Timur Bekmambetov

Hardcore Grenade

When Robert Montgomery made Lady in the Lake in 1947, there were no video games, nor was home movie-making yet a popular hobby. But like the “first-person POV” films of today, which are often inspired by one or the other, that early experiment in technique was also modeled after a precedent. Montgomery wasn’t going for just a clever cinematographic trick or gimmick extended to feature-length. There was some logic behind the device of Lady in the Lake, as it aims to be a faithful adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s detective novel by translating its first-person literary style into the language of motion pictures. The result was deemed an interesting idea but not a good one, in practice. There’s something jarring about movies shot fully in the POV style, and something kind of hokey about them, too. And yet people keep making them anyway. The latest attempt is Hardcore, which is being produced by Timur Bekmambetov and directed by Ilya Naishuller and which co-stars Sharlto Copley. From the start billed as “the world’s first POV action movie,” clearly inspired by “first-person shooter” video games and achieved in part thanks to the employment of GoPro cameras, the project now has a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo in order to raise $250k for post-production costs. That makes it sound like nobody in the industry would finance such a crazy concept, but Naishuller states that the decision is more about not letting the movie be “dictated by the terms of it’s distribution, but rather by the people who put thousands of hours into making it happen.” The question is: how much do […]

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Morgan Freeman Dolphin Tale

Somewhere, someone owes Morgan Freeman $20. Because someone was foolish enough to bet Hollywood’s sagest actor that he couldn’t land roles in both the Ben-Hur remake and the pot-smoking teddy bear sex comedy in the span of 36 hours. And Freeman has proved this poor fool wrong. At least, that’s what I assume has happened. Here’s the news, which brings us the first official cast member for the latest adaptation of Lew Wallace’s classic Christian novel: Deadline announced that Freeman has come aboard Timur Bekmambetov‘s remake-stravaganza. He is playing Ildarin, the sheik who instructs Judah Ben-Hur in the ways of chariot racing. It’s most definitely a “wise old man” role, but that fits Freeman to a T — after all, he is our nation’s foremost expert in dispensing time-tested wisdom and then chuckling to himself, softly. It’s been said roughly six billion times that doing a Ben-Hur remake is some kind of film blasphemy (although it might just be following the example set when Exodus: Gods and Kings stepped on the toes of another Charlton Heston religious epic). Even though the Ben-Hur everyone knows was actually a remake of a 1925 silent Ben-Hur. Which, in turn, was based on a 1907 film reel, which was based on a book. Plus it was already redone as an animated feature in 2003 and a mini-series in 2010. So it’s not as though remakes have no precedence here.

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Fantasia 2014

Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 runs July 17 to August 6. Follow all of our coverage here. Blaire (Shelley Hennig) is online chatting with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) while they wait for their other four friends to join. The couple takes a brief stab at cyber-sex before they’re interrupted by the gang, but something isn’t right with their Skype connection. A seventh person is on the call. No one knows who it is, the person isn’t speaking and nothing they do seems to get rid of it. They soon discover the mystery caller’s motive has something to do with the suicide of a girl named Laura Barnes exactly one year ago. Once the caller starts communicating it’s with death threats, shocking revelations and the seeming control of each person’s computer. Attempts to disconnect or reach outside help are squashed, efforts to delete certain pictures or accounts are made impossible and ultimately the six friends are forced to face just how tenuous their friendships truly are as they come face to face with the guilt of past misdeeds. Cybernatural uses a similar format to the recently released The Den, but it does so to tell a very different story. We see only what appears on Blaire’s laptop screen, and nothing else, but in those dozens of windows and tabs a tale of cruelty, failed relationships and revenge unfolds. This sounds terrible I know, but you’ll just have to trust me here. It’s a slickly made production that serves to enhance […]

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Ben-Hur

It really has been a good year to be in the business of God. The Year of the Lord 2014 has brought us, among others, films that chronicle the story of the Great Flood and animals that came by boat, two by two (Noah), a five-year-old’s near-death experience that showed him that Heaven is definitely, totally more than just a place on Earth (Heaven is For Real) and a college student’s quest to prove his evil college professor wrong when he makes his case for atheism (God’s Not Dead). And later this year we’ll get another entry with Ridley Scott‘s take on a Christian Bale Moses with Exodus. The mega-successful, god fearing producing duo of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are old hat with the genre, churning out the popular miniseries The Bible for the History Channel in 2013. It did exactly what the title suggests, telling in glorious live action the stories of the Old and New Testament — all the way up to the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ — so that those who weren’t satisfied with repeatedly drilled Sunday School tellings of the tales or old technicolor movies could see for themselves what Jesus was all about. Apparently, it’s ratings.

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ben-hur-image

The story of Ben-Hur has a long history of success. It started off as an 1880 novel by Lew Wallace called “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” which was so popular upon its release that it trailed only the bible in sales up until “Gone With the Wind” came along and usurped it. It was then adapted into a film, called simply Ben-Hur, by William Wyler in 1959. That film starred Charlton Heston, it won 11 Academy Awards, and it has been pretty continuously watched by every new generation that’s come along since its release. If there’s one thing the story of Ben-Hur probably isn’t though, it’s hip, so MGM has plans to remake it with modern actors and a more modern touch. The plan started out when the studio bought a spec script by Keith Clark (The Way Back) that offers up a new adaptation of the classic tale of a Jewish prince sold into slavery, so the logical next step toward making this new Ben-Hur a reality seems to be finding a director. Who would be a safe bet when it comes to retelling such a beloved, epic tale? Maybe someone like Peter Jackson, who did a good job handling epic scope and sacred material with the Lord of the Rings movies? Maybe someone like Darren Aronofsky, who just got done making a biblical epic with Noah and is probably still in the zone? Nope. Turns out they’re looking at the guy who directed Wanted.

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Squirrels

Who among us doesn’t quake in fear at the thought of nature’s most vicious animal – the squirrel? Like a rat glued to a furry caterpillar, its beady eyes glow with malicious intent, its buck teeth eager to gnaw through bone. Okay, squirrels might not be that scary. But Timur Bekmambetov clearly thinks they can be. The Russian-born director (whose English-language outings include Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and his production company, Bazelevs, have put out a sales trailer for their upcoming tongue-in-cheek horror flick, Squirrels. Check it out after the break.

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Bad Motherfucker

Have you ever jacked in? Have you ever wire tripped? Have you ever done it for two hours without wanting to throw up? Producer Timur Bekmambetov and director Ilya Naishuller are hoping that you can stomach a feature-length film they describe as “the world’s first POV action movie” — a project that will most likely feel like you’re watching someone else play a video game. Shot on a GoPro camera and starring Sharlto Copley, Hardcore exists because of Naishuller’s insanely popular music video for “Bad Motherfucker”, but while that was a four-and-a-half minute, first-person display of fantastic action choreography, it’s a bit difficult to imagine watching a feature version without getting at least a little queasy.

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Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

“The joke ends in the title” has been a popular selling point for the makers of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Now, with the film out in the world, there will inevitably be question over that statement. However, what no one can question is the all-out seriousness the cast and director Timur Bekmambetov took Seth Grahame-Smith‘s material. There is no 21st century irony in sight here. Namely, there’s the lead of the film – Benjamin Walker, who goes as straight-faced as one can in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. No matter how ridiculous the situation – Lincoln running on top of horses or, you know, killing vampires – Walker never winks or smirks at the silliness. Here’s what Benjamin Walker had to say about the melancholic superhero nature of Abraham Lincoln, adjusting to makeup, and how the film is a Lincoln biopic which just so happens to have blood-thirsty vampires roaming around:

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As many of you might have guessed, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is what one might call a craze-induced summer blockbuster. The United States’ 16th President hunting vampires is actually the least of the film’s bizarro nature; this is a film with a vampire throwing a horse and the weaponization of forks against confederate vampire soldiers. Making all of this a world audiences can buy into isn’t a simple task for an actor, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the rest of the cast  go about it as seriously as they can. Timur Bekmambetov made a very specific film, yet Winstead is acting in one of her own since, when 99% of the lunacy is happening onscreen, Mary Todd Lincoln usually isn’t around. When she is onscreen, Winstead faces another kind of challenge with her extensive makeup. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter marks another entry in Winstead’s career with a world-building director at the helm, and, speaking with us at the press day, that seems like the main appeal for projects such as these. Here is what Mary Elizabeth Winstead had to say about Timur Bekmambetov’s “idea machine” method of directing, the specificity in physical & dialog-driven action, and the strong life of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World:

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Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

It’s hard to imagine how Abraham Lincoln could loom larger in the American mythos, but Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter appears to have found an answer. After all, what could compare with the awesome legacy of saving the Union and emancipating the slaves quite like prolifically slaying the undead on your downtime? Timur Bekmambetov’s adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s mash-up novel (the author also wrote the screenplay) offers a vision of Honest Abe (Benjamin Walker) as an avenger hellbent on the destruction of bloodsucker bigwig Adam (Rufus Sewell) and the rest of his kind after vampire Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) murders Lincoln’s mother with just one bite. The movie cleverly reworks both the familiar events of the 16th President’s life and some broader archetypal period moments, and Grahame-Smith and Bekmambetov stick closer to the historical record than you’d think. When he’s not studying the law or romancing Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in Springfield, Lincoln is serially, secretly disposing of hidden vampires. His close companion Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) aids him on his otherworldly mission. Jefferson Davis recruits the undead to the Confederate Army. The tragic 1862 death of Willie Lincoln is given a fresh spin.

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“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is not the most cinematic of books. If Seth Grahame-Smith‘s novel was a completely faithful adaptation, it’d make for a ten-hour movie. In its translation to the big screen, the story has been stripped down to a two-hour, atmospheric, and violent 3D actioner. The director who took on the challenge of bringing Smith’s tonally tricky novel is Timur Bekmambetov, the filmmaker behind Night Watch, Day Watch, and Wanted. Like his previous films, Bekmambetov once again blends both fantasy and reality with his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He plays with more than a few fantastical and silly ideas, but always keeps them attached to the real world. This time around, though, Bekmambetov gets to capture that style of his with 3D. Here is what Timur Bekmambetov had to say about the power of 3D, how free dreaming and character informs his visuals, and why Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is his Dusk Watch:

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Wanted Movie

A Wanted 2 has been kicking around ever since the first film’s 2008 release. Even after becoming a surprising R-rated success and Mark Millar talking up the project every chance he gets, the likelihood of Wanted 2 seemed dimmer year after year. When Angelina Jolie passed on the sequel, it was publicized as the death knell of the project. Now, with director Timur Bekmambetov making the press rounds for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, he’s remarked the project is now picking up steam, thanks to a “great” and “shocking” idea he came up with. The Playlist got an update from Bekmambetov, who explained the bright future for the project, “An unbelievable thing happened three weeks ago. Because we stopped, we didn’t know what to do for three or four years. Three weeks ago I came up with a great idea and I pitched this idea and everybody fell in love with it. And now I think we’re on track. Right now the writer is working on the script, and it will be shocking.” As we all know, not too many characters made it out of Wanted still breathing, except, of course, Wesley Gibson. Bekmambetov confirmed it would pick up where the first film left off, “It’s a continuation of the story, with Wesley Gibson… Other people are dead, you know, we can’t bring them back. The story is the same character, same mythology, but it’s got a great twist.”

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At this point we’re already knee-deep in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s promotional campaign. We’ve posted the film’s first trailer, which highlighted Lincoln’s skill with an axe; its red band trailer, which put the spotlight on how crazy its action can get, and now the film’s third trailer is making the rounds; and it’s a promotional piece that finally hammers home the fact that this is a story about Abraham Lincoln. It’s been strange up to this point how little this film’s advertising efforts have stressed the fact that it has a completely ludicrous premise, given that said premise is going to be the main attraction for fans of genre filmmaking. This is a movie about the 16th president of the United States slaughtering blood sucking monsters with kung-fu skills. That’s absurd! Why don’t we focus on that for a minute?

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Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Poor ‘lil Stevie Spielberg. Come Oscar season he may have a tough act to follow with his Daniel Day Lewis-starring Lincoln pic, the one which probably won’t feature Lincoln’s finest achievements: chopping off vampire heads, marrying Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and getting Anthony Mackie to somehow be your sidekick. All in all, that’s quite the life, as this bloody red band trailer for Timur Bekmambetov‘s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter shows. Check out Abraham Lincoln acting like a “mad man”:

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Dark Shadows and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter don’t fit the bill of your average summer blockbuster. An adaptation of a slightly obscure soap opera about a vampire? We don’t see those often enough in the summer season. A hard-R actioner featuring one of our greatest presidents shredding vampires to bits? That’s another unheard of type summer tentpole. Although Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s names alone can create money out of thin air, Dark Shadows is not the sort of film we often see as a May release, and the same goes for June’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The man partly responsible for these two going-against-the-norm pictures is author/screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith. Grahame-Smith had to tackle some difficult tasks when it came to making these two projects – like making an accessible Dark Shadows film and adapting his own epic and tonally tricky novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Here’s what Seth Grahame-Smith had to say about writing for the screen, the soap-operatic tone of Dark Shadows, and the straight-faced badassery of Abraham Lincoln slaying vampires:

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter doesn’t exactly pop out as your typical summer blockbuster. To broadly compare it to this season’s offerings: it’s not based on a comic book, isn’t adapted from a toy line, and isn’t a reboot or sequel. All in all, pretty distinct, and I didn’t even mention that the film features one of our greatest Presidents kicking vampire ass. To further add onto that pile, Timur Bekmambetov‘s adaption of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s book is a hard-R summer movie. If you’ve read Smith’s book, then you know it has its fare share of violence. If you haven’t read the book, here’s a good example: it features a vampire slaughtering a baby. Today I spoke with author/screenwriter Grahame-Smith as a part of our summer preview, wherein we briefly discussed how far the film pushes the book’s violence and what type of R-rated material to expect.

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Drinking Games

As the Christmas week movies continue to roll out on DVD and Blu-ray this spring, you’re left with plenty of holiday-themed choices after Easter, like the weepy Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and the equally rapey The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and In the Land of Blood and Honey. Why not consider some invisible killer aliens to go in with the mix. Telling the story of random survivors on the streets of Moscow after a violent interstellar invasion, The Darkest Hour gives the world hope… if your definition of hope is a dancing at a killer club scene with Speed Racer before blindly battling electric aliens. While vodka might be the obvious choice, you might want something a little more light, especially if you opt for the at-home 3D version of the film. Focus might become a problem.

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Unlike our own Kate Erbland, I don’t loathe Seth Grahame-Smith‘s writing with every fiber of my body. In fact, I quite like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a book that’s less tongue-in-cheek than you’d expect. Tonally, it’s challenging material. And based on this first trailer for the book’s cinematic adaptation, it’s slightly difficult to tell which way the film’s going to go. This could either be another Van Helsing or (probably) something we haven’t quite seen before. If one thing’s for sure, director Timur Bekmambetov has nailed the atmosphere of the book. The director’s got a great eye, so it’s no surprise this trailer has visual ass-kicking going for it. Take a look at Abe kicking some unholy arse:

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Talk about the question on everyone’s mind this holiday season! Deadline Kaluga reports that Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov will answer that very question – sort of, in a way, considering he’s already answered it twice already. Bekmambetov is now set to team up with Chinese filmmaker Eva Jin to launch a Russian and Chinese remake of Russia’s own wildly popular anthology film, Yolki. Bekmambetov previously directed his own segments in both Yolki (also know as the more appropriate Six Degrees of Separation) and its very successful sequel, Yolki 2. Yolki 2 was recently a big winner in its native Russia, pulling in a stunning $7.8m gross over its opening weekend. The original Yolki was “Russia’s most successful local movie in the past three years.” The first film “tells the stories of eight different Russians – from eight different time zones – and how their destinies intersect one New Years Eve.” The new version will “be framed around the Chinese New Year. There will be eight stories connected by a young orphan girl who must deliver a message to the President and whose only hope is to use the theory of ‘six degrees of separation’ – that all people on Earth, from the lowliest migrant worker to government leaders, are connected by six handshakes.” Gross. But also somewhat sweet. Bekmambetov and Jin are each set to direct one of the different vignettes of the film. Of course, the major question is not who will write or direct the other sections of […]

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Updated with correction: We posted this rumor earlier, but according to a representative at Lionsgate that we asked for comment, Gillespie is still on board the project. Regarding the rumor, the representative said, “This is not true. [Gillespie] is still set to direct.” We apologize for the error, but the situation doesn’t at all change Kate’s feelings on the project that can be found below: News from our pals at Twitch reports that director Craig Gillespie has left the troubled film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, that reimagines the Jane Austen classic as a story not just about the emotional battles of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, but those battles as set against a countryside overrun with zombies. If Gillespie is off the project, he joins two other directors who previously jumped ship on the film – David O. Russell and Mike White. Besides not having a director, the film is also sorely lacking for a leading lady, with Mila Kunis, Emma Stone, Rooney Mara, and Olivia Wilde all reportedly considered for the role or straight out offered it in the past, with none of them ever signing on. Buzz continues to turn back to Natalie Portman, however, as Portman’s production company is co-producing the project and the actress has an open schedule after the recent birth of her son. As of now, Dominic Cooper is apparently set to play Mr. Darcy, making him the only person with a firm commitment at this point. But, considering the revolving […]

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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