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Movie News Round-Up

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Michel Gondry has been signed up to direct The Green Hornet, the crime-fighting comic book adaptation starring Seth Rogen and Stephen Chow. Chow had been signed up to direct but later dropped out over what were described as ‘creative differences’. Gondry’s presence makes this easily the most interesting comic movie on its way at present. I may not have fully loved Be Kind Rewind, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the best films of the past ten years while Science of Sleep is an endless well of whimsy and imagination. Notably, the news was first reported on the Twitter feed of Production Weekly. Also, the trailer for Rogen’s new movie, Observe and Report, has emerged and looks like something of a departure for him into a slightly darker area.

Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Drew Barrymore, she of the adorable poppet-ness, is among the candidates being considered for Eclipse, the third movie in the Twilight series which will follow up the next instalment, New Moon, in 2010. Barrymore has recently signed off on her debut in the chair, Whip It, starring Ellen Page.

Eddie Murphy has apparently signed on to play Richard Pryor in ‘Richard Pryor: Was It Something I Said’ for director Bill Condon. It will reunite the pair who worked together previously on Dreamgirls, the film which garnered so much buzz for Murphy and won him an Academy Award nomination. Seems like a strong part for him given the placement of Murphy as the next in line in succession in the evolution of black comedians after Pryor and preceding Chris Rock.

Cate Blanchett has signed on the dotted line to play Maid Marian in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. This news follows that from last week that Scott has changed the name and vision behind the project to a more straight-forward retelling.

Samuel L Jackson is to play Nick Fury in Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers and, possibly, in a Nick Fury movie should Marvel decide to do this too. There had been issues over Jackson joining in the past but now it seems such things have been pushed aside for the sake of continuity.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are to team for The B Team, a comedy from Adam McKay which will follow the misadventures of two mismatched cops. Sounds like it be in a similar vein to all other Ferrell/McKay projects and have around four very funny Ferrell moments, almost no story and an effort to make up for any shortcomings through shouting.

Sean Penn and Naomi Watts are involved in talks for Fair Game, not a remake of the Cindy Crawford-starrer from the mid90s, but a drama about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. It would reunite Penn and Watts from when they starred together in the Innaritu/Arriaga piece 21 Grams, a role which won Watts a Best Actress nod at the Oscars. Fair Game will be directed by Doug Liman.

Joss Whedon has spoken out during an interview with Maxim on why many DC comics adaptations are having difficulty in getting to the big screen, including Wonder Woman, which he was often linked with in the past. Whedon said the difference in the era in which the DC comics were made meant that the heroes were not being created as people, but as gods. ‘DC’s characters, like Wonder Woman and Superman and Green Lantern, were all very much removed from humanity. Batman was the only character they had who was so rooted in pain, that had that same gift that the Marvel characters had, which was that gift of humanity that we can relate to.’ Whedon has long been working on getting Wonder Woman off the ground with Eliza Dushku in the lead. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Dushku’s acting so I’d put forward Morena Baccarin of Firefly and Serenity fame instead. Probably wouldn’t get made either way though.

Francis Ford Coppola has given out some new information on Tetro, his new film following the life, loves and troubles of an Italian family of artists. It stars Vincent Gallo and is, according to Coppola, his first ‘original screenplay’ since his The Conversation. A film from Coppola about an Italian family of artists, autobiography much?

Also in the news: Emily Blunt will definitely not be in Iron Man 2, instead she’ll have to star alongside Jack Black in Gulliver’s Travels; Mel Gibson’s The Colonel has a trailer; Jim Carrey and Jake Gyllenhaal are to star in a remake of Damn Yankees; Naomi Watts and Freida Pinto have joined Woody Allen’s next movie; Warner Bros has picked up the rights to adapt comic series Suicide Squad; The Coens have directed a 30-second commercial mocking the claim of clean coal; Gore Verbinski is to bring Clue/Cluedo to screens; Seth Green will star in animated caper Mars Needs Moms!; Ed Helms is to write and star in a Civil War-themed comedy; Danny Boyle and Dev Patel may take part in the real-life Who Wants to be a Millionaire; Peter Baynham, a collaborator of Sasha Baron Cohen on Borat, will write the Arthur remake for Russell Brand;

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BAFTA Predictions

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So, here in print, are our predictions for this year’s BAFTAs. Please check out the podcast in which we discuss what you will find here. Also, here is the full list of nominations for your perusal.

Best Picture – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire
Sam: Slumdog Millionaire
Beth: Slumdog Millionaire
Tom: Slumdog Millionaire

Best British Film – Hunger, In Bruges, Mamma Mia, Man on Wire, Slumdog Millionaire
Sam: Man on Wire
Beth: Slumdog Millionaire
Tom: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director – Clint Eastwood (Changeling), David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Stephen Daldry (The Reader), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Sam: Danny Boyle
Beth: Danny Boyle
Tom: Danny Boyle

Best Actor – Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Sean Penn (Milk), Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Sam: Mickey Rourke
Beth: Dev Patel
Tom: Mickey Rourke

Best Actress – Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Kristin Scott Thomas (I’ve Loved You So Long), Meryl Streep (Doubt), Kate Winslet (The Reader), Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road)
Sam: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Beth: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Tom: Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Best Supporting Actor – Robert Downey Jr (Tropic Thunder), Brendan Gleason (In Bruges), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading)
Sam: Heath Ledger
Beth: Heath Ledger
Tom: Heath Ledger

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams (Doubt), Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Tilda Swinton (Burn After Reading), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)
Sam: Penelope Cruz
Beth: Marisa Tomei
Tom: Amy Adams

Best Original Screenplay – Burn After Reading, Changeling, I’ve Loved You So Long, In Bruges, Milk
Sam: In Bruges
Beth: Milk
Tom: In Bruges

Best Adapted Screenplay – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire
Sam: Slumdog Millionaire
Beth: Slumdog Millionaire
Tom: The Reader

Best Foreign Language – Baader Meinhof Complex, Gomorrah, I’ve Loved You So Long, Persepolis, Waltz with Bashir
Sam: Waltz with Bashir
Beth: Persepolis
Tom: Waltz with Bashir

Best Animated – Wall-E, Waltz with Bashir, Persepolis
Sam: Wall-E
Beth: Wall-E
Tom: Wall-E

Orange Rising Star – Michael Cera, Michael Fassbender, Noel Clarke, Rebecca Hall, Toby Kebbell
Sam: Michael Fassbender
Beth: Toby Kebbell
Tom: Michael Fassbender

Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire
Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Madhur Mittal
Director: Danny Boyle (Loveleen Tandan, co-director)
Writer: Simon Beaufoy, from the novel by Vikas Swarup

Lauded prior to release on our side of the pond, Slumdog Millionaire is a pretty outstanding piece of British filmmaking, one of the fine times when Danny Boyle’s stylistic ability converges with a sense of powerful emotion. Not only that, it’s one of the first mainstream attempts by a movie in the UK to engage with the cultural melting pot which exists, primarily made from Asian and English personage.

We follow Jamal, a young kid from the slums of Mumbai, then Bombay, as he stands on the verge of winning the top prize on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. As he gets to the last question, Jamal is carted off by authorities who accuse him of cheating. The film then structures out to explore a series of events in Jamal’s life which have given provided him with all the answers to be able to win the quiz.

Promoted as a feel-good movie, it’s one of the strangest forms of such a sub-genre. The vast majority of Slumdog Millionaire sees the horrific life of a slum child in India across the poverty of his early life and his witnessing of the building up of the new India. Some scenes of the film are truly horrific and the tenor of that part of his life seems hopeless, only pulled back from the edge of depressing by Danny Boyle’s kinetic direction and a sense of hope that the movie plumbs constantly to remind us of the adage that true love will eventually prevail. If this subtracts from the film’s ability to surprise, making it relatively predictable in terms of getting from A to C, the B section is where we, and Jamal, earn the happy ending.

The events that occur in Jamal’s life are horrendous, frightening and deeply troubling; from his life working in a harem of beggars for a master willing to do anything to make them more likely to solicit sympathetic donations to his constant battles and ventures into the darkest parts of town to continually find his love, Latika. But they begin by the close for form a semi-biblical trial that Jamal must go through, reconciling his relationship with his brother and, with the gameshow, giving himself a sense of closure on that part of his life and a new beginning to look forward to. The relationship with his brother, the wayward Salim, is maybe the strongest part of the film. The two are not diametrically opposed and manage to capture the anger and forgiveness balance that is necessary within a brotherly relationship.

Boyle’s direction is constantly outstanding, visually superlative and infusing what could be a slog of a film with a vitality and energy that drags it through any of the more disturbing elements of the story. The performance match this well with both Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, as Jamal and Latika respectively, are wide-eyed and naïve filled with the possibilities of love and drawing the audience into their relationship enough to mean that few will begrudge Boyle his climactic moments. Also outstanding are Anil Kapoor as the host of Millionaire, just smarmy enough to be entertaining during the show, and the always-excellent Irrfan Khan as the police inspector questioning Jamal.

I would struggle to entirely characterise this as feel-good given the journey needed prior to any real feeling good. But this is a superb film, hugely enjoyable and brilliantly made and will surely be making year-end lists across the UK.

MOD Rating: ♦♦♦♦