Aaron Johnson

Joe Wright set up a big challenge for himself with Anna Karenina. The material could easily lend itself to the stuffy brand of period piece, which is the type of film we see all too often during the awards season. Wright didn’t want to make that film, though. With his theater concept, he may have stripped the budget down, but, according to Wright, it was the exact type of challenge where the most creativity comes from. That notably happened with his previous project, Hanna, as well. Everyone adored the long-take fight scenes in that film, and that approach came out of saving time, budget, and, of course, creative impulse. It’s those type of decisions Wright seems the most excited by. Here’s what director Joe Wright had to say about why his brain switches off when filming, the power of limitations, and why Anna Karenina is his least indulgent film:

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Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall

Earlier this summer, we learned that a Kick-Ass sequel called Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall was likely to go into development and was likely to be written and directed by a guy named Jeff Wadlow. Well, turns out that not only is all of that coming to fruition, but a bunch of casting has already been taken care of, so now the film is looking (surprisingly enough) super official. First off, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Moretz, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse were all rumored to be negotiating to come back and resume their roles from the first film, and that has indeed happened – but they’re not the only names that have officially come on board. The storyline in Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s “Kick-Ass 2” comic revolves around Kick-Ass joining a newly formed crew of crime fighters called Justice Forever, which means that this new movie sequel is going to need to cast a lot of new actors in a lot of new superhero roles.

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Savages 2012

It’s tough trying to figure which side of Oliver Stone’s career Savages would fall under. Part of the director’s output is fueled by an angry that’s always unafraid to show people at their ugliest. Then there’s another side, which we’ve seen these past few years, that’s much softer. While Stone’s recent work has been far from the image of a cuddly teddy bear — with the exception of familial scenes peppered throughout Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps — he’s become more empathetic towards his characters and less willing to poke fun at them, which was highlighted best by 2008’s W. Where does Savages fit between those two distinct outlooks? Somewhere comfortably in the middle. Based on Don Winslow‘s novel of the same name, Savages tells the bloody, dramatic, and comical tale of a three-way relationship taking a turn for the worst. The thinker, Ben (Aaron Johnson), and the doer, Chon (Taylor Kitsch), run a business together, providing some of the best weed in California. With business and life going too well, others attempt to cash in on their success, namely Elena, a major drug kingpin who features both genuine charm and ferocity, played by Salma Hayek. When Ben and Chon decline her business proposal, Elena hits them closest to home: their shared lover, O (Blake Lively). To get her back, Ben and Chon wage a small-scale war, attacking both the business and family side of Elena’s life.

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Oh, look, Joe Wright went and directed a historically-set film based on a novel that stars Keira Knightley! I am positively shocked! This time around, Wright and Knightley are taking on no less than Tolstoy (after already going after Austen with Pride and Prejudice and McEwan with Atonement), with Wright directing his frequent muse as the eponymous character in Leo Tolstoy‘s enduring work, “Anna Karenina.” Wright’s Anna Karenina hews close to the basic story – Knightley’s Anna, a high society aristocrat, gets caught up in a consuming affair with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson, sporting one hell of a mustache) that has repercussions far beyond just her unsatisfying marriage to a smarmy-looking Jude Law as Alexei Karenin. It’s tragic, it’s sad, it’s Russian. So let’s see what Wright can do with it with the film’s first full trailer and an overly Moulin Rouge-d poster.

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Kick-Ass Hit Girl

No one can be blamed for not trusting comic writer Mark Millar when he announced Kick-Ass 2 happening, ad nauseum, from the day after Kick-Ass hit theaters. He was the boy who cried sequel, but lo and behold, it might actually happen. According to Deadline Glentondale, Chloe Moretz, Aaron Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are all in talks to join the project. This comes on the heels of director Matthew Vaughn potentially directing Max Barry’s “Lexicon.” The sequel will be directed by its writer, Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf, Never Back Down). It’s doubtful that the movie will be filming by this summer, as Millar recently claimed, but it’s more than possible that it will move forward under the purview of Universal and give fans another chance to see Moretz beat the life out of a bunch of bad guys. Of course, if the insider giving Deadline the info is Mark Millar, another grain of salt might be necessary.

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The other day, I labeled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as the “wild card” of the summer, and if there’s any other film which comes close to its riskiness (or more so?), it’s Oliver Stone‘s adaptation of Don Winslow‘s book of the same name, Savages. Stone’s pic is an unconventional summer movie: an R-rated, hard-edged movie for adults. Based on what I’ve heard from the positive test-screenings, which led to the film getting bumped up to a summer release, Savages lives up to that riskiness, with Salma Hayek and John Travolta possibly being the two standouts. Now, with over a month until release, some terrific behind-the-scenes pics from the film have been released (via Oliver Stone’s website and the film’s Facebook page). Take a peak of a bloodied up Blake Lively and Benicio Del Toro‘s lovely evil ‘stache after the break:

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Trailers for trailers are generally underwhelming and don’t give us much information to go off of. This preview for the Savages trailer, which is scheduled to hit online soon, happens to be an exception to the rule. This tease shows the Oliver Stone we haven’t seen since the 90s, an energetic and propulsive Stone. In the vein of Natural Born Killers and the hugely underrated U-Turn, Savages looks to have a fun, dirty, and stylish atmosphere. After a terrific test screening Universal bumped the film up for a summer release, believing it’s got real financial potential. While an Oliver Stone film about young pot dealers clashing with a drug cartel doesn’t scream “box-office smash”, I’ve heard Savages has commercial appeal. I recently spoke to someone who saw the film, and they had plenty of positive things to say, namely about Salma Hayek and John Travolta‘s performances. Apparently if you’re a Stone fan, such as myself, you may see this as a big return to form. Check out the short but stylish teaser below.

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Albert Nobbs is a study in tasteful restraint. But that doesn’t mean it’s slow, passionless or dry. Rodrigo Garcia’s film trades in subdued emotions and subtle currents of longing that are deeply felt, driven home by the great performances of leads Glenn Close and Janet McTeer and a screenplay that’s attuned to the sense of wonder — and the longing for something better — that accompanies the pursuit of an unlikely dream. Close stars as the title character, a devoted and rigid butler at a small 19th century Dublin hotel. Albert has a secret, of course. He’s a woman, living as a man to work and save enough money to open a small tobacco shop. When the obsessive, justifiably paranoid Albert meets Hubert Page (McTeer), a handyman facing the same predicament, he’s inspired to begin opening up, moving forward in his store-owning aspirations and fomenting a romance with the deceptive maid Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska).

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr pulls out his screening schedule, which looks like a gambling addict’s racing form. He bounces from huge, mainstream releases to minor indie award contenders. Facing motion-capture CGI, tattooed bisexual investigators, cross-dressing waiters, silent film actors, and a lead star who is literally hung like a horse, Kevin tries to make sense of the seemingly countless releases this holiday week. Exhaustion from this process makes it impossible to buy a zoo or face the 3D end of the world, but his movie stocking is full, nonetheless.

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Focus Features has just announced a helmer for their Anna Karenina adaptation penned by Tom Stoppard, and while it’s a bit of a no-duh assignment, it’s still a very fine one. Joe Wright will direct the film, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic (read: every high school kid is assigned to read it, and none of them ever do) novel. Despite my more bookwormish tendencies, my familiarity with Anna Karenina is quite lacking, so we’ll turn to Focus’ plotline for the film, which tells us that “the story unfolds in its original late-19th-century Russia high-society setting and powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart, from the passion between adulterers to the bond between a mother and her children. As Anna questions her happiness, change comes to her family, friends, and community.” Also, it’s Russian and it’s Tolstoy, so it’s also not a feel-good work by any stretch. But the film has a solid cast already attached to it, including some names that Wright has worked with before, including Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina (in her third role in a Wright production), with Jude Law as her husband Alexei Karenin, and Aaron Johnson as Count Vronksy, with other roles filled by Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfayden (Mr. Darcy in Wright’s Pride & Prejudice), Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Emily Watson, Olivia Williams (from Hanna), and Ruth Wilson.

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It was a month ago that I first heard about Oliver Stone directing an adaptation of the Don Winslow Novel “Savages.” A couple of the key male roles had been cast, but Jennifer Lawrence was out as the female protagonist, O, due to her involvement in The Hunger Games. Now Stone and company seem to have found their new choice to play O, and they’ve filled out a couple of the other key roles as well. The three main characters of the film are Chon, Ben, and O, two dudes and a chick who start a successful grow operation and find themselves running afoul of a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. When we last saw Savages it had already cast Taylor Kitsch as the ex Navy SEAL Chon, Aaron Johnson as the botany expert Ben, and Salma Hayek as the head of the cartel Elena. This time Deadline Laguna reports that not only has Gossip Girl star Blake Lively been chosen to play O, but also a few big names have been approached to join the cast as well.

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Adapting Don Winslow’s novel “Savages” has been on Oliver Stone’s to-do list for quite some time. Well now quite a bit of news about how his efforts are coming together has come to light. I’m not familiar with Mr. Winslow’s work, so the first thing I did when trying to put together this article was figure out what “Savages” was all about. During my search I came across this blurb, apparently from the book’s publisher, that was just too hilarious not to share: “Baditude. Bad attitude. Ben, Chon, and O have a bad case of it, but so would you if you were the twenty-something Laguna-cool producers of the best hydro on the Left Coast and now a powerful and vicious Mexican cartel wants in on your business. Ben’s a genius botanist out to save the world. Chon’s a former SEAL with a “Post-Traumatic Lack Of Stress Disorder.” O is a South Orange County slacker girl who loves them both. When the cartel kidnaps O to keep the boys in line, serious baditude breaks out in this twenty-first-century thriller that blasts through all the old rules and blows the lid off the genre. But that’s baditude for you.”

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Joe Wright first gained recognition in Hollywood by doing period dramas starring Keira Knightley. After stepping out of that genre for 2009’s The Soloist and this year’s Hanna, he is set to return to what brought him to the party. This time he has Knightlyy cast as the lead in an adaptation of the Russian classic “Anna Karenina”. Written by Leo Tolstoy, “Anna Karenina” tells the story of a woman in a loveless marriage who bucks societal expectations by starting an affair with a military man.

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A month ago, we reported on the short list of young talent that Sony was eying for their reboot of Spider-Man. All in all, the list was fairly average. There were no stand outs in particular, but all of them would be passable as the web-slinger. Jamie Bell, Alden Ehrenreich, Andrew Garfield, Frank Dillane, and Josh Hutcherson are basically the same actor with different haircuts. At least Sony knows what they want. The news today being passed around the horn is that…there is no news.

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Brian Singer has been taking meetings with the likes of Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) and Andrew Garfield (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) for the lead role in his next film, Jack the Giant Killer. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the film’s release has been delayed, and will not begin shooting until February 2011.

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Kick-Ass

As Cole Abaius pointed out late last week, a hyperbolic debate has occurred regarding the alleged potential of Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass to “kill” the superhero movie by subverting its conventions, or whether or not such subversions and the very existence of this film stand as evidence that audiences have tired of the conventional superhero film, or the superhero film as a whole. This post attempts to answer such questions by briefly examining Jacques Derrida’s philosophy of deconstruction and applying it to genre film theory and, specifically, Kick-Ass.

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Kick-Ass

So, it’s finally out in theaters. That hyper-violent, uber-hyped, hypnotically action-packed movie that everyone’s been talking about. Now it’s your turn to talk and tell us what you thought…

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Matthew Vaughn Kick-Ass

With Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn wanted to go against the grain and against the studios, and it looks like he may have done just that.

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kevin-reportcard-header

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr kicks ass with Kick-Ass and laughs it up at Death at a Funeral

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Chloe Moretz in Kick-Ass

There’s something significant about my notes situation as the credits rolled Matthew Vaughn’s high-energy comic adaptation. There was only one note to be written, and it came only at the end. My Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles notepad was blank, except for three words: “That was fun.”

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
A-


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