Tracy Letts

August Osage County

Fresh out of its showing at TIFF (read our own Kate Erbland’s review) comes the second trailer for John Wells‘ August: Osage County, the story of a large and cranky family that comes together for the funeral of their patriarch. The high-profile project, based on Tracy Letts‘ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, is nothing to sneeze at; when most of your cast has already won an Oscar or been nominated, you know it’s probably smooth sailing until awards season. While the first trailer focused more on Meryl Streep‘s vicious Violet Weston and her cutting remarks (here’s Scott Beggs’ writeup of the first trailer for comparison), the new incarnation seems to remove a teensy bit of Meryl’s bite to focus more on the larger family as a whole. And while Lord knows we all love ourselves a mean Meryl, by featuring more of the Westons, it gives a better look into their deep bitterness and dysfunctionality. Celebrities — they’re just like us! Check out the trailer for yourself here:

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For such an unrelentingly graphic and blood-spattered NC-17 thriller, William Friedkin‘s Killer Joe is more romantic than one would expect. The filmmaker behind The Exorcist and Sorcerer (a movie he’s currently fighting to get back out to the public) has crafted, as he puts it, a romantic comedy for the new age. That title isn’t a whole lot different than his previous collaboration with playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts, the even more claustrophobic and humanistic Bug. They’re stories of characters wanting more, but mainly love, which Dottie (Juno Temple) finds in the titular psychopathic (Matthew McConaughey). Here’s what director William Friedkin had to say about making Cinderella for the 21st century, the importance of reading between the lines, and how one of cinema’s finest chase scenes was completely unscripted:

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Good luck untangling the twisted mess that is the family tree at the center of Tracy Letts‘ soon-to-be-adapted play, August: Osage County. Of course, that’s all part of the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning production, but it makes confirming casting notices for John Wells‘ film version a real beast. Letts’ play centers on the Weston family, led by patriarch Beverly Weston and his sick, pill-popping wife Violet. Set during the month of August in the Weston’s hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, the play opens with a prologue that features Beverly as he attempts to hire a nurse for his, for lack of a better word, cracked out wife (to be played by Meryl Streep). While that introduction might make it seem as if it’s Violet who will soon wither, Act One hits us with the hard truth – Beverly has committed suicide, leaving Violet alone to deal with his death and the rest of their family. They are not a happy family. And they have much bigger issues to deal with than just one measly suicide. Most of the conflict of August: Osage County is between the various Weston women – especially between Violet and her eldest daughter, Barbara Fordham (Julia Roberts) – but there are two other Weston girls to cast, and it’s now been revealed that rising star Andrea Riseborough will be one of them.

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Killer Joe

After walking out of Killer Joe, one of my favorite films of SXSW, the NC-17 rating was one of the first things that hit me. It’s easy to see why the MPAA slapped it with that box-office death rating. When William Friedkin‘s film gets nasty, it gets nasty. The film is about the rough and real kind of violence, not the goofy fun type. However, Killer Joe‘s violence and sex is still plenty steps down from a handful of R-rated releases. We’ve seen violence of this magnitude done on-screen before, so it’s most likely a tonal issue the MPAA has with Friedkin’s stage adaptation. LD Entertaiment recently attempted to appeal the NC-17 rating, but it has now been denied. Rumors are that they’ll appeal again soon. David Dinerstein, the president of LD Entertainment, and the film’s screenwriter Tracy Letts both gave statements to the appeals board, and I happened to have interviewed Letts the other day at SXSW.

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Killer Joe is trash. Not bad trash. Not pretentious trash. Just plain old ugly, funny, and sophisticated trash. William Friedkin‘s stage adaptation of Tracy Letts stage play is not as accomplished as their previous collaboration, Bug, but it’s definitely more unhinged and surpasses many of its fellow genre brethren. If you thought Bug was “crazy,” just wait until you get to Killer Joe‘s final minutes of magical brutality. Before we get there, however, what we’re served is a fairly conventional story that only makes that final act all the more satisfying. As with Bug, Killer Joe does not follow the cleanliest of people. Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch), a young and annoying hick, wants to do what all good sons aspire for: kill his mother who sold his drugs. Said mother, a woman Chris and his sister despise, holds a life insurance check that would payoff 50,000 dollars, so the young lead and his family decide to claim it.

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This is big news for people who like super famous actresses. August: Osage County is an adaptation of a Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play of the same name. It tells the story of Violet, the pill-popping head of a family who must gather her daughters together in the face of a crisis. The film version will be directed by The Company Man’s John Wells, and it has the Weinsteins sitting in producer chairs. But that’s not why we’re all here reading this article, we’re all here to gush over the two actresses that they’ve cast in the leads. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts have signed on to play the mother and one of the adult daughters in this film. Maybe you’ve heard of them? Oscar winners? They’re kind of big deals. Of course, when a movie is able to pull a casting coup like this, there are a lot of self-congratulatory quotes that go around in press releases. To that end, Julia Roberts has already said, “After seeing Meryl Streep’s mesmerizing portrayal as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, it has me even more excited and proud to co-star with her.” The two have been attached to the film since back in 2010, but the Weinsteins have finally confirmed the pair in an official press release, along with the news that the film will start production this fall.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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