First Images from THE WARD and BEAUTIFUL BOY

     August 25, 2010

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Continuing our first-look image series of movies playing at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, we have images from John Carpenter’s The Ward starring Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Jared Harris, and Lyndsy Fonseca.  The Ward is Carpenter’s first film in over a decade and that alone is reason enough to see it. We also have images from Shawn Ku’s Beautiful Boy, which has a killer cast that includes Michael Sheen, Maria Bello, Moon Bloodgood, Alan Tudyk, Kyle Gallner, Austin Nichols, and Meat Loaf Aday.

Hit the jump to check out all the images and synopses for both films.  The 2010 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9 – 19th.

And if you missed our previous first look images articles, here’s a few links:

The Ward (info and images via TIFF’s website):

Acclaimed director John Carpenter makes his long awaited return to the screen with a thriller about a young woman in a 1960s mental institution who becomes terrorized by malevolant unseen forces.

  • Country: USA
  • Year: 2009
  • Language: English
  • Producer: Peter Block, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Mike Marcus
  • Executive Producer: David Rogers, Adam Betteridge, Rich Cowan
  • Screenplay: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
  • Runtime: 86
  • Principal Cast: Amber Heard, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Jared Harris, Lyndsy Fonseca
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Producer: Peter Block, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Mike Marcus
  • Executive Producer: David Rogers, Adam Betteridge, Rich Cowan
  • Cinematographer: Yaron Orbach
  • Editor: Patrick McMahon
  • Sound: Leslie Schatz, Javier Bennassar
  • Production Designer: Paul Peters
  • Composer: Mark Kilian

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Full Description:

When an old farmhouse is set ablaze by Kristen (Amber Heard), a distraught young woman, she is taken by police to the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital. She awakens in a special ward with four similarly unbalanced and wayward girls: Sarah, a flirty and sass-talking know it all; Iris, a sensitive and talented artist who tries to make her feel welcome; Emily, a reckless but playful outcast; and Zoey, who hides behind a childlike persona and her beloved stuffed bunny.

Kirsten’s therapist, Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris), tries to uncover the root cause of her breakdown, but despite his calm and understanding manner, she resists any attempts at help and rehabilitation.

Unfortunately, the hospital is not the sanctuary it seems to be. Kristen begins to have strange run-ins with a shadowy phantom who roams the halls when the ward is locked down at night. Persistent and inquisitive, she goes digging for information about former patients and soon becomes convinced that no one ever leaves the ward alive.

The Ward marks a resurgence in director John Carpenter’s celebrated stylistic mojo, with his trademark prowling camera, jump scares, and the sort of atmospherics that typified The Fog and Prince of Darkness.

Set in the sixties, the film’s tone and style have much in common with the works of one of horror’s great, under-recognized masters, Val Lewton, while also nodding in the direction of Samuel Fuller’s cult classic Shock Corridor. Led by previous Midnight Madness starlet Amber Heard, the titular lead from All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Carpenter’s cast of locked-up bad girls brings the picture to life.

The Ward is Carpenter’s return to form after a decade-long absence, further proof that he deserves the mainstream critical respect and recognition of an American auteur.

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Beautiful Boy (info and images via TIFF’s website):

A married couple on the verge of separation are leveled by the news their 18-year-old son committed a mass shooting at his college, then took his own life. Stars Michael Sheen and Maria Bello.

  • Country: USA
  • Year: 2010
  • Language: English
  • Producer: Lee Clay, Eric Gozlan
  • Executive Producer: Mark Moran, Richard Gabai, Richard Iott
  • Screenplay: Michael Armbruster, Shawn Ku
  • Runtime: 100
  • Principal Cast:  Maria Bello, Michael Sheen
  • Director: Shawn Ku
  • Producer: Lee Clay, Eric Gozlan
  • Executive Producer: Mark Moran, Richard Gabai, Richard Iott
  • Cinematographer: Michael Fimognari
  • Editor: Chad Galster
  • Sound: Joe Dzuban
  • Production Designer: Gabor Norman

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Full Synopsis:

Filmmakers have explored the subject of school shootings in the past, but first-time feature director Shawn Ku finds a unique perspective on this delicate issue. Rather than focusing on the tragic incident and the events leading up to it, Beautiful Boy confronts its devastating aftermath. Moreover, the killer is almost entirely absent throughout the film. In his place, we look through the eyes of his parents, who struggle to find refuge from the public and from media backlash, while overcoming their own sudden loss.

In two of the most heartrending performances in recent memory, Maria Bello and Michael Sheen play parents in a rocky marriage who are hit with the shocking news that their eighteen-year-old son has committed a mass shooting at his college before taking his own life.

With a maturity and comprehension beyond his years, Ku (who co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Armbruster) shows remarkable insight into two middle-aged parents faced with unspeakable anguish. Separated from the rest of the world by this incomprehensible act, they find their marital troubles gradually taking a back seat to the traumatic situation thrust upon them.

Credit must also go to the film’s stellar supporting cast, who add further weight to this difficult story. Moon Bloodgood, Alan Tudyk and Meat Loaf Aday are perfectly cast as bystanders to the slow-burning wreckage at hand.

Beautiful Boy is fearless. It defies convention to shed light on something that many similarly topical films have shied away from. The result is a bleak yet rewarding experience that dares to challenge not only its audience, but also previous investigations of this dark subject.

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