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Why You & Oscar Voters Have to See WIND RIVER, Renner & Gil Birmingham

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Jeremy Renner so far, except for his turn in Affleck’s THE TOWN where he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2011, has not been known for switching up his game. Until WIND RIVER, co-starring Elizabeth Olsen with Graham Greene, that is.

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Even as Renner received a Best Actor Oscar nom for HURT LOCKER in 2010, there was almost a built-in plausibility to that character. In WIND RIVER, there’s a built-in implausibility to his hunter-tracker character that separates this performance from anything Renner has done to date. He’s ‘not that guy,’ in other words, but he plays this guy so well that Jeremy Renner deserves some recognition for this one.
What’s the movie about? An unsolved murder of a Native American woman, whose brutal end echoes a loss for Renner’s character and his First Nations wife. But that is just a starting point. Olsen is the FBI agent called in to investigate, and she’s perfectly cast. And this isn’t just a snowy whodunit, ps, not at all.
The director is Taylor Sheridan, actor from FX TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” who sharpened his storytelling skills as the writer of SICARIO (2015). He had a role in HELL OR HIGH WATER, which he also wrote, and leads us to the next actor to break out in WIND RIVER.

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Gil Birmingham, yes, that guy we’ve seen for years in movies — most notably as the affable wolf-pack father Billy Black in the mawkish TWILIGHT series. Now he gets his game upped too. In fact, Birmingham’s performance is almost a personal essay on Native American portrayal in Hollywood movies, with a performance piece aspect. Imagine, going from camp “Indian Chief” on TV series “Charmed” to serviceable in HELL OR HIGH WATER to superb in WIND RIVER. Gil Birmingham has been Everyman of First Nations’ roles on screen; in WIND RIVER, he plays out the hidden conflicted emotions of being Native and American.
Truth be told, this movie wasn’t even on the radar of must-see’s, just a recommend from a screenwriter friend. And then? Remember how WINTER’S BONE catapulted Jennifer Lawrence into prominence? Well, WIND RIVER has that feeling with the brutality of silence, bitter cold, but with First Nations people enduring the white cold and the deafening winter. It is a must-see.

Here’s Your Quick Look at WIND RIVER

The Weinstein Company (TWC) released this film Aug. 4, after a showing at Sundance earlier in the year. TWC is not even throwing it late in the year to hype their Oscar chances. But if you want to know why WIND RIVER is more compelling in many ways than a front-runner like DUNKIRK? With DUNKIRK, you’re watching a filmmaker, Chris Nolan. In WIND RIVER, you’re watching a film. Storyteller versus storytelling.

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WIND RIVER is why movies are so important, because we can share an experience and go into a story with some remarkable performances, not to mention a look into lives we don’t often see on screen with such balance and counterbalance. It’s that experience of being in the dark to see moments on screen that shed light on who we are as people, native or not, American or not, but moviegoers all.

Find the movie here on Facebook. Then go see it. Seriously.

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Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in MOLLY'S GAME

It’s Only a Movie: Batman & Spiderman Walk Into MOLLY’S GAME, But Jessica Chastain Doesn’t Cave to Superheroes

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Holy Toledo, sometimes an insider Hollywood story is so good, you see how the game is played.

Jessica Chastain in MOLLY'S GAME

Jessica Chastain in MOLLY’S GAME

So once upon a Batman, and a few-movies-ago Spiderman, the caped one and the web slinger became poker fanatics, like super fanatics, in a snake-pit-named Hollywood club’s back room, a club once owned by a Pirate. True story, plus there’s an ex-Olympic skier with the same name as a character from James Joyce’s opus “Ulysses” who ran the tables, the whole game. But in a short decade the card mania went awry, as doomed as an Irish-made ocean liner, whose lead also flipped his chips there as the face-card bash spread from LA to NYC to the FBI.

Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in MOLLY'S GAME

Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in MOLLY’S GAME

MOLLY’S GAME is based on the Joycean real-life Molly Bloom’s 2014 book “Molly’s Game: High Stakes, Hollywood’s Elite, Hotshot Bankers, My Life in the World of Underground Poker,” from HarperCollins. Her memoir begins circa 2004 and spans almost a decade of decadence. Lawless screen siren Jessica Chastain is die-cast as the ‘Poker Princess’ who found her mettle dealing with all the superheroes’ undesirable antics. Red is on fire in this one, shall we say.
Aaron Sorkin’s movie mostly deals with Bloom’s fight for survival with the Feds on gambling and likely racketeering charges, but Chastain also has to find an air hole in a superego’s off-screen realm where every A-Lister is vying for all the oxygen in a room where huge money stakes makes everyone a lot uglier in a hurry. As in “bark like a seal,” ugly.
Ultimately Batman and versions-ago Spiderman end up in high-profile divorces while their wronged spouses, one a movie star, the other a studio mogul’s daughter, end up vindicated. Wait, scratch that, will end up vindicated as MOLLY’S GAME is released by STX Films on Nov. 22. So tempting to say *payback is a bitch,* but you get the drift.

Jessica Chastain and Chris O'Dowd in MOLLY'S GAME

Jessica Chastain and Chris O’Dowd in MOLLY’S GAME

Again this gambit/movie comes from the deft hand of writer/director Aaron Sorkin, who literally can make a piece of paper into a smash hit. Sorkin has so many credits, though THE SOCIAL NETWORK rings a bell to most people.
Amy Pascal, ex-SONY hack now indie purveyor, lays down her aces as a producer; Idris Elba also comes into play here as memorable onscreen; with Kevin Costner taking a break from his own helming ways to add a hell of a sweet cameo. Michael Cera is the pivot point, a clue to Hollywood’s real elite players mentioned above. You gotta see this story to believe it. Bridesmaid’s Chris O’Dowd rounds out a great cast here that includes Graham Greene, Joe Keery and Rachel Skarsten.

Make Your Bets This Will Be Something of a Royal Flush

MOLLY’S GAME will open first at TIFF, Sept. 7 – 17, mark it down, dude.

Playing Pick-Up STX, Or Close to the Bone On Official Notes?

MOLLY’S GAME is based on the true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who learned that there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led us to believe.

In Theaters November 22, 2017

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Chris O’Dowd, Michael Cera, Joe Keery, Rachel Skarsten, Graham Greene and Brian d’Arcy James

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Writer: Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin. Based on the memoir by Molly Bloom

Producers: Stuart M. Besser, Mark Gordon, Leopoldo Gout, Matt Jackson, Lauren Lohman, Lyn Lucibello and Amy Pascal

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STX Entertainment Is Brave
STX Entertainment is a fully integrated, diversified, global media company designed from inception to unlock value from the 21st Century’s changed media landscape. STX specializes in the development, production, marketing and distribution of talent-driven films, television, and digital media content, with a unique ability to maximize the impact of content across worldwide, multiplatform distribution channels, including unparalleled global capabilities and direct passage into the China market.

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MOLLY’S GAME fans out this loaded hand on November 22, 2017.

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