Thandie Newton

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Most of us don’t remember the days when there were only three television channels (ABC, CBS, and NBC) producing a limited amount of programming. We grew up in the age of cable television with a new channel popping up every few months and more and more new programming available at the click of a remote control button. And just when we thought we couldn’t get any more cable channels, companies like Hulu and Netflix have thrown their hats into the original programming ring with shows like the former’s Fresh Meat and Prisoners of War and the latter’s House of Cards. Now DirecTV is getting in on the action with their first original show, Rogue, premiering next week on DirecTV’s Audience Network. Rogue tells the story of undercover cop Grace (Thandie Newton) who goes — ahem — rogue to dive deeper into the world of organized crime in order to avenge her son. I spoke with the show’s composer, Jeff Toyne, about his musical vision for the show, what is was like to watch that vision come to life, and the process of working outside the constraints of standard network television.

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Biopics are always praised for their lead actor or actress’ realistic or unique portrayal of the subject, but what of the supporting cast? Sure, we do recognize their efforts, they might even receive an Academy Award, but rarely are they honored with something as prestigious as an online comedy list. It’s time to rectify that. Here are some of the more talented, memorable, or uncanny portrayals of people who were important enough to be featured in a movie, but not important enough for that movie to be about them.

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2012 Movie Roland Emmerich

The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained. The Film: 2012 (2009) The Plot: Disaster filmmaker extraordinaire Roland Emmerich gives audiences his vision of how the world will end in this 2009 blockbuster. As the clock ticks closer to December 21, 2012, geologists and other scientists discover various anomalies happening to our planet. Solar flares are tossing neutrinos across space, and they are impacting the Earth’s mantle. They predict global catastrophe as the crust shifts and the Earth’s plates rearrange. Eventually, massive earthquakes wipe entire cities off the globe while one family, led by John Cusack, makes an escape in a limousine of awesomeness.

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Retreat is a film that lives or dies by its actors. Mainly set in one location and focusing primarily on three characters constantly interacting, that’s an exceptionally tough film to make. That seems like a common thing for actor Cillian Murphy, though. No one can look at Peacock and Breakfast on Pluto and say, “What safe, easy roles.” The actor takes chances, and it all comes down to the directors he’s going to put his trust in. When one works with the likes of Danny Boyle, Christopher Nolan, Ken Loach, and Andrew Niccol, that must not be too difficult. The actor usually manages to work with the best nowadays, but even so, as Murphy says, you’re never going to quite know what to expect from a film. And, at the end of a film, that doesn’t matter much. Murphy’s advice: never be nostalgic and always move forward. Immediately before talking to Murphy, I had just gotten out of In Time. In that film, Murphy spends a lot of time getting his ass kicked, being disrespected, and everything else that would make one of us feel unmanly, similarly to his character in Retreat. A lot of Murphy’s characters seem that way, but to him it’s less about emasculation, more about how everyone’s a contradiction.

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Retreat features some sweeping exterior shots and action, but for the most part it stays contained within a single home on an isolated and otherwise empty island. Martin (Cillian Murphy) and Kate (Thandie Newton) have come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and to try to deal with a recent, undisclosed rift between them. They’ve had happy times at this cabin in the past and are hoping to recapture that magic, but their attempts at reconciliation are interrupted by the arrival of a battered and bloodied man named Jack (Jamie Bell) who they find unconscious and armed outside. Their act of kindness is soon punished with unwanted knowledge when he awakens and shares what brought him to the island. It seems a deadly and unstoppable virus has begun ravaging the outside world, and their only hope of survival is to seal up the cabin until the airborne danger has passed. The island has no telephone access. The CB radio they’ve previously used to contact the mainland is strangely silent. And Jack strongly insists both for their safety and his that they follow his instructions. And a man with a gun can be fairly convincing…

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While most viral outbreak films take us right into the heart of patient zero and the hordes of humanity flooding the streets to escape sneezing to death, Retreat takes the clever route by presenting it from the viewpoint of people who have no idea what’s going on. Unless there is no outbreak. But what if there is? Or maybe there’s not, but there’s no way to tell what’s truly happening in this first trailer which highlights Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton as a couple taking a holiday on a small island when an armed man (Jamie Bell) washes ashore claiming that the mainland has been crushed by a virus that floats on the air. Check it out for yourself:

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Drenched in atmospheric dread, Brad Anderson’s Vanishing on 7th Street is a slight yet haunting thriller that replaces easy answers with the pervasive sense of unknowable, evil forces at work. Propelled by an unexplained mystery – Detroit’s electrical grid fails and people start vaporizing in the darkness – the movie offers a crash course in economical filmmaking while espousing the fundamental truth that nothing scares quite like what we can’t see or understand. The set-up is simple: Days after the cataclysmic event, four strangers – possibly the only survivors left in the Motor City – wind up in a strong, generator-powered bar on 7th Street. They are TV reporter Luke (Hayden Christensen), movie theater projector Paul (John Leguizamo), nurse Rosemary (Thandie Newton) and adolescent James (Jacob Latimore). With no answers, no clear next step and sinister animated shadow portrait figures crawling along the walls as the power dims, the quartet tries to find its way to some form of permanent light.

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In For Colored Girls, Tyler Perry trades in Madea for a high end, high-minded source — a beloved 1975 Ntozake Shange play — and comes away with the same sort of overheated, overstuffed kitchen sink cinematic work that’s become his calling card. It’s a mess, proving once again that the mega-rich Atlanta one-man studio’s business acumen surpasses his filmmaking talents. Granted, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf could not have been an easy work to adapt, consisting as it does of 20 loosely conjoined prose poems centered on such hot-button issues as rape and abortion. Using Shange’s reflective, elliptical prose as a starting point, Perry crafts an interwoven ensemble of women, who face some serious, pressing crises while largely sharing the same Harlem apartment building’s roof.

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Thandie Newton. Whoopi Goldberg. Anika Noni Rose. Kerry Washington. Janet Jackson. Loretta Devine. Kimberly Elise. Phylicia Rashad. A litany of strong talents given the weight of For Colored Girls and hopefully allowed to carry it as far as they can. The original play by Ntozake Shange was written as a set of poems, but Tyler Perry and company have woven them into a narrative story for the screen. This trailer is exciting. Perry has built an empire, but this may be the film that finally pushes him out of the soap opera make-up smear and proves he has the talent to deliver real drama. Not bad for a guy who started out in elderly drag.

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Damn fine director Brad Anderson is back, and once again he’s looking to thrill you. Last time we checked in with the director of Session 9 and The Machinist, he was giving us a fear of trains and Russian people who look like Ben Kingsley with his 2008 film Transsiberian. That film rounded out a trio of excellence in the last decade. To kick off this new 10-year frame, Anderson will debut Vanishing on 7th Street at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival. It’s a survival thriller that calls back to 28 Days Later (when you wake up, everybody’s gone) but also calls back to some of Anderson’s earlier work with Session 9. The trailer is up and down, but we do know this for sure: Anderson is at his best when he’s creating taut, atmospheric thrillers that ooze with tension. And there are few concepts more filled with tension than “don’t let the lights go out, or you will die.” Let the fun begin after the break, where I’ve conveniently assembled the trailer and the official synopsis. It’s also worth noting that you should not discount this movie based on the involvement of Hayden Christensen. A quality director can overcome his usual wooden effort.

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Kevin Carr heads out to the movies this week, making a stop in a fox hole with the Fantastic Mr. Fox, and then moving on to the end of the world.

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From the visually arresting opening credits, Guy Ritchie’s RockNRolla pulls the audience into its crazy fictional London which is inhabited by gangsters, a superstitious Russian investor, drug addicted rockers and a gang that can’t quit shoot straight or put a car into reverse.

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George W Bush and His Cabinet in W

Vanity Fair has a first look at the movie version of the 2003 cabinet of G.W. Bush from the Oliver Stone film W.

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Gerard Butler in RocknRolla

It seems Warner Bros. no longer believes in the film and feels it has too many films on its hands so has pulled back from a wide distribution of RocknRolla. They appear poised to abandon the film. What a bloody shame…

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Gerard Butler and Thandie Newton in Rocknrolla

Guy Ritchie’s upcoming film appears to be a return to form. Now, hopefully we can all forget about that silly flick that starred his crazy wife…

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Ten Skinny-Ass Ladies Who Used to Be Hot

Too many actresses are believing the line that you can’t be too thin. Please, ladies, eat a sandwich or something at the craft services cart. Here are a special shout-out to ten skinny-ass celebs that used to really turn heads.

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Simon Pegg in Run Fatboy Run

While I’ll admit that Run Fatboy Run has it’s moments and a fair share of big laughs, it’s not recommendable due to the fact that there are more cliches than you can shake a stick at. Pretty much every cliche you can find in any romantic comedy or inspirational sports movie can be found at some point in the film.

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