The story behind Machine Gun Preacher is inspiring: Sam Childers traded criminal activity for a life attempting to rescue children in Sudan who would otherwise be co-opted into warfare by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

But the movie that dramatises Sam Childers’ story — Gerard Butler stands in for Childers, with a seemingly unstable accent — looks like total by the numbers superficial claptrap. He finds Jesus! He finds a soul! He helps kids! And when the resistance army fights back, he picks up a bazooka and blows them to hell! It’s like Rambo: First Blood Part II for a more sensitive, post-2000 set, courtesy of Monsters Ball director Marc Forster. Check out the trailer below. Read More »

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If you’re more interested in the typical fall slate of festival entrees than summer’s glut of tentpole action fare, this is a great week. The Toronto International Film Festival announced the first wave of films that will play the fest in September. This is a batch of about 50 titles, which makes up only a small chunk of the programming. Usually TIFF features between two and three hundred films. But these are some of the highest-profile entries.

Below you’ll find rundowns on the new films from George Clooney, Bennett Miller, Jay & Mark Duplass, Todd Solondz, Francis Ford Coppola, Cameron Crowe, Sarah Polley, Fernando Meirelles, Lars von Trier, Marc Forster, Steve McQueen, Alexander Payne, and Lynne Ramsay. No announcement yet of the Midnight Madness programming choices, always some of my faves, but this is a great start. Read More »

There have been some conflicting, or perhaps we should say contended, reports about when and how Steven Soderbergh‘s new film Haywire will be released. Relativity financed the film and originally made a deal with Lionsgate to distribute in the US and worldwide, but when Relativity’s domestic distribution arm was formed, a long process of bringing the rights back to the company took place. There have been multiple possible release dates reported (January ’11, April ’11, then August ’11) and now the film will go out to the US via Relativity on January 20, 2012. Lionsgate will still distribute in foreign markets. Read More »

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I was left flabbergasted by the news that Chuck Russell would be directing a new 3D version of the Arabian Nights…or, at least, he’s directing a film called Arabian Nights. It seems to bear a passing resemblance at best to the original collection of folk tales. The film is about “a young commander who, after his king is killed in a palace coup, joins forces with Sinbad, Aladdin and his genie to rescue Scheherazade and her kingdom from dark powers.”

But now Anthony Hopkins looks to be playing the villain, opposite star Liam Hemsworth as the young commander, and that could be fun. Especially since Hopkins would be Pharotu, “an evil sorcerer who killed Sinbad’s love, a mermaid, and is looking to amass more magic for himself.” You’ll be forgiven for not remembering that character from your original reading of the Thousand Nights and One Night, aka the original Arabian Nights. (Interestingly enough, a listing on the New York Times suggest this role was once aimed at Christoph Waltz.) [THR]

After the break, Robert De Niro and more join The Killer Elite, and Gerard Butler gets some company in Machine Gun Preacher. Read More »

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After last week’s flurry of great big casting stories, we’re going to start small today. Paul Dano will appear in For Ellen, from director So Young Kim, who last made In Between Days. Dano will be “a struggling indie rocker who, after nearly wrecking his car during an overnight long-distance drive, arrives in a small Midwestern town to deal with his impending divorce.” I’m OK with all that, despite a logline that sounds like it covers such familiar and self-conscious indie ground, but less so with the word that Jon Heder will co-star. [Variety]

After the break, new stuff for Gerard Butler and a possible replacement for Keira Knightley in My Fair Lady. Read More »

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