THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES Ending Features a 45-Minute Battle Sequence; Billy Boyd to Write and Perform End Credits Song

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With a title like The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, there are pretty high expectations for a rather epic-looking battle sequence.  Indeed, Peter Jackson has revealed that the film concludes with a 45-minute fight during the climax, as the various armies of Middle-earth all descend upon the Lonely Mountain now that the dwarven treasure of Erebor is no longer being guarded by that fearsome dragon Smaug.  Jackson is currently putting the finishing touches on the film during post-production in anticipation of its December 17th release, but he recently talked a bit about planning the final battle sequence with EW and also unveiled some rather massive-looking concept art.  Additionally, Warner Bros. has announced that Lord of the Rings actor Billy Boyd (aka Peregrin Took) will perform the closing credits song “The Last Goodbye”, which he co-wrote with the filmmakers.

Hit the jump for more on The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies climactic action sequence as well as the end credits song, including Jackson’s thoughts on how those eagles would’ve made The Lord of the Rings much, much shorter.

Chad Stahelski and David Leitch Talk JOHN WICK, the Changing Color Palette of the Film, the Action Set Pieces, the Keanu Reeves-Led JOHN RAIN TV Series, and More

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Now playing in theaters is John Wick.  As I’ve said again and again…I loved this movie.  In the film, Keanu Reeves stars as an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.  Filmmakers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch have crafted a fantastic action movie that’s absolutely worth your time and money.  While you might not know their names, you’ve definitely seen their awesome work in films like Speed RacerThe Bourne LegacyThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and tons of others.  On some of what I just mentioned they did the stunts, and on some they directed second unit (which means they directed a lot of the action).  In addition to the films I just mentioned, they run 87eleven, which is the premiere action design team in Hollywood.  When an actor needs to be trained for an action role, they get sent to 87eleven.  While this is their first feature film as directors, I’m beyond confident it won’t be the last.  Trust me.  See John Wick this weekend.

At the recent New York City press day I landed an extended video interview with Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.  They talked about how the finished film compares to what they envisioned, the changing color palette, deleted scenes, the great supporting cast, the different action set pieces, the status of their John Rain TV show with Keanu Reeves and how they want to up the level of what you can do with action on TV, what they did on the Wachowskis Jupiter Ascending, and a lot more.  Hit the jump to watch

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON Concept Art Reveals James Spader’s Ultimate Form

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After the unexpected trailer release this week, we sort of got the idea of what Avengers: Age of Ultron would look like.  But what we didn’t get was a super clear image of Ultron’s final design in the film (most of the footage of him appears to center on his incomplete form).  But now some concept art has hit that rectifies that issue.  In the film, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) reunite to stop Ultron (James Spader) “from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.”

Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-JohnsonPaul BettanyDon CheadleAndy Serkis, and Samuel L. Jackson also star in the sequel directed by Joss Whedon.  Avengers: Age of Ultron opens May 1, 2015.  Check out the concept art after the jump.  I’d consider this a light spoiler

Thursday TV Ratings: SCANDAL and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER Rise; PARENTHOOD Dips

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TV ratings for Thursday, October 23rd are in.  Here’s a brief rundown:

  • ABC’s “TGIT” lineup was all up versus last week.  Grey’s Anatomy rose a tenth to a 2.5 rating in the 18-49 demo and scored 8.6 million viewers, Scandal also ticked up a tenth to a 3.0 rating and scored 10 million viewers (read Allison’s recap here), and How to Get Away with Murder rose two tenths to a 3.0 rating in the demo and garnered 9.87 million viewers.
  • Over on NBC, Bad Judge was down two tenths to a 1.0 rating and notched 4.33 million viewers, A to Z dipped two tenths to a 0.9 rating and scored 3.22 million viewers, and Parenthood was down a tenth from last week to a 1.2 rating and 4.09 million viewers.
  • Fox’s limited series Gracepoint continues to do quite poorly, but last night’s episode was at least steady with last week’s 0.8 rating and scored 3.49 million viewers.  Read Allison’s recap here.
  • The CW’s The Vampire Diaries dipped a tenth to a 0.8 rating and scored 1.65 million viewers, and Reign was up a tenth to a 0.5 rating and garnered 1.35 million viewers.

Classic Todd Solondz Movie WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE Gets Followed Up By WEINER DOG, Swaps Out Heather Matarazzo For Greta Gerwig

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Welcome to the Dollhouse was a funny, but emotionally brutalizing calling card for director Todd Solondz back in 1996 (it paved the way for the even more brutal Happiness).  So I’m sort of circumspect about the “whimsical” nature that his follow-up film Weiner Dog allegedly has.  The ensemble film is apparently tied together “thematically by a dachshund” but nothing pretty or soft really lasts that long in a Solondz film.

The story will revolve around several interconnected threads, one of which will center on Dawn Weiner, the relentlessly mocked protagonist that Heather Matarazzo played in Dollhouse.  This time out the role (for reasons related to art or commerce I’m not sure, maybe both) will be handled by Greta Gerwig.  Hit the jump for more on Weiner Dog.

Ruben Östlund and Johannes Kuhnke Talk FORCE MAJEURE, Filming the Avalanche Scene, Doing 30 to 50 Takes and More

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Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund’s wickedly funny and precisely observed psychodrama about a model Swedish family on a skiing holiday at a five-star resort in the French Alps, is Sweden’s official Oscar entry for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film.  When family patriarch Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) makes a split second decision in the face of an unexpected crisis, his relationship with his wife (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and children (Clara & Vincent Wettergren) begins to unravel.  Opening in New York today and in Los Angeles on October 31st, the film also features Kristofer Hivju and Fanni Metelius.

At our roundtable interview, Östlund and Kuhnke talked about the influence of Stanley Kubrick and Luis Buñuel on the film’s visual style, filming the avalanche scene, Östlund’s directing style, shooting 30 to 50 takes of each scene to allow the actors to develop the feelings and emotions of the characters, wanting to tell a story that highlights expectations about gender, the sociological studies that inspired the film, the appeal of playing Tomas, the power of moving images to change human behavior, Östlund’s criticism of the Hollywood film industry and the way filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino are reproducing a certain kind of character, and his upcoming feature The Square.  Check out our interview after the jump.

BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) Review

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[Birdman expands to more theaters this weekend.  Click here for Perri's review from the 2014 New York Film Festival]

To paraphrase one of the most famous plays of all-time, Alejandro González Iñárritu Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is “but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage…A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,” and it signifies almost nothing.  Macbeth uses this to refer to life, but for Iñárritu—who literally has someone shout this soliloquy off-camera—it applies to the entirety of a picture that rejects subtlety in a misguided attempt to blend the language of film and stage, and address a multitude of topics including acting, celebrity, the New York/L.A. divide, superhero movies, critics, and ego.  The result is a cacophony of opinions and half-cooked ideas where the only one that comes close to fruition is an exploration of a nervous breakdown where identity has become consumed by artistic desperation.

THE CROW Remake Aims to Start Shooting Next Year, Luke Evans Still Attached

by     Posted 2 hours ago

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This remake refuses to really go away.  I really liked Alex Proyas‘ take on The Crow back when it came out in 1994, but the film and the accompanying material are just so much of that time that it’s difficult to see how it would work as well today.  I think back to that movie and I think of Nine Inch Nails, Thrill Kill Kult, the death of Brandon Lee and the catchphrase, “it can’t rain all the time.”  I don’t think back to the film’s quality, which was patchwork at best (Proyas would do better work later on).

Maybe that’s where this remake could make some improvements.  If they could find another, more relevant, cultural signpost than mainstream 90′s goth and make a more consistent film, then it might be worth it.  Producer Ed Pressman is certainly trying to make it happen.  Hit the jump for more on The Crow remake.

Warner Bros. Looking for Female Director to Helm WONDER WOMAN

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The superhero movie boom has been happening for years now and only one superhero film has had a female director: Lexi Alexander‘s Punisher: War Zone.  And the budget for that film was drastically lower than the majority of superhero pictures.  Patty Jenkins (Monster) came close to directing Thor: The Dark World, but she and Marvel couldn’t come to terms, so they went with Alan Taylor instead.

It’s absurd and sad that, even beyond superhero films, female directors almost never get to take on a blockbuster property.  There are legions of incompetent male directors who are given hundreds of millions of dollars to blow on a waste of time, but incredibly talented female directors are relegated to indies, rom-coms, and TV shows.  It’s time to break through that glass ceiling, especially with superhero movies since we’re going to be getting so many of them.  Fittingly, that time may have finally come with Wonder Woman.  Hit the jump for more.

Shailene Woodley and Gregg Araki Discuss the “Teenage Apocalypse” and the Adaptation Process of WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD

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Gregg Araki revisits the adolescent wasteland that defined his career in the mid 90s with his newest feature White Bird in a Blizzard. On the outset – the film feels at piece with Araki’s oeuvre (The Doom Generation, Nowhere, Totally F***ed Up) in that all focus on a dissatisfied youth (here played by Shailene Woodley) coming to terms with their place in a seemingly meaningless world. But there’s something darker and a bit more melancholy at play with Araki’s latest. The anarchic spirit of those earlier films has been replaced with a forlorn world-weary outlook. Woodley as Kat Connors isn’t the same unruly protagonist of Araki’s early work. Instead Kat’s a character desperately trying to regain any semblance of normalcy after her mother disappears one fateful morning. It’s a character intent on NOT rebelling, living in a self-imposed ignorance to the truth that is plainly in front of her.

In the following interview with Gregg Araki and Shailene Woodley, the duo discuss the process of adapting Laura Kasischke’s novel to the big-screen, working together to create many of White Bird in a Blizzard’s emotionally raw scenes and the movie’s place within Araki’s filmography. For the full interview, hit the jump.

Chris Henchy and Economic Advisor Adam Davidson Talk WE THE ECONOMY, Defining GDP, the Biggest Economic Lie We’ve Been Told, and More

by     Posted 10 hours ago

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We all know the economy crashed in 2008, but how many of us know why or how?  Odds are, if you pulled a random stranger off the street they would struggle to properly define a recession, let alone explain the complex series of events that led to the economic crash – I certainly can’t.  In a world where economic theories and practices have come to rule of our personal lives (looking at you, credit scores) and dominate the sphere of political discourse, it’s a bit unnerving when you realize just how little you actually know about what the economy is and how it works.  Enter Morgan Spurlock and his production company Cinelan, who have partnered with numerous creative talents and economy experts to present We The Economy: 20 Films You Can’t Afford to Miss, an ambitious short film series that explores complex issues like how human psychology causes recession, the struggle to define GDP, and the ins and outs of just what the hell the economy actually is.  Livened up through performances, animation, dance, and varied cinematic approaches, the filmmakers behind We The Economy have found a way to make these often dull and confusing subjects accessible and entertaining to a wide audience.

In anticipation of the film series’ release I recently joined a number of other journalists with Chris Henchy, director of GDP Smackdown, and his economic consultant Adam Davidson for a lengthy conversation that ranged from economic theory to wrestling lingo to animation technique.  Check out what they had to say after the jump and click here to watch the short.

SCANDAL Recap: “The Key”

by     Posted 13 hours ago

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In Scandal‘s “The Key,” Olivia is ready to get her expensive pants dirty, and find out what’s really going on with Jake, who has seemingly disappeared.  Yet at first, despite being Olivia Pope, no one will return her phone calls or take her demands seriously (this is all to their peril).  In her search for Jake and for the truth, she’s also inadvertently drawing together everyone she knows into a complex web that will hopefully save him.  Sooner would be better than later, though, since Fitz is on the warpath.  Hit the jump for why “respectfully, sir, she’s probably drunk and in a food coma from too much fried chicken.”

GRACEPOINT Recap: “Episode Four”

by     Posted 14 hours ago

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In its fourth episode, Gracepoint is finally starting to address the cracks that are forming in the community in the wake of Danny Solano’s death.  Though there are still plenty of new clues and twists (and many red herrings), “Episode Four” also brought up the question of how well we can ever really know another person.  The Solanos (and the police) are starting to find out that Danny had his secrets, while Beth becomes distraught to find that everyone else in her family does, too.  Hit the jump for why you should “follow the evidence, inform the family, and don’t get emotionally involved.”

Martin Scorsese to Produce 50th Anniversary Grateful Dead Documentary; Amir Bar-Lev to Direct

by     Posted 15 hours ago

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The Grateful Dead formed in 1965, which means we are fast approaching the 50th anniversary of the storied jam band.  To celebrate the occasion, Martin Scorsese will executive produce a Grateful Dead documentary directed by Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story).  Scorsese explained the appeal of the project and the unique stature of the band:

“The Grateful Dead were more than just a band.  They were their own planet, populated by millions of devoted fans.  I’m very happy that this picture is being made and proud to be involved.”

Hit the jump for the press release with all the details.

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sebastian Stan Join THE MARTIAN; Ethan Hawke to Play Chet Baker in BORN TO BE BLUE

by     Posted 18 hours ago

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Ridley Scott
just scored two more industry heavyweights for The Martian, 12 Years a Slave star, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s Sebastian Stan.  They join Matt Damon, Jessica ChastainKristen Wiig, Michael Pena, Kate Mara and Sean Bean in the November 25, 2015 release about an astronaut who winds up stranded on Mars.  Filming is set to begin in Budapest this November.

In addition, we also just got word that Robert Budreau’s Chet Baker biopic, Born To Be Blue, began filming in Ontario with Ethan Hawke leading as the legendary jazz trumpet player.  Carmen Ejogo (The Purge: Anarchy) and Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica) also have roles in that one.  Hit the jump for more on both films.

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