Catherine Zeta Jones

Scott Z. Burns

Side Effects marks the third collaboration between screenwriter Scott Z. Burns and director Steven Soderbergh. They previously tackled the mind of a bipolar pathological liar with The Informant and a horror-esque “what if?” movie with Contagion. For Side Effects, they’re not taking on pharmaceuticals, but a twisty thriller in the vein of Fatal Attraction and Body Heat. This is the type of movie that drops a new piece of information in almost every scene, causing you to rethink most of what you previously saw. Burns accomplished that with a split narrative starring characters who aren’t exactly the most noble. An ensemble movie with characters one can’t really root for is something of a rare commodity these days, and from the sounds of it, it’s something Burns would like to see (and write) more of. Here’s what screenwriter Scott Z. Burns had to say about constructing ensemble narratives, how Russian literature inspired Side Effects, and some of his frustrations with the studio storytelling norms:

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Side Effects trailer

The last time we got a trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming thriller, Side Effects, it was a little too dream-like and abstract to really tell us what the movie was about. Rooney Mara was taking drugs of some sort, Channing Tatum tried to pull off wearing a fedora, Jude Law screamed a bunch, and apparently a murder got committed—but what order all of that happened in and who the good guys and the bad guys of the film were never quite got made clear.

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Broken City Trailer

Broken City seemingly has all of the ingredients to be one of those action/dramas that is so cheesy it delivers – there’s Mark Wahlberg being tough, there’s Russell Crowe with a horrendous spray tan and a Donald Trump-lite combover, there’s Catherine Zeta-Jones with an equally horrendous spray tan, and there’s director Allen Hughes, who has some street cred as one half of The Hughes Brothers directing team. And corrupt politician dramas are usually fairly entertaining, right? Not so much here. Broken City, instead, is largely a misfire. The film’s plot meanders and leaves many open threads, likely the result of re-edits, and none of the characters are particularly likable. There’s just so much a balls out Russell Crowe performance can save a movie, and shockingly enough, Crowe doesn’t even have all that much screen time. The film opens with Wahlberg’s NYC Detective Billy Taggert shooting someone in the head in a NYC housing project, Bolton Village – he has a beard, so clearly, he is coded as being troubled. He is tried (now beardless), since his self-defense plea is questionable at best. There is evidence that surfaces that can put him away, but Republican-seeming Mayor Nicolas Hostetler (Crowe) decides to keep that evidence for his own eventual gain, allowing Taggart to go free, albeit without his job.

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RED 2

2010’s Red was a fun action romp that featured both the expected in Bruce Willis and the unexpected in a hilarious John Malkovich and a gun-toting Helen Mirren. The $58 million comic adaptation grossed $200 million world-wide, and Summit happily moved forward on green-lighting a sequel. (Those sons of bitches over at Paramount can take a hint from that decision.) Most of the surviving cast members are returning alongside screenwriters Erich and Jon Hoeber, but director Robert Schwentke is not. Dean Parisot is taking his place, and while his name may not be recognizable maybe you’ve heard of a little, near perfect gem called Galaxy Quest? Yeah, he made that one. Check out Red 2‘s old school action below.

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Playing for Keeps

The romantic comedy genre is a very forgiving place for performers and filmmakers. Rom-coms are relatively cheap to produce, and like horror films (which are far cheaper) they usually get a guaranteed audience on opening weekend, so it’s not uncommon to see actors and actresses on the downward slide in Hollywood find a home there. (The reverse works too, with actors on the rise getting a bump from a successful but otherwise low-key rom-coms.) The point is it’s always interesting to see who turns up in a romantic comedy that hits theaters with no expectations. George (Gerard Butler) was a big time soccer (the football kind) player once upon a time, but an ankle injury saw an end to his career and his stardom. His family also fell by the wayside at some point, but now he’s moved to the same town as his wife Stacie (Jessica Biel) and son Lewis (Noah Lomax) in the hopes of reconnecting with them both. He’s working towards a sportscasting career but takes a gig coaching Lewis’ soccer team while he waits for a call from ESPN. George tries to rekindle a life with his wife and son, but his recurring reckless behavior, the horn-dog soccer moms and Stacie’s Baxter of a fiance (James Tupper) may just derail his dream.

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Editor’s note: Lay The Favorite hits limited release this Friday, though it doesn’t seem like a solid bet for your movie-going dollar. Find out why with the following Sundance review, originally published on January 23, 2012. There’s one thing that becomes quite clear, quite quickly as Stephen Frears‘s Lay The Favorite begins: not everyone should do voiceover work. Rebecca Hall (who stars as Beth Raymer) sadly falls squarely into that category and her baby voice stays with her throughout the entire film, grating on already-frayed nerves. Lay The Favorite tells Beth’s baby-voiced story as she tries to figure out her purpose in life at a job that will be stimulating and make her good money (don’t we all, Beth). The best place to pursue such a dream? Las Vegas, of course! Beth packs up her life (and dog Otis) and heads west with stars in her eyes. Ready and willing to do anything, Beth quickly makes friends with Holly (Laura Prepon) who turns her on to a job with Dink Heimowtiz (Bruce Willis) who runs a legal (at least in Vegas) gambling company (Dink Inc., of course) that bets on anything and everything, but mainly sporting events. Dink’s world is filled with exactly the type of excitement and stimulation Beth was hoping for and despite her baby talk, daddy issues (no matter what she says) and constant hair chewing, Dink takes a shine to her and agrees to bring her on.

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Broken City Trailer

There are two kinds of dangerous men in the world: those that have been treated like they’re important for so long that they start to feel like the rules don’t apply to them, and those that have been beat down for so long that they stop caring about the consequences. In Allen Hughes’ (of The Hughes Brothers fame) new film Broken City, Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg are called upon to play one of each. Crowe’s character is a well-manicured but corrupt big city mayor who does what it takes to get what he wants. Wahlberg’s is a scruffy, down-on-his-luck ex-cop turned private dick. The intrigue of the film comes when Crowe’s character hires Wahlberg’s to tail his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and get some evidence that she’s been cheating. Once he does, that’s when the murders, cover-ups, and dirty pool starts happening. Suddenly Wahlberg is sucked into a downward spiral of noir badness, and Broken City becomes a battle of brains vs. brawn between its two stars.

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Broadway shows haven’t always made the smoothest of transitions to the big-screen, but Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages delivers an adaptation that’s bizarre and its own sexually-suggestive summer feature: from showcasing star Tom Cruise’s bare ass to backing Cruise’s choice of venue for an out-there rendition of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” – Malin Akerman’s posterior – Shankman takes the material and stuffs as much as he can into it. These choices represent the work he hopes to keep making – distinctive and not what most would consider to be the norm, box office be damned. Shankman’s been enough of a commercial hitmaker throughout his career to earn the freedom to make those oddball choices, having cranked out a series of box-office success, from Bringing Down the House all the way to The Pacifier. As Shankman tells us, those gems are the type of learning experiences which led him to making Rock of Ages and Hairspray. Here’s what Adam Shankman had to say about the journey from Juilliard to Rock of Ages, how a work for hire can be more informative than a passion project, and highlighting how enthusiasm can make up for – or even overshadow – hard-won experience:

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Being a child of the ’80s and a pre-adolescent product of rock n’ roll’s most fashion-concerned era (you would, in no way, find pictures of me at age six with self-slit blue jeans) Rock of Ages should have been a warm-hearted nostalgia trip for me to a time where bad boys wore girl’s aerobic outfits underneath leather jackets with sapphires and rhinestones, girls had poodle ‘fros and chewed lots of bubble gum, and we both bonded over our love for all songs that just said rock a lot; and the more often the word was repeated in the song the more it was good. Having been adapted from a popular stage production, and helmed by a director who did a splendid job with Hairspray, I expected a tongue-in-cheek romp that would have me struggling to refrain from jumping out of my seat and throwing my fists in the air chanting that I wasn’t gonna take it. After about ten minutes I really was struggling to refrain from jumping out of my seat and throwing my fists, because I really wanted to stop taking it.

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Any film that gives Rebecca Hall a shot at a starring role seems like it would have to be a good idea, but unfortunately Lay the Favorite didn’t get very good reviews coming out of its debut at Sundance, and our own Allison Loring bemoaned that the film “never seems to quite know what it wants to be.” Still, Lay the Favorite is set to roll out in limited releases all across the world over the next few months, and a trailer has just been released to give us all a taste of what it has to offer, so we might as well give its sales pitch a gander. Director Stephen Frears’s (High Fidelity) latest tells the tale of a chipper ex-stripper (Hall) who falls into a promising new career working for a career gambler (Bruce Willis), but runs into complications when she buts heads with her new boss’ jealous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Oh, and also there seems to be something about a budding romance with Joshua Jackson, who is playing a bearded nice guy.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s just as movie-obsessed as you are, which is why it continues to give you all this fun and fancy content on a nightly basis. Every weeknight at 10p Central, 11p Eastern and 6a in Istanbul (which, depending on the season, is still during a dark time of day). We begin tonight with the most adorable promotional photo for a hardline sci-fi movie ever. Prometheus stars Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace aren’t doing service to the seriousness of Ridley Scott’s upcoming epic, but they sure are having fun.

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Following Steven Soderbergh’s career has been a winding road full of ups and downs as of late. First he was going to make The Man From U.N.C.L.E., then there was a long period of juggling actors on that film as he tried to nail down a cast, then that movie got cancelled completely. There has been talk of retirement, talk of pushing off retirement to do more things, and generally just a lot of confusion. Things seemed to have reached a moment of stability a week ago, though, when it was announced that he was going forward with his next film, a thriller called Side Effects, and that it had funding stemming from a partnership between Annapurna Pictures and Open Road Films. That’s all up in the air now though, and apparently it comes down to the all too familiar casting woes. Variety is now reporting that Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures has pulled out of the deal, leaving Soderbergh and Open Road to find additional funding on their own. Variety gave no reason as to why the deal fell through, but The Playlist is claiming to have sources close to the situation that say Ellison and her people don’t like the casting of Blake Lively in the lead role. She apparently is set to play a drug addict in the middle of a love triangle between her husband (Channing Tatum) and her doctor (Jude Law).

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UPDATED: Hello, musical theatrics! Director Adam Shankman‘s take on Broadway hit Rock of Ages will undoubtedly be slick, highly produced, loud, melodramatic, and positively crammed with toe-tapping song-and-dance numbers (did you see Hairspray?) – essentially, it’s a film that will likely upset fans of the stage musical while also becoming a big commercial hit with a bizarre kitsch sensibility. That’s not just me guessing – that’s information hardily reinforced by the film’s first trailer. The film stars Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Ackerman, Mary J. Blige, Bryan Cranston (really?!), Alec Baldwin, and Tom Cruise as (very different) people who populate and influence Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip music scene in the 1980’s. Hough and Boneta are trying to make it, Cruise already has, Zeta-Jones scream-sings a lot, that old story. The film is set to a cadre of ’80s classic jams, including Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, and Whitesnake. If you’ve yet to grow out of your big-haired, leather-clad rocker glory days, this is the film for you. Weirdly enough, despite Cruise (and his hair and his hips) being the marquee name on this film, we don’t get a whole lot of him until the last half of the trailer. And then we don’t get so much of him and his character, Stacee Jaxx, as we get some random groupie and her boobs. Bravo to everyone. Get your hairspray ready and check out […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s sights and sounds, vibe and verve, everything that you need to complete your April 20 high (or low depending on how your tax season went). It is movie news and thinky think pieces, infographics and golden posters. It is that for which you yearn: a window into the world of endless entertainment, man… At the behest of Peter Sciretta from /Film, who has been lobbying for this since Sundance, Fox Searchlight has picked up the red-hot indie drama Sound of My Voice. It’s the story of a couple who infiltrate a Southern California cult whose leader claims to be not of this world. As I mentioned on episode #82 of Reject Radio, it’s one hell of a film.

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The Phantom / Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; who knew reading could be hazardous to your health? Take that elementary school librarians! In a ceaseless assault on I.Q.’s across the nation, every week I bring you samplings from the bad film elite and break down exactly where they failed to meet traditional standards of cinema quality.

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Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman won’t be involved in Steven Soderbergh’s Cleopatra musical. In other news, Steven Soderbergh is conceiving a Cleopatra musical.

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There’s nothing in Cleopatra that screams out for 3D, unlike say, Soderbergh’s currently in-production The Girlfriend Experience starring porn star Sasha Grey. So why’s he doing it?

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Adult fans like me will want something closer to old school Indiana Jones action.

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