Glenn Ficarra

Will Smith and Margot Robbie in Focus

Is Will Smith still a national treasure? That’s what the second trailer for Focus has me considering. Years ago it was impossible to find someone who hadn’t succumbed to the charms of Big Willie. Not only did he give us “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It”, but he quickly proved himself as a hugely bankable and likable movie star. Smith was a charismatic star, but not exactly an actor with massive range. Great actors have the capability of surprising audiences, but Smith, by and large, gave his fans what they wanted. Every once in a while he’d change things up, but we’d usually end up with the same wisecracking presence onscreen, and there’s nothing entirely wrong with that. There was a demand for his easygoing charm, at least until recently. His last starring role was in After Earth – a major critical and box-office failure and all around bad movie. This year he did his buddy, Akiva Goldsman, a solid by appearing in Winter’s Tale and, boy, he must be one helluva friend, because he did Goldsman more than a favor by showing his face in that movie. Now, more than a year and a half after After Earth, Will Smith is back in a starring role with Focus, a film from Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. The con film, which co-stars Margot Robbie, looks real slick, pretty and charming.


John McAfee

If you’ve read Joshua Davis’ shocking “Wired” article, “John McAfee’s Last Stand,” which chronicles the strange places anti-virus software creator John McAfee’s life has gone in recent years, then you know that he’s not the sort of person you typically envision when you think of someone who used to program for NASA. Instead what you get is a vision of a tattooed gun nut whose recent life has involved alleged murders, isolated compounds in Belize, police conspiracies, accusations of narcotics trafficking, escapes to Guatemala, fake heart attacks, and an eventual deportation back to the United States. Sounds like an interesting story, right? The kind that could make for a good movie? Yeah, you see where this is going. Variety has learned that Warner Bros. is in final negotiations to acquire the film rights to Davis’ article, and they’ve hired the Crazy, Stupid, Love team of John Requa and Glenn Ficarra to adapt it into a screenplay and direct it as a feature. Seeing as Requa and Ficarra have already done interesting work adapting somebody’s crazy real-life story into a feature film with 2009’s I Love You Phillip Morris, they’re likely to be a good fit to bring to life a character as eccentric and mysterious as McAfee.


Ben Affleck

It sounds like Warner Bros. knows a good thing when they have it, as Deadline Hollywood reports that the studio, which is prepping to open Ben Affleck‘s Argo this week, is in “early talks” with the multi-hyphenate to star in their Focus. Dear WB: yes, this is a good idea, stay in the Affleck business for as long as you can. You might remember Focus as the Glenn Ficarra- and John Requa-penned script that we mentioned in April, back when the con man romance was potentially set to reunite Ficarra and Requa’s Crazy, Stupid, Love. stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. However, Gosling and Stone have reportedly fallen away from the project (and some time ago, at that), leaving the studio in need of both a male and a female lead. Affleck seems poised to take on (duh) the male portion of that order.



The team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa just keep on trucking. The pair, best known for scripts like Bad Santa and Bad News Bears, have lately turned their attentions to writing and directing films, such as I Love You Phillip Morris (which they scripted and helmed) and Crazy. Stupid. Love. (which they directed from Dan Fogelman’s script), and now they’re set to again write and direct a production. Deadline Thousand Oaks reports that Ficarra and Requa have made a deal with Warner Bros. for their newest script, called Focus, and the pair already know who they want to start in the film – Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who exhibited such delightful chemistry and comic timing together in Crazy. Stupid. Love. The film is a fair bit different than their latest team-up, but perhaps many of the same tones from Crazy. will pop up in this one. Focus is described as “the story of a veteran conman who gets involved with a newcomer to the grifter business. They get involved romantically but that becomes perilous in a business where they lie and cheat for a living. The complications of the encounter haunt them when they meet up again in the future.” Based on what we saw from the pair in Crazy., this actually sounds like quite the fun fit.


James Franco and Anne Hathaway

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:


Ficarra and Requa

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are starting to become known as quite the filmmaking duo. Already they’ve worked together on cult hit Bad Santa, indie darling I Love You Phillip Morris, and mainstream romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. And it looks like they’re just getting started. For a couple of guys who have worked in such a wide array of genres already, what comes next? Not sequels to films they’ve already made, according to an interview they recently did with Movie Hole. When asked about the possibility of Bad Santa 2, they confirmed that it was happening and said that they were asked to direct but turned down the offer. When asked about a sequel to Crazy, Stupid, Love. they said that they left the characters where they wanted them to be and that if any sort of sequel happened it wouldn’t be for another twenty years or so. Ficarra and Requa don’t seem to be very into making sequels. The more I learn about these guys the more I like them. So what are they working on? Apparently they’ve written a script based on an idea from Crazy, Stupid, Love. star Steve Carell.



This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr runs screaming from little blue people invading his life and seeks refuge in the old west, hoping that James Bond and Indiana Jones will protect him. When he returns home, he has a fight with his wife and uses the events of Crazy, Stupid, Love to put his relationship back together. What a godsend Hollywood can be for marriage woes. Finally, Kevin curls up for a long nap after an exhausting summer movie season with many more arrests than he ever thought he’d incur.


Crazy Stupid Love

In Glenn Ficarra and John Requa‘s Crazy, Stupid, Love., we meet Cal and Emily, a long-standing couple in which only one half of them recognizes that the “standing” could in fact be traded out for “suffering.” Cal and Emily have some lovely kids and a nice house and what appear to be stable jobs, but there’s something missing. Within the film’s first ten minutes, Emily (Julianne Moore) has asked for a divorce (in the middle of a dinner out, no less) and revealed that she’s had an affair (with one her co-workers, played, of course by Kevin Bacon), leading Cal (Steve Carell) to purposely fall out of their car and announce to both their son and babysitter what has just transpired during the world’s worst date night (and Carell knows from bad date nights). And thus begins Cal and Emily’s halting journey to return to a state of normalcy, if not a state of reaffirmed union.



With Crazy, Stupid, Love, writer-director duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are coming off of the criminally under-seen I Love You Phillip Morris. Very few saw commercial appeal in their Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey-starring love story, and the box office numbers were further proof that there was a definite, and very sad, truth to those predictions. It doesn’t appear they have anything to worry about when it comes to their new, star-filled romantic comedy though. I Love You Phillip Morris has a dark and divisive sensibility. Crazy, Stupid, Love is the opposite and shows obvious mass appeal. In making a film for a broader audience, Ficarra and Requa managed to make love stories — it is an ensemble film — that are neither cynical nor dopey. Here’s what Glenn Ficarra and John Requa had to say about taking on the commercial project, their 3-hour version of the film, and their important lessons at film school:



I Love You Phillip Morris has taken its sweet ‘ole time getting to the big screen. It’s been over a year and a half since its Sundance premiere, and who would have thought a Jim Carrey starring vehicle would have such a difficult time finding distribution? Well, the material makes it understandable. But it’s pretty sad considering it’s not too often we get a good Carrey film, and, even rarer, one with a great performance. What many will be thrown off guard by is the tone of the film. This isn’t wacky Jim Carrey, sorry Fun with Dick and Jane fans. Instead, it’s a comedic drama. It’s a difficult blend to create. Writing (and now directing) duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa know that. If you don’t know Ficarra and Requa by name, they scribed the cult classic Bad Santa and the original Cats & Dogs; this is more similar to the former. This is their directorial debut. Instead of turning out a 90-minute film with easy, on-the-nose gay jokes, they made a love story about a truly delusional (and lovable) protagonist. Here’s what directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa had to say in our brief phone interview:



This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr thumbs his nose at the major studio releases like The Warrior’s Way and The Nutcracker in 3D. Not only do they look like direct-to-DVD releases at best and stinkers of the year at worst, the studios didn’t let him see any of them. So he turns his sights on some award-bait films in limited release: Black Swan and I Love You, Phillip Morris.



Movies just don’t typically exhibit the wild, go for broke attitude on full display in I Love You Phillip Morris and get away with it. So it’s no surprise that distributors had no idea how to handle the movie, which premiered at Sundance in 2009, or that it’s run through a ringer of missed release dates and legal action before finally hitting theaters this weekend. Yet, somehow, co-writers/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have turned a script comprised of wildly fluctuating tones, divergent scenes of broad comic flourishes and carefully calibrated drama, satire mixed with heartfelt personal insight, into a final product that’s a sharp, smart comedy. The rails could have come off Phillip Morris in so many ways, it’s a veritable miracle that the film sticks together as well as it does.



It’s alright if you’ve never heard of Analeigh Tipton. That just means that you don’t watch America’s Next Top Model, and that’s perfectly acceptable. You may recognize her soon, as she’s joined the latest comedy project of two very talented directors.



Even if it’s a bit broad-sounding, can you really go wrong with Steve Carell and comedy? Keep it Dane Cook-free, and I’ll be there.



Poster goodness for I Love You Phillip Morris and A Christmas Carol.



Telling the ridiculous, but true story of a man’s journey from married Texas cop to flamboyantly gay prison escape artist wouldn’t be an easy one. But as it turns out, the two man writer/director team behind I Love You Phillip Morris has pulled it off in a way that would make proud the brothers Farrelly and Coen.

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published: 01.31.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.29.2015

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