Sunday, February 1, 2015

POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2015, 3:33 PM

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Radar Pictures has come on board to produce writer-director Cameron Romero's "Origins," the genesis story of his father's iconic "Night of the Living Dead." 

Production is planned for later this year. 

"Night of the Living Dead" was released in 1968 and starred Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea and Karl Hardman. The film, which follows seven people trapped in a rural farmhouse attacked by zombies, was shot in black and white for $114,000 and grossed $30 millon worldwide, spawning five more "Living Dead" films. 

POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2015, 12:01 PM
Filed Under: Music & Nightlife
English actress Emma Watson poses for pictures on the red carpet upon arrival to attend the British Fashion Awards 2014 in London on December 1, 2014. (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Emma Watson will star Disney's live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast" as the lead character Belle. 

Disney made the announcement Monday, saying that production will begin later this year. No release date has been set. 

The film will be directed by Bill Condon ("The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn"), who was announced as director in June. David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman of Mandeville Films are producing.



POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2015, 10:04 AM
Filed Under: Music & Nightlife
Actor James Franco from 'True Story' poses for a portrait at the Village at the Lift Presented by McDonald's McCafe during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - James Franco isn't ruling out a return to the superhero genre that helped make his name with Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" films, although he doesn't sound that enthusiastic about donning a cape or mask. 

"If it's the right role, I guess," said Franco during an interview at the Sundance Film Festival. "There's a lot of graphic novels that I like that aren't superheroes." 

In particular, Franco said he was drawn to a graphic novel by Derf Backderf entitled "My Friend Dahmer" that sounds pretty far removed from the webspinner films. Backderf went to high school with Dahmer, the infamous serial killer, and paints a portrait of the murderer as a disturbed young man.

POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2015, 10:00 AM
Filed Under: Music & Nightlife
Egoli Tossell Film/Koppelman/Levien

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Rarely has a performer striven so concertedly to shed any trace of his/her comedy roots as Sarah Silverman does over the course of "I Smile Back," an addiction drama in which the acerbic comedienne gives the kind of warts-and-all, let-it-all-hang-out (body parts, fluids, etc.) turn that awards' consultants dreams are made of. But Silverman's performance is more than an attention-getting stunt, and it's her hellish rendering of a New Jersey housewife under the influence of drugs, alcohol and mental illness that elevates director Adam Salky's sophomore feature above the suburban-nightmare movie-of-the-week it otherwise often resembles. Even with the buzz sure to ignite around its Sundance premiere, "Smile" will prove a tough sell commercially, where more sensitive types will blanch at the film's Olympian gauntlet of self-abuse, reckless endangerment and public humiliation. 

Playing addicts of one kind or another has been a tried-and-true recipe for funnymen (and -women) seeking serious-actor street cred, from Michael Keaton in "Clean and Sober" to Jennifer Aniston in the recent "Cake" -- neither of whom had to play a scene quite like the one Silverman does early on, as her Laney Brooks stumbles into her sleeping daughter's bedroom and begins masturbating atop the child's teddy bear. And that's just for starters. Indeed, the Laney we meet at the start of "I Smile Back" is already significantly damaged goods, having stopped taking her prescription lithium and slipped back into a series of old, self-destructive habits: cocaine, vodka, amphetamines and torrid afternoon sex with the restaurateur husband (Thomas Sadoski) of a close family friend (Mia Barron). But because Laney is a practiced addict, she manages to conceal the evidence that things are coming undone, for a while, until her efforts become like spackling paste on volcanic rifts. 

"I Smile Back," which was adapted by Paige Dylan (wife of Jakob) and Amy Koppelman from the latter's well-reviewed 2008 novel, suggests that Laney's condition is at least partly hereditary and partly a reaction to the kind of anodyne, middle-class ennui that similarly tormented the characters in movies like "Bigger Than Life," "Revolutionary Road" and "Gone Girl." And although still a relatively young woman, Laney is beset with a sense of impending mortality and her body's gradual decay. (In one scene, lifted from the novel's opening chapter, she stands before a full-body mirror and presses forlornly at her sagging, softening breasts.) 

POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2015, 9:56 AM
Filed Under: Music & Nightlife
Former US basketball player Dennis Rodman (C) is surrounded by the media as he arrives at Beijing International Airport from North Korea on January 13, 2014. (WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - A deftly constructed, consistently engrossing and frequently flat-out-hilarious account of a controversial sporting event with geopolitical implications, "Dennis Rodman's Big Bang in Pyongyang" arrives just in time to serve as a stranger-than-fiction companion piece to "The Interview." Director Colin Offland strikes the perfect balance of bemused spectator and impartial commentator while offering an up-close, behind-the-scenes account of the much-publicized 2014 basketball tournament organized by the indefatigably flamboyant Dennis Rodman in the infamously repressive North Korea, during which Rodman and other retired NBA greats were pitted against a dream team of local basketballers as a kinda-sorta birthday tribute to dictator Kim Jong-un, arguably the world's least likely hoops fan. It's a slam-dunk certainty that this documentary will score in just about every platform where it competes.

Coming across as engaging eccentric, mellow voluptuary, drunken buffoon and political naif, Rodman is viewed with what might be called the documentarian's version of tough love as he braves criticism, censure and even death threats between and during a series of sorties to Pyongyang. 

First, he agrees to play with the Harlem Globetrotters in North Korea for the amusement of local B-ball fans, only to find afterwards that, truth to tell, Kim -- affectionately known to millions as the Marshal -- doesn't think much of the Globetrotters' style of play. On the other hand, the Marshal views Rodman as a superstar and all-around good guy. This improbably paves the way for a basketball tournament that Rodman feels might be the modern-day equivalent of the 1970s Ping-Pong matches that led to President Nixon's historic visit to China.

POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2015, 9:49 AM
Filed Under: Music & Nightlife

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" continued its box office dominance this weekend, picking up $64.4 million and steamrolling over everything in sight, including Johnny Depp. 

Depp's latest exercise in cinematic oddities, "Mortdecai," left audiences cold, earning a paltry $4.1 million across 2,648 locations and coming in ninth on box office charts. It's an embarrassing performance for a star of his caliber and comes on the heels of box office disasters such as "The Lone Ranger" and "Transcendence." 

"Something needs to click soon," said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. "It's a couple of misses in a row and that always stings." 

POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2015, 10:08 AM

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - After a record-breaking wide-release debut over the Martin Luther King holiday, "American Sniper" will loom large at the box office for the second weekend in a row. 

Analysts didn't see Clint Eastwood's look at the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle coming, so it's hard to figure out just how massive the film will continue to be now that it faces off against new projects from Jennifer Lopez and Johnny Depp.

If "American Sniper" has a sophomore weekend drop-off like the kind of traditional summer blockbuster it mirrored when it kicked off with $107 million and change over the four-day period, it should pull in roughly $45 million. In a sign of its dominance, "American Sniper" will have the biggest second weekend of any January wide release in Fandango history.

POSTED: Thursday, January 22, 2015, 9:58 AM
20th Century Fox.

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "The Sound of Music," which earned five Academy awards in its 1965 debut, is returning to the bigscreen to celebrate its half century legacy.

"The Sound of Music" will show at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival on March 26, with Robert Osborne hosting a Q&A with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

Twentieth Century Fox has a yearlong global campaign in place for the film's golden anniversary, including a home entertainment release beginning March 10. 

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