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The End of the Tour

A24

It begins with an ending. James Ponsoldt’s deeply felt The End of the Tour opens with a death – an expected one, at least to anyone familiar with the life of lauded author David Foster Wallace, the man at the center of the story, the man who has come to the end of another sort of tour as the opening credits tick by – as author David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) pounds away at a laptop, hard at work on something and oblivious to the thing that has just happened that will change all of the other things. Based on Lipsky’s memoir, Although Of Course You End Up Being Yourself and beautifully translated to the screen by screenwriter Donald Marguiles, The End of the Tour opens with Wallace’s death, announced to Lipsky in the most impersonal ways imaginable: with a phone call, and then a Google search.

Twelve years earlier, Lipsky went out on the road with Wallace for a Rolling Stone article that would became his memoir. At the time, Lipsky was a writer with two books (a short story collection and a novel, both of which were critically lauded, neither of which sold particularly well) and a promising gig at the magazine under his belt. Despite his own modest accomplishments, Lipsky couldn’t help but feel inferior to the newly launched star power of David Foster Wallace, whose Infinite Jest riveted the literary world just as Lipsky’s latest all but whimpered through it. Lipsky’s admiration and fear of Wallace were not unique to him or to other writers of his generation, but his reaction was – instead of running from Wallace, he embraced him, pitching a long-form profile of the writer to Rolling Stone and ultimately going out on the road with Wallace for the final five days of his latest book tour. 

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Duplass Brothers Productions

Duplass Brothers Productions

We’ve all been there once or twice in our lives — somewhere new with people and places you’ve yet to see and meet, where you’re a blank slate with a chance to shape a new you. For most people it’s going away to college, for others it’s moving across country with all of your physical belongings in a U-Haul, but while the electric charge of fresh discovery is strong there’s often also a loneliness as you arrive somewhere new without family or friends. That first step of putting yourself out there can be incredibly difficult, even more so depending on what you get back in return.

Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) have recently arrived in Los Angeles with their young son RJ, and while she’s starting her new job he’s getting used to being the stay at home dad. The struggle for him is that while she’s meeting people at work and engaging in conversations he’s left alone with a child and no real way to find new friends. That changes one morning when they meet Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and his son at the park. They hit it off, as do their boys, and Kurt invites the family over to his and his wife’s home for pizza night. Best case? Alex, Emily and RJ have found some great new friends. Worst case? Well, let’s not even think about that.

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SUMMER OF SANGAILE

Films Distribution

Day one of Sundance (or of any film festival really) is often reserved for getting your bearings, seeing old faces and making new friends. There are still movies of course, but they’re usually limited to a small handful of titles. Such is the case at this year’s Sundance where four movies premiered Thursday night to a mixed bag of reactions. Two of the films were documentaries — What Happened, Miss Simone? and How to Change the World — so obviously I didn’t see either of those. (Sorry Chris.)

Instead, I saw both of the night’s narrative features,  and while they couldn’t have been more different in tone, style and plot they did share one trait. Summer of Sangaile and The Bronze (read Kate’s spot-on review here) are both about a self-centered and lost young woman who finds herself through the help and friendship of another young woman. One of the films features an intimate and romantic relationship while the other focuses more on a mentor and student dynamic, but both explore the ins and outs and ups and downs of female friendship.

Unfortunately neither film is fantastic, and one of them doesn’t even reach the level of good. (It’s The Bronze. The Bronze is not good.)

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True Story

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Late in Rupert Goold’s True Story, a character describes James Franco’s character, the convicted murderer Christian Longo, as being “very calm, very remote.” The same could be said of Goold’s debut feature film, which turns a cold, almost clinical eye on a deeply unsettling story of murder and betrayal. Franco and Jonah Hill star in the fact-based tale (did that title tip you off? it should have) as a pair of seemingly different men brought together by something a little bit like fate or luck, if you believe that fate has a sense of humor and luck is kind of a bitch. When the film opens, the pair is in disparate places, with Longo hiding out in Mexico, having fled Oregon after apparently murdering his wife and their three children in horrifying and heinous fashion, while Hill’s Michael Finkel is toiling away on a story about child slaves in Africa, the very same story that will eventually end his career (well, at least for a little bit).

The twist of the tale, the kind of thing you couldn’t make up because no one would believe you, is that while laying low in Mexico, Longo used an alias: “Michael Finkel.” And not just any old Michael Finkel, specifically “Michael Finkel from The New York Times.” By the time Longo is caught and shipped back to America to stand trial for his crimes, Finkel has been through his own upheaval, having been booted from his gig at Gray Lady, only to retreat back to his home in Montana to lick his wounds and plan his next career move. That’s when he gets the call, the one asking him to share his thoughts on the lunatic murderer who tried to pass himself off as Finkel for a few days in far Mexico. 

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Batkid Begins

KTF Films

Do you remember Batkid? He won our hearts in the fall of 2013 when the Make-a-Wish Foundation granted the five-year-old leukemia survivor his dream of being a costumed crusader for a day. San Francisco became Gotham City, and Miles Scott became “Batkid” while thousands of people, including the mayor and President Obama, helped him to become a hero through staged crime scenarios involving the Penguin and the Riddler and a ceremony where he received the key to the city. Now there’s a crowdfunded documentary about him and his special day called Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World, and it’s premiering at the Slamdance Film Festival this weekend.

On top of that, the production company Submarine has just announced that the documentary will be remade by none other than Julia Roberts. She will produce and star in the dramatic version — not playing the title character, of course (although that’d be sure to get her an Oscar nomination if she pulled it off somehow). Dana Nachman, director of the documentary, will get an executive producer credit on the redo, which will be part of a new banner strictly set up for remakes called Sub/Version. Meanwhile, the doc, which was co-written and produced by Dear Zachary director Kurt Kuenne and features Hans Zimmer and , remains without a distribution deal.

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Hugh-Grant-in-The-Rewrite

Image Entertainment

One thing is for sure: I can’t wait for Geoff and Scott to review The Rewrite on the Broken Projector podcast. This upcoming rom-com is about an Oscar-winning screenwriter who is no longer a hotshot and so desperately has to take a job teaching the craft jadedly to college students. The irony is that the screenplay for The Rewrite itself seems awfully bland. The movie comes from Marc Lawrence, who previously wrote such generic non-classics as Miss Congeniality and Forces of Nature and wrote and directed Two Weeks Notice, Music and Lyrics and Did You Hear About the Morgans? The Rewrite is his fourth movie to star Hugh Grant, who plays another unlikable guy who is presumably changed by the love of a woman, a role this time filled by Oscar winner Marisa Tomei.

At the start of the new trailer for the movie, we see a YouTube clip of Grant in his floppy-haired days winning his Oscar for Best Actor — what was that for, again? Nine Months? The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain? Oh, wait, he didn’t win an Oscar. The clip here, employed as a glimpse at the character winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, is of Grant winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1995. They’ve even kept some of the speech, though it weirdly still seems like a re-dub and doesn’t match his lips (could just be a bad YouTube connection, I suppose). They also cut in an audience shot that’s clearly from a Golden Globes ceremony rather than an Oscar ceremony, because there are tables.

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Clarius Entertainment

Clarius Entertainment

The director of such classics as The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon is finally making a return after 14 years of absence from features, but after watching the trailer for She’s Funny That Way, I wonder if it’s anything to celebrate. Peter Bogdanovich has been keeping plenty busy over the past decade and a half, doing a little more acting, some hosting duties on TCM, maintaining a blog at Indiewire and helming some TV movies, namely biopics about Natalie Wood and Pete Rose, and a documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. But his last true picture show, as far as a theatrical narrative release, was the 2001 historically inspired jazz-age farce The Cat’s Meow. 

For his comeback, Bogdanovich has written another wild comedy, this time with ex-wife Louise Stratten, and he’s corralled a very impressive cast, as someone of his background can easily do. Imogen Poots stars as a high-class prostitute-turned-Broadway star who gets a part in a play directed by a former client (Owen Wilson), whose wife (Katherine Hahn) is also in the cast, and she also attracts the affections of the playwright (Will Forte), whose girlfriend is the former escort’s therapist (Jennifer Aniston). There’s also room for Rhys Ifans, Richard LewisMichael Shannon, Lucy Punch, Cybill Shepherd, Illeana Douglas, Austin Pendleton, Debi Mazar and Jennifer Esposito plus cameos from Quentin Tarantino, Tatum O’Neal, Graydon Carter, Colleen Camp and Jake Hoffman, I’m assuming as themselves.

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Lionsgate

Lionsgate

Watching Mortdecai, I couldn’t help but spend most of my time contemplating what differentiates this from a Wes Anderson movie. After all, the former features Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Goldblum and, most importantly, a motorcycle with sidecar. It also centers on a valuable painting that multiple characters covet, just like Anderson’s latest, the Oscar-contending The Grand Budapest Hotel. Goldblum is in that one and, more interestingly enough, Mortdecai lead Johnny Depp was long-rumored to play the part of Monsieur Gustave H., which was filled instead by Ralph Fiennes (Anderson denied Depp was ever in consideration). Perhaps his early involvement with this similar-sounding movie wound up crossing with the other in conversations around Hollywood.

There are many things that do separate Mortdecai from Grand Budapest and others made by Anderson. The heart isn’t there, for one thing. Nor is the meticulous art direction. It reminds me of the viral videos parodying Anderson’s style made by people who clearly don’t get the filmmaker at all. To be fair and frank, when it comes right down to it, Mortdecai is really as much, or probably more, akin to the work of The Farrelly Brothers. There are fart jokes, a lot of gagging and vomiting, plus boners, horny old men, testicular preoccupations and at least two clinical nymphomaniacs (who strangely are never even hinted as being potentially paired up).

There’s also some obvious Blake Edwards influence, in that there’s plenty of physical comedy of the sort where the first shot of the movie shows a waitress delivering flaming cocktails, and we can be certain we’ll soon see such drinks knocked clumsily by the hero and catch someone’s clothing on fire. 

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The Boy Next Door Movie

Universal Pictures

Some movies are so much better than the sum of their parts that they defy easy explanation. A director suddenly shifts his visual style; an actor shows a previously unknown knack for comedy or drama; a screenwriter breathes life into a property we all assumed was dead. We marvel at the result, talk about how it never should have happened, and praise those involved for safeguarding their creativity against the corporate machinations of the industry. These films demonstrate the success of art in the face of commerce.

And then there are movies like The Boy Next Door, which could only exist in a place like Hollywood.

It takes a special kind of ignorance to think that Jennifer Lopez and Kristin Chenoweth’s characters are believable as best friends or that the 27-year-old Ryan Guzman would get carded in a bar, let alone be a high school student. This is a film that sets up the titular boy next door as being a caretaker for his elderly uncle and then forgets about the uncle for almost the entire film. It’s the kind of movie that thinks it’s clever because the cat jumps out and the body falls from the closet at the same time.

You know what, though? It’s not wrong. Great movies happen when everyone is on the same page. Great B-movies happen when nobody is. And The Boy Next Door is a pretty great B-movie.

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Chiwetel Ejiofor in Children of Men

Universal Pictures

Chiwetel Ejiofor was long a popular choice to fill the suit of Marvel’s Black Panther, but that role went to Chadwick Boseman instead. As a possible consolation prize, the Oscar-nominated actor is reportedly close to signing on to another movie in the MCU: Doctor Strange. The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop but little more than the casting, which would reunite him with his 12 Years a Slave co-star Benedict Cumberbatch, who is playing the titular sorcerer superhero.

Sources say Ejiofor is definitely not playing the villain and might be the Ancient One, a part previously linked to contenders Morgan Freeman, Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe. There’s also suggestion that he could take the role of Dr. Strange’s manservant sidekick, Wong, with a change in race from the comics. Would he still be a martial arts master? I don’t see that in Ejiofor. I’ve also seen some fans at least wish for the actor to play Brother Voodoo, a character who took over Strange’s gig as Sorcerer Supreme, though that would be an odd choice so soon.

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Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Through editorials and online chatter, we seem to be struggling to talk about American Sniper in a meaningful way, deciding instead to divide into Team A and Team B before launching empty words back and forth. It’s a political movie, yes, but it’s vitally important that we remain able to discuss political movies without succumbing to conversation-ending blather.

This week, Geoff and I will discuss the great need for art to stay uninfected by the corrosive divisiveness that is modern political discourse.

We’ll also dissect a handful of amazing, inspiring (and disheartening) movie speeches and answer a listener screenwriting question about what goes into a shooting script. You’ll want to wear a helmet for this one.

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

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Download Episode #84 Directly

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The Bronze

Duplass Brothers Productions

There’s a kernel of a good idea in Bryan Buckley‘s The Bronze – in fact, scratch that — there’s a whole bunch of kernels of various good ideas in the raunchy comedy, though most of them lay unpopped throughout the bloated, unflinchingly fucked up feature, like a giant bag of particularly bad movie theater popcorn. Buckley’s debut feature tries to tackle far too much for its own good, both in terms of basic narration and its a series of increasingly off-kilter tonal choices. A dark comedy about stunted adulthood and the diminishing returns of success, The Bronze shows promise, though it ultimately limps off the screen, much like its lead character.

Melissa Rauch stars in the film (which she co-wrote alongside her husband, Winston Raunch) as former Olympian (bronze medalist, obviously) Hope Annabelle Greggory, the hometown pride of a teensy Ohio burg that doesn’t have much else going for it beyond that one time its best gymnast went to the Games and essentially committed a miracle. Seemingly inspired by real-life gymnast Kerri Strug (remember her?), the film opens with a plucky young Hope ripping her Achilles tendon during a routine, only to power through and deliver a stirring (and inspirational) uneven bars bit. She sticks the landing. The Bronze can’t even effectively complete its first act.

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Sophie Turner in Game of Thrones

HBO

Calling Professor X: I need a mind wipe, stat. It’s going to be difficult to get over the mental images I have of Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm in movie form. They’ve only really been Famke Janssen, James Marsden and Halle Berry. They have all been portrayed in younger form, too — Jean Grey by Haley Ramm in X-Men: The Last Stand, Cyclops/Scott Summers by Tim Pocock in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Storm/Ororo Munroe in a deleted scene from the latter — but most fans hate those movies so even if those actors weren’t merely flashback and bit roles, they wouldn’t be employed for featured use of these three characters in their early years.

So, instead, we’ve got some more notable young stars cast as the X-trio for the next installment, X-Men: Apocalypse. Game of Thrones redhead Sophie Turner is Jean, Mud and Joe and The Tree of Life’s Tye Sheridan is Scott and recent Aaliyah portrayer Alexandra Shipp (in Lifetime’s Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B) is Ororo. Any complaints that these might as well be called the “X-Babies” should note that they’re aged 18, 18 and 23, respectively, and let’s not forget that Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and the other new mutants of the prequels were also only around 20 and 21 years old. Of course, they weren’t replacing such major original figures of the franchise as these additions are. 

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published: 01.25.2015
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published: 01.24.2015
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published: 01.24.2015
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published: 01.24.2015
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