Michael Pena

edgerton

What is Casting Couch? It’s a roundup of casting news, and today it’s a total sausage fest. When the guests at the news party are as charming as Michael Peña and Christopher Plummer though, it’s hard to complain. Unless you’re one of the few people who sat through The Odd Life of Timothy Green and haven’t repressed the memory, it’s not likely you’ve ever seen a Joel Edgerton performance and come away disappointed. And unless you’re just an absolute monster, it’s not likely you’ve ever seen a Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) movie and come away disappointed either. Put the two of them together and what do you get? Apparently a “present-day sci-fi chase film” that’s also going to star Michael Shannon. Or, at least, that’s what a Variety report claiming that Edgerton is currently negotiating to join Nichols’ next project says. I probably don’t have to tell you that this all sounds very intriguing.

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pacino

What is Casting Couch? It’s one stop shopping when it comes to casting news. It’s even better than shopping though, because it’s free. Today you can pay no money to find out what Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass are teaming up on, as well as what Bill Hader’s first post-SNL gig might be. It looks like David Gordon Green’s turn back toward directing more dramatic movies again is starting to stick. THR is reporting that his next project is going to be a drama called Mangelhorn that’s about an eccentric man who’s trying to come to terms with the fact that a past crime has cost him the love of his life. More than that though, Mangelhorn is a drama that’s going to be employing one of the most celebrated dramatic actors of all time, because the trade’s report also says that Al Pacino has been attached to the lead role. Hopefully this will wash the taste of Dunkaccino and Your Highness out of all our mouths.

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Benedict Cumberbatch

What is Casting Couch? A big list of casting news. Today we’ve got word on who’s going to play the new Hercules. And no, we’re not talking about Dwayne Johnson. The other new Hercules. The new new one. Big things are happening over on Guillermo del Toro’s haunted house project, Crimson Peak. Plot details are still being kept under wraps, but we do know that Emma Stone and Charlie Hunnam are already on board to co-star, and we do know that del Toro is approaching the film as a throwback to the classic haunted house movies of yesteryear. And now, thanks to Variety, we also know that star-on-the-rise Benedict Cumberbatch has been brought on board in a lead role. As if starring in Sherlock, the new Star Trek, and The Hobbit wasn’t already enough to make him a geek icon, now he has to go and work with del Toro. If he keeps this up he could soon find himself at the center of one of those trusty geek backlashes.

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gangster 1

This weekend’s Gangster Squad may invoke classical conventions of the mobster genre, but director Ruben Fleischer never set out to make an old school throwback. His dramatic action movie is a part of a new breed of period pieces, ones made with a very modern sensibility. They move at a bullet’s pace, are shot with feverish popcorn energy, and avoid any preconceived notions of being stuffy. Fleischer didn’t set out to make an epic like The Godfather, and after 30 Minutes or Less and Zombieland we wouldn’t expect that from him, but that doesn’t mean he settles into expectations either. Generally if you work in a genre more than once, you become distinctly known as, in Fleischer’s case, “the comedy” guy. While Gangster Squad has its laughs, it shows Fleischer working on a whole new level as a visual storyteller in a different genre . Speaking with Fleischer, he was obviously happy to escape the pigeonhole with his third feature film. Here’s what he had to say about seeing his movie 400 times, the hilarity of Sean Penn and why he’ll continue to shoot digitally:

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End of Watch

On the heels of two Independent Spirit Awards nominations for actor Michael Pena (for Best Supporting Male) and cinematographer Roman Vasyanov (for Best Cinematography, naturally), Open Road Films has just announced that they will re-release End of Watch into theaters on December 7th. Yes, this is what a late-breaking awards season push looks like, and it’s a damn fine way for audiences to catch up one of the year’s best underseen gems. But End of Watch might not be the only awards contender that Open Road has on their hands, nor the only one they might re-release for a late-year push. Earlier this week, The Grey director Joe Carnahan tweeted: “Not official yet but @OpenRoadFilms looks like its going to re-release @TheGreyMovie in December for an awards qualifying run. Stay tuned.” While we haven’t heard any other news since about this possibility since Carnahan’s tweet, with the official news that End of Watch is coming back to screens, it seems even more likely that Open Road would roll out a similar strategy for their other best film of the year.

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There are a few rules for found footage: the sex tape kind will make the rich more famous; historical archives will be repurposed as propaganda following a revolution; the camcorder boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s has been a boon for today’s documentarians; and fiction implementations of the concept are all about providing evidence of how the movie’s main character(s) died. Does the new fictional found footage film End of Watch follow its respective rule?   [Warning: SPOILERS of the ending of End of Watch to come]

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End of Watch Review

In one sense, End of Watch is just another cop movie, something like the sixth written by filmmaker David Ayer. We’ve seen the valor and corruption seeping into your everyday urban police department writ large countless times before. But through its use of first-person found footage and it’s framing of the story from the point of view of LAPD officers Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Michael Peña), Ayer’s film (which he also directed) finds a new way into the old formula. The movie offers a front seat portrait of these men as they traverse the fraught, dangerous terrain of South Central Los Angeles. With Taylor toting a camera for a class project” (he’s working towards a law degree), the officers sporting small recorders on their chests and your everyday squad car cameras offering a POV perspective, the movie offers an unvarnished look at these men on the job. We’re present as they respond to a variety of incidents, talk about everything from their families to the future to their love for Red Bull, and develop the sort of deep-rooted camaraderie that only comes from spending so many long, trying nights together.

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David Ayer on Set of End of Watch

Filmmaker David Ayer seems to really love cops. From the dirty ones to the good-natured kind, Ayer continuously explores the men and women who wear a gun and badge, and then sees how they use that power. With Street Kings, Dark Blue, and Training Day, Ayer showed that power can corrupt certain cops. With End of Watch, the writer/director does the opposite of what he’s known for: portraying good, incorruptible men. It’s not often we see cops this well-intentioned on the big screen. Not a single part of End of Watch delves into police corruption. It’s a real love letter to the force which strays away from certain genre conventions, something Ayer attempts to do when he’s writing solely for himself. Here’s what director David Ayer had to say about the large thematic world of law enforcement, the work-for-hire process, and the style of End of Watch:

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End of Watch Trailer

You’ve misjudged David Ayer‘s End of Watch. It’s okay – I did the same thing. Another cop movie from Ayer, you said? Another one set in South Central Los Angeles, you wondered? With the added gimmick of utilizing all manner of handheld footage, dash cams, all that shaky stuff that just doesn’t seem to feel fresh anymore? And starring a bald Jake Gyllenhaal? Pardon me, moviegoers, but what the hell? While we can’t share all of our thoughts on the Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena-starring End of Watch just yet, we can confirm that it’s far better than it sounds, is much more compelling and emotional than even Training Day or Harsh Times, and that it contains (at the very least) one performance absolutely deserving of awards consideration. Perhaps this new trailer for the film will help change your mind on the rough, dirty, and tension-filled joy that is End of Watch. At the very least, you can watch a ton of guns blazing.

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Not to be hyperbolic, but this is the kind of role that earns Oscar nominations. Iconic public figure? Check. Oscar nominated screenwriter? Check. An actor capable of pulling off a rounded, difficult role? Triple check. Variety is reporting that Diego Luna has hired Michael Peña to star as Cesar Chavez for Chavez – the story of the celebrated labor rights advocate and the guy that 489 streets in the southwest are named after. The man is an idol, and Peña may be the perfect choice to play him. The actor has been all over the map, proving to be versatile and powerful no matter the genre or the role. Plus, the Academy apparently loves it when people play real people – regardless of whether they’re minority figures or old white leaders. But the awards talk is way too early, and it’s secondary because this project sounds like a fantastic movie no matter the gold potential. Keir Pearson (Hotel Rwanda) has written the script, Luna is a strong creative force, Gael Garcia Bernal is producing, as is John Malkovich (unless it’s John Cusack simply pretending to be John Malkovich), and Rosario Dawson and American Ferrara are co-starring in prominent roles. The puzzle pieces are all there to create something phenomenal. Not to mention, award worthy.

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Drinking Games

Have you ever wanted to stick it to those smarmy white-collar crooks who raid pension funds and embezzle money from hard-working citizens? Well, you may never get this chance, but you can do it vicariously through the characters in Brett Ratner’s blue-collar revenge film Tower Heist, out on DVD and Blu-ray this week. Though, since no one is going to try to rob a fat cat’s penthouse apartment (because if you’ve got the time, ingenuity and energy to do that, you’d be rich by now), why not relax a bit when you watch the film. And what better way to relax than with some of your favorite adult beverage to keep you company?

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Culture Warrior

One of the great misconceptions about Hollywood is that it is a liberal institution. Several false assumptions inform this misconception: thinking of “Hollywood” as a monolithic entity in any way besides its shared corporate infrastructure, confusing public endorsements of celebrity politicians by celebrity movie stars as political activism, thinking that left-leaning consumers of movies see Hollywood as representing their political beliefs in any way, selectively reading a limited number of texts (e.g., Green Zone “proves” Hollywood’s liberalism, but every superhero movie ever isn’t proof of its conservatism), and, most importantly, thinking that the most public figures associated with Hollywood (i.e., stars and filmmakers) are Hollywood. This last point I think is one that has continued to be the least considered when such straw man critiques are drawn, because Hollywood here is equated only with its most visible figures who overshadow its intricate but also not-so-shrouded political economy. It’s no mistake that despite the fluctuating numbers of major and minor Hollywood studios in the past 100 years, the most powerful studios, like the biggest banks in the nation, have been referred to as “The Big Five.” And indeed, to the surprise of no one, both Big Fives have had and are continuing a lucrative relationship with one another. Hollywood’s agenda, of course, has always been profit, and the representatives of this ideology are not George Clooney and Matt Damon, but Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal (Chairman/CEO & Co-Chairman, Sony/Columbia), Stephen Blairson (CEO, 20th Century Fox), Brad Grey (Chairman/CEO, Paramount), Ronald Meyer […]

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Josh Kovacs is, quite simply, outstanding at his job. Back-breaking early hours don’t faze the manager of the chi-chi Tower apartment building, one of the most glitzed-out residences in Manhattan, as he uses that time to beef up his knowledge of fancy cheeses and impressive wines in order to seamlessly recommend them to his high-end clientele. But Josh (Ben Stiller) isn’t just interested in impressing his residents (particularly penthouse owner Arthur Shaw), he’s also equally involved in the lives of his employees. Josh buys the Tower lifestyle hook, line, and sinker – obsessed with keeping his workers at the top of their game so as to provide the best experience for all Tower residents, an experience that will thus ensure longevity in the careers of all those Tower employees. It’s a machine that works, with Josh manning all the gears with a goofy grin on his face. But toss a wrench in that machine, and everything grinds to a halt. Josh’s life works when everyone does their job and does it well – whether that job be operating one of the Tower’s elevators or being a gracious resident. When money man Shaw (Alan Alda) is accused of bilking his clients out of millions of dollars, it stings Josh enough (after all, isn’t Shaw just a Brooklyn boy like Josh?), but when the deeper deception comes to light, Josh’s work ethic and mental stability both go soaring out the metaphorical skyscraper window. Shaw didn’t just play the old financial cup game […]

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If you haven’t been reading along, I’ve been gushing about Ruben Fleischer’s upcoming crime drama The Gangster Squad for quite a while. Story details about the cops and gangsters flick about real life gangster Mickey Cohen can be found in my first article about the movie, where it was announced that Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Ryan Gosling had all been cast in key roles. Penn is in the starring role as Cohen, and Brolin and Gosling are two of the members of the titular gangster squad that is put together to take him down. After hearing that, I didn’t think that life could get much better, but then it did. The second Gangster Squad related bomb that Fleischer dropped on me was that man about town Bryan Cranston would also be joining the cast as a rough and tumble member of the LAPD by way of Texas. Suddenly the original Triumvirate of Awesome that was the Gangster Squad cast became the Cornerstones of Awesome instead. And now that the film has such a solid foundation to build a metaphorical house on, it’s time to start picking out pretty curtains and stuff by filling out the cast further. The big news of the day from Deadline Monowi is that grizzled, crazy actor Nick Nolte has also been cast. He will play Bill Parker, the incorruptible chief of police who takes it upon himself to form this so-called gangster squad. That sounds like a big role. Seeing as Nolte’s upcoming movie […]

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr makes big plans to publish a best-selling book that women across the nation will read in hoity-toity book clubs. Step one: Move to the deep south and get raised by an African American maid. While Kevin tries to figure out how to move past that step, he gets a job delivering pizzas and lives in constant fear he’ll be used in a bank heist. Then he cheats death by avoiding the Glee concert movie, but lives in even more constant fear that the flick will hunt him down and make him watch it.

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30 Minutes or Less is a movie that takes risks. In a flat landscape of studio movies that seem mostly to be shoved into a formula that doesn’t quite work anymore, watching this film is like drinking an ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day that’s been spiked with stuff that would put hair on your chest. For all the laughs and gore of Zombieland, director Ruben Fleischer seems to have taken this comedy about a pizza boy forced to rob a bank simply to further prove he can get away with anything he wants. And he gets away with it, because the movies he makes are damned funny. This is a film for adults that grabs its anatomy, goes about its business, and doesn’t care to cater to any particular sensibility. It’s because of that attitude that it all works so well. The direction, the actors, and the writing commit fully to the premise, and sells us on the bit by sheer willpower (and a healthy amount of adult language and situations).

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Director Ruben Fleischer seems to have cashed in all his chips from Zombieland and made a small, dark, action comedy. Underneath its obvious commercial appeal, chances are taken with the humor of 30 Minutes or Less. Whether it be with Michael Pena‘s performance or being unafraid to have actual stakes, the film doesn’t always play it safe. One would think Fleischer would jump right away into the world of tent-pole filmmaking, but he decided to wisely follow-up his hit film with a project that’ll allow his sensibilities to show. Fleischer won’t be staying in the comedy world forever, though. With his next film, The Gangster Squad, the director will be tackling an epic L.A.-set gangster picture through a digital camera lens. The director was kind enough to make the time to talk while prepping The Untouchables-esque epic, where we discussed the darkness of 30 Minutes or Less, grounding comedies, and his love for digital filmmaking:

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The entire setup for the Tower Heist trailer is solid and pretty damned timely. A staff at an incredibly schmancy apartment building are fleeced out of their pensions by the building’s wealthiest schmuck so they decide to rob him. But they’ll need help. Enter the moment the trailer stops dead in its tracks. You know you’re poison when a perfectly harmless action comedy (even one where Ben Stiller and Matthew Broderick try to keep straight faces while Alan Alda tries to be unlikable), becomes a laughingstock just by inserting your image into the trailer. Guess who, movie fans. It’s your favorite comedian turned least favorite comedian and he ruins everything here:

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr gets set for another weekend of weddings with Kristen Wiig and her posse. Sadly, he discovers that he doesn’t have a vagina and decides to move on. Next, he takes a trip to an alternate world where priests kick ass and kill vampires. Once he realizes he is woefully out of place next to sultry Maggie Q in a ninja priest outfit, he comes home to find his possessions kicked to the curb with Will Ferrell in the middle of the whole mess.

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Battle: Los Angeles is an unusual movie. It’s an action film with Aaron Eckhart in the lead, it’s pro-military, and it doesn’t feel compelled to answer every question put forth by its premise. There are elements within it of several other films, but it still manages to play out like a somewhat fresh mix of military action and alien invasion. It’s Roland Emmerich without the cheese and laughable understanding of science. It’s Michael Bay without the stupidity and excessive use of ground level POV slow-mos. And most unusual of all, it’s a solidly entertaining action movie releasing in the middle of March.

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