Nate Parker

About Alex

“You know what this is like? This is like one of those eighties movies.” Jesse Zwick’s About Alex makes no bones about its apparent pedigree – the first-time filmmaker clearly pulled from a host of eighties features, especially the similarly themed The Big Chill for his debut, but he’s added a nice little twist to his work: no one is actually dead here. Instead, the group of college friends that make up the cast of About Alex are brought back together because someone is almost dead. (This actually makes quite a difference.) Reunited due to the attempted suicide of their pal Alex (Jason Ritter), the erstwhile group assemble at his house in upstate New York to welcome home a recently discharged Alex, find out what went wrong, and learn some stuff about themselves (and each other!) as the film unfolds over an appropriate ninety-six minute runtime. But although the premise of the film is clearly a little contrived, but Zwick clearly knows that – amusingly enough, the dead protagonist in The Big Chill, the friend who really did succeed at his suicide, was also named Alex, and he also slit his wrists in a tub – but About Alex is so charming on its own merits that Zwick’s decision to riff on earlier features emerges as a wily and wise one.

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James Ransone

Somewhat incredibly, Spike Lee‘s remake of Chan-wook Park’s beloved new classic, Oldboy, keeps trucking right along. After months and months of casting rumors, informed chatter, (probably) uninformed chatter, and starts and stops, the film is set to star Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sharlto Copley (seriously, this sounds great, right?), but Variety now reports that one co-star has been replaced, thanks to some pesky old scheduling conflicts. The outlet reports that Nate Parker (who recently broke out with his solid work in Arbitrage) has had to leave the currently-filming project, with James Ransone stepping into his role (that of “a doctor who works with Olsen’s character”). While this may sound like a small role, Lee’s original choice of Parker, an actor who is poised for super-stardom, and his replacement pick of Ransone, who he has worked with twice before, indicates that this role might be beefier than it sounds. Why else pick a rising star and a trusted collaborator?

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An earnest, studiously straightforward message movie, Jeb Stuart’s Blood Done Sign My Name tries to get by on the strength of its performances and the writer-director’s able skirting of melodramatic clichés. Irony has no place here, aside from the bizarre fact that the maker of a civil rights drama shares his name with one of the most famous Confederate generals.

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