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When Stellan Skarsgård Calls About His New Movie In Order of Disappearance, You Better Answer

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

The first thing you hear when Stellan Skarsgård and Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland call at 8:00 am LA time for a phone interview from New York is Stellan’s unmistakable laugh. This is a far cry from the stoic Nils he plays in their new movie In Order of Disappearance that opens Aug. 26. Between the -40 celsius setting and the operatic violence, whereby Skarsgård picks off a succession of formidable enemies, including Bruno Ganz (Downfall) as lead crime boss, In Order of Disappearance plays with the fine line between horrific scenes and a comedy of criminal errors.  StellanIOD16 Not to give too much away, In Order of Disappearance (originally titled Kraftidioten or “Morons”) is mostly in Norwegian, with Danish, German and a smattering of English and Serbian thrown in, as it runs down the saga of a drug ring infesting the pristine Norwegian landscape.

Skarsgård plays a snowblower business owner (Nils), who first receives a Citizen of the Year Award only to become embroiled in the hunt for a succession of responsible parties who have killed his son, in a hit job made to look like an overdose. The blowing snow from Nils’ menacing snowplow begins to echo the powder of the drugs and gives him the power to literally bury his enemies in a white rage. And yes, there is a twist.

When asked if playing in a language more native to him than English informs the character, Stellan scoffs in a good way. “It has nothing to do with language,” he corrects. “In the Marvel films (Thor) my character was used mostly as comic relief. I am the normal center of this film.” Skarsgård also adds that his performance in BBC’sRiver,” the 2015 TV Mini-series, as lead inspector John River was also a serious turn.

Director Hans Petter Moland (Aberdeen), who has worked with Skarsgård on a succession of films, seconds the misconception that Stellan tends to play ‘with a swagger’ in English. Then the Nordic silence between sentences is almost a rebuke. Together they make a formable two-on-one tag team; the camaraderie is unmistakable. HansPetterMoland16At this hour in LA, you’re just trying to get the ‘ring’ over the right “a” in the actor’s last name because that mark is actually part of the vowel not punctuation. Meanwhile, you’re just glad Stellan is every bit as punchy and quirky as you’d hoped he’d be, but the director with him this morning, on the other hand is serious as a heart attack. A less-known quantity in the United States, Hans Petter Moland is a top director in Norway, and you hope you don’t sound like, well, a kraftidioten, two coffees later.

“I think the film is a great mix of genres, and has a lot of satirical aspects to it,” Moland, an Emerson College alum begins. “One of my ‘delights’ was to take on some contemporary issues. The fear of immigration and fear of strangers. The drug thing was very real. When I started working on this story 15 years ago, I started thinking what if someone actually did what Stellan’s character does.” Meaning take revenge instead of pursuing the conventional lines of justice.

The immigration issues Moland refers to include drug crime bosses from Serbia, Albania —  and within Norway itself in home-grown dealer played by Pål Sverre Hagen. Hagen, incidentally, was in Kon-Tiki with Stellan’s son Gustav Skarsgård.

“Pål did such a surprising take on the character, that I said it was not what I thought of — so much fun working with him,” the director notes. “(His character) is not necessarily the smartest guy in the room, but good at smelling out deceit.”

A mix of hysteria and ruthlessness, Hagen’s performance is as “refreshing,” they both point out, as is the movie itself. Upon which you mention “Fargo,” thinking Fargo-meets-Pulp-Fiction-style cruelodrama, meaning cruelty meets melodrama… to crickets. IOD1sheet16

Later you notice somebody already referenced Fargo on the poster, oops. On the call, you can almost hear Stellan Skarsgard — a film icon in America and around the world at this point — sitting back and weighing the questions being posed. He does not suffer fools, and is just as you would imagine he is from his eclectic body of work. Stellan’s a thinking actor, a fun guy who would be great in a bar fight. Moland, his friend and frequent director, the straight man on this phoner, pivots back on point to reveal that most of his filmmaking influences are American. “Films from the 70’s, also Terry Malick.” He’s warming up now.

When you ask him about one scene, where Nils’ wife leaves him and leaves a very telling note: a sealed, folded, blank sheet of paper, Moland’s ice breaks. “That was in the script that way, the screenwriter’s idea. I remember when I read it at some point — laughing out loud. But it’s hard to show nothing on film. You liked it? I’m glad it played well.” In Order of Disappearance is one of those films you watch for its own merits, but undeniably for the body of work of Stellan Skarsgård.

As in all of Skarsgård’s roles, and one of the hallmarks of the best actors, you can literally hear him listening on the phone, every word parsed, remembering your name, commenting and laughing with such ease. Until the subject of his actor children is broached. With son Alexander Skarsgård tipped to enter the A-List with Tarzan’s $120+ M USD cumulative total at the box office, the topic is timely if a bit awkward. The frost descends, as it likely should.

“I don’t care much about that actually. Four (out of eight) of them are actors, and they are all good. I really enjoy it. I’m happy that they aren’t terrible. It would have been so hard to see them suffer defeat. In this business, suddenly you are splashed on every billboard all over the world, and two years later no one knows who you are,” Skarsgård remarks.

Going back to his film, when you say “it’s probably hard to show moral ambiguity in the cold like that,” Stellan laughs that easy laugh again. “It was motherfucking cold. Yes.” Then he relates the frozen milieu to the “a naturalistic style of acting” used. Moland jumps in with “if you go back and watch the film again, in the beginning of the film — when he meets the Centrist Party member where there is no blower — look at Stellan’s face. It is actually like a frozen mask.”

Incorporated into In Order of Disappearance, the Centrist Party tangent touches on Swedish immigration to Norway, which is coupled with a look at Serbian and Albanian nationals in country. All against the backdrop of a father’s grief-revenge story with a stellar cast, director, and of course another facet of the considerable talent of Stellan Skarsgård. He’s someone who broke through to American audiences as the math professor in Good Will Hunting, and has remained versatile enough to play in the Marvel Universe and in so many interesting iterations, also the just-released movie Our Kind of Traitor where he plays a Russian gangster, with clearly more to come.

In Order of Disappearance is a great addition to Stellan’s body of work, not only because he plays the lead, but it’s fun to watch. He evens gets to beat up the head wildling from Game of Thrones, Tormund Giantsbane, actor Kristofer HivjuKristoferStellan16Director Hans Petter Moland rounds out the interview with this gem “the only thing that isn’t in this film is Stockholm Syndrome,” referring to the underage kidnapping folded into this chilly tale.

In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten), produced by Paradox and championed by the Norwegian, Swedish and Danish film institutes, and Nordisk, among others, opens in a US roll-out beginning on Aug. 26, see Magnolia Pictures and Magnet at here for more details.

(Courtesy of FilmFestivals.com)

Official Press Notes:

IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE stars Stellan Skarsgård, Bruno Ganz, Pål Sverre Hagen, Jakob Oftebro, and Kristofer Hivju.  The film was directed by Hans Petter Moland and has a running time of114 minutes. Magnet Releasing will release the film in LA at the Nuart Theater and in select other cities as well as on VOD on August 26, 2016.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and dig Stellan Skarsgård

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Naughty SAUSAGE PARTY Scores for Annapurna & Megan Ellison

LOS ANGELES, CA — Can we just say “I told you so” about how Megan Ellison and her Annapurna Pictures have the corner on creative risks that payoff? Go Ellison.

Unsolicited High Five & Ketchup Hollywood! — Screenmancer

Here’s naughty SAUSAGE PARTY on the menu.

Wait, there’s more…

SONY Says This About SAUSAGE PARTY, “The First R-Rated CG Animated Movie,” PS

Sausage Party, the first R-rated CG animated movie, is about one sausage leading a group of supermarket products on a quest to discover the truth about their existence and what really happens when they become chosen to leave the grocery store.  The film features the vocal talents of a who’s who of today’s comedy stars – Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Edward Norton, and Salma Hayek.

Directed by:
Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan

Screenplay by:
Kyle Hunter
Ariel Shaffir
Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg

Story by:
Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg
Jonah Hill

Produced by:
Megan Ellison
Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg
Conrad Vernon

Executive Producers:
Jonah Hill
James Weaver
Ariel Shaffir
Kyle Hunter
David Distenfeld

Cast:
Seth Rogen
Kristen Wiig
Jonah Hill
Bill Hader
Michael Cera
James Franco
Danny McBride
Craig Robinson
Paul Rudd
Nick Kroll
David Krumholtz
Edward Norton
Salma Hayek

Screenmancer is a gathering place for people who make movies & dig Megan Ellison.

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What Do Cheez-It™ & Remake of BEN-HUR Have in Common, Wait For It

SCREENMANCER GENIUS MOVIE MARKETING ALERT: LOS ANGELES, CA — It’s hard enough to remake a classic film like BEN-HUR, but to throw snack food Cheez-It™ in the mix really takes this movie into the future. So what’s the connection? You waited for it, here it is… Jack Huston, star of the upcoming epic action adventure BEN-HUR from Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, will drive a 2016 Toyota Camry pace car to kick off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It™ 355 at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 7.

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This will be Huston’s first time serving as an Official Pace Car drive at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event (and hopefully not Jack’s last if he doesn’t mess it up). He will also be recognized during pre-race ceremonies and will greet each NASCAR driver on stage during driver introductions.

Huston previously starred for four seasons in HBO’s hit series, Boardwalk Empire, as the sniper with the horribly disfigured face, ‘Richard Harrow’. In 2013, Huston appeared in the critically acclaimed and award-winning film American Hustle, where he played mobster ‘Pete Musane’. Additionally, he starred as ‘Young Ira’ in George Tillman Jr.’s film adaption of the Nicholas Sparks novel, The Longest Ride. [Basically, if you haven’t recognized his work by now, you’ve been living under a rock.]

 “I am excited to join NASCAR and get behind the wheel of today’s modern chariot,” said Huston.

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And folks, if you haven’t noticed from the familiar-sounding last name, Huston, we have a problem. Jack Huston is from the John HustonWalter Huston family acting dynasty including an Oscar-winning aunt from Prizzi’s Honor and X-Men uncle star. John Huston is his grandfather. Jack was born in the UK and finally took on the family business.

 ICYMI

BEN-HUR is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer in the Roman army.  Stripped of his title, separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into slavery.  After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption.  Based on Lew Wallace’s timeless novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.  The film also stars Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer, Pilou Asbaek, Sofia Black D’Elia and Morgan Freeman.

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Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) directed the film from a screenplay by Keith Clarke and John Ridley. Sean Daniel, Joni Levin, and Duncan Henderson served as producers, with Mark Burnett, Roma Downey, Keith Clarke, John Ridley, and Jason F. Brown serving as executive producers. BEN-HUR will be released in theaters on August 19, 2016.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Watkins Glen International August 4-7 for the Cheez-It™ 355 race weekend, which also features the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Bully Hill Vineyards 100, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series Zippo 200 at The Glen. Tickets for all of the action are available by calling 1-866-461-RACE or by logging on to www.theglen.com.

 Keeping You On Track

Located within five (5) hours (~300 miles) of 25% of the US population, Watkins Glen International is the premier road racing facility in North America, voted “Best NASCAR Track” by readers of USA Today. Keep up with The Glen on Facebook and Twitter. For tickets, call 866-461-RACE or visit www.theglen.com.

 

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and like to drive bone stock.

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Wayward Sons of KANSAS Learn to Stream New Tune on Billboard, Listen!

SCREENMANCER CLASSIC ROCK ALERT:  Los Angeles, CA — Anthem Rock Classic Band KANSAS has a few more tricks up the sleeve this year after the sentimental success of their 2015 documentary MIRACLES OUT OF NOWHERE. KansasBand3What is this year’s magic? The band’s “first new album in 16 years” is being advance-streamed on Billboard’s website in celebration of the “40th anniversary of breakthrough album LEFTOVERTURE,” which went “sextuple platinum.” Let’s let them tell it… “With This Heart”, a brand new song from Kansas is streaming now exclusively on Billboard.com today. The song is taken from the band’s intensely anticipated new studio album The Prelude Implicit, which will be released on September 23rd, 2016. Fans can stream “With This Heart” now. (See link above.) The song will be available for purchase tomorrow, Friday, August 5th through iTunes, AmazonMP3, Spotify, and Google Play.  Fans can also pre-order the album on iTunes, AmazonMP3, and Google Play at that time. Links to retailers can be found below:

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iTunes  http://itunes.com/kansas

Amazon http://amzn.to/2aKXIlJ

Spotify  http://spoti.fi/2b0Oi3j

Google Play  http://bit.ly/2asRFhn

In a joint statement, the band says “We are excited for ‘With This Heart’ to be the first new KANSAS song released in more than 16 years. It definitely fits KANSAS tradition.”

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The Prelude Implicit is the first new album release in 16 years for the band that has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, and is famous for classic hits such as ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and ‘Dust In the Wind,’ to progressive epics like ‘Song for America’ and ‘Miracles Out of Nowhere.’ The album will be available on CD, double 180 Gram Vinyl and digitally on iTunes and Google Play. Fans can pre-order now by visiting Kansasband.com and on Amazon.com.

The Prelude Implicit features 10 all new tracks written by the band and co-produced by Zak Rizvi, Phil Ehart, and Richard Williams.  KANSAS’s signature sound is evident throughout the album.  It showcases Ronnie Platt‘s soaring lead vocals, David Ragsdale‘s blistering violin, Williams and Rizvi’s rocking guitar riffs, the unmistakable sound of David Manion’s B3 organ and keyboards, Ehart’s thundering drums, and Billy Greer‘s driving bass and vocals.

KANSAS returned to the studio in January 2016 after signing with Inside Out Music.  Says Inside Out founder and president Thomas Waber, “KANSAS is the biggest and most important Prog band to come out of the United States. I grew up listening to them, and their music is part of my DNA.  ‘The Prelude Implicit’ undoubtedly adds to their already impressive musical legacy.  I can’t stop listening to it, and we are proud to be releasing the album.”

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The result of the time in the studio was even more than the band imagined.  “This is definitely a KANSAS album,” remarks original guitarist Richard Williams. “Whether it is the trademark Prog epic like ‘The Voyage of Eight Eighteen,’ biting rocker such as ‘Rhythm in the Spirit,’ or mindful ballad like ‘The Unsung Heroes,’ there is something on this album for every kind of KANSAS fan.  After years of pent-up creativity, the entire band is very proud of ‘The Prelude Implicit.'”

Lead Vocalist Ronnie Platt adds, “Recording ‘The Prelude Implicit’ was an incredible experience, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. It is my hope that, knowing the intense listeners that KANSAS fans are, the continuity yet diversity of this album will be pleasing to them.”

The album title, The Prelude Implicit means, “Without a doubt, this is a new musical beginning,” explains Ehart. Tattoo artist, Denise de la Cerda, did the oil painting of the front and back cover.  “It shows a Phoenix flying from the past into the future.”

The Prelude Implicit Track Listing:

1.) With This Heart

2.) Visibility Zero

3.) The Unsung Heroes

4.) Rhythm in the Spirit

5.) Refugee

6.) The Voyage of Eight Eighteen   

7.) Camouflage

8.) Summer

9.) Crowded Isolation

10.) Section 60

KANSAS will be debuting songs off The Prelude Implicit this fall, live in concert, as part of their Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour.  More information on the tour, including tour dates, can be found at www.kansasband.com

 

www.facebook.com/kansasband

www.twitter.com/kansasband

You heard it here first.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and jam to Classic Rock.

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Two Times Chris (Pine & Hemsworth) Equals 4th STAR TREK Movie

CHRIS PINE AND CAST TO BE JOINED BY CHRIS HEMSWORTH, WHO RETURNS TO THE BLOCKBUSTER FRANCHISE AS GEORGE KIRK

HOLLYWOOD, CA (July 18, 2016) – Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Bad Robot today let it slip today that the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise will return to the silver screen for another voyage. PineCaptCool16In the next installment of the epic space adventure, Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk will cross paths with a man he never had a chance to meet, but whose legacy has haunted him since the day he was born: his father. HemsST16Chris Hemsworth, who appeared in 2009’s “STAR TREK,” will return to the space saga as George Kirk to star alongside Pine.  The remaining cast is expected to return. J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay will write the screenplay. J.J. Abrams and Lindsey Weber will produce through Bad Robot Productions. David Ellison and Dana Goldberg of Skydance will executive produce.  “STAR TREK,” the first film in the rebooted franchise based on “Star Trek,” created by Gene Roddenberry, earned more than $380 million worldwide in 2009. The second installment, “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS,” earned more than $460 million worldwide when it opened in May 2013. The series’ third film, “STAR TREK BEYOND,” is directed by Justin Lin (“FAST & FURIOUS” franchise) and opens in theaters on July 22, 2016. PineJJ16Hemsworth is currently starring in “GHOSTBUSTERS” alongside Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig and Kate McKinnon, and filming “THOR: RAGNAROK” and “AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – Part 1” back to back. He is repped by CAA and ROAR.

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PARAMOUNT PICTURES, SKYDANCE AND BAD ROBOT

ANNOUNCE A FOURTH “STAR TREK” FILM

 

 

About Paramount Pictures Corporation

 

Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. Paramount controls a collection of some of the most powerful brands in filmed entertainment, including Paramount Pictures, Paramount Animation, Paramount Television, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films, and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., and Paramount Studio Group.

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From The Last Tycoon to Woody Allen’s Café Society: Why We Love Stories About Hollywood

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Woody Allen’s newest film Café Society just opened July 15, and it fits into a cinematic history of stories about Hollywood that audiences love. But Woody Allen himself has been a lightning rod for so long, the electricity generated off the attendant controversies could power a small town. That said, we’re talking about a movie, folks, not the personal life of the director. CoreyBlakeWoody16With that caveat, Café Society will also be the movie that repositions Blake Lively as one of the most faceted young talents to come forward from the shadows of her contemporaries, including Kristen Stewart who, with romantic co-conspirator Jesse Eisenberg, stars in the film about “1930’s New York and Hollywood with a kaleidoscopic cast of characters that range from movie stars to millionaires, playboys to professors, and working girls and wise guys.” That’s a press kit quote, just to set up the anatomy of the picture.

This is the third pairing of Stewart and Eisenberg, from Adventureland (2009) and American Ultra (2015). Eisenberg is Bobby Dorfman, whose screen mother is legendary comedian Elaine May’s real-life daughter Jeannie Berlin. He is surrounded by excellent performances by Corey Stoll (House of Cards) as his thug brother Ben and Steve Carell as Phil, the Hollywood honcho uncle who is the narrative pivot that brings him to Golden Era Hollywood and into the plot involving his nubile assistant Vonnie played by Kristen Stewart. Blake Lively is the proverbial “beautiful socialite” who charms Eisenberg’s Bobby into another plot twist, but ultimately redefines brand Blake Lively. CafeSocFR1sht16Three minutes of screen time and you wonder how Lively is the same floozy in Ben Affleck’s The Town made over into an ethereal layered gamine-like presence. Oh, that’s right, one of the greatest living directors in the world is the human puppet-master here. Parker Posey also becomes the scenes she inhabits as Rad, half of a sympathetic couple for Bobby Dorfman in this Jazz Age confection. But Kristen Stewart is playing closest to life-meets-art here, involved with a married older man (Steve Carell), in a doppleganger life that could have been hers off-screen if she’d married Rupert Sanders, the seducer/director of Snow White who almost ruined her career. Hey, he was the grown-up. If nothing else, Café Society should remind us to give Stewart a pass, give this very gifted performer a clean slate for not having taken the sell-out path her character Vonnie takes. KstewWoodyJesse
Allen’s only misstep here is casting his own voice as narrator, because unlike Michael Gambon who thrills as voiceover-of-God in the Coen Bros’ concurrent release Hail Caesar!, Woody has a noticeable waver that distracts from Café Society’s seamlessness. But let’s allow the director to defend his choice on this. “I put myself in because I knew exactly how I wanted the words to be inflected,” Woody Allen explains, “I figured that since I wrote the ‘book’, it would be like I was reading a novel.”

“When I wrote the script, I structured it like a novel. As in a book, you stop a little while in this movie and see a scene with the protagonist with his girlfriend, a scene with his parents, followed by a scene with his sister or gangster brother, a scene with Hollywood wheeler-dealers, and then the café society with politicians, debutantes, playboys, and the people cheating on their wives or shooting their husbands. To me it was always a story not of one person but of everybody.”

Which is the perfect description of Francis Ford Coppola’s classic 1984 film The Cotton Club, starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere — but with much more music and impasto in the plot. The Cotton Club’s Gere then shows up, years later in Chicago, a musical homaging the period once again, but with velvet tasseled camp. These are favorite elements of the genre in other words. But this is not the Fred McMurray Café Society of 1939, either, about a spoiled socialite who runs off with a reporter and finds shipboard love. Caf19381sht16Even Sunset Boulevard captures the period in its periphery, because we love the stories that tell stories about Hollywood behind the scenes. Café Society is essentially entering the horse race classics of cinema history, in other words. Woody Allen is not alone, as mentioned, the Coen Bros are also in silks this year. Speaking of George Clooney-topper Hail Caesar!, far from Barton Fink, this latest saga includes capers, kidnapping, and a Communist plot — more Busby Berkeley gets high, than the non-ironic homage that Allen offers — also more fun. Yet 40 years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Elia Kazan-Sam Spiegel film The Last Tycoon (1976), starring Robert De Niro and based on the unfinished novel, is more in the neighborhood of the kind of film Allen makes here, without the deep, rending sorrow of Tycoon.

So in a way, Woody Allen is harking back to a period he knows a great deal about, including being acutely aware of what has been produced in the past to reflect it. Referencing venue “The Cotton Club,” once located at 142nd St. in Harlem, Allen admits “that era has always fascinated me. It was one of the most exciting times in the history of the city, with tremendous theater life, café life, and restaurants. Up and down the line, wherever you were, the whole island was jumping with nighttime sophisticated activities.”

The word “tremendous” seems to be his go-to, and in the Woody Allen style of filmmaking, let’s insert a ‘knee play’ here, just to set up the backstory behind the press screening, because like a fascinating scene, it begs remembering.

On the night Café Society is screened in Santa Monica, the heavyweights, the veterans, take their scattered seats for the private showing. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times is doing his ritual pre-film separating of the pages in his archetypal Reporter’s Notebook, so the page turning won’t make noise during the show; Leonard Maltin strolls in to join his wife, who has been conducting some future business on one of his engagements on speaker-phone. The speaker-phone conversation is a mini-plot point in itself, which speaks directly to the intimacy of this gathering. There’s the venerable “sea of gray hair,” but also two younger reporters trading barbs to lessen the palpable tension. In a sense, this audience tells you everything you need to know about the difficulty in reviewing a film whose writer-director is still, shall we say, radio-active in the media.

You kind of live a story behind the story in your plush seat in a storied private Dick Clark Screening Room showing, just like the plot twists in Café Society. Woody Allen. Those two words have produced a lot of art and shaped a lot of lives, mine included, from seeing Annie Hall through Blue Jasmine to one of my favorites, Melinda and Melinda (Radha Mitchell, also with Steve Carrell).MelindaBridge16
In fact, there’s the same bridge scene locale used in Melinda in Café Society. CafeSocUS1sht16 The press kit includes every single title Allen has ever made, a gentle reminder of his gravitas. Then you make up your own mind about the whole panoply of issues, and watch for personal reasons… because you love the movies.

Café Society, written and directed by Woody Allen, is distributed by Amazon Studios and Lionsgate, for showtimes in a limited roll-out visit http://www.cafesocietymovie.com.

Café Society is A Woody Allen film

Directed and Written by Woody Allen

Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, and Edward Walson

Starring Jeannie Berlin, Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Kristen Stewart, Corey Stoll, and Ken Stott

 

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Director Byrd McDonald Unpacks VINTAGE TOMORROWS, His Epic Steampunk Doc

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

That director Byrd McDonald (Haunters) is from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, birthplace of Loretta Lynn speaks volumes about his path toward the making of VINTAGE TOMORROWS, a documentary about the movement known as Steampunk coming at you on July 19 from Samuel Goldwyn Films. Viewing this film is essential as part of any aficionado’s playlist. In the unpacking of facts as to why the Steampunk community welcomed Byrd as a “maker” of this film, about a very closely held movement, the Bionic Man could be a factor. Well, maybe that’s stretching things, but Lee Majors, another Kentucky connection, was the Bionic Man, who could be viewed as a proto-Steampunk Ambassador. Without the ubiquitous “top hat and goggles” of the genre as we know know it, of course. ObtainShannon16

If you’re starting to get the picture, steampunk is that odd-in-a-good-way intersection between Jules Verne and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Or, to put it more succinctly, steampunk is way beyond the common label of ‘googles on top hats’ and reflects a sentimental yearning for a time when substance and form had a fantastical quality. Think the 1893 Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago, when wizards like Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison wowed the public with electrical power put to practical magic applications in things crafted by hand from steel, wood, and wonder.
VTlogo16To quote the press kit, “VINTAGE TOMORROWS examines the Steampunk movement’s explosive growth, origins, and cultural significance, from its sci-fi beginnings into an aesthetic and DIY movement that influences art, fashion, design and music globally” though “interviews with the writers and artists credited with galvanizing” the term itself. But it also poses “the fundamental question: What does Steampunk tell us about history, community, and our complicated relationship with technology.”

If you’ve checked your smartphone for updates several times during this introduction, this film is for you. And it features pioneering luminaries such as Cyberpunk founder William Gibson (Neuromancer), Bruce Sterling (Gibson’s co-author on seminal steambook The Difference Engine), China Miéville, Cherie Priest, Gail Carriger; graphic novelists Paul Guignon and Anina Bennett, musicians Abney Park and Erica “Unwoman” Mulkey, artist/maker Shannon O’Hare and the Neverwas Haul gang, and “over 20 other denizens of the subculture.”


Byrd McDonald is quick to shoot down the notion that Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes franchise was an early cinematic foray into steampunk, although the film is riddled with echoes of the movement, from gadgets to pop alchemy. “Wild Wild West was like 10 years before that,” he notes, but does not endorse it. “And City of Lost Children is the film most people in the community refer to,” McDonald adds. ByrdonSetVT16La Cité des Enfants Perdus” is the French film translated as City of Lost Children that ignited the maker imagines in the steampunk ranks, but the term was coined in science fiction lore, as you will find out in VINTAGE TOMORROWS.

When Byrd McDonald first “reached out to people, there were a lot of people who were somewhat chilly because they had been approached by mainstream media before, and it never went well. They ended up on TV shows making them look ridiculous. Right now there is a steampunk reality show that makes them look ridiculous.” The fear was that this director would “want to talk about top hats” and accessories of the fashion rather than the cultural aspects. “What really broke down walls was that I was a queer kid,” McDonald shares. “That really opened the doors” because he was coming from an alternative perspective to begin with, plus “I used to do drag,” meaning he understood theatrical performance coupled with identity and a whole range of complex subcultural dynamics. “I really had to hang out with them and show them I wasn’t coming to them with any kind of agenda. I think it would be really hard for someone on the inside of that movement to make a film about that community that the general public could relate to.”

In VINTAGE TOMORROWS, a menagerie of hugely talented makers, thinker-tinkerers, and performers detail facets of their involvement, including the lengths they have gone in crafting personas as well as the bonds they have formed with like-minded individuals — who would not normally band together — but find refuge from the Digital Chill inside the incandescent glow of their imaginations applied to steampunk projects and events. Unobtain16Once displayed at Burning Man, there is actually a retrofitted fifth-wheel trailer contraption, much like a Mr. Toad wild ride house, created by the Neverwas Haul gang. And you can see the play on words there, which is very of the vein this movement has tapped.

Listen to what the filmmaker has to say here in his own words, then watch the film…

Q: How would you encapsulate yourself in Steampunk terms?

Lol!   Ahem….”I think of myself as a brass spyglass through which the curious can observe the world of steampunk.”

Q: What was your impression of City of Lost Children?

City of Lost Children is my favorite expression of steampunk in cinema, though some people might argue the film fits better under the “diesel punk” umbrella. It’s one of the most hallucinatory films I’ve ever seen. I probably love it most because it’s a mash up of horror, surrealism and steampunk.  It’s dripping with dystopian dread, but in the center of the darkness beats a very sentimental heart. It’s a gorgeous, frightening and incredibly moving film.

Q: Do you think the vintage clothing crowd and the Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang crowd merged into Steampunk or has it been subtext in Western culture since Da Vinci?

I don’t think I’ve ever thought about whether the 1400’s informs anyone about what steampunk is. Though I suppose DaVinci’s being remembered as one of the forefathers of mad invention could actually make him an extremely distant ancestor of the maker ethos.

One of the things that I found so intriguing about steampunk is the great number of avenues people took on their way to discovering it (or in some cases, discovering they already fit well within it).

In the course of interviewing so many people, we found some who really did start out as vintage clothing enthusiasts, and others who were tinkerers in their sheds who, perhaps subconsciously, were channeling the spirit of invention that Da Vinci is frequently associated with.

I think that when steampunk is at its best it combines all of those things together, creating fantastically costumed characters who are also capable of building wondrous objects. And perhaps that is why we were so drawn to groups like Obtainium Works, who are a great example of a group of people who encompass both sides of the coin.

Q: What’s the most odd/wild/unexpected aspect you learned while filming this community?

I met a lot of polyamorous steampunks.  I mean, a lot. VTLady16

 Here’s the brief history of this film from the distributorsVINTAGE TOMORROWS began its festival journey at San Diego ComicCon in 2015, released globally July 19, 2016 on VOD and digital by Samuel Goldwyn Films.  The film is currently available for pre-order on iTunes. According to Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films: “We live in a world of mass-produced product yet everyone is looking for individuality.  VINTAGE TOMORROWS showcases uniqueness of character and creativity in a fascinating world that brings the past as well as the future together in a refreshing and entertaining format.” Filmmaker Byrd McDonald stated:  “Our documentary VINTAGE TOMORROWS showcases the amazing minds and artistic creations of dozens of individuals in the steampunk community.  We are overjoyed to be partnering with an indie-doc champion like Samuel Goldwyn Films.  Their expertise in distribution will help bring this vital and relevant cultural movement to a global audience.”CoreyRaygun16

Don’t miss a chance to experience steampunk’s close-up via this film. It may draw you in to become part of the movement. Incidentally Byrd said he’d also noted the addition of Digerati to the mix, with Arduino and Raspberry Pi enthusiasts on board. Which means steampunk is set for a 2.0 in its ever-changing shape-shift toward the mainstream. Meanwhile, director Byrd McDonald will be working next on a “feminist interpretation of Chainsaw movies.” Find out more about Byrd from Porter Panther, and see Vintage Tomorrows screening schedule, downloads and more possibilities online here.

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From Punch Cards to Stunt Hacking to Alex Gibney’s ZERO DAYS & Symantec’s Eric Chien on Stuxnet

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

You have to hand it to filmmaker Alex Gibney (GOING CLEAR), he has taken on everything from Eliot Spitzer’s political downfall to the Enron debacle to Lance Armstrong’s doping to soft-money “super-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff to Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, not to mention Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti. So it comes as no surprise that Gibney goes from wrestling Xenu to rattling the NSA’s cage with ZERO DAYS, his new “thriller” documentary about cyber-warfare phenom Stuxnet. ZeroDaysPoster16Released by Magnolia Pictures, Participant Media and Showtime, ZERO DAYS screens in theaters July 8, also on demand at Amazon Video.  Gibney’s doc defines Stuxnet as “self-replicating computer malware (known as a ‘worm’ for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the US and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately [mutated] and spread beyond its intended target.”

If that’s not enough to get your smartphone wiretapped, who knows what is? And that’s why this doc is really tricky: it names not only names, but Nation States. Plus it lets us know that among the three probable classes of cyber-attack originators, nation-states are the most dangerous. The two other classes being: cyber-criminals, and hacktivists.

But c’mon, for the rest of us workaday non-security-classified folks out there, it is a little difficult to fully grasp the “Olympic Games”-scale virus unleashed on Iran’s nuclear power facility — as detailed in Alex Gibney’s documentary ZERO DAYS via expert interviews — without some backstory on the issues involved. In a moment, Symantec’s brilliant code-cracker Eric Chien who is featured in this film with his boss Liam O’Murchu will chime in, for now let’s rewind the digital clock to analog times for some perspective.

Clear your mind, take a breath, and think about the technology issues from a long angle. Think about the progression from English mechanical engineer Charles Babbage (1791-1871), who with assistance from mathematician Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), came up with the first mechanical engineering computer, the Difference Engine, as a starting point. Mechanical computing (i.e.; tabulating polynomials, i.e. figuring out huge numbers calculations) in the Industrial Age leads to punch cards that control looms in the textile industry. This hold-over method, punch cards, remains in place even up until the 1980’s as analog goes 100-percent digital. A fast-forward timeline means punch-card key machines to vacuum tubes with wires to British polymath Alan Turing (1912-1954), who in the 1940’s added to the war effort by not only “cracking” the German U-Boat message encoder, Engima, but understood and foresaw the possibilities for “large scale digital technology” via the encrypted telephone messages between Churchill and Roosevelt. That said, all the elements are in place to usher in the world of cyber attacks. Consider the sabotage possibilities in the first punch-card driven looms.

If you’re familiar with “spook hardware” such as the Enigma and its US/UK code-breaking counterparts from WWII, ZERO DAYS scope is an easy leap. You just need an update on the acronyms and players we now face in Cyberwar. Cyber attacks, cyber terrorism, and all other penetrations into our enterprise-grade technology require counter measures — only now we’re talking software, or code, and the stakes are world-breaking with the nuclear weapon card in play.

Another helpful insight before seeing ZERO DAYS is the US’s relation to the Shah of Iran. Because before he was deposed, the Shah of Iran received the first piece of their nuclear technology from the US, in support of power generation. The Christian Science Monitor did a round-up once that put dates on the whole mess. “In 1967, under the ‘Atoms for Peace’ program launched by President Eisenhower, the US sold the Shah of Iran’s government a 5-megawatt, light-water type reactor… the foundation of Iran’s nuclear power program.” The Shah reigned from Sept. 16, 1941 until Feb. 11, 1979, when he was toppled by the Iranian Revolution. However questionable the Shah’s regime was, it’s axiomatic that something would go wrong once the largely secular world of his rule fell into theological hands as the 1980’s began.

Next things go from theological to zealot by US estimations, and then there’s Sept. 11, 2001. Allegations are Iran is inching its way toward the “bomb,” because it’s not a huge stretch from power-reactor fuel to weapons-grade material. You can see why the US Government would consider cyberwar in the wake of 911, especially since the hardware and software for their nuclear program comes mostly from the West (read: a way in via upgrades to the tech). Plus, would anyone ever find out? Someone high up likely gambled on the wrong side of “No.” So malware was secretly engineered, somewhere, to attack the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz facility. Alex Gibney’s take on it is, “I started out making a small film investigating ‘Stuxnet…’ What I discovered was a massive clandestine operation involving the CIA, the NSA, the US Military and Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad to build and launch secret cyber ‘bombs’ that could plunge the world into a devastating series of… attacks on critical infrastructure, shutting down electricity… this science fiction scenario…”

That’s Mr. Going Clear for you, outing the whole gamut of international players from “three-letter agencies” to nation states. Gibney steps into the lion’s den, where most of us would shiver and recite the Cowardly Lion’s “I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks” from the Wizard of Oz. But then you talk to someone like Eric Chien, Technical Director of Symantec’s Security Technology and Response division, who was among the first handful to discover and name the Stuxnet virus, and it becomes clear that the message of ZERO DAYS is not rehashing old news about the perils of technology.

Although it is public record that Belorussian engineer Sergey Ulasen was the first responder to report the then-unnamed Stuxnet virus as a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) reboot over there in the Iranian nuke-related nest of computers; the message of this film is really about the knowledge gap between policy makers and digital purveyors, who, at the speed of technology, will reshape the world for us if we don’t watch out. 2016-06-28 11.17.02In person, Eric Chien is incredibly personable, a youthful exemplar of next-generation digital professionals (read: Not Nerds) in business casual attire with stand-up bangs and a friendly, open demeanor. He twists his wedding ring briefly, the only sign that being nervous is normal under the weight of the controversial topics involved. Then Chien uses his outdoor voice, launches into a patter that suggests he is used to briefing Subcommittees and Fortune 100 clients on the in’s and out’s of tech topics, which he does in real life. “We make Norton Anti-Virus,” he begins, to kind of define Symantec. He also apologizes that colleague Liam O’Murchu couldn’t make it. “He had his hands on it first,” Chien adds, meaning Stuxnet.

“Normally what we do, day-to-day, is we look at the latest (cyber) attacks. About one million a day. A lot of it is handled through automation, which automatically create fixes for them. When we come across some big attacks, we share (with stakeholders)” pieces of the code for others to monitor or give feedback on. “Recently someone tried to transfer $1 BN from the Bank of Bangladesh,” he said. This discovery brought back some similarities to the adrenaline of the Stuxnet discovery. It’s fascinating to watch Eric speak frankly and transparently from the super-secret cyber-crypto world where “pen tests” — penetration tests of security systems — make these reverse-engineers just as tricky as their malware-making counterparts. “You never want to roll out your own crypto,” he corrects. “You really want it to be peer-reviewed.”

Chien will let slip a few telling details that demonstrate how John le Carré his day job is, like “when you have black motorcycles, wearing all black following you, behind you, you start to wonder.” Or, on why Stuxnet wasn’t part of the Snowden leak, he casually mentions, “Edward Snowden didn’t leak this because those files are stored on a different server.” Then, ironically, Chien says he is not under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), because “we don’t have a two-tiered system. We share this information with our clients… we would never work for hostile nations.”

This charming ambassador of tech will also note that ‘zero-day’ is a term that basically means the virus is discovered at the same time the vulnerability is revealed that makes the exploit even possible. (Think of it as a hole-in-one golf shot, but nobody knew there was a hole there until the ball hit. Now you’ve got two problems.)  “Stuxnet had not one, but four zero-days in it,” Chien emphasizes, “even one zero day is rare, but four?” This is how “we knew nation states must be involved.” But breaking the code, finding out what this virus was supposed to do “was the needle in the haystack. I mean it had a (kill) date in it, but it was not easy to figure out.” Then Symantec’s wizard recites that oft-quoted refrain that while most attacks take his team about “three minutes to crack, this one took three months.”

“Liam (O’Murchu) is the first one who picked it up. I then pulled it as well.” The first approach was “What is this thing? Is it trying to like hold my computer for ransom? Steal some documents?” But the most impactful theory was covert espionage. “As we began to rip (the code) apart, we saw that it was (targeted at) Siemens PLC.” PLC stands for programmable logic controller, which, from Siemens controls functions for a very specific piece of hardware, in this case the rotating nuclear centrifuge at Natanz in Iran. “We ordered the exact same model of PLC. We were expecting something the size of a mini-frigerator. But when the box came, it was the size of a book!”

There’s something admiring in the way Eric Chien describes the puzzle pieces from the dark side that Alex Gibney has detailed in ZERO DAYS. “The code was perfect, there were no errors in it, that’s how we knew it was a nation state,” Chien admits. “The way Alex incorporated the exact pieces of code (from Stuxnet) at exactly the right moment it is being discussed on screen really impressed us.” By “us” Eric Chien means the super smart people working on encryption, the white hats.

When pressed, Chien adds that most technology-related movies and TV projects are “ridiculously inaccurate,” but not ZERO DAYS. Or the USA Network TV show Mr. Robot, which he admits to watching, a huge endorsement.  But if you ask who his favorite hackers are, Chien demurs. “Today it’s just stunt hacking, I don’t find that interesting. Doing something just so you can show you can do it. Like hacking a PLC to show you can do it.” Then he pauses, “you know Captain Crunch? I liked him.” Captain Crunch (a/k/a John Draper) was Steve Jobs‘ favorite hacker, the guy ‘who stole from Ma Bell’ back in the old days of blueboxing by “whistling” analog tunes into a phone receiver to fool the network into thinking it was a digital tone to allow free long distance. Then if you ask: ‘Do you think smart people will take over the world, since there is such a knowledge gap with policy makers?’ Symantec’s distinguished engineer will smile, and come back with “the world is not a meritocracy,” as if the concept of brains over brawn has been debunked throughout history.

In one parting quote, Chien remarks “there’s something to be said for obsolescence. Because when Russia tried to shut down (the grid) in the Ukraine, their technology was so old, they could actually go to each site and crank it back on by hand.” That’s not in ZERO DAYS, but Nitro Zeus is. So now you’re armed with enough information on the backstory to grasp the enormity of ZERO DAYS. A must-watch, Gibney’s newest premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and opens July 8. To find out more, visit the official site here for screen times and venues.

 

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HELL OR HIGH WATER? That Would Be Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine & Ben Foster in a Western

SCREENMANCER WESTERN ALERT: Who doesn’t love Dust & Feathers, the studio name for Westerns, redone well? That said, HELL OR HIGH WATER is a gritty modern bell-ringer set in West Texas where the poker tell between stand-up guys and gunslinger outlaws has blurred beyond all recognition. ChrisJeff16The killer cast includes Academy Award®-winner Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart,” “True Grit”), Chris Pine (“Star Trek,” “Into The Woods”), Ben Foster (“3:10 To Yuma,” “The Messenger”) and Gil Birmingham (“The Lone Ranger,” “Twilight”), HELL is produced by Sidney Kimmel, Peter Berg, Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn. Executive produced by Gigi Pritzker, Bill Lischak, Michael Nathanson, Rachel Shane, John Penotti and Bruce Toll, this picture promises some lone prairie surprises.HellorHW16

The log line is: it’s a story about the collision of the Old and New West, two brothers — Toby (Chris Pine), a straight-living, divorced father trying to make a better life for his son; and Tanner (Ben Foster), a short-tempered ex-con with a loose trigger finger — come together to rob branch after branch of the bank that is foreclosing on their family land. The hold-ups are part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that powerful forces beyond their control have stolen from under their feet. Vengeance seems to be theirs until they find themselves in the crosshairs of a relentless, foul-mouthed Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last triumph on the eve of his retirement.
As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their plan, a showdown looms at the crossroads where the last honest law man and a pair of brothers with nothing to live for except family collide.

Jeff Bridges As We Know Him Through His Infographics

Here’s all the relevant details on this new release from distributor CBS Films & Lionsgate...

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham

Directed By: David Mackenzie

Written By: Taylor Sheridan

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Release Date: August 12, 2016 (Limited); August 19, 2016 (Wide)

Catch it before the creek rises, starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Gil Birmingham, and irected by David Mackenzie (Starred Up). Written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario).

Screenmancer is a gathering place for people who make movies and Westerns.

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Rihanna Talks “Sledgehammer” & Why She’s a Super #StarTrekFan

SCREENMANCER STAR TREK BEYOND ALERT: STAR TREK BEYOND the hyped next installment in the Star Trek franchise, created by legend Gene Roddenberry and reintroduced by J.J. Abrams in 2009, returns with director Justin Lin (THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise) at the helm of this epic voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise and her intrepid crew.

Pop star Rihanna stars in this featurette to talk about adding her voice to the global sensation that is Star Trek.

In BEYOND the Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a mysterious new enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

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STAR TREK BEYOND is in theaters July 22, 2016 and here are some wowmazing stats on how the franchise does by country and who’s watching the sky. First, a few details about this newest director tapped to helm the franchise, Justin Lin.

 

#StarTrekMovie 7/22/16 opens.

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