “crime and tuberculosis” by hiring refugees. (“Crime and Tuberculosis, Colbert concedes, is indeed one of the least favorite Chobani flavors, though it’s still better than pomegranate).

In the clip above from last night’s Late Show on CBS, Colbert takes on his Jones-like “Tuck Buckford” character, ranting about Big Yogurt, George Soros, a Charlie Brown-killing vampire Snoopy and ponders what all that fruit on the bottom is really hiding.

Funny thing is, Colbert’s Buckford isn’t all that much of an exaggeration. Watch the clip, which includes a bit of Jones, and see for yourself.




The fascinations of “Obit,” Vanessa Gould’s slick but entertaining documentary about the New York Times obituary department, operate on two levels. On the more superficial level, readers of the Times are bound to enjoy an inside look at one of the paper’s most dependably enthralling sections, a compendium of pithy, authoritative overviews of recently ended lives.

At a deeper level, no interest in the Times—or any other newspaper or online obituary source, for that matter—is necessary to engage viewers with certain questions the film inevitably suggests. In what light will death cast my own life? Will it look more good than bad, or vice versa? What will people think and say about me once I’m gone? What will the public record show? Will I rate a Times obit, that veritable Oscar of the afterlife, or simply fade into post-mortem oblivion?

Deeper philosophical, spiritual and psychological questions along these lines are seldom broached in “Obit,” but they percolate just beneath the surface throughout. That surface offers a brisk, informative tour of the obituary department in operation, watching its staff meetings and listening to Times writers (most of the film is interviews with single subjects facing the camera) reflecting on the decisions, working methods and implied values that go into their daily chores.

One point that should be made early in any review, as it is in the film, is that nothing here deserves to be characterized as morbid. Indeed, quite the opposite: Times obits deal with life, not death. And while sadness and tragedy provide the dark borders around some lives, obituaries’ natural emphases fall on notable accomplishments, significant impacts on history or culture, or the quirky traits that make an individual personality stand out.

A narrative line that runs through the film follows veteran obit writer Bruce Weber as he assembles an obituary for William P. Wilson, who served as a media consultant to John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential campaign. Weber goes about his work methodically, sitting at his computer in the obituary newsroom, looking through files, going over facts with Wilson’s widow on his headset.

This choice of subject is shrewd on the filmmaker’s part, of course. Not only does it remind us of what may be counted the most shocking and significant obituary of the last century; it also gives us the living JFK at his most composed, confident and handsome, via documentary footage that brings to life the fateful intersection of politics, mass media and advertising in the “Mad Men” era.

There they are again, preparing for the TV debate that will edge Kennedy in the lead: JFK looking sleek and pristine, Nixon trying a little too hard to seem relaxed as his five o’clock shadow begins becomes visible. One of Wilson’s contributions to this event, we learn, was having the candidates stand behind thin-stemmed lecterns, which gave a subtle advantage to the more poised and at-home-in-his-own-skin JFK.

Such peeks into the little-known byways of history are part of what make many obituaries enthralling. And they also explain why the writers interviewed here seem to approach their tasks with undisguised pleasure as well as professional commitment.

One thing the film points up is how often Times obits are devoted to history’s bit players, such as William Wilson. Such stories usually require some delving and research. For the very famous, much of the work has been done in advance and is on file. But then there are times like the day when Michael Jackson died unexpectedly and the obituary department had to go into manic overdrive to deliver a story by deadline.

A notable subgenre within the documentary form involves showing people at work, doing jobs high and low. Such films almost always reward attention because they have innate narrative lines and human interest. Since most of us work, who doesn’t enjoy seeing a job both performed and examined? In “Obit,” we hear numerous lives discussed or referred to, and pictures—some drawn from the Times’ famous morgue—recall the looks of the deceased. There are also montages of old newsreels that provide quick glimpses of countless people at work and play during the last century, footage that recalls Jean Cocteau’s famous remark that cinema is the only art that “shows death at work.” In “Obit,” that process ends up being the work of a group of newspaper professionals who show a commendable dedication to both facts and meaning. Which is no small virtue at a time when both seem under siege.


Will a ‘Star Wars’ Movie Hit Theaters in 2020?

Disney announced Tuesday that ‘Episode IX’ — the end of the current Skywalker trilogy — will open in summer 2019, but didn’t claim any other dates for the continuation of the revived film empire.

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