You won’t be seeing too many of the films that premiered at Sundance 2011 get a major release this year, but that’s not entirely bad news. Though most of the sales were on the small side, a solid 39 films walked away with a distribution deal of some kind. This means that — whether it be through VOD or a limited theatrical release — there’s a good chance that any Sundance flicks you’ve been interested in checking out upon reading our coverage will be available for viewing in some capacity. This may not be the glowing indie revival I’ve been hoping for, but given the state of Hollywood at the moment, I’ll take it.

As for the films that didn’t get picked up, there may be hope for them yet. Weeks have passed since the Sundance Film Festival ended, but the sales keep on coming. The three latest pictures to be acquired are Higher Ground (the directorial debut from Vera Farmiga, which she also stars), the documentary Magic Trip (co-written/co-directed by Alex Gibney, about the psychedelic ’60s cross-country bus tour taken by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters) and another documentary entitled The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (about the Black Power and Black Panther movements in the US). Learn more after the break. Read More »

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One of the first big pieces of news out of Sundance is that Universal will fund a documentary about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, directed by Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Casino Jack and the United States of Money). Together with the biopic of Mr. Assange that is about to go into development at a different company, that would make him quite the man of the moment — if he hadn’t already been the man of the moment thanks to the actions of WikiLeaks over the past months.

[UPDATE: Deadline says that HBO is also developing a film about Mr. Assange. This one would be a co-production with the BBC based on Raffi Khatchadourian‘s June 7, 2010 New Yorker article called No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency.]

More detail on each film after the break. Read More »

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?

Read More »

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?

Read More »

Magnolia Acquires Freakonomics Movie

Freakonomics

Magnolia Pictures has acquired the domestic distribution rights to the big screen adaptation of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner‘s bestselling book Freakonomics.

Like the book, the film examines human behavior with provocative and sometimes hilarious case studies, bringing together a dream team of filmmakers responsible for some of the most acclaimed and entertaining documentaries in recent years: Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Casino Jack and the United States of Money), Academy Award® nominees Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp), Academy Award® nominee Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight) and Seth Gordon (The King of Kong).

The film is set to premiere as the closing night film of the Tribeca Film Festival in early May. No release date has been announced. You can read the whole press release after the jump.

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abramoff

For once it isn’t M. Night Shyamalan getting stuck into a bitter dispute over a film’s title (see The Woods/The Village and the Avatars) but some fresh meat. The combatants this time are documentarian Alex Gibney and sometime documentarian, sometime fiction filmmaker George Hickenlooper. At this moment, they’re both at work with films about the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff – Gibney a doc, Hickenlooper a drama set to star Kevin Spacey – and both of the films are claiming the title Casino Jack.

A cease and desist letter has been sent to Hickenlooper from the legal representatives of Gibney, threatening “any and all necessary action” if Casino Jack the second doesn’t budge over and find a new handle. What could “any and all necessary action” actually amount to?

Some excerpts from the letter and from Hickenlooper’s stinging response coming right up after the break.

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