Jason Reitman, director of Thank You For Smoking and Juno, joined Twitter a few days ago to provide a few updates about his post-production work on the forthcoming Up in the Air, starring George Clooney. “A brief chronicle of my attempt to finish my film in time for the Toronto Film Festival,” he calls it. (I’m continually pleased by the evolving capabilities of the Internet to allow me to observe creators at work while making me feel as is I’m working at the same time.) So while the film may well still have a December release date, it could well premiere at Toronto (editors note: or sneak premiere at Telluride), just like Juno did.

The two posts that followed had some good, if brief info. First, that he’s nearly done with the first edit, which currently clocks at 2’04”. (Though I generally hate even reporting this; anyone who isn’t a distributor or exhibitor shouldn’t care about running time before seeing the movie.) The other is that Shadowplay, the outfit that animated the titles to his first two features, is doing the same for Up in the Air. Read More »


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The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

Paramount Vantage has released a new movie trailer for The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard on Moviefone, but Trailer Addict has the red band version. The film stars Jeremy Piven as a Used-car liquidator named Don Ready who is hired by a failing auto dealership to turn their Fourth of July sale into a majorly profitable event.

Basically, Piven is doing the same act that he does on Entourage, but instead of being a Hollywood agent, this time he’s a car salesman. Don’t get me wrong, the fast talking asshole character Piven has perfected is incredibly funny and suits him well. This film however seems to go for corny over-the-top gags, which just isn’t my brand of humor. Watch the trailer embedded after the jump.

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Michael Moore

Overture Films and Paramount Vantage will release Michael Moore‘s next documentary, which is yet-to-be-titled, on October 2nd 2009 — the same week that Moore’s feature debut Roger & Me made its U.S. Premiere 20 years ago.

And this new film comes full circle, with Moore returning to the issue that began his career: “the disastrous impact that corporate dominance and out-of-control profit motives have on the lives of Americans and citizens of the world. But this time the culprit is much bigger than General Motors, and the crime scene far wider than Flint, Michigan.”
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Michael Moore vs. The Economy

Michael Moore has supposedly decided to rework his latest documentary to focus on the United State’s recent economic problems and the global financial crisis. Originally set around the United State’s foreign policy and the aftermath of the Bush administration, THR says that the yet-to-be-titled film will now have a “end-of-the-empire tone”, which Moore hopes will give it “a more general feel that will untether it from a specific political moment.”

Once referred to as a sequel to Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore later went on to call it a book end to the series of films he has made over the course of the last two decades. Moore’s first film Roger & Me focused on American downsizing, and specifically that of the affects of the auto industry’s departure from Michigan. It will be interesting to see what Moore concludes from his six-film journey. I think many will admit that Sicko was has most mature film to date. Overture and Paramount Vantage have the distribution rights to the film, which could hit theaters as early as this spring.

Paramount has released a new trailer for Edward Zwick‘s Defiance, the upcoming Daniel Craig WWII film. The film ahs already been getting early award buzz, and the trailer looks powerful. The poster also premiered today on InContention. You can check that out below as well. As always, leave your comments and tell me what you think?

Official Plot Synopsis: Based on an extraordinary true story, DEFIANCE is an epic tale of family, honor, vengeance and salvation in World War II. The year is 1941 and the Jews of Eastern Europe are being massacred by the thousands. Managing to escape certain death, three brothers take refuge in the dense surrounding woods they have known since childhood. There they begin their desperate battle against the Nazis. Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell star as brothers who turn a primitive struggle to survive into something far more consequential – a way to avenge the deaths of their loved ones by saving thousands of others.

At first it is all they can do to stay alive. But gradually, as whispers of their daring spreads, they begin to attract others – men and women, young and old – willing to risk everything for the sake of even a moment’s freedom. Tuvia (CRAIG) is a reluctant leader and his decisions are challenged by his brother, Zus (SCHREIBER) who worries that Tuvia’s idealistic plans will doom them all. Asael (BELL) is the youngest – caught between his brothers’ fierce rivalry. As a brutal winter descends, they work to create a community, and to keep faith alive when all humanity appeared to be lost.

DEFIANCE is directed by Edward Zwick (BLOOD DIAMOND, GLORY) from a screenplay by Zwick and Clay Frohman, based on Nechama Tec’s non-fiction book of the same name. The producers are Zwick and Pieter Jan Brugge. The team recreating the forest haven includes two-time Oscar®-nominated cinematographer Eduardo Serra (BLOOD DIAMOND, GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING), production designer Dan Weil (BLOOD DIAMOND, THE BOURNE IDENTITY) and Oscar®-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan (GOSFORD PARK, A ROOM WITH A VIEW).

Defiance hits theaters on December 12th 2008.

The following quote is attributed to Variety’s Pam McClintock:

“The worst thing that ever happened to indie film was that the studios decided it was a good business.”

And while I agree with that statement, I’m not sure I agree that Independent Movies are on the “endangered species list” as Variety editor Peter Bart writes in his latest blog entry. Bart claims that studio expectations for their art house divisions were too high. “Their production budgets were too lofty and their marketing budgets too ambitious,” Bart writes, pointing towards the downward box office trend for specialty films in 2008. Here are the Variety numbers:

2006: $416 million
2007: $330 million
2008 (so far): $161 million

While I do agree that the specialty film market is on a down turn, I think it is unfair to point to 2008’s numbers as an accurate indication of such. For example, Juno was probably the biggest indie film of last year, earning $143 million, and it wasn’t released until December. And there was no indication that it would be such a huge hit. Heck, no one had even seen the film until Telluride/Toronto. So I think it is far to early to count 2008 out.

That said, I think the quality of films being produced is not the real problem, but instead the marketing pushes behind them. For my money, The Wackness and American Teen were on level with the mini-major indies of years past, but both films were poorly represented to the mainstream public. One only has to look at the posters for each of the films mentioned to understand a problem exists. But this isn’t anything new. Picturehouse released King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters last year, and it barely went on to break a half-million dollars domestically. The film is one of the best reviewed movies of all time, and has huge appeal to the number one demographic in this country.

The problem is that the mini-majors don’t know how to sell a movie that can’t sell itself. Sony Pictures Classics doesn’t understand how to market a film, instead they prey heavily on possible award nominations for the needed push. And Fox Searchlight seems to be the only studio that knows how to market these type of films correctly. They have released eight “studio indies” in the past five years that have made over $32 million at the box office. But on the other hand, even Searchlight’s future line-up seems a bit weak. Choke is a low-budget R-rated comedy with the ability to reach the college-aged crowd, but it certainly doesn’t have the mainstream appeal of a Juno or Little Miss Sunshine. Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie, but there is only so far a film like Choke can go.

So what is the answer? Is independent film dead? And if so, who is to blame?

Discuss: What do you guys think?

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

“Peace sign or eye gouge?”

Before we begin, there is something you must know about Brett Ratner. Similar to the combination of gremlins and water, when the moon is right and Ratner applies baby powder to his ass, out pop multiple epic-ly shitty movies. Tonight, it was thick. The trades are reporting that Ratner is attached to direct a Beverly Hills Cop 4 starring Eddie Murphy as Mr. Squirrel Axl Foley, the smooth talking, wisecracking character last seen with a gun near a Ferris wheel. Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the first two, isn’t getting on board, but Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Transformers, Doom) has taken the ticket to see this ride, opening summer 2010, through for Paramount. Something tells me the only thing separating Ratner’s BHC4 from Metro 2 will be a lack of cornrows and, perhaps, Judge Reinhold.

This announcement sumo wrestles with an earlier report in Ad Age about Brett Ratner Brands, a new marketing/consulting firm he’s starting. [Shudder] His first client is Guitar Hero, and tacked on at the end, it says that Ratner mentioned he “might be working on a movie adaptation of the video game God of War” for Sony. I’m sure some of our readers are pissed. The hit vid game adventure franchise has received wide critical/fanboy acclaim for an engrossing and violent storyline/aesthetic entrenched in Greek mythology; it’s generally agreed that GoW has cinematic and box office potential along the lines of Metal Gear Solid. Inside word is that Ratner’s involvement is extremely loose right now, so don’t obsess over the premature mediocre visions that melt inside your head. However, Ratner will definitely be moving into Uwe Boll’s territory in the future. Death match of the lessers!?!

Earlier we reported that Robert Downey Jr. may star as American publishing legend, Hugh Hefner, in a biopic entitled Playboy. Ratner’s been involved with this one for quite some time, and while it’s not official that he’ll direct, it’s generally assumed he will if Downey signs on. Ratner confirms to EW that he’s met with the Iron Man star, they’re both enthusiastic about the project, and it all depends on his response to the script…

“We’re gonna hand him the script very shortly. He loves the character and the role and we’ve been meeting with him on it. So, if he wants to do it, we’re excited to have him. We wanted him before Iron Man so we were ahead of the curve.”

Personally, I think Ratner was born to direct the Hef biopic. Glitzy Hollywood stories and semi-annual Chris Tucker comedies suit him perfectly. Okay, you can put away your ponchos. That’s all the Ratner news we’ll expose you to for now.

Discuss: While we’re at it, why doesn’t Ratner just combine BHC4 and Rush Hour 4? Who’s the audience for Beverly Hills Cop 4 in 2010 anyway? Who should direct God of War? Are we too easy on the guy?

Additional Sources: Cinematical/Film Junk

When it was first announced that Paramount Vantage and Overture would be distributing Michael Moore’s next film, the press release stated that “the subject matter of the new film is being kept under wraps by all the principals.” I think where people got confused is the release also called the film “a searing and provocative follow up to his groundbreaking 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11“. So everyone jumped on the story assuming it was the Fahrenheit 9/11 and 1/2 sequel that Moore mentioned in 2004. But Moore has stepped forward to clear the air:

“To just say it’s a sequel is so wrong,” Moore told The Associated Press. “It would be easier and safer to make a sequel, if that’s all it was, but this isn’t about Bush. We all know this. Regardless of who the president is come November, we have a big mess, a big, big mess to be cleaned up, and I don’t know whether it can be cleaned up. The toxicity of the spill may be so great that there’s nothing we can do about it. If that’s the case, where are we now as America and as Americans?”

Moore says that the documentary will go beyond Bush. The new film, due in 2009, will supposedly “examine America as an empire, study its standing since the Sept. 11 attacks and present revelations to surprise audiences as much as the first film did.”

“What I’m going to say in this film is what probably 70 percent of them (audiences) don’t want to hear,” Moore said.

But then comes this quote from chief executive officer of Overture Chris McGurk which confuses the matter further:

“The country has sort of been rotting from within, and the culprits are big business, big corporations, kind of the conservative government,” McGurk said. “`Bowling for Columbine,’ `Sicko,’ `Roger and Me’ all could have been episodes inside the context of this film.”

So wait, it’s about what? Is it a follow-up to Fahrenheit 9/11 or a followup to all of Moore’s films to date? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I was a little worried when they announced that a sequel was going forward. I’m a big fan of Moore’s work, but 9/11 was probably his least interesting documentary. And I’ll certainly be glad to see Moore leave Bush behind and do what he does best, tell a story. I’m just trying to figure out, what story will he tell this time?

Paramount Vantage and Overture Films have announced that they are co-financing and co-producing a sequel to Fahrenheit 9/11 with documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. Overture will distribute the film domestically, while Vantage will handle international. The big news is that Moore is leaving The Weinstein Co, which distributed his last two films. The yet-to-be-titled documentary will be released in mid-2009. Depending on what source you read, Moore is either already working on the documentary or will begin production immediately following Cannes. The completed film could feasibly premiere at next year’s Festival, if it isn’t released earlier.

Details are being kept tightly under wraps but Vantage topper Nick Meyer claims the movie has “global appeal”. All we know is the sequel will pick up where Fahrenheit left off. And while you might expect an “I Told You So type story of how Bush ruined the country, insiders expect the film to be much more than that.

Moore has made three of the top five grossing documentaries of all time and the original Fahrenheit is the highest grossing documentary ever domestically, earning $119.1 million and another $100 million internationally.