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John Boyega, Director Abi Damaris Corbin on the Making of Sundance Feature ‘892’: “It Was Nonstop”

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John Boyega, Director Abi Damaris Corbin on the Making of Sundance Feature ‘892’: “It Was Nonstop”

892 tells the real-life story of Brian Easley, a Marine veteran who threatened to bomb a Wells Fargo in an Atlanta suburb in 2017. The 33-year-old father suffered from PTSD and was frustrated that his disability checks — totaling $892 — were being withheld by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The movie had its Sundance Film Festival premiere on Jan. 21, with The Hollywood Reporter review praising lead actor John Boyega’s “ability to reflect, with poise and command, the competing, often incongruent layers of a man most of us will never know.”

Boyega joined the project after Jonathan Majors, who was originally cast to play Easley, had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. “I was pretty much relaxing after spending time with family, and then I got a call from my agent about this project,” remembers the actor. (Prior to this, Boyega had abruptly exited the filming of Netflix feature Rebel Ridge.) 892 was co-written by Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, who cast Boyega in his first acting job in the 2009 play Seize the Day, years before he landed the role that would make him a household name in the Star Wars galaxy. He put this story in front of me years ago, but scheduling didn’t allow us to do it. So, it came full circle,” explains Boyega.

Abi Damaris Corbin, a Boston native whose own father was a U.S. military veteran having fought in Vietnam with the Navy, was making her feature debut on the project. Boyega and Corbin begin rehearsals almost immediately over Zoom, with only a handful of weeks prior to 892’s Los Angeles production start date. “It was definitely a 180,” remembers Boyega. “Especially at the time, I didn’t have the intention of working so soon.”

An abandoned bank in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley stood in for the Wells Fargo, where much of the film takes place. “It was like a stage play,” says Corbin of the production. “It was nonstop.” Much of 892, which also stars Connie Britton, Selenis Leyva and Nicole Beharie, sees Boyega acting opposite a phone as Easley makes calls to his ex-wife, his daughter, a local television news producer and a hostage negotiator.

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The negotiator is played posthumously by late actor Michael K. Williams. (Williams passed away in September at 54.) Corbin highlights Williams’ dedication to the story, remembering the filming of a scene that was proving particularly difficult to land. “We were at like take 18. And I’m like, ‘Mike, we got the pieces. We’re good.’ He’s like, ‘Abi, let me go one more,’” says the director. “We knew, between the two of us, that this was something that we couldn’t punt.”

That commitment to telling Easley’s story was a driving force for those working on the indie production, says Corbin. Boyega would come to set on his days off to do line readings for the actors who were meant to be talking to Easley on the phone. “He was in the car in 106-degree weather, on the phone for every actor, or hiding in a corner because there was no place else to fit,” she says.

“I like to say there are some roles where you can use elements of yourself to help prompt your knowledge of the role, and then there are some roles that you just did not go through, and you have gotta act,” says Boyega. Playing Easley was the latter for the star, who did have to take a forced break from the character after he tested positive for COVID-19 during the shoot. “I had like a few weeks off to recover and then came back and finished it off,” he recalls. “That really worried me because we’re in a streak, like getting into the meat of it. And then it happened, and I was like, ‘Damn, I’m gonna lose the flow.’”

Before scripting, Corbin and Kwei-Armah reached out to Easley’s wife, Jessica, and daughter for their blessing in making the movie but also to learn more about the man who would be at its center. Boyega met with the family over Zoom after they had watched the film, where he says they voiced their support of his performance. The actor notes, “When you go and do the work, and you circle back, it’s always in hopes that they appreciate and support what you are doing.”

While 892 is based on a 2018 Longreads article, little is available about Easley outside of contemporaneous news reports. The team behind 892 hopes that this will change with their movie, which is a part of the fest’s U.S. Dramatic Competition lineup and is seeking distribution. Says Boyega, “This is Bryan’s legacy, here and now. This is part of the same spark that made him go is that back; this movie is created from that same spark.”

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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