Thursday, May 26, 2016

James McAvoy & Alicia Vikander currently filming Submergence based on book by J.M. Ledgard

To be honest, I could care less if they never make another X Men movie. I'm just not at all interested. What I am interested in is what Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are up to on screen away from the blockbuster film franchise.

This year, for instance, I'm eagerly awaiting Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as a lighthouse keeper and his wife in the adaptation of M.L. Stedman's gorgeous book, The Light Between Oceans. That's coming out this September 2nd. Vikander is currently one of the most in-demand female actors.

Not to be outdone by his onscreen rival, James McAvoy is currently shooting a movie with Alicia Vikander too. The two are starring in Submergence based on the best selling book by J.M. Ledgard. Here's the lowdown on that:
In a room with no windows on the coast of Africa, an Englishman, James More, is held captive by jihadist fighters. Posing as a water expert to report on al-Qaeda activity in the area, he now faces extreme privation, mock executions, and forced marches through the arid badlands of Somalia. Thousands of miles away on the Greenland Sea, Danielle Flinders, a biomathematician, half-French, half-Australian, prepares to dive in a submersible to the ocean floor. She is obsessed with the life that multiplies in the darkness of the lowest strata of water.
Both are drawn back to the previous Christmas, and to a French hotel on the Atlantic coast, where a chance encounter on the beach led to an intense and enduring romance. For James, his mind escapes to utopias both imagined and remembered. Danny is drawn back to beginnings: to mythical and scientific origins, and to her own. It is to each other and to the ocean that they most frequently return: magnetic and otherworldly, a comfort and a threat.
I haven't read the book but the reviews are mostly of the outstanding "I read it through in one sitting" variety. Plenty of time to check it off your reading list; directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian and filmmaker Wim Wenders, Submergence doesn't hit theaters until sometime in 2017. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sam Claflin Chats about Playing Will Traynor in Me Before You

Let's look at Sam Claflin as Will Traynor, that master of the universe, cut down in his prime in Me Before You. Scroll down for the video of a promo interview he did for the film.

Where Louisa is naive, inexperienced, clueless, Will is worldly, sophisticated. Some would say jaded. Sam Claflin looks the part—tall, classically handsome—and in the trailers at least, seems to turn in a restrained, subtle performance in contrast to Emilia Clarke's more expressive Louisa—some reviewers are already saying she's overly expressive.

Me Before You: My Take on the Book by Jojo Moyes

Claflin is probably best known for playing Finnick Odair but watch for his star to rise with this one. Later this year Claflin takes the lead in Their Finest Hour and a Half opposite Gemma Arterton and he's currently filming My Cousin Rachel based on the Daphne DuMaurier novel along with Rachel Weisz and Holiday Grainger.

Jojo Moyes, the author of Me Before You also wrote the screenplay so I'm especially curious to see how the story works onscreen. The movie is directed by one of the few working female directors—Thea Sharrock, a stage director who makes her feature film debut here—and hits theaters on June 3rd.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Emilia Clarke talks Me Before You: Working with Sam Claflin, Thea Sharrock's debut & Jill Taylor's costume design

If you only know Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones—my experience—seeing her in the trailer for Me Before You is disconcerting. That stony, elegant face is suddenly moving all over the place, her eyebrows taking on a life of their own. With the Me Before You release date just about a week away I dug up this on set interview with Clarke, who claims Louisa is more like her than any other character she's played. Even to the point that people are confusing Clarke's own personal wardrobe with that crazy confluence of styles that Louisa wears in the film, wardrobe design from Jill Taylor! And those eyebrows? Those crazy caterpillars come naturally.

Monday, May 23, 2016

First look: Emma Watson as Belle in Beauty & the Beast Teaser Trailer

Fan art poster by

Disney, you big tease! The studio just released the first teaser trailer for Beauty & The Beast set to open March 17, 2017. That's a little over nine months from now which leads me to wonder, just how many little Belle's will be born when the film comes out?! Hopefully more Belles than little Beasts.

Beauty and the Beast is one of the most beloved Disney cartoons AND Broadway productions ever, so odds are the first strains of the iconic score by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice are as likely to stir your heartstrings as they did mine. 

The trailer gives us our first glimpse of Emma Watson as Beauty, along with a snippet of the vocal talents of Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Dan Stevens—surprisingly deep voice—as the Beast. I'm really curious to see how they look as their characters. Luke Evans as Gaston, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Audra McDonald with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts also star. Bill Condon directs.

Chances are that your child, grandchild or that of a friend performed in the play at the high school level. As a freshman my son auditioned for Lumiere but had to settle for playing a whisk. How about yours?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

M.A.S.H. The Winner of the 1970 Palme D'Or #SaturdayMatinee

Since Cannes is still ongoing I thought I'd pick a previous Cannes winner for today's Saturday Matinee. M.A.S.H. took the award in 1970. 

The huge hit starred Elliot Gould as Trapper John, Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce, Tom Skerritt as Duke with Rene Auberjonois as the hospital pastor,Robert Duvall as Frank Burns the sanctimonious married doctor and Sally Kellerman as Hot Lips Houlihan, Frank's mistress. The film was based on the novel by Richard Hooker.

Hooker—real name H.Richard Hornberger—was a M.A.S.H. surgeon and writer who had worked on his novel for over ten years, only to see it rejected time and again by publishers. After collaborating with an acclaimed sportswriter, the book was finally picked up by William Morrow in 1968, with the film rights being sold not long after. 

According to John Baxter in his book, A Pound of Paper, Confessions of a Book Addict, Hooker was furious for selling his rights for a few hundred dollars. Considering that none of Hooker's other books—also based on his M.A.S.H. experience got any traction, I can imagine his fury.

The movie, scripted by Ring Lardner, Jr. and directed by Robert Altman was a tremendous hit, a five time Academy Award nominee including Best Picture, Best Directing, Editing and a Best Supporting Actress nom for Sally Kellerman's Hot Lips. 

The movie won the screenwriter an Oscar for his adaptation of Hooker's book and in addition to the Palme D'Or at Cannes,  M.A.S.H. also took home the Golden Globe for Best Picture. They say movies based on books always increase the book's sales so I hope for Hooker's sake that some of the money Hollywood made from his work—remember there was the beloved TV series too—came back to him. A lesson to you writers out there, don't sell your film rights for a few hundred bucks. Hold out for a solid thou.

In his original 1970 review, Roger Ebert gave M.A.S.H. 4 stars:
'One of the reasons "MASH" is so funny is that it's so desperate. It is set in a surgical hospital just behind the front lines in Korea, and it is drenched in blood. The surgeons work rapidly and with a gory detachment, sawing off legs and tying up arteries, and making their work possible by pretending they don't care. And when they are at last out of the operating tent, they devote their lives to remaining sane.

Watch the trailer. Try not to laugh. Remember War is Hell! 

You can stream M.A.S.H. for $2.99 on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, Vudu and YouTube.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Casting Call: A Wrinkle in Time

Here's an interesting Wrinkle. Director Ava DuVernay is looking to mix up the casting of Disney's adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time with some diverse faces. 

DuVernay, in New Orleans to work on Oprah Winfrey's television series, Queen Sugar, is looking for:

- A 14-year-old mixed-race girl of African-American and Caucasian descent. "This girl is questioning her life, her place in the world and her family," a casting description reads. "While troubled, she possesses untapped strength and intelligence which carries her through her search for truth."

- A 5-year-old mixed-race boy of African-American and Caucasian descent. "This boy is EXTREMELY intelligent and articulate. He is strong and loving and hypersensitive."

- A 16-year-old boy who is an ethnic minority. "He is a handsome, fit, caring young man who becomes a friend to the above two kids."

Director Ava DuVernay

These appear to be the character descriptions for the main characters: L'Engle's mousy-haired Meg Murray, her younger brother Charles and their friend Calvin, a redhead in the novel. I'm sure there are going to be some furious book fans who demand the actors look as much like the author's character descriptions as possible. It's difficult to take a beloved literary character and see them onscreen looking so utterly unlike the picture you drew in your imagination. It's like they're a different character completely. And that's the way it is. Cinematic characters are different characters completely from their literary origins. As much as we long for our favorite books to be transferred to the screen exactly as we saw them in our bookish imaginations, that's just not the reality. Whether they have red hair or black hair doesn't ultimately make a difference, whether they are caucasian, mixed race, hispanic, asian or black, it's what's inside a character that counts.

Clearly, the only way to address the lack of diversity in movies is to do what DuVernay is doing, cast people of color in place of white faces. 

Filming is supposed to begin this fall with a location yet to be finalized. Thoughts?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Margot Robbie may join Domhnall Gleeson in the Hundred Acre Woods: Goodbye Christopher Robin

Margot Robbie and Domhnall Gleeson / About Time

Domhnall Gleeson, who disappointed his fans with his caricature of a villain in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is working hard to redeem himself. In addition to reteaming with Saoirse Ronan in the adaptation of Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, Gleeson has Goodbye Christopher Robin* in his very full pipeline. The Irish actor is set to play author A.A. Milne, with Margot Robbie in talks to play his wife, Daphne de S√©lincourt. Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) will direct. 

It's hardly exaggeration to say everyone knows the story of Christopher Robin and his friend Winnie the Pooh playing together in the enchanted Hundred Acre Woods. Author AA Milne based the stories on his own son with illustrator E.H. Shepard—who had collaborated with Milne at Punch magazine—even drawing Christopher Robin as the spitting image of the little boy. 

Poor A.A. Milne. After he gave the world the iconic Pooh Bear the world would never take his other work seriously again. Poor Christopher Robin. The real life boy, as big a star as his father's literary creation, came to resent being the model for one of the most famous little boys in English lit. 

'It seemed to me, almost, that my father had got to where he was by climbing upon my infant shoulders' Christopher Milne

That's the complex relationship at the heart of the story.

I'm a bit of a sucker for these bio-pics that plumb the behind the scenes worlds of authors the way Finding Neverland did with J.M. Barrie, Saving Mr. Banks did with Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers and the upcoming Rebel in the Rye will with J.D. Salinger. 

I'm also excited at the direction Gleeson seems to be taking his career. His critically mocked Star Wars General Hux notwithstanding, he's a wonderful young actor who broke out for critics with last year's Ex Machina and who I've been watching since Anna Karenina, where he appeared alongside Alicia Vikander. They're both doing quite well, wouldn't you say?

*Fingers crossed this comes to fruition. The project was set to shoot back in 2011 with a completely different director, Nick Hurran, on board. 

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