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Toronto Film Review: ‘The Motive’

46 minutes ago

The idea that art should be taken from life is taken all too literally by a protagonist with no imagination whatsoever in “The Motive.” This adaptation of prominent Spanish scribe Javier Cercas’ short novel revolves around a would-be author who begins manipulating people in his apartment building to provide fodder for the fiction he’s always wanted to write.

There’s an undeniable lurid pull to this premise and its increasingly odd progress. But director Manuel Martin Cuena’s neutral tone does little to maximize the black comedy or suspense in the story, making for a film with a great hook that plays as just a mildly outré divertissement. Nonetheless, it won the Fipresci critics’ prize at Toronto in the Special Presentations category.

Alvaro (Javier Gutierrez) is a 40-ish notary who toils daily in a particularly irksome law office, yet has always dreamed of being an author. It’s more annoying, then, »


- Dennis Harvey

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Film Review: ‘Boston’

1 hour ago

The resiliency of the Boston Marathon, both historically and in the wake of the 2013 terrorist bombing at its finish line, is roundly celebrated in “Boston,” whose title directly suggests the fundamental relationship shared between the race and its city. Breaking little ground but functioning as a handy primer on the event’s century-plus ups and downs, as well as its efforts to rebound from the tragedy that befell it four years earlier, Jon Dunham’s documentary gracefully achieves its admirable ends. Whether seen in L.A. theaters when it screens Sept. 22 or later at home, it’s a worthy tribute bound to illuminate and inspire.

The doc begins with race director Dave McGillivray, local officials and former champions discussing the importance — and logistical organizational hurdles — of the 2014 iteration. The need to safeguard participants and spectators predictably proves to be of primary importance, although Dunham’s film isn’t really interested in the nitty-gritty of how those ends »


- Nick Schager

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Why China’s ‘Wolf Warriors II’ Is Enjoying Surprising Success in Hong Kong

1 hour ago

To the surprise of some, China’s top-grossing film of all time, “Wolf Warriors II,” has been better received in Hong Kong compared to previous Chinese propaganda movies. The film’s modest success in Hong Kong theaters comes despite its unabashedly patriotic content, of a kind which in the past was strongly rejected by residents of the former British colony.

Wolf Warriors II” scored Hk$2.6 million ($333,000) during its opening Sept. 7-10 weekend, putting it fourth among new releases. The weekend’s winners were “It,” with Hk$3.97 million ($509,000), and “American Made,” which took $461,000. Also outranking “Wolf Warriors II” was “The Sinking City: Capsule Odyssey,” a dark comedy about the absurdity of the Hong Kong property market. It earned $448,000.

“Hong Kong audiences always show less interest in mainland Chinese films, particularly those revolving around a patriotic theme. Hong Kong audiences look for entertainment or stories they can identity with,” says Pierre Lam, a »


- Vivienne Chow

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Toronto Film Review: ‘Vampire Clay’

1 hour ago

In “Y Is for Youth,” his segment in the horror anthology “The ABCs of Death 2,” makeup artist-cum-director Soichi Umezama turned a teenager’s malevolent fantasies against her careless, neglectful parents into a five-minute showcase for his hand-crafted stop-motion creations: A woman transformed into a rabid dog, a french-fry vacuum cleaner head, a screen-filling middle finger. Umezama’s first feature, “Vampire Clay,” is 16 times longer and half as inventive, despite a premise that’s irresistibly silly and a central effect that’s infinitely malleable in its possibilities. A sinister pile of modeling clay could be anything, after all, but Umezama’s ersatz “Evil Dead 2” knockoff imagines few compelling forms for a plasticine demon that terrorizes a rural art school. Despite a high-profile launch at Tiff’s Midnight Madness and Fantastic Fest, the film’s shoddy craftsmanship stands to limit its schlock appeal.

The notion of “vampire clay” is a fun thought experiment, and »


- Scott Tobias

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Toronto Film Review: ‘The Journey’

2 hours ago

Several dramas in recent years have attempted to fathom the mindset of a suicide bomber. Iraqi-Dutch director Mohamed Al-Daradji comes up with a different, emotionally accessible approach in “The Journey” by surrounding his fictive terrorist’s mission within a panoply of train-station humanity, a gambit that at times is strongly reminiscent of vintage neorealist slices of life. Expertly juggling suspense and various narrative strands, never quite succumbing to the sentimentality it sometimes flirts with, this compact microcosmic tale should win over audiences on the festival circuit, and quite possibly beyond.

A young woman who says she’s called Sara (Zahraa Gandour) removes her headscarf before entering Baghdad Central Station in late 2006, when the facility is about to re-open after years of devastation. The place is crawling with military, police and other security. Grim-faced, she does her best to blend into the crowd while examining those unlucky travelers, peddlers and others who are unknowingly about to become part »


- Dennis Harvey

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Hong Kong Picks ‘Mad World’ for Oscar Consideration

2 hours ago

Hong Kong has selected mental-illness drama “Mad World” as its contender for the foreign-language film category of the Academy Awards. The selection was made by the Federation of Motion Film Producers.

Directed by Wong Chun, “Mad World” tells the story of a truck driver who cares for his bipolar adult son.

Despite its difficult subject matter and raw approach, it became a surprise hit on the indie circuit. It won the top prize at the Osaka Asian Film Festival in March. The following month it collected three prizes at the Hong Kong Film Awards, including best new director.

The film’s production was supported by the Hong Kong government’s First Feature Film Initiative (Fffi) for new talent.

The selectors worked from a short list of four films. The other titles were “Chasing the Dragon,” “Ferryman” (aka “See You Tomorrow”) and “Soul Mate.”

Related storiesWhy China's 'Wolf Warriors II' is Enjoying Surprising Success in Hong KongTaiwan Picks »


- Patrick Frater

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Taiwan Picks Lesbian Documentary ‘Small Talk’ as Oscar Contender

3 hours ago

Taiwan has selected documentary “Small Talk” as its contender in the Academy Awards foreign-language film category. 

Directed by Huang Hui-Chen, the film is “a meditative exploration” into Huang and her lesbian mother’s past as a priestess and absentee parent. The film won the Teddy Award in Berlin earlier this year for best documentary.

Other films shortlisted for contention included Midi Z’s “The Road to Mandalay” and Chi Hsien-Jer’s “White Ant.”

Related storiesHong Kong Picks 'Mad World' for Oscar ConsiderationAre You Ready for the Most Exciting Oscar Race in Years?Laos Selects 'Dearest Sister' as First Foreign-Language Oscar Submission »


- Patrick Frater

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San Sebastián: Antonio Méndez Esparza Talks Race, Class and Understanding in ‘Life and Nothing More’

6 hours ago

Selected by Variety’s chief film critics as one of their 10 best movies at Toronto, “Life and Nothing More” turns on a struggling African-American family in northern Florida, its frustrated single mother (Regina Williams) and teen son Andrew (Andrew Bleechington), written off as a juvenile delinquent. Variety talked to director Antonio Mendez Esparza (“Here and There”) about the Toronto-festival bowing film, which is produced by Pedro Hernández.

Would you see “Life and Nothing More” as a coming of age film about family and its need for reconciliation? 

I’m glad you see the film that way. This film started out as the story of a single mother who works in a Walmart.  Along the way, it transformed. For me, when you stop filming, you stop looking. When you film, your gaze crystalizes, you hunt and capture, you aim to understand, to share, to aim to reveal truths and intimacies.

How did you come to make “Life and »


- John Hopewell

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Film Review: ‘Thirst Street’

10 hours ago

Nathan Silver has an eye for a great face — a beautiful one, marked and matured and made extraordinary by feeling — that you don’t typically see at the center of a movie. Actress Lindsay Burdge has one of those. It’s her fine-lined, progressively devastated visage, often held in close-up that’s both adoring and unforgiving, that carries us through the stressful emotional machinations of “Thirst Street,” Silver’s most excitingly stylized microbudget indie to date. Taking a leaf (or several, in enticing sherbet shades) from Fassbinder and the arch experimentalism of 1970s psychodrama, with a dusting of the same decade’s Eurotica, this compact but internally unruly tragicomedy centers on a grief-stricken young flight attendant driven to obsessive madness by an over-extended one-night stand in Paris — tracking her as intimately and relentlessly as she does her callous male quarry.

Thirst Street” isn’t exactly kind to its protagonist, whose extreme self-debasement for the sake of an »


- Guy Lodge

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Fall 2017 Movie Schedule

11 hours ago

From “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to “Blade Runner 2049,” a look at the fall movie schedule.

Related stories'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' Again Tops Studios' TV Ad SpendingAre You Ready for the Most Exciting Oscar Race in Years?From the Start of the Film Business, Some of the Most Enduring Images Have Been Captured by Arri Cameras »


- Jacob Bryant

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‘Escape Plan 3’: China’s Max Zhang Joins Sylvester Stallone Sequel

11 hours ago

Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista will be joined by China’s Max Zhang in “Escape Plan 3: Devil’s Station.” The film is the third in the “Escape Plan” prison break franchise produced by Emmett Furla Oasis.

The new movie sees Stallone and Bautista’s characters again join forces to break out one of their team members from an inescapable prison. The pic is directed by John Herzfeld (“Death and Life of Bobby Z,” “15 Minutes”) from Miles Chapman and John Herzfeld’s script.

The film is now beginning principal photography. Lionsgate will release the completed picture.

Zhang has a career that started as a stunt double and now sees him stretching across Hollywood and Chinese industries. His various credits include “Crouching Tihger Hidden Dragon,” “The Grandmaster,” and “Ip Man 3.” His upcoming projects also include “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” and another spinoff from the “Ip Man” concept, in which he will again co-star with Bautista.

Jaime King »


- Patrick Frater

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Bernie Casey, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ Actor and Former NFL Player, Dies at 78

11 hours ago

Bernie Casey, the former NFL star known for his work in the films “Boxcar Bertha” and “Revenge of the Nerds,” died on Tuesday in Los Angeles after a brief illness, Variety has confirmed. He was 78.

Casey made his film debut in the 1969 sequel “Guns of the Magnificent Seven.” He then acted alongside fellow former NFL star Jim Brown in the crime dramas “…tick…tick…tick…” and “Black Gunn.” He played the title role in the 1972 science fiction TV film “Gargoyles,” and then portrayed Tamara Dobson’s love interest in 1973’s “Cleopatra Jones.”

Related

Celebrities Who Died in 2017

Casey wrote, directed, produced, and starred in “The Dinner,” a 1997 film centering on three black men who discuss slavery, black self-loathing, and homophobia. That same year, he loosely portrayed a version George Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party who was killed, in the drama “Brothers.”

In Martin Scorsese’s “Boxcar Bertha,” he »


- Rebecca Rubin

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Box Office: Can ‘Kingsman’ or ‘Lego Ninjago’ Knock ‘It’ From Top Spot?

11 hours ago

This is, without a doubt, an unusually strong September at the box office.

The thanks go mostly to “It,” which charged out of the starting gate for Warner Bros. and New Line as a record-breaking hit two weekends ago with $123 million domestic. Last weekend it easily stayed on top of the North American charts with $60 million. But now, Pennywise the clown has tough competition from two new releases — Fox’s “Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” and “The Lego Ninjago Movie” from Warner Bros.

The sequel to “Kingsman: The Secret Service” looks like the leader of the pack. It’s tracking with a wide-ish margin in the $40 millions from more than 4,000 locations. That would be an improvement on the original, which had a domestic opening of $36.2 million. Foreign grosses boosted the first “Kingsman” to become a global hit, and it finished its run with $414.4 million worldwide. So B.O. observers should look abroad for the second go-around as well »


- Seth Kelley

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Mark Wahlberg to Star in Paramount’s ‘Instant Family’

14 hours ago

Mark Wahlberg is set to star in the Paramount comedy “Instant Family,” sources confirm to Variety.

Daddy’s Home” helmer Sean Anders is helming.

Anders and Brian Burns, the writing duo behind the “Daddy’s Home” series, wrote “Instant Family” and will produce alongside Wahlberg and Steve Levinson. Paramount is fast-tracking the project and aims to start shooting next year.

The film is about a couple who decide to start a family and adopt through the foster-care system, only to find themselves raising three wild kids who have no interest in being parented. »


- Justin Kroll

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Film Review: ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’

15 hours ago

There was no such thing as a “Pooh” until A.A. Milne made it so, although walking, talking teddy bear Winnie’s companion, Christopher Robin, wasn’t just some character the English novelist invented, but a boy based on Milne’s own son, who grew up to resent how the success of “Winnie-the-Pooh” wrecked his childhood. That’s just one of the behind-the-scenes revelations the predictably handsome, predictably stuffy literary biopic “Goodbye Christopher Robin” has in store for those who adore Milne’s novels — consistently voted among the most popular kidlit creations of all time — but who haven’t necessarily heard how they came to be.

Milne wouldn’t be the first teller of children’s stories to be something of a brute when it came to dealing with the little nippers in person (“Alice” creator Charles Dodgson also comes to mind), although the movie doesn’t feel unreasonably tough in the way it holds Milne accountable for »


- Peter Debruge

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Director of Mel Gibson Movie ‘Professor and the Madman’ Seeks to Seize and Destroy Producer’s Cut

15 hours ago

The director of the Mel Gibson film “The Professor and the Madman” filed for a restraining order on Wednesday, seeking to force producer Voltage Pictures to turn over its cut of the movie so that it can be destroyed.

Farhad Safinia, the director and writer of the film about the Oxford English Dictionary, is accusing Voltage of violating his copyright to the screenplay. He claims he never signed away his right to the project, and never had a formal contract to direct the movie.

In an application to the court, Safinia posted his entire 126-page screenplay as an attachment.

Related

Mel Gibson Sues Voltage Pictures Over Final Cut of ‘Professor and the Madman’

Safinia alleges that Voltage refused to shoot sufficient scenes at Oxford University, and ultimately took the pic away from him. He says the Voltage cut of the film does not reflect his wishes.

“Defendants took the existing footage and pieced it together themselves without »


- Gene Maddaus

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‘Beyond the Sun,’ in Which Pope Francis Plays Himself, Gets Vatican Premiere

16 hours ago

Vatican City – “Beyond the Sun,” a simple but effective English-language children’s adventure film in which Pope Francis plays himself, premiered Wednesday at the Vatican, signaling a clear attempt by the pontiff and his communications advisors to use movies as a medium to spread the Catholic message to the young.

The pic, in which Francis appears for roughly six minutes, marks the first time that a pope has appeared in a motion picture.

Shot in Patagonia and Vatican City, “Beyond the Sun” is about five kids who run away from home after catechism class and take to the woods to look for Jesus in a hilltop sanctuary. The multi-ethnic cast features child actors Aiden Cumming-Teicher, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Emma Duke, Kyle Breitkopf, and Sebastiάn Alexander Chou.

Co-directed by Graciela Rodriguez (pictured), an Argentine psychiatrist whose rapport with Francis goes back a long way, and Charlie Mainardi, who has shot commercials for Coca Cola, the »


- Nick Vivarelli

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Gal Gadot in Talks to Join Bradley Cooper in Thriller ‘Deeper’

17 hours ago

Gal Gadot is in early talks to join Bradley Cooper in the MGM thriller “Deeper.”

“White God” helmer Kornel Mundruczo is also attached to the project. Max Landis, who penned the script, will produce with David Goyer and Addictive Pictures. If a deal closes, production is expected to start in the first quarter of 2018.

Related

Gal Gadot Comforts Young ‘Wonder Woman’ Fan at Comic-Con 2017

The film follows a former astronaut (to be played by Cooper) hired to take a submersible to the deepest part of the ocean. Supernatural events transpire as the vehicle gets closer to its destination.

Following the news that “Wonder Woman” helmer Patty Jenkins closed a deal to direct “Wonder Woman 2,” sources wondered if Gadot would film another movie prior to commencing production on the superhero sequel. The tentpole has become one of the biggest domestic box office hits of the year, grossing more then $411 million in the U.S. »


- Justin Kroll

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Matt Damon to Receive Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award

17 hours ago

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles announced on Wednesday that Matt Damon will be the recipient of the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film at this year’s ceremony.

Matt Damon is undoubtedly one of the most talented and respected actors working in film today,” said BAFTA Los Angeles chairman Kieran Breen. “Having made a remarkable impact at a young age with ‘Good Will Hunting,’ he has developed a phenomenal career — combining both big-budget studio movies and acclaimed independent films. As a favorite of some of the top contemporary directors in our industry, it seems particularly fitting that we are honoring his career with an award bearing the name of the legendary Stanley Kubrick.”

Related

Matt Damon to Star as Con-Man Doctor in ‘Charlatan’ (Exclusive)

The Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award is given to individuals “upon whose work is stamped the indelible mark of authorship and commitment, and »


- Matt Fernandez

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‘It’ Star Jaeden Lieberher on Deleted Scene, Sequel Plans and Perfecting His Stutter

18 hours ago

After a eerily quiet summer at the box office, “It,” the adaptation of Stephen King’s chilling novel directed by Andy Muschietti, floated in to shatter records for the largest September debut, as well as the biggest opening weekend by a horror film.

Though Bill Skarsgard stars as the titular and terrifying manifestation of It, the thriller ultimately tells the story of seven young children — affectionately dubbed the Losers’ Club — who band together to protect their town of Derry, Maine from being terrorized by the demonic dancing clown known as Pennywise.

Jaeden Lieberher, the 14-year-old who plays the Losers’ Club leader Bill Denbrough, spoke with Variety about the horror movie’s universal appeal, his favorite scenes, and how he perfected his character’s stutter.

Related

Film Review: Stephen King’s ‘It’

Congratulations on the success of the film. Did you expect this reaction? 

I don’t know. I knew there was already fan base of the TV »


- Rebecca Rubin

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