It can be tough to wrangle a truly good performance out of a child actor, for pretty obvious reasons. So it may help if the kid in question has no idea he’s even acting. For his sophomore directorial effort End of Love, actor/filmmaker Mark Webber (you may recognize him as Stephen Stills from Scott Pilgrim) cast his two-year-old son Isaac without explaining to the boy that they were making a movie, and then hired some of his better known actor pals to improvise around Isaac’s blissfully oblivious “performance.”

Webber leads as a youngish father struggling to take care of his son as he grieves the death of his wife (Frankie Shaw, who is also Isaac’s real, non-dead mom). Among the activities he engages in while trying to pull himself together are an audition with Amanda Seyfried, a party at Michael Cera‘s, and an awkward affair with Lydia (Shannyn Sossamon). Watch the trailer after the jump.

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Rapper T.I. has done a few movies (Takers, American Gangster, ATL) but has had his cinematic aspirations derailed by little things like county jail and federal prison stints. But he’s back at work, and in an interview conducted at SXSW, T.I. said that he’s got a couple of film projects on the horizon.

Specifically, the rapper said “there is a Marvel Comic franchise that [has] been inquiring about my availability for some time,” and “we also have a new Tom Cruise film with Doug Liman… I have that as well, on the horizon.” That would be We Mortals Are, once titled All You Need is Kill, the film in which Cruise plays a soldier in a future war who is killed, but has to relive his last hours, Groundhog Day-style, over and over again. I liked one draft of the script quite a bit; the film could be a wild, action-packed and slightly weird experience.

Check the video interview after the break, and get news of Christopher Meloni’s new indie, and the dark comedy that has recruited actors like Gillian Jacobs and Ned Beatty. Read More »

‘A Bag of Hammers’ Trailer

South by Southwest is still going strong down in Austin, Texas and if you’re following along on Twitter, there are a ton of movies that should have hit your radar. Films like Kill List, The FP, Bridesmaids and Attack the Block just to name a few. Another one that seems to have people talking is A Bag of Hammers, one of those classic, festival ready indie comedies starring co-writer Jake Sandvig, Jason Ritter and Rebecca Hall. Directed and co-written by Brian Crano, the film is about two immature friends whose lives are changed when an abandoned child enters their lives. Check out the trailer and more after the break. Read More »

Jesse Eisenberg Joins Cast of ‘Free Samples’

Briefly: You’ve got to appreciate a move like this. Jesse Eisenberg is enjoying justified praise for his work in The Social Network, and will very likely score an Oscar nomination in the deal. So what does he do to follow up the film? He signs on to a small-ish indie dramedy called Free Samples.

The film features Jess Weixler (Teeth) as “a law school drop-out who fills in as a server as a friend’s food truck, where she doles out free samples of ice cream. The job tests her patience, and while she figures out what to do with her life, she finds herself being courted by a young man (Eisenberg) whom she barely remembers from the night before.”

The film is in production now. Jay Gammill (Hello, My Name is Charlie) directs from a script by Jim Beggarly, and Jason Ritter (who was in The Education of Charlie Banks with Eisenberg), Tippi Hedren, Hallie Pfeiffer, Keir O’Donnell, Jocelyn Donahue and Matt Walsh fill out the cast.

Jesse Eisenberg will next be seen in 30 Minutes or Less from his Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, and voices a character in the animated film Rio. [The Wrap]

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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?

Afterschool Trailer

I have great feelings of amity towards documentaries that pick apart the lives of teens and films that try and get it right with regards to giving us people who seem real, not grown-ups asked to put on varsity jackets.

PBS had a fabulous documentary series years ago called American High and not even last years’ American Teen could capture the level of verisimilitude that’s non-existent in the fluff that passes for teen drama on television today. That’s why movies like Assassination of a High School President, Elephant or even the crowd pleasing Heathers are such an attraction to me; it’s the visceral, evocative explorations into the pain of what it’s like to be a teen and misunderstood as hormones crackle like sparklers.
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Fred Durst‘s directorial debut The Education of Charlie Banks premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival to mostly positive reviews (which surprised most everyone because, well, the film was made by the frontman for the nu metal band Limp Bizkit). And despite positive reviews, the film has remained unreleased. Even Durst’s critically bashed follow-up, the 2008 sports film The Longshots was released last Summer.

But now Anchor Bay is finally going to put Banks in theaters on March 27th, and they have released a theatrical one-sheet poster and a trailer to promote the film. I’ve heard good things and I’m a sucker for coming of age films so I’m interested. However, it’s certainly not the best trailer, and it definitely could have done without the cheesey voice over. Check out both the poster and the trailer after the jump.

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2009 Sundance Film Festival Competition Films Announced

The Sundance Institute has announced the first half of the line-up for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Included in the first press release are the films in competition in the Drama and Documentary segments. 3,661 feature-length films were submitted this year, which is 37 more films than last year. For the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, 118 feature-length films were selected including 87 world premieres, 19 North American premieres, and 4 U.S. premieres representing 21 countries with 42 first-time filmmakers, including 28 in competition. Before we get into the full list, I would like to point out some of the films that particularly interest me. Also, now should be the time for me to admit that I focus more on English-language films, so my foreign picks will probably be lacking.

The Wrestler screenwriter Robert Siegel makes his directorial debut with Big Fan, which stars Patton Oswalt as a parking garage attendant and hardcore New York Giants football fan who struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player. Michael Rapaport also stars. I loved the humor that Siegel brought to The Wrestler, and with Oswalt in the lead – this one is a no brainer.

The Office star John Krasinski makes his directorial debut with a big screen adaptation of David Foster Wallace‘s book Breif Interviews with Hideous Men. The story follows Julianne Nicholson as a doctoral candidate in anthropology who “tries to remedy the heartache” of being dumped with little explanation, by interviewing men about their behavior. Krasinski, Dominic Cooper and Timothy Hutton also star.

In Cold Souls, Paul Giamatti stars as a famous American actor who in the midst of an existential crisis, “explores soul extraction as a relief from the burdens of daily life.” Okay, doesn’t have the best plot description but Giamatti is involved, as well as David Strathairn, Emily Watson, and Lauren Ambrose.


Emmy Rossum stars in Adam Salky‘s feature directorial debut Dare, about “three very different teenagers discover that, even in the safe world of a suburban prep school, no one is who she or he appears to be.” IMDB also provides a different teaser synopsis: “The good girl, the outsider and the bad boy…like you’ve never seen them before.” This is a feature length adaptation of Salky’s 2005 short film which was met with acclaim at film festivals. I’m a sucker for coming of age films.

Everyone is talking about Paper Heart, the film that Michael Cera made under the raydar with his girlfriend Charlyne Yi. The film is apparently a meta-love story with the stars playing themselves (?). The pre-festival hype aside, I would see this film based on Cera’s involvement alone.

Teeth star Jess Weixler returns to Sundance opposite Jason Ritter in a big screen adaptation of Peter and Vandy, the Drama Desk Nominated Best Play that was lauded for its “almost embarrassing intimacy and killer comic timing.” The film tells the story of a contemporary Manhattan love story, told out of order, with no beginning and no end. Festival programer Geoffrey Gilmore says that “One of the themes” of this year’s festival is “the kind of new-generation love story,” … a new “way of telling love stories right now by a new, younger generation that’s different, that’s fresh, that’s original.” This and the Cera film Paper Heart seems to fit into this statement.

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Jeff Daniels stars as the title character Arlen Faber, a reclusive author of a groundbreaking spiritual book awakens to new truths when two strangers enter his life. The film also stars Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah), Olivia Thirlby (Juno, Wackness), and Lauren Gram. The film was formerly titled “The Dream of the Romans“, which is a much better title if you ask me.


In Good Hair, Comedian Chris Rock turns documentary filmmaker when he sets out to examine the culture of African-American hair and hairstyles. I’m not sure if it will be good, like many of Chris Rock’s films, but I’ll always be there for anything the guy creates.

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Documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler was given unprecedented access for a film titled “The September Issue“. Cutler and crew shot Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and her team over the corse of nine months as they prepared the 2007 VogueSeptember issue, widely accepted as the “fashion bible” for the year’s trends. I’ve always been interested in the world of journalism, even if the Fashion world might be a very different realm. And I must admit that The Devil Wears Prada has me very interested to catch this one.

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You can read the full press release (which includes a listing of all the films announced today) after the jump.

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