LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - For all the hard-knock headlines the NFL has faced lately, playing in the pros remains a dream career for many young men -- including the teen quartet chronicled in the verite doc "In Football We Trust." Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn's directorial debut focuses on a specific subculture drawn to the game: Polynesian-Americans, who -- per opening titles -- are 28 times more likely to play in the NFL than any other ethnic group. Engaging but perhaps more limited in its arc than the filmmakers might have hoped, the produced-for-public-television pic was acquired pre-Sundance by Relativity Sports, but will feel most at home on the smallscreen.
Docs rarely get more specific than this: Polynesian teens (two of them Mormon) playing high-school football in the Salt Lake City region. That provides the filmmakers a unique springboard, even if the individual sagas combine for something more akin to an intriguing novella than the full-blown great American epic of verite sports docs, Steve James' 1994 landmark "Hoop Dreams."
The most dramatically fruitful of the interwoven stories comes from brothers Leva and Vita Bloomfield, who both play for the same high school and hail from a family somewhat infamous in the area for their ties to a local gang, the Regulators. Their father, Fua, was also a gifted player in his prime before seeing his own dreams end at the college level due to "personal problems." The boisterous boys talk about hoping to prove people's preconceptions of their family wrong, but actions speak louder than words and their sibling bond is soon compromised by legal entanglements.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "Fifty Shades of Grey" fans should get their inner goddesses ready -- it's about to get "Darker."
Both sequels to E.L. James' racy mega-seller "Fifty Shades of Grey" -- "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed" -- are coming to film, said director Sam Taylor-Johnson. According to Cosmopolitan, Johnson made the announcement at a fan event at New York's Seigfeld Theatre with James and stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson.
The news doesn't come as too much of a shock. The racy pic is tracking to open at $60 million over its opening on Valentine's Day weekend, and online ticketing site Fandango said it's the fastest-selling R-rated title in the site's 15-year history.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - It's not often that Hollywood releases two major theatrical bombs on the same weekend. But that's exactly what happened when "Jupiter Ascending" and "Seventh Son" both crashed in U.S. theaters on Friday.
Warner Bros.' "Jupiter Ascending," starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, is quickly falling in box office estimates to a skimpy $18 million opening. With a budget of $175 million, the Wachowskis' sci-fi tentpole could lose tens of millions barring a dramatic turnaround overseas, in what could be the biggest flop of the year.
The forecast for Universal and Legendary's long-delayed "Seventh Son," starring Jeff Bridges, is just as gloomy. The pricey fantasy tentpole has a projected loss of $85 million, as Variety exclusively reported this week, despite earning $82 million at the international box office. It's on track for just $6 million in its U.S. debut.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Amy Pascal is stepping down as co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of its motion picture group.
She will remain at the studio as part of a new producing deal. Pascal will stay in place through May, at which point she will take the reins at her new venture.
No decision has been made on her replacement, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation, but there is a deep bench on the Sony lot. Among her possible replacements from within the Sony ranks are former Fox studio chief Tom Rothman, who now runs TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group President Doug Belgrad and Columbia Pictures Production President Michael De Luca.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "Fifty Shades of Grey," which has its premiere in Berlin next week, will not be released in Malaysia.
The film was denied a certificate by the Malaysian Film Censorship Board (LPF).
A release on Feb. 12 through United International Pictures has been cancelled.
Layla A. Jones
You may recognize the names Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady for their work on such documentaries as “Jesus Camp” and “Detropia.” For their most recently released work, a short documentary chronicling American kids using technology to connect with adolescents in other countries, the filmmaking duo came to Philadelphia.
“The World Is As Big or As Small As You Make It” began as a 140-character essay entry and was created with money from a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Sundance Institute. It follows children living in North Philadelphia (one young woman mentions a playground at 12th and Susquehanna streets) who are involved in a local program called Do Remember Me.
Sannii Crespina-Flores, who runs Do Remember Me, takes resources a lot of children already have — iPhones, iPads and the like — and helps children use them to explore the outside world. The kids video chat with others in Paris, Kazakhstan, Tanzania and other countries and learn about other cultures while exploring their similarities. One student in Paris shows some boys in North Philly his beat-boxing skills. In return, a group of Philadelphia dancers show the Parisian kids a routine. At one point, a boy from Philadelphia whispers, “Do y’all have any girlfriends?” to a group of Parisian students. During that same exchange, the cross-country communicators connect on Instagram.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Disney and Lucasfilm have tapped Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Jones to star in the "Star Wars" standalone movie from director Gareth Edwards.
Jones was one of several actresses to have met for the role, along with Rooney Mara and Tatiana Maslany.
Edwards ("Godzilla") is directing the 3D feature, with Chris Weitz penning the script. Weitz replaced Gary Whitta, who wrote the first version of the screenplay.
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Consumers still haven't grown cold on "Frozen."
The movie, which became the highest-grossing animated film after its release in November 2013, continues to play for Disney, this time in the retail aisle.
Merchandise tied to the toon was a significant seller for Disney, especially its Disney Stores, during the holidays, with the company's consumer products division reporting a 22% boost in revenue and profits by 46% during the Mouse House's first quarter of fiscal 2015, which ended Dec. 27.