Friday, 28 February 2014

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. release date announced

It's had a long journey to the screen, losing both Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney along the way, but now the Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is finally within sight. Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows) is directing, with Henry Cavill (Man Of Steel) and Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) playing the leads, and now the film has a release date: spying on our cinema screens from 16 January next year.

That window also means it will be opening against Michael Mann's Cyber; the Paul McGuigan / Max Landis Frankenstein; and Kevin Hart comedy The Wedding Ringer. Don't be fooled into thinking that January is the film dumping ground it used to be either. The Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend, whilst not cashing in summer money numbers, has become an important date on the multiplex calendar, and this year provided reasons to celebrate for Ride Along, Lone Survivor and The Nut Job. But it can also be a gamble, as the team behind Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit can testify.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., of course, updates the light hearted spy series that ran for 105 episodes between 1964 and 1968, with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as the smooth American Napoleon Solo and the intense Russian Illya Kuryakin. U.N.C.L.E. was an international intelligence agency – the United Network Command for Law Enforcement. Their chief antagonists were the agents of T.H.R.U.S.H. – the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity (although that acronym was never actually revealed in the series). The series also spawned a sister in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., several cinema releases of expanded TV episodes, and a reunion TV movie in 1983.

Cavill plays Solo and Hammer as Kuryakin in this iteration, with Hugh Grant (Cloud Atlas) as U.N.C.L.E. head Mr Waverley. Jared Harris (Lincoln), Alicia Vikander (Anna Karenina) and Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) will also be showing up for the party. The screenplay is by Ritchie and Lionel Wigram (Sherlock Holmes), ditching the Scott Z. Burns draft from the Soderbergh days.

Elodie Yung joins Gods Of Egypt

When Alex Proyas' (Knowing) Paradise Lost project fell through, he turned his attention to a different kind of mythology altogether, and his Gods Of Egypt have been assembling at Summit Entertainment ever since. While Gerard Butler, Geoffrey Rush, Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Courtney Eaton and Chadwick Boseman have already been cast, they're now joined by Elodie Yung (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).

Set in Ancient Egypt, the film sees Butler playing Set, god of the desert, storms, disorder and foreigners in the Egyptian pantheon. After killing and mutilating his own brother Osiris (god of the afterlife, yet to be cast), as part of his master plan to murder their father Ra (the sun god, played by Rush), he faces the wrath of his nephew Horus (god of vengeance, played by Coster-Waldau). Needless to say it's never a good idea to anger a god of vengeance.

Yung will be playing Hathor, the goddess of love, beauty, motherhood, foreign lands, mining, music and cows (although it's possible not all of those aspects will be relevant). Hathor sides with Horus, working against Set's dastardly schemes. Boseman is playing Thoth, the god of wisdom, with Thwaites and Eaton as Bek and Zaya: two humans caught up in the celestial conflict.

Gods Of Egypt is currently in pre-production, gearing up for its shoot in Sydney, Australia. Proyas wrote the script with Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, and is aiming to have the film ready for release on 12 February 2016.

Have 20th Century Fox found their Fantastic Four?

With the clock ticking and director Josh Trank (Chronicle) set to start filming the new Fantastic Four reboot this summer, Variety are reporting that Miles Teller (Project X), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Kate Mara (127 Hours) and Jamie Bell (The Adventure Of Tintin) have made the cut as the fresh faces of the superhero team.

20th Century Fox have been trying to get the updated version of the Marvel heroes moving for a while now, auditioning and testing a variety of actors to play stretchy genius Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, science whizz and see-through heroine Sue Storm/Invisible Girl, hot tempered (and highly flammable) Johnny Storm/The Human Torch and rocky stalwart Ben Grimm/The Thing.

Jordan in particular has reportedly been in the mix as Johnny Storm for some time, partly thanks to his prior working relationship with Trank on Chronicle and partly because Fox has an option on him as part of his contract from that film. Miles Teller (Richards) and Kate Mara (Sue Storm), meanwhile, have been front runners for a while, though there is apparently some question over Teller's availability: he's already committed to Divergent sequel Insurgent and there are other projects jockeying for his time, so a final deal there may have to first take his schedule into account.

Jamie Bell, meanwhile, is a new name in the mix, though The Wrap attributes that to the fact that the process to find someone to play Ben Grimm has been an arduous one. Bell brings both gravitas and experience with performance capture technology, which will almost certainly be used for bringing the character to life, last played by Michael Chiklis under stifling layers of latex. Bell may be a little smaller than the average Thing, but with performance capture this should be something of a non-issue.

For now though, all four casting choices should be considered rumour, as neither 20th Century Fox nor Trank have made any official announcement. That said, given the sudden flurry of reports, expect that situation to change soon, even if we have to endure another round of denials before the final names emerge. From the sounds of it, though, we may finally have our Four.

The Fantastic Four is scheduled to arrive on 18 June 2015.

Rhythm & Hues: Life After Pi documentary arrives online

With the FX colossus Gravity (2013) hoovering up at this years BAFTAs, here's a timely reminder of the controversy simmering around visual effects at last years Oscars. Long established and much respected FX house Rhythm & Hues collected a statue for its astonishing work on Ang Lee's Life Of Pi (2012), but it was small consolation for the company, which had been forced to file for bankruptcy just weeks before. Somehow some of its employees found time to document the collapse as it was happening, and the result is Rhythm & Hues: Life After Pi which has just arrived online.

"Here we are demonstrably doing the best work in the industry," says Digital Supervisor Michael Conelly, "and slamming into a wall. So the night of the Oscars... what a mess."

"It was like a perfect storm of crap happening," says Rhythm & Hues president Lee Berger, whose company was far from the only one feeling the squeeze of massive overwork and enormous under appreciation.

But, says CG supervisor Walt Jones, their experience "gelled the entire VFX community into being horrifically pissed off at how they were being treated".

Directed and edited by Rhythm & Hues Art Director Scott Leberecht, Life After Pi is actually a short film chapter of the forthcoming anthology Hollywood Ending. The bigger picture, we're told, "delves into the larger, complex challenges facing the US Film Industry and the many professionals working within it whose fates and livelihood are intertwined".

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Meryl Streep to play Emmeline Pankhurst

Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) is set to play iconic political activist Emmeline Pankhurst in Ruby Films drama Suffragette, which began shooting in the UK this week.

Director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) and Iron Lady (2011) writer Abi Morgan are behind the film, which will star Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me Go) as Maude, a young feminist in the early days of the suffragette movement who becomes radicalised and turns to violence as a route to change.

Streep will be Emmeline Pankhurst, the activist and leader of the movement striving to get the vote. She became famous for her dedication to the cause, her militant tactics and the shocking treatment she received in prison. Streep will have a small but important role in the film, which will see her character deliver a 'tour de force' speech on women's rights during a political rally.

Born in Manchester in 1858, Pankhurst founded a number of political groups including the Women's Franchise League and the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).

She and her followers became infamous for resorting to militant tactics as a means of protest against gender inequality. Pankhurst and other WSPU members were sentenced to repeated stints in prison, where they staged hunger strikes to secure better conditions.

In 1999 Time magazine named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating: "She shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back."

Streep famously played another iconic British figure Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady – a role for which she received a Best Actress Academy Award.

With cameras already rolling, the film also stars feature Helena Bonham Carter (The Kings Speech), Romola Garai (Amazing Grace), Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges), Anne-Marie Duff (The Last Station) and Samuel West (Hyde Park On Hudson).

Streep, meanwhile, will be back on our screens in Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman, dystopian drama The Giver and Stephen Sondheim adaptation Into The Woods, which arrives here on 9 January next year.

Two new clips for Grand Budapest Hotel arrive online

Fox Searchlight have just released two brand new clips for Wes Anderson's (Moonrise Kingdom) weird and whimsical The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Grand Budapest Hotel's story revolves around Ralph Fiennes' Gustave H, hotel manager and serial guest lover. His travails appear to begin when a deceased client of a certain age (Tilda Swinton) turns up dead in the hotel and leaves him a valuable painting in her will - much to the distress of Adrien Brody's Dmitri.

Many Anderson regulars return, including good luck charm Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and Jason Schwartzman. Also joining the cast are Saoirse Ronan, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Lea Seydoux and Mathieu Amalric.

The Grand Budapest Hotel hits UK screens on Marcy.

Harold Ramis: Ghostbusters star dies aged 69

Actor and director Harold Ramis, best known for the films Ghostbusters (1984) and Groundhog Day (1993), has died aged 69.

He died of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, his agent told the BBC.

Although the star was best known as bespectacled ghost hunter Egon Spengler in the Ghostbusters franchise, he was also a talented writer and director, whose credits included Caddyshack (1980) and Animal House (1978).

"His creativity, compassion, intelligence, humour and spirit will be missed by all who knew and loved him," said his family in a statement.

The star had reportedly been quiet about his illness, which dated back to 2010.

But several friends are said to have visited him recently, including Bill Murray from whom he had been estranged for years, the Chicago Tribune said.

Ramis' death prompted an outpouring of tributes on Twitter.

Billy Crystal, who starred in the director's mobster comedies Analyze This (1999) and Analyze That (2002), wrote: "Sad to hear my friend Harold Ramis passed away.

"A brilliant, funny actor and director. A wonderful husband and dad. Big loss to us all."

Iron Man (2008) director Jon Favreau added: "No, no, not Harold Ramis. Worked for him years ago. He was the real deal. Growing up, his work changed my life. He will be missed."

Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane wrote: "Harold Ramis was a brilliant, shining example for every comedy writer hoping to achieve excellence [in] the field."

Born in Chicago to convenience store owners Ruth and Nathan, Ramis studied at Washington University in Missouri and, on graduation, briefly worked as an orderly on a psychiatric ward.

He started his career as a writer by penning arts stories for a local newspaper and editing Playboy magazine's 'party jokes' section.

"It was amazing how many of these jokes were written in pencil on three-ring notebook paper, or came from people who were incarcerated," he told The Chicago Reader. "It was also amazing how many of them dealt with farmers and farm animals.

"At the time - it was the late 1960s - the Playboy editors wanted to modernize the jokes a bit, to make them more counterculture. A big part of my job was changing 'the farmer' into 'a swinging advertising executive.'"

After leaving the magazine, he joined Chicago's renowned Second City improvised comedy troupe but said he realised his limitations as a performer after encountering John Belushi.

"When I saw how far he was willing to go to get a laugh or to make a point on stage, the language he would use, how physical he was, throwing himself literally off the stage, taking big falls, strangling other actors, I thought: 'I'm never going to be this big.'"

Instead, Ramis played the straight man – acting as a sardonic foil to Bill Murray in the army comedy Stripes (1981), and playing the puritanical, more scientific member of the Ghostbusters team.

The film became a global box office hit, and spawned an equally successful sequel in 1989, as well as a long running cartoon series. A third instalment had been in development for several years.

Ramis acknowledged that the spectral comedy was his most memorable work but took pride in its longevity.

"People love Ghostbusters in a really big way," he said in 2009. "Parents loved it for their kids. Teachers loved it."

"We got mail from teachers who said they loved that kids were playing Ghostbusters at recess because it was a non-violent game that didn't divide the kids into good guys and bad guys and the games were very co-operative. It's really had some power."

The film remains one of the most successful comedy films of all time, with takings of more than $500m (£300m) adjusted for inflation.

After the sequel, Ramis developed his career behind the camera, directing Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and Robert De Niro in Analyze This.

He said that his time on a psychiatric ward had prepared him for directing Hollywood's elite.

"People laugh when I say that, but it was actually very good training," he told journalist Mike Sacks. "Not just with actors; it was good training for just living in the world.

"It's knowing how to deal with people who might be reacting in a way that's connected to anxiety or grief or fear or rage. As a director, you're dealing with that constantly with actors. But if I were a businessman, I'd probably be applying those same principles to that line of work."

His other films included Bedazzled (2000), The Ice Harvest (2005), and prehistoric comedy Year One, his final movie, in 2009. More recently, he had directed episodes of NBC television's The Office.

"No matter what I have to say", he once declared, "I'm still trying to say it in comedic form."

Ramis also inspired a new generation of film makers, including Judd Apatow, who cast the director in his 2007 comedy Knocked Up.

He is survived by his wife, Erica, sons Julian and Daniel, daughter Violet and two grandchildren.

Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

"Their army is infinite. We are 47."

The story of the 47 Ronin is the Japanese equivalent of the 300 Spartans, the Alamo or Rorke's Drift – a historical event of a small, brave band standing up against overwhelming odds which became the stuff of plays, books, films and even television shows. Actual facts are less important than the way the story embodies a national self-image and code of honour.

So here's a version of that which mixes in mythical beasts, demons, witches and heroic bloodshed. It's easy to see why purists might be offended, especially with the not Asian Keanu Reeves (Constantine) in the lead role as magical 'half-breed' warrior Kai. Well aware of this, commercials director Carl Rinsch – working from a screenplay co-written by Chris Morgan of the Fast and Furious sequels and Hossein Amini of The Wings Of The Dove (1997) and Drive (2011) – plays it almost too solemn. Reeves' Kai doesn't even crack a grin when debating with a human-avian hybrid (a tengu of Japanese mythology) and is dourly devoted, chaste, noble and willing to disembowel himself for the Shogun at any moment.

Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine) shoulders the Japanese hero role as the charismatic chief of the loyal band, while Tadanobi Asano (Thor) is suitably nasty as the evil Kira – though the most outrageous performance comes from Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim) as a slinky shapeshifting lesbian witch with living hair and who can spin herself through space like an unravelling kimono. Every Japanese character actor alive is here, including Clyde Kusatsu (The Interpreter), Gedde Watanabe (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Memoirs Of A Geisha) as an imposing, hissable, almost Mikado-esque Shogun. Its Ray Harryhausen/Akira Kurosawa inspired fantasy scenes play better than the bloodless swordplay, and there are problems fitting a Japanese tragic epic of self sacrifice onto the template of a Hollywood action adventure.

While die-hard fantasy fans might find something to salvage from the well orchestrated battle finale, Ronin 47 shows plenty of colourful samurai spectacle, but ultimately very little else.

"I will search for you through 1,000 worlds and 10,000 lifetimes!" Reeves promises his beloved. Anyone who sits all the way through this glossy folly will know exactly how that feels.

New one sheet for Raid 2: Berandal arrives online

If you're already burning with anticipation for the violent martial arts madness offered by director Gareth Evans and The Raid 2: Berandal, here's something to keep those fires stoked with Evans hitting Twitter to debut the films latest one sheet.

Designed by Omar Hauksson, the image of star Iko Uwais is built using a mosaic of images taken from the movie itself, most of them of course showing people hitting other people. It's a technique that has been used in movie imagery in particular for a while now, but it certainly beats the usual floating head shots.

The Raid 2: Berandal picks up the story two hours after The Raid (2011) (Evans says "The [potential] Raid 3 would take place two hours before The Raid 2 ends"...), and sweeps Rama (Iko Uwais) into a much broader world of corruption and violence as he infiltrates the ranks of a ruthless Jakarta crime syndicate. Judging by the trailer, the film looks to be even more gloriously violent than its predecessor, if that's at all possible. Everything is turned into a weapon here as Evans expands the fights to even more ambitious levels.

With Julie Estelle, Alex Abbad, Yayan Ruhian, Mathias Muchus, Tio Pakusadewo, Marsha Timothy, Cecep Arif Rahman, Matsuda Ryuhei, Endo Kenichi and Kitamura Kazuki also in the cast, The Raid 2: Berandal premiered at this years Sundance Film Festival to a rapturous reception and is slated to arrive in the US on 28 March and heads over here on 11 April.

Denis Villeneuve explores Enemy in new featurette

Pathé have just released their first featurette for duplicity drama Enemy, which looks into Denis Villeneuve's reunion with Prisoners (2013) actor Jake Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal plays a strung-out professor called Adam Bell, who encounters an identical man named Anthony St. Claire (also Gyllenhaal) bearing a sinister threat. Mélanie Laurent (Beginners), Isabella Rossellini (Infamous) and Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method) join him in his hellish struggle for survival in academe.

Aiming to be a notch above your average press kit gushing, this featurette explores the themes of the film, charting Adam's struggles with his inner demons and demonstrates how they went about making sure the shots featuring both Gyllenhaals lined up.

The film is loosely adapted from the book The Double by José Saramago, the Portuguese author behind Blindness (2008), and promises a dramatic thriller with a metaphysical flavour. American audiences will see it on 14 March and while there is no date set yet, we should get Enemy in the first half of this year.

First trailer for Paddy Considine's Honour arrives online

Entertainment One have just released their first trailer for Shan Khan's Honour.

Exploring the murky concept of 'honour' killings, Honour showcases a side of Paddy Considine's arsenal we haven't seen since Dead Man's Shoes (2004). Here he plays an unnamed bounty hunter tasked with a terrible brief.

Scottish actor turned director Shan Khan penned this story of a young Muslim woman (Aiysha Hart) whose plan to elope with her boyfriend Tanvir (Nikesh Patel) proves unpalatable to her family. So unpalatable, in fact, that they decide to have her killed.

When the hit goes awry, Mona flees and it's Considine's bounty hunter who finds himself charged with tracking her down somewhere in the big city. Expect moral dilemmas aplenty as he finds himself immersed in a situation far beyond his ken.

Honour lands in UK cinemas on 4 April before scoring a DVD release three weeks later.

James Cameron to shoot Avatar 2 in 4K

As James Cameron starts pre-production on the next three Avatar films, he has begun to reveal some tiny details about his plans for the trilogy – and those plans obviously include the latest technology, because what else could we expect from the envelope pushing director? In a recent interview with RTL, Cameron mentioned that he's probably going to shoot the next three films in 4K resolution and possibly at a high frame rate, at least partially.

Says Cameron, "[We're] looking at high frame rate. I'm studying that. I haven't made a final decision yet, whether the entire film will be made at high frame rate or parts of it. You know, we'll be shooting at a native resolution of probably 4K and so then there should be a lot of true 4K theatres by then as well."

The director is currently preparing the huge amounts of software necessary to create the world of Pandora, as well as developing the scripts and characters for the next three. He promises that, "You'll see new worlds, new habitats, new cultures. The primary conflict between the human view kind of dominating nature and the Na'vi view of being integrated into nature is the same, but it manifests itself in very different ways."

The Avatar sequels are set to arrive in December 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Meet the Guardians Of The Galaxy

Following the launch of the recent trailer for James Gunn's (Super) Guardians Of The Galaxy, Marvel have launched five new character promos, in which each of the cast members talk about their respective Guardian.

First up, Gunn and Bradley Cooper talk about Rocket Raccoon, in which we also get to hear a sample of his voice work. There's also Vin Diesel explaining how strange Groot is – sadly, we don't get any snippets of his voice – as well as Dave Bautista talking about Drax The Destroyer, Chris Pratt on Peter Quill, also known as. Star-Lord, and Zoe Saldana on deadly assassin Gamora.

Meet Rocket Raccoon

Meet Groot

Meet Drax

Meet Peter Quill

Meet Gamora

With Marvel gambling that less comic book savvy audiences have been primed by the likes of Iron Man and Thor to accept more out-there concepts, Guardians sends us hurtling into deep space to meet a very different gang of heroes. Well, we say heroes... We're introduced to American pilot Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), who finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing a mysterious stolen McGuffin orb coveted by the villainous Ronan (Lee Pace).

Whilst in a prison, he meets an unusual suspects line-up of aliens including deadly green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), hulking warrior Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista), talking tree Groot (Vin Diesel) and gruff warrior Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper).

With a walking, talking, gun-toting Raccoon. A tree man. And Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun Of The Dead) working alongside John C. Reilly (Step Brothers), this is the wild world distilled from the Guardians comics by writer/director James Gunn – and it's shaping up to be a whole lot of fun.

With Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), Benicio Del Toro (Savages), Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond), Michael Rooker (Super) and Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) rounding out the cast, Guardians Of The Galaxy arrives on 1 August.

"What a bunch of A-holes!"

Marvel have just released their first trailer and one sheet for James Gunn's (Super) Guardians Of The Galaxy.

With Marvel gambling that less comic book savvy audiences have been primed by the likes of Iron Man and Thor to accept more out-there concepts, Guardians sends us hurtling into deep space to meet a very different gang of heroes. Well, we say heroes... We're introduced to American pilot Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), who finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing a mysterious stolen McGuffin orb coveted by the villainous Ronan (Lee Pace).

Whilst in a prison, he meets an unusual suspects line-up of aliens including deadly green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), hulking warrior Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista), talking tree Groot (Vin Diesel) and gruff warrior Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper).

With a walking, talking, gun-toting Raccoon. A tree man. And Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun Of The Dead) working alongside John C. Reilly (Step Brothers), this is the wild world distilled from the Guardians comics by writer/director James Gunn – and it's shaping up to be a whole lot of fun.

The trailer is, for the most part, what was apparently shown at last years Comic Con, with some new footage of Rocket, Groot and the rest, not to mention Pratt channelling his inner Han Solo. Everything gives off the feel of classic science fiction serials welded to the Marvel sensibility for the requisite thrills and universe building. It all comes across as big and a little daring and will hopefully live up to all that it promises.

Guardians Of The Galaxy hits UK cinemas on 1 August.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 featurettes go behind the scenes

Following the recent slew of trailers for Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony Pictures have switched tactics to another classic standby of film PR: the behind the scenes featurette.

The behind the scenes peek, whilst not really delivering anything new, does at least feel like producers are going the Chris Nolan route where they can, delivering some big practical work alongside all the CGI wizardry. Paul Giamatti (Rhino) even admits he was surprised how much of it they did for real, and how often Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker) was in the suit, clinging to the side of a truck, in the big opening set piece.

For the other video, it's much more about Peter Parker's relationships with those he's closest to becoming strained, including Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and Aunt May (Sally Field). From the looks of it, Peter's having serious issues dealing with being in a relationship with Gwen and the promise he made to her late father, Denis Leary's NYPD captain, to stay away and ensure her safety. Plus, being a superhero isn't all its cracked up to be: when you have a cold, wearing an all-encompassing mask can get messy pretty messy.

With Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Felicity Jones and Campbell Scott also in the movie, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 hits cinemas on 18 April 2014, with two more instalments planned for May 2016 and May 2018.

Trailer for Rhythm & Hues: Life After Pi documentary

With the FX colossus Gravity (2013) hoovering up BAFTAs last weekend, here's a timely reminder of the controversy simmering around visual effects at last years Oscars. Long established and much respected FX house Rhythm & Hues collected a statue for its astonishing work on Ang Lee's Life Of Pi (2012), but it was small consolation for the company, which had been forced to file for bankruptcy just weeks before. Somehow some of its employees found time to document the collapse as it was happening, and the result is Rhythm & Hues: Life After Pi, for which a trailer has just emerged.

"Here we are demonstrably doing the best work in the industry," says Digital Supervisor Michael Conelly, "and slamming into a wall. So the night of the Oscars... what a mess."

"It was like a perfect storm of crap happening," says Rhythm & Hues president Lee Berger, whose company was far from the only one feeling the squeeze of massive overwork and enormous under appreciation.

But, says CG supervisor Walt Jones, their experience "gelled the entire VFX community into being horrifically pissed off at how they were being treated".

Life After Pi is actually a short film chapter of the forthcoming anthology Hollywood Ending. The bigger picture, we're told, "delves into the larger, complex challenges facing the US Film Industry and the many professionals working within it whose fates and livelihood are intertwined".

The Rhythm & Hues section, directed and edited by Rhythm & Hues Art Director Scott Leberecht, will be released in full online on 25 February, less than a week before this year's Oscar ceremony on 2 March.

First look at footage from Unbroken

With this years Winter Olympics in full swing, Universal saw a prime moment to give us all our first look at footage from Angelina Jolie's latest directorial outing, Unbroken.

Blending material from the movie itself with archive footage and photographs from his life, it's all anchored by Louis Zamperini himself, now a 97 year old, but still vital and clearly enthused to talk about his life.

Harry Brown's (2009) Jack O'Connell stars as the younger Zamperini, an irresponsible teenager turned LA high school athlete who raced in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. During World War II, his Air Force plane crashed in the Pacific, leaving him without food or water for 28 days, enduring shark attacks, strafings and hunger. He finally washed ashore on a Japanese island behind enemy lines, where he was held as a prisoner of war for two years and tortured by his captors.

From the looks of this, Unbroken won't be scrubbing clean Zamperini's earlier life, which, as the man himself admits, saw him as a "rotten" teenager. It'll also have to encompass his fight for survival and captivity.

With Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy), Domhnall Gleeson (About Time), Finn Wittrock (Masters Of Sex) and Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher) in the cast and a script that's been worked on by Richard LaGravenese (Beautiful Creatures), William Nicholson (Les Misérables) and the Coen brothers (True Grit) at different points, this has all the makings of something both adventurous and potentially award worthy.

Unbroken arrives on 25 December in the US and 16 January, 2015 over here.

"Folks looking for trouble tend to find more than they're after..."

Lionsgate have just released their first one sheet and latest trailer for David Gordon Green's (The Pineapple Express) Joe.

Someone struggling to overcome the mistakes of their past, only for their violent impulses to re-emerge in the cause of helping someone else, is a staple of fiction. With Joe, Green attempts to put a fresh spin on the idea.

Adapted from Larry Brown's novel by screenwriter Gary Hawkins, the story is that of titular ex-con Joe (Nicolas Cage) who becomes something of a role model to teenager Gary Jones (Tye Sheridan). Gary is trying to escape his drunken, dangerous father and homeless family, and Joe, despite his own history of violence, just might be his path to a better life in one of the darker corners of Mississippi.

Green calls Joe "an absolute and unexpected performance piece woven from the darkness, beauty, humour and environment of Larry Brown's material".

We've come to assume a certain something from Nicolas Cage films, but what we haven't seen from him for a while is a serious role in a gritty drama.

Joe will be released in the US on 9 March, before heading to the UK on 25 July.

First trailer and one sheet for Locke arrives online

Lionsgate have just released their first trailer and one sheet for Steven Knight's (Eastern Promises) Locke.

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is driving to London to be present at the birth of his child. Just a few complications though: his wife (Ruth Wilson) is not the woman giving birth. His teenage sons (Tom Holland and Bill Milner) are at home, disappointed that he won't be home to see a football match. And the next day he is due to see a key stage in a huge construction project that he's managing. So no pressure then.

This first trailer is an effective mood piece, demonstrating what we already knew: Hardy certainly has the charisma to hold the screen on his own for 84 minutes without breaking sweat. Any sweat will be coming entirely from his stressed out character.

Hardy will be steering Locke into UK cinemas on 18 April.

New character one sheets for Noah arrive online

Paramount Pictures have recently released this batch of character one sheets for Darren Aronofsky's (Black Swan) watery epic.

Written by John Logan (Gladiator) and Aronofsky himself, this is not your traditional retelling of the age old bible story, but rather a radical reimagining, complete with giant angels known as Watchers.

Russell Crowe (Man Of Steel) plays the titular ark builder who not only has the watery genocide of a discouraged deity to deal with in this story, but also the violent opposition of Ray Winstone's Cain and his barbarian horde threatening to take over the Ark.

Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamond) plays Noah's supportive wife, Naameh, with Douglas Booth (Romeo And Juliet) and Logan Lerman (The Perks Of Being A Wallflower) as sons, Shem and Ham. We also have Anthony Hopkins (Thor) as his grandfather Methuselah and Emma Watson (The Bling Ring) as close friend and possible love interest of Booth's Shem.

Noah hits UK cinemas on 4 April.

"You don't want to wake up, do you?"

StudioCanal have just released their first one sheet and international trailer for Jonathan Glazer's (Sexy Beast) Under The Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson as the mysterious and seductive alien, Isserley.

Glazer's latest has already spellbound and mystified filmgoers throughout last years festival circuit, with critics citing a visually dazzling piece of punk cinema, packed with enough ideas that you'll need a couple of viewings to dig beneath its many layers.

Based on the science fiction novel of the same name by Michel Faber, it sees Johansson as a human-like alien sent to Earth to prey on unwary hitchhikers in Scotland. Her job is to drug them and send them back to her race, who mutilate and fatten the victims ready to be feasted upon, though in the film version it may not be as simple as that. It is not, it's safe to say, the feel-good hit of the autumn. Filed under 'Darkly Satirical', it touches on political themes around big business, intensive farming and environmental decay. It also reflects on more personal questions such as sexual identity, humanity, snobbery and mercy.

Under The Skin also features some unique film making techniques in an attempt to make the onscreen interactions feel more genuine. One scene in particular involved Scarlett driving around Scotland in a van outfitted with hidden cameras, luring actual non-actor males into the vehicle. It was only afterwards that participants were notified of the fact that they were on a movie shoot.

"The key thing for me – the way I understood it would work – was to shoot her in disguise and use the idea of dropping her into the world and shooting her in a way, with the hidden cameras, that wasn't calling attention to itself, so we are really photographing behaviour," Glazer told the Los Angeles Times.

It's part of the director's overall effort to place the viewer in the shoes of this mysterious alien with little narrative context to muddy the experience.

"The core of the story that I was clearly interested in was her journey – and looking at our world as an alien planet through her eyes," Glazer noted.

Glazer's long awaited return to feature films after Sexy Beast (2000) and Birth (2004), will be with us on 14 March.

Friday, 21 February 2014

"If we miss anything, how will you know who you're dealing with?"

Warner Bros have just released their latest trailer and first one sheet for Wally Pfister's Transcendence.

Johnny Depp stars as Dr. Will Caster, a computer scientist deep into researching the singularity, the point at which artificial intelligence overtakes human and the two begin to merge. His intent is to create a machine that can channel real human emotions, thereby making it the most powerful computational device ever known.

Will's highly controversial experiments make him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists, including a group called R.I.F.T. (Revolutionary Independence From Technology), who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed, to become the participant of his own transcendence.

For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not so much if they can, but whether they even should.

With Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight Rises), Cillian Murphy (Inception), Cole Hauser (Olympus Has Fallen), Kate Mara (127 Hours) and Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim) among the cast, Transcendence will arrive on our cinemas on 25 April.

Star Wars: Episode VII gearing up for a summer shoot

We may not know what the film will officially be title (besides the obvious Star Wars prefix). Nor do we know for sure who will be appearing in front of the camera. But what we do know is when J.J. Abrams and co will be shooting Episode VII, with production to set to kick off in May this year.

This latest report by Hitfix is given added credence by an earlier Abrams quote from this year's winter Television Critics press tour, where he made mention of a plan to start shooting in mid May while revealing that the script was complete. That too is repeated here, along with word that shooting will take place from May to September at Pinewood Studios. The summer plan also allows for more than a year of post production time before the film's scheduled 18 December, 2015 release date.

Hitfix goes further, suggesting that most principal casting on the film is complete, which hopefully means some solid information will start to emerge soon from Disney and Lucasfilm, putting an end to the speculation regarding every working actor and their Wookiee being linked to the movie.

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are all still likely to return to wrap up their stories before handing over to a new cast, with R2-D2 currently the only officially announced Star Wars character.

Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman touch a Nerve

The directing pair first grabbed the filmmaking world's attention with the controversial Sundance Film Festival favourite Catfish (2010), followed by work on the slightly less successful Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) and Paranormal Activity 4 (2012). For their latest gig, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost are attempting to pull off an even tougher task: creating a successful young adult novel adaptation with Nerve.

Written by Jeanne Ryan, the book follows high school senior Vee, a girl more used to lingering on the edges of her class, never really catching the eye of the popular set. In order to try and break out of her rut, she joins a global online game built around a provocative, amped-up version of truth or dare, which features an audience of 'watchers' who vote for their favourites and comment on ensuing events.

Soon, Vee becomes a sensation, advancing higher and higher, until she discovers that the game at the upper levels becomes something quire different. And because it would be boring if that just involved water balloons or admitting you've got a crush on a classmate, that ultimately means life threatening circumstances.

American Horror Story writer Jessica Sharzer worked on the script, which is likely to have to wait for the directors to finish work on an untitled thriller for low-budget specialist producer Jason Blum, which they're now preparing to make.

Let's hope they have more luck than the likes of say The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones (2013), which also hoped to ride the young adult wave of success left by The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games, only to see the first film flop. Whilst the sequel for that one is still on the way, it's certainly going to be an uphill challenge.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Full length trailer for The Double arrives online

Following its launch at last years Toronto International Film Festival, StudioCanal have released their first full length trailer for Richard Ayoade's (Submarine) The Double.

Jesse Eisenberg handles the dual role of Simon James, a nerdy, unimpressive drone whose unsatisfying life is thrown into chaos by the sudden arrival of his doppelganger, James Simon. This copy is actually funnier, sexier and much more confident than poor Simon, and soon the new version is creeping (or rather, strutting confidently) into all areas of Simon's life, including his job and the affections of his dream girl, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska).

Judging by the trailer, it's a less whimsical work than Submarine (2010), setting its protagonist's fraying psyche in the kind of claustrophobic and bureaucratic world so beloved of Charlie Kaufman films.

Drawing from Fyodor Dostoevsky's novella, Ayoade wrote the script with Avi Korine and scored a cast that includes Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmin), Wallace Shawn (Toy Story), James Fox (Sherlock Holmes), Paddy Considine (Dead Mans Shoes), Noah Taylor (Lawless), Yasmin Paige (Submarine), Craig Roberts (Red Lights), plus old I.T. Crowd friends Chris O'Dowd and Chris Morris.

The Double arrives here on 4 April before heading over to the US on 9 May.

New trailer for The Two Faces Of January arrives online

StudioCanal have just released their first trailer for Hossein Amini's The Two Faces Of January.

Hossein Amini has already built a very respectable career as a screenwriter, responsible for Drive (2011) and The Wings Of The Dove (1997) and called in by studios for big tentpoles such as Snow White And The Huntsman (2012) and 47 Ronin (2013). Now he's turning to directing as well, making his cinematic debut with upcoming thriller The Two Faces Of January.

Adapted by Amini from the novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley), it follows the story of charismatic businessman Chester MacFarland (Vigo Mortensen) and his glamorous young wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst), an attractive American couple holidaying in Greece. Whilst sightseeing they meet Rydal (Oscar Isaac), a Greek speaking young American, who is working as a tour guide (whilst scamming tourists on the side). Drawn in by the glamour of the MacFarlands lifestyle – not to mention his ill-fated attraction to Colette – Rydal soon learns that all is not as it seems with the couple, as he rapidly becomes embroiled in their dark secrets. Unable to extricate himself from the worsening situation, Rydal finds himself on the run with the couple as their worlds fall apart around them.

The Two Faces Of January is screening at this years Berlin Film Festival before opening in the UK on 16 May.

Monday, 17 February 2014

"And the BAFTA goes to..."

The 2014 EE British Academy Film Awards took place on a surprisingly dry and pleasant evening at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and it was a night without too many surprises.

The big winner of the evening – both in terms of numbers and in spirit – was Gravity, with a grand total of six awards. Winning Outstanding British Film for producers David Heyman and Alfonso Cuaron, as well as gongs for Best Director, Cinematography, Sound, Original Music and Special Visual Effects.

It's also notable for being the first 3D film to win one of the major BAFTA film categories – both Avatar (2009) and Life Of Pi (2012) were beaten to the prize in previous years.

The space thriller, which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, has sparked some controversy over its classification as a British film.

Interestingly, Mexican director Cuaron queried during a backstage interview the whole concept of an Outstanding British Film category.

"It should be Best Film and Best Non-British film," he said to sounds of surprise from the assembled journalists.

It was developed and shot in the UK with the ground-breaking visual effects produced by London based studio Framestore, who spent three years creating an accurate simulation of outer space, inventing with liberal use of CGI everything from space shuttles and space suits to the International space station.

But the main award of the evening went to harrowing historical drama 12 Years A Slave, which won Best Film and the Leading Actor prize for Chiwetel Ejiofor.

However, the sweep of the major categories that some had predicted failed to materialise.

On stage, director Steve McQueen reminded the ceremony's audience that slavery was not a thing of the past.

"There are 21 million people in slavery as we sit here," he said. "I just hope 150 years from now our ambivalence will not allow another filmmaker to make this film."

Holding his BAFTA mask backstage, McQueen recalled how he had watched the awards ceremony on TV as a child and travelled past Ealing Film Studios on his way to school.

"To have this in my hands... it means a hell of a lot," he said.

Brad Pitt, who both produced and starred in the film, said: "It's a story that says we're all the same and that freedom and our dignity is everything and that's what we must fight for."

Though the film didn't take home the big prizes, the feel good triumph was surely Barkhad Abdi, who beat off competition from Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave) to win Best Supporting Actor for his impressive movie debut in Captain Phillips.

Jennifer Lawrence's gong as Best Supporting Actress for American Hustle, also toppled the hopes of favourite Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years A Slave).

American Hustle took home three awards in total, including the BAFTA for Original Screenplay, and for Best Hair & Make Up. Elsewhere in the more aesthetic categories, The Great Gatsby had a good run, winning for both Production Design and Costume Design. Best Editing went to Rush, with Ron Howard accepting the gong on behalf of his regular editors Dan Hanley and Mike Hill.

Joshua Oppenheimer won Best Documentary for his extraordinary film, The Act Of Killing, and took the opportunity to speak out about the Indonesian genocide.

Two wins, however, were no surprise at all, given they were already announced prior to the awards ceremony. Peter Greenaway was awarded a BAFTA for Outstanding Contribution to British Film, while Dame Helen Mirren recieved the Academy Fellowship.

As always Stephen Fry did an admirable job as the bearded master of ceremonies, entertaining the absurdly famous and beautiful audience with his soothing, tweed infused tones. No controversies to be found here, though he did take the opportunity to flirt with Leonardo DiCaprio, Sam Claflin and Douglas Booth.

So what do the BAFTA results mean for the Academy Awards on 2 March?

For the past five years the best film winner chosen by British Academy voters has gone on to win an Oscar. Last year it was Argo, and before that The Artist, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker and Slumdog Millionaire.

But the BAFTAs are international awards with a distinctly local flavour, and it's estimated that only about 20% of the US Academy is British.

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Barkhad Abdi may have won in London, but they did not have to face competition from Oscar favourites Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), both of whom were ignored in the BAFTA nominations.

And it will be interesting to see if Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope are able to replicate their Adapted Screenplay BAFTA win for Philomena away from a home crowd.

Asked what he thought about his Oscar chances, Steve McQueen said: "It's about the celebrating the film rather than the competition."

The full list of nominees and winners are below.

Best Film
12 Years A Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips

Outstanding British Film
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
Saving Mr. Banks
The Selfish Giant

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
Kieran Evans (Director/Writer) - Kelly + Victor
Colin Carberry (Writer), Glenn Patterson (Writer) - Good Vibrations
Kelly Marcel (Writer) - Saving Mr. Banks
Paul Wright (Director/Writer), Polly Stokes (Producer) - For Those In Peril
Scott Graham (Director/Writer) - Shell

Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity
Steve McQueen - 12 Years A Slave
David O. Russell - American Hustle
Paul Greengrass - Captain Phillips
Martin Scorsese - The Wolf Of Wall Street

Original Screenplay
Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell - American Hustle
Woody Allen - Blue Jasmine
Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón - Gravity
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen - Inside Llewyn Davis
Bob Nelson - Nebraska

Adapted Screenplay
Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope - Philomena
John Ridley - 12 Years A Slave
Richard LaGravenese - Behind The Candelabra
Billy Ray - Captain Phillips
Terence Winter - The Wolf Of Wall Street

Leading Actor
Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Christian Bale - American Hustle
Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf Of Wall Street
Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips

Leading Actress
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Amy Adams - American Hustle
Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
Judi Dench - Philomena
Sandra Bullock - Gravity

Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper - American Hustle
Daniel Bruhl - Rush
Matt Damon - Behind The Candelabra
Michael Fassbender - 12 Years A Slave

Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
Julia Roberts - August: Osage County
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years A Slave
Oprah Winfrey - The Butler
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine

Film not in the English Language
The Great BeautyThe Act Of Killing
Blue Is The Warmest Colour
Metro Manila

The Act Of Killing
The Armstrong Lie
Tim's Vermeer
We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks

Animated Film
Despicable Me 2
Monsters University

Original Music
Gravity - Steven Price
12 Years A Slave - Hans Zimmer
The Book Thief - John Williams
Captain Phillips - Henry Jackman
Saving Mr. Banks - Thomas Newman

Gravity - Emmanuel Lubezki
12 Years A Slave - Sean Bobbitt
Captain Phillips - Barry Ackroyd
Inside Llewyn Davis - Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska - Phedon Papamichael

Rush - Dan Hanley, Mike Hill
12 Years A Slave - Joe Walker
Captain Phillips - Christopher Rouse
Gravity - Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger
The Wolf Of Wall Street - Thelma Schoonmaker

Production Design
The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin, Beverley Dunn
12 Years A Slave - Adam Stockhausen, Alice Baker
American Hustle - Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler
Behind The Candelabra - Howard Cummings
Gravity - Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, Joanne Woodlard

Costume Design
The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin
American Hustle - Michael Wilkinson
Behind The Candelabra - Ellen Mirojnick
The Invisible Woman - Michael O’Connor
Saving Mr. Banks - Daniel Orlandi

Make Up & Hair
American Hustle - Evelyne Noraz, Lori McCoy-Bell
Behind The Candelabra - Kate Biscoe, Marie Larkin
The Butler - Debra Denson, Beverly Jo Pryor, Candace Neal
The Great Gatsby - Maurizio Silvi, Kerry Warn
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug - Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater

Gravity - Glenn Freemantle, Skip Lievsay, Christopher Benstead, Niv Adiri, Chris Munro
All Is Lost - Richard Hymns, Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor, Micah Bloomberg, Gillian Arthur
Captain Phillips - Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro, Oliver Tarney
Inside Llewyn Davis - Peter F. Kurland, Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff
RUSH - Danny Hambrook, Martin Steyer, Stefan Korte, Markus Stemler, Frank Kruse

Special Visual Effects
Gravity - Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould, Nikki Penny
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug - Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, Eric Reynolds
Iron Man 3 - Bryan Grill, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Dan Sudick
Pacific Rim - Hal Hickel, John Knoll, Lindy De Quattro, Nigel Sumner
Star Trek Into Darkness - Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton, Patrick Tubach, Roger Guyett

British Short Animation 
Sleeping With The Fishes
Everything I Can See From Here
I Am Tom Moody

British Short Film
Room 8
Island Queen
Keeping Up With The Joneses
Orbit Ever After
Sea View

The EE Rising Star Award (public vote)
Will Poulter
Dane DeHaan
George McKay
Lupita Nyong'o
Lea Seydoux

Batman Vs. Superman producer Michael Uslan on the importance of Bruce Wayne

Michael Uslan knows more about Batman than just about anyone. Alongside Benjamin Melniker, he's been a producer on every Batman film since Tim Burton brought a cape and cowled Michael Keaton to the world in 1989. Even his autobiography is titled The Boy Who Loved Batman. He was also the first person to teach comic books as a university course. Right now though, as you'd expect, he's hard at work on Batman Vs. Superman and he recently spoke his plans for the film, including the casting controversy surrounding Ben Affleck.

"We went through it all with Michael Keaton. I lead the charge from the first time I heard Tim [Burton] was thinking of hiring Michael Keaton to play Batman. I'd go, 'Oh my god, all the work, I've put in all these years to do a dark and serious Batman, he's going to hire a comedian!' I could envision the posters: 'Mr. Mom is Batman,' but then he explained his vision, and he was right.

"This is all about Bruce Wayne, it's not about Batman, it's all about Bruce Wayne. If you're trying to do a serious, dark superhero, people have to believe in Bruce Wayne as that obsessed, driven guy, to the point maybe of almost being psychotic. A guy who would get dressed up as a bat and do what he did. So we went through the hoopla with Michael Keaton. The fans were the same reaction that I had initially, except I had the benefit of hearing a vision right away. Then when they actually went to see the movie they never wanted to anyone else to play Batman, never."

"A number of years go by, and then all of a sudden the torches and the pitchforks go up. 'Oh my god, the guy that played the gay cowboy is going to be The Joker? They're going to destroy the greatest super villain in history!' And then after Heath Ledger's performance, when they actually went to see it, nobody ever wanted The Joker played by another actor again.

"So here we are, with an Academy Award winning filmmaker. You look at his last bunch of movies... Hollywoodland (2006) he had me convinced he was George Reeves. The Town (2010), Argo (2012), just really, really great work. Again, I'll go back to what I said in the beginning, it's all about Bruce Wayne, and when you focus on it, Bruce Wayne, maybe in his mid-forties, what's he going to be feeling? What's he going to be thinking? What does he have on his plate to deal with? I just couldn't be more excited about it."

Considering a similarly "obsessed, driven" billionaire in the form of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is also part of the picture, it makes sense to concentrate on the other "obsessed, driven" billionaire in the room, rather than Batman. Perhaps these two business magnates could butt heads in a boardroom before any actual costumed head butting begins?

Snyder has already shot some early footage but the majority of the film is still to be completed, headed now for a May 2016 release date after the recent shift to allow the filmmakers, which include scriptwriter David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Rises), the time to get everything into shape. In addition to Henry Cavill returning as Superman, Man Of Steel veterans Amy Adams, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne are also aboard, joining new arrivals Ben Affleck (Runner Runner) as Batman and Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious 6) as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

New red band Sabotage trailer arrives online

QED International have just released their latest red band trailer for David Ayer's (End Of Watch) cop thriller Sabotage, which amps up the first promo with more NSFW swearing and nudity.

Sabotage finds John 'Breacher' Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in charge of an elite DEA unit that raids drug cartels and brings some very nasty criminals to justice. But on their latest bust, something strange happens. $10m in drug money goes missing, and someone starts killing off the squad members. Soon investigator Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams) is poking around the case, looking for whoever nicked the cash and trying to stop other members being offed in the process.

With a cast that also includes Sam Worthington (Avatar), Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike), Max Martini (Pacific Rim), Terrence Howard (Hustle And Flow), Harold Perrineau (Zero Dark Thirty) and Mireille Enos (Gangster Squad), Sabotage appears to promise the grittier bonding and betrayal themes of End Of Watch (2012).

Sabotage will hit our screens on 25 April.

Ed Skrein is the new Transporter

At last year's Cannes film festival, Luc Besson announced that he had made a deal for three more films in the Transporter series in the form of a reboot. Now Variety reports that Ill Manors (2012) star Ed Skrein is the man to follow in the footsteps of Jason Statham as the hardened driver/fighter Frank Martin.

Skrein, who also appeared in Game Of Thrones as Daario Naharis will play a younger version of Frank. The new movie will serve as an origin story for the man, which includes his interactions with his father. The producers, including Luc Besson, were apparently looking for someone notable to take that role.

"We searched everywhere to find a fresh face who had the potential to become an action movie star and we've found the right match with Ed Skrein, who's not only a great actor but also has enough charisma and physical stamina to play Frank Martin with brio," EuropaCorp CEO Christophe Lambert tells the trade mag.

In keeping with lots of filmmaking these days, the new deal is with a Chinese partner, Fundamental Films, with all the co-production financing and distribution deals that implies, plus more content to appeal to Asian audiences with film shoots heading beyond the usual European locations.

Bill Collage and Adam Cooper (Tower Heist) are behind the script for this one, with Transporter 3 editor (and Brick Mansions director) Camille Delamarre on to call the shots. He'll start the cameras rolling this June on the French Rivera and may end up making all three of the planned new trilogy.

Terry Gilliam reveals Don Quixote start date

The tale of Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is movie lore by now. The Monty Python player turned filmmaker infamously began production on the film way back in 2000, before numerous on and off set mishaps led to the production being cancelled. You can check out the brilliant documentary Lost In La Mancha (2002) for that particular saga. Then last November the driven director announced that he was dreaming the impossible dream once again.

Now with The Zero Theorem complete, Gilliam has revealed to Empire that production on Don Quixote will kick off on September 29 in the Canary Islands.

Gilliam has also added Spanish producer Adrián Guerra, veteran of Buried (2010), Red Lights (2012) and Elijah Wood's Grand Piano (2013) to run interference for him, help raise capital and shoot down any errant fighter jets.

"He's really smart, loves movies," explains the director. "He's young enough to still love movies. But we've still got to cast it and get the money but other than that, that's the deal."

Not a straight adaptation of Miguel De Cervantes' 17th Century Spanish classic, Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was originally set to star Johnny Depp as a time travelling advertising executive who teams up with delusional adventurer Don Quixote (Jean Rochefort) in 17th Century La Mancha. Then in 2010 it was planned that Ewan McGregor would be the suit, with Robert Duvall pointing his lance at the windmill. Whether that's still in the stars or whether we're looking at an altogether different cast is still unclear.

So how many Quixote casts has this film had now? "I'm hoping it's the lucky 11," he laughs. "We keep rewriting the script each time, too, so it's a slightly different film each time. It's the same film but the details change. Maybe it's better, it's certainly slightly smaller to fit into the new clothing we wear," he said, adding wryly: "Which are cheap clothes these days."

For Gilliam though, it's become more than just an itch that needs scratching. "It's obsessive... desperate... pathetic... foolish," laughs the director of his determination to make the film. "It's this growth, this tumour that's become part of my system that has to get out if I'm to survive."

"I've got the opera (the ENO's Benvenuto Cellini) to get out the way first and we start rehearsals in April. That's for June, and there's a week between the opera opening and Python rehearsals. And then we are at the moment starting shooting Quixote in the last week of September. If it's happening. Or not."

It's no exaggeration at this point to call Gilliam's a Quixotic vision, so his strangely resigned is nothing but appropriate. Here's hoping it turns out not to have been, in the end, an impossible dream. With a little long overdue luck, some handy financing and a fair wind, Gilliam will start shooting later this year.

In the meantime, The Zero Theorem is released in the UK on 14 March.

New Captain America: The Winter Soldier character one sheet arrives online

Marvel have just released their latest character one sheet for Anthony and Joe Russo's (Community) Captain America: The Winter Soldier, featuring Robert Redford's senior S.H.I.E.L.D. leader, Agent Alexander Pierce.

The Winter Soldier sees Chris Evans' shield wielding hero still struggling to embrace his role in the modern world, despite the events of The Avengers (2012). Here he teams up with fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow) to battle a powerful, shadowy enemy in Washington, D.C.

It's no spoiler that the shadowy enemy in question is none other than his resurrected friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who has been cybernetically altered to become the ultimate assassin, giving name to the sequels subtitle.

Along for the ride are Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) as the feathered Sam 'Falcon' Wilson, Frank Grillo (Zero Dark Thirty) as the gun-friendly Brock 'Crossbones' Rumlow and mixed martial artist Georges St-Pierre as the springy Baltroc The Leaper.

There has also been confirmation from Marvel that Hayley Atwell will be returning as Peggy Carter, though presumably this will be a flashback sequence, plus Toby Jones' Arnim Zola will also be returning, again presumably as a flashback. Joining the regulars are Emily VanCamp as Agent 13 (also known as Sharon Carter, a relative of Peggy's), Maximiliano Hernández as Agent Jasper Sitwell, Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, and of course, Samuel L. Jackson returning as S.H.I.E.L.D. head honcho, Nick Fury.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier starts off the summer blockbuster season early with a UK release on the 26 March, and US release to follow on 4 April.

Paul Bettany to play the Vision in Avengers sequel

He has provided the soothing, yet somewhat snarky voice of Tony Stark's helpful artificial intelligence Jarvis for years, but now it appears Paul Bettany is ready to step out of the recording booth and on to the screen for The Avengers: Age Of Ultron as android Avenger, the Vision.

Intriguingly, the Vision's origin story lies with big bad Ultron (to be played in the film by James Spader) who, given the teaser video shown at Comic Con, may well be linked to Stark and Jarvis as part of the plot. First appearing in the Avengers comic in 1968, the Vision is a colourfully skinned droid created by Ultron as a weapon to be used against Earth's Mightiest Heroes. But he overcame his programming, and ended up helping them. He even goes on to marry Scarlett Witch. How much of that origin will be filtered through Marvel's cinematic universe remains to be seen, but Bettany's casting would represent yet another fine addition to what is already a great cast.

Paul Bettany joins James Spader, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen (who will be Scarlet Witch), Thomas Kretschmann and Don Cheadle on the roster, and while there is an argument to be made that the cast is becoming overstuffed, writer and director Joss Whedon has more than earned the patience to see what he does with the talented types assembling. Shooting is scheduled to start next month, ready for a 1 May 2015 release.

In the meantime, Bettany will next be seen in Wally Pfister's Transcendence (due 25 April) and will reunite with that film's star, Johnny Depp, for Mortdecai. He's also directed his first film, Shelter, which is currently being shepherded through post-production.

New international one sheet for Noah arrives online

As the release date for Noah approaches, Biblical floods are beginning to feel less like cinema and more like daily reality for much of the UK. Still, assuming you still have power and aren't up to your knees in rainwater, Paramount Pictures have released their latest international one sheet for Darren Aronofsky's (Black Swan) watery epic.

Written by John Logan (Gladiator) and Aronofsky himself, this is not your traditional retelling of the age old bible story, but rather a radical reimagining, complete with giant angels known as Watchers.

But whilst it looks as though the promises of a weird twist on the Biblical story will be kept, it also looks like the film will deliver on the promise of epic action, as Noah prepares to defend his escape ship against those who would steal it.

Russell Crowe (Man Of Steel) plays the titular ark builder who is inspired by a dream of the Almighty to build the mighty big boat. Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamond) plays his supportive wife, Naameh, with Douglas Booth (Romeo And Juliet) and Logan Lerman (The Perks Of Being A Wallflower) as Noah's sons, Shem and Ham. We also have Anthony Hopkins (Thor) as his grandfather Methuselah and Emma Watson (The Bling Ring) as close friend and possible love interest of Booth's Shem.

Noah hits UK cinemas on 4 April.

Uncharted game set for screen adaption

Hollywood remains convinced that there will one day be a film, based on a video game, that isn't terrible – and with that eternal optimism in mind, has lined up Sony Playstation exclusive Uncharted: Drake's Fortune for a screen adaptation.

The story of the game sees adventurer Nate Drake, a descendant of Sir Francis, set out in search of the lost city of El Dorado, a clue to the whereabouts of which he believes he has discovered. The quest is further complicated by a rival treasure hunter, and the emergence of mutated descendants of Spaniards and Nazis.

Kyle Ward has been hired to write the script and has already worked on upcoming game adaptations Kane & Lynch and Hitman 2. Produced by Avi and Ari Arad (Iron Man), and Charles Roven (The Dark Knight), the film has yet to cast it's Drake.

As always, watch this space for more details.

Get ready to Fear Paris

Over the years we've seen several film anthologies set in major world cities and featuring romantic couples and complications, but romance shouldn't be the only subject to dominate cinema screens. Cue then some of the producers behind Paranormal Activity (2007) and Insidious (2010) are whipping up some location based terror, hiring Joe Dante (The Hole), Xavier Gens (Hitman) and Timo Vuorensola (Iron Sky) to work on segments of Fear Paris.

Horror anthologies, of course, are nothing new either – evidenced by the V/H/S and ABCs Of Death collections – but this geographical spin will let the three directors and two more colleagues loose in the City Of Lights with the brief to bring horror, science fiction and other genres to the underworld of France's capital.

No more details have been released about the contents of focus of their stories, but the various filmmakers are busy casting and is expected to shoot later this year. To give an idea of what the final product aims to deliver, a concept trailer was created and can be seen right here. It isn't embeddable, but as the image above proves it wouldn't be a Paris set horror unless it deconstructed one of the most famous French clichés, as the teaser shows three murderous mimes on a quest for... well, that would be telling, wouldn't it?

"Truly, the tales and songs fall utterly short of your enormity, O Smaug the Stupendous."

About an hour into the hugely entertaining middle slab of the Hobbit trilogy, having already tangled with hissing arachnids, a grisly skin-changing bear/man and numerous other perils, our posse of undersized heroes clamber into wooden casks and are thrown into what's not so much an action sequence as an unrelenting pile-up of lunatic, barrel based gags. As they rocket down river, pursued by elves and orcs (who are simultaneously waging war high in the branches above), oak cylinders fly at the camera, plunge down fizzing waterfalls and bounce off rocks to scatter servants of evil like skittles. As rousing and inventive as King Kong's (2005) triple Tyrannosaur face-off, this multi-million-dollar flume ride is – with apologies – barrels of fun. And to think that at this stage in the last film, the dwarves were still washing the dishes.

While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) had plenty of pastoral charm, it did, for a Middle-earth film, feel oddly inconsequential. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug remedies that. Moody, urgent and closer in tone to the Rings trilogy, it's a much more satisfying film. If anything, it dispenses with early events with something approaching impatience. Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), the aforementioned bear/man, is left behind before we've really had a chance to savour his peculiar brand of beastly intensity (though no doubt he'll be back for more claw slashing action in the Battle Of Five Armies), and the same goes for Mirkwood's hallucinatory boughs, which have the company tripping in a variety of inventive and amusing ways.

One of the problems with the former film was that it trod too closely in the footsteps of The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001). For example, it was difficult to share Bilbo's awe at entering Rivendell, given that we'd already been there 11 years before. Here, you can feel Jackson's relief at having entirely new worlds in which to play. The forest domain of the Silvan Elves has beauty edged with menace, plus it gives Lee Pace (great as the dagger eyed Thranduil) a striking elk horned throne. But the real standouts are Lake-town and Erebor, contrasting but equally stunning showcases of production design. The former, a fog shrouded, Dickensian burg that we're informed "stinks of fish oil and tar", is a new, pleasingly earthy flavour for Middle-earth. Like Edoras in The Two Towers (2002), it was largely built for real and bristles with detail. Kingdom under the mountain Erebor, on the other hand, is the kind of mad location that could only exist in the hard drives of Weta Digital, its centrepiece a vast glistening stash of Dwarven gold.

As Bilbo (a still perfect Martin Freeman) and company near their destination, the film gets increasingly busy, splitting the group in two and intercutting between those strands and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who's off poking around the ruins of Dol Guldur. That storyline still hasn't quite caught fire (it basically amounts to the wizard yelling at a giant evil ink blot), and it could be argued that more screentime might have been usefully given to the dwarves, who remain largely anonymous. Besides Thorin (Richard Armitage), whose facade of nobility is beginning to crumble, revealing baser motives beneath, the only one who gets much attention is Kili (Aidan Turner), vying with a returning Legolas (Orlando Bloom) for the attentions of auburn haired elf warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). As love triangles go, it's fairly mechanical – and might have been more dramatic were Kili not the one dwarf who looks most like an elf anyway – but Tauriel, a character created specifically for the film, fits seamlessly into the world and gets to execute several pleasingly brutal orc take outs.

Stephen Fry and Ryan Gage give good sleaze in their brief appearances as Lake-town's venal Master and his aide, Alfrid. Luke Evans is surprisingly Welsh as hero-in-waiting Bard The Bowman. But by far the standout new character is, predictably, the titular beast. Having recently played Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Benedict Cumberbatch now draws on Shere Khan from Disney's The Jungle Book (1967) for his performance (both voice and motion capture) as the blazing eyed, honey voiced, spike helmed "serpent of the north". We've seen many dragons on the big screen before, but certainly nothing with this much personality. Smaug is a startlingly well executed creation, toggling between arrogance, indolence and rage as he uses his wyrm-tongue to try and draw out Bilbo. And once he does, the film kicks into full throttle for an immense, half-hour finale that threatens to bring down the mountain itself.

With Jackson once more at the top of his game, Middle-earth has finally got its mojo back. A huge improvement on the previous instalment, this second outing takes our adventurers into uncharted territory and delivers spectacle by the ton.