Watch #JasonSegel and #JesseEisenberg Have a Great Conversation in #TheEndoftheTour

poster, movie, The End of the Tour, David Foster Wallace, Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, James Ponsoldt

The first trailer for Sundance favorite, The End of the Tour, directed by James Ponsoldt and starring Jason Segel as the late David Foster Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as his erstwhile biographer (actually he’s a writer for Rolling Stone), has just been dropped by A24.
Let me start by reiterating that I am not a huge fan of Jesse Eisenberg. Anything past Zombieland, when I wasn’t all that familiar with him, including The Social Network and Now You See Me, all I ever see is Jesse Eisenberg. While it might be difficult for the actor to portray himself onscreen, and that might account for the kudos usually showered upon his performances, I never see a “character”. I never forget who I’m watching.
That out of the way, let me just say that I’ve been a Jason Segel fan since “Freaks and Geeks”. While I still mourn that show’s untimely demise (yes, fifteen years later), I take comfort in the fact that nearly every member of the cast has gone on to bigger and better things. Many of whom are even household names. (Poor Samm Levine. Quentin Tarantino put him in Inglourious Basterds, but I don’t think I’ve seen him since. Apparently, he’s done a lot of television *shrug*.)
These days Segel is probably best known for seven seasons of “How I Met Your Mother”, as well as comedic turns in Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You Man (all having at least a little something to do with Judd Apatow) and The Muppets.
Stretching toward “dramedy” in 2011, Segel did Jeff Who Lives at Home for the Duplass brothers. (It costars Ed Helms, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon. It’s on Netflix. See it, if you haven’t) He co-wrote, co-produced (along with Apatow, among others) and starred in 2012’s The Five Year Engagement, with Emily Blunt. The cast also included Chris Pratt, Alison Brie and Jacki Weaver, and by all rights should have done better at the box office. The film’s release was delayed a number of times for various reasons, but I have to believe that not knowing which box it fit into and therefore the ability to sell it, is chief among them.
My point is that it’s not really a surprise that Segel is venturing into more serious territory. His contemporaries, most of which are also in the “Apatow Reperatory Company”, have certainly paved the way. (Sitting in the dark watching Superbad, who in their right mind would ever have predicted that Jonah Hill would now be known as a “two-time Academy Award nominee”? Insanity!)
Those who have already seen The End of the Tour, primarily at Sundance, have already put his name together with the phrase, “Best Actor contender”. Take a look:

While the movie is not about his death, knowing that Wallace committed suicide in 2008 makes all of this all the more poignant.

THE END OF THE TOUR tells the story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter (and novelist) David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, Infinite Jest. As the days go on, a tenuous yet intense relationship seems to develop between journalist and subject. The two men bob and weave around each other, sharing laughs and also possibly revealing hidden frailties – but it’s never clear how truthful they are being with each other. Ironically, the interview was never published, and five days of audio tapes were packed away in Lipsky’s closet. The two men did not meet again. The film is based on Lipsky’s critically acclaimed memoir about this unforgettable encounter, written following Wallace’s 2008 suicide. Both Segel and Eisenberg reveal great depths of emotion in their performances and the film is directed with humor and tenderness by Sundance vet James Ponsoldt from Pulitzer- Prize winner Donald Margulies’ insightful and heartbreaking screenplay.

The End of the Tour is director James Ponsoldt’s fourth feature film and is being hailed as his best to date.(I admit that while I loved Smashed from 2012, which showed Aaron Paul was much more than Jesse Pinkman, I have yet to see 2013’s, The Spectacular Now [which launched Miles Teller], or his first film, Off the Black, from 2006.) It’s been playing film festivals non-stop since January. (Including the Boston Independent Film Festival in April. Sadly, I missed it.)
The cast also includes Anna Chlumsky, Mamie Gummer, Ron Livingston, Mickey Sumner and Joan Cusack. The film will get a (limited) release in the US on July 31. We can hope that also means a VoD release of some sort as well.

Watch the Brilliant First Clips from #Macbeth with #MichaelFassbender!

Macbeth, Michael Fassbender, movie, poster, Marion Cotillard, Justin Kurzel, Shakespeare, Scottish play

Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth will have its (eagerly awaited) world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow (May 23), as the final film in the main competition. (Bit of trivia. While it’s the third* film version of Shakespeare’s play to appear in Cannes, it is  the first to screen in competition.)

To celebrate, StudioCanal has just released two clips. At the risk of appearing to be a Fassbender fan site (since my last post was also about a Fassy film. What can I say, he’s about to have a HUGE year), I have to share them. Sweet baby jeebus, please let the rest of this film look as good as these tiny snippets!

The first clip, the appropriately titled “Battle” shows Michael Fassbender as Macbeth, with his friend and ally, Banquo (Paddy Considine) on one side and Jack Reynor as Malcolm on the other, as they prepare to fight in service of their king, Duncan (played by David Thewlis).

The mist shrouded Scottish Highlands are certainly used to good effect. The clip also reminds us that in those days, if you were tall enough to hold a sword, you were old enough to fight, as there seem to be a lot of teenage boys in the mix. As for the style, personally I can’t wait to see more. I like Kurzel’s choice to intercut the adreneline fueled, angry rush of one fighting force toward the other, with a silent, slow-motion, almost balletic clash. A battle scene shot like that (which, granted has been used poorly in less subtle ways since Zack Snyder made it popular with 300. I don’t anticipate cartoonish splatters of blood to fill the screen) makes the fight more personal, the combatants rendered individually rather than an angry, noisy clash of swords and bodies, where it’s impossible to tell who’s doing what to whom.

Speaking of 300, is it just me or is Fassbender’s leap an Easter Egg for fans who remember Stelios’ athleticism?

Stelios, 300, Michael Fassbender, Macbeth, photo, athleticism

The second clip, “Coronation” gives us a brief glimpse of the gorgeous (even under a veil) Marion Cotillard as Lady M, Sean Harris as Macduff and Elizabeth Debicki as his lady:

Even in that brief look, it’s clearly evident that the Macduffs are not happy with the precedings. But the biggest take-away for me is that stunning opening shot to this clip. I have rewatched it several times now and I’m just in awe of the way Kurzel and his director of photography, Adam Arkapaw (who worked with the director on The Snowtown Murders**), used the rays of the sun streaming through the cathedral windows to such great effect. They create a cross-hatch pattern that naturally blurs the background which makes the figures surrounding the throne stand-out in bas relief, despite the fact that they are in shadow.

Both of these snippets are short, but full of foreboding, the tension high, especially in the latter.

Macbeth, a duke of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

Macbeth will get a UK release on October 2 (which curiously predates the opening of the BFI London Film Festival by five days. This seems like a natural choice. Oh well. No one asked me.). No US dates announced yet, but Harvey Weinstein won a bidding war for the rights and he’s already said he’s positioning it for an awards season push. Expect it in November or December.

*after 1971’s version directed by Roman Polanski and director Claude d’Anna‘s French version in 1987.

**The Snowtown Murders is on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

There’s More to Life Than Just Surviving in New UK Trailer for #SlowWest w #MichaelFassbender

Slow West, movie, poster, trailer, Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, John Maclean

This new trailer, just released to flog the UK release of first-feature director John Maclean‘s Slow West, is a lot more revealing, despite its short length, than the domestic version we got last month.

This time around we get Michael Fassbender‘s voice-over, as well as a better look at Ben Mendelsohn (always a good thing) and a brief glimpse of Rory McCann.

The story is a sort of Old West Romeo and Juliet/classic western mashup that sees Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Jay Cavendish travel to the American west of the late 19th century from his native Scotland, all to find the girl he loves (Caren Pistorius), whose father (McCann) has spirited her away. Of course, Cavendish is the proverbial fish out of water, stranger in a strange land, take your pick, in need of his own rescue. Enter Silas (Fassbender – who also produced, and developed the script with Maclean), who becomes his mysterious “chaperone”.

Ben Mendelsohn, doing one of the things he does so very well, is the villain of the piece. (Or at least one of them. Maybe the one who fits most squarely into that box.)

Far from giving everything away, the trailer gives us just enough new material to keep not only keep our interest piqued, but makes us eager for more. Fassbender’s performance has been compared to Clint Eastwood (of whom he’s a huge fan) as well as Burt Lancaster, both favorably I might add. Not sure I see either of those two, yet, but I can’t wait to judge for myself. A24 will release Slow West, which premiered in January at Sundance, in the US this coming Friday, May 15 (limited) and on 26th June in the UK.

Watch: #ChanningTatum and The Boys are Back to the Grind in #MagicMikeXXL Trailer

Magic Mike XXL Poster

The success of 2012’s Magic Mike (yes, it really has been three years) virtually guaranteed that a sequel would be made, whether anyone wanted it or not. I’m thinking that the same audiences that made the first one such a surprise hit, are gonna want to get in on this action as well.
What’s not to like? Most of the same ingredients have been reassembled, namely Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez and Kevin Nash, plus a few tweaks have been made that at first blush would appear to be for the better. One, no Alex Pettyfer. Thank you, sweet baby jeebus. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I’m pretty sure his abs were chiseled from wood – which would explain his acting. Ditto Cody Horn.
I’ll miss Matthew McConaughey, but he’s now an Academy Award winner. The price to get him to take off his shirt has probably quadrupled since then. Steven Soderbergh isn’t directing, but his presence will still be felt. He’s on board as executive producer, overseeing his long-time assistant director and producing-partner, Greg Jacobs at the helm.
The additions should be fun. In the trailer below we get a glimpse of Elizabeth Banks, Andie Macdowell and Jada Pinkett Smith, who seems to be doing a riff on her “Gotham” character, Fish Mooney (but I could be wrong). Who we don’t see, at least I didn’t see them (I might have to watch it a few more times *cough*) are terpsichorean newcomers Donald Glover and Michael Strahan.
Feast yer peepers on this:

While it would be so easy to dismiss Magic Mike XXL as just more voyeuristic, stereotypical piffle, that would be missing the point. It is voyeuristic and somewhat stereotypical, but the film knows it. No one is taking themselves too seriously here. Everyone is in on the joke. Let’s face it, these boys need an outlet to show off the fruits of all of that hard work and long hours put in at the gym. Tatum-tot is never going to be known as a great thespian. He knows where his strengths lie. The original Magic Mike was conceived by Tatum and written by his producting-partner, Reid Carolin and it was based on his own real experiences. This time around he and Carolin co-wrote the script as well as produced. And Joe Manganiello can only cash in on his guns and pecs for so long, before the Werewolf thing is a distant memory and he gets too long in the tooth. Where else, and by whom, are these guys going to get the unrestrained adoration they crave on so grand a scale as a wide release motion picture shown on the big screen with audiences cloaked in the anonymity of a darkened theater, free to drool at their leisure without worrying about going home covered in body glitter, and the only dollar bills they’ve parted with paid for a ticket and popcorn?

And given that 95% of what Hollywood produces is still aimed at 18-25 year old straight man-boys, I think the rest of us have earned this.

The question now will be, where do they go from here?  There is only one way to up this ante. If Magic Mike XXL is the hit I predict it will be, the 3rd installment will be in 3D…in IMAX.

Magic Mike XXL, which also stars Amber Heard, Stephen “Twitch” Boss, and Gabriel Iglesias, starts its strut across the globe in the US on July 1 and the UK on 3rd July.

#ArnoldSchwarzenegger & #Maggie head to #TribecaFilmFestival

Maggie, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Henry Hobson, movie, poster, zombies

One of these things is not like the other. When was the last time a zombie flick, let alone one toplining Arnold Schwarzenegger, appeared at a film festival as prestigious as Tribeca? Answer: never. We might expect to find it at Comic Con, Wondercon or even SXSW, but not in the sophisticated concrete canyons of New York City at a fest that, in its 14th year, would like to be more readily likened to a Toronto South or a North American Cannes.
Sandwiched somewhere in between the 40th Anniversary screening of Monty Python & the Holy Grail, and the 25th Anniversary of Goodfellas (starring Tribeca founder Robert DeNiro), first time director Henry Hobson will bring his father/zombie daughter tale, Maggie, starring ‘The Governator’ himself, alongside Abigail Breslin (who’s already appeared in another well-received genre flick, 2009’s Zombieland). Hobson apparently earned his chops designing the title sequences for six episodes of “The Walking Dead”. (I’m not kidding.) He’ll enter the dramatic narrative competition alongside 1st time director John Maclean’s Slow West and Tim Blake Nelson’s Anesthesia (with Sam Waterston, Glenn Close & Corey Stoll), to name but two.
So, how did this happen, you might well ask. The script landed on the 2011 Black List and when it was optioned, was originally slated to star Chloe Grace Moretz (the other preternaturally-gifted teen actress) and Paddy Considine. Finally filmed in 2013, this incarnation was to bow at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, but was pulled by Lionsgate when they picked it up for distribution. Huh?

I don’t pretend to understand the wily ways and squirrelly logic of Lionsgate’s execs, but Maggie, judging from the accounts that I’ve read and this first trailer, might actually be good.
The film’s trailer shows Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character Wade, who has made a promise to his wife (the ever fabulous Joely Richardson) to take care of their daughter Maggie (Breslin), faced with a dilemma when the latter becomes infected with a zombie virus.Wade must grapple with whether he can “cure her”, to “save her”, before he has to “kill her”.
Schwarzenegger revealed the trailer on his Facebook page back on March 29. (I’m a little slow – which is news to no one.) He also had this to say, “It’s the most human role you’ve ever seen me take on. My co-star, Abigail Breslin, is absolutely incredible in the title role, and our director, Henry Hobson, made a beautiful film.”
Whether it is or it is not “beautiful”, the tone of the trailer, the score and even the gravitas in that poster, would suggest the filmmakers certainly think so and it does appear that this isn’t the usual zombie film filled with slow-moving undead hungry for BRAAAAAINZ!, but one that puts a spin on the genre by following the story of a father’s struggle to protect his daughter.

Check this out:

A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side.

Written by another first-timer, John Scott 3, Maggie, made for a mere $8 million, also stars (no one else you’ve probably ever heard of) Laura Cayouette – Leo’s sister in Django Unchained, the hypnotized woman with the philandering husband in Now You See Me; Denise Williamson – 3 episode arc on “Friday Night Lights” as Maura; Raeden Greer – Pauline LaLaurie in “American Horror Story: Coven”; and J.D. Evermore – Sheriff Carl Daggett, “Rectify”. It is set to hit (a limited number of) theaters (and VOD) in the US on May 8.

“The Law Is Shot to Hell” Watch 1st Trailer for #SlowWest with #MichaelFassbender

Slow West, Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Mclean, western, Ben Mendelsohn, Rory McCann

Sundance Film Festival poster for Slow West

It has been clear since the days of Jonah Hex, that any western which included Michael Fassbender would not be your typical “oater” or “horse opera” in the vein John Wayne or even Gary Cooper (super duper! C’mon, you know you totally heard Peter Boyle in your head). This would have been true of Jane Got Her Gun, if he’d stayed with the project, and it’s certainly true of Slow West. We’d had hints of its  unconventional nature from the few stills released following the film’s debut at Sundance, but now we have proof with the first trailer.

The film is writer/director John Mclean‘s feature debut after having helmed a few well-received shorts including Man On a Motorcycle and Pitch Black Heist, also starring Fassbender. In Slow West he plays Silas, a “mysterious drifter” who throws in with a 16 year-old Scottish immigrant (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The kid, in true knight errant fashion, is on a quest to find his lady love (Caren Pistorius), whose father (Rory McCann) has spirited her off to the wilds of the American west.

Despite the fact that Fassbender is playing a sort of outlaw Friar Laurence to this 19th century Romeo and Juliet, it would appear that the film is still awash with grubby, saddle-sore villains as well. The always fantastic Ben Mendelsohn (I remember when I saw Animal Kingdom for the first time. Joel Edgerton was already making a name for himself, but everything else I read said that James Frecheville* would be the break-out star. No one predicted it would be Mendelsohn who is suddenly required to be in all the movies. And have you seen “Bloodline” on Netflix?  Do it! Now! As usual I digress.) as Payne, the leader of a gang of money-hungry, cold-blooded bounty hunters, is one such character.  The actor apparently took a shine to Payne’s furry coat. He wore it to the Sundance premiere.

Take a look at this:

trailer via JoBlo

Those lucky enough to have already seen the movie have raved about Mclean’s debut, calling it a fairy tale about doomed romance and unlikely families, defined by its “sharp wit”, and “absurdist violence” remininscent of Tarantino.  When can I buy my ticket!

Produced by the team from The King’s Speech and Shame, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, among others, including Fassbender, Slow West moseys into the Tribeca Film Festival April 18. Its May 15 US opening doesn’t preclude a stop on the French Riviera first, so I wouldn’t be surprised if its included in the upcoming Cannes Film Festival lineup as well. The UK gets it on 26 June.

*last seen in The Drop with Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini

Watch: The #Focus Is On #WillSmith and #MargotRobbie

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, movie, Focus, con game, romantic thriller

Remember, oh say twenty years ago, when Will Smith wasn’t known primarily as a smart-ass action hero? Smith burst onto the scene in playing a con man in Six Degrees of Separation, way back in 1993. Then of course he met Michael Bay and diverged from the path marked “actor” and chose the prettier, shinier one that pointed to “movie star”.  It’s a crowded road; he had a lot of company.

It would appear, with the release this week of Focus, that Smith is now trying to get back on track. Oh sure, there have been a couple of side trips over the years, like when he made The Pursuit of Happyness and Eight Pounds for director Gabriele Muccino (you know, the two films that sold Gerard Butler on Playing for Keeps. Yes, I know. I liked it. I have my reasons.), or Ali for Oliver Stone or even the under-rated Hancock for Peter Berg. But all of those films were made when Smith, one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, was riding high.  Today we see an older and wiser Smith trying to recover from a string of box-office bombs, culminating in last year’s M. Night Shyamalan mess, After Earth, an ego project if ever there was one.

Watch the trailer below. I’m getting a strong “George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh‘s Out of Sight” vibe. If Smith is truly on a mission to reshape his career, George Clooney’s is not a bad one to emulate. (Especially since Clooney doesn’t seem to be very interested in being “Geoge Clooney” at the moment.)

In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s latest scheme, a woman from his past – now an accomplished femme fatale – shows up and throws his plans for a loop.

We don’t often see Will Smith in any sort of romantic setting. (I would not count Hitch as romantic. It’s rare that a so-called “rom-com” generates any actual sparks, but I see plenty between Smith and costar Margot Robbie.

Not many had even heard of Robbie before Martin Scorsese gave her the female lead in The Wolf of Wall Street opposite Leonardo DiCaprio (another actor who doesn’t get to do romance very often. You probably had to stop and think about that, Titanic fans, but it’s true), but she managed to more than hold her own and at the tender age of just 21. Yeah, that’s right. Robbie is only 24 years old. Doesn’t it seem like she’s always been around? (I liken her to a young Cathy Moriarty, who was also in her early twenties and playing women older and more mature than her age.)

Throw in Rodrigo Santoro (yes, please) as the villain of the piece and the third point in romantic triangle, and the always terrific Gerald McRaney as his capo cum bodyguard, and it looks like Glen Ficarra and John Requa, the duo responsible for Crazy, Stupid, Love., have created another improbable soufflé that just might rise, this time in the vein of Elmore Leonard or John D. MacDonald.

I don’t expect that anyone’s reinvented any wheels here, but that’s okay. You buy a shiny new car, you don’t expect it to come with anything less than four tires, an engine, seats and a steering wheel, right? It’s all about how those things are crafted. Just judging from this trailer, Focus looks like a well-crafted romantic thriller with all of the right accessories. I’m in. Are you?

Also starring BD Wong, Adrian Martinez and Robert Taylor, Focus opens wide in the US (in IMAX in some places!) on February 27.