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How to watch every 2017 Oscar best picture nominee


manchester by the sea amazon studiosThis year marks the 89th Academy Awards ceremony, with a crop of notable nominees that will fight it out to take home the highest honors in the film world. So naturally, in order to handicap your Oscar pool properly, as well as keep current in the conversation with all of your movie-inclined friends, you're going to want to see, at the very least, the entire field of Best Picture candidates. In the past, this used to be a real pain, as most Best Picture nominees would already be out of the theaters and stuck in that limbo between theatrical and home video release.

But in the past decade or so, it's become much easier to stay current thanks to both the ever-shrinking window between both mediums and big theater chains running special events that run the entire line-up. Which is why we're pleased to have compiled a list of all nine Best Picture nominees and whether you can still see them in theaters or when they'll be available on home video. Keep in mind, release dates and theatrical exhibitions are subject to change, so be sure to double check your local theater listings and your streaming/purchasing venue of choice.

SEE ALSO: RANKED: The 10 worst movies to win the best picture Oscar — and what should have won

AMC/Regal Marathons

Probably the easiest, and most fun, way of catching all nine Best Picture nominated films is through the programming packages that AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas are both offering in February. In the case of AMC's Best Picture Showcase, the nine films are spread across two weekends (February 18th & 25th), and will cost $65 for a two-day pass, with individual passes running at $32.50 (Feb. 18th only) and $37.50 (Feb. 25th only). Though if you're feeling strong, you can watch all nine films in one day in select locations. For all of the details, including Stubs Rewards perks and discounts on two-day passes at the box office, head to AMC's official site.

Regal Cinemas, on the other hand, is running their Best Picture Film Festival of programming from February 17th straight until Oscar night on the 26th. For $35, you can see all of the films, but there is a catch: all nine films are scattered throughout the length of the festival, so you'll need to do some schedule optimization in order to catch them all. However, if you're looking to catch only a couple stragglers and don't need the entire pack, this is probably the best option. Further details & scheduling can be found at Regal's official site.

But let's say you're not interested in going to a multi-picture marathon, or just want to catch your favorites at home. The following are individual listings for each film and how you can catch them in all of their singular glory.

"Hell or High Water"

Synopsis: Two brothers (Chris Pine & Ben Foster) rob a local Texas bank chain blind, all in the name of protecting their family's land. But a wily sheriff (Jeff Bridges) is hot on their tails, and giving them a run for their money.

Is It Still In Theaters: It depends. Some theaters have brought the film back in limited capacity due to its award nomination.

When Will It Be Available On Digital HD/Home Video: Hell or High Water is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

Possible Streaming Options: iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu & FandangoNOW.


Synopsis: When several alien crafts arrive on Earth, and are in need of interpreters, linquist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is drafted to make first contact with the species known as the Heptapods. Tensions mount, and the world is on the brink of something risky, with Louise's efforts making the difference between peace and war.

Is It Still In Theaters: Yes. Thanks to Paramount, Arrival celebrated its 8 nominations by bringing the film back to theaters with some extra bonus footage for one day only. But there are some theaters still showing the film in limited showtimes, so look closely at your listings.

When Will It Be Available On Digital HD/Home Video: Now (Digital HD)/February 14th (Blu-ray/DVD)

Possible Streaming Options: iTunes & Amazon Video.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The trailer for Sofia Coppola's next movie looks to be her most thrilling yet


The Beguiled Focus Features final

The trailer for Sofia Coppola 's next movie, "The Beguiled," has been released online — and all we can say is we can't wait for the summer.

Starring Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, and Colin Farrell, the movie is set during the Civil War and follows an injured Union soldier (Farrell) who is brought back to health by a Confederate girls' boarding school. However, the man soon becomes romantically involved with the women there, leading to some disastrous results. 

Based on a 1966 novel, Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel made it into a movie in 1971. But we're expecting a different version of the story with Coppola at the helm.

Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in theaters June 30.



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How Keanu Reeves trained for the insane action of 'John Wick 2'


John Wick 2 Niko Tavernise Lionsgate

Keanu Reeves comes out with "John Wick: Chapter 2" on Friday. It's the highly anticipated sequel to the 2014 hit original, and Lionsgate has released a video showing off what the star had to go through to be ready for a movie this insanely action-packed.

From martial arts and rifle shooting to peeling out in a parking lot, getting the realistic look needed to make the movie work required Reeves to put in a lot of hours of training before filming.

Here's a brief rundown of what Reeves did:

SEE ALSO: Hollywood stars who rejected their Oscars

Keanu spent time fight training.

He had to brush up on his jujutsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and standing judo.

Also three-gun tactical shooting. He annihilates his targets.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Steve Bannon reportedly once tried to get Mel Gibson to make a mutant Nazi movie


Steve Bannon

Before Steve Bannon became a chief strategist for President Donald Trump or headed up media outlet Breitbart News, he was best known as a filmmaker of right-wing projects and a major figure in the small conservative community within the movie industry.

Some of the projects he made included the Ronald Reagan documentary "In the Face of Evil," the Sarah Palin doc "The Undefeated," and a movie in 2010 called "Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman."

But it's a project that's been on his shelf for years that looks to be one of his most radical.

The Daily Beast reports that Bannon shopped an 11-page outline around Hollywood in the early 2000s titled "The Singularity: Resistance Is Futile" (the alternative title was "The Harvest of the Damned"), a documentary-style movie that touches on everything from Adolf Hitler to mutants and cloning.

And according to the story, Bannon's longtime writing partner Julia Jones says Bannon even met with Mel Gibson in hopes that the star could get the movie made.

The movie, for which Bannon was to be writer, producer, and director, would be a mix of science, history, and politics that looks at arrogant scientists trying to perfect mankind, forced sterilization, and modern biotechnology.

The outline is spread out into 22 segments across four sections. The Daily Beast reports that one part opens with two minutes covering Nazi theories and practices of racial purity. Segment 12 reads: "The perfectibility of life through a human-controlled elite race that will bring about a better world." 

Other segments touch on Christianity, Enlightenment, and a new Garden of Eden that features "clones, mutants, and designer humans."

According to Jones, the outline was written soon after "In the Face of Evil" was made, "but nothing ever came of it."

mel gibsonHowever, Jones confirms that Bannon did talk to Mel Gibson about securing financing for the movie.

"At one point, Steve came [into the office] and said he met with Mel. 'We're gonna do a cloning documentary with Mel Gibson,' he told me," Jones told the Daily Beast.

Bannon's spokesperson told the Daily Beast that he was "super busy" to comment. Gibson's publicist told the site the story is "fake news."

This is not the first time a story has surfaced of the kind of movies Bannon tried to get off the ground. Last week the Washington Post published excerpts of a draft for a Bannon movie about how Muslim extremists could try to turn the US into the "Islamic States of America."

Other Bannon-led projects that have been revealed include a Shakespearean hip-hop musical about the 1992 Los Angeles riots and an adaptation of "Titus Andronicus"set "on the moon with creatures from outer space."

SEE ALSO: Steve Bannon's obsession with a dark theory of history shouls be worrisome

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19 famous hotels from films you can actually spend the night in



Staying in a five-star hotel is the epitome of luxury travel, and choosing a hotel with celebrity status can make a holiday a truly unique experience.

Luckily, there are a number of film-featured hotels that you can actually spend the night in.

Some have become as — if not more — famous then the films that they feature in. The Plaza Hotel in New York, for example, is no stranger to camera crews or the art world, and has been featured and mentioned in not only films, but television and literature.

From "Dirty Dancing" in Virginia to spending "Midnight in Paris," here are 19 star-studded hotels where you can spend the night, ranked by price, from the cheapest to the most expensive.

Note: Prices have been provided by Vouchercloud, or the hotels' own booking services where available.

19. 'Dirty Dancing': The Mountain Lake Hotel, Virginia, USA — from £75 per night

Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey might be the principal actors in "Dirty Dancing," but "Kellerman's Resort"— the hotel where they first meet — is just as iconic.

The real resort — The Mountain Lake Hotel — is not in upstate New York, but is in fact located in Pembroke, Virginia.

The resort stages Dirty Dancing-themed events throughout the year including a dance, a screening of the movie, group dance lessons, and a scavenger hunt.

Room rate: from £75 per night

18. 'The Lobster': Parknasilla Resort and Spa, County Kerry, Ireland — from £80 per night

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Dark comedy "The Lobster" was largely filmed at the Parknasilla Resort. In the film's setting, singles are given 45 days to find a romantic partner. If they fail, they will be turned into an animal. The Parknasilla becomes a hotel where "loners" are taken in the hope of finding a match.

The cast, which includes Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and John C Reilly, stayed at the hotel while shooting the movie. Clearly impressed by the surroundings, Reilly called it a "summer camp for film actors."

Room rate: from £80 per night

17. 'Trainspotting': Royal Eagle Hotel, London, UK — from £80 per night

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Fans of the classic cult film about the people living in 1990s Edinburgh will remember the significance of the Royal Eagle Hotel in Bayswater, where Spud, Sick Boy, Renton, and Begbie settle a £16,000 drug deal.

Room rate:from £80 per night

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Scarlett Johansson defends her new movie 'Ghost in the Shell' against whitewashing accusations


Ghost in the Shell Paramount final

Though there is a lot of excitement that the cherished Japanese manga and anime movie "Ghost in the Shell" is receiving the live-action, big Hollywood studio treatment, many still believe there's some major whitewashing going on with the project. Scarlett Johansson is playing the main character, Major Kusanagi, who in this version is notably just called "The Major."

But in a recent profile in Marie Claire, Johansson tried to downplay the controversy and defend herself against accusations of whitewashing. She also played up the feminist aspect of the movie, which puts a woman at the front of a high-budget sci-fi franchise.

"I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person," she told the magazine. "Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive. Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that — the weight of such a big property on my shoulders."

Paramount has been on the defense since its casting choice of Johansson on the project. Things didn't get any better when reports surfaced that the movie tested effects to make some of the actors in the movie look more Asian.

Johansson is the latest to come out and push aside the whitewashing controversy. Over the summer a producer on the film said that their adaptation of the anime is an "international story."

"Ghost in the Shell" opens in theaters on March 31.


SEE ALSO: How Kathryn Hahn became a modern Hollywood comedy hero

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The inside story of one of the most infamous and tragic Hollywood on-set deaths


Chad Stahelski Chris Pizzello AP

Chad Stahelski is going through his usual press rounds for his new movie, "John Wick: Chapter 2," when one topic stops him in his tracks: the death of his friend Brandon Lee.

"Wow, that's a heavy one," he said when asked about the subject, collecting his thoughts.

Before the first “John Wick” movie in 2014 made him a sought-after action director, Stahelski was a veteran stuntman and one of his first jobs was on the movie “The Crow,” in which he was a stunt double for Lee, the star of the movie.

Stahelski was a friend of Lee’s at the time of filming. Then a twentysomething instructor at the Inosanto Martial Arts Academy in Marina Del Rey, California, Stahelski bonded quickly with Lee, the son of martial arts superstar Bruce Lee.

"I remember we would work out on Saturdays at the gym, try to film our own stuff with old VHS cameras afterward, and then read graphic novels," Stahelski told Business Insider. "Cut to a year later, Brandon comes in and says he's going to be in 'The Crow.'"

Lee had been building his credits in TV and action movies, but "The Crow," an adaptation of a cult-favorite graphic novel about a murdered man who comes back to life to avenge his dead fiancee, was going to make him a superstar.

But then it all went very wrong. During filming of "The Crow" in March of 1993, Lee was accidentally shot on set during a scene in which a gun was fired at him. The gun was loaded with a blank round, but there was still a dummy bullet left in the barrel, so when it was fired at Lee, it came out of the gun with nearly the same force as if it were a live bullet. The bullet hit Lee in the abdomen, mortally wounding him. He was only 28 years old.

Stahelski was on set the day Lee died.

The Crow Miramax"When you see something like that happen and you're close to it, it's surreal," he said. "It's impactful."

Stahelski went on to become one of the top flight stuntmen and second unit directors in Hollywood, working on everything from “The Matrix” movies to “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Captain America: Civil War.” But he never forgot what happened to his friend — which has become one of the most infamous on-set accidents in the history of the movie business — and Stahelski admits he's become a taskmaster about safety on set.

“You think about the absolute stupidity behind the reason why it happened and it makes you angry at the amateur bull----,” Stahelski said of looking back on Lee’s death. “It was all because everyone gets yes’d and no one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings. So I decided very, very early on that there can be no political correctness when you’re dealing with safety. It’s just ‘F--- you, that’s wrong, I’m doing it my way.’”

While "John Wick: Chapter 2," along with the first movie (which Stahelski codirected with his fellow stuntman David Leitch), may be thrilling and is shot in a way to showcase how much of the stunts star Keanu Reeves really does himself, there is a precision to it so everyone on set is safe.

That's even more challenging now given that these movies are shot in less time and have smaller budgets than studio action movies used to command (Stahelski said the "John Wick" sequel had around 40% more in budget than the $20 million original).

No better example is the opening of “John Wick: Chapter 2,” in which we see Reeves as Wick retrieving the Mustang that was stolen from him in the first movie. But Stahelski didn’t settle for Wick coming in guns blazing to get it back. Instead the scene involves a twisted metal-on-metal battle between bad guys in taxis and Wick in his recovered Mustang and ends with all vehicles demolished.

“The note to our second unit director and stunt coordinator was, ‘These are the cars we got, don’t come back with anything,’” said Stahelski, who notes that the four Mustangs and numerous taxi cabs for the scene were all smashed beyond repair at some point in the remarkably short three-day shoot of the scene.

The scene doesn’t just feature Reeves doing much of the driving (Stahelski said the crew had his driver-side door ripped off so it was clear to audiences that it was really him driving), but also when Reeves is out of his car, he has to dive away from oncoming cars that suddenly rush into frame.

John Wick 2 2 Niko Tavernise LionsgateBut the fear of anyone getting injured was always in the back of Stahelski’s mind.

“My stunt coordinator and second unit director on this film are friends of mine and I micromanage them, I'm not going to lie to you, I'm a complete dick sometimes,” Stahelski said. “It annoys them, but they know I'll say to them 'Sorry, I didn't mean it,' and they get it. They haven’t lived through the same things I’ve lived through.”

Stahelski has no problem being the bad guy when it comes to everyone’s safety on set. Along with witnessing Lee’s death, he said he’s had to deal with three other “tragic moments” on set in his career.

So even though he has notebooks filled with ideas for unique action sequences he wants to put on the screen, like for his remake of “Highlander” that’s he’s currently developing and the inevitable “John Wick 3,” Stahelski will never compromise people’s lives for the sake of pulling off his dreams.

“Losing a friend like Brandon was heartbreaking, but you also know that he and his fiancee were four or five weeks out of their wedding when the accident happened, you look at what they had, and you feel even worse,” Stahelski said. “You don’t ever want to feel that again, because at the end of the day, it’s just a f---ing movie.”

“John Wick: Chapter 2” opens in theaters on Friday.

SEE ALSO: The "John Wick" sequel is an orgy of violence that fans of the original will love

Join the conversation about this story »

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Emma Watson's new movie trailer for 'The Circle' will make you want to get off social media


the circle emma watson

The INSIDER Summary: 

• Emma Watson is starring in the upcoming book adaptation for "The Circle," which comes out in April. 
• A trailer for the film just dropped giving us a look at how Tom Hanks, John Boyega, and Watson interact together on screen.
• The movie is about a young girl who gets a new job at a tech company and learns about the consequences of both privacy and surveillance. 

It seems we never tire of movies that are about surveillance, that broach the idea that every single thing we do is being monitored. In "The Circle," an upcoming film based on the novel by Dave Eggers, Emma Watson plays Mae, a young woman hired by a massive social media company who comes to learn the consequences of living such an open life. 

A new trailer for the film — which also stars Tom Hanks and "Star Wars" breakout John Boyega — has dropped, and it looks like it's prepared to answer some serious questions about our right to privacy. 

Accompanying the trailer is a synopsis of the film, which will be released on April 28, 2017.

When Mae (Emma Watson) is hired to work for the world's largest and most powerful tech and social media company, she sees it as an opportunity of a lifetime. As she rises through the ranks, she is encouraged by the company's founder, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), to engage in a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and ultimately her personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes begin to affect the lives and future of her friends, family and that of humanity.

From the trailer alone, which features a droning voice repeating "we're watching you," we can tell that "The Circle" gets dark, all the more so as Mae begins to dive deeper into this mysterious and powerful company. The more Mae learns, the more she seems to isolate herself from her outside life. 

Whether or not it ends up being a Snowden-esque cautionary tale remains to be seen, but if the trailer reveals anything it's that we're in for a riveting film about a world not too far off from our own. 

Join the conversation about this story »

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Netflix producer on new ‘Castlevania’ show: ‘I’m personally guaranteeing that this is going to be the best f-----g video game adaptation ever made’ (NFLX)


Video games are great at lots of things: immersion, delight, even storytelling every now and again. But when it comes to turning those successes into film or television adaptations, something goes terribly wrong. 

Super Mario Bros. (movie)

The most recent example came in late December 2016, with Michael Fassbender starring in a movie adaptation of the "Assassin's Creed" franchise. Critics ravaged the film. "I suppose you could say the film made me slightly more likely to play one of the games, but only because I’d do just about anything before I saw this movie again,"wrote Slate senior editor Jonathan L. Fischer.

It has an 18% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

michael fassbender assassins creed

Netflix is promising something different with a just-announced animated series based on the classic game series "Castlevania." Here's how Netflix describes the show:

"Inspired by the classic video game series, 'Castlevania' is a dark medieval fantasy following the last surviving member of the disgraced Belmont clan, trying to save Eastern Europe from extinction at the hand of Vlad Dracula Tepe himself. The animated series is from Frederator Studios, a Wow! Unlimited Media company, written by best-selling author and comic book icon Warren Ellis and executive produced by Warren Ellis, Kevin Kolde, Fred Seibert and Adi Shankar."

The show's producer, Adi Shankar, says it's based on the third game in the series, "Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse." Here's what that game looks like, for reference:

Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse

He also has a message for the folks who think this show is destined to be another bad video game adaptation: "I’m personally guaranteeing that this is going to be the best f-----g video game adaptation ever made to date,"he told Collider. "I’ve seen it, and it’s f-----g amazing."

Shankar got more specific in a post on Facebook:

Here's hoping he's right! 

To Shankar's credit, his past work includes the excellent "Dredd" film, and the show's writer is acclaimed graphic novel author Warren Ellis. Additionally, the production company is Frederator Studios — better known as "the folks behind 'Adventure Time,'" among other things. But it's a bold claim to make regardless given past precedent.

From the sound of things, we'll find out for ourselves sooner than later; season one is scheduled to arrive sometime this year, on Netflix of course.

SEE ALSO: Here are all the confirmed original shows coming to Netflix in 2017

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The 20 best romantic movies on Netflix you'll actually want to watch


how to lose a guy in 10 days paramount pictures

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and whether you’re planning a fancy night out at your favorite restaurant or flopping onto the couch with single friends, let’s face it, at some point you will be watching Netflix.

Nothing breaks the mood more than a dull movie, so we’ve put together a collection of romantic movies on the streaming giant that will keep the night on a high note.

From studio rom-coms like “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “Serendipity” to lesser-known titles like “The Duke of Burgundy” and “Medicine for Melancholy,” there’s a lot of passion going on in this list.

Here are 20 romantic movies on Netflix you need to check out:

Note: Numerous Netflix titles drop off the streaming service monthly so the availability of titles below may change.

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“The Princess Bride”

Rob Reiner’s classic that looks at “truuuueeee loooovvvveeee” never gets old. And we challenge you to look away from young Cary Elwes and Robin Wright.

“Moonrise Kingdom”

Two young lovers run away from a New England town leading to a search party to track them down. But from the mind of director Wes Anderson, that means a highly stylized search party.

“Under the Tuscan Sun”

Diane Lane plays a recently divorced woman who on a whim buys a villa in Tuscany. Prepare for incredible shots of the Italian countryside and follow her character's entertaining quest to find love.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

'Beauty and Lord Voldemort' is the 'Harry Potter' spoof you never knew you needed


Lord Voldemort as Beast with birds

The INSIDER Summary:

• YouTube producers PistolShrimps reimagined "Beauty and the Beast" with Lord Voldemort as the Beast.
• The fake trailer has tons of hidden "Harry Potter" references.
• The Photoshopping and editing in this trailer is amazing and hilarious.

You probably never knew you needed a mashup of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Harry Potter," but YouTubers PistolShrimps are here to make all of your unknown dreams come true. 

In a new spoof trailer, PistolShrimps edited out the classic Beast from "Beauty and the Beast" and put Lord Voldemort in his place. By splicing footage of Voldemort and the magical castle of Hogwarts, PistolShrimps were able to make a surprisingly convincing movie premise. 

The fake trailer is filled with tiny details that bring "Harry Potter" into the tale as old as time. Belle is (of course) a witch — making Emma Watson's casting in her role very meta. 

Every small thing was considered, like how Belle and Lord Voldemort would be feeding a unicorn instead of a horse:

Voldemort and Belle petting a unicorn

And it makes way more sense for Gaston to be riding a hippogriff instead of a horse:

Gaston and a Hippogriff

PistolShrimps even made a fake movie poster for the mashup:

The "Beauty and Lord Voldemort" trailer was shared to Reddit's /r/videos subreddit, where eagle-eyed viewers found even more small details. 

"I laughed at the random 'fly you fools' dropped in there,"Redditor wbridgman wrote, referring to a moment when a scene with Cogsworth (voiced by Ian McKellen) was edited so the clock said a line from "Lord of the Rings" (in which McKellen played Gandalf).

The trailer will surprise you with several hilarious moments, and an incredible attention to detail when it came to editing and composing the shots. We weren't sure what to expect upon first viewing, but PistolShrimps' talent blew us away (and made us wonder exactly how much time and energy went into this).

Watch the trailer for "Beauty and Lord Voldemort" below:


Join the conversation about this story »

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The new 'Halloween' movie has a director and fans should be excited


Halloween Compass International Pictures

Though horror fans were bummed to hear earlier this week that plans to revive the "Friday the 13th" franchise have been scrapped indefinitely, on Thursday we got word that the reboot of another horror classic is thriving.

Legendary "Halloween" director John Carpenter announced on his Facebook page that the next movie in the franchise, which he will be an executive producer on (it's his first involvement in a "Halloween" movie since 1998's "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later"), has signed director David Gordon Green and actor/screenwriter Danny McBride to the movie.

Both will take on the screenwriting duty with Green also directing the movie, which will hit theaters on October 19, 2018.

Carpenter teased that he may even do the score for the movie. Along with creating the classic horror movie back in 1978, he was responsible for its iconic score.

Here's Carpenter's Facebook post:

Green is best known of late for his comedic work, like "Pineapple Express" and directing numerous episodes of "Eastbound & Down" and "Vice Principals." But before that he was known for his more dramatic independent movies, and he even dabbled now and again with thrillers like "Undertow" and "Joe."

David Gordon Green Danny McBride APMcBride is even more engrained than Green in the comedic world, but as his production company Rough House Pictures — which he started with Green and director Jody Hill ("Observe and Report,""Eastbound & Down,""Vice Principals") — has shown, their brand of comedy is certainly on the darker side.

And just to add more horror clout, the project is also being produced by Blumhouse Productions, which is currently riding high with its latest box-office hit, M. Night Shyamalan's "Split." The company also has the anticipated Jordan Peele-directed thriller "Get Out" opening February 24.

Along with Blumhouse, the "Halloween" movie is being produced by Trancas International Films, Rough House Pictures, and Miramax.

SEE ALSO: The inside story of one of the most infamous and tragic Hollywood on-set deaths

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How the director of the new 'Lego Movie' made Batman great again


Batman Lego Movie Warner Bros final

There's just something about Batman that gets audiences excited.

Whether he's in comic-book form, a playful 1960s TV character, or the focus of a brooding feature-length blockbuster, the Dark Knight is a character we just can't get enough of — even in Lego form.

That was evident when one of the highlights from the 2014 "The Lego Movie" was the appearance of the Lego Batman, a self-centered hero who did everything on his own terms and was voiced perfectly by Will Arnett. He was so popular, in fact, that once the movie came out it was obvious Warner Bros. should make a spin-off movie dedicated to Batman.

Tasked with pulling that off was Chris McKay. Known within the animation world for directing episodes of the Adult Swim show "Robot Chicken," as well as working on the visual effects and editing side of the show's "Star Wars" movies, McKay was also the editor and codirector on Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's "The Lego Movie." McKay was even in charge of the movie's animation and rendering when Lord and Miller had to go and direct "22 Jump Street."

Warner Bros. was very bullish on getting another Lego movie out the door following the success of "The Lego Movie," and McKay worked closely with Lord and Miller in developing "The Lego Movie" sequel and a Batman spin-off. However, when the trio went in and pitched their ideas for both projects at the studio in the early summer of 2014, it was evident the release plan needed to be tweaked. The ambitious "Lego Movie" sequel with its big musical numbers needed more time. That led to the idea for the Batman movie to be released first. But it needed a director.

"At one point Chris and Phil were going to direct 'The Lego Bagman Movie,'" McKay recently told Business Insider, but they were about to embark on making the young Han Solo "Star Wars" movie. "Everyone turned and looked at me and I said, 'Are you guys asking me to direct "The Lego Batman Movie"? I have a Catwoman tattoo, so, yeah, I'm in.'"

McKay dove right into storyboarding and developing a script with screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith in August of 2014, as the February 2017 release date loomed large.

"As far as turning around a feature animated movie with all these moving parts, two and a half years is a very, very short amount of time," McKay said.

But he was familiar with tight deadlines. Back in his "Robot Chicken" days, his team worked at a breakneck speed to pull off 12-minute episodes every week, often only having six days for the animation portion of production. However, there were other things McKay needed to factor in to make a Lego movie.

McKay said he always had to be mindful that the movie is for young kids (very different in tone than the adult-focused comedy on "Robot Chicken"), but there also had to be elements sprinkled in for the adults to laugh at, as well as for the "Batman" super-fans. Then there was the challenge of connecting every live-action Batman movie (and TV show).

"This premise where Batman has been around for 78 years in Gotham City and all the timelines are all in our movie in some way, I was constantly monitoring that it was all working," McKay said.

Batman Lego Movie 2 Warner BrosIn the movie, we follow Batman on his latest crime-fighting adventure, but things become more complex when he suddenly is responsible with raising a boy he adopted and his greatest nemesis, the Joker, turns himself in. 

McKay compared directing "The Lego Batman Movie" to how directors like Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg operate as producers, overseeing everything and making sure the department heads are on task. "There's no 'We edited something today and it's in animation tomorrow and then in lighting and it's done.' I was constantly running around trying to figure out how to use all the teams to their potential at the same time."

And as this all went on, jokes for the movie were constantly being added or tweaked, causing Arnett to be on call with his Batman voice at all times.

"Will was literally shooting a movie in Wales and I would call him up and get him to go into someplace private on set where he's shooting so he could record new lines," McKay said.

This was vital when he needed Arnett to give him a few lines for the rap Batman does at the end of the movie.

"It was like 10 at night in Wales and he had just got off a day of shooting outside and it had been raining all day and he went and put a coat over his head with a microphone and did some of the rap."

But all that work looks to have paid off. Currently with a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, "The Lego Batman Movie" is getting Arnett's Batman compared to some of the best who ever put on the cape and mask.

The Lego Movie APAnd with the great supporting cast — including Michael Cera as Robin, Rosario Dawson as Batgirl, Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, Channing Tatum as Superman, Jonah Hill as Green Lantern, Adam Devine as The Flash, and Conan O'Brien as The Riddler — McKay hopes all this talent can be utilized in a bigger capacity in future movies.

"I did cast some of these actors with an eye to make other movies in this world, like Justice League or Super Friends, because I really love these actors and it would be fun to play off each other and go on some adventures," McKay said.

But for now he's thinking of more immediate projects for himself, like that vacant director chair over at the Warner Bros. feature-length "The Flash" feature.

"I love the live-action superhero movies," McKay said. "I would love to do 'The Flash.' I'm always trying to get meetings to see what's coming up because I would love to do any of their DC Comics live-action movies."

The way McKay sees it, he was at the right place at the right time for "The Lego Batman Movie." Why couldn't lightning strike twice?

"The Lego Batman Movie" opens in theaters on Friday.

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7 movies to see this Valentine's Day, no matter what kind of person you are


fifty shades darker The INSIDER Summary:

• Many people celebrate Valentine's Day with a trip to the movies.
• Certain films, like "Fifty Shades Darker" and "La La Land," were essentially made for Valentine's Day.
• So whether you are looking for a family option or something off the beaten path, there is plenty to see this Valentine's Day. 

Love is in the air; can you feel it? We are only days away from the most romantic time of the year: Valentine's Day. On Tuesday, Feb. 14, couples, spouses and friends looking for a little bit more, will plan a special night of romance. For some that will include a trip to the movies. 

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, this weekend will see the release of three new movies that are all expected to do pretty good business. Further, there are several films still in theaters that may warrant a trip to the cinemas on Feb. 14. 

Whether you are not yet sure of your Valentine's Day plans, or just want to see what options there are, here is a guide to the movies worth seeing with that special someone (or someones). 

The obvious 

There are certain films that were essentially made for Valentine's Day. They feature two or more leads vying for love, there will probably be kissing (or more) and the end will more often than not be a happy one. While these next few films don't all fit this bill, they are the obvious contenders for your money this Valentine's Day. 

"Fifty Shades Darker"

fifty shades darkerDakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are back as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, respectively, in the sequel to 2015's global smash hit, Fifty Shades of Grey, the first installment based on the series of books by E.L. James. Like Fifty Shades of Grey, the sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, is having a hard time pleasing critics. 

Still, the Fifty Shades of Grey films are essentially critic-proof, with the first earning over $500 million worldwide, and Fifty Shades Darker is expected to open to over $100 million globally. Just don't expect Fifty Shades Darker to come anywhere near Fifty Shades of Grey's opening numbers.

"La La Land"

la la land emma stone ryan goslingIf you haven't yet seen La La Land, there is no better time than Valentine's Day. The likely front-runner to win the Academy Award for best picture, La La Land, has been nominated for a record-tying 14 Oscars, after winning the most Golden Globes ever.  

Of course, none of those accolades necessarily make it is a movie to see on Valentine's Day. Here is what does: La La Land delivers everything you would want from a romantic trip to the theater. There's a love story, music (a lot of music), dancing and two attractive leads. 

The family options

Sometimes a family just wants to spend time as a family. Rather than flock to the theater alone, why don't you bring along the little ones? Should you decide to do so, there are some quality options for the entire family on Valentine's Day. 

"The LEGO Batman Movie"

the lego batman movieThree years after The LEGO Movie hit theaters, Will Arnett will be reprising his role as arguably the best character from that film: Batman. So far, critics are falling in love with The LEGO Batman Movie, with some even asking whether it could be the greatest movie ever to feature the ionic character.  

While The LEGO Batman Movie is not a love story by any means, much of the plot revolves around Batman and his nemesis the Joker. Obviously you will not be flocking to the theater to see this movie if you want a traditional love story, but it is your best family option without question. 

"A Dog's Purpose"

A Dog's PurposeA Dog's Purpose is not playing like a family blockbuster, but it has earned over $30 million domestically, while generating solid word-of-mouth and a fantastic Cinemascore. Films about pets normally play well with families, so if you have not yet seen A Dog's Purpose, it may be worth checking out. 

The counter-programming 

What about those out there that are single, are not into love stories or just feel like a different type of movie? Well, there are plenty of solid options for you as well. 

"John Wick: Chapter 2"

john wick 2The sequel to 2014's surprise shoot 'em up hit, John Wick, will be released just in time for those that don't want to see a love story on Valentine's Day. So far, the reviews for the film, in which Keanu Reeves returns as the title character, are nearly universally positive. 

If you are looking for a hell of a good time at the theater, and hope to see some mindless action, John Wick: Chapter 2 is probably your best bet. As Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly says, "The biggest compliment I can think to pay John Wick: Chapter 2 is that I lost track of the body count within the first 15 minutes."


split james mcavoy m night shyamalanRemember, this section is about counter programming. M. Night Shyamalan's latest film, Split, is a resounding return to form for the director, who has had his share of recent misses (Split, though, is itself not without controversy). 

Split, which has led the box office for three straight weekends, is the first film from Shyamalan to cross $100 million domestically since 2010's The Last Airbender. If you are a fan of Shyamalan's earlier works, you should absolutely check out this film. 

The young lovers

There is another film out there for you lovebirds on Valentine's Day. For those that may not be mature enough yet to see Fifty Shades Darker or La La Land, do not worry, you can still head to the theaters for a Valentine's Day movie. 

"The Space Between Us"

the space between usHugo's Asa Butterfield and Tomorrowland's Britt Robertson star in this interplanetary adventure that may be perfect for the teen Valentine's Day crowd. While The Space Between Us has generally been dismissed by the critics, the users on Rotten Tomatoes have given the film a much more favorable score.  

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'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' is already getting a perfect score with test audiences


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Disney Marvel

We've got the feeling 2017 is going to be another banner year for Disney's Marvel Studios.

Its first release of the year is "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," coming out May 5, and if you were already excited for the return of Star-Lord, Rocket, and Groot, brace yourself — test audiences have given the movie a perfect score.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 100 score is a rare one for a movie and in regards to Marvel movies it's the best in the company's nine-year history, besting "Iron Man 3" and "The Avengers," which both scored in the high 90s.

Test screenings are done by all Hollywood studios (and some independents) to gauge audience interest. They are often done by recruiting people to see a movie and then those people are asked to rate the movie from 1 to 100.

The testing process doesn't just help filmmakers and the studios understand how people outside of Hollywood feel about the movie but also can help them with parts of the movie they have questions about (if certain jokes are funny or if the ending is effective).

THR points out that Marvel test screenings are a little different. To protect from spoilers being spread across the internet, instead of grabbing random people from malls or other public places to come see the movie, they do more controlled "friends and families screenings."

Because of this more select grouping, it's harder to compare this 100 score to the rest of the industry. It's also debatable if a high test score means the movie will be a success. THR uses the example of "Pretty Woman" only testing in the 70s, and going on to become a classic.

Seth Rogen told Business Insider once how hard it is to believe a good test score.

"In the past, I feel like some of our movies have been disserved by only having really good test screenings, which can happen, and it's not always representative of a good movie," he said. "Recently we haven’t told the audience what movie they are seeing. It’s finding ways to put as many roadblocks between us and a good test screening, and really be hard on the material and make sure it is all working."

2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy" was a surprise hit for Marvel, taking in over $773 million worldwide.  

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10 toys and board games being turned into movies


barbie mattelThe INSIDER Summary:

• A new movie trend has been to recreate classic toys and board games into films. 
• "The LEGO Movie" was hugely successful in 2014. 
• The director of 'Fast Five,' Justin Lin is set to helm the new Hot Wheels movie. 
• Ridley Scott, the director of 'Gladiator,' is pushing to create a movie about Monopoly. 

Moviegoers might have been skeptical when humble board games such as Battleship or beloved toys like Trolls ended up becoming major motion pictures, but the trend is becoming the norm. 

For every embarrassing disaster or project that’s stuck in production hell, studios still find a way to stumble upon the next 'Transformers' or 'LEGO Movie.' Some have even expanded into their own connected cinematic universes. This week’s 'The LEGO Batman Movie' merely marks the beginning of the LEGO onslaught headed to cinemas. When random products like a Ouija board can turn into the next great horror franchise or G.I. Joes can morph into a compelling action saga, all bets are off. 

At the same, projects that seem like they could be home runs, like movies based on Candyland, Risk, or Magic: The Gathering have fallen to the wayside and collected dust just like the games that they’re based on. 

With 'The LEGO Batman Movie' swinging into theaters this Friday, we thought it’d only be fitting to take a look at all the other upcoming motion pictures that are using toys and board games for their inspiration. Just like the original 'LEGO Movie' kicked off a frenzy of contenders, this release is surely going to do the same. Maybe there will be a Playmobil Superman movie in theaters by 2020?

Barbie Movie


Sure, there have been a slew of direct-to-video CGI Barbie films to keep the masses happy in recent years, but it looks like a feature-film adaptation of the Mattel toy is actually the closest it’s ever been to coming to real life. The 'Barbie' film has gone through a number of rewrites through the years, beginning with 'Sex & the City' scribe Jenny Bicks, then on to the reputable Diablo Cody, before finally falling into the hands of Hilary Winston and Lindsey Beer (who was also curiously working on the upcoming 'Dungeons & Dragons' script at one point). The biggest break came for the film this year though when Amy Schumer of all people signed on to star as Mattel’s perfect lady of plastic. 

It should be no surprise that Schumer is bringing her usual sardonic, crude sensibility to the picture, with a logline for the film finally crystalizing in the form of, “A doll living in ‘Barbieland’ is expelled for not being perfect enough and sets off on an adventure in the real world.” 

It’s the sort of setup that seems perfect for Schumer, and might even manage to find some poignancy in such a bizarre product. With Schumer and her sister Kim Caramele handling the latest script rewrites, this could actually turn into a challenging feature film.


clue board game pieces

Unearthing the details regarding whether a new 'Clue' movie is or isn’t happening can sometimes be as mysterious as the ingredients of the game itself. 

Originally Hasbro signed a development deal with Universal that would set them up for a six-year partnership allowing them access to properties like Clue, Monopoly, Ouija, Candyland, Battleship, and even Magic: The Gathering. While Universal obviously made good on some of these projects, Clue was one of the titles that ended up stalling. 

At one point there was a somewhat promising future for this project with Gore Verbinski interested in bringing this board game to life. With not much happening on the horizon over the past five years, the project was presumably dead until Fox snagged the rights to the game from Universal as recently as this summer. 

Since Fox’s acquisition, no new news has surfaced on the project (Verbinski is no longer attached). Maybe they go the younger route and bring in a bit of a 'Veronica Mars' or 'Search Party' vibe to the series?

That being said, would it really be that bad if this project ended up dead in the library courtesy of the candlestick? Just pop in the original! It still more than holds up.

Dungeons & Dragons

dungeons dragons

Yes, yes, we’re all very impressed that you’ve sat through the dreadful 2000 'Dungeons & Dragons' Christian Bale vehicle. We’re not talking about more of that. Nobody wants more of that. 

But a more fantasy-friendly approach, rather than an aggressive action edge to the material, is certainly the right attitude for this world. In fact, the latest take on the “game” has been described as 'Guardians of the Galaxy' meets Tolkien” which is pretty much exactly what should be going on here. If such a hodgepodge of characters can work so well in a superhero film like 'Guardians,' then it’s more than possible to bring the eclectic world of 'Dungeons & Dragons' to life. If 'Warcraft' can connect in the way that it did, then this should have no problem. 

While the film is still slowly rolling that 20-sided die, a few details have come to light. Warner Bros. holds the rights to the film and the studio is eying young adult actor Ansel Elgort for the film's lead. The script is from David Leslie Johnson ('Wrath of the Titans') and Rob Letterman of 'Goosebumps' fame would handle directorial duties.

It’s crazy how the public has become more accepting to fantasy and role-playing over the past decade. Series like 'Lord of the Rings' or 'Game of Thrones' can be ultra-successful and people actually want to see dragons rather than cringing at them. Hell, Seeso even has its own 'D&D'-themed television show in the form of 'Harmonquest.' It’s never been a better time to strike the iron with this property.

Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels

It’s funny how the announcement of a director is enough to completely turn you around on a project. The news of an upcoming Hot Wheels feature film is hardly the sort of thing to get that excited about. However, when you add in the fact that directing wunderkind Justin Lin is helming the project, it’s kind of hard to not get excited. 

Lin is responsible for some of the more action-heavy blockbusters of recent years like 'Star Trek Beyond,' 'Fast Five,' and 'Fast & Furious 6.' Clearly Lin knows how to construct a bonkers car movie, but this could go to the next level. The cars in his 'Fast and Furious' pictures already operate like the rules and physics of reality don’t apply to them, so this property could end up looking like his 'Speed Racer.' Turn up the neons, bring on the loop-de-loops, and never take your foot off the gas pedal.

Hot Wheels doesn’t exactly have the most robust story to pull from so as long as Lin doesn’t get swamped by his many other upcoming projects, 'Hot Wheels' will hopefully be pulling into the finish line in its planned date of 2018.

Masters of the Universe

masters of the universe toy set

With He-Man having such a healthy life as an animated TV character, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the characters and the rest of the 'Masters of the Universe' actually began as action figures. Even though this 'Masters of the Universe' revival has been bumping around between studios for over a decade, it's still a project that always has just enough life in it that it looks like it's going to end up happening. Eventually.

The kitschy property has surprisingly attracted the attention of a lot of big names, with directors like John Woo and Jon M. Chu (who funny enough left the project to make another toy-based property, 'Jem and the Holograms') showing interest before ultimately dropping out.

Last it was reported, Columbia Pictures has 'Kick-Ass 2’s Jeff Wadlow on tap to adapt the tale, with Christopher Yost (both 'Thor' sequels, a ton of Marvel animated fodder, and the also toy-based, 'Max Steel') penning the most recent draft of the script, which apparently goes back to He-Man’s origins. All of the elements make sense and Yost has been on a roll lately that surely this Masters of the Universe film is going to end up happening, it’s only a matter of when. 



Ridley Scott has famously gone on record for saying that his motivations behind adapting Monopoly into a feature is because, "I wanted to just make a movie about the idea of greed." While that is in itself a tantalizing prospect, it seems like a somewhat jaded, misguided take on the argument-causing board game. Sure, it's true that when in the heat of Monopoly, even the frailest board gamer can turn into a green-eyed demon, but there are already countless films on the emotion. Do we really need to watch the end credits roll on 'There Will Be Blood' and see, “Based on the Popular Hasbro Board Game”?

Even with Scott claiming that his adaptation would be akin to an 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Wall Street' mash-up where an actual Monopoly fan gets transported into his coveted board game, the film has still stalled. This more than likely has to do with Scott’s full directing slate as of late, but with the director is back in the spotlight after 'The Martian' and with 'Alien: Covenant' causing a big stir, maybe he’ll be given this opportunity soon enough. 

Even though Universal said goodbye to the project and the rights have gone back to Hasbro, Scott still remains vocal on it. Ownership has shifted slightly, with Hasbro and Lionsgate offering Andre Niccol ('The Truman Show,' 'Gattaca') the opportunity to script a more PG-minded approach to the game. With rumblings still going on as recently as last year, it’s likely that some iteration of 'Monopoly' will be passing “Go” soon.

My Little Pony

my little pony toy

With a strong animated series, handful of direct-to-video films, and a thriving DeviantArt community online, 'My Little Pony' might feel like one of the least necessary adaptations here. Even if a feature film does fail to come together, there are still plenty of other examples out there where you can watch these magical ponies come to life and play. 

'My Little Pony: The Movie' looks to be more of a film adaptation of the existing television series, 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,' rather than a fresh updating of the property for the cinema crowd. This is likely the right approach rather than alienating the already built-in audience for the property. The film is set to feature the voices of the show’s regular voice talents, but is also ready to bring in that feature film star power in the form of Emily Blunt, Zoe Saldana, Taye Diggs, and Kristin Chenowith, who will surely be helping out with the animated film's musical numbers.

With all the work being done on this one and Lionsgate having set a worldwide theatrical release for October 6th, 2017, it looks like nothing’s going to be able to stop this magical pony train.



A movie based on LEGO seemed like a lengthy stretch, but turning out a narrative that revolves around colorful modeling clay seems borderline impossible. That’s why it takes the brilliant mind of a comedic genius like Paul Feig ('Freaks and Geeks,' 'Bridesmaids,' 'Other Space') to understand how to synthesize this plaything into cinema gold. When such a toy doesn’t come with a set narrative, you’re allowed even more creative freedom, which Feig could really run wild with. 

Details on Feig’s direction for the property have been appropriately scant, but in 2015 he did reveal the following: “My company was approached by Hasbro with this property, and at first I was like, ‘How do you make a Play-Doh movie?’ and then I was like, ‘Wait, it’s colored clay. It’s Claymation!” 

Admittedly, news on Hasbro’s feature film adaptation of their modeling clay has been relatively quiet since the news broke in 2015, but maybe Feig has just been waiting to get all of the residual 'Ghostbusters' out of his system. Will 'Play-Doh' be straight-up Claymation? CG-enhanced clay? We’ll hopefully have our answer within a few years’ time (as the film currently has no projected release date), meanwhile just don’t leave the tops off those containers.


toy like me playmobil

Playmobil characters and playsets might have always seemed like some creepy bizarro world version of LEGO, but the toys still have a strong following that could translate beautifully to cinema. Pathé and Wild Bunch sort of threw everything that they had at this adaptation of the German toy, accruing an impressive $80 million animated feature that has Dreamworks Animation's Bob Persichetti heading the creative team, with 'Frozen’s animator, Lino DiSalvo, helming the picture. 

The interesting thing here is that the 'Playmobil' movie seemed to be well on its way to its expected 2017 release date until being slapped with a hefty lawsuit in the summer of last year. Open Road, the small yet commendable company responsible for distributing 'The Little Prince,' is facing a $35 million lawsuit from The Weinstein Company that claims that they are the ones who technically own the distribution rights to any 'Playmobil' film. While this alleged breach of contract isn’t slowing down the production of the film at all, it might lead to its release getting lost in limbo while the legalities are figured out. You would think that all of this animosity could be aside for a project of this nature. It’s Playmobil after all, not Workmobil.

Stretch Armstrong

stretch armstrong

The Stretch Armstrong property was included with Hasbro’s six-year pact with Universal, and while this arrangement also included the television branches of Universal, most of these board games were being eyed for the silver screen. There was an unsuccessful attempt in 2009 at launching a Stretch Armstrong film, even going as far as recruiting Breck Eisner to direct a comedic, somewhat satirical take on the character coming from Nicholas Stoller ('Neighbors' and its sequel, 'The Muppets').

In a curious pivot that might have saved the property, the Stretch Armstrong film (even though it at one point had Taylor Lautner locked in for the lead role) was transformed into an animated Netflix series. 

The series takes a more futuristic, modern approach to the elastic strongman character, but the Netflix’s division of children’s programming could help this one live for several years on the streaming service rather than just turning out one problematic picture. Dubbed 'Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters,' the series sees three regular teenagers encountering an alien substance that turns them into the stretchy trio. 

The success of 'The LEGO Batman Movie,' future 'Transformers' films, and even tracking how well 'Barbie' does should act as a healthy indication of where this trend is heading. Toy and board game adaptations certainly aren’t at the risk of becoming the next superhero films, but they are beginning to slowly change the trajectory of cinema. Phil Lord and Chris Miller hit new heights with the success of their 'LEGO Movie,' but who knows who might end up seeing that same level of notoriety next, and with what?

Here’s hoping for an Ava DuVernay directed 'Slinky' by 2021, people!

This article has been updated to reflect new information. It originally ran in 2015.

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How an indie movie made for only $1.5 million became an Oscar favorite



As the A24 logo appears on screen the sound of ocean waves and Boris Gardiner’s soulful 1973 “Every N***r is a Star” comes on the soundtrack. The film then cuts to Juan (Mahershala Ali) pulling onto a quiet, brightly colored residential street in the hot mid-day sun. In a continuous shot, Juan gets out of his car to survey the drug corner he controls. As he converses with one of his dealers and an addict looking to score, the camera swirls around the three men, who fall in and out of frame.

From a narrative standpoint, we are grounded in Juan’s power and control over this patch of Miami, while seeing glimpses of his compassion that will make him the father figure to the film’s protagonist, Chiron. However, that use of sound, movement, light, and color also introduces us to the world of “Moonlight.” Sound and character ground us in the familiar, but that camera refuses to let the viewer grab onto anything solid or settle into the assumption that this will be yet another black urban drug film.

We’ve come to expect that an American independent film that wants to realistically portray what it’s like to grow up during Miami’s crack epidemic (inspired by the real-life childhoods of Jenkins and co-writer Tarell McCraney) would be matched by a realist cinematic style. Yet “Moonlight” defies the handheld improvised naturalism, or documentary style, that’s has become synonymous with indies tackling real-world issues and characters who live on the margins of society.


Alone, the power of Jenkins’ story and characters would have made “Moonlight” one of the better films of 2016, possibly enough to get garner awards attention for acting, script and maybe even a Best Picture nod. However, there’s an element of craft in “Moonlight” that isn’t often seen in a film with a $1.5 million budget, which is why it is the extremely rare indie to also receive below-the-line nominations (Best Score, Cinematography, and Editing) and has a very realistic chance of becoming the first ultra-low-budget American film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

“Moonlight” is filled with countless bold aesthetic choices, each perfectly in sync with Jenkins’ vision of Chiron’s world. Cinematographer James Laxton’s high-contrast, rich color palette photography captures the beauty and harshness of Liberty City. Nicholas Brittel’s chopped-and-screwed score mixes wonderfully with the film’s subjective sound design, bringing us inside Chiron’s emotional world. Editors Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders seamlessly weave the film’s ocean-inspired dreaminess and violent realities.

Certainly Jenkins and his team of artisans deserve recognition, but it’s also worth exploring how the film was able to defy its limitations. “Moonlight” producer Adele Romanski (“Morris From America,” “Kicks”), a veteran indie producer who worked with Jenkins for years to get this film off the ground, has seen firsthand what can got wrong on a film with a 25-day shoot schedule, four weeks of prep, and not always the most experienced crew.

“I see it happen time and time again,” said Romanski in a recent interview with IndieWire. “You have a good plan going in and that pressure cooker of production where suddenly because of [time and budget] constraints everybody is at risk of failure, which doesn’t lead to a creative work environment.  There’s no margin for error and it becomes about getting through the shoot.”

A documentary approach to shooting can give an element of authenticity; it’s also a practical choice when a director’s energy is focused on shaping naturalistic performances — especially when children are involved. This is especially true for low budget filmmakers who often don’t have the luxury of rehearsing with actors before production. These were burdens that Jenkins faced as well, having three days to shoot Oscar nominee Naomi Harris, while fellow nominee Ali flew into Miami on weekends while shooting Marvel’s “Luke Cage” in New York during the week.

“Moonlight” editors Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders

What “Moonlight” had going for it was a close group of collaborators approaching their professional peaks. Romanski, Laxton, Jenkins, McMillon, and Sanders have been working together since they met at Florida State film school 15 years ago.

“Barry and I landed in Miami in August and officially we started prepping middle of September, with a four week prep with our team, but we spent three years talking about this movie,” said Romanski, who is married to Laxton. “There’s a great benefit from the depths of the relationships at play here. How long we’ve known each other and the shared aesthetic and shared film language — that’s been allowed to develop over a long period of time. Barry comes over every Sunday night for roast chicken. We sit around a table, talk art, and the work. That’s not on the clock, but I think it is sort of inherent in the final film.”

Romanski said at the heart of the film’s success is how in sync Laxton and Jenkins were in the filmic language of “Moonlight.” Last month, when Jenkins presented Laxton with the Best Cinematography Award at the New York Film Critics Circle, he recalled how in 2000 he was a kid who grew up in a world very similar to “Moonlight” and knew little about filmmaking.

“[James] came home with two Criterion DVDs, ‘George Washington’ and ‘In the Mood for Love,'” recalled Jenkins. “I had never seen a film with subtitles before and James said, ‘You should watch these.’ Ever since that moment, I knew I wanted him to carry my vision, whatever that would be.”

As Jenkins told IndieWire back in October, the world he and McCraney grew up had a harshness to it, but you could also feel the ocean in the air and there was great natural beauty and color to Liberty City.  This led him to want to visually create a “beautiful nightmare” look to the film. To this end, Laxton and Jenkins shot tests and experimented with how to create the film’s high-contrast lighting scheme, while collaborating with colorist Alex Bickel to figure out how to pull rich color from Miami’s pastel colors, lush vegetation, and the actors’ skin tones.

“[James and Barry] worked so quick, man, they just cut through it,” said Romanski. “They say as few words as possible to each other and know what the other is wanting because they’ve been discussing films and film references for over a decade. Barry could take more time to invest in crafting performance of actors who have never met each other, because he knows James is going to prop up the visual side based on the years they spent talking about how they want to the film to look.”

One thing often overlooked in creating the look of a film is the right costumes, the perfect set dressing, and the ideal location mean nothing if they don’t read on camera, something of particular concern given how Laxton and Jenkins pushed the film’s color palette and lighting.  That meant coordination and collaboration between department heads and adjusting to each other’s work. Romanski said that the uniquely close collaboration extended well beyond the Florida State crew.

“As an example, we never worked with Caroline Eselin before, our costume designer, and she and James discovered this incredible process working together,” said Romanski. “Caroline has been married for many years to a top cinematographer, so they had a ease of working together and quick, profound respect through the process. There was just a level of coordination you don’t always see on smaller films.”


Romanski also said there was an “egoless-ness” to making “Moonlight.” She attributes that to Jenkins, who had a way of turning the pressure-cooker schedule into a positive, creative environment.

“Something I attribute specifically to Barry in that regard is his ability to really elevate everybody through true appreciation, love, and respect that allow collaborations to really spread,” said Romanski. “This was a big part of why Barry’s vision seeped into every department.”

That also allowed for visual improvisation and adjusting to magic happening on set. One example was the much-discussed scene in which Chiron learns to swim.  Once they got into the water, Jenkins decided to try have the camera struggle to stay above water, almost drowning, as Chiron fights the panic mixed with the feeling of freedom.

“There also was the shot of Andre [Holland] smoking the cigarette at the diner,” said Romanski of the romantic, dreamlike cutaways in the film’s final chapter. “We called camera wrap and we were done for the day. I don’t remember if it was James or Barry, but one of them was like, ‘Andre, get against the wall and smoke a cigarette.’ Because it’s such a creatively free and inspiring environment within the structure that Barry set, we were often finding moments of improvisation like this.”


For months leading up to the shooting of “Moonlight,’ Jenkins shared with key team members a Dropbox folder filled with tones and songs as he tried to define his film’s soundscape. Not only had Jenkins written into the script nearby sounds of Miami’s serene beaches breezing through the harsher environments of Chiron’s neighborhood, he also spent months figuring out the tones and songs that would help him capture Chiron’s various mental states, since he often doesn’t connect with the world around him.

“I can actually go back into that ‘Moonlight’ playlist now, and half of it is the tone and feeling of the film and the other half is shit, specifically songs, that [are] in the actual movie,” said Romanski.

In exploring and experimenting with the sound of “Moonlight,” it led to Jenkins bringing in Brittel before production. The composer worked from the same playlist to figure out how his score would weave organically with this soundscape. From this, he found a way to create the same contrast found in the beauty and harshness of the film’s cinematography, manipulating his traditional elegiac score and transforming it into deep, distorted sounds as Chiron’s emotions erupt in the film’s second chapter.

Romanski attributes another key factor that allowed “Moonlight” to operating differently than other low-budget films: A24.

“I think people think that meant we had more money, but what it really meant was they simply wanted to ensure we made the best film. There was not pressure about getting ready for a Sundance deadline or how we’d sell the film,” said Romanski. “There’s confidence from knowing someone is taking care of getting this out in the world, which is part of the pressure cooker of making an indie without distribution. The focus was kept on making the best film we could. “

SEE ALSO: Why 'Moonlight' is the Oscar best picture winner we deserve — and 'La La Land' is lame

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'The Lego Batman Movie' tops the first strong weekend box office of the year


Batman Lego Movie Warner Bros final

Who says there's nothing to see at the movies?

This weekend proved that multiple titles can perform well at the multiplex on the same weekend as "The Lego Batman Movie,""Fifty Shades Darker," and "John Wick: Chapter 2" all had impressive first weekends.

"The Lego Batman" movie found positive reviews leading into the weekend which led to an estimated $55.6 million, according to Exhibitor Relations, to win the weekend.

Though that doesn't come close to 2014's "The Lego Movie" opening of $69 million, it's still impressive for a spin-off movie of one of the popular characters from the original.

The difference between first place and second this weekend really came down to the number of screens both titles were on.

fifty shades darker "Fifty Shades Darker," the follow-up to "Fifty Shades of Grey," didn't get the opening the first movie based on the E.L. James novels had ($85.1 million), but its $46.8 million take is a strong figure seeing it only had a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

In fact, the movie out-performed "The Lego Movie" on Friday ($21.5 million versus $15 million), but "Lego" having over 300 more screens has proved enough to edge out "Grey."

Coming in third is "John Wick: Chapter 2." The Keanu Reeves R-rated action movie is proving to find audiences outside of its genre fan base, as the movie took in $30 million, more than doubling the opening weekend of the original in 2014 ($14.4 million).

All three titles should have strong performances next weekend, too, as the only big competition will be the Matt Damon action/thriller, "The Great Wall."

SEE ALSO: How the director of the new "Lego Movie" made Batman great again

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Hollywood's obsession with China is just getting started — here's why


iron man chinaWith China’s box office on track to overtake America’s any year now, Hollywood is increasingly focused on Chinese audiences and Beijing censors. Aynne Kokas, author of "Hollywood in China," explains what we have in store.


As China’s media market grows, foreign media companies will increasingly need to consider the Chinese market first when developing content.

The power of the Chinese market is such that Hollywood producers will ignore the interests of Chinese audiences and regulators at great financial risk. “Made in China” will be a marketing strategy rather than a way to cut costs. If the market continues to grow, rather than simply being made in China, new productions will increasingly be made for China.

Greater focus on the Chinese market in the development process will likely mean more China-related content for global audiences. The upside of Hollywood producing content for China is that it may diversify the type of stories that Hollywood studios produce, as well as the types of people represented on the screen. Yet greater focus on the Chinese market also may privilege content that is more likely to be accepted by Chinese regulators. As a result, Hollywood’s accommodation of the Chinese market could substantially shift the type of media produced—not only for China, but also for other global markets.

Compounding this trend, Chinese outbound capital has begun to have substantial influence in Hollywood. Hollywood is increasingly a destination for media investment by Chinese companies in individual projects, in US-based offices, and even entire studios.

Alibaba reportedly invested in the 2015 Hollywood film "Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation." The China Film Group has been linked as an investor to the record-breaking "Furious 7" movie. Chinese entertainment and technology firm LeTV established its US offices in Los Angeles in 2015. In April 2015, Chinese film studio Huayi Bros. made an agreement with American motion picture company STX entertainment to co-produce and co-distribute 12 to 15 films. In January 2016, the Dalian Wanda Group acquired American studio Legendary Pictures, making it the first Chinese firm to own a Hollywood studio.

Rather than made in China, Hollywood studio productions will also increasingly be made by China—or rather, by Chinese companies investing in Hollywood.

the great wall universalIf China’s outbound investment in Hollywood increases, the Chinese government will have less need to accommodate Hollywood capital and technical investment in China. As more distribution moves to networked digital platforms, the incentive structure for Chinese collaborations with Hollywood is likely to shift from collaboration to competition. The increasing role of digital platforms in media distribution is poised to diminish the potential impact American companies can have within Chinese media markets.

Chinese media investment in the United States, by contrast, shows no signs of slowing down.

Depending on its scope, Chinese FDI could reshape our understanding of the global cultural dominance of the US motion picture industry, radically expanding what cultural critic Rey Chow termed Chinese cinema’s “becoming-visible” to global audiences.

As I have argued, Hollywood’s relationship with China has already begun to leave a substantial global footprint as the result of collaborations on big-budget film releases and record-breaking shared theme park and studio investment. The Chinese Dream and the Hollywood dream factory are becoming ever-more entwined as Chinese media firms expand outward into the United States, and as the media and technology sectors continue to converge. But China and Hollywood remain in competition for global dominance—much as the United States and the PRC compete in the diplomatic realm.

In parallel, as Chinese content regulations become more significant to international media production, global commercial media culture may become subject to more demanding content restrictions to which foreign producers may voluntarily agree because of their desire for access to the Chinese market.

Collaborations advancing the Hollywood dream factory and the China dream may also crowd out content from other locales or in less commercial forms, thereby limiting rather than expanding the types of entertainment available to the global public.

Although seemingly awash with an air of inevitability, Hollywood-China collaboration remains unpredictable. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, visual spectacles in the form of red-carpet events, theme parks, and blockbusters are poised to become only more dramatic as Hollywood and China negotiate their global media brands.


Read more in "Hollywood Made in China" by Aynne Kokas.

DON'T MISS: 18 Hollywood movies that pandered to China's giant box office

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Disney has 22 live-action movies of its animated classics planned — here they all are


Ariel and Sebastian Under the Sea Little Mermaid Disney

Disney is bringing even more animated classics back to life!

From fairy tales like "Snow White" to classics such as "The Lion King," Disney's live-action list continues to grow with more than a dozen in the works.

Some of the movies are complete remakes of their animated counterparts, while others are based on origin stories or sequels to existing live-action adaptations. 

Keep reading to see all of the live-action remakes and sequels Disney has planned so far.

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A live-action "Beauty and the Beast" is coming in March 2017, starring Emma Watson as Belle.

The film features Luke Evans as Gaston, Ewan McGregor as the candelabra Lumiere, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, and Ian McKellen as the clock, Cogsworth.

"Beauty and the Beast" will be in theaters March 17, 2017.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider