Octavia Spencer

Get On Up Trailer

Awwww yeah, things are about to get a little more funky up in here, everybody. The trailer for the long-gestating James Brown biopic, Get On Up (Can we be honest with each other, here? Maybe there could have been a better title besides reaching for a familiar song title), has landed and it’s exceedingly catchy. The story of the Godfather of Soul is apparently a comprehensive look at the legendary singer’s formative years up until the height of his success, and it’s not skimping out on any of the music that made the man so famous. The film, directed by The Help‘s Tate Taylor, stars Chadwick Boseman (42) as the titular soul man as he maneuvers through a rough childhood, time spent in jail and through all that fame business. Being a superstar is kind of a big part of this story, if you didn’t gather that on your own. The trailer touches on a part of the singer’s life that you might not have heard about: his volatile relationship with his mother (Viola Davis), who abandoned him at age six to leave him to be raised in a brothel with his aunt, played by Octavia Spencer.

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Paradise Movie

Diablo Cody already has an Oscar for screenwriting. Now she’s transitioning to directing with Paradise, and you’ve got to hand it to someone whose name means “Devil” for focusing on religion’s labor’s lost. In the movie, Julianne Hough plays a young believer who feels the bedrock of her faith falter after a horrific plane crash. Naturally, she heads to Las Vegas for a sinning spree with Russell Brand and Octavia Spencer as her guides, but as the trailer shows, she eases into it pretty slowly. Check it out for yourself:

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Fruitvale Movie

Editor’s note: This review of Fruitvale Station originally ran during this year’s Sundance film festival where it played under the shorter title Fruitvale. We’re re-running it now as the film sees a limited theatrical release this Friday. Tragedies happen every day throughout the world, but very few of them ever reach the public eye. The overwhelming majority remain private pains in the lives of the families and friends directly involved. One incident that didn’t stay private was the New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant by a police officer in Oakland, CA, in 2009. Various cell phones caught the shooting on video, and an already racially charged city exploded at the sight of a white officer firing on an unarmed black man. But as is often the case there’s far more to the story than those several harrowing minutes of grainy video footage reveal. For better and worse writer/director Ryan Coogler is interested in more than just that incident. Fruitvale focuses on the last, hopeful day in Oscar’s life, but our knowledge of what’s coming hangs heavy over these 24 hours as we know what he can’t. His interactions with family and friends paint a heartbreaking picture of a man trying to atone for past bad behaviors and plan for the future. That should have been more than enough, but like too many people Coogler can’t help but try to turn the man and his story into a symbol and a rallying cry.

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fruitvale 2

The debut feature from Ryan Coogler has been the year’s Cinderella story ever since it bowed at Sundance and scooped the Grand Jury Prize, as well as the Audience Award, for U.S. dramatic film. Received in similarly rapturous terms by critics at this week’s Cannes screening, it would not be surprising to many if Fruitvale Station had the chutzpah to carry itself, or at least some of its esteemed performers, all the way to Hollywood’s awards season. It opens with seemingly authentic camera phone footage — perhaps the very same footage that, as we learn at the film’s end titles, incriminated those involved — of 22-year-old Oscar Grant being accosted by two police officers. We know, even if we remain unaware of the resolution, that things are not going to end well. While in many ways Coogler’s film feels very much like the same redemptive gangster drama we’ve seen so many times, the difference here, ostensibly, is that it’s real. Oscar (Michael B. Jordan) wants to stop slinging dope and get a proper job so that he can support his girlfriend and his daughter, but of course he faces professional hurdles that then impinge on his personal life. In fact, it is really only a familiar drama in as much as it features a character trying to extricate himself from less-than-desirable circumstances. It is Coogler’s riveting approach and the spellbinding performances that make it feel so fresh.

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Snow Piercer artwork

Whether due to coincidence or collusion, 2013 is the year three of South Korea’s best film directors will premiere their English language debuts. Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand will hit screens first in January, while Park Chan-wook’s Stoker will follow suit a few months later. Both films look to exist firmly in their director’s respective wheelhouse leaving Bong Joon-ho‘s Snow Piercer as far more of an unknown entity. One of the biggest questions has now been answered though as The Weinstein Company has reportedly picked up distribution rights for the film in North America, the UK and a few other English-speaking regions. No official release date has been set, but Deadline seems to believe a Summer 2013 premiere is to be expected. Snow Piercer is based on a French graphic novel called Transperceneige and plays out almost exclusively aboard a futuristic locomotive. The world has become an iced-over post-apocalyptic wasteland, and the only real safety is on this train which is constantly in motion. The last vestiges of humanity live aboard distinctly divided along class lines, but rumors of a rebellion from the lower decks reach the one-percenters living above and threaten to derail mankind’s last hope.

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Over Under - Large

In 2011, director Tate Taylor adapted Kathryn Stockett’s novel “The Help,” a story about the relationship between the wealthy whites and the poor blacks who raised their children of 60s-era Mississippi, into a feature film. When all was said and done, Taylor’s film made nearly ten times its production budget, was nominated for a truckload of awards (including 8 NAACP Image Awards and 4 Academy Awards), and had everyone’s aunts and grandmas talking their ears off about how much they wanted to go see it. To say that it ended up being a success would be something of an understatement. The Landlord is the debut of director Hal Ashby, one of the great ’70s filmmakers who, for some reason, doesn’t get the same recognition as many of his contemporaries. It earned Lee Grant a nomination for Best Supporting Actress back in the day, but it’s a film (like most of Ashby’s work not named Harold and Maude) that’s been generally forgotten over time. This is strange, because not only is it a great film that pushes some racial hot-buttons, but it also features a couple of actors who went on to do big things in Beau Bridges and Lou Gossett Jr.

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Ever since Chris Tucker uttered the phrase, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” in the trailers for the original Rush Hour, that pairing of him and martial arts legend Jackie Chan has become, for better or worse, an enduring part of our pop culture lexicon. Despite the initial joy everyone experienced by watching a loud black guy and a bumbling Asian guy teaming up and becoming friends, however, by the time the third film had come and gone, it started to feel like the Rush Hour formula was getting pretty tired, and should probably be put to bed. At least, it felt that way to audiences. To people who make lots of money producing a franchise, things tend to look a whole lot different. That’s why, when Crave Online asked Rush Hour producer Arthur Sarkissian if he has any new projects on the horizon, it comes as no surprise that he responded, “I am working on Rush Hour 4 right now with Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan.” He went on to explain his statement by saying, “I’m trying to do it closer to how I did Rush Hour 1, more down to earth, more gritty, introduce two new characters and make it real the way the first one was. I personally was not happy with the third one. I thought 1 and 2 were very good. I think 3 got out of hand a little bit. It’s not a matter of just bringing them […]

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In the early morning hours of New Years Day 2009, police responded to reports of fights at the Fruitvale BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station in Oakland, CA. The facts about what happened next remain in question for some, but this much is clear. Several people were detained, and an officer shot a young man named Oscar Grant in the back while he lay on the ground. Grant died a few hours later, and the officer, Johannes Mehserle, was arrested and charged with 2nd degree murder. Per THR, casting has begun for Fruitvale, a small film from writer/director Ryan Coogler (and producer Forest Whitaker) about the incident that will focus on Grant’s interactions leading up to the shooting. Octavia Spencer has signed on as Grant’s mother while Michael B. Jordan has been cast as Grant. It’s unclear at this point how much of the shooting’s aftermath will come into play, but in a world still reeling from the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida it’s sure to have a prominent role. Mehserle is white, and Grant is black, so the tragedy caught immediate national attention thanks in no small part to fuel thrown on it by cynical race-baiters. The specifics of the incident were quickly dismissed in favor of generalized statements of police brutality, accusations of racism and subsequent protests and riots. The reaction and suspicions are almost understandable on a general level, but the indifference towards common sense and the truth did a disservice to Grant, Mehserle and society as […]

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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. It’s finally here! The time of year where I can write a paragraph that no one will read because they’ve already scrolled down to see who’s won. But even though this won’t be seen by humans, here’s a personal reminder that this night may be about politics and back-slapping, but it’s also about the splendor of cinema. It’s about the magic of movies. The genius of thousands of images all strung together with blood, sweat and tears to create characters and a journey through the heart of a story. There are some great stories on display tonight. That’s what matters second most. What matters most, of course, is crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentation of their women. Let’s get to the winning, right? And the Oscar goes to…

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In a couple of hours, we’ll start live-blogging our little hearts out as Neil pretends to know what “chiffon” is, and after the red carpet, we’ll sink into that fifth drink while reveling in the sheer majesty of the 2012 Academy Awards. Stifling cynicism can take a taxi outta town for a while, because no matter what, if you want to see it, there’s still something magical about this night. Part of that magic is being completely wrong. We’re confident now, but when the winners are announced, there’s always the tiny possibility of a big surprise. So who did you put down in your office pool to take home gold tonight? Our team spent all week tossing out their best analyses, and it all comes down to this. Here’s who we picked. Would you take us up on these bets?

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

The other night I got into an almost knock-down fight with a colleague while we shared the stage on a Oscar panel over who we thought would win Best Supporting Actress this year. It’s not that we didn’t both agree Octavia Spencer had the best chance of winning, nor that she didn’t deserve the nomination, but we bickered over the fact that this year’s female performances were just so marvelous considering how utterly boring the Academy-backed films ended up being. There is no denying the fact, this year’s “Oscar worthy” films (yes, I want you to read that with air quotes and everything) were easily some of the most tired, bland, and kitschy offerings we’ve seen this side of Shakespeare in Love. But the one thing that is honestly saving this small group of voters from a strongly worded letter from my most prized stationary is the appreciation bestowed upon a fine group of actresses this year. The ladies sharing 2012 Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations are all first time nominees (except for Janet McTeer who was previously nominated in 1999) with performances rivaling veteran women in the Best Actress category. If we go by what the previous award shows say, there is one clear winner, but I think each of these varied ladies brought their A-game with them this season. Here are the nominations for Best Supporting Actress, with my predicted winner in red…

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When I first heard details about Diablo Cody’s upcoming inaugural foray into the directing world, Lamb of God, I was kind of on the fence with whether or not I was looking forward to seeing it. I hadn’t liked any of Cody’s work up to that point, but a cast that included names like Holly Hunter and Octavia Spencer didn’t sound so bad at all. Add in names like Julianne Hough, who surprised me by doing a good job in Footloose, and Russell Brand, who is always more enjoyable in movies than I give him credit for, and I was thinking that I might be ready to give Cody another chance to get on my good side. Things have changed since then. First off, the latest movie penned by Cody, Young Adult, came out and was generally well liked. I wasn’t as enamored with it as most seemed to be, but it did show me that there was some potential in Cody as a filmmaker, and I liked the way she handled Patton Oswalt’s character in that one quite a bit. And now a bomb has been dropped that completely changes the whole complexion of Cody’s career in my eyes. According to Deadline Pawnee, Nick Offerman has agreed to join the Lamb of God cast.

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South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho‘s English-language debut was always going to be a hotly anticipated feature, but as the cast for Snow Piercer rounds out, it’s become obvious that The Host director is really going all out for this one. The next star to join the sci-fi indie film is Octavia Spencer, who just won a SAG Award for Best Supporting Actress and is viewed as the frontrunner for the Oscar in the same category for her work in The Help. She joins an already impressive (both in terms of talent and how wonderfully varied it is) cast that includes Chris Evans, The Host star Kang Ho Song, and veteran talents John Hurt and Tilda Swinton. The film, which has been adapted from the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige has been co-scripted by Bong (with the most recent draft coming from Kelly Masterson), and is set in a future world ruined by a failed attempt to finally stop the fallout from global warming. The experiment to end global warming has led to an Ice Age that has destroyed all living creatures, except for those who live on the Snow Piercer, ” a train that travels around the globe and is powered by a sacred perpetual-motion engine.” The film will center on a revolution that stirs up between the train’s inhabitants, who had previously settled into an uneasy class system. Spencer’s role will be that as a mother who takes up with the revolution ” in order to save her son” […]

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“There becomes this idea, this narrative that says, ‘Well, it’s going to be 13-30-year-old white men which is the target. Because we want to open.’ Because everyone makes their money opening weekend. Well that’s actually not the audience. There is an audience for all of this. We’ve just forgotten it.” That’s George Clooney discussing the condescension inherent in the mindset of some executives in the studio system. His comment comes after a question to newly minted double Oscar nominee Viola Davis (The Help) is asked in the Newsweek Oscar roundtable why this is her first starring role. The answer? “I’m a 46-year-old black woman who really doesn’t look like Halle Berry, and Halle Berry is having a hard time,” said Davis. A clever turn of phrase underlining the reality that there are few roles for women of a certain color and a certain age. It’s certainly a complex issue with any number of historical, social and artistic causes, but the numbers are certainly there.

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It’s been a year filled with silent screen stars seeking redemption, the 1920s coming alive in Paris, a young boy searching for the first great director, sex addicts in New York City, horses going to war, maids of dishonor, and skulls getting crushed in elevators. Now it’s time to celebrate all of those things and more with the 84th annual Academy Awards. They’ve come a long way since the Hotel Roosevelt in 1929 (although sex addicts have almost always been a fixture). Get to ready to smile, ball your fists with snubbed rage, or be generally unsurprised. Here they are. The 2012 Oscar nominees:

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Diablo Cody’s upcoming inaugural effort as a director has yet to get a title, but it now has an Oscar winner in its cast. The Julianne Hough-starring film about a religious young woman who loses her faith after surviving a plane crash has just picked up Holly Hunter. Hunter will play Hough’s character’s super-strict, super-religious mother, who I imagine will be none too happy that her now-faithless daughter decides to go out to Las Vegas to get a taste of the naughty side of life. I’m not a fan of Juno and I’m not a fan of dancers turned actors, so if you would have told me about this project a couple months ago, I would have probably dismissed it completely. But after seeing Hough in the Footloose remake and not being horrified by her acting abilities at all and after hearing all of the positive buzz about this week’s Cody-penned release Young Adult, I’m definitely willing to give this one a try. When you add in a top-tier actress like Holly Hunter and solid additions to the supporting cast like Russell Brand, who always pleasantly surprises me, and Octavia Spencer, who impressed in The Help, it’s starting to sound to me like Cody’s first effort is coming along rather nicely in its pre-production stages. I guess my final decision on whether I’ll see this one or not will come down to how quippy and clever the title ends up being. I demand puns and wordplay! [Deadline Lemont]

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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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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
B+

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