Paradise Lost

West-of-Memphis

It almost seems too obvious. From the moment that the production of Devil’s Knot was announced, film lovers the world over noted that it was covering material that had already gone well-trodden by documentaries. And it’s not a case like, say, that time a fiction film and a documentary about the Jack Abramoff scandal came out in the same year. The case of the West Memphis Three has been turned into not one but four docs, and they are anything but low-profile. The movies of the Paradise Lost trilogy are among the best-known, most important documentaries of modern times. And West of Memphis struck at just the right time, just as new developments in the case brought it back into the national spotlight. But that doesn’t mean that a good adaptation of this story couldn’t have been made. In fact, the story of the West Memphis Three is so ripe for Hollywood exploitation that it’s honestly surprising that it’s taken this long for it to happen. It has everything the Oscars love: incredible tragedy, outrageous injustice, and an ending note of inspirational triumph. But Devil’s Knot botches it very, very badly. Even the more problematic documentaries about the WM3 are preferable to it. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Little Edie in  Grey Gardens

I am mostly against the critical valuation of real people in documentaries. I’ve written about this in the past, specifically in response to the reviews of The Imposter that judged subject Frederic Bourdin more than the film itself. I also wondered last fall whether it is okay to highlight the “best” characters of a given year in the form of the Cinema Eye Honors recognition of “The Unforgettables.” On that, I eventually came around to agreeing that memorable documentary characters deserve recognition if not a competitive prize that puts one above the rest (and the CEH don’t mean for them to be “the best,” just unforgettable). Even calling them characters makes me conflicted at times, but within the film space and narrative, that is what they are. Ranking these characters, though, or calling them “best” or “worst,” isn’t something I feel comfortable doing. However, it is more acceptable to discuss a documentary character positively than negatively. Calling someone inspiring is fair, but calling someone despicable is not. Unless their deeds are horrible enough that calling a subject such is about considering them beyond the personality they exhibit on screen (think Hitler in Triumph of the Will, Anwar Congo in The Act of Killing and really any other genocidal leader). We can think anything we want of these people privately and even discuss them amongst ourselves as part of the audience, but there’s no place for it in film criticism. So this list, which is inspired by my ongoing consideration of the Up Series for its 50th anniversary, is not intended to be a critique of any of these people (or […]

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West_of_Memphis

Editor’s note: Nearly a year after premiering at Sundance, Amy Berg’s West of Memphis hit limited release this week. The following is a re-run of our Sundance review, originally published on January 29, 2012. At Sundance, the film notably included interviews that had been completed mere days before its festival bow. As such, the final product now appearing in theaters is slightly modified from the Sundance version, with more interviews and tighter editing. Not to worry, however, as our faithful Associate Editor Kate Erbland watched the film again, in its final form, and this review remains as applicable as it did in January. When Amy Berg‘s West of Memphis held its first Sundance screening on only the second day of the festival, audience members walked out stunned – not just because of the film’s emotional material, its often graphic crime scenes and autopsy photos and videos, or even because of how it squarely points to a singular perpetrator (one who is, of course, not part of the West Memphis 3), but because the film was undeniably fresh. So fresh, in fact, that two interviews that pop up in the film’s final third both came complete with a time stamp that indicated that they had been conducted the week before the film bowed at the fest – eight days before its opening. While the West Memphis 3 (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) were freed in August of last year, their nearly twenty-year ordeal remains almost frighteningly of the moment.

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Josh Hutcherson

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting column that has updates on the careers of some promising young talent. And Matthias Schoenaerts. Josh Hutcherson is one of the hottest young actors in the business right now, but when you first hear that he’s negotiating to star in a movie about Pablo Escobar, it sounds a little confusing. Never fear though, because Deadline has an explanation. Paradise Lost is the movie about Escobar that’s being written and directed by Life of Pi actor Andrea di Stefano and is starring Benicio Del Toro as the infamous drug lord. The reason that Hutcherson is said to be negotiating for the lead role is because, while Del Toro gets to do the showy stuff as Escobar, Hutcherson’s character is the one whose eyes we see the story through. If he signs on he’ll be playing an Irish surfer who falls in love with Escobar’s niece and then has to meet her murdering, drug-dealing uncle. Colombia sounds fun.

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Last week, filmmaker Joe Berlinger tweeted about a review of West of Memphis at DocGeeks in which the writer wrote, “I’ve never had the time or the energy to watch all 3 Paradise Lost films and, having seen West of Memphis, I’m glad I never bothered to.” As the co-director of the Paradise Lost trilogy, Berlinger had a right to be annoyed with that opening line and not just because West of Memphis probably wouldn’t exist without Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky‘s coverage of the West Memphis 3 cases over the last 20 years. If there’s one thing we as film critics and/or fans should be good at it’s considering the distinction of individual works and the independent perspectives that go into their storytelling craft. With more and more documentaries being made it’s understandable that multiple films will tackle the same specific story. Sometimes they will seem like competitors, and sometimes, as in the case of this year’s two AIDS treatment docs, How to Survive a Plague and United in Anger, they’re actually linked through overlapping producers. Another new film, which just won a Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 DOC NYC documentary film festival and also recently received the Best Documentary Feature award at the Austin Film Festival, is one of the greatest examples of why it’s a wonderful thing that so many docs are being produced, even if some appear to be redundant on the surface. Titled Informant, this film tackles the exact same incident already covered by the […]

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Sylvester Stallone in Cobra 2: Axing for Trouble

What is Casting Couch? It’s a news roundup that’s jam-packed with updates about big star doing big things. Look at this list of names! There’s barely a second-stringer on there. When you shoot as many people in the head and blow as many things up onscreen as Sylvester Stallone, every once in a while it’s nice to take a break from all of the insanity and do a quiet little indie drama. So, according to Variety, that’s exactly what he’s doing with his next film, Reach Me. Written and directed by Stallone’s Cobra co-star John Herzfeld, Reach Me is an ensemble piece about a group of characters who were all touched by a self-help book that was written by a reclusive football coach. There isn’t yet any word on what role Stallone will be playing, but, for the sake of his old knees, let’s hope it doesn’t involve any running. Those hobbling away from the explosion scenes in the Expendables movies are starting to look pretty painful.

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Though it’s taking longer than most would have expected, Sundance doc West of Memphis has been picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics. The deal has been buzzed about since the film premiered at the festival, but SPC has finally gotten around to sewing up the deal for Amy Berg‘s film about the West Memphis Three. Berg’s film, produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, is a new entry into the cinematic world about the Three – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. Accused and sentenced of the murder of three young boys back in 1993, documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofksy have previously chronicled the case in three Paradise Lost films, but Berg’s film features new information and interviews (some completed mere days before the film bowed in Park City), including particularly damning evidence against Terry Hobbs (a stepfather of one of the boys) and some very close time with Echols and his wife Lorri Davis. Back in January, I reviewed the film at Sundance, calling it both “exceedingly well-executed” and “an essential entry into the horrifying true life tale.” I’m pleased as punch that the film will now be getting a release from an established studio that can push it out to plenty of audiences. A release date has not been announced yet, but we can likely assume that SPC will get out this timely documentary within the calendar year, especially with a number of other feature film adaptations of the story getting into production soon.

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Never let it be said that director Alex Proyas didn’t have a tremendous vision for his big screen adaptation of John Milton’s epic poem of the same name, but that same ambition appears to be what has sunk Paradise Lost for good. Reports are now coming in from various outlets that the project, with a huge budget that already exceeded $120m and a vision that included technology that, as Variety’s Jeff Sneider puts it, “wasn’t there,” has been killed by Legendary Pictures. Proyas was hired for the gig back in September of 2010 and, since then, had gathered an impressive and up-and-coming cast for the epic tale of angelic battles, including Bradley Cooper, Benjamin Walker, Casey Affleck, Djimon Hounsou, Diego González Boneta, and Camilla Belle. The film’s shooting schedule was already moved from January to early this summer, but that’s all moot now that the film has been scrapped entirely.

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The story of the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) has already been, quite famously, immortalized in filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost trilogy (which wrapped up this year after the Three were finally freed from prison), but Berligner and Sinofsky were not the only filmmakers captivated by the unbelievable story of the men, the murders, and the miscarriage of justice surrounding them. Peter Jackson and his wife and producing partner Fran Walsh have long been supporters of Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley, so it’s no surprise that the pair have helped produce a new documentary about the men and their case. West of Memphis is an investigative documentary by the Academy Award-nominated Amy Berg that “tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light.” The film picks up with the official police investigation in 1993, covering the story “from the inside.” Filled with new information and new evidence, West of Memphis is a timely and welcome addition to this year’s Sundance Film Festival. West of Memphis will have its World Premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 20, with four additional screenings throughout the festival. Check out the film’s official trailer after the break, along with screening information for Sundance. See you there!

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column, sure. But at its core, it is a hunter. A hunter of the most interesting film-related tidbits of the day. Can you feel the heat? It’s not enough for director Alex Proyas will make Paradise Lost, the story of the break between Heaven and Hell. But he’s also bringing Djimon Hounsou as the Angel of Death. If there is one actor that I look at on a consistent basis and think, “that man would bring death to me,” it’s Hounsou. It sure beats Bradley Cooper as Lucifer, so we’ll see how it shakes out.

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When it was first announced that Dark City director Alex Proyas was doing an adaptation of the epic John Milton poem “Paradise Lost”, it was rumored that he would be turning the work into an action movie. That seemed a little ridiculous, as “Paradise Lost” is mostly known as a dry, academic tome that students dread slogging through, and while he’s made movies with strong action elements before like The Crow, Proyas usually sticks to headier conceits than big battle sequences. Surely it can’t be true that Proyas is involving himself with something being described as 300 meets Lord of the Rings, is he? After talking to Deadline Hebron, the director has made the nature of this project a bit more clear. “It’s not just armies battling in an epic war,” says Proyas. “This is an adventure about the origins of good and evil after Lucifer‘s rebellion gets him cast out of Heaven and leads to a struggle with his brother archangel over the soul of mankind, starting with Adam and Eve. That is the scope of the narrative here, and we’ve tried to say as faithful as possible to Milton’s text, particularly its focus on Lucifer’s evolution and the birth of evil.” He goes on to say that, “It’s a family saga, about a group of brothers, two in particular, who are on divergent paths, and Lucifer’s feelings of betrayal by his father and family that forge his descent into evil.” If that’s the case, then it seems that […]

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Much has been made of the fact that this month’s Comic-Con in San Diego is looking to be a fairly empty one when it comes to upcoming blockbusters from the studios. Sure Tv shows like Game Of Thrones, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries will be there, but Marvel, Pixar, and Warner Bros. are sitting it out this year and saving themselves a boatload of cash. This means fans won’t get a glimpse at hotly anticipated titles like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, or Andrew Stanton’s John Carter. But not everyone’s upset that the heavy hitters are absent this year… because now some of the lower profile films have a chance to make some noise and get noticed. Per Collider (and the press release they received) Legendary Pictures is leaping on the opportunity and has announced a panel featuring four of their upcoming films. Granted, none of the movies are due out until 2012/2013, but everyone loves seeing celebrities talk about future projects! The highlight is Guillermo del Toro who’ll be on-hand for his giant monster movie, Pacific Rim, and will be bringing his recently announced cast with him including Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, and the lovely Rinko Kikuchi. Also along for the Comic-Con bump will be Alex Proyas and Bradley Cooper discussing their adaptation of Paradise Lost (and how Cooper dodged a bullet with Green Lantern), Jeff Bridges and friends to talk up their supernatural thriller Seventh Son, and Mass Effect creator […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It is (d) all of the above. “La Luna is the timeless fable of a young boy who is coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances.” That’s the opening of the synopsis to Pixar’s La Luna, the short that will play the Annecy International Animation Festival next month in France. It’s our adorable headlining image. (Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures)

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, Going the Distance screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe (pronounced “La Tulip”) stops by to share his xenophobia, puff on his pipe a little harder, and tell his personal story of getting his first screenplay sold and produced all from the comfort of his living room couch. We also find time to review Easy A, Devil, and The Town.

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“Paradise Lost,” the most well-claimed-to-have-been-read-but-wasn’t-actually-read epic poem of all time (amongst high schoolers), has had more than a few shots at a feature film adaptation. For some reason – perhaps because it’s a gigantic naked tome of human moral psychology with a whisper-thin plot that it dangles by – it hasn’t made it to your local cinerama-plex-a-dome. Now, it might. Dark City and The Crow director Alex Proyas has been hired to helm an adaptation that focuses on the war between Team Lucifer and Team God and promises some graphic Angel on Angel violence. The phrase “action film” have been tossed around, but the brand of action that Proyas delivers is usually fulfilling both on a visceral and mental level. Oddly enough, he may be the perfect person to take a challenging project like this. Now, who to cast as Satan? Is Dave Grohl available? CGI Young Al Pacino? [The New Cinematical]

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