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Taking Care Of Business: Baz Luhrmann | FilmInk

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Taking Care Of Business: Baz Luhrmann | FilmInk

“That’s what happens to a film,” Baz Luhrmann once told FilmInk Magazine. “You hope, you dream, you birth it. You hopefully make sure that it isn’t killed on arrival. You give it a life, and it grows up. And a relationship forms between the film and the audience.”

Film audiences have been developing deep, passionate relationships with the movies of Australian director, Baz Luhrmann, since he hit the cinematic dance floor with his much-loved big screen charmer, Strictly Ballroom, back in 1992. Driven by dazzling dance numbers, peppered with brilliant performances, and boasting a swooning central romance, the modern movie classic was even reconfigured for the stage by Baz Luhrmann himself, with Strictly Ballroom The Musical proving a huge hit. And now he delivers another bold-as-brass music themed movie with Elvis, which tells the life story of The King Of Rock’n’roll.

Baz Luhrmann

Despite his highly theatrical films and rich sense of personal style, Baz Luhrmann is no cashed-up city slicker. He was raised in Herons Creek, a tiny rural settlement in northern New South Wales, where his father ran a petrol station and movie theatre, and his mother taught ballroom dancing. “I’m from a very small country town in the middle of nowhere,” Luhrmann told FilmInk Magazine.

Initially dreaming of becoming an actor, Luhrmann was accepted into The National Institute Of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 1983, and eventually scored on-screen work, with roles in the film, Winter Of Our Dreams, opposite Bryan Brown and Judy Davis, and on the long-running TV series, A Country Practice. But when he made his directorial debut with Strictly Ballroom, Luhrmann’s acting days were over.

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Austin Butler in Elvis

The film was a local award-winning smash, and its bravura style saw its director recognised instantly internationally. Luhrmann next took on William Shakespeare with his youthful, energised, contemporised reinvention of Romeo + Juliet, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The glitzy, highly stylised musical, Moulin Rouge!, followed, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, before Luhrmann mounted the massive local epic, Australia, with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. He applied his trademark eye-popping visuals to an American literary classic with The Great Gatsby, and proved that not all blockbusters have to be about superheroes.

While talent isn’t always rewarded, Baz Luhrmann has done his fair share of well-deserved podium jumping, beginning with Strictly Ballroom, which took home eight AFI Awards, as well as three BAFTAs and a Golden Globe nomination. Moulin Rouge! scored six Oscar nominations and two wins, and also danced away with three gongs at The Golden Globes, while Australia received an Oscar nomination for its exquisitely rustic costumes. And most recently, The Great Gatsby scooped the pool at the AACTA Awards, staging its own party with a staggering twelve wins, while also snagging two nominations at The Academy Awards.

Austin Butler in Elvis

Now, Baz Luhrmann tells his first true life tale, and unsurprisingly, he has opted to do nothing by halves. Cinema on a grand, epic scale, Elvis looks at the near-mythical tale of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) via his deeply complex relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks).  The film burrows deep into the fraught dynamic between the two men, crossing a period of over twenty years, from Presley’s dynamic rise to fame in Memphis, Tennessee through to his career triumphs but ultimate fall in Las Vegas. And if the film’s scenes in the casino-filled city that never sleeps get you in the mood, you can find free online pokies using sites such as www.nodepositpokies.com. Also central to the journey of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is the other essential figure in Presley’s life, his wife, Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge). “Elvis is still in our lives and he will continue to be,” Luhrmann has said of the musical icon.

While Baz Luhrmann’s edgy, highly original films have triumphed at the box office, the director says that one of his greatest challenges from the very beginning has been convincing others to share his vision. “That has never been an easy road,” Luhrmann told FilmInk. “When I made Strictly Ballroom, it was like, ‘You know that ballroom dancing is never going to work.’ Romeo + Juliet? ‘Shakespeare will never be popular.’ If I had a dollar for every time that I heard that…but that’s alright though. That’s our job.”

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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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