A Moment In History

The History of Film: Part 4 - The Sound Era

In this four part series, The History of Film, we have already looked at early film, however, up till now we have missed one giant element of any movie, sound.

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Jan 25

Steven Spielberg's New Film, 'The Turning,' Is a Modern Retelling of This 19th-Century Classic Horror Story

by Robert Yaniz Jr.

Everyone knows the summer months and holiday season are typically when studios release their biggest blockbusters. Likewise, January tends to be when Hollywood unleashes the movies it has the least amount of confidence in. From half-baked dramas to cheap, derivative thrillers, this is far from prime time for moviegoers.

Horror movies, in particular, are frequently released early in the year. After all, the genre carries a loyal, built-in audience and less demanding budgetary needs. So horror is an easy option for studios looking to fill up calendar space or shed some dead weight. Then again, most January horror films don't have the pedigree of The Turning, a film with a surprising origin story.

Some moviegoers may write The Turning off as just another horror film. But the movie actually has a lot of talent involved. First of all, Steven Spielberg serves as an executive producer. The Oscar-winning filmmaker has produced a ton of classic films over the years but has rarely dipped into straight-up horror. Notably, he did produce and write 1982's Poltergeist.

The Turning - directed by Floria Sigismondi - follows a nanny (MacKenzie Davis) entrusted to care for two orphans (Brooklyn Prince and Finn Wolfhard) at a mysterious house. Naturally, she discovers neither the kids nor their home is what it seems.

Davis has delivered a string of solid performances in films such as Blade Runner 2049, Tully, and Terminator: Dark Fate. Meanwhile, Wolfhard brings the horror-friendly audience of Stranger Things to the film. Prince, for her part, has only a few credits to her name, including a breakout lead performance in Oscar-nominated drama The Florida Project.

But The Turning has more than just its talented gift and the guiding hand of one of the greatest living filmmakers on its side. The film is also based on a famous literary work, one many moviegoers may be familiar with. Sigismondi's film is actually a modern update of Henry James' 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw.

See the trailer here:

Continue Reading at: Showbiz Cheatsheet

Jan 24

'Irresistible' Trailer: Steve Carell and Rose Byrne Go Head to Head in Jon Stewart's Political Satire

by Ryan Lattanzio

Political maverick and former talk-show host turned filmmaker Jon Stewart is returning to the director's chair for the first time since 2014's "Rosewater" with "Irresistible," a political satire starring Steve Carell, Chris Cooper, and Rose Byrne. It's Stewart's first stab at an outright comedy film, and he also wrote the film. Below, Focus Features has dropped the film's first trailer ahead of a high-profile summer release date of May 29, 2020 - Memorial Day Weekend.

The film stars Carell as a successful Democratic strategist who, after discovering a video of a retired marine colonel, played by Chris Cooper, pledging support for the rights of his local townsfolk's undocumented workers, is convinced he's found a way into the right-wing-skewing Heartland. But he's soon pitted against Faith (aptly named and played by Rose Byrne), who's dispatched by the Republicans to challenge Gary (Carell) in a race that spirals out of control and into high-stakes hilarity. The movie also stars Topher Grace, Debra Messing, Natasha Lyonne, Mackenzie Davis, CJ Wilson, and Will Sasso.

Check out the trailer:

Continue Reading at: Indiewire

Jan 23

Bill Murray will return as Peter Venkman in 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife'

by Bryan Alexander

Bill Murray is not letting his Pete Venkman leave his Ghostbusters team shorthanded in "Ghostbusters: Afterlife."

Murray will return as team leader Venkman, joining Dan Aykroyd's Ray Stantz and Ernie Hudson's Winston Zeddemore, in the reboot directed and co-written by Jason Reitman.

Murray explains to Vanity Fair that the return is due to the fact that the fourth original Ghostbuster, Harold Ramis, who co-wrote and starred as Dr. Egon Spengler in the 1984 original, died in 2014.

"Well, we are a man down. That’s the deal,” Murray said. “And that’s the story that we’re telling, that’s the story they’ve written.”

All three returned for the all-female 2016 "Ghostbusters," appearing as different characters.

Filmmakers are keeping mum on the extent of the return roles, described as "meaningful." But the characters are not the film's central heroes.

Check out the official trailer for "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" here:

Continue Reading at: USA Today

Jan 21

'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' Is Now the Worst-Reviewed 'Star Wars' Movie

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in a scene from "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" (image courtesy Disney / Lucasfilm)
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by Matt Goldberg

Expectations for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker were pretty high. The film was set to close out the Skywalker Saga, but the conclusion to the story didn't sit too well with critics. Now, the final Rotten Tomatoes tally has come in, and it looks like The Rise of Skywalker is the worst-reviewed Star Wars movie ever, sitting at 52%, one percent lower than Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Does this mean that The Rise of Skywalker is objectively the worst Star Wars movie? Of course not. Art doesn't work that way. If you liked The Rise of Skywalker, then the Rotten Tomatoes score shouldn't do anything to change that. All Rotten Tomatoes does is try to put together a score based on critical consensus. And even this score is admittedly flawed since it reduces everything to a "fresh"/"rotten" binary so a film with a "C" rating is just as rotten as a film with an "F" rating.

Nevertheless, it's clear that word-of-mouth on Rise of Skywalker was also lukewarm. while it only took 12 days for The Force Awakens to cross $1 billion worldwide and 19 days for The Last Jedi to hit that mark, it took 26 days for The Rise of Skywalker make it to $1 billion.

These tepid reactions should give Disney pause on how they wish to proceed with the Star Wars saga. Letting the franchise cool for a bit seems like a prudent decision with the next Star Wars movie not due out until 2022. In the meantime, the brand will stay alive with the fan-service provided by The Mandalorian, but in terms of telling new stories, Disney needs to start thinking about whether there's room to take chances with Star Wars or if they only want to play to the faithful.

Continue Reading at: Collider

Jan 20

SAG and PGA Awards 2020: What the 'Parasite' and '1917' Wins Mean for a Tight Oscar Race

by Anne Thompson

With a surprise "Parasite" win for Cast in a Motion Picture, the SAG Awards forecast a dramatic and possibly historic race for the Best Picture Oscar.

Last year, "Black Panther" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" picked up momentum after key SAG Awards wins, while "Vice" and "A Star Is Born" lost it. This year, after their charming and make-nice speeches, the four SAG film acting winners, Joaquin Phoenix ("Joker"), Renee Zellweger ("Judy"), Laura Dern ("Marriage Story") and Brad Pitt ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood") are on a straight course to win on Oscar night.

Other frontrunners are also starting to become clear as various guild votes come in. But winning your Oscar poll will not be easy thanks to the preferential ballot and a rapidly changing membership. The 120,000 SAG-AFTRA voters, who tend to be more mainstream than the Academy, enthusiastically backed "Parasite." The die was cast early in the evening, when the cast led by a grinning Song Kang Ho took the stage to introduce their film - and were met with a standing ovation. So when they won the top prize at the end of the night as the crowd cheered on their feet, Oscar watchers started to ask if the same could repeat February 9.

Goodwill and excitement around the movie is palpable. People who fight bitterly over Todd Phillips' "Joker" (which leads the Oscar field with 11 nominations and may have to settle for wins for Actor and Score) and three movies with 10 nods each - Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman" (which could wind up with nothing), Sam Mendes' one-shot tech feat "1917," and Quentin Tarantino's elegiac show business fable "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" - are cheering every "Parasite" win.

Click the Continue Reading at link to see the rest of this story and Anne Thompson thoughts on other Oscar contenders such as "1917".

Continue Reading at: Indiewire

Jan 19

Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Zooms to $68M, 'Dolittle' Bombs With $30M

A still from new release "Bad Boys For LIfe" (image courtesy Ben Rothstein / Sony)
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by Pamela McClintock

While one Hollywood reboot successfully restarted a film franchise at the weekend box office, moviegoers banished the other to pasture.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence' Bad Boys for Life - opening 17 years after the last installment in their franchise hit the big screen - zoomed to an estimated $68.1 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, including $59.2 million for the three days. The film's release marks the second-best showing ever for the holiday, and Sony's biggest R-rated opening.

The action comedy also wowed overseas, where it laughed to $37.3 million from 39 markets for a global debut of $107.3 million.

Bad Boys 3 continues the studio's winning streak following Jumanji: The Next Level and Oscar contenders Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Little Women. And there's already movement on Bad Boys 4.
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Bad Boys 3 - which has a shot at grossing well north of $160 million domestically by the end of its run - is a needed win for Smith, who is among the movie's producers, following big-budget miss Gemini Man.

One of the world's other major movie stars, Robert Downey Jr., didn't have such a good weekend as Universal's Dolittle wasn't so fortunate at the box office.

The big-budget pic, starring Downey in his first post-Iron Man role, is bombing in its U.S. debut with an estimated four-day debut of $30 million, including $22.5 million for the three days.

At this rate, the family movie could lose tens of millions for Universal unless it performs well internationally. So far overseas, Dolittle has earned $30.3 million from its first raft of territories for a projected global total of $57 million through Sunday, but it has yet to open in most major markets (the only two so far are South Korea and Australia).

Continue Reading at: The Hollywood Reporter

Jan 17

Disney Drops Fox Name, Will Rebrand as 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures

New Searchlight Pictures logo (courtesy Searchlight Pictures / Disney)
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by Adam B. Vary

The mouse has officially killed the fox.

In a move at once unsurprising and highly symbolic, the Walt Disney Company is dropping the "Fox" brand from the 21st Century Fox assets it acquired last March, Variety has learned. The 20th Century Fox film studio will become 20th Century Studios, and Fox Searchlight Pictures will become simply Searchlight Pictures.

On the TV side, however, no final decisions have been made about adjusting the monikers of production units 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios. Discussions about a possible name change are underway, but no consensus has emerged, according to a source close to the situation.

Disney has already started the process to phase out the Fox name: Email addresses have changed for Searchlight staffers, with the fox.com address replaced with a searchlightpictures.com address. On the poster for Searchlight's next film "Downhill," with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, the credits begin with "Searchlight Pictures Presents." The film will be the first Searchlight release to debut with the new logo. "Call of the Wild," an upcoming family film, will be released under the 20th Century banner, sans Fox.

Those logos won't be dramatically altered, just updated. The most notable change is that the word "Fox" has been removed from the logo marks. Otherwise, the signature elements - swirling klieg lights, monolith, triumphal fanfare - will remain the same.

Continue Reading at: Variety

Jan 15

The Rise of Skywalker is proof that Star Wars needs to reinvent itself

by Chaim Gartenberg

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has officially crossed $1 billion at the box office worldwide, making it Disney's seventh film in 2019 to hit the 10-figure mark, via Variety. But The Rise of Skywalker has taken longer than its predecessors to hit $1 billion, the latest indication that the ninth Star Wars film just isn't doing very well at the box office compared to the other sequels.

For nearly any other film, hitting $1 billion at the box office in four weeks would be something to celebrate. But The Rise of Skywalker is a Star Wars film, as well as the closing piece of the resurrected sequel trilogy. It's taken Rise of Skywalker 28 days to cross the $1 billion mark, when The Force Awakens hit that same mark in 12 days and The Last Jedi in 19.

There are any number of factors that likely contributed to The Rise of Skywalker underperforming: fatigue from an oversaturation of Star Wars films in the marketplace, or lingering malcontent over the controversial choices made by The Last Jedi. But it's impossible to ignore that most people thought The Rise of Skywalker just wasn’t very good.
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So the future of Star Wars (for now) lies in smaller shows like The Mandalorian, which just concluded its well-received first season on Disney's new Disney+ streaming service. A second season is already in the works, as are two other live-action series based on Rogue One's Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the prequel trilogy's iteration of a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi played once again by Ewan McGregor.

Star Wars will return to the big screen at some point - as The Rise of Skywalker shows, even poorly received Star Wars films are still (usually) billion-dollar blockbusters. But with the lore-heavy Skywalker Saga concluded, it's likely that the next phase of Star Wars will look a little more like Marvel or The Fast and the Furious films, emphasizing more standalone, bite-sized adventures that don't have all the baggage of past films attached.

Continue Reading at: The Verge

Jan 14

New Black Widow trailer brings Natasha Romanoff home to face a new enemy

A new trailer for Marvel Studios' Black Widow finally properly introduces Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff to a fresh Marvel Cinematic Universe villain: Taskmaster, a trained mercenary.

Although his big fight is mostly teased at the end of the trailer, it's clear that he's a formidable opponent. Much of the footage seen in the new trailer was first shown at Disney's biennial fan convention, D23.

Taskmaster sometimes plays more of an antihero role in Marvel Comics, and he's known for his ability to mimic the physical capabilities of anyone he's fighting. The Taskmaster first appeared in Avengers #195 in May 1980.

The trailer also teases a reunion between other characters from Natasha's past, including Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova. Belova becomes the second Black Widow in the comics series, and is referred to as Romanoff's sister in the trailer. David Harbour plays Red Guardian, a Soviet equivalent of Captain America. He's seen interacting in the trailer with Romanoff, Belova, and others whom he refers to as his family.

Check out the new trailer here:

Continue Reading at: The Verge

Jan 13

Oscars: Women Shut Out for Best Director

by Katherine Schaffstall

Women are once again left out in the best director category for the 2020 Oscars.

Bong Joon Ho for Parasite, Sam Mendes for 1917, Todd Phillips for Joker, Martin Scorsese for The Irishman and Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood will compete in the best director category.

"Congratulations to those men," presenter Issa Rae said after reading the nominees.

For the 2020 ceremony, Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers) and Alma Har'el (Honey Boy) were all notably left out.

If Gerwig had been nominated, the nod in the category would have solidified her as the first woman to be nominated for directing twice. She was previously up in the category in 2018 for Lady Bird. Additionally, Wang would have become the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated.

Only five women had been nominated for the directing Oscar: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and Gerwig. In 2010, Bigelow became the first and only female director to win in the category.

The nomination announcement follows recent criticism of the Golden Globes for excluding women in the directing category. Two years ago, Golden Globes presenter Natalie Portman took a jab on live TV at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association when she announced, "Here are the all-male nominees" for director. The trend of missing female directors continued at the Golden Globes when women continued to not be honored in the category.

After Portman called out the all-male nominees at the 2018 Golden Globes, Gerwig was nominated for the best director category for Lady Bird at the Oscars. Despite the criticism following the 2020 Golden Globes and the Director Guild of America Awards for their male-dominated best director categories, Gerwig and other female directors were still left out at the 2020 Oscars.

Continue Reading at: The Hollywood Reporter

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