We're not sure what's happening here, but we like what we see: a pointy-eared Channing Tatum kicking ass, Mila Kunis floating above a future metropolis, and the Wachowski siblings promising another trippy ride for next summer. Boys and girls, Jupiter Ascending:
“It’s like the acting Olympics,” Julia Roberts told Entertainment Weekly earlier this year when she had described her experience shooting August: Osage County, the star-studded adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Written for the screen by the play’s very own scribe, Tracy Letts, August is one giant smorgasbord of performances, heightened by a script loaded with meaty morsels any actor would kill for. For the uninitiated, it's about the coming together of a broken family at an Oklahoma farmhouse after the brood’s poetry-loving patriarch (Sam Shepard) disappears. From there, long-simmering tensions erupt as family secrets are exposed and grudges explode across the dinner table.
Directed by John Wells, and produced by George Clooney and partner Grant Heslov, the film is an Academy Award campaign manager’s wet dream. Meryl Streep heads the dysfunctional Weston clan as Violet, a pill-popping cancer patient whose vicious rhetoric cuts through each scene like a switchblade. Streep marinates herself in the role, and she lays out a banquet of a performance, skillfully balancing nuance with over-the-top moments. Which begs to ask: Can the woman really do no wrong?
As for the rest of the cast...Ewan McGregor quietly sits on the sidelines as the penitent father of a pot-smoking teen (Abigail Breslin) and the husband of Roberts’s Barb, a middle-ager who is fed up with her family’s self-destructive ways. Juliette Lewis brilliantly struts in as Karen, the sister from Florida with a Ferrari-driving fiancé (a slick Dermot Mulroney). Then there’s Julianne Nicholson as wallflowery Ivy, the secretive younger sister who won’t spill the beans on her new beau. Rounding out an already impressive ensemble is Margo Martindale as Violet’s equally secretive sister Mattie and Chris Cooper as Charles, whose emotionally stunted son, “Little” Charles, happens to be played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
But back to that dinner table scene, which is the anticipated crux of the film, the meticulously detailed stage from which the money shot is taken (just look at that telling poster). All is gloriously let out in one cathartic brawl in which Barb snaps and lashes out at the rampaging Violet. The lenghty scene unfolds like a mini disaster flick; you know where it's headed, and for those who haven't seen the critically-acclaimed play, nothing can brace you for what's really coming. Roberts reveals a side of her we've never seen before in this mother-versus-daughter battle that is raw, honest, and necessarily uncomfortable.
Also? It's just a hoot seeing America's Sweetheart viciously spit out the line, "Eat the fish, bitch."
But the film isn't entirely the Meryl and Julia Show. Each player gets his or her moment to command the screen and contribute to this character-driven tapestry, especially the aforementioned Lewis and Martindale, who at one point, comes off as brutal and vulnerable within the span of a few minutes.
Halfway through the film, in a moment of crisis, Barb utters another line, one that should resonate with anyone with a family:
“Thank God we can’t tell the future. We’d never get out of bed.”
Familial ennui has never been so beautifully harsh, funny, and true.
August: Osage County opens in theaters on Christmas (just in time for your equally screwed up family get-togethers).
We know you've been missing Hot Nutshell (all three of you), and we're sorry for the delay. But here's what's got us buzzing this week...
Katy Perry debuted her video for "Unconditionally" earlier today. Apparently, the video finds the Prism princess declaring her undying love on a discarded set from Downton Abbey, setting beds on fire, and making it snow.
Reese Witherspoon takes on a period drama (set in 1993!) about the tragic deaths of three young boys in Memphis. And Colin Firth shows up with a southern accent to investigate. It's safe to say there's nothing feel-good about this crime drama:
Elsewhere, Alanis Morissette's seminal album, Jagged Little Pill, is being adapted into a Broadway musical along the lines of Green Day's American Idiot. Shortly after we spontaneously combusted over this news, we dug out our CDs from high school and rejoiced: 1995 is making a comeback y'all.
And then there's this:
Our favorite new show of the fall season, NBC's The Blacklist, is awesome and all (with its breathtaking plots and James Spader's...Spaderisms), but it is co-star Ryan Eggold (90210) who's piquing our interest as the bespectacled husband of FBI agent Liz Keen. What's up with him? What secrets is he hiding? Producers, please don't kill off this hottie. We'd like to see more of him. A lot more.
Less than two weeks after Malcolm D. Lee’s The Best Man Holiday surprised Hollywood with a $30 million-dollar-opening weekend and an A+ cinemascore, another holiday film with a predominantly African-American cast arrives in theaters hoping to spread a bit of seasonal cheer and perhaps reap the same box office returns. Fortunately, similar to Best Man, this one is a crowd-pleasing treat. However, that’s about all the two dramatically different films have in common.
Writer/Director Kasi Lemmon’s Black Nativity isn’t so much a literal translation of Langston Hughes’ iconic 1961 work as it is a modern reimagining of the poet’s Gospel-infused passion play, one featuring an all-star cast eager to collaborate with the visionary behind Eve’s Bayou and Talk To Me.
(Kasi) is just an amazing filmmaker. She’s so talented and so dedicated you can’t help but learn (when you work) with her," says Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, offering up praise for his gifted director and explaining why he didn’t hesitate when Lemmons asked him to lead fellow Academy Award recipient Jennifer Hudson, nominee Angela Bassett, and Grammy-winning superstars Tyrese Gibson and Mary J. Blige in bringing Black Nativity to the screen.
For Whitaker, star of Lee Daniels' The Butler, the film’s subject matter also proved irresistible: “Kasi was trying to tell a story about a family - from us, the grandparents, to our daughter and our grandchild - everybody that makes up a family. That is what this movie is about, forgiving, mending the past, mending relationships, loving.”
And the holiday season was a subject that was particularly appealing to its buzzy cast. “Christmas is the birth of Jesus," says Mary J. Blige with characteristic candor, “and that means everything to me. It’s about love; it’s about food; it’s about presents. It’s the best thing! You wait for that all year.”
Fellow chart-topper Jennifer Hudson echoes the sentiment: “I just love the holidays – they’re about family, and music, and church - these are all the elements of me.”
Whitaker plays a Harlem preacher and family man whose world changes when his estranged daughter (Hudson) sends his grandson (Jacob Latimore) home for the holidays, and singing on screen with the likes of Hudson proved to be daunting task. “I was scared,” the actor admits. At least he took comfort in the fact that his movie wife, Angela Bassett, despite receiving an Oscar nomination for playing one of the most beloved singers of all time in 1993’s What’s Love Got To Do With It, was equally terrified:
I’d lied (when) Kasi asked me if I could sing, think(ing) I won’t let a little thing like that keep me from doing the part. So when she set me up with Rafael, I was extremely nervous to say the least.”
The Rafael that Ms. Bassett refers to is none other than Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer, Rafael Saadiq, the man whom Lemmons tapped to compose Black Nativity’s score as well as create some rousing new songs for it, despite the fact that the hitmaker had never done anything like this before.
“I’ve worked with Spike Lee. I’ve worked with John Singleton. All these people on all these different films, but this was like the whole movie! I was nervous, though it’s funny, the scariest thing about the process (proved to be) having to shut my mouth most of the time and not say anything.”
For the film’s youngest star, 17-year-old Jacob Latimore, silently observing the talent all around him was easy. It was getting in touch with his character’s simmering rage that was much more challenging: “I’m a very sensible person, and it’s very rare that I get angry, so I really had to dig deep (to find my character) because Kasi wanted me to stay strong and firm. That’s what the role called for.”
Strong and firm at first, but like all holiday-facilitated miracles, Latimore’s troubled teen eventually learns how to open up and allow love and all its blessings into his life; a lesson that resonates deeply in today’s increasingly disconnected world. Gibson, the charismatic star of the Fast and The Furious flicks, sums it up best: “When you can see yourself in the movie, a different kind of realization sets in, and you want to be better. This film is an opportunity to mentor through cinema.”
The iconic musician and one of the hottest actors from the UK were on hand for a presentation promoting Rocketman, a new musical based on Elton's discography (prinicipal photography starting next year).
We're horror fanatics here at HIH, so you can imagine how excited we get every time the 13th of any month falls on a Friday (break out the bloodstained hockey masks!).
That's why our very own Tim Murdock, the King of F13 fanatics, interviewed Peter Bracke, the author of Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th just in time for this weekend's infamous date. It's also fitting that the Crystal Lake Memories documentary, which is an adaptation of the in-depth volume, is also being released on Blu-ray this week.
Check out part one of Tim's very special installment of his own Happy Horror TIMe web chat show, and get to know the man behind the behind-the-scenes bloodshed:
Naomi Watts and Robin Wright play lifelong besties who share
much more than their darkest secrets in Anne Fontaine’s gorgeously troubled new
Set on the breathtaking
and isolated Northern Australian coast, a place where life beats to the
primordial rhythm of the briny blue, the ladies cast off the shackles of
middle-aged unfulfillment by beginning heated trysts with each others’ teenage sons
(Twilight’s Xavier Samuels and Animal Kingdom’s James Frecheville).
Since they were children, Roz (Wright) and Lil (Watts) have
been at each other’s side through thick and thin. Roz was there when Lil’s
husband passed away, leaving her alone to care for young Ian (Samuels), and Lil
has remained an emotional buttress for Roz during her increasingly disconnected
marriage to Harold (Ben Mendelson). To the delight of the ladies, their
similar-in-age sons, Ian and Tom (Frecheville) have grown up as best mates and
beach buddies, forming with their moms an enviably close-knit quartet.
Of course, things get a bit complicated (and not in a
Nancy Meyers way) when Ian expresses feelings for Roz, spurning Tom to follow
suit with Lil.
It’s quite a titillating conceit, yet one that only somewhat
flies despite the best efforts of all involved. The actresses are reliably
superb, their young broncos are appropriately energetic, and Fontaine does a
wonderful job of capturing the invigorating tonic of desire. That being said, watching
these two women give their teenage suitors – boys they’ve known since infancy
and practically raised as their own -- enough mother-loving to make Timberlake
and Samberg proud, can often be um… distracting.
Doris Lessing’s novel (The Grandmothers), on which this film is based, somehow managed
to probe this territory without tripping on its scandalous and squirm-inducing undertones. Unfortunately, despite its stellar performances and lush romantic haze, Adore makes that fumble.
Delicately directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, Short Term 12 takes a peek into the foster care system for at-risk youth. It's also based on Cretton's 2008 short film of the same name and stars Brie Larson (The United States of Tara) and John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom) as case workers who share responsibilities -- and other intimate details -- at a group home for several troubled youngsters.
The poignant film premiered earlier this year at SXSW where it received tremendous reception, and it continues to do so as it widens its limited run in theaters across the nation.
For both young actors, the chance to work on a film with such sensitive material was a no-brainer -- and a welcome challenge.
"The script was emailed to me," Larson remembers, "and I read it while I was shooting The Spectacular Now, and...the script felt very realized without pushing anything on you whatsoever, and I was just terrified that Destin would find me qualified to play the role. But I know that I could do it. It's a strange feeling to have such a strong intuition about something like this."
Having applied to a bunch of volunteer jobs in Georgia, Larson was determined to prepare herself for the role of Grace, the group home supervisor who learns that she's pregnant. She was thrilled by the chance to bring some much-needed light to a profession that's often overlooked and hasn't really been accurately portrayed.
Gallagher Jr, having finished shooting the second season of HBO's The Newsroom, had a very similar experience when he attached himself to the project. "All the scripts that I had read as an auditioning actor, there's not a doubt in my mind that this was absolutely the best script I had ever read," he says. "It was all there on the page, and it took me about three pages to know that it was something so special and unique and I would jump through any number of hoops to become involved."
Playing such adult roles, even though they're not much older than the foster kids they care for, also gave both actors a taste of what parenthood may hold for them. Working with these characters offered them a perspective on raising children that they had never considered before.
Brie: "I was so concerned, when playing Grace, that I'd be this authority figure, so concerned of it being too much or it not coming across. And it makes more sense to me, when I watch the film, that love comes in many different forms, and sometimes it comes in a firmer tone, and I didn't know it worked that way. Suddenly I had this epiphany like, 'Oh my gosh, the times my mom grounded me, it finally makes sense to me!' It felt like I grew up in a way. It made me excited to be a parent because I felt like I came to terms with my imperfections and realized that's part of it, and some kid is going to hate me at certain points in time, and I'll have that one-up on them because I know that's going to happen before they even realize it."
"I just hope that I can be half as loving and caring and supportive and selfless as my character is in the film," Gallagher Jr. wonders aloud. "That was something amazing to learn from that character, a lot about patience and understanding and nurturing. I just feel like it was inspiring to get to know the characters in the film, people that take care of each other and look out for each other in a lot of very selfless ways. It's very overwhleming and inspiring to know that there are people like that out in the world. I hope I could live like that someday."
The film, overall, beautifully expresses themes of healing with every character tending to his or her own wounds, and director Cretton wanted to show all of the different approaches to the process that are involved.
“That was something that was important to me as a writer and director of this film," Cretton says, "but it’s also something that is very important to me as a person. In my experience, the most substantial type of healing is always mutual. It’s not a teacher-student relationship that is so clear-cut; it’s more like two people learning from each other.
He also looks back on his time spent working in a group home several years ago: “That was also my experiences when I was working at a place like this. I initially started with a false and unhealthy outlook that I was there to be a savior and make this place better for these kids. I quickly realized how much more complicated it is than that though...Nobody really gives advice in the film. There’s a couple of times when it’s being given, but most of the time it’s the kids giving advice to Grace or Mason.”
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