It’s probably safe to assume that if Oprah Winfrey, the high priestess of all media, is abandoning her 15-year-long movie role hiatus (we’re not counting you, Bee Movie) to appear in a film, then said film is going to be a big deal. Lee Daniels, the director who snagged an Oscar nomination for 2009’s Precious, is the man behind The Butler, an upcoming biopic based on the life of a White House butler who served eight different presidents during his tenure.
If The Butler merely starred Forest Whitaker (an Academy Award winner for The Last King of Scotland) as Cecil Gaines and Winfrey as his wife, Gloria, buzz would be sufficiently clamorous, but the film also features the kind of all-star cast usually reserved for Steven Spielberg biopics. Robin Williams plays Dwight D. Eisenhower, Liev Schrieber portrays Lyndon B. Johnson, and John Cusack tackles Richard Nixon, while James Marsden plays JFK and Minka Kelly his wife, Jackie Kennedy. Alan Rickman also stars as Ronald Reagan, with Jane Fonda playing Nancy. Rounding out the ensemble cast are Terrence Howard, Vanessa Redgrave, Melissa Leo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alex Pettyfer, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz, the last two of whom also appeared in Precious.
The Butler is scheduled for an October release (just in time for Oscar season, we note), but the first trailer has just been released, and you can watch it below. Who makes the best President? Let us know in the comments.
Remember when you used to be able to just go to a movie? Back in the halcyon days when sodas weren’t the size of a small car (and didn’t have the same price tag), actors took on roles for sums smaller than the GDP of Romania, and the first you heard about the new Star Trek movie was when you read a review of it in Variety (sigh, print media)?
Well, those days are long gone, and since we’re unable to avoid the hype for Baz Luhrmann’s new Great Gatsby adaptation, we might as well break down the five most ridiculous promotional tie-ins with the movie, which comes out this week. What’s that you mutter about a Washington connection? Well, F. Scott Fitzgerald is buried in Rockville, so there’s that.
5) The Great Gatsby Video Game: All right, so this one isn’t strictly a movie tie-in (although it’s gone all sorts of viral this week as anticipation about seeing Leonardo DiCaprio wearing a pocket square builds to a pitch only bats can hear). But this one, at Slate, is, and it’s frustrating and silly. JUST LET ME ROW TO THE AMERICAN DREAM, DAMMIT.
4) The hosiery: There are literally TENS of occasions where I’ve been watching a film only to stop and wonder where the stars got their pantyhose (The Rocky Horror Picture Show springs immediately to mind). Luckily, with The Great Gatsby, if you love the stockings that Carey et al. are wearing, you can purchase them for the bargain price of $75 to $110 from Fogal.
3): The official tie-in book: Random House Australia is so proud of the fact that it gets to publish the “official film tie-in version” of The Great Gatsby that it sent out a press release about it. Hey, Random House? You know this was a book FIRST, right? You know this isn’t like the time someone novelized The Sixth Sense? The Penguin cover of The Great Gatsby is perfect, so if you’re the kind of person who’d rather buy an issue with Isla Fisher pouting on it, then good luck to you. Just don’t come crying to me when you find out there’s no character named Beyoncé.
Well, the second trailer for White House Down is out, and apparently it’s a comedy starring Jamie Foxx as an Urkel-like President who fumbles with rocket launchers and has to put on his glasses before he can fire a gun and Channing Tatum as a dumb but lovable tough guy forced to keep Urkel alive despite his own awkwardness.
In other news, this is EXACTLY the same movie as Olympus Has Fallen. Planes flying super low over Pennsylvania Avenue? Yup. Child trapped inside the White House by terrorists? Yup. Iconic monuments that disintegrate before our very eyes? You betcha. As Washingtonians, we could take it personally that Hollywood keeps trying to destroy us in the most explosive way possible, or we could just identify with the Secret Service agent who sniggers when Maggie Gyllenhaal reveals Channing Tatum’s character barely made a C average in college. Like THAT’ll get you a low-paying but prestigious federal job, Magic Mike. Watch the trailer and tell us: Will you go see this movie?
If you’re not yet tired of Hollywood blowing up monuments, good news: Captain America 2 is filming in town this month. Shooting will take place this Sunday, May 5, on the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, and then May 13 through 16 at unspecified locations across the city, according to a casting announcement from the Maryland Film Office (which uses the movie's production alias "Freezer Burn").
Reprising his role as Steve Rogers/Captain America is Chris Evans, with Scarlett Johansson playing Natasha Romanoff/the Black Widow. Says a Marvel press release:
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier will pick up where Marvel’s The Avengers left off, as Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and teams up with Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, to battle a powerful yet shadowy enemy in present-day Washington, DC.”
Props to the producers for actually making it out here instead of photoshopping in the Capitol like everyone else does.
Silverdocs, the annual documentary festival hosted at AFI Silver Theatre each summer, announced today that it has a new name (AFI Docs), a new sponsor (Audi), and a new esteemed panel of advisers (Ken Burns, Spike Lee, Barbara Copple, and Davis Guggenheim, among others).
The largest documentary festival in the US, Silverdocs has long been a highlight of the summer for filmgoers and Silver Spring residents alike. This year’s festival, scheduled for June 19 through 23, will still be based at the AFI Silver Theatre but will also include screenings in downtown Washington in venues on the Mall and in Penn Quarter. AFI Docs, the name of which refers to the American Film Institute, will also include a new program called the AFI Catalyst Sessions, which brings together filmmakers, policy-makers, and audiences to discuss issues affecting Americans today.
“AFI Docs will bring film artists to the forefront of a dialogue with our nation’s leaders,” said AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale in a statement. “History has proven that great change in civil societies is often, if not always, catalyzed by art. It is this that inspires us to be in Washington, DC, with storytellers whose voices serve as catalysts for action.”
More information about this year’s slate of films and other scheduled programing will be posted at the AFI Docs website in coming weeks, and we’ll update as we learn more about the 2013 festival.
It’s always sad when a festival calls it quits, but in the case of National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival, the cancellation of the annual event is a real loss for minority and indigenous filmmakers.
All Roads, which has been screening films at National Geographic locations across the country since 2004, also provided seed grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 annually to filmmakers who came from or documented underrepresented cultures. Finished works were subsequently presented as a part of the September festival and occasionally screened on the National Geographic channel.
“Unfortunately, [All Roads] did not generate the audience needed to sustain it as a separate strand of programming,” says National Geographic spokesperson Meaghan Calnan, who added that the organization will integrate films focusing on indigenous cultures into National Geographic Live, its public events series.
The first All Roads Film Festival debuted in 2004 in Los Angeles and Washington, presenting more than 36 films culled from 500 entries. Spike Lee, a member of the project’s advisory council, praised the festival’s mission to give underrepresented cultures and filmmakers a platform. “The All Roads Film Project will help bring to light a whole new group of talented individuals with extraordinary stories to tell,” Lee said. One of the first films screened was Arna’s Children by Juliano Mer-Khamis, an Israeli/Palestinian actor and filmmaker who was assassinated in 2011.
In 2009, All Roads participant Thornton Warwick’s film Samson and Delilah was one of nine movies shortlisted for a Foreign Language Film Oscar that year and ended up winning the Caméra d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.
The former All Roads homepage now states that both the “All Roads Film Project and its Seed Film Grant program has ceased operation and will not resume.” National Geographic continues to offer other grants to conservationists and explorers, but its contributions to filmmaking will be sadly missed.
Iconic government buildings crumbling before our very eyes? Check. Cyberterrorists looking gleeful? Check. Abraham Lincoln quotes? Say what now?
The trailer for White House Down, which you may remember from our earlier posts as the other movie to be released this year in which America and her beloved buildings are attacked by inexplicably well-armed and well-organized terrorists, came out last night, and while it offers shamefully few clips of Channing Tatum in a tank top, it does give some clues as to what director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012) might have up his sleeve. The Capitol building is seen falling apart after an explosion while the world’s media freaks out. But wait! It was all a diversion, while presumably the real target is the President (Jamie Foxx), who’s sitting uncomfortably in the White House with no agents man enough to protect him.
You won’t get this from the trailer, but apparently the movie is one long audition for Tatum’s character, John McClane—sorry, Cale—a Capitol Police Officer who really wants to work for the President but can’t get on his team. That is, until he happens to be taking his daughter (Joey King) to visit the White House on the same day aliens—sorry, evil terrorists—attack.
Only briefly glimpsed in the trailer: Maggie Gyllenhaal, who we can only hope is as embarrassed to be in the movie as Morgan Freeman looked for the duration of Olympus Has Fallen. She plays a Secret Service agent alongside James Woods.
Other trailer highlights (and glean from these what facts you will): what looks like a missile hitting a plane, triage tents being set up on the Mall, the Oval Office in tatters, and the presidential limo crashing upside down into a swimming pool. Not shown: Channing Tatum’s ability to find a third facial expression. White House Down comes out July Fourth weekend. Happy birthday, America.
Yesterday was Aaron Eckhart’s 45th birthday, and judging from the way he was clutching a pair of reading glasses and occasionally hiding his face in his hands on top of a conference table, he was feeling it. “You know things,” he said to fellow Olympus Has Fallen cast member Angela Bassett after she predicts he’ll return to the stage in the future. “Will I fall in love?” Her response: “Yes, you will, but you gotta give it up. You want it to attack you.”
For an actor, there can be few things more tedious than the obligatory promotional tour to promote a movie, which is presumably why when Eckhart, Bassett, Gerard Butler, and director Antoine Fuqua gave interviews in Washington yesterday, they spent more time discussing the oddities of filmmaking than they did the movie (it’s hard not to imagine they’ve already given the same answers several hundred times already). For example: Morgan Freeman sings old-school top-40 hits between takes. Eckhart wants a role where he can be “in the gutter with a prostitute.” Butler was sweating so much during filming in the 115-degree weather in Shreveport, Louisiana, Fuqua said, it looked like he’d taken a shower fully clothed.
Olympus Has Fallen, the first of two let’s-blow-up-the-White-House movies to be released in 2013, stars Eckhart as the square-jawed, impossibly handsome President of the United States who gets kidnapped by a North Korean terrorist (Rick Yune), and Butler as the square-jawed, impossibly heroic Secret Service agent who attempts to rescue him. Bassett plays the head of the Secret Service, Freeman the Speaker of the House, and Melissa Leo the Secretary of Defense, who also falls prey to the well-armed attackers. “What I love about the movie is that it’s a hero’s journey for everyone,” said Butler, intently. “It’s at these times of great turmoil and danger that you see a nation come together.”
Although the movie, shot on film rather than digitally, does a remarkably good job of turning modern Washington into a war zone, it was filmed entirely in Shreveport, where Fuqua and his team built replicas of the White House and even Pennsylvania Avenue. “What’s going to be interesting is your reaction to the film,” said Eckhart. “It should give Washington a good scare.” He may be underestimating us—if North Korean war planes ever did rain bullets down on the Mall and clip the top of the Washington Monument, some cynical blogger would most likely christen the event with a cutesy nickname (Actualmageddon?) long before any real panic set in.
If you’re one of those people who think culture peaked in 1988 when Die Hard came out, good news: 2013 is going to bring not one but two movies about brawny Secret Service agents on lone-wolf-like missions to save the White House from enemy combatants.
On the roster for release are Olympus Has Fallen, an Antoine Fuqua-directed drama starring Gerard Butler as a Secret Service agent forced to defend the President (Aaron Eckhart) against an attack on the White House by an evil terrorist genius (Rick Yune); and White House Down, a Roland Emmerich-directed drama starring Channing Tatum as a Secret Service agent forced to defend the President (Jamie Foxx) against an attack on the White House by a evil paramilitary group.
If you ignore the fact that pitting the jowly, not-too-many-years-away-from-being-Russell-Crowe Butler against Channing “even Charlize Theron wants to have sex with me” Tatum is just unfair, the movies are fairly evenly matched. Questions? We break the details down for you below.
Which director has the better creds?
Tough call. WHD’s Emmerich directed Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, along with the infinitely less good 10,000 BC and Godzilla. Fuqua did the fantastic Training Day, obviously, as well as Brooklyn’s Finest, which made me fall asleep.
Tell us about the fictitious presidents who get into trouble.
Okay. Olympus’s is played by Aaron Eckhart. Let’s stop a minute to think about the fact that “Olympus” is Secret Service code for the White House, and how in Greek mythology it was also the home of the gods. Imperial presidency, much? Anyway, Aaron Eckhart is very handsome, and in this movie, judging from the trailer, he is very sad after his lovely wife (played by potential Kentucky Senate candidate Ashley Judd) dies in a car crash. So that’s one.
In WHD, Jamie Foxx is President, because America apparently didn’t see everything he got up to in Ray. And his First Lady is Garcelle Beauvais. That’s all we know because there’s no trailer, yet.
The White House. And the Washington Monument appears to crumble after being hit by the wing of a plane.
You’ve recovered from the shock of Hangover star Bradley Cooper being nominated for Best Actor, and heard all about how Jessica Chastain is upset over Zero Dark Thirty’s Kathryn Bigelow being passed over for Best Director. You have your own opinions on the Oscar contenders, so we’ve rounded up a few places where you can enjoy disagreeing with the Academy’s choices over cocktails.