Melissa Leo

Here’s something that, on it’s own, isn’t particularly newsworthy: Melissa Leo might star in a hypothetical movie that hasn’t been greenlit yet. Yawn. I know. But in a larger context, this wishful thinking suddenly becomes not entirely dull. The film-to-be in question is The Toll, from playwright/director Neil LaBute. Leo would play a New Jersey tollbooth operator who stumbles upon a potential terrorist attack against the entire East coast, and, as tollbooth operators are known to do, takes down the entire terrorist cell single-handedly. LaBute describes the film as “a character piece, to take a middle-aged woman and put her in a crisis you would normally find Bruce Willis. It’s finding someone who has none of the supposed attributes of an action hero and yet asked to do all of the things that those people are asked to do.” And that’s something essentially non-existent in the current film market.

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The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

Editor’s note: Our review of what was then called The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman originally ran during this year’s Sundance film festival, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited release today. A close up of a beaten and bloodied Shia LaBeouf (who plays the title character) hanging upside down is the first image of The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman and brings one question to mind: what did Charlie do? A voice over (from John Hurt) explains simply that “love is pain” as the story takes us “back to the beginning” to a stark hospital room where Charlie’s mother (Melissa Leo) lies dying. As she takes her final breath, something strange happens, and suddenly a healthy looking Leo sits next to Charlie to impart some last words and wisdom. This idea that Charlie can hear from the dead (complete with a tongue-in-cheek joke about The Sixth Sense) is touched upon throughout the film, but unfortunately ends up being more distracting (and sometimes laughable) than a necessary trope to help drive the story along. Charlie’s mom tells him he should go to Bucharest, essentially because she thinks he will “have fun” there. So he does.

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score olympus has fallen2

A composer known for his otherworldly scores for films such as Immortals and period scores for television programs such as The Borgias, The Tudors, and The Pillars of the Earth may seem like an odd choice for a film about a very real place (the White House) falling victim to a fictional (albeit extreme) situation. However with a title like Olympus Has Fallen, composer Trevor Morris‘ past pedigree seems to make him the perfect fit to tell a story that is in fact as grand, and moving, as his past work. A fan of action movies himself, Morris worked closely with Olympus‘ director Antoine Fuqua to not only bring the story of the White House being taken over to life, but do so by getting audiences’ adrenaline and emotions racing.

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Aaron Eckhart as President Benjamin Asher in OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. Photo credit: Phillip V. Caruso

It’s quite serious. That’s the one thing that FilmDistrict seems to want you to know based on these new images from Olympus Has Fallen, released exclusively to Film School Rejects this morning. It’s true, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this one. Among them: Antoine Fuqua is a director who has dealt in more quality than anything else, as evidence by his gritty turns with Brooklyn’s Finest, Shooter, Training Day and Tears of the Sun; Aaron Eckhart‘s jaw structure, as seen in The Dark Knight, was clearly made to exist about a foot and a half above the Presidential podium; Gerard Butler plays a good redemption story, always delivers with a gun in his hands; and it’s got Morgan Freeman. On top of all that, it’s a movie about a siege of the White House, in which one man is the key to saving POTUS from some Asian-based threat. It’s also quite bloody and full of what the kids might call “mean mugging,” also known as serious people looking very serious.

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Han Solo

What is Casting Couch? It’s a casting news column that’s been talking way more about a movie based on a racing video game than it imagined it would be. Read on for more information. It’s bound to get pretty annoying following every rumor that pops up about the new Star Wars movie between now and 2015. But, let’s face it, when comments start getting thrown around about Harrison Ford playing Han Solo again, even vague rumors start to get pretty interesting. So, when Inside Movies announced that they have sources claiming that Ford has reversed his famously grumpy position on Star Wars being lame, and that he, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher are now all “upbeat” about more movies getting made, geeks everywhere instantly started salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. Let’s try to not let this Star Wars thing get out of hand—but Harrison Ford might play Han Solo again, y’all!

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For anyone who has been clamoring for Robert Zemeckis‘s return to live-action, Flight should appease those fans of the director who haven’t embraced his recent motion-capture adventures. This isn’t exactly a triumphant comeback, but with Flight he mostly knows what buttons to push in order to please. It’s a true testament to Denzel Washington‘s performance that the blunt drama doesn’t fall on its face. Washington has major obstacles to overcome in making the character of Whip Whitaker as empathetic as he is. From frame one, Zemeckis and screenwriter John Gatins unflatteringly show us who this guy is: a bad father, an alcoholic, a coke addict. There is nothing to admire about him, not even his surface level charms, which are best showcased in scenes between Washington and John Goodman.

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Francine Movie 2012

In Francine, Melissa Leo plays a woman leaving prison to return to society, dealing with mountains and molehills on the outside. From the look of the trailer, the Oscar winner has the weight of the world on her shoulders as the movie – the feature narrative debut of documentarians Melanie Shatzky and Brian M. Cassidy – appears to be the cinematic equivalent of the photo on a driver’s license. It’s stark, raw and attentive to detail. It will have you aching for background music (or anything, anything at all) to take your attention away from the imagery. And what’s with the cats? Is her cat lady status profound or perplexing? How did a trailer featuring an actress rubbing cats on her face just make me want to see the film? Maybe it’s because she looks absolutely nothing like she did for her role in The Fighter. It’s transformative and proof of her amazing strength as a performer. Check it out for yourself:

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2010 was a good year for Jesse Eisenberg and Melissa Leo. While Eisenberg was wowing audiences with his performance in The Social Network, Leo was simultaneously turning heads for her role as an overbearing, white trash mother in The Fighter. And Tracy Morgan, well, Tracy Morgan is insane. So watching this trio team up in Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner’s new comedy, Why Stop Now, should be something of a treat; especially since the powers that be seem to have cast each actor in roles that place them firmly in their comfort zones.

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We haven’t reported much yet on The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, which is a shame, because it’s a promising sounding project. So, seeing as there’s a new bit of casting news regarding the film, let’s use that as an excuse to cover all the basics, shall we? The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman started off as a Black List script by a screenwriter named Matt Drake (Project X) that was eventually picked up by Voltage Pictures and given to Fredrik Bond to direct. A studio synopsis for the film explains it by saying, “Charlie Countryman was just a normal guy…until he fell in love with the one girl who will probably get him killed. When Charlie meets the absolutely irresistible Gabi she’s already been claimed by Nigel, an insanely violent crime boss with a gang of thugs at his disposal. Armed with little more than his wit and naïve charm, Charlie endures one bruising beat down after another to woo Gabi and keep her out of harm’s way. Finally his exploits of blind valor create such a mess that he’s left with only one way out; to save the girl of his dreams, must Charlie Countryman die?” These aren’t the truly exciting aspects of the film, however. The real appeal of this project is the cast that Bond has assembled. He’s got Shia LaBeouf in the title role, Evan Rachel Wood playing Gabi, Mads Mikklesen on board as the Nigel character, and names like Rupert Grint and Melissa Leo […]

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Fans of writer Matthew F. Jones have a lot to celebrate. His novel “A Single Shot” is about to be turned into a big screen thriller, and the names attached are enough to make even the most hardened film cynic squeal with glee. Deadline Charlottesville reports that production has now begun on the adaptation, which is under the direction of David M. Rosenthal (Janie Jones) and stars a cast that includes names like Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Wright, Joe Anderson, Jason Isaacs, Kelly Riley, Ophelia Lovibond, and Melissa Leo. Jeez, Mr. Rosenthal, you had me at Sam Rockwell. But for those not sold just at the sight of all those talented names listed together, take a look at the Amazon plot synopsis of Jones’s novel:

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By now everyone knows that after his upcoming two-part hockey flick Hit Somebody, Kevin Smith is done making movies. If Red State is any indication, the time’s right for his exit. Smith’s Westboro Baptist Church-inspired horror-thriller has been making headlines since his ill-fated fake auction following January’s Sundance premiere. He’s taken it on the road, showing it to packed houses across North America. It played a week at the New Beverly Cinema in L.A. The filmmaker’s tweeted about it incessantly. Now, it’s on DVD. And it’s still really, really bad, a simplistic, poorly-constructed exercise in low-rent genre moviemaking. It’s as if Smith made the movie just so he could promote it. Horny Midwestern teens (Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner and Nicholas Braun) sneak away one school night to have sex with an older woman they’ve met online. Turns out the woman, Sara (Melissa Leo), is the daughter of the psychotic fringe preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) and Abin really, really doesn’t like fornicating.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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Editor’s Note: This article will be updated in real time as the winners come in during the Academy Awards broadcast. Please join us for our Live-Blog tonight (because we ask nicely), and while you wait for the winners, check out our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. Tonight’s the night! You find out if you will take top prize in your office pool, and, you know, you’ll get to see which fantastic films are most celebrated with little naked statues of gold. If you love the Oscars, hate them, or pretend to hate them while sitting riveted to the broadcast, one thing is clear: tonight is a night to celebrate the best in filmmaking. We love movies. So do you. Tonight we can all celebrate our favorites of 2010 even if they don’t win and even if they weren’t nominated. As for those in the running, they are all beautiful works of art, they’re all winners tonight, they went out on the field and gave 110%…and…yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s get to the winning, right? And the Oscar goes to…

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This article is part of our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. Unlike last year, the field is wide open for which fantastic performance will earn the naked golden statue of power for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Some fans are sad not to see Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey or Miranda Richardson among the ranks here, but that shows just how strong these performances were. In no particular order, there’s a bartender with a boxer to build up, a mother with a boxer to build up, a Queen with a King to build up, a young girl with revenge on her mind, and a woman who would probably rip your face off and then talk about how great you are to it. With my winner prediction in red, here are the nominees:

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as CriterionCollector85 and JP2themax in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, they puzzle over how to define a Best Supporting Role. What does that support mean? Or look like? Does it matter how long someone is on screen or how big a catalyst they are? Since the Oscars don’t seem to know…what the hell is a supporting role anyway?

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The review quote missing from the Dear Lemon Lima trailer is Rob Hunter saying, “What an oddly beautiful and bittersweet little film this is…” In his review, he describes exactly why he fell in love with the movie, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s 2,208,000 words (at 24 frames per second) on why you should love it. The movie tells the story of a young girl whose boyfriend calls it quits, and she decides that winning the Snowstorm Survivor Competition is the way back into his arms and affections. The sweet and sour and funny and strange are all there. Just like growing up. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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In this ambitious but failed departure from the guru of fanboys, Kevin Smith meditates on the current philosophical extremism in fundamentalist Christianity and government. What starts out as a possible teen titty movie about three Midwestern kids trying to get laid quickly turns into an American Gothic tale about an extreme right-wing church lead by Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks in a fearless and ferrous performance) and their biblical battle with portly ATF officer Keane (John Goodman in a hero of the day moment). With recent tragedy in Arizona, the film does take on a timely quality, but never fully develops into the balls-out horror movie Smith promises.

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It’s that time of the year again: that brief span of time in between Christmas and New Year’s when journalists, critics, and cultural commentators scramble to define an arbitrary block of time even before that block is over with. To speculate on what 2010 will be remembered for is purely that: speculation. But the lists, summaries, and editorials reflecting on the events, accomplishments, failures, and occurrences of 2010 no doubt shape future debate over what January 1-December 31, 2010 will be remembered for personally, nostalgically, and historically. How we refer to the present frames how it is represented in the future, even when contradictions arise over what events should be valued from a given year. In an effort to begin that framing process, what I offer here is not a critical list of great films, but one that points out dominant cultural conversations, shared trends, and intersecting topics (both implicit and explicit) that have occurred either between the films themselves or between films and other notable aspects of American social life in 2010. As this column attempts to establish week in and week out, movies never exist in a vacuum, but instead operate in active conversation with one another. Thus, a movie’s cultural context should never be ignored. So, without further adieu, here is my overview of the Top 10 topics, trends, and events of the year that have nothing to do with the 3D debate.

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The power that The Fighter displays is immense. As unconventional a conventional sports film as has been seen, David O. Russell has directed a film where the comedic impact is just as strong as the emotional. It is a triumph of real people on screen in a film culture that has become more and more frightened of stories that are well-rounded enough to not need a dimension tacked on. Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a blue collar worker with a dream of making it big as a boxer. In his corner is Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale) who once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard and has lived off the local fame and crack cocaine ever since. His mother (Melissa Leo) is the older version of a pageant mom who desperately wants success for her boy but struggles against her own selfishness. Everyone in his corner is working against him until he meets Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams) who helps him get his career and his life on track.

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