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.

It Ain’t Easy for a Princess: New Trailer for Grace of Monaco

movie, still, trailer, Tim Roth, Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco

via imdbpro

There is a new trailer for Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco, that would appear to give us a better idea of what the film is actually about, and what it is not.

The trailer would have us believe that the film is not just a pastiche of Nicole Kidman posing in beautiful period costumes and doing an impression of Princess Grace, (a role for which Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Rosamund Pike, Amy Adams, January Jones -really?- and Elizabeth Banks were among those considered) but it is about what the official synopsis has always told us:

The story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly’s crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle, and a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s.

Set in 1962, six years after the fairy tale wedding (which set the standard for televised fairy tale weddings)  as Grace née Kelly struggled to reconcile  a longing to return to the big screen, thanks to tempting offers  from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, with her role as a monarch of a European principality as well as wife to a Prince and mother to two small children.

Add to this Rainier’s modernization of an ailing Monaco was being thwarted by French premier Charles de Gaulle who wanted to impose French taxation on Monaco, and reclaim the principality for France, by force if necessary.

That sounds a lot heavier than your average biopic about a beloved style-icon. Take a look:

Back in January, I mentioned that Grace of Monaco had, after Harvey Weinstein’s controversial move to pull it from  The Weinstein Company schedule (after having moved it from 2013 awards contention to March 2014), leaving everyone to speculate about just how awful it must be, Variety  announced that the film will open the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival.

Grace of Monaco has a script by Arash Amel (Erased with Aaron Eckhart)  which landed on the 2011 Hollywood Black List. It also stars Tim Roth as Prince Rainier, Frank Langella, Derek Jacobi, Nicholas Farrell, Parker Posey, and Paz Vega (as Maria Callas!) among others.  The film has supposedly firm release dates scheduled for Europe, including the UK in June. With this new trailer, can a domestic date be far behind, or will Harvey wait to see what the response is when it bows at Cannes?

The Master: Charisma to Spare, but What of Substance?

The Master: Charisma to Spare, but What of Substance?.

via The Master: Charisma to Spare, but What of Substance?.

I finally saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master today. It’s Anderson’s first film since 2008’s There Will Be Blood in which he directed Daniel Day Lewis to an Oscar for Best Actor. The Master was a sensation even before it opened the Venice Film Festival and had a gala screening at the Toronto International Film Festival since Harvey and The Weinstein Company had staged sneak peeks all over the country at old movie palaces, selling out in every city, creating internet buzz for what is essentially an independent, art-house film. When it opened in New York and LA, it set per screen box office records. What I had heard about the film before going in was largely positive. Audiences at TIFF gave the film standing ovations, even as they left the theater scratching their heads. What I was reading was that a lot of people have had trouble processing the film and felt that they needed a second viewing before they could articulate their thoughts.

Personally, I think those people are overthinking it.

One of the most anticipated films of the year, The Master is a 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as “the Master”, played by the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose faith-based organization (“The Cause”) begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man. The drifter is played by Joaquin Phoenix.

Visually it’s stunning, shot in 70mm. The last film shot in that format was Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet from 1996. (A film I adore by the way. You can finally get it on dvd and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it highly, although you have truly missed out by not seeing it in all of its Technicolor splendor on the big screen.) The cinematography, by Mihai Malaimare, Jr., is beautiful when it uses natural landscapes and the continued use of flowing water but it is the meticulous attention to period detail that sticks out for me. In the photography and lighting as well as the costumes and the production design.

Several observers have noticed parallels between the story of the Master and his Cause, and the founding of Scientology by L. Ron Hubbard. Anderson and his people deny that this is some sort of Scientology allegory. It’s also not the first time Anderson has delved into the subject of charismatic pseudo-religious leaders and the effects on their followers, after Magnolia, which ironically, reignited the career of one of the most famous Scientologists, Tom Cruise. So it’s even more ironic that Cruise is reportedly unhappy with The Master. Scientologist #1 has “issues” with the film, according to the New York Post, after having recently screened the finished product. Whether that’s true or not is anyone’s guess at this point since The Post doesn’t actually go into any detail. It could just be a publicity stunt. Both the Anderson and Cruise camps have since denied that Cruise has any problem with the film.

Personally, I don’t think that there can be any doubt that this film is based on Scientology, although I don’t know enough about the particulars of that organization to know what if anything is literal. Anderson has stated that his main influence was John Huston’s government-sponsored documentary from 1946, Let There Be Light, about returning WWII vets with PTSD. The camera films them from their induction through to their eventual ‘cure’ and final departure back into mainstream America. Once completed the government banned it for 30 years. There is a scene in the beginning of The Master that would seem to have been lifted from this film.

I think both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix gave exceptional, understated performances. There is not a single scene in the film in which one or the other, if not both, is on screen. Their final scene together is, as it should be, the most powerful. It consists of closeups on the two men’s faces and it had me holding my breath, watching the oh-so-subtle changes taking place. Phoenix’s characterization is almost entirely physical. He conveys nearly everything we need to know about his character from the way he walks, carries himself, even the way he holds his mouth when he speaks.

Both he and Hoffman will both, almost certainly, be nominated for Best Actor Oscars (thus canceling out both. In another bit of irony, that will probably leave the way clear for Daniel Day Lewis once more.) Jeremy Renner was originally cast, but they lost him when the financing took years to put together. Luckily, Phoenix had just gotten off of the Crazy Train and was available. As much as I liked Phoenix, I’m curious about what Renner’s take on the character of Freddie Quell would have been.

Amy Adams, who plays “the Master’s” fertile third wife (she’s first seen with a toddler on her lap and is pregnant through most of the film), delivers another fine performance and is the backbone of the film. She plays perky so well that it is easy to underestimate her. A few scenes with closeups of her steely blue eyes and one begins to wonder just who “The Master” of the title actually is.

The performances are all amazing. but ultimately? There’s no “there” there.

The Master is two hours and sixteen minutes of people moving along a timeline, but to what end? I think that’s the point. There is no end, because our journeys are never ending. One of the chief tenets of “The Cause” and not coincidentally of Scientology, is that we’ve all been here before, we’ll be here again.

The bottom line is that I think The Master will probably be nominated for Best Picture because the Academy won’t understand it, so they’ll think it must be art and they should recognize it. It won’t win, however, for the same reason: It’s art and they won’t understand it.

Everyone’s a Critic

Olympus Has Fallen Poster - Gerard Butler

Portions of this post were originally included HERE

As I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog (and in several others elsewhere**), I’ve been following the progress ofAntoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen since March of 2012 when Millennium acquired the rights to the screenplay by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt and Gerard Butler signed on to star.  While it was briefly retitled White House Taken, it was always described as “’Die Hard in the White House’ that follows a down-on-his-luck ex-Secret Service (Butler) agent who becomes America’s only hope when 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is taken over by terrorists”.

That tag brought with it immediate recognition for most movie-goers, as well as some derision from quite a few who write about film.  Having just seen it, I can not only say the comparison was apt, but that it seems everyone else who’s actually seen it thus far would agree.  (What’s the Scottish equivalent of “Yippee Ki-yay Motherfucker”?)

Olympus Has Fallen seems to have decided that the best way to get the word out about their film and how good it is, is to actually show it to people. Not to critics or press necessarily, but to people interested in seeing movies for their own sake;  members of the ticket-buying public.  THIS, in my humble opinion, is the way it should be done – take it to the people and avoid self-important “critics” or at least side step them.

Last Wednesday night (3/13/13), as I waited in line for one such screening here in Boston, I passed the time talking to a couple of guys who had never been to a screening before, but Fandango had been offering passes and the movie looked “kind of cool. Plus it was free”.  Once inside the auditorium, we parted ways (because I like to sit in front), but after it was over, they waited for me outside.   Since I like to stay for the credits (not only does one learn a lot by doing it, I think we owe it to the hundreds of talented people it takes to make a movie, most of whom go “unsung”. But I’ve said all this before. And as usual, I digress.),  one of them even snagged me a souvenir, the official “Olympus Has Fallen” lapel pin, that they were handing out that I would otherwise have missed. They were both SO excited about the movie, they wanted to talk about it with me, but best of all, they planned to not only tell their friends about it, but wanted to come back with them and see it again. This is exactly what a screening is designed to do.

While the idea of free screenings is not a new one, Millennium Films, Film District and the producers of Olympus Has Fallen (Fuqua and Butler among them) are taking the game to the next level. Through the use of social media like Twitter and Facebook, coupled with the screenings, they are currently riding a wave of tremendous (and tremendously positive) buzz. What’s more they’ve done it in about six weeks. I know I lamented the lack of PR for Olympus Has Fallen when the first images from that other, similarly themed movie, White House Down, were released way back in November of last year. Despite the fact that a new, earlier release date was announced in December, the first trailer for Olympus Has Fallen wasn’t released until mid-January. Since then, however,  there has been a steady stream of posters, clips, and images leading up to a flurry of interviews, appearances, pre-press and a LOT of nationwide screenings.

To my knowledge there haven’t been any press screenings yet. The PR team is using social media to publicize the screenings and advertise the feedback ahead of giving the film to the usual outlets or websites. That’s not to say they don’t want favorable press or that write-ups by well-established reviewers won’t appear. They are, after all, also utilizing tv spots and releasing clips to some of those websites and the director and his cast have been hitting the press junket hard, including countless interviews. My point is that even if critics trash the movie or the press pans it, it won’t matter. The buzz is already too strong, word-of-mouth too favorable. With less than a week to go before general release here in the US, it would seem they’ve effectively neutralized any possible negativity. That’s probably a rosy-hued opinion, but this could become a new model for movie marketing.

Of course, this does all hinge on having a quality product to begin with and it is because the producers of Olympus Has Fallen believe so strongly in their film that they could go this route successfully.

According to the New York Times, when the special Cinema Society screening ended on Monday night (3/11/13) in New York “and the credits rolled, the audience cheered. ‘Wow,’ said Harvey Weinstein as he shook Mr. Butler’s hand with gusto; in the lobby, he accosted Antoine Fuqua, the director. ‘You’ll do a hundred-million-plus,’ he told him (box-office-speak for big).”  Have I mentioned this one has industry buzz as well? So not only did Harvey attend the screening of a movie he had nothing to do with, but he predicted it would be huge. HUGE!  (In Harvey we trust.)

Congrats G (and the rest of the producers)…oh, and suck it Ryan Kavanagh.

Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen features an all-star cast including Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Radha Mitchell, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser and Ashley Judd. It opens in the US on March 22 and in the UK on 17th April.

** Including the sadly defunct
** Including the sadly defunct

What?? There’s footage??

Trailer Addict has a clip of a press conference held during the Berlin International Film Festival for Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus. The film made an impressive debut at the Berlinale and there’s been strong buzz about it since.  The clip includes footage from the film. The Berlinale was in February. FEBRUARY!  So how am I just now finding out about this footage?!

For anyone who does not know, Coriolanus is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play of the same name. With a screenplay by John Logan (The Last Samurai, The Hurt Locker) it marks Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut and has a cast that would make angels weep including Fiennes himself, the luminous Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, James Nesbit and some guy named Gerard Butler.

Lord knows I’ve been chomping at the bit, foaming at the mouth and twitching on the sidewalk  waiting for news on this film for months, at least since it was announced that The Weinstein Company had picked it up for US distribution, and in particular when we could expect a trailer. In response to a direct question from someone on Twitter, another of the film’s distributor’s, D Films, yesterday said that a trailer would be arriving "any day now". 

It would seem a little coincidental that I discover this clip the same day I see that tweet, until I saw that it was posted on Trailer Addict’s site in February! I didn’t even discover it! It was sent to me in a Google alert. Today! What. The. Hell.  Am I just that late to the party? (I find that difficult to believe.)  Have I, in my excitement and thirst for something new, forgotten that I already saw this footage? While that is entirely possible, given my misspent youth, I don’t think so.

At this point, I don’t care. I’ll take it. I’m going to gorge on it until we get that trailer. C’mon Harvey!  *taps vein* I neeeeeed it!

My Daily Moment of Torridly Martial Zen

 I really don’t think words are necessary here…

I think my enthusiasm for, and anticipation of, Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus is well documented by now. Every new still, every new tidbit of news hones my appetite the way Tullus Aufidius is honing that big knife…*shudder* it’s been years since I have so eagerly looked forward to the release of a film. (Three years to be exact.) When December 2nd finally arrives, (I have no doubt I will too…many many times)

…yer killin’ me Harvey!

Coriolanus is going to TIFF!!!

 *doing the demented poodle dance*

Sometimes, if you’re really, really good and you want something badly enough…

I’m not talking about me! I’m talking about the film-makers behind Coriolanus! Certainly I’ve been talking up this film and the possibilities of it traveling to the more prestigious film festivals, but I could wish and hope all I wanted, we all know it would have meant squat in the grand scheme of things.

Well, today one of the film’s producers, Kevan Van Thompson, revealed via twitter that Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus has indeed been accepted to the Toronto International Film Festival!!

TIFF is one of the leading film festivals in the world and screens more than 300 films from 60+ countries every year. You know all this. I’ve been saying it over and over for months as a sort of mantra.

This will be a HUGE boost for this film. Inclusion as an official TIFF selection will be touted on every poster and press release from now on and basically doubles the strength of their PR budget. For an independent film adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, again…HUGE!

I’m sure Harvey and The Weinstein Company are over the moon. I humbly offer my congratulations.

Note to Mr. Kavanaugh: I know you’re probably hip deep in wedding prep, but ya think maybe Machine Gun Preacher deserves the same shot in the arm?? Just sayin’. You know I love you.