One of the best films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Steve James‘ documentary about film critic Roger Ebert Life Itself, has just been picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures. The company reportedly beat out several suitors including IFC, Oscilloscope and The Weinstein Company. They’re looking at a summer theatrical and on-demand release followed by a screening on CNN.
Read our wildly positive review here, interview with the director here and the full press release below. Read More »
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Steve James credits Roger Ebert with launching his career. It was Ebert’s championing of James’ first film Hoop Dreams, at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, which put that film on people’s radars. James scored an Oscar nomination and the film enjoyed a successful box office run. Afterwards, the two remained friends and James was eventually tasked with directing Life Itself, a documentary based on Ebert’s memoir.
Soon after filming began, Ebert tragically passed away. James endured and finished the film in time for the 20th anniversary of the beginning of his relationship with Ebert, the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. It’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking look at the career of the man many consider to be the most influential film critic in history.
During Sundance I was lucky enough to talk to James about the film. We discussed his approach to the story, balancing the tragedy with humor, the relationship between critic and filmmaker, and the choice to include Gene Siskel’s story. Check it out below. Read More »
Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 by Angie Han
Martin Scorsese just released The Wolf of Wall Street and is gearing up for Silence, but he’s sneaking one more movie in between them. The director is headed to the Berlin Film Festival next month for a work-in-progress screening of his as-yet-untitled documentary about the New York Review of Books. David Tedeschi co-directed. Get all the details on Scorsese’s new movie after the jump.
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How great is the story at the heart of the doc The Battered Bastards of Baseball? Only a handful of people have seen the film so far, which documents the history of independent baseball team the Portland Mavericks, which had a Hollywood pedigree and earned a huge fanbase thanks to earnest, accomplished play. The film just premiered at Sundance. There isn’t even a distribution deal set for the doc. Nevertheless, it is already set to be adapted into a dramatic feature, with Fast and the Furious director Justin Lin producing and set to direct.
Update: Actually, Todd Field (In the Bedroom, Little Children) will write and direct, with Lin producing, contrary to the first report about the project. That’s actually a very appropriate call, as we explain below.
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Posted on Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by Angie Han
Get your glasses on, because we’ve got a lot to look at in this edition of Star Wars Bits. After the jump:
- Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys hits DVD
- Peruse some gorgeous fan-made posters for Episode VII
- … and some others for Episodes IV through VI
- Check out more making-of photos from the original trilogy
- See Darth Vader ride a unicycle while playing the bagpipes
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Everyone knows Kurt Russell as one of his generation’s most recognizable and badass actors. Some might even know that he was once a professional athlete. What most people don’t know, however, is that Russell’s father, Bing Russell, was even more eclectic. A famous actor in his own right, the elder Russell eventually used his Hollywood fame to start an independent minor league baseball team called the Portland Mavericks.
That incredible story acts as the epicenter of The Battered Bastards of Baseball, a documentary that premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Co-directed by Chapman Way and Maclain Way (Two of Bing Russell’s grandsons), it’s a fascinating and fun look at one of baseball’s hidden and heartwarming stories. Read More »
A movie about the life of a film critic might sound a tad indulgent, but there’s never been another film critic with the influence and character of Roger Ebert. Almost anyone who’s ever seen a movie in the US (and many other countries) has heard his name or taken one of he and partner Gene Siskel’s patented “Two Thumbs Up” recommendations to the box office. As a young film fan, I remember scouring the TV Guide searching for the Sunday morning broadcasts of Siskel & Ebert, and devouring every episode. In particular, I’ll never forget an episode where Ebert dissected Quentin Tarantino’s camerawork in Pulp Fiction. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of film language. Ebert had that effect on a lot of people.
If Ebert opened up that world to people then Steve James‘ latest documentary Life Itself opens Ebert to the world. Based on Ebert’s autobiography of the same name, the film tells Ebert’s life story, yes, but it does so via the framework of our own love of the movies. Great care is taken to specifically illustrate not only how Ebert changed the face of film criticism, but how he helped us all discover our own passion for the movies.
Make no mistake though, this isn’t some simple love letter. Life Itself is a warts and all dissection as well as a beautiful tribute. Issues such as alcoholism, struggles with weight, ego and sex are all part of his story. This is a vast, entertaining and thought-provoking look at Ebert the man and Ebert the icon.
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The Roger Corman-produced version of The Fantastic Four, from 1994, is like an optical illusion. Every time I try to watch the thing, I get about five minutes in before my eyes and brain resolutely decide to look at anything else. The term “unwatchable” gets thrown around a fair bit, but Corman’s Fantastic Four is a great candidate to define the term.
With a wave of superhero movies in full swing, two studio-made Fantastic Four movies behind us and a new one slated to shoot in March, it is inevitable that people will go back to Corman’s movie. It was never officially released, but the enterprising viewer can easily find it online. Now there’s also a documentary, called Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s ‘The Fantastic Four’. A trailer has hit, and you can have a look below. Read More »