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John Lasseter Takes Leave of Absence From Disney/Pixar, Apologizes for Unwanted Hugs

20 hours ago

John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios and one of the most powerful figures in the entertainment industry, acknowledged Tuesday that he had crossed the line with employees. He is taking a six-month leave of absence.

Lasseter sent a memo to staff apologizing for making employees feel disrespected or uncomfortable, Variety has confirmed.

“That was never my intent,” he wrote. “Collectively, you mean the world to me, and I deeply apologize if I have let you down. I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form.”

Lasseter is taking a leave as several prominent Hollywood figures are grappling with allegations of sexual harassment. His name has continued to be mentioned privately, with a number of former Pixar employees telling Variety that he has behaved inappropriately and describing a culture »


- Gene Maddaus and Brent Lang

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‘Call Me by Your Name’ Leads Spirit Awards Nominations

22 hours ago

Coming-of-age drama “Call Me by Your Name” has scored six Spirit Award nominations, with “Good Time” and “Get Out” taking five each.

“Lady Bird” and “The Rider” earned four nominations each. The nominations were announced Tuesday morning by Lily Collins, Tessa Thompson and Film Independent chief Josh Welsh at the Jeremy Hotel in West Hollywood.

The awards will be presented on March 3 — the day before the Academy Awards — in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif. The show, now is in its 33rd year, will be shown on IFC.

The Spirit Awards are voted on by members of Film Independent and require that the films be produced in the U.S. for less than $20 million. In the last three years, “Moonlight,”  “Spotlight” and “Birdman” have won both the Spirit Award and the Oscar best picture trophies.

Related stories'Get Out,' 'Detroit,' Issa Rae, Jay-z, Mary J. Blige Among Top NAACP Image Award Nominees' »


- Dave McNary

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Box Office: ‘Coco’ Battling ‘Justice League’ for Top Thanksgiving Spot

23 hours ago

Justice League” will have serious company at the Thanksgiving holiday box office as Disney-Pixar launches “Coco” on Wednesday.

Estimates show the costly “Justice League” — which debuted with a decidedly disappointing $93.8 million opening weekend — pulling in around $60 million to $65 million at 4,051 locations for the five days while “Coco” is likely to finish in the $55 million to $60 million range at 3,948 venues.

Justice League” took in $7.5 million on Monday to lift its four-day total to $101 million. It has a respectable B+ CinemaScore and is the fifth installment of its DC Extended Universe, aimed at duplicating the success of Disney-Marvel’s interconnected franchises. Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman along with Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as the Flash, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. Warner Bros. has not disclosed the production cost, which is believed to be as much as $300 million.

The opening weekend for “Justice League” was only the 55th highest »


- Dave McNary

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Box Office: Pixar’s ‘Coco’ Strums $2.3 Million on Tuesday Night

21 minutes ago

Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” has opened with a solid $2.3 million on Tuesday night.

The animated family film has been on track to take in $55 million to $60 million at 3,948 venues during the Thanksgiving holiday period from Wednesday to Sunday. Estimates show the costly “Justice League” — which has pulled in a disappointing $111.9 million in its first five five days — as the winning film for the period with about $60 million to $65 million.

Coco” opens in nearly 2,800 3D locations, 106 premium large format screens, and 268 locations offering the film in Spanish. Unlike “Justice League,” critics have embraced “Coco” with a Rotten Tomatoes score that is currently 95% Fresh.

Just before “Coco” began its Tuesday night previews, news broke that animation guru John Lasseter would be taking a six-month leave over allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. Lasseter, who runs both Pixar and Disney Animation, apologized in an email to those “on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt »


- Dave McNary

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Netflix to Make its First Original Colombian Series

33 minutes ago

Netflix is wading deep into the Amazon to make its first original Colombian series. To be executive produced by Oscar-nominated Ciro Guerra (“Embrace of the Serpent”), the still-untitled series is based on an original idea by Diego RamÍrez Schrempp and Jenny Ceballos of Colombian powerhouse shingle Dynamo. Production is slated to begin summer 2018. The series will debut exclusively on Netflix worldwide in 2019. The eight one-hour series will be shot entirely in 4 K and produced in partnership with Dynamo.

Series tracks a young detective and her partner who travel deep into the Amazon, on the border of Brazil and Colombia, to investigate a series of bizarre murders. They soon realize that there’s more intrigue to the jungle than the homicides, as they come across a mysterious indigenous tribe with an extraordinary secret that they will go to great lengths to protect.

“We are thrilled to be launching our first Colombian original, featuring great Colombian »


- Anna Marie de la Fuente

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Russell Simmons Accuser Says He Apologized to Her Privately

37 minutes ago

Despite “completely and unequivocally” denying accusations that he sexually assaulted model Keri Claussen Khalighi when she was 17, Russell Simmons allegedly privately apologized to his accuser.

During an appearance on “Megyn Kelly Today,” Khalighi told the host that Simmons’ claim that what transpired in his apartment, where Brett Ratner was also present ,in 1991 was completely consensual is “ludicrous.”

“Russell and I have actually had a face-to-face confrontation around this,” Khalighi told Kelly via video phone. “We’ve had phone conversations where we’ve had a conversation about what happened where there was no dispute of what we were talking about. We were both talking about what happened on that night and he actually apologized.”

“Part of what’s so confusing and re-traumatizing is what he’s speaking about privately with me is completely different than what’s come out publicly,” Khalighi continued. “And that’s the piece that’s been really, really, really upsetting, »


- Maane Khatchatourian

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Box Office: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Tracking for Stellar $200 Million Opening Weekend

2 hours ago

Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is heading for a massive launch in the $200 million range during its Dec. 15-17 opening weekend in North America, according to first estimates released by tracking services on Wednesday.

Directed by Rian Johnson, the movie picks up where 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” left off. It stars returning cast members Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Andy Serkis.

New cast members include Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro. It’s the final film role for Fisher, who died last December.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” set an all-time record in December of 2015, with a domestic opening of $248 million at 4,134 theaters for the first “Star Wars” movie in a decade. The first “Star Wars” spinoff, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” opened a year later with $155.1 million.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will most likely be the biggest debut of the »


- Dave McNary

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Singapore Media Festival: Project Market Proposes Eclectic Se Asian Line-Up

2 hours ago

ScreenSingapore, the Southeast Asian Audio-Visual Association and Ties That Bind have announced the 15 shortlisted projects for the Southeast Asian Film Financing (Saff) project market.

In keeping with the Singapore Media Festival’s 2017 focus on Indonesia, there are five projects from the country, including: “Lastri” from Adriyanto Dewo (“Tabula Rasa”); “Marangka: The Corpse Flower,” from Andra Fembriarto (“Under the Same Sky”); feature debutant Winaldo Artaraya Swastia’s “Stalker”; “The Hunted” from Delon Tio (“Mari Lari”); and “Yuni” from Kamila Andini (“The Seen and Unseen”).

Malaysian auteur Dain Said’s longtime producer Nandita Solomon (“Interchange”) makes her directorial debut with “And The Gods Rode Hornbills.” Shanjey Kumar Perumal, who made the Malaysian box office success “Jagat,” returns with “Ryder.” Also from Malaysia is “Wilderness” from Nadira Ilana (“The Silent Riot”).

There are three projects from the Philippines, including: “Eerie” from Mikhail Red (“Neomanila”); “Mina-Anud,” the fiction feature debut of cinematographer and documentarian Kerwin Go (“Eskrimadors”); and cinematographer and short »


- Naman Ramachandran

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Dominique Farrugia Exits EuropaCorp, Joins StudioCanal

3 hours ago

Dominique Farrugia, a popular French comedian-turned-filmmaker, has joined StudioCanal as co-managing director of productions.

A long-time collaborator of Luc Besson, Farrugia joins StudioCanal from Besson’s EuropaCorp, where he spearheaded the development and production of French movies, notably “Sous le meme toit” (which he directed) with Gilles Lellouche, and the upcoming comedy “CoeXister,”directed by Fabrice Eboué.

At StudioCanal, Farrugia will be in charge of developing and overseeing the production of French comedies that have the potential of attracting international audiences. Earlier this year, StudioCanal released French comedy “alibi.com.”

Farrugia will be working closely with Géraldine Gendre, who heads up French production and distribution at StudioCanal. He will report to Didier Lupfer, the head of StudioCanal, and Maxime Saada, the boss of Canal Plus Group. Farrugia will also act as film and fiction advisor to Saada.

Farrugia is the latest in a string of executives who have exited the financially-struggling EuropaCorp since September, following [link=nm »


- Elsa Keslassy

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Film Review: ‘Virus Tropical’

3 hours ago

The name of the L.A.-based festival that celebrated its inaugural edition in October is declarative: Animation Is Film. But that manifesto is only partially upheld by Santiago Caicedo’s black-and-white feature “Virus Tropical,” which is closely adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Power Paola, the nom de plume of Colombian-Ecuadorian cartoonist Paola Gaviria. This is most definitely a striking animation, but whether its storytelling passes muster is quite another matter.

The visual treatment here, following the lead of Gaviria’s own art direction (she reportedly produced about 5,000 individual drawings for the film) is the source of a great deal of the film’s charm, as it combines with deliberate naiveté a variety of different lo-fi, 2D black-and-white styles, from its boldly graphic, childlike, line-drawn characters, to the rickety, intricate cityscape backdrops, to the more prettified, watercolor-wash-style interludes of cloudy skies and birds in trees. And while the »


- Jessica Kiang

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Scotland Yard Investigates Second Allegation Against Kevin Spacey

3 hours ago

Scotland Yard has launched an investigation into a second alleged sexual assault by Kevin Spacey that took place in London, this time dating back to 2005, Variety has learned.

The new allegation was made last week, shortly after London’s Old Vic theater said it had received 20 complaints of inappropriate behavior by former artistic director Spacey after it appealed to people to come forward with concerns and complaints. The theater said it had advised more than a dozen of the complainants to go to the police with their allegations, but it is not clear whether the new investigation launched by Scotland Yard is a result of that advice.

Police had already begun investigating an alleged assault on a young man that took place in 2008 in Lambeth, the London borough where The Old Vic is located and where Spacey had a residence. The alleged victim in that incident is believed to have been an aspiring actor who sought career »


- Stewart Clarke

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Rome Film Review: ‘Valley of Shadows’

4 hours ago

A pallid boy, a dark forest and an indefinable sense of dread powerfully conjure up the primal fears of childhood in Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen’s superbly assured feature debut “Valley of Shadows.” Shot in 35mm by the director’s brother Marius Matzow Gulbrandsen using achingly beautiful images that feel as if they’re recalling some forgotten legend of Norse mythology (with a touch of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are”), the film isolates this eerily fair-skinned child in a shadowy landscape of inchoate menace, accompanied by Zbigniew Preisner’s richly realized orchestral score. Post-Toronto exposure doesn’t seem to be as widespread as it deserves, though further festival play might entice buyers willing to take a chance on a haunting sleeper.

While the imagery is influenced by a wide range of artists from Gustave Doré to Norwegian landscape painter Lars Hertervig, “Valley” is completely modern in design even as its concept remains timeless. The location »


- Jay Weissberg

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‘The Last Jedi’ to Close Dubai Film Festival; Full Lineup Announced

4 hours ago

Crowd-pleaser “The Last Jedi” will close the Dubai Intl. Film Festival before launching in the Middle East, part of an overall fest lineup that mixes premieres of Arabic movies with standouts from the international festival circuit. U.S. director Scott Cooper’s brutal Western “Hostiles” is slated to kick off Dubai’s 14th edition, which runs Dec. 6-13.

The festival is also feting prominent Egyptian screenwriter Wahid Hamed with a lifetime achievement award during the opening ceremony. Hamed’s long list of Egyptian film and TV credits includes big-budget 2006 contemporary Cairo epic “The Yacoubian Building,” directed by his son, Marwan Hamed, a watershed work that tackled taboo such as homosexuality and traveled widely.

Though no talent will be making the trek to Dubai for “Hostiles” and the latest “Star Wars” installment, Oscar-nominated multi-hyphenate Rob Reiner is expected to attend for the Middle East premiere of his drama “Shock and Awe,” which depicts »


- Nick Vivarelli

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Film Review: ’24 Hours to Live’

5 hours ago

In a cliche that became institutionalized during the ’80s and began fossilizing somewhere around “Taken,” it seems no action hero has sufficient motivation anymore unless his loved ones have been kidnapped and/or (preferably) killed. At least three characters labor under that burden in “24 Hours to Live,” and that’s just one of several elements that might seem preposterous if this film took itself more seriously.

Veteran stuntman Brian Smrz’s second directorial feature doesn’t quite reach the “John Wick” level of high-body-count inspirational trash, but it gets close enough. Ethan Hawke plays the inevitable grizzled former operative dragged out of retirement into a hornet’s nest of global shootouts, double-crossings and evil conspiracies. So long as you turn your thinking cap off, this high-energy enterprise will provide plenty of less-than-highbrow fun.

Travis Conrad (Hawke) is a former elite soldier-turned-murky mercenary who’s spent years taking out presumed evildoers as a private contractor for shadowy org Red »


- Dennis Harvey

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Rashida Jones Denies That She Left ‘Toy Story 4’ Over Unwanted Advance From John Lasseter

13 hours ago

Rashida Jones has denied a Hollywood Reporter article that claimed she left “Toy Story 4” as a writer, along with writing partner Will McCormack, over an unwanted advance from Pixar and Disney animation chief John Lasseter.

Jones instead said they left over “philosophical differences,” and asserted that their exit was over the fact that they believed women and people of color did not have “an equal creative voice” at Pixar. Lasseter was originally the co-director of “Toy Story 4,” but stepped down in July, with Josh Cooley taking over as the sole director.

In a statement first given to the New York Times, and later obtained by Variety, Jones and McCormack said, “We feel like we have been put in a position where we need to speak for ourselves. The break neck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible and, in fact, counterproductive for the people who do want to »


- Variety Staff

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Film News Roundup: Dominique McElligott, Beau Bridges Join Boyd Holbrook’s ‘Two/One’

15 hours ago

In today’s film news roundup, “House of Cards” star Dominique McElligott joins the surreal drama “Two/One,” Faith Media Distribution generates $1.2 million in box office for “True to the Game,” and Sony’s teamed with WWE Studios on “The Marine 6.”

Castings

House of Cards” star Dominique McElligott, Beau Bridges, Zhu Zhu, and Song Yang have joined Boyd Holbrook in the cast of Juan Cabral’s drama “Two/One.”

The movie is currently in production in Canada and explores the idea that while we sleep in one place, we are awake somewhere else — in this case, a world-class ski jumper in Canada and a corporate executive in Shanghai, China.

Producers of “Two/One” are Redrum Films’ Flora Fernandez Marengo and Chris Clark along with Dave Valleau of South Creek Pictures. Holbrook is an executive producer. Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales and CAA reps domestic rights.

McElligott’s credits include “The Astronaut Wives Club” and “Hell on Wheels.” [link »


- Dave McNary

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John Lasseter Allegations Cast Shadow Over Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’ Debut

16 hours ago

Just as the Disney-Pixar movie “Coco” began its Tuesday night previews, news broke that animation guru John Lasseter would be taking a six-month leave over allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women. Lasseter, who runs both Pixar and Disney Animation, apologized in an email to those “on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line.”

It was an unfortunate juxtaposition for the highly anticipated movie, as Hollywood grapples with an ever-widening sexual harassment scandal, but it’s not expected to hurt the film’s box office ahead of the critical Wednesday-Sunday holiday time frame.

Coco” has already set a record for the highest grossing film ever to open in Mexico, with $48 million to date, and in the U.S., it could potentially beat “Justice League” and debut as the top film over the Thanksgiving weekend with about $60 million. Past Disney titles that have opened over the same period include »


- Ricardo Lopez

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Pixar’s John Lasseter Was the Subject of a ‘Whisper Network’ for More Than Two Decades

17 hours ago

For more than 20 years, young women at Pixar Animation Studios have been warned about the behavior of John Lasseter, who just disclosed that he is taking a leave due to inappropriate conduct with women. The company’s co-founder is known as a hugger. Around Pixar’s Emeryville, Calif., offices, a hug from Lasseter is seen as a mark of approval.

But among female employees, there has long been widespread discomfort about Lasseter’s hugs and about the other ways he showers attention on young women. On Tuesday, that history caught up with him, as Lasseter became the latest prominent person to be accused of inappropriate behavior. This comes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse and harassment scandal that brought down the movie mogul and has also tarnished other powerful men such as Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and Amazon’s Roy Price.

In a memo to Pixar employees, Lasseter apologized »


- Gene Maddaus

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Andy Serkis Joins Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in ‘Flarsky’

18 hours ago

Andy Serkis is joining Lionsgate’s Charlize Theron-Seth Rogen feature film “Flarsky,” portraying a media mogul who employs Rogen’s journalist character.

Flarsky” is directed by Jonathan Levine from Dan Sterling’s script. The comedy is currently shooting in Montreal. Lionsgate has set a Feb. 9, 2019, release date.

Rogen is playing the titular Fred Flarsky, battered by his own misfortune and self-destructive ways, who endeavors to pursue Theron’s character — his childhood crush and babysitter, who now happens to be the U.S. Secretary of State and is one of the most unattainable women on earth.

Serkis portrayed the lead character Caesar in Fox’s “War for the Planet of the Apes.” He made his directorial debut on “Breathe,” starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, and is in post-production on the live-action “Jungle Book,” which Warner Bros. will open on Oct. 19.

Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures, Theron’s Denver and Delilah Films, and [link=co »


- Dave McNary

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At&T-Time Warner Merger: Does the Doj Have a Case?

20 hours ago

The surprising Department of Justice lawsuit to block At&T’s merger with Time Warner may end up in an epic courtroom showdown, unlike any recent antitrust challenge in recent memory.

The Doj’s 23-page complaint lays out a case that is notable for its straightforward argument: The bulked-up At&T-DirecTV-Time Warner would have the leverage and incentive to withhold prized content, like channels featuring “Game of Thrones” and NBA games, from rivals or new entrants.

At&T, meanwhile, finds that argument specious and a diversion from the way that the government has handled antitrust law. Its CEO Randall Stephenson said on Monday evening that it “stretches the reach of antitrust law beyond the breaking point.”

In the wake of the lawsuit, a number of public interest groups, politicos, and Wall Street analysts quickly weighed in, sometimes diverting from traditional ideological boundaries.

Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, said in a statement that it was “odd to see »


- Ted Johnson

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