Sean Durkin

little house on the prairie cast

Sometimes TV series adaptations stir up something furious in us, a sudden supercharged desire to destroy the unholy abomination before it taints something we love (ahem, The Equalizer). Other times, they don’t seem like such a bad idea, as is the case with Little House on the Prairie. In our current climate, where people (me) are going around tagging TV adaptations as “unholy abominations” that should probably be purged from society, we could all use a palette cleanser. And there’s none better than Little House, a series as plain, tall and uniformly wholesome as TV could ever be. Or maybe not, because as The Hollywood Reporter has announced, the Little House movie has picked up Sean Durkin as its director. The same Sean Durkin whose only feature credit is Martha Marcy May Marlene, which is also about a quaint little family living out in the wilderness — only Durkin’s version has a few more instances of rape and psychological torture. For those screamingly obvious reasons, he’s an odd pick for Little House, but the last director Sony had lined up for the project was just as bizarre: David Gordon Green, whose indie dramas and freaky comedies with Danny McBride have just as little to do with gentle pioneer families and the soft rustle of the country wind through your prairie bonnet.

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TheExorcist

Undoubtedly inspired by the success of horror-film-to-serial-dramas Hannibal and Bates Motel, Morgan Creek Entertainment and producer Roy Lee (The Ring, The Grudge) are shopping around a television version of The Exorcist to the major networks. Last year, the team announced that the project was to be a 10-hour miniseries directed by Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) that functioned as both a prequel and remake of the 1973 film, but it seems that this plan has been scrapped altogether – The Playlist reports that Durkin is no longer involved, and they’ve brought in writer Jeremy Slater (the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot) to pen what is now going to be a weekly drama series based on the novel by William Peter Blatty. The story, for foggy minds, follows the harrowing demonic possession of a young girl and the efforts by her mother, doctors and priests to save her from the entity. The 1973 film was so considered so graphic and terrifying that people vomited in theaters. This is what Slater has to live up to.

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Janis Joplin

Producer Peter Newman has wanted to get a Janis Joplin biopic together for quite a while now. For years it was at the top of his to-do list, but despite his efforts, actresses like Pink and Zooey Deschanel floated in and out of the project without it ever actually getting made. Things even got so bad that Newman gave up on the film for a while and pursued a career in academia; but two big developments have pulled him back into the world of film production and put this Joplin project back into development.

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Hannibal Lecter

According to Vulture, Martha Marcy May Marlene writer/director Sean Durkin is preparing to pitch a ten-episode television series concept of The Exorcist. It’s a promising idea from a strong, disturbing storyteller, so hopefully a solid network picks it up. The potential for trenchant drama aside, what’s fascinating is that this project paired with two possible Silence of the Lambs television shows marks a mini-trend in TV that sees the conversion of movies into the format. Of course, both franchises were born as books (from William Peter Blatty and Thomas Harris respectively), but they were made even more famous (if not downright iconic) by the films – especially because of performances from Max Von Sydow, Linda Blair, and Anthony Hopkins. So that’s two (count ‘em, two) shows based on Hannibal Lecter: Clarice over at Lifetime and Hannibal over at NBC. The first, clearly, focuses on Clarice Starling, and the second uses Will Graham as its FBI agent of choice. These are all in various stages of development, but it seems clear that some showrunners and channels are looking to horror movies for inspiration and content. The natural question? What horror movie icons would work best on TV?

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Hugo

It is day four of awards season, and already some names are growing wearyingly familiar, and even the surprises don’t quite pop like they used to. On Monday evening, the Gothams announced their annual awards, followed swiftly by the Film Independent Spirit nominations announcement and the NYFCC’s winners, but director Martin Scorsese and his latest film, Hugo, were without some big awards love – until now. The National Board of Review has announced their best-of picks for the year, and Hugo has topped out as Best Film, with Scorsese grabbing Best Director. As the film opened just last week, here’s hoping that this NBR endorsement will pump up somewhat lackluster box office returns. Paired with a weekend box office free of new major releases, and maybe Hugo can swing up to the top of the heap. As for the rest of the Board’s awards, there’s a bevy of names here that already seem like old hat – picks like Christopher Plummer for Beginners and The Artist, The Descendants, and The Tree of Life as a “top” films for the year – but there are still a few eyebrow-raisers, as our friends over at /Film note, J.C. Chandor picking up another award for his debut, Margin Call, continues to be surprising. Where is Sean Durkin and his own Sundance hit Martha Marcy May Marlene? And J. Edgar as one of the year’s best? And a Breakthrough to Felicity Jones and Rooney Mara, but no Elizabeth Olsen? Bizarre, really. But there are […]

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John Hawkes describes his cult leading character Patrick as if he “just came from outer space.” After you’ve seen the film, you’ll know that that description could not be more apt. Patrick is a walking and talking enigma with no past or future. He’s someone who lives in the moment and is only interested in feeling that moment. Does he have a greater agenda? Maybe. Are his intentions malicious? Possibly. Where does he come from, and what does he believe in? No idea. That’s Patrick: a mystery. The gentle and quietly frightening character is one of the many mysteries in Sean Durkin’s feature debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene. The Sundance hit raises far more questions than the answers it barely gives. Durkin’s psychological horror film trusts you to fill in the blanks, as does John Hawkes. Here’s what the actor had to say about the oddly and charming ways of Patrick, the walking mystery:

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The real-life experience of being seduced into a cult and dealing with its psychological ramifications is probably a lot like that undergone by Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) in Martha Marcy May Marlene. That’s the highest praise one could offer this engaging drama, which arrives in theaters after causing a mini sensation on the festival circuit, complete with an unfortunate title and a brand new Indie It Girl in Olsen. Writer/director Sean Durkin‘s feature filmmaking debut isn’t going to cure global hunger or cause world peace, despite what the frenzied hype might suggest. It is, however, an assured work that achieves the tricky feat of offering a finely-tuned window into the existential burdens of its protagonist while simultaneously keeping her at a distance. The picture’s split chronology parallels Martha’s introduction into the Upstate New York “family” led by the manipulative, charismatic Patrick (John Hawkes) and her re-integration into her real family two years later. Without launching into convoluted explanations for Martha’s actions, the film follows her experiences in the harrowing reclusive clan, which has a propensity for guns, austere clothing and psychological torture, as well as a general acceptance of vicious physical abuse. At the same time, she is shown adrift in the lavish lakefront Connecticut home of her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy).

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Very few films resemble the structure of Martha Marcy May Marlene. The story follows a young girl, Martha (Elizaebth Olsen), both when she was a part of a cult and when she leaves it to try to relive a normal life. The psychological drama doesn’t give you the introduction of how Martha made it into the cult, which one would expect to take up the first act, and the film also ends on a scene that would’ve been the beginning of any other story’s third act. Martha Marcy May Marlene features subverted conventions, bare-boned exposition, and a whole lot of ambiguity. However, writer/director Sean Durkin never approached his drama to deliberately “subvert conventions,” it just happened to turn out that way. Durkin confessed to never quite getting the lessons from screenwriting courses, and perhaps that was for the better. By avoiding expected screenwriting tropes, in his feature debut, Durkin made an anti-cliche cult film. There are no heroes. There is no third act bang. Plus, the moral compass of the film, Ted (Hugh Dancy), is almost as off-putting as the ambiguous cult leader, Patrick (John Hawkes). Clearly, not your regular “cult” film. Here’s what Sean Durkin had to say about cracking the structure of Martha Marcy May Marlene, approaching the story with a fresh perspective, despising lazy flashbacks, and the mysterious ways of the warm and scary community leader, Patrick:

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As the temperatures turn just the slightest bit colder and the fall colors settle in the landscape (if you’re lucky enough to live near trees), we should start directing our film focus to the fall movie season. We love summer for its mind-numbing fun, but the last season of the year tends to offer some of the most vulnerable, honest, and captivating films (you know, just in time for that other “big O”). Fall supplies films meant to scandalize our minds and even our naughty bits, and there is nothing wrong with that. But with so many films and film festivals to choose from between now and December, it becomes overwhelming to sort through all the goodness being dispensed our way. Lucky for you, my love of highlighting full-frontal male nudity and questionable sexual conduct happens to pay off for a change. Below you’ll find a helpful collection of five sultry features sure to stimulate your brain and your nethers.

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Films about cults were all the rage at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, with some of the buzziest titles all revolving around veritable innocents sucked into organizations that are far, far more terrifying than they first let on. Vera Farmiga starred in and directed the religious-tinged Higher Ground, Sundance It Girl Brit Marling haunted audiences in Sound of My Voice, but the only culty hit that captured my attention (and made it wear rags, sleep in a room with eight other people, and till a garden) was Sean Durkin‘s Martha Marcy May Marlene. The film starred another Sundance break-out talent, Elizabeth Olsen (sister to the twins) as the titular Martha (or is it Marcy May? or even Marlene?), a young woman who has recently escaped a cult, led by none other than the magnetic John Hawkes. The film follows Martha’s attempts to reintegrate herself into a “normal life” with her sister (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), both of whom have no idea what’s she been through to get back to them. The film flashes back frequently to show just what Olsen’s character has been through. It is, in one word, consuming. Fox Searchlight has released two new trailers today, both hidden in QR codes, but our pals over at The Film Stage went ahead and embedded them for your viewing pleasure (i.e. terror). Check them out after the break.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
B+


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