Heaven Is For Real

What would you do if your kid had a near-death experience and came back to life claiming to have seen heaven? Real-life couple Todd and Sonja Burpo found themselves in exactly that situation, after their four-year-old son Colton barely survived surgery. While the parents were initially unsure what to believe, they eventually came to trust their son’s revelations, and in 2010 the father published the book Heaven Is For Real about the family’s experience.

And now, in 2013, Sony has turned that book into a movie. Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly play the mom and dad, while newcomer Connor Corum plays their blessed son. Margo Martindale and Thomas Haden Church also star, and Randall Wallace (Secretariat) directs. Watch the new trailer after the jump.

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/Film Visits The Set of ‘John Carter’

I visited Mars almost two years ago. It was April 2010 and the film set was in the middle of nowhere. Finding Nemo/WALL-E director Andrew Stanton was making his live-action debut John Carter, a big screen adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s novel A Princess of Mars. There had been many failed attempts to bring the material to the big screen, but somehow Stanton was able to convince the studio heads to let him be the one to make the adaptation at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Disney flew a group of journalists into the Las Vegas airport, where we boarded a shuttle bus to a location five hours away. A location so far away that we were no longer in Nevada. Located at the center of the Grand Circle, Big Water Utah has a population of only 417 people (which probably explains why you didn’t see many John Carter set photos). The set was located out in the middle of a desert.

You wouldn’t have any idea a big Hollywood production was being shot in town, aside from small yellow signs that read “BARSOOM” which help crew members find the small dirt road which leads to the set. And by set, I mean a few structures which have been constructed on the grey dirt in the middle of these large brown hills made of sandstone. Barsoom, of course, is what the Martians in the books call their home planet.

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Cameron Crowe‘s We Bought a Zoo unfolds in the kind of universe where characters say things like “If you do something for the right reasons, nothing can stop you,” and indeed, it turns out that if your heart is in the right place, Mother Nature herself will stop and part the clouds to make your dreams come true. It’s a place where “Why not?” is a perfectly valid response to the question “What on earth possessed you to buy a zoo?” and where “insane courage” guarantees a desirable outcome. If all of that sounds cringingly sappy, well, it kind of is. But Crowe tells the tale with such genuine feeling that it’s tough not to fall for the movie’s charms all the same.

Based on the memoir by Benjamin Mee, the film follows a freshly widowed father (Matt Damon) who, in an unconventional attempt at self-therapy, moves himself and his two children Dylan and Rosie (Colin Ford and Maggie Elizabeth Jones) into a decrepit zoo. With the help of a small but devoted staff (Patrick Fugit, Elle Fanning, Angus Macfadyen) led by zookeeper Kelly (Scarlett Johansson), the family sets about renovating the park for a grand reopening.

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We’ve already expressed our eagerness to check out Cameron Crowe‘s We Bought a Zoo, and it seems Fox is equally excited to show it to us. The studio has teamed up with social media service TOUT to offer sneak preview screenings of the drama on Saturday, November 26, four weeks before its official release date of December 23. And as if the mere fact of getting to see Crowe’s latest in advance weren’t motivation enough, attendees will also have the opportunity to enter a contest for a trip to San Diego by posting reviews of the film.

Based on a memoir by Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo stars Matt Damon as a single dad who moves his family to a dilapidated zoo. Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Elle Fanning, and Patrick Fugit also appear. More details after the jump.

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One of the things I (and I think many other people) love about Cameron Crowe‘s films is how warm and optimistic they tend to be. And his latest directorial effort, We Bought a Zoo, clearly won’t be any different in that regard. Based on a memoir by Benjamin Mee, the drama stars Matt Damon as a single dad who moves his family to a run-down zoo. As they work to restore the park, they encounter all sorts of lovably offbeat characters and heartwarming life lessons along the way.

But when the first trailer hit earlier this fall, I worried that perhaps Crowe had gone too far into “sweet” this time, crossing right over into “saccharine.” Happily, the new international trailer strikes a much better balance, managing to be uplifting without being groanworthy about it. Watch it after the jump.

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Oscar winner Colin Firth has just added another project to his slate: the epic drama The Railway Man. The film will be directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (Better Than Sex, Burning Man) from Andy Paterson and Frank Cottrell Boyce, adapted from Eric Lomax‘s memoir of the same title. Lomax’s book focuses on the torture he experienced at the hands of the Japanese during his time working on the Burma-Siam Railroad (a.k.a. the bridge on the River Kwai) as a World War II POW. Upon learning decades later that one of his torturers was still alive, Lomax arranged to meet with him.

The story certainly sounds compelling and intense, and worthy of an actor of Firth’s talent. The Railway Man is set to begin shooting February in Great Britain, Thailand, and Australia. [Variety]

After the jump, Shirley Maclaine, Alan Arkin, and Vera Farmiga team up for a spin on Romeo & Juliet, and Thomas Haden Church signs up for a horror flick produced by Slash of Guns N’ Roses.

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In June, I visited the editing room of John Carter, the big screen adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic sci-fi novel A Princess of Mars (you can watch my video blog here). At the event, director Andrew Stanton and producer Jim Morris gave a presentation explaining how they came to be involved with the project, and described the unique process they took to “shoot” the adaptation. After the jump you will find a complete transcript of the presentation and question and answer session, along with some concept art from the film and photos from the event.

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On June 20th, I flew to San Francisco to visit Barsoom Studios, in an office building minutes sown the road from Pixar Animation Studios, to see the first footage from John Carter, a big screen adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic sci-fi novel  A Princess of Mars.

In a screening room, Finding Nemo/Wall-E director Andrew Stanton gave us a powerpoint presentation explaining why and how he became involved in the project, and the unique methods they used to “shoot” the film (you can read a transcript of Andrew’s complete presentation and Q&A elsewhere on /Film). We screened a couple scenes from the movie, and the teaser trailer which will be attached to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (expect to see it online on Thursday, July 14th).

After the jump you can read my brief thoughts, followed by  a video blog I recorded with Frosty from Collider (who admits he knows nothing about the source material) and Eric Vespe (better known as Quint from Ain’t It Cool, who knows way way way more than I will ever know about the source material). So we have a good spread of opinions based on a wide range of expectations and knowledge of the source material.

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