Sundance Film Festival Diary Day 2 – Z for Zachariah

 zforzachariahsundanceThe number of people who weren’t able to get into the press screening for The Witch earlier in the day created a slight panic for press and industry folks hoping to see Craig Zobel’s Z for Zachariah later that day. This was Craig’s third film at Sundance and unlike Great World of Sound and Compliance, this one had already been picked up for distribution by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions even before it even premiered.

Only knowing that the general concept involves a love triangle between three survivors of an apocalypse creates certain expectations for a very different film than it turned out being, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Much of the story revolves around Anne, a young and seemingly naïve preacher’s daughter played by Margot Robbie from The Wolf of Wall Street, whom we meet as she’s rummaging through a radioactive area looking for books. She’s living alone with her dog in a desolate area, using her skills for farming and hunting to survive. Shortly after we meet her, she encounters Chiwetel Ejiofor’s John, who is suffering from radiation poisoning, so she takes him in until he’s better. John is an engineer who comes up with an idea to build a waterwheel to power a generator that would bring electricity back, but building it would require resources that could only come from tearing down Anne’s father’s church. 

The two of them start growing closer until 45 minutes into the movie, Chris Pine’s Caleb shows up to throw a monkey-wrench into things, having been skulking around even before then. Caleb has a lot more in common with Anne, which makes him more of a threat to John, but they find a way to coexist even as jealousy and paranoia exists between the two men’s intentions for Anne.

Other than the overall setting of a world with few survivors, Z for Zachariah has a lot more in common with a movie like The Road than say The Omega Man, since it’s more of a character drama than science fiction despite that setting. It’s another multi-layered film from Zobel that allows him to explore different aspects of society and how they might be affected when three different people are brought together.  One of the biggest underlying themes is faith and religion and the differences between the three main characters and how it affects their interaction. It never harps on the race issue as one of the differences, although it does allow Ejiofor to get a laugh by stating what some might be thinking.

Margot Robbie was mighty impressive in Scorsese’s movie and she really proves herself to be the real deal with her performance as Anne, pulling off an extremely convincing portrayal of her innocence. The other two actors are equally good and the terrific overall performances confirm Zobel’s talents for bringing out the best in his actors.

It’s clear how much Zobel has grown as a filmmaker, creating such a lovely film with a much larger scope than his previous films, while still maintaining the tight and enclosed character dynamics that worked so well in his earlier work. The breathtaking New Zealand setting which doubles as the American South, as captured by David Gordon Green’s regular cinematographer Tim Orr, really adds to creating that scale.

As different as this is from Compliance, Zobel also once again works with that film’s composer Heather McIntosh, who creates a gorgeous score that brings so much to the film’s quiet tone.

There is a lot of ambiguity in the last act about what exactly happens and how you’re supposed to feel about it, but it’s the type of film one could definitely watch again in order to catch some of its many smaller nuances. It’s not a particularly mainstream film, but it’s certainly one that will appeal to the arthouse crowd who appreciates character-based storytelling.

Rating: 7.5/10


Eli Roth Talks “Great Thrill” Of Sundance Debut & Keanu Reeves Joining ‘Knock Knock’ – Video

It’s incredible to think that this year’s Sundance Film Festival is the first time Eli Roth has been to Park City with a pic. As the Knock Knock director told me when he came by our DeadlineNow studio, the story behind getting the psychological thriller into production and bringing Keanu Reeves on board as both the lead and as an executive producer is even more incredible. You have to watch the clip above.

And remember, there’ll be more DeadlineNow @Sundance 2015 interviews throughout the festival, so look out.


Lena Dunham Tackles “Perv” Woody Allen, “Puritanical” USA & Campus Rape At Sundance Panel

The Girls creator left the packed Egyptian Theater in Park City today with no doubt about what she thinks about attacks on pushing the boundaries of humor, the director of Manhattan and sexual assaults on America’s campus’. “In some ways America is at its most puritanical,” Lena Dunham said Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival’s Power of Story: Serious Ladies panel when addressing some of the reaction she and her HBO show has received. “The fact is people are forgetting that humor is a tool for debate,” she added. “That boycott, censorship, shut ‘em down approach to humor shows a very basic lack of understanding of what humor can do for us culturally and what it has always done,” Dunham said to applause.

Joining Dunham on the panel today was Mindy Kaling of Fox’s The Mindy Project, Kristen Wiig, who is in multiple films at sundance marqueeSundance this year, and Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan. On the issue of humor, Dunham also made a point today of telling the audience that she’s a completely different person from her Girls character Hannah Horvath. Too often, the actress and writer pointed out, “people equate the words coming out of your character’s mouth with a real life philosophy that you don’t possess.”

“I don’t think that Larry David or Woody Allen or anyone else playing some version of themselves is walking around with a million people who think they know and understand them on a deep abiding level,” Dunham said of the Curb Your Enthusiasm creator and the Oscar winner. “Woody Allen is proof that people don’t think everything he says in his films is stuff that he does because all he was doing was making out with 17-year olds for years and we didn’t say anything about it,” said Dunham to roars from the crowd.

Dunham has on previous occasions expressed she was “nauseated” over allegations that he abused his adopted daughter with former long time companion Mia Farrow. The Rosemary’s Baby actress herself and MSNBC host son Ronan disapproving tweeted about Allan when the Golden Globes had a tribute to him in 2014.

manhattan“No one went that Woody Allen is making out with a 17-year old in Manhattan and I guess he’s a real perv,” the Golden Globe winner added. “And then lo and behold,” Dunham said with Wiig jumping in with a very sarcastic ‘he fell in love’.”  The Girls star and producer of 2015 Sundance docu short It’s Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise today followed up Wiig’s statement with, “I say one thing on the show and am accused of having erred.”

Related: Lena Dunham Tells Jon Stewart She Responds To Critics With ‘Class & A Bit Of Sass’  – Video

Kaling pointed out that Dunham was lambasted by critics when Hannah declared in the Girls pilot that “she was the voice of a generation” as she falls to the floor on drugs. “It was a beat generation joke,” said Dunham, “and I’m going to go to my grave with it.” “If I was confused with the characters I play,” joked Bridesmaids star and former SNLer Wiig, “I would be locked up.”

When it came to a question from the audience about what political issues were of importance to her, the consistently vocal and avowed feminist Dunham talked today about abortion and campus rape. The idea that women can’t be complete and total citizens until they have control over the destiny of their own bodies,” she said of reproductive rights in America “It’s not just a political issue, it’s a lot about class, race and it feeds into all these other forms of inequality and injustice that exist in our country.” Dunham noted that women are “still fighting” for access to terminate pregnancies 42 years after Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court.

“One of the reasons it is important to talk about campus assaults,” Dunham told the Sundance crowd of what those fortunate enough to attend university face, “is that that these women in positions of incredible privilege are still being forced every day to fight for their truth and that is indicative of the fact that sexual assault is an epidemic and so many people are voiceless.” Dunham herself wrote in her recent best selling memoir Not That Kind of Girl about an assault that occurred to her when she was in college. “I think campus’ are a great place to start because that’s where we’re being educated and that’s where we’re told we’re going to be safe,” she added today to wide applause and cheers.


Ethan Hawke At Sundance: Talks ‘Boyhood’, “Studios Are Making Less & Less Movies” & What Audiences Want To See – Video

“When we showed Boyhood here last year, lots of people said ‘wonderful movie, but it’ll never make a dime,’ ” said Ethan Hawke at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “I think audiences want to see a lot of stuff if they can have access to them” he added of the pic that has made more than 10 times its $4 million budget and has snagged multiple Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Richard Linklater and Best Supporting Actress and Actor for Patricia Arquette and Hawke. Returning to Park City this week to debut Ten Thousand Saints, the Oscar nominee and the pic’s directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman dropped by the DeadlineNow studio to talk about the state of Sundance, indie film, Boyhood and where technology could take it all from here. Check out the clip above.

We’ll have more DeadlineNow @Sundance 2015 interviews coming throughout the festival, so keep watching.


Watch A Real-Life Archer Put Hawkeye’s Skills To Shame

Could Hawkeye really hit all those targets that quickly in The Avengers, while falling off of a building? Well, it turns out no, he definitely couldn’t, but only because the style of archery in Hollywood is all wrong.
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‘The Crow’ Remake Loses Luke Evans

Jan 24, 2015 by B. Alan Orange

Earlier this morning, it was reported that Luke Evans hadn’t made up his mind to leave The Crow remake just yet. Now comes word that the actor has officially exited the project, with director Corin Hardy prepared to start an actor search as soon as he gets done promoting his directorial debut The Hallow and this year’s Sundance, which is happening as we speak.

Relativity, the studio behind the remake, refused to comment on the situation, but Luke Evans’ publicist told The Wrap that the actor walked due to his mounting projects. The Crow is a high priority at Relativity, and it is seen as a franchise with a lot of potential, especially given the original 1994 film’s status as a cult classic.

Luke Evans had originally signed onto star in The Crow remake when F. Javier Gutierrez was still attached as a director. While the film was originally set to start shooting in spring of this year, there have been unforeseen delays, and no new start date has been set. Luke Evans hinted back in December that he was not likely to remain with the project, so news of his departure doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone involved with the reboot.Though, Relativity had hoped they would be able to convince him to stick around.

F. Javier Gutierrez left so that he could focus on The Ring reboot/sequel Rings. Corin Hardy, a music video director, came aboard in December, but he has been too busy with post-production on The Hallow to concentrate on this upcoming The Crow, which is supposed to stick to James O’Barr’s original comic book. Now, that Luke Evans has walked, the director will be able to focus on his own vision without worrying about what the actor and the former director had planned.

Tom Hiddleston was originally supposed to join The Crow, but passed despite an impressive make-up test. Before that, it was believed that Bradley Cooper would play Eric Draven. This was before both actors found great success with other movie projects.

The Crow is in development and stars Luke Evans. The film is directed by Corin Hardy.

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Sundance Film Festival Diary – Day 2

It’s Sundance Film Festival Day 2 and things just got real as everyone wants to get their movies shown over the first weekend causing a huge logjam of movies where choices have to be made about what’s really important to see.

sundance film festivalI wasn’t able to get into the early morning press screening of the thriller The Witch, so that meant I had the morning free until the first public screening of A Walk in the Woods at the MARC, which is a racket club turned into a movie theater specially for the festival.

This is a late addition to the festival and its significant mainly because it stars Sundance founder Robert Redford, who has expressed surprise that festival programmer John Cooper added it. It’s based on travel writer Bill Bryson’s book about him hiking the Appalachian Trail with his grizzled pal Steve Katz, played here by Nick Nolte.

The timing of this comedy could have been better since most people will be seeing it after Reese Witherspoon’s Wild and Trails, far superior iterations of travel porn that don’t rely as much on the appeal of nature’s gorgeous vistas and landscapes to make up for weak storytelling. While A Walk in the Woods is also based on a memoir, it’s handled more like a comedy than anything else.

Nolte offers a great counterpoint to Redford, growling and grunting and looking pretty shabby by comparison, but they’re both decent and have some nice moments even if the material feels well below both of them. Far too often it resorts to the lowest hanging fruit of humor including slapstick physical humor, but a lot of the times, it just seems like a series of bits with no cohesion tying them together. For instance, the duo have an encounter with two bears in the woods and that should bear some significance, but they scare them off and then that episode is over.

On top of everything else, it’s hard to believe that either Redford or Nolte could possibly handle some of the physical aspects of these roles, so there’s a credibility issue throughout.

Most of the supporting cast have fairly unsubstantial parts, basically just breaking up what might have been monotonous if it was just Redford and Nolte. Emma Thompson is as great as always playing as Bryson’s wife, while Nick Offerman appears for just one scene as a camping equipment salesman. Kristen Schaal appears for a little longer than that as an annoying hiker they meet on the trail and Mary Steenburgen as the proprietor of a small motel where they stay. Most likely, all of these actors agreed to do this because it would be a day’s work and it would allow them to work with Redford and Nolte, so who can blame them?

It’s hard to believe this was written by Oscar-winning screenwriter like Michael Arndt, whose Little Miss Sunshine was a huge hit at Sundance, but it just doesn’t work as a whole and when it comes down to it, the only one who can take the blame is director Ken Kwapis, who is responsible for some absolute schlock like License to Wed and The Beautician and the Beast.

A Walk in the Woods will probably score with mainstream movie audiences over 50, but it’s just another comedy that tries too hard for laughs and ends up with a batting average below 50%.

Rating: 6/10

sundance film festival

If there’s one thing that you can count on Sundance to be good for is that if a filmmaker has a hit out of the festival, they’re likely to be welcomed back. The rest of my first full day at Sundance was spent watching the latest movies from two such returning directors. 

 Director James Ponsoldt has been on quite a Sundance roll the past few years between Smashed, The Spectacular Now, and now he continues that with The End of the Tour, a documentation of the last days of David Foster Wallace’s 1996 book tour for “Infinite Jest” on which he was accompanied by Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky. Lipsky published those interviews after Wallace’s suicide death in 2008, 12 years after their encounter. Jason Segel is Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg is Lipsky in what is essentially a two-hander that follows them around as they talk about a variety of topics including how the notably reclusive Wallace has tried to acclimate to his sudden fame.

Lipsky himself had just had his first fiction novel published, so he’s mildly bemused by some of the rave reviews for Wallace’s book until he reads it himself and convinces his editor to let him interview Wallace. Lipsky travels to Indiana to meet Wallace and then trails him to his final book reading in Minneapolis. Lipsky’s interest in Wallace seems to be a combination of gushing adulation and jealousy, hanging onto every anecdote or philosophical musing from Wallace, but also dubious that he’s as authentic as he claims.

Donald Magulies’ screenplay is top-notch, but the unlikely combination of Segel and Eisenberg is what makes the film work so well. As much as it does seem like a lot of talking at first, this relationship really grows on you since the two actors are so well-matched. 

Segel gives one of the most nuanced performances of his career playing Wallace, being casually down-to-earth one moment and then saying the most intelligent things the next. It’s a role that will surely get Segel some awards attention maybe because we do get to see that he has a far wider range than previously seen. Although this is mainly from Lipsky’s perspective, Eisenberg plays the slimy journalist so well, always having his hand on the tape recorder to catch Wallace’s every word, calling him out and challenging the respected author.

There’s a lightness to this relationship, but knowing Wallace’s ultimate fate (something Lipsky would not have known at the time of the interviews) brings a lot more depth to their discussions about Wallace’s mindset in the years leading up to “Infinite Jest.” The two slowly become friendly enough to get past the reporter-subject barrier until Wallace suspects Lipsky is hitting on an ex-girlfriend and his paranoia turns to outright hostility as they head back to Wallace’s home in silence.

One has to give Ponsoldt a lot of credit for turning what’s essentially two people talking for 105 minutes into such a thought-provoking experience that never feels bogged down in its dialogue, regardless of whether you’re one of Wallace’s literary admirers or not.

Rating: 8/10

Unfortunately our review for Craig Zobel’s Z for Zachariah is embargoed until later this evening.


A24 Closing On ‘The Witch’: Sundance

BREAKING: The second Sundance deal I hear is that A24 is nearing the witching hour on a U.S. distribution deal for The Witch that will come in at low seven-figures. A24’s alliance with DirectTV is part of the mix. Deal is done. Pic is directed and written by Robert Eggers and stars Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineon and Anya Taylor Joy. It’s set in 1630s New England where a couple leads a devout Christian life with five children, homesteading on the edge of an impassable wilderness. When their newborn son vanishes and crops fail, the family turns on one another and a supernatural evil beyond their worst fears lurks in the nearby woods. WME Global is wrapping up this deal, the agency’s second today after The Bronze. It’s A24’s second in two days as well, after the label pre-bought James Ponsoldt’s The End Of The Tour. A24 distributed Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now.


‘The Flash’ Star Wants to Join ‘Power Rangers’ Movie

Jan 24, 2015 by B. Alan Orange

As Max Braverman pointed out this past Thursday, statistics don’t lie. It’s too bad we don’t yet have a solid statistic that tells us how often an actor lobbying for a role works out in their favor. We know that Vin Diesel was welcomed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of how vocal he was with fans about the possibility on his personal Facebook page. But have we seen anyone else win a role by begging for the part on social media? Earlier today, we saw that Tyrese Gibson wants to play Green Lantern in the Justice League, as he pointed out on his own Instagram. Now one of the stars of The CW’s The Flash is hoping to land a role in the upcoming Power Rangers reboot by utilizing the same tactics.

Like many of us, Robbie Amell, who plays Firestorm on The Flash, grew up with Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. And with the reboot heading into production soon, he’s decided that he wants to take on the role of the Red Power Ranger. Yes, he was that specific.

Robbie Amell sent out the following Tweet, proclaiming his love for the franchise. Power Rangers is set for release in July 2016, and will start shooting this year. It shouldn’t be too long before we hear an actual casting announcement. As you can see in an image from Comic Book Movie, the actor looks quite a bit like the original Red Ranger, played by Austin St. John. Though, it should be noted that, at 26 years old, Robbie Amell may be too old to play a teenager, as the new reboot will focus on a group of high schoolers. What do you think? Should they hire him anyway?

My childhood dream. RT @TDR1411: @[email protected] Way too old! @RobbieAmell for Red Ranger!

— Robbie Amell (@RobbieAmell) January 23, 2015

Robbie Amell

Power Rangers comes to theaters July 22nd, 2016.

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‘Suicide Squad’ Director Teases Storyboard and Script

Jan 24, 2015 by B. Alan Orange

Director David Ayer apparently isn’t too affected by the lack of having a Rick Flagg locked in for his big screen comic book adaptation Suicide Squad. While he hasn’t provided an update on the actor search, he has decided to give us all a slight little tease, showing off his workspace, where he is in the middle of drafting the script and creating storyboards. It’s impossible to read any of the words, or even make out the lone figure who we see depicted here, but it’s cool to see this side of the production nonetheless.

David Ayer is writing the script himself, based on the popular DC Comic about a group of super villains who go on a secret mission to clear their name. It was his latest drafted that reportedly caused Tom Hardy to step away from the project. If we’re to believe the rumors swirling around the production, Hardy felt his character, Rick Flagg, was being pushed to the side to give Deadshot (Will Smith) and The Joker (Jared Leto) more screen time. Shortly after he left, it was announced that DC and Warner Bros. were pursuing Jake Gyllenhaal for the role. He turned them down. The last two names mentioned are Joel Edgerton and Jon Bernthal, two great actors who don’t have the same marquee value as Tom Hardy and might be more open to a secondary role.

The latest rumor making the rounds for Suicide Squad claims that Joe Manganiello is being eyed as Deathstroke, and that Gary Sinise has joined the project as General Eiling. None of this has been confirmed by the studio. While we await more casting announcements and an official start of production announcement, take a look at director David Ayer’s office as he prepares to give us the second great DC Comics movie of 2016 (though, if he wants to keep that August release date, he better hurry up and find his Rick Flagg).

— David Ayer (@DavidAyerMovies) January 23, 2015

Suicide Squad comes to theaters August 5th, 2016 and stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis. The film is directed by David Ayer.

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