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Mahershala Ali to Star in, Executive Produce Crime Thriller ‘Burn’

17 November 2017 3:29 PM, PST

Academy Award-winner Mahershala Ali is starring in and executive producing a crime thriller movie based on A.J. Wolfe’s upcoming book “Burn.”

Anonymous Content has acquired the movie rights with Anonymous Content’s Nicole Clemens and Kevin Cotter producing the project. Fredrick Kotto, a former detective who has become a screenwriter, has been hired to write the adaptation and will executive produce along with Ali and Artillery Creative’s Tom Carter.

The book is a contemporary crime thriller and love story set in the ultra-violent world of organized crime. It follows a Northern California detective who destroyed a cartel while keeping his undercover life secret from his family. Paradigm is handling the publishing rights. »


- Dave McNary

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Box Office: ‘Justice League’ Heading for Disappointing $95 Million Opening

17 November 2017 1:08 PM, PST

Warner Bros.-DC’s “Justice League” is heading for a disappointing opening weekend of about $95 million at 4,051 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday.

The first Friday estimates for “Justice League” are well under the studio’s recent guidance, which had been in the $110 million range. Should it come in at the top of current estimates, “Justice League” might finish the weekend in the same range as “The Fate of the Furious” — which launched in April to $98.7 million as the seventh-largest opening of the year.

The six films that have cracked the $100 million opening mark this year are Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” at $174.8 million, Disney-Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” at $146.5 million, Warner-New Line’s “It” at $123.4 million, Disney-Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” at $122.7 million, Sony-Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” at $117 million, and Warner-dc’s “Wonder Woman” at $103.3 million. A total of 48 titles have topped $100 million in North America in their debut frames.

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- Dave McNary

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‘Wonderstruck’ Colorist Joe Gawler on How Film’s Multi-Period Look Was Created

5 hours ago

Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck,” which screened in the main competition at Camerimage, tells the complicated story of two children, both deaf, growing up in New York during different historical periods, whose paths strangely and magically converge.

To tell this multi-layered story, Dp Edward Lachman, a Camerimage regular and frequent Haynes collaborator (“Far From Heaven,” “I’m Not There,” “Carol”) shot the film on black and white and color film, as well as on digital. Joe Gawler, partner and colorist at New York post-production studio Harbor Picture, who has also worked with the two men, tells how he graded the widely varying footage to give the film a seamless look.

How did you happen to get the “Wonderstruck” assignment?

I’ve had a relationship with Ed Lachman for a number of years. I’ve remastered maybe 100 titles for the Criterion Collection, and they brought on Ed to consult on the color. Ed is a real encyclopedia of filmmaking. I’ve also »


- Peter Caranicas

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Icg President Steven Poster Pushes On-Set Safety, Slams Government’s Anti-Union Stance

5 hours ago

Cinematographer Steven Poster, who’s shot such films as “Donnie Darko” and “Stuart Little 2,” and is a former president of the Americans Society of Cinematographers, has been head of the International Cinematographers Guild, Local 600, since 2006. He sat with Variety to assess the state of the organization at this point in its history (good) and anti-union trends at the national level (bad). The organization, he says, continues the fight against the view, in some quarters, that labor is just another commodity.

How many Camerimage festivals have you been to now?

This is my fifth. I’m serving on the student competition jury and hosting the screening of the Icg Emerging Cinematographer Awards. We showcase those films here and around the U.S. every year. I’m amazed at their quality. It just keeps getting better.

How is Icg going as a union?

Membership is growing. The motion picture and television industry is the most unionized of all »


- Peter Caranicas

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Production Designer Adam Stockhausen on Building Wes Anderson’s Worlds

6 hours ago

Production designer Adam Stockhausen, known for creating much of the fantastical look of Wes Anderson films such as “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Grand Budapest Hotel,” for which he won the Oscar, says he derives much of his inspiration from intensive research.

Working closely with Anderson, Stockhausen most recently designed the upcoming “Isle of Dogs” while also creating the look of adventures inside a video game for Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi actioner “Ready Player One.”

Stockhausen, also known for Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” and Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” for which he was Oscar-nommed, has achieved a notably quick rise from theater work in New York through his film debut in 2004, working for production designer Mark Friedberg on the surreal “Synecdoche, New York” by Charlie Kaufman.

The old-fashioned stop-motion look of “Isle of Dogs” is already generating buzz.

It’s an amazing story. I’m so excited for it to come along. The actors »


- Will Tizard

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Hungary’s ‘On Body and Soul’ Wins Top Award at Camerimage Film Festival

6 hours ago

Poland’s Camerimage fest wrapped Saturday with the Golden Frog top prize for “On Body and Soul,” a Hungarian story of shared dreams filmed by Mate Herbai and directed by Ildiko Enyedi.

The jury, headed by British director Michael Apted, honored Russian family drama “Loveless,” with cinematography by Mikhail Krichman and directing by Andrei Zvyagintsev (“Leviathan”), with a Silver Frog, while the Bronze Frog went to Angelina Jolie’s account of the Cambodian guerilla war, “First They Killed My Father,” filmed by Anthony Dod Mantle.

The jury honored Warwick Thornton’s “Sweet Country,” an Australian outback thriller filmed by Dylan River and Thornton, with the Fipresci award, while “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” shot by Ben Davis and directed by Martin McDonagh, won the fest’s first-ever audience prize.

The gala closing ceremony at the Opera Nova hall in Bydgoszcz topped a week of 283 film screenings and scores of workshops, filmmaker talks and »


- Will Tizard

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How ‘Downsizing’ Dp Phedon Papamichael, Director Alexander Payne Stayed Intimate With the Actors

6 hours ago

Downsizing,” one of the opening night films at the Camerimage film festival, is the fourth collaboration between director Alexander Payne and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. Unlike the other three – “Sideways,” “The Descendants” and “Nebraska” – this new mix of comedy, drama and sci-fi uses plenty of visual effects to tell the story of a future in which many people miniaturize themselves in order to enjoy a better life.

Papamichael, who introduced the film, shot on Arri Alexa cameras using older Panavision lenses. Here he reveals how he and Payne were able to maintain the director’s signature style even on a large-scale movie.

Alexander Payne is known for actor-focused, intimate films. “Downsizing” is a bigger movie with lots of visual effects. Was that a big change for him?

It was definitely an adjustment for Alexander. When he and I shoot, we don’t really storyboard or do shot lists, we just bring in actors and see how they move »


- Peter Caranicas

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‘Incredibles 2’ Gets First Teaser Trailer From Disney-Pixar

6 hours ago

13 years after the release of “The Incredibles,” Disney-Pixar has released a teaser trailer for the audience-demanded follow-up, “Incredibles 2.”

While not revealing much in terms of plot, the sequel appears to take place almost immediately after the events of the first film. Set to Michael Giacchino’s iconic theme, the trailer shows Jack-Jack, the Incredibles/Parrs’ infant son who was revealed to possess a multitude of powers at the end of “The Incredibles” after his family long suspected him powerless, using his laser-vision to chop off a slice of his dad’s hair.

“You have powers!” Bob shouts with joy as Jack-Jack cackles at his father’s funny appearance.

Craig T. Nelson voiced Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr in the original film, with Holly Hunter as his wife Helen Parr/Elastigirl and Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Incredible’s best friend Lucius Best/Frozone. Sarah Vowell voiced the Incredibles’ daughter Violet, who can create »


- Erin Nyren

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Academy President John Bailey on Extending Oscars’ Global Reach

6 hours ago

John Bailey, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, spoke to members of international film industry at Camerimage film festival in Poland this week about how changes will help broaden the pool of voters selecting the foreign-language Oscar nominees, as well as ongoing measures to make the body more diverse, plans for the 90th anniversary awards show, and how he had been drafted in to help represent the views of those working in production.

Changes to the method by which Oscar voters get to see shortlisted foreign-language films will up the number of those who are able to take part in the poll. The nine shortlisted films are currently only available for voting members to see on cinema screens in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and London. But Bailey said an announcement will go out next month that members in Europe or elsewhere will be able to see shortlisted foreign-language films via streaming »


- Will Tizard

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‘Get Out’ Awards Category Dilemma: Film Defies Easy Labels, Cast Says

7 hours ago

Despite the eruption of controversy over the nomination of “Get Out” in the Golden Globe’s best musical or comedy category, the picture’s cast and producers appeared to have taken the social media furor in stride Friday night.

At a celebration for “Get Out” at Hollywood’s Lombardi house, producer Jason Blum said the film defies a neat category or label – and that’s a strength.

“It is all things: satire. It’s an action movie. It’s a comedy. It’s a drama. It’s a thriller. It’s a horror movie,” Blum told Variety. “That’s what makes it great, is that you can’t put it in a box.”

The critical response to the genre film has been very inspiring, Blum said, in part because it has brought an ongoing conversation about structural racism to the fore.

“The movie is making people think that you can really use genre to tell very, very »


- Ricardo Lopez

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Box Office: ‘Justice League’ Leads the Way With $37 Million at Chinese Box Office

7 hours ago

Justice League” is looking to gross an estimated $37 million between Friday and Saturday at the Chinese box office, with $15.5 million from Friday showings and an estimated $21 million from Saturday screenings at approximately 21,000 sites.

Warner Bros.’ superhero tentpole took in 65% of the top five films in China on Friday, and is predicted to continue that market share at 64% on Saturday. The first day number is on par with Disney-Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” and the second-biggest opening day for a Warners title after “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Justice League” earned a total of $43.3 million on Friday from 47,500 international screens, bringing the cumulative total to $70.7 million, with $27.3 million from Wednesday and Thursday.

The film debuted at no. 1 in Mexico, absorbing 74% of the market share with $3.1 million from 3,834 screens and topping “Wonder Woman’s” opening day by 33%. India also made a strong debut, with $1.2 million from 1,277 sites, marking the third largest Indian debut of a Warner Bros. film.

After »


- Erin Nyren

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‘Mission: Impossible’ Producer Paula Wagner on Making Thurgood Marshall Movie

8 hours ago

Paula Wagner’s five-year quest to get the story of Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall onto screen was “absolutely worth it,” the Hollywood producer told filmmakers at Poland’s Camerimage fest on Friday.

The inspiring biopic, “Marshall,” which opened in October, focuses on an early case the young Marshall takes on in Connecticut, defending a black chauffeur accused of rape and attempted murder against his rich, white employer. As the future jurist on the highest court in the land develops his strategy, viewers come to grips with the extent of racism and bias in the justice system that’s hardly limited to the South.

Set in 1940 and featuring “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman as Marshall, the courtroom drama avoids simple hero myths and portrays the defense attorney’s substantial (and deserving) ego as a factor that may endanger his success, as Variety reviewer Peter Debruge points out.

The true story, in which Marshall’s employer, »


- Will Tizard

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Movie Biz Attempts to Grapple With Diversity Crisis

8 hours ago

Building diversity in cinematography – and in the film industry in general – is a career-long goal for most members of the Camerimage film festival panel that takes on this subject and most report progress since the event launched at the event last year. But, as moderator Elen Lotman, an Estonian cinematographer, cautioned at this year’s panel, “We will not solve this tonight.”

Still, as Heather Stewart, creative director of the British Film Institute, reported, significant efforts to identify and quantify the problem of under-represented women and minorities are now building.

Some of the findings of the exhaustive study of diversity throughout the history of 10,000 British films shot since 1911 are, admittedly, depressing: The number of women’s roles in films, currently about 33% of those written, has not changed since 1933, she said. More disturbing still, the vast majority are shopworn cliches, from plucky moms to whores, scheming divas and loving assistants.

Having analyzed the presence (or non-presence) of women »


- Will Tizard

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Hollywood Insider Michael Apted on Combating Sexual Harassment, Working With Actors, Cinematographers

8 hours ago

Variety speaks to British director Michael Apted, who has served as president of the Directors Guild of America, and as a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He talks about his approach to working with cinematographers, how he gets the best out of actors, and how Hollywood should respond to the sexual harassment crisis. Apted heads the jury at Camerimage, a film festival dedicated to the art of cinematography. The event wraps on Saturday.

Apted has received numerous accolades for his films. The “Up” documentary series, which has followed the same group of people since they were 7 years old, has won two BAFTAs.

His Hollywood movies have included “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which won an Oscar for Sissy Spacek, and was nominated in six other categories including best picture, “Gorillas in the Mist,” which was nominated for five Oscars, and “Nell,” which earned Jodie Foster an Oscar nomination. His other pictures »


- Leo Barraclough

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Box Office: ‘Justice League’ Stalls with $94 Million Opening Weekend

10 hours ago

Warner Bros.-D.C.’s “Justice League” is headed for an underwhelming opening weekend, coming in below early predictions with an estimated $94 million at 4,051 North American locations during its opening weekend.

The number marks a nearly 15% drop from early reports, which had pegged “Justice League’s” opening weekend in the $110 million range. With an estimated budget of around $300 million, “Justice League” poses high stakes for Warner Bros. The movie 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. Amy Adams, Amber Heard, Jeremy Irons, J.K. Simmons, and Willem Dafoe also appear. Zack Snyder began shooting “Justice League” in April of 2016, from a script by Chris Terrio. Joss Whedon — director of Disney-Marvel’s two “Avengers” movies — assumed directing »


- Erin Nyren

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Film Review: ’12th and Clairmount’

17 November 2017 6:26 PM, PST

It’s always fascinating to encounter a documentary about a historical event after you’ve seen the meticulously staged Hollywood version. Your hunger to take in the subject is probably ramped up a notch or two — but beyond that, there’s now an added point of interest, since a good documentary will shed powerful light on a question that lurks behind any piece of dramatized history. Namely: How accurate is it? “12th and Clairmount,” an illuminating and innovatively crafted account of the 1967 Detroit riot, is a documentary that viewers will be eager to compare and contrast with Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” (timed, like this film, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the uprising). That’s likely to give it that much more of a specialty niche.

Not that the movie wouldn’t be absorbing on its own. Brian Kaufman, who directed and edited it, takes a disarmingly personalized approach, mixing newsreels »


- Owen Gleiberman

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Film News Roundup: Palm Springs Festival Honors Sam Rockwell for ‘Three Billboards’

17 November 2017 5:17 PM, PST

In today’s film news roundup, Sam Rockwell is honored for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” New Regency buys a hijacking story, and Paramount hires a screenwriter for “Gasp.”

Festival News

The 29th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will present Sam Rockwell with the spotlight award – actor for his performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

The festival’s awards gala, hosted by Mary Hart, will be held Jan. 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

Past recipients of the spotlight award include Amy Adams, Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cranston, Andrew Garfield, Helen Hunt, Rooney Mara, Julia Roberts, and J.K. Simmons. All recipients received Academy Award nominations in the year they were honored, with Simmons receiving the Oscar for best supporting actor.

Rockwell plays a short-tempered police officer in “Three Billboards” opposite Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, and Lucas Hedges. He has never been nominated for an Academy Award.

Project Launch

New Regency has acquired Michelle Ashford’s screenplay »


- Dave McNary

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Weinstein Co. Feeling Pressure to Find a Buyer (Exclusive)

17 November 2017 4:39 PM, PST

The Weinstein Co. is reviving its attempts to sell itself or the bulk of its film and television assets, Variety has learned. But the clock is ticking. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy last week, but after selling domestic distribution rights to “Paddington 2” in a $28 million deal with Warner Bros. it has bought itself some time. With the money, it now has enough cash to meet its payroll obligations, but it doesn’t have as much of a financial cushion as it would seem. That’s because The Weinstein Co. only receives a percentage of the money. Canal Plus, the film’s producer, picks up $20 million, while the Weinstein Co. gets the remaining $8 million.

The indie studio has been hit hard by a sexual harassment scandal involving co-founder Harvey Weinstein. It has already borrowed hundreds of millions against its film and TV library and now is grappling with the fact that its brand has become »


- Brent Lang, Cynthia Littleton and Gene Maddaus

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‘Terminator’ Writing Team Adds Billy Ray to Put Final Polish on Script

17 November 2017 4:01 PM, PST

After assembling a writer’s room earlier this year to tackle the latest installment in the “Terminator” franchise, Tim Miller and James Cameron have brought on Billy Ray to join the team and give the final touches to the latest draft.

Cameron and Miller’s writer’s room included David Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Josh Friedman. Ray is now coming on to polish the script that is based on a story conceived by Cameron, Miller, and Skydance founder David Ellison.

Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are returning to the franchise with Skydance and Cameron producing the project. Plot details are being kept under wraps, although Cameron has said that the film will be a direct sequel to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” since he played no part in the recent installments.

The pic is set to bow on July 26, 2019.

Known for his prestige dramas like “Captain Phillips” and “State of Play,” Ray is responsible »


- Justin Kroll and Brent Lang

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Josh Hartnett, Margarita Levieva Starring in Thriller ‘Inherit the Viper’

17 November 2017 3:33 PM, PST

Josh Hartnett and Margarita Levieva will star in Barry Films’ crime thriller “Inherit the Viper,” which explores the prescription drug epidemic in West Virginia.

Anthony Jerjen is directing from Andrew Crabtree’s original script.  The project is produced by Michel Merkt (“Elle,” “Toni Erdmann”) and Benito Mueller (“The Whistleblower”) and executive produced by Wolfgang Mueller for Barry Films.

Hartnett and Levieva will portray siblings as they try to escape the spiral of violence that has held them captive since their father’s passing. Their characters deal with a region left behind by the economy, in which selling drugs has become their way of survival and a business that’s very hard to quit.

“’Inherit the Viper’ is a visceral story of a family fighting to escape its destiny,” said Merkt. “I am thrilled to be able to tell it on this third collaboration with the incredibly talented director Anthony Jerjen, whose career »


- Dave McNary

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