First Photos Of Actual Beauty & Beast (IMAGES)

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A tale as old as time can’t come soon enough, not after these brand new images of Belle and the Beast have debuted – which range from the provincial to the elegant.

Walt Disney Studios released the photos through the web site Stitch Kingdom, a Disney Fan page, and they capture the look that everyone’s hoping for.

I have to say, I’m particularly impressed by the Beast. To me, that was going to be the biggest challenge and hurdle for this live action adaptation to clear. Sure, it’s been done on the stage, but film is a less forgiving medium, what with those close-ups and all. Suffice it to say, he’s a ravishingly handsome man-animal that adoring girls will swoon over.

Belle will tame the ultimate bad boy and fulfill every woman’s misguided fantasy this spring when the live action Beauty & The Beast opens on March 17, 2017.

(Click each for larger image.)

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A Final Look Forward At JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK (VIDEO/POSTER)

A quick, fun final trailer on the heels of the film’s release, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back looks like it’ll scratch that Mission: Impossible itch with less tech, more brute force, and a vigilante swagger.

But the main thing to keep in mind while watching this IMAX trailer? Tom Cruise is 54 years old. Fifty-four. And looking as legit as ever.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back opens on October 21, 2016. (Here’s the studio’s official synopsis.)

  • Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) returns with his particular brand of justice in the highly anticipated sequel JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK. When Army Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who heads Reacher’s old investigative unit, is arrested for Treason, Reacher will stop at nothing to prove her innocence and to uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy involving soldiers who are being killed.

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DEEPWATER HORIZON (Movie Review)

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***1/2 out of ****
Rated PG-13
(for prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images, and language including brief strong language)
Released: September 23, 2016
Runtime: 107 minutes
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, Gina Rodriguez, John Malkovich

(To read my conversation with stars Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson, click here.)

The ecological toll was historic. The human toll was horrifying.

Deepwater Horizon – a nerve-racking dramatization of the untold heroism at the heart of one of the worst geological catastrophes ever seen – is a disaster movie where the thrills are anything but cheap.

On April 20, 2010, the oceanic oil rig Deepwater Horizon suffered a cataclysmic breakdown in the Gulf of Mexico. Forty miles off the Louisiana coast, it led to the biggest oil spill in U.S. history when this floating structure – manned by a 126 member crew – began to explode and implode. For nearly three months after the collapse, an open underwater oil spout would spew 210 gallons of crude into the ocean, resulting in extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats.

The environmental fallout dominated the news cycle, particularly as BP Global’s business practices were rightly scrutinized. Ignored in the media narrative, however, was the fact that hardworking men and women fought to save their lives and each other’s as their world literally burned down around them.

And some didn’t make it.

The film Deepwater Horizon tells their story, of the struggle and heroism of everyday workers whose safety was tragically compromised by company executives. As a genre piece, yes, this is a disaster movie, but it’s one that uses Hollywood pyrotechnics not to sensationalize but rather authenticate, and then magnify, in the most realistic terms.

It’s the second collaboration between actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, with distinct corollaries to their first, Lone Survivor (about a real-life battle in Afghanistan). Both essentially share the same narrative structure: the grunts on the “front line” suffer tragedy at the hands of incompetent superiors, and then rise heroically in the face of life-and-death circumstances. Artistically, the same approach is applied too. Deepwater Horizon is a disaster movie but with the grit of a war movie.

In a purely aesthetic respect, this also evokes an End Times onslaught in microcosm (sans Rapture). The systematic destruction of the oil rig plays out like Armageddon, with literal fire and brimstone raining down. But this never plays to our base popcorn sensibilities. Berg’s severe, exhausting depiction – which is necessarily gruesome, at times with bone-protruding brutality – is as wince-inducing as it is heartbreaking.

Yet for as powerfully rendered as the central disturbing spectacle is, Berg’s career-best directorial effort is perhaps most distinguished in the build-up. The actual event doesn’t begin until about the film’s halfway point; Berg doesn’t even “tease” with a prologue glimpse of what’s to come (as many directors might, in a desperate attempt to satiate the lowest common denominator). Rather, the story unfolds in a straightforward, steady crescendo toward the inevitable, but Berg (almost miraculously) never allows the movie to drag. If anything, he frays our nerves (along with our fears) the longer he keeps fate at bay.

Beyond a strong command of cinematic techniques in general (and his signature hand-held naturalism specifically), Berg maximizes this plot patience in three distinct ways:

  • One, we’re given a clear understanding of the decisions that were made, how things went wrong, why, and who was to blame (character-actor legends Kurt Russell and John Malkovich lock horns, respectively, with conviction and arrogance). Due to demands from visiting BP execs, the rig is pushed beyond its limits.
  • Two, through fleshing out the home life of Mike Williams (Wahlberg, as unassumingly stalwart as ever) and his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson, brandishing strong dramatic chops), Berg establishes the emotional family component beyond the perfunctory (something the recent Sully didn’t do as well), and even utilizes it to provide a simple diagram to help us understand how ocean rigs work (and how they could fail).
  • And three, Berg essentially portrays the pressure-building drill mechanism as an underwater leviathan laying in wait to strike and destroy. That example may sound hokey (which would be my lack of a better metaphor), but Berg makes it entirely legitimate as he cranks our anxiety.

For all that we know of this event going into the movie, the actual level of destruction (which, by all accounts of those who survived it, is accurate) nothing can prepare you for the scale. This is not your typical Hollywood hyperbole. More to the point: nothing could prepare those oil rig roughnecks either.

Unlike similar movies in which the heroes are soldiers or first responders, these workers weren’t trained to save lives. It’s not what they signed up for. That context provides its own unique inspiration, and makes Deepwater Horizon’s raison d’être – which is to focus on the people, not the political – all the more substantial, and necessary.

Animated Indy Is Here! (VIDEO)

All 70 seconds of it!

As I had previously blogged about, freelance animator Patrick Schoenmaker was inspired to make a “calling card” test clip of what an animated Indiana Jones series could look like. After years of development, the brief but thrilling clip is here.

Working as a “proof of concept” piece, The Adventures of Indiana Jones (see mock trailer below) is essentially a collage montage of ideas, imaginatively rendered and ingeniously blended. While Schoenmaker has aspirations of turning this into a real series if Lucasfilm were interested, I’d be more inclined to see direct-to-video feature length narratives in this style rather than weekly episodes. I think that approach would keep the property fresh rather than running it into the ground.

But I’ll take either.

Final FANTASTIC BEASTS Trailer Reveals Title Creatures (VIDEO)

Expecto Prequonum!

Here’s your last sneak peak, muggles: the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is here. And it has some pretty fantastic beasts.

Set in 1920s New York City, this Potter prequel stars Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) in the central role of wizarding world magizoologist Newt Scamander. It’s an adaptation of the book by J.K. Rowling – who also wrote the script – and is directed by David Yates, who helmed the last four Harry Potter blockbusters.

Here’s the official synopsis:

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens in 1926 as Newt Scamander has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures.  Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident…were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will come out from under its invisibility cloak and reveal itself to the world on November 18, 2016.

THE LION KING Set To Roar In Live Action Movie

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The Lion King live action movie is a go.

At Walt Disney, the circle of life for nearly every property involves the symbiotic cycle that triangulates between animation, live action, and live theatre. Regardless of where a story may debut on that triad, if it reaches a reasonable level of success and pop culture saturation it will eventually be told through the other two.

After the popular and critical embrace of the live action Jungle Book this past spring, its director Jon Favreau announced via Twitter and Facebook that Disney has given him the go to apply the same technology to a live action Lion King.

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Click here to read the official statement from Walt Disney Studios.

Clearly, this means the vision will not be a variation on the Tony winning (and long running) stage version that utilized puppetry but, rather, a full-fledged photo-real take.

No voice talent has been announced, so it remains to be seen if any of the original cast will reprise their roles.

Favreau also remains at the helm of The Jungle Book 2, and no release dates for that or the live action Lion King have been set. Don’t be surprised if Favreau’s The Lion King ends up being slated for 2019, which will mark the original’s 25th Anniversary.

More Reality-Bending Footage In New DOCTOR STRANGE Spot (VIDEO/IMAGES)

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There’s a reason Marvel keeps dishing out new looks from the upcoming Doctor Strange movie: they’re all cool.

Anyone who regularly follows my blog knows how “meh” I am on nearly all things Marvel. But this new expansion of the MCU has me really intrigued. It’s the first Marvel movie in pretty much forever that I’m actively looking forward to.

We won’t have to wait much longer. Doctor Strange bends time and space (or is it just space?) on November 4, 2016.

(Click on any picture for larger image gallery.)