Rosewater

Selma

The end of any calendar year is traditionally marked by a glut of biopics, the kind of true-life tales that frequently pack an emotional wallop, particularly the “inspirational” kind. It’s easy to feel compelled to action — some action! any action! — after sitting in a theater for two-plus hours, having your heart broken by a story that’s both cinematically rich and personally touching, but it’s far harder to turn that into actual movement. Let’s put it this way: when was the last time you walked out of a movie theater and felt like you’d had the crap kicked out of you? If you’re keeping up with 2014’s staggering rash (not that kind of rash, unless you’ve been tempted to imitate Wild) of dramatically upsetting biopics, it was probably mere days ago. But how can you fix that movie-sized hole in your heart after watching genuine human beings go through terrible, terrible things on the big screen, purely for your entertainment? What if you’re too busy feeling sad about said biopics to get your holiday shop on? Open up your pocketbooks, buddy, ’tis the season!

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Open Road Films

The idea of incarceration, whether justified or unlawful, is terrifying, and when solitary confinement and torture are added to the mix the thought that any of us would last a day — let alone 118 — is most likely a pipe dream. But that’s exactly what Iranian-born Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) faced after leaving his pregnant wife in London and returning to his home country in 2009 to cover the presidential elections. After the results are announced as heavily and suspiciously in favor of the incumbent leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the populace reacts with outrage and protest. Bahari captures footage of the people in the streets and awakes the next morning to Iranian authorities rousting him from bed and taking him into custody. He’s immediately placed in solitary confinement, labeled a spy and interrogated mercilessly by an unnamed man whom Bahari calls Rosewater (Kim Bodnia). The days and weeks tick by as he’s threatened, pressed and pushed to the emotional brink by the possibility that he’ll never see his wife, never meet his unborn child and never walk free again. It’s his desire for all those things alongside imagined conversations with his deceased father and sister — both of whom faced their own conflicts with the Iranian government — that keep his hope alive. Rosewater achieves most everything it sets out to do with skill, grace and a powerful lead performance by Bernal, but its most glaring fault is that it doesn’t actually try to do all that much. In a sense […]

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Interstellar Tunnel

If you try to watch every single movie on this list, you’ll end up spending more than two full days inside your local movie theater. Challenge accepted? Good. The potential of this month is so unbelievable that even if only half of these must-seeable flicks fulfills that promise, it’ll still be one for your diary. Plus, the variety is fantastic — offering, no cliche, something for everyone. And since there’s so much here to cheer for, I’ve decided to limit each explanation to only five words. Challenge two accepted. Let’s not waste any more time. You’ve got a lot of movies to get to.

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Open Road Films

When Jon Stewart first announced he was taking time off to write and direct a feature film the expectation was for some kind of comedy. Sure it would probably be smart and most likely woven through with political or social commentary, but the main narrative would surely be something goofy. Happily that wasn’t what Stewart was interested in pursuing though and instead took up a far greater challenge. Maziar Bahari is an Iranian-born journalist who was arrested in Tehran while covering the elections and subsequent riots for Newsweek. His jail time lasted several months and included both physical and emotional torture, and the story Stewart wanted to tell on film is the one Bahari told in his memoir, “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival.” It’s an alternately engaging, terrifying and inspiring story, and while that’s enough of a reason to bring it to the screen Stewart had another motive as well. Clips of Bahari being interviewed on The Daily Show were used as evidence against him during his “trial” in Iran. Check out the first trailer for Rosewater below.

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franco

What is Casting Couch? It’s still got its ear to the RSS feeds looking for casting news, even though the studios are probably waiting until the holiday is over to release any more. Still, we were able to find out about some new jobs for child actors, as well as who John Stewart has been busy recruiting for Rosewater. When James Franco announced that he wanted to make a movie adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, pretty much everyone said it was a bad idea and shouldn’t be done. But he did it anyway, and now the film has played Cannes. Never being one to stop tempting fate, Franco’s success has led to him deciding he now wants to adapt another, even less structured for the cinema Faulkner story, The Sound and the Fury. Not only does he feel like he’s cobbled together enough sources of financing to get it done, but according to a report from the LA Times, he also feels like he can get Mad Men star Jon Hamm to appear in the film as the family it feature’s patriarch, Mr. Compson, his brother Dave Franco as Quentin Compson, and Danny McBride in a role that’s still undisclosed. Scheduling issues just need to be ironed out, and then it’s all a go. Franco himself intends on appearing in the film as well.

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The Purge

Plenty of entertainment news happened over the weekend while you were girding your loins for a very special season finale of Game of Thrones (or going outside like a normal person, perhaps). We’ve rounded a bunch of it up into a neat little news package we call our afternoon Biz Break. 

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Jon Stewart

The New York Times reports what, in the grand scheme of thing, was probably inevitable – that Daily Show host Jon Stewart will be taking some time to write and direct his very first film, titled Rosewater. Unfortunately, Stewart’s new, quite serious undertaking will also mean that he has to actually take time off from his hosting duties. The comedian is expected to be away from his Comedy Central flagship for twelve weeks in order to film the feature, which he has already adapted from Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy‘s 2011 book “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival.” That sounds pretty serious, right? Stewart’s show actually had something to do with the true life tale at the heart of Rosewater – as the Times tells it: the “Canadian-Iranian journalist and documentarian…was jailed in Tehran in 2009 for four months, accused of plotting to stage a revolution against the government. Shortly before his arrest, Mr. Bahari had participated in a Daily Show sketch, conducted by one of the show’s correspondents, Jason Jones, who was pretending to be a spy. Mr. Bahari’s captors used the footage against him.” Of course, Stewart and company took the news quite hard, with the newbie filmmaker telling the outlet, “You can imagine how upset we were and I struck up a friendship with him afterward.” Stewart also commented on the tone of the film, saying that “one of the things that appealed to me about the story is that it does have lighter moments. One of the things that kept Maziar alive was […]

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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