Benedict Cumberbatch & Co. Work to Win the War in 1st Trailer for The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Turing, movie, photo, The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game – photo via KinoGallery

Undoubtedly, one of this year’s most anticipated films (and no, not just by me) is The Imitation Game in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the genius mathematician who helped devise the Nazi-code breaking Enigma Machine.

We finally have a first trailer, coming just as it is announced that the film will open the BFI London Film Festival in October. Appropriate to be sure, since judging from this trailer alone, the film will be a British acting master class.

While the trailer obviously focuses on the Enigma project and his team of crack code-breakers, it is no spoiler if I tell you that Turing’s “secret” is that he is homosexual, a “crime” for which he is persecuted (and prosecuted) by the laws and society he helped to save.

Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

The Imitation Game also stars Mark Strong, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Steven Waddington, Tuppence Middleton and Charles Dance. Graham Moore‘s screenplay topped the annual Black List (the list of the best un-produced Hollywood scripts) in 2011. Directed by Morten Tyldum (Headhunters), making his English-language debut,  Harvey and The Weinstein Company will release the film in the UK 14th November and in the US one week later on November 21, and it is already being given awards consideration.

Watch: Keira Knightley Plays Peter Pan in First Trailer for Laggies

Laggies, Lynn Shelton, Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, Chloe Grace Moretz, movie, poster

1st Teaser Poster for Lynn Shelton’s Laggies

Laggies bowed at Sundance to great critical acclaim, landing it on many lists of the most highly anticipated films of 2014. That was in January. This is July, and those of us who weren’t in Park City are finally getting a look at it.  (Insert joke about “lagging” behind here, but the original plan was for a May 9th release.)

The best thing about this 1st trailer  is that the perpetually underrated Sam Rockwell gets to be the sane AND charming one. How refreshing. Hopefully director Lynn Shelton (Your Sister’s Sister) has a few more less-than-obvious choices in store for the rest of the movie as well. Since this is Shelton’s first time directing a film that she didn’t write herself, instead working from a script by first-time scribe Andrea Seigel, my guess is there would have to be something special going on here, especially given the quirky material she usually does write for herself.

A woman stuck in permanent adolescence lies to her fiancé about going on a retreat and spends the time hanging out with friends instead.

Another thing I think we can tell from the trailer is that the brief synopsis above is a little misleading. Megan may have a case of “arrested development” but saying she’s “hanging out with friends” barely scratches the surface. More to the point, she’s hanging out with Annika’s (Chloe Grace Moretz) friends….and her father. I think I need to buy a ticket to this. I have got to see how Shelton turns that warped premise into what appears to be a sweet love story, especially since the original posters promised a much darker tone.

As for Megan herself, I like Keira Knightley. But I do have to say that I think first choice Rebecca Hall would have killed this. Poor Keira was actually Shelton’s third choice. While Hall turned the role of Megan down to do Transcendence with Johnny Depp – and really, the less said about that the better. She’s probably kicking herself enough for everyone – but second choice Anne Hathaway signed on then had to leave because shooting on both Song One and Interstellar went long. (At least, by all early accounts, Interstellar will have been worth it. ) I need to see more before I can tell if this is a departure for Knightley or merely an extension of Penny from Seeking a Friend For the End of the World.

We can find out when Laggies, which also stars Ellie Kemper, Gretchen Mol and Mark Webber, opens in the US on September 26 (if you believe Box Office Mojo and Deadline or October 24 if you believe the distributor A24 Films) and 3 October in the UK.

Watch: Benico Del Toro Foretells the Fall of Josh Hutcherson in Teaser for Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost, movie, poster, Benicio Del Toro, Pablo Escobar, Andrea DiStefano, Josh Hutcherson

1st poster for Paradise Lost featuring Benicio Del Toro

Benicio Del Toro, whom we will all see next month in Guardians of the Galaxy, has another little movie due out this year, one that will undoubtedly be coming to a festival near you (or not) in the fall, called Paradise Lost. Above is the first poster and down below is the first teaser trailer.

Del Toro plays the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar in the film written and directed by actor Andrea di Stefano, heretofore best known for roles in Life of Pi, Eat Pray Love and a long-running Italian tv series. Given that directors ranging from Oliver Stone to Joe Carnahan to Antoine Fuqua have wanted to bring Escobar to the big screen, I’m not sure what impressed producers enough to let this first time director have a crack at him.

The first poster is an extreme close up of Del Toro’s face, but the story centers on surfer Nick (Josh Hutcherson), who goes to Colombia to visit his brother and meets and falls in love with a girl named Maria. Trouble comes to Paradise when Nick discovers Maria’s uncle is Escobar and things get ugly. While it’s not strictly an Escobar biopic, he does figure prominently and the movie was reportedly inspired by true events.

Young surfer Nick thinks all his dreams have come true when he goes to visit his brother in Colombia. Against an idyllic backdrop of blue lagoons and white beaches he falls madly in love with a beautiful Colombian girl called Maria. It all seems perfect until he meets her uncle, one Pablo Escobar.

The film’s title obviously harkens back to Milton’s poem, which, in a nut shell, is about the devil’s temptation of Adam and Eve and the fall of Man (so don’t confuse it with the HBO documentary about the “Memphis 3″ or the metal band). The name Pablo Escobar is nearly synonymous with evil and clearly represents Satan, so Nick and Maria could be stand-ins for Adam and Eve…I guess.

This is just the first tiny bit of footage, but tasty and tantalizing footage it is. A true “teaser”. Paradise Lost, which has been described as a romantic thriller, also stars Brady Corbet, Carlos Bardem, Ana Girardot and Claudia Traisac as Maria. It opens in France and Spain in November, but as of this writing there are no US or UK dates. I expect that will change in the near future. (After TIFF perhaps? JMHO).

What do you think? Has this teaser whetted your appetite a film featuring a completely non-Peeta Josh Hutcherson? How about Benicio Del Toro’s Savages character on steroids?

Tom Hardy Has Some Good News and Some Bad News

Noomi Rapace, Tom Hardy, Daniel Espinosa, movie, phto,  Child 44

Noomi Rapace and Tom Hardy in Daniel Espinosa’s Child 44

So, which do you want first?

The good news: Summit has finally set a release date for the Sir Ridley Scott-produced, Daniel Espinosa-directed, Child 44.

The bad news: It won’t be until next year…April 17, 2015 to be exact. While some of us have been looking for a release date at the end of 2014 and so were eagerly awaiting a trailer, the pushed-back date means that that is further off as well.

Child 44, you’ll remember, is based on Tom Robb Smith’s novel of the same name. Set in Stalinist Russia, it’s the tale of Leo Demidov, a senior member of the secret police (Tom Hardy), who is framed for treason by a colleague (Joel Kinnaman) and exiled to a remote outpost, where he unearths a series of mysterious murders and vows to catch the elusive killer, despite powerful members of the government who wish to silence him.

Gary Oldman is Timur Nesterov, and Noomi Rapace is Leo’s wife Raisa. The rest of the cast includes Jason Clarke, Vincent Cassel (who replaced Philip Seymour Hoffman, who pulled out shortly after filming began), Paddy Considine, Dev Patel, Sam Spruell, and Fares Fares.

So what does the release date mean in terms of the film itself? A berth at the end of 2014 would have meant the producers saw awards season potential. Does an April opening mean there is none?

Not necessarily; not any more. April is by no means the box office Siberia of January or February. April has become fertile territory for “adult-themed” drama, particularly of the “independent” variety; a “last hurrah” of sorts before the arrival of the spring/summer blockbusters. April 2014 alone saw the release of Under the Skin, Only Lovers Left Alive, Locke, and Joe, among many others. Last year saw Trance, Upstream Color, The Company You Keep, 42 and Mud. (This last certainly deserved more attention than it got, but was overshadowed by the Best Actor campaign for Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. For my money, his supporting turn in Mud was better – no small accomplishment.)

Add to this the undeniable awards possibilities (as well as box office success) of 2014 MARCH release, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and we have not only some evidence that the game might be changing, but reason to be hopeful about the potential of Child 44. Not only that, but a movie can be deemed good, even great, without being considered “Oscar-bait”. It will also be interesting to see whether or not this makes it to any of the fall film festivals this year.

In any case, our wait to find out just got a little longer. Having read Smith’s book, I’ve been waiting with bated breath since the film was announced. I may turn blue and pass out before next April, but I’ll live. I can’t think of a thing that would prevent me from seeing Child 44, regardless of when it’s released.

Which brings me to more good news and the probable reason for the move to next year: It will have little competition on that date. I don’t see Summit’s mystery-thriller sharing much of an audience with Sony’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Focus Features’ sci-fi body-switching saga, Selfless (with Ryan Reynolds, star of Espinosa’s English-language debut, Safe House, just as Kinnaman is the star of Espinosa’s best known Swedish film,Snabba Cash aka Easy Money. See, we are all connected.) or the Disney documentary, Monkey Kingdom. (The following week, Avengers: Age of Ultron will blow away any and all competition, but then again, Child 44 would also make a good alternative when the former is sold-out.)

Oh, and to end on a high note, I have a couple of stills and production photos from Child 44 to share.

So, what are your thoughts on the subject? Willing to wait until next April or will you have lost interest by then? Did you have any to begin with? Feel free to share in the comments.

Watch: Angelina Jolie Enters the Oscar Race with First Trailer for Unbroken

movie, photo, Jack O'Connell, Angelina Jolie, Louis Zamperini, Unbroken

Jack O’Connell as Louis Zamperini in Unbroken

I first heard the name Louis Zamperini when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Red Sox-Cubs game at Fenway Park in Boston on May 22, 2011, but if you aren’t now familiar with the name of this Olympian/solider/POW/preacher/author, you soon will be.

The first full-length trailer for Angelina Jolie’s sophomore directorial effort, Unbroken, dropped on Thursday with a big splash. So big, that on this basis of this one trailer, many have already decided that the film is the first nearly certain entry in the Oscar race. (I would dispute that, if only because I think Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel had that honor.)

Unbroken is the story of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II. It’s based on a 2010 biography called “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” , (which in turn was based on Zamperini’s own autobiography, “Devil at My Heels” ) by Laura “Seabiscuit” Hillenbrand. It was a #1 New York Times bestseller, as well as being named Time Magazine’s best nonfiction book of the year.

The movie begins with Zamperini as a teenage track and field star who made it to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, even shaking Hitler’s hand, and then, with the outbreak of WWII, in the US military. Zamperini’s plane was shot down over the Pacific and he and the other survivors drifted for nearly 50 days before being captured by the Japanese. He spent the next two years being brutally tortured as a prisoner of war. Eventually he made it back to the US to became a born-again Christian who preached forgiveness for the rest of his life.

Universal, the studio releasing Unbroken, first purchased the rights to Zamperini’s story in 1957, planning to develop it for Tony Curtis. Some years later, Nicolas Cage expressed an interest. The project finally got the green light after Hillenbrand’s 2010 book became a best-seller.

Though he died earlier this month at 97, with the film, Zamperini’s story will continue to reach new generations. It has obviously gotten the full Hollywood hero treatment, including a screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen (who rewrote a script by Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson).

Irish actor Jack O’Connell, who terrorized Michael Caine in Harry Brown and Michael Fassbender in Eden Lake, but is probably best known to anyone who saw 300: Rise of An Empire, stars as the Italian-American Zamperini. Again, if you’re not familiar with his name, you soon will be, especially once Starred Up gets a proper run this side of the Atlantic, at the end of August.

Academy Award® winner Angelina Jolie directs and produces Unbroken, an epic drama that follows the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) who, along with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII—only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s (“Seabiscuit: An American Legend”) enormously popular book, Unbroken brings to the big screen Zamperini’s unbelievable and inspiring true story about the resilient power of the human spirit.

Unbroken also stars Domhnall Gleason, Garrett Headlund, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway, and Morgan Griffin as Cynthia Applewhite, to whom Louis was married from 1946 until her death in 2001. The trailer looks both slick and polished as well as gritty and realistic. The music is by Alexandre Desplat and cinematography by the great Roger Deakins. All of which would seem to add up to perfect Oscar bait. (Maybe Deakins will finally catch one.)  We’ll see when Unbroken opens in the US on Christmas Day and a day later in the UK on December 26, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it popped up out of competition at a festival like Venice or even New York. JMHO.

Christian Bale Has Come to Warn Joel Edgerton in 1st Trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings!

Exodus: Gods and Kings, movie, poster, Sir Ridley Scott, Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton

Poster #1 for Exodus: Gods and Kings

There have been a number of Bible-inspired films this year, most of them Christian themed. The two “blockbusters”, and the ones with any hope for post-season glory however, take their inspiration from the Old Testament: Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and now Sir Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings.
In true Hollywood twist, Aronofsky originally wanted Christian Bale to play the title role in Noah, but Bale had to decline due to scheduling conflicts. As we know, Russell Crowe, a frequent Ridley Scott collaborator, got that part and Bale was cast as Moses, in this Scott’s own biblical epic.
Ramses II is played by Joel Edgerton after Oscar Isaac (swiftly becoming a Sir Ridley regular) and Javier Bardem reportedly turned down the role.

As usual, I digress. 20th Century Fox has revealed three new posters for, starring Bale, Edgerton, Aaron Paul, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Indira Varma, Ben Mendelsohn, Golshifteh Farahani and Ben Kingsley. You can see the other two, as well as a few stills from the film, below.
Even more exciting, however, is the release of the first teaser trailer! The movie itself doesn’t come out until December, so this is but our first taste. Still, it’s a good one!

No disrespect to Mr. Aronofsky intended, but this is how I like my biblical epics – grand and glorious, not grubby with hyper-realistic dirt. THIS looks positively Cecil B. DeMille-esque!

Scott started this century by breathing new life into the tired swords and sandals genre with Gladiator, and then brought us a quasi-religious/historical action film with Kingdom of Heaven. The latter squandered the promise of a great story and (mostly) terrific cast and was hamstrung by a weak lead (I don’t think Orlando Bloom will be joining Scott’s merry band of players again soon), but the director seems to be back on form here. The clash between Moses and Ramses as played by Bale and Edgerton should be epic in the truest sense. (Not for nothin’ but does that battle charge across the sand remind anyone else of the final clash in Scott’s Robin Hood?)

Ridley Scott tackles the Biblical epic story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the Sinai desert and eventually to their Promised Land

With a script by the great Steve Zallian (Schindler’s List), along with Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (the pair responsible for the script for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed), Exodus: Gods and Kings opens in the US on December 12. Prime awards season turf, as well as just before the start of Hanukkah. It opens on Boxing Day, 26th December, in the UK.

Watch This Very Cool New Extended Trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy!

 Marvel, movie,  poster, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista,  Guardians of the Galaxy

One sheet for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Last night, July 7, Marvel and Disney gave people in select markets the opportunity to see 17 min. of footage from Guardians of the Galaxy, in IMAX 3D no less, but I passed. When I received the ticket for the sneak peek, I, along with most of the other people who got one, believed it was an advance screening of the movie and not just a clip. Even those that understood the difference were convinced the studio would surprise audiences with the entire film. This misconception was cleared up yesterday by director James Gunn, who insisted in no uncertain terms, that Marvel will not be screening the movie ahead of time. (This has already been disputed by several sources who claim they have already received word of such advance screenings). To make a long story short(ish), standing in line for two hours to see 17 minutes of footage for a movie that will be released in less than a month was just not my idea of a good time.

As a consolation prize, for all interested parties who couldn’t or wouldn’t go out to the theater last night, Fandango has issued a new extended trailer, one that really does have new footage in it. Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) gathers together the “Guardians of the Galaxy” and attempts to motivate them to save the universe. Rocket just laughs.
Here you go (with thanks to Movieclips):

I have two takeaways from this clip:
1. I hope that the movie itself makes use of the classic rock that has been so effective under the many versions of the trailers. (eg: Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”, The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb”)
2. MILD SPOILER: I wish I did not know that Rocket Raccoon’s movements belong to the director’s brother, actor Sean Gunn, who performed a la Andy Serkis, in the motion capture suit, and not to Bradley Cooper who provides Rocket’s voice. Hopefully this knowledge won’t take me out of the movie the way it did this trailer. (If I’ve ruined anything for you, I apologize)

In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.

Here’s some trivia: Joel Edgerton, Eddie Redmayne, Jensen Ackles, Lee Pace, Wes Bentley, Jack Huston, Cam Gigandet, Sullivan Stapleton, Logan Marshall-Green, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Lowell, James Marsden, Jim Sturgess, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aaron Paul, Michael Rosenbaum, Glenn Howerton and John Krasinski all auditioned and screen tested for the role of Peter Quill/Star Lord. Director James Gunn, however, has revealed that Chris Pratt’s audition was so good, he was prepared to offer him the role even if Pratt could not get in shape in time, joking that he was willing to CGI a six pack on Pratt’s body. This wasn’t necessary, as we know, since Pratt ended up losing 60 pounds and becoming completely shredded.
Guardians of the Galaxy, which also stars Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Djimon Hounsou, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Benicio Del Torro, Glenn Close, Laura Haddock, John C. Reilly, Karen Gillan and Josh Brolin, opens over most of planet Earth on either July 31 or August 1, depending on where you are with reference to the international dateline, I guess.