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welcome to me

Alchemy

Now that Kristen Wiig has figuratively won the lottery with a lead role in the Ghostbusters reboot, it’s about time we heard some release info on the movie where her character literally wins the lottery. That’d be Welcome to Me, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall to a fair amount of praise. Wiig plays a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins millions, starts her own television show and, as far as I can tell from its trailer, becomes quite successful with the latter in spite of her exhibition of strange and impulsive behavior while hosting the program. She also makes out with Wes Bentley and his latest shapely beard.

The rest of the cast of this movie is also impressive. There’s James MarsdenJennifer Jason Leigh and Joan Cusack (Broadcast News callback!) joining Bentley at the TV station, plus Tim Robbins (pretend Network callback!) as Wiig’s therapist and Linda Cardellini. Wiig also produced the movie along with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (which would be more of a positive if they didn’t produce Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, too). McKay’s wife, Shira Piven (who is also Jeremy Piven’s sister), directed from a script by Eliot Laurence, her former improv student. It’s all one big happy family. 

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Storyteller Pictures

Storyteller Pictures

Eight of Sundance 2015’s genre films found a home under the Park City at Midnight category, and they’ve been something of a mixed bag. My reviews of Cop Car and Knock Knock are here, with more on their way (although I reviewed the best of the category — It Followslast September), but I’m pairing the two least effective together below.

Hellions is the long-awaited return to horror for director Bruce McDonald and sees him let loose a horde of pint-sized terrors on a young woman and the poor unfortunates who come by for a visit. Reversal begins with the familiar story of a woman abducted for nasty purposes but spins it when she escapes only to set off on her own quest for justice.

Both films start off strong in narrative and/or visuals, but they also both begin quite quickly to fall apart due almost completely to their scripts.

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Conleth Hill as Varys and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

Conleth Hill as Varys and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

Fresh off about 12 hours of leaked footage from IMAX screenings, HBO has finally released the official version of the Game of Thrones season 5 trailer. It’s an embed from Facebook, so you might want to hit the little full screen button, put on some headphones and crank the volume, because this ride is about to get a little bumpy…

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Sundance Institute

Sundance Institute

It was American humorist Erma Bombeck who is credited is saying that “there is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” In the documentary program of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, this is a topic oft explored. From the quite literal exploration in Kevin Pollak’s Misery Loves Comedy to the less overt themes in Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, there were many instances of both pain and laughter, especially in the creation of great comedy.

It is through these docs that Sundance explored the minds and eccentricities behind what makes us laugh. Let’s explore.

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James Franco in As I Lay Dying

RabbitBandini Productions

John Steinbeck‘s “In Dubious Battle,” which has never been made into a movie before, is the next classic novel to hit the big screen courtesy of James Franco. The actor-turned-director will star and helm the adaptation, which was scripted by Matt Rager, his collaborator on his two Faulkner features, As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury.

Franco has quite an ensemble joining him in front of the camera this time around, too, including Bryan Cranston, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Danny McBride and Selena Gomez. McBride is the only one of them he’s directed before (in both Faulkners), and he’s only acted opposite McBride, Gomez and Harris, the last in the upcoming movie The Adderall Diaries.

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Jamie Foxx in Collateral

Dreamworks Productions, LLC

Remember when we told you to see Frédéric Jardin’s exhilarating thriller Sleepless Night, but then you were all disappointed to learn that it’s a subtitled movie and said you’d wait for the remake? That was a few years ago, and to your credit there was actually a Hollywood version announced immediately following its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Well, if you’re growing tired of waiting, you will be glad to hear that the English-language remake is back on track after being dropped by Warner Bros. According to Variety, now the rights are at Open Road, which is happy to announce they’re producing the movie with Jamie Foxx and his Due Date costar Michelle Monaghan in lead roles.

Foxx will play the (anti)hero (originally portrayed by Tomer Sisley), a corrupt cop who has to navigate a labyrinthine nightclub where his son is being held hostage by a crime boss. Not that they’d have to keep with same-gender casting, but I assume Monaghan will play the Internal Affairs detective (Lizzie Brocheré in the original) who is trailing and meddling in the dealings of the main character, screwing up a drug exchange that gets the son kidnapped in the first place. Baran bo Odar, who directed another foreign crime thriller we like called The Silence, is taking the helm of the Sleepless Night redo, which was scripted by Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center).

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mia wasikowska in madame bovary

Alchemy

It may not have received tremendous reviews out of the festivals last fall, but Sophie Barthes‘s Madame Bovary has a number of things going for it. On the top of the list is that it stars the wonderful Mia Wasikowska and may just be one of our last chances of watching her in a costume drama that isn’t Alice in Wonderland for a while. Wasikowska has otherwise been on a roll lately with her varied roles since the first Alice movie five years ago. In 2014 alone, we got to see her in Only Lovers Left AliveThe DoubleTracks and Maps to the Stars. If we didn’t also have the opportunity to catch Bovary at Telluride or Toronto, then 2015 is sure to be another good year for us fans of the young actress, between this and Guillermo del Toro’s period-piece horror film Crimson Peak.

In the movie at hand, another (unnecessary, as always?) adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s 1856 novel, Wasikowska plays the title heroine, a newlywed who is terribly bored with her marriage and overall provincial life and therefore winds up having affairs with other men. The husband is played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Anna Karenina), the lovers are portrayed by Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) and the rest of the cast includes Rhys Ifans, Downton Abbey‘s Laura Carmichael and Paul Giamatti, who starred in Barthes’s previous feature, the Charlie Kaufman-esque Cold Souls.

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Joe Dante's Explorers

Paramount Pictures

Project Almanac is the kind of movie where the characters are fully aware of other movies like it. That’s never been an unusual idea, because if you think about it, you’d be one of those characters, too. “Genre savvy” is what it’s called, and any human character who grew up on movies is going to have it. If a real slasher started killing your friends, you’d think about what happens in slasher movies, at least for a second before you just panicked because someone is murdering your friends. But it’s particularly true for more fantastical scenarios. If your world was suddenly populated by vampires or zombies, you’d consider the rules of movies about vampires or zombies. And if you managed to invent a time machine, you’d wonder which time travel movies got it right — especially regarding what happens to you if you encounter another version of yourself.

There are quite a number of other time travel movies referenced in some form or another in Project Almanac, too many to bother listing in this edition of Movies to Watch. Especially the really famous ones. One character mentions “Terminators one through four,” but I’m not going to recommend any of them. Same goes for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a clip from which even appears on screen. Then there’s Timeline, which isn’t alluded to except through the way the main actor in Project Almanac, Jonny Weston, really reminds me of a young Paul Walker. But nobody needs to see that movie. So, I’ve been selective, and only one third of the following recommended titles is from the time travel genre.

The rest are the usual variety. There are a few movies that have similar style or tone or plots outside of the primary genre and another few are linked by director and cast. And as always, this list is best avoided before seeing the movie at hand, as their reason for inclusion may have to do with SPOILERS regarding Project Almanac.

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James White

Relic Pictures/BorderLine Films

It takes seven stages to get over grief. Twelve steps to kick booze. An as-yet-undetermined number of steps or stages or whatever to stop being an unsympathetic and unmitigated asshole. Josh Mond’s James White chronicles the eponymous James White (Christopher Abbott), who could stand to benefit from attempting to take a few steps in any direction, as long as those steps are aware from his grief, his alcoholism, and his profound addiction to being an asshole.

Sensitively told and clearly close to Mond’s heart, James White follows James during a terribly gray period in his life, just after the death of his father (who he did not love) and the seemingly inevitable demise of his cancer-stricken mother (who he does). As James fumbles to come to terms with his life, he continually makes not just terrible decisions, but stupid ones, poor ones, idiotic ones, the kind that ensure that the haze and daze of his existence, the stuff he can attribute to a life steeped in guilt, won’t ever lift no matter how things shake out for him.

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project-almanac-big

Paramount Pictures

Recently, a friend and I were talking about how found footage movie trailers are pretty much all the same. For example, he thought that the trailer for Project Almanac was the trailer for Chronicle before the title came up. And he had seen Chronicle. It was just so samey that he couldn’t tell it wasn’t a movie he had already seen.

I’m a little less critical of found footage because I genuinely like it. I think, when it’s done correctly, it’s one of the most effective storytelling techniques there is. At least as far as horror goes, anyway. I’ve yet to see it done well for any other genre (sorry, I didn’t dig Chronicle), but I suppose it’s possible. I once imagined a political thriller where a news crew was trapped in a building where a group of terrorists were trying to assassinate some politician. That’s a freebie if anyone thinks they can make it not suck. Just put my name on it somewhere.

Here are some found footage movies that are actually worth a crap. Maybe they’ll change your mind if you think the genre is useless. Or you can tell me about ones you like in the comments.

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Amira and Sam

Drafthouse Films

Last week we looked at American Sniper as a political football, and this week we turn to a fresh take on military life which will sadly only get a fraction of the attention Sniper did.

Amira and Sam star Martin Starr will discuss preparing to play an army veteran, finding humor and nuance in an important script and the vital way in which the movie portrays a progressive Muslim girl. You can find the movie here.

Plus, Geoff and I will weigh in on the blockbuster-ish news about Ghostbusters getting an all-female cast and Indiana Jones hypothetically looking to Chris Pratt to take the whip and fedora.

Then, Rob Hunter will take some time out of shivering in the cold at Sundance to tell us his five favorites of the fest. You’ll want to write these down and hunt them down in the future.

You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis.

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JOHN WICK

Lionsgate

Three of last year’s biggest breakouts are set to work together on your new most anticipated movie of, well, currently forever. Cowboy Ninja Viking doesn’t have a release date yet, so I don’t know how long you’ll need to be patient, but try to contain your excitement. We already knew that rising tentpole star Chris Pratt would be front and center in the adaptation of A.J. Lieberman and Riley Rossmo’s graphic novel  if the right person or persons were at the helm, and now he’s given his approval for the men who will likely direct him: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.

That’s right, the duo who helmed John Wick, which was their feature directorial debut following decades of work as stunt men and second-unit work. According to Variety, they’re in early talks with an offer out, but it’s hard to see this not coming together as perfectly as it sounds. Leitch recently directed second-unit shots for Jurassic World, though it’s unlikely he got to work with Pratt on that gig. He and the actor were also both involved with the anthology comedy Movie 43, albeit on different segments. They’ll finally unite for this.

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Ted 2 Courtroom

Universal Pictures

A few days ahead of a promised teaser ad airing during the Super Bowl, the first full trailer for Ted 2 has arrived online. The comedy sequel is apparently a courtroom movie, in which the titular talking bear (voiced by writer/director Seth MacFarlane) has to defend his personhood in order to have a child with his new wife (Jessica Barth). So, it’s a civil rights issue film, albeit one that skips over using marriage equality as the obvious parallel.

Of course, this is also a Ted movie so it’s not so serious. We begin with the clarification that the bear can’t actually impregnate his beloved, so he recruits his buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) as a sperm surrogate. That gives them an excuse for some slippery semen-based slapstick. I’m guessing in the actual movie, it’s not all off-screen as it is in the ad. And the gross-out scenario probably goes much, much further, too.

Joining the cast as Wahlberg’s new love interest, replacing Mila Kunis (a quick knock at “happily ever after” shrugs her departure away) as a lawyer named Samantha L. Jackson, is Amanda Seyfried, plus Morgan Freeman as a civil rights attorney — an interesting actor to see, by the way, just after a joke about Samuel L. Jackson being the black guy in any movie ever — and John Slattery as a legal adversary. Flash Gordon star Sam J. Jones is reportedly coming back for another cameo as “himself,” too.

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published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015
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published: 01.29.2015
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published: 01.28.2015
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