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Culture Cafe

Movie, music, and television reviews from a select group of bloggers.

'Game of Thrones' ended its second season with the episode 'Valar Morghulis.' (Courtesy of HBO)

'Game of Thrones' finale finishes the season with powerful moments

By Kevin YeomanScreen Rant / 06.04.12

Considering its lack of readily identifiable stars like Sean Bean and Jason Momoa (but really Sean Bean), Game of Thrones had its work cut out for it in season 2.

Yet somehow, with the added challenge of lacking a central character whose ideals and experiences audiences could cling to throughout the season (like those of Bean’s Eddard Stark), Game of Thrones has arguably managed to pull of the kind of feat most programs wouldn’t dare; that is, the series has exponentially expanded its world – geographically and otherwise – added to its cast of characters, and then spread them apart so that few, if any, actually have chance to interact.

Here, the sheer size of Westeros and the number of characters contained therein could have proved a logistical nightmare for David Benioff and D.B. Weiss – taking into account they had but 10 (or so) hours to tell multiple intertwining (and sometimes disparate) stories and make them work as a cohesive whole. In doing this, the writers crafted a solid second season that united its characters and their various story lines through the omnipresent threat of conflict.

Often times, the trouble with world building on this scale is the struggle to make such varied characters relate to one another, but in Game of Thrones the shared experience that has gripped nearly every kingdom acts like a bridge between stories. There are other elements at play; such as, the general knowledge that Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) knows what everyone, everywhere, is up to at any given time – or that Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) can be counted on as long as the end helps satiate his lust for wealth and power. The difference is these are attributes given to well-established characters that have a history long before the War of the Five Kings. To ensure Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) has as much reason to take up precious screen time as Jon Snow (Kit Harington) or Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), there must be a shared knowledge of current events to keep them all relevant. And if what Melisandre (Carice van Houten) says to Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is true, then the event that unifies the characters will be raging for years to come.

Here, the progression of the individual plays against the backdrop of something larger, and in having these smaller chunks of story be impacted by such a universal event – rather than directly influence it – the pressure to end in resolution is largely lifted. Where some programs attempting to utilize such styles of storytelling come off being clumsy or unsubtle, this series sees the tactic executed incredibly well.

And so, after the narrow focus on conflict that was ‘Blackwater,’ Game of Thrones is set to bring its second season to a close by spreading itself across Westeros once more in ‘Valar Morghulis.’

REVIEW

The episode largely serves as an appropriate epilogue for the ‘Battle of Blackwater’ while gathering steam for season 3. ‘Valar Morghulis’ has a lot of ground to cover, and thankfully it begins with the fallen Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who was last seen losing consciousness as his father and the Tyrells pushed back Stannis’ invading forces. Tyrion, thanks to his squire Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), is only slightly worse for wear – bearing a rather striking slash across his face, that he deems a worthy addition to his diminutive size. Tyrion’s wounds are more than superficial, though, as he learns, immediately upon waking to none other than Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover), that the position of the King’s Hand is no longer his; it has officially been bestowed upon Tywin.

In a moment of rare tenderness, Shae (Sibel Kekilli) suggests the two run away and live their lives doing what they do best. The plan sounds ideal except for the fact that Tyrion has finally found his place in the world: it’s not lazing about drinking and fornicating – it’s participating in the process that recently spat him out. It seems, for the time being, Tyrion has no plans to run from King’s Landing.

Unfortunately, the same can also be said for Sansa. Having turned down an offer from the Hound (Rory McCann) to return to Winterfell, she receives yet another opportunity to flee north, but refuses it, too. After Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), steps in to take the hand of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) – which takes the collective effort of his mother, Cersei (Lena Headey), and Pycelle to convince the teenage tyrant it’s best not to marry the daughter of a traitor – Sansa is ostensibly freed. Though this puts Joffrey into the hands of someone more equipped to handle his particular temperament, Sansa is warned by Lord Baelish (the newly-named lord of Harrenhal) that Joffrey is not one to give up his toys so readily.

Arya is barely touched upon, but she, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) have successfully escaped Harrenhal, thanks to Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), who offers to teach Arya the way to cross those names from her special list. Tempting as the offer must be, she turns him down, but Jaqen gives the girl his version of a business card – just in case she needs his services at some point down the road.

Meanwhile, Robb (Richard Madden) decides to marry Talisa (Oona Chaplin) in a slapdash ceremony that directly disregards his oath to marry one of Lord Frey’s daughters, not to mention his mother’s wishes. Given that Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is being escorted back to King’s Landing by Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) – courtesy of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) – it seems a mother’s words no longer carry much weight with the King of the North.

Speaking of the North, ‘Valar Morghulis’ largely resolves the issue of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) occupying Winterfell, after a sympathy-inducing moment where he reveals that his fate at the hand of Ned Stark set the tone for his life as an outcast – and now he is truly a man without a home. Instead of running to the Wall, though, Theon is simply dispatched by his own men despite a stirring speech that’s tantamount to a call for suicide. The young Starks, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) emerge from hiding to find their home in ruin and Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) knocking on death’s door. Along with Osha (Natalia Tena) and Hodor (Kristian Naim), they set out in search of Jon at the wall.

Most impressive, though, is the way the episode takes the elements that have largely existed as the nonessential story lines (Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), and positions them to be the catalyst for season 3. In doing so, Dany is once more poised to become a major player. After a vision-filled journey through the House of the Undying that includes a glimpse of the Iron Throne covered in snow, as well as a brief interlude with her dead husband (Kahl Drogo) and child, she manages to recover her stolen dragons and use them to kill the warlock, Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore). The hasty, but satisfying victory finds her ransacking the home of Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anonzie), after entombing him in his highly-prized (but empty) vault.

Jon Snow’s journey is also just beginning, after he slays Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) in an effort to convince the Wildlings he’s a traitor to the Night’s Watch. Rattleshirt (Edward Dogliani) recommends they burn Qhorin; as he’s not one Jon would likely enjoy seeing walk the earth again. And on that ominous note, Game of Thrones ends with the sight of hundreds of reanimated corpses at the command of the White Walkers march on the Fist of the First Men, where Sam Tarly and the rest of Lord Mormont’s Night’s Watch battalion are stationed.

The climactic scene comes as the standout moment in a season filled with many highlights and powerful character moments. This was a truly exciting and well-made season, one that may actually trump its predecessor – a rare feat in both television and film. Here, though, the lion’s share of the credit is owed to the cast and production value of the series. Because of those efforts, Westeros has become a tangible and believable place, giving the story room to work without addressing plausibility. Game of Thrones doesn’t feel like a bunch of actors playing at fantasy; it feels like a world inhabited by real people. And that, after two stellar seasons, may prove to be the series’ biggest attribute.

Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Star Wars 1313' is said to explore the darker elements of the sci-fi universe created by George Lucas (pictured.) (Jean-Paul Palissier/Reuters)

'Star Wars 1313': Details of the video game are released

By Andrew DyceScreen Rant / 06.01.12

It’s official, a brand new game franchise in the Star Wars universe is here, and it is, unsurprisingly, Star Wars 1313. While some connections between the name and the bounty hunter profession have been proven to be accurate – you will be playing a bounty hunter – the game seems to be a bit of a departure from previous Star Wars titles. 

We’ve known that something bearing the title Star Wars 1313 was on its way, since the term was trademarked out of the blue, and then prematurely confirmed to be the next new game from LucasArts. But exactly what it would be, and who it would cater to was never clear.

Now we can put some of those questions to rest, as the first in-depth information on the project was revealed on GameTrailers TV. The player will be one of many bounty hunters on the 1,313 levels of Coruscant, the Republic capitol. While the main character’s identity (possibly a young Boba Fett learning the trade?) and the game’s plot are being kept under wraps, we do know that it will be a third-person action title, and much darker in tone than fans are used to.

LucasArts’ Lead Artist Dave Smith explains the backdrop of 1313:

“It’s the worst of the worst of the Star Wars galaxy brought together in one place. You’ve got crime, you’ve got gangs, you’ve got bounty hunters, you’ve got treachery, intrigue. All of these more mature themes that we haven’t really explored.”

The “over-the-shoulder” camera view is one that gamers will immediately be familiar with, especially in more cinematic and set-piece games like Uncharted or Gears of War. Not surprising, with members of development from both LucasArts and ILM claiming those will be important aspects of this game’s narrative.

A strong emphasis on facial animations was also shown, with character renders that were comparable to those seen with The Force Unleashed. Whether those are the same quality in the actual gameplay or pre-rendered cutscenes isn’t clear, but the extremely brief images of the game do show a much darker, more realistic style. In other words, much closer to the actual film’s aesthetic than The Old Republic or Clone Wars.

The last few years have been anything but uplifting for fans of Star Wars who also happened to be console gamers. The Old Republic has opened up a massive universe for PC gamers, but after The Force Unleashed‘s promising start was quickly axed, and a practically-completed Battlefront 3 was canned, the momentum faded.

From what’s been shown so far, Star Wars 1313 might be one of the first games to be pursuing the “high quality game” standard that LucasArts claimed was the goal going forward.

More information has been promised for Star Wars 1313 at E3 2012, so count on us to bring it to you. What are your thoughts on the basic premise and attitude that’s been shown? Think is the right time for Star Wars to put its name on a mature property?

Andrew Dyce blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Iron Man 3' may take place in Miami, Fla., according to some sources. (Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures/AP)

'Iron Man 3' villain: Is it the Mandarin?

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 05.31.12

Marvel’s Iron Man 3 is the first entry in phase 2 of The Avengers movie universe, and after the success of The Avengers, it’s safe to say that Marvel movie mania is at an all-time high. Iron Man 3 casting announcements and plot rumors have been circulating like wildfire on the Blackwater, but as production on the film kicks off in Wilmington, North Carolina, details from the set are being leaked to the Internet.

Read on for some unconfirmed rumors from various “sources” who claim to have knowledge of the Iron Man 3 storyline.

Latino Review is dropping a big exclusive, in which they claim to have some better sources than the “crew members on the set” that other sites are sourcing. Here’s the deal with the Iron Man 3 villain situation, according to LR:

  • Ben Kingsley IS playing The Mandarin. However, Kingsley’s Mandarin is a background mastermind, while Guy Pearce’s scientist character, Aldrich Killian, is the more direct threat.
  • Pearce’s character will invent the Extremis nanotechnology, and use it to transform multiple people into (literal) killing machines.
  • Minor villains Firepower (played by Ashley Hamilton) and Coldblood-7 (played by James Badge Dale) will not be the same as their obscure comic book counterparts, but will rather be generic cyborg types created by Killian’s Extremis technology.
  • Actor William Sadler (Die Hard 2) is in the cast of Iron Man 3 for some yet-to-be-revealed role.

Meanwhile, reports from the actual set conflict with some of LR‘s assessments. As reported by Comicbook.com and CBM:

The film’s security had things pretty well barricaded up so it was impossible to get any photos of the filming inside. Those that did get a glimpse inside reported seeing extras dressed in military uniforms and suits. The extras in suits were described as looking like Secret Service men.

While talking to some Wilmington locals, we had one source involved with the production tell us that Mandarin was definitely the villain. He said Mandarin had a set of twins that did most of his dirty work for him. Another source who had visited EUE/Screen Gems Studios told us that the sets they were building included Chinese storefronts.

Probably, the biggest piece of information we learned, which we reported earlier is that part of the story for Iron Man 3 will be set in Miami, Florida. A source close to the production revealed that he had seen vehicles emblazoned with logos for the city of Miami and Miami Police Department being unloaded on one of the sets.

Specifically, it’s the part about the Mandarin’s “evil twin” henchmen that Latino Review is refuting; they figure somebody unfamiliar with the production is confusing some of the details. We’ll see how it shakes out, and who is correct, soon enough.

All in all, most of the information provided fits in accordance with our assessment that Iron Man 3 will borrow elements the “Extremis” storyline(s). For those unfamiliar: basically, rogue scientists (later backed by the Mandarin) create and unleash a nanotechnological virus that transforms people into organic cyborgs (or something like that). These opponents are faster and stronger than Tony Stark’s Iron Man tech, forcing Tony himself to become a cyborg-type person (even more so than he arguably is) in order to save the day.

In larger scope, the technological arms race kicked off by Extremis, and Tony’s life-altering decisions to use it, had far-reaching effects on the Marvel universe, both terrestrially and cosmically (see: Secret Invasion). It also transformed Iron Man into something more than a guy in a suit of armor (as Captain America famously stated in The Avengers). If Marvel is taking their movie universe down a similar path (as has been speculated), this would be a logical starting point.

We’ll find out more, we’re sure, as Iron Man 3 continues production to make it’s May 3, 2013 release date.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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'Les Miserables' will star Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. (Universal/YouTube screenshot)

'Les Miserables' first trailer debuts online

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 05.30.12

An official teaser trailer has been released for Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of producer Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Misérables stage musical. The film chronicles the struggles of lower-class citizens in early 19th century France – as seen through the eyes of characters like the ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and struggling single mother Fantine (Anne Hathaway).

Yesterday’s batch of official images from Les Misérables (colloquially known as Les Miz) teased the design of the film’s period setting, along with the look of its cast “in character.” The first theatrical promo offers even more of that, along with an excerpt from Hathaway’s rendition of the famous Les Miz tune “I Dreamed a Dream.”

Something that immediately jumps out about Hathaway’s singing (in a good way) is how naturalistic and unprocessed it sounds. Of course, that is a direct result of Hooper’s decision to have the entire Les Miz cast perform their songs live during production. Hence, Hathaway’s musical performance feels all the more organic to her surroundings – as opposed to, sounding like something that was (literally) recorded and dubbed over at a separate time, similar to just about every other movie musical in recent memory.

Speaking of the film’s scenery: Les Miz has the appearance of an authentic period piece, as is nicely illustrated by the teaser trailer (in combination with previously-released set photos). Beyond attention to little details – such as the cast’s gaunt appearances – the squalid state of the city architecture and sets in the movie are quite impressive. That also goes for the different styles of camerawork on display in early footage, varying from swooping shots of rebellious French peasants, to rough handheld shots of Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) riding his horse through the rain. Credit for all that belongs to the triumvirate that is director Tom Hooper, cinematographer Danny Cohen, and production designer Eve Stewart, who all previously worked together on The King’s Speech.

Overall, Hooper’s take on Les Miz comes off as a hybrid of prestigious period fare and musical melodrama – and thus, probably not something that will win over moviegoers who generally do not care for either sub-genre. However, for fans of the Les Miz stage musical, there’s good reason to be happy about Hollywood’s treatment of the show (going off what’s been shown so far).

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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An aerial view of the oil hub city of Port Harcourt in Nigeria's Delta region on May 16. (Akintunde Akinleye/REUTERS)

'Delta Boys' director Andrew Berends talks about being arrested in Nigeria

By Brian GeldinThe Film Panel Notetaker / 05.30.12

In 2008 while making his documentary Delta Boys, filmmaker Andrew Berends (The Blood of My Brother, When Adnan Comes Home) was arrested and falsely accused of espionage at the bustling Nembe waterside in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, while filming women bringing their products to the market. Also arrested were his translator, Samuel George, and host Joe Bussio. Berends was detained for 10 days and expelled from the country by the Nigerian government in a bid to suppress media coverage of the Niger Delta conflict. In the end, Berends was never charged with a crime, but George’s and Bussio’s legal statuses then remained undetermined. A fundraiser had been set up for people to contribute to their legal fees. Bussio had eventually been cleared of all charges, and George was expected to report to the authorities soon after, and he too was eventually let go, according to Berends.

Berends in a statement said, “It is important that translators and local journalists around the world know they can do their jobs without fear for their lives, their families, or the expenses they will incur on our behalf.” Berends’s experience in Nigeria is just one example of a government using its power to deter journalists from reporting their stories, but this is not just happening overseas.

This brings to mind a more recent development back in April right here on U.S. soil when filmmaker Laura Poitras (The Oath) returned home from a recent trip abroad where she was detained by Homeland Security at Newark Airport and threatened with being handcuffed for attempting to take notes during her interrogation. Poitras has been repeatedly harassed, detained, interrogated and has had her cameras and computers seized as she attempts to re-enter her home country in more than three dozen incidences.

Cinema Eye Honors, the organization that honors the craft of nonfiction filmmaking (which in full disclosure, I am on the advisory board), released a statement offering a similar sentiment to that of Berends’s saying, “It is unacceptable for any American nonfiction filmmaker or journalist to be treated in this manner.  They must be able to return to their own country without fear of arrest or fear that their work product will be seized, solely because they are investigating or chronicling subject matter that may be sensitive or controversial.”

Delta Boys made its World Premiere last night as the closing film of Stranger Than Fiction’s spring season at IFC Center in New York. Berends bravely captures life in a tiny fishing village caught in the crossfire of the conflict of the Niger Delta militancy in the face of corrupt government oppression in this oil-rich region of Nigeria. In his own narration, Berends follows the personal stories of Ateke Tom, the “Godfather” of the Niger Delta Vigilante Force, Chima, a 21-year-old who left home to join the fight, and Mama, a 22-year-old who struggles to give birth to her first child with no access to modern medical care, while raids are launched from a militant camp across the river. These stories reflect a broader global struggle between entrenched power and corporate interests and an underserved population. Nigeria is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the United States. Yet, despite this natural wealth, the majority of Niger Deltans live in poverty. Ateke’s militants, along with other groups, have called for a greater distribution of wealth and jobs. When their requests have been ignored, they’ve attacked oil installations and pipelines, kidnapped foreigners and made the entire Delta a no-go-zone. But many feel that while the Niger Delta struggle is legitimate, the militants’ motives are not so pure.

Stranger Than Fiction founder Thom Powers led a discussion with Berends after the screening of Delta Boys. Below are highlights of that Q&A.

Powers asked how Berends was able to get into Ateke Tom’s camp to film. Berends said that he wanted to be there, and made an attempt to go there, but failed at first. He spent six weeks in Port Harcourt where he made some connections that took him to one of the other big militant camps, but his contacts changed their mind and left him in a village for two weeks where he had given up and returned back home. He wanted to try again and went through some of the same contacts and upon that second try, he was taken to Ateke Tom’s camp. Once he got that degree of access, it was a matter of just hanging out with them and sharing the same conditions with them. Other journalists or filmmakers had gone to visit them before, but he was the first to live with them. Besides having to deal with bugs and the heat, Berends said it was often boring.

Given the conditions, Powers asked how Berends was able to manage to power his camera batteries and other equipment, and if there were any language barriers. Berends said it was his big fear to not have power, because he wouldn’t be able to make his film otherwise. He shot the film on video cards, not tape. Not only did he have to recharge his batteries, but he had to download the footage to his laptop every night. Fortunately, there was generator power at the camp. In terms of the language, most everyone spoke English to varying degrees, as well as at least one of the region’s 200 native languages. He didn’t always need a translator to get by. He worked a few months without a fixer or translator. It was just him once he got to the camp, though he did find someone after about three months.

Powers asked Berends to explain the circumstances that got him put in jail. Berends recalled being at Nembe waterside in Port Harcourt, which is the access point to the creeks where there’s a strong presence of the army, the police, and black market trading. Some people told him he couldn’t film there, but he tried one day and spoke with a commander in charge and told him what he was doing. The commander said he couldn’t give him permission, but it wasn’t in his authority to tell him not to do it either. He bought him some beer and gave him $20. He got down there to film the waterside on three occasions. On that last occasion, there was a plain-clothed army intelligence man who told him to stop filming and then he was arrested. He said he felt safer when he was in the militant camps.

What was it like getting his material out of the country, Powers asked. Berends said every two weeks he pack up a portable hard drive and took it to the UPS office to send it home. Later in the discussion, Powers asked if Berends has stayed in touch with anyone from the camp, and he said he had lost a lot of their phone numbers when he was arrested, because they told him they were going to go after these people and take his contacts, which is devastating as a journalist. You build trust and get people to agree to talk with you, protecting your source. During his arrest while he was being transferred from one place to another, he had this one opportunity to get his phone and he pulled the SIM card out of it and put it in his mouth and swallowed it. While the police never seized that, he did end up losing a bunch of his contacts’ phone numbers.

From the audience, Berends was asked if he had ever been asked by the rebels to ever stop filming in the camps and did he ever feel like he may have been putting them in danger from being filmed. Berends said he only got in trouble once when he tried to film an initiation ceremony. He didn’t even get close to it, he was shooting through the bushes. Someone told him he couldn’t film it, so he stopped. The next morning, Ateke Tom came into his tent and told him he wasn’t happy about it, took all of his laptops and hard drives and gave him $3,000. Ateke Tom told him he wasn’t seizing his equipment; he was buying it from him. He tried to talk his way out of it, and he had to show Ateke Tom all of the footage the next day. There wasn’t a lot happening all of the time. They didn’t all seem concerned to be filmed. There was one time they put their masks on. A lot of the guys were excited and wanted to be on the camera. At that point while he was filming, they had been granted amnesty by the government, so they didn’t have anything to fear about being exposed.

Someone in the audience next asked him if he had ever seen violence towards women. Berends said he did not. Some of the men in the camps do have wives, sometimes more than one wife. As far as he knew, Ateke Tom’s camp was the only one that women sometimes went to, because Ateke Tom wanted it to be more like a village, than a camp. One time one of the rebel’s two wives visited, and he saw that one of them was getting more attention than the other, but he never witnessed any violence towards women.

Who was supporting the rebels, and why were they given amnesty by the government, someone asked. Berends said there is probably not one answer to that hard question, but his understanding of Ateke Tom was that before he became a so-called Niger Delta freedom fighter, he was actually a hired muscle for the politicians and armed by them to help rig elections and things like that. At some point, Ateke Tom either joined the Niger Delta movement or took it on as a guise for whatever else he was doing. He said there’s a question of whether these guys are freedom fighters, are they gangsters, or somewhere in between? For him, it’s a question if there was anyone genuinely fighting for the cause, and he doesn’t know. There had been peaceful agitations, big movements that have not been very successful to the point where one of their non-violent activists fighting for distribution of wealth on the Niger Delta thought now maybe violence is the only way to resolve the situation. The amnesty came after a crack down on the camps. In the film, none of that fighting is shown because Berends said he wasn’t present during any of it. Berends tried to re-answer the original question about why did the government give them amnesty over wiping them out? He said the militants probably could have shut down the oil industry, but they didn’t choose to. One factor was that there was so much money involved. But he wasn’t sure why the government chose amnesty, saying perhaps they wanted to choose a more peaceful solution, and there were relationships between the government and some of the rebels.

Berends’ mother who was in the audience asked if he thought the government was just trying to avoid bad press by granting the amnesty, and who was making money besides the oil companies? He said the militants did shut down between 25% to 30% of the oil industry, which cost the country billions of dollars. Everyone who could get a piece of the money was getting it. Most of the money goes to the Nigerian federal government, which is then dispersed to the local government, which doesn’t necessarily get trickled down from there. There is corruption pretty much at every level of government and society in Nigeria.

Someone else in the audience asked Berends why he was interested in the situation in the Niger Delta and getting in harm’s way, and did he have interest in getting viewpoints from the government side? He said his initial impulse was to put himself in harm’s way a little bit. He had seen some footage of the Niger Delta militants. He thought he could handle that level of risk, so he researched the story, and he realized it was a very important story. It’s about the environment, where our oil comes from, it’s about exploitation. Nigeria is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the United States. It is a far-off exotic story, but also about something that is pretty meaningful to people today. He said he did try to interview the other side. He contacted every single oil company working in Nigeria, and they either didn’t answer or politely rejected him. He also tried to go to government sources, and they just said, “No.” He said his main desire was to document what it is like to live in the Niger Delta, which is the type of film he prefers to make.

Brian Geldin blogs at The Film Panel Notetaker.

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'Hatfields and McCoys' actor Kevin Costner also stars in the TV series about the legendary feuding families. (Bret Hartman/Reuters)

'Hatfields & McCoys' stars talk about the central love story

By Tiffany VogtThe TV Addict / 05.29.12

As a special dramatic presentation, History Channel is airing the 6-hour mini-series HATFIELDS & MCCOYS over three nights in order to tell the violent and labyrinthine story of two families whose personal feud led to one of the largest government-sanctioned manhunts in U.S. history.

The love story of Roseanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield is one of the brightest and most heart-warming aspects to an otherwise dark tale of deceit, betrayal and burning hatred; and but for the entrenched and intractable animosity between their families, their love story could have healed the terrible wounds and perceived wrong-doings allowing future generations to live in peace. Instead, the terrifying tale of the HATFIELDS & MCCOYS marks a turning point in history when men were law unto themselves and family obligations came first, no matter how strong your love for another. It was a testament to how destiny struggled with the will of man — and it cost everyone dearly.

In exclusive interviews, stars Lindsay Pulsipher and Matt Barr shared what it was like bringing the story of the star-crossed lovers Roseanna and Johnse to life for this epic mini-series.

Roseanna had quite the love story threaded throughout the mini-series. What drew you to playing such a complicated character?
 LINDSAY: I really loved Roseanna’s character arc. She really has a full spectrum. She starts in one place and really ends up in a completely different place, mentally and physically. And it was really interesting for me to have this soft character amongst all this feuding and fighting and oppression. It was so nice to have that breath of fresh air with her character.

She was one of the few characters that was given a distinct beginning and ending. It allowed us to see the whole scope of her life in a way. What did you find to be the most fun aspect of playing such a character?
 LINDSAY: It was great because I got to play so many different aspects of her life. She really does have a beginning and an end, and it as so fun to play the different traits throughout her life. ‘Cause she’s the same person, but her mannerisms and everything that changes, it was fun as I changed her physicality throughout the series. That was really fun, to kind of play with those mannerisms and her different mental capacities. It was really fun.

Were you ever concerned how weathered and worn her look became towards the end of her journey?
 LINDSAY: [Laughs] No, funny enough, I actually enjoyed that part about playing characters. I kind of like it when it’s interesting. I like to play a character and I’m not afraid of getting dirty or being haggard looking. I prefer that. I think that’s more interesting for me anyway.

This series really showed the gritty side of things. It really made it feel like these were real people living through these circumstances. At times it was hard to remember that you were playing characters, which is a credit to the cast. So what was it like working with these big name actors as they became immersed in their roles?
 LINDSAY: Yeah, it was such an honor to work with Kevin Costner, Mare Winningham, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe — these actors who have done such incredible work. I felt like I learned so much from them just being around them. Mare Winningham became a dear friend of mine and I just learned so much from her. She’s so dedicated and incredible to watch. I was so honored to be amongst such great talent.

Did you ever become so immersed in your character that you stopped seeing them as big actors and started seeing them as comrades-in-arms in these circumstances?
 LINDSAY: Absolutely! It’s funny, when you’re on set, it’s all about the character. I really started seeing them through Roseanna’s eyes. You leave that persona of these incredible icons behind and they just become the character. It’s so fun to just play make-believe and play these different characters. I love it.

What were some of the challenges you encountered? It looked awfully cold at times.
 LINDSAY: [Laughs] Yes, it was definitely that. There were some cold nights. I had a scene where I was riding the horse in the rain, and we were up in the mountains at that point, and it was cold and freezing temperatures. That was definitely a challenge, but those kinds of challenges kind of propel the character and I kind of think it helps enhance the performance. Because if you’re actually going through the physical elements, like the weather, affecting your physical body, then it kind of helps propel the character forward. You kind of start to use that.

Where did you film the mini-series?
 LINDSAY: We shot it in Romania, which people are surprised about. But the locations that they found were incredible. The problem we ran into Kentucky and West Virginia is that it doesn’t really look like it did back in the Civil War era. So we had to find a place that was untouched, but still looked like the Appalachian Mountains. They did an incredible job.

Visually it really took you back to that place in time, which was surprising as a viewer ’cause it makes you forget that it doesn’t exist anymore.
 LINDSAY: I know! And all the costumes. You put on that costume and you’re instantly transformed into another time. It’s great.

So this was like a microcosm because you were working on the mini-series. How long were you filming in Romania?
 LINDSAY: We were there for almost four months. We started in September and ended in December. So we had full spectrum of weather and climate change.

That’s quite a lengthy amount of time, even for a mini-series, to be working together.
 LINDSAY: It was. It was a good cast. We all got along really well, which is hard to do when there is such a big cast. But we all got along great.

Portraying Rosanna, you again had such a wealth of dramatic scenes to portray. Was there one that was particularly difficult for you to work with because of what she was going through?
 LINDSAY: I quite prefer the emotional scenes. I think that, for some reason, they come a little bit easier for me. Kevin Reynolds, the director, he was so great about working with me and kind of forming the scenes. He was really just a great leader and collaborator in some of these scenes that are really emotional. One in particular was when Roseanna gave birth to the baby ’cause I haven’t been a mom. So those emotions and going through that was kind of strange, but it felt really special at the same time. That was really emotional for me.

What was it like working with your co-star Matt Barr, who you had most of your scenes with?
 LINDSAY: It was really fun. He is such a dedicated actor. He’s so passionate about his work, and it was really fun to come into this great relationship and have him so excited about it. ‘Cause I was too and we kind of bonded over that. We bonded over the love of the story. We both kind of agreed that Roseanna and Johnse were the heart of the series, in a way. It gave us time to breathe. There’s so much violence and chaos going on, that it provided some nice quiet time for the series.

It seemed like there was a lot of enthusiasm when you and Matt were doing your scenes together. They were a little bit warmer than, of course, the other dramatic things that were going on, so it felt like you two were smirking a little bit at the camera.
 LINDSAY: [Laughs] Oh really, that’s interesting! I think everybody was very enthusiastic about this project coming on to it and every single one of us said how excited we were to be there. We were all just so passionate about this project.

So you and Matt played the “Romeo and Juliet” storyline. Do you think that Roseanna and Johnse would have had a different story if they had actually gotten away from their families?
 LINDSAY: I’d like to think so. I actually thought about that a lot: what would happen if they had branched off on their own. I like to think that it would be really beautiful and they had a wonderful life together.

The series was always dangling the possibility that Roseanna might eventually accept one of Perry Cline’s proposals, and his last proposal created one of your more dramatic scenes. What was that like to work on that scene?
 LINDSAY: That was after Roseanna had really transformed from who she was at the beginning of the series. Ronan Vibert, who plays Perry Cline, he is a tremendous actor and it was really easy to play that scene even though it’s so emotional. It was really fun to work with him. He’s super talented and he kind of helped me through that one.

It caught me off-guard. I probably should have anticipated it, but I was very surprised when that happened.
 LINDSAY: Yeah, I know!

What will you take away from the HATFIELDS & MCCOYS mini-series?
 LINDSAY: It will be just really fulfilling to see the whole project come together. To see it as a whole. When I first read this script, I was blown away by the dynamic of it. How rich and full it was. It’s always amazing to see it come together and to see the scenes that I wasn’t in. To see how they played out, it’s just sweet. I’m super excited to see it!

Then for his perspective on, Matt Barr shared his experiences working on this wonderful mini-series.

What attracted you to the role of Johnse Hatfield?
 MATT: Two different things: one, my childhood idol is Kevin Costner. We actually met briefly when I was eleven years old and I told him I was going to grow up and play his son in a movie. So when this came along, I always wanted to work with him as an actor and as a filmmaker. So I knew he was attached. Then when I read the script, it just had all the elements that I love in storytelling. It was kind of timeless. It was epic. It’s tragic. And I like when the character is kind of put upon by the world. He’s somewhat of a black-sheep and it makes for a fun dynamic.

There were a lot of rich textures to this story and the characters themselves. Was there anything that you really admired about portraying Johnse?
 MATT: I like that throughout all the chaos, death and war that endured over the years, Johnse never really lost himself. He was still so pure-hearted about things and in a way, unaffected. Even when he was brought to his breaking point, I think that in the end, he was still that young dreamer. Kind of a young lover. I don’t want to give it away to the audience, but he does end up going West.

Do you think he was ultimately more of a pacifist than the rest of his family? ‘Cause he seemed so reluctant to get involved in some of the shenanigans.
 MATT: Absolutely. For that generation of Hatfields and McCoys, they were innately raised with a sense of judgment towards the opposing family, and what separates Johnse is he just doesn’t have it. He doesn’t have the hate and, unfortunately, it causes a lot of conflict between he and his family.

For your portrayal, working with Lindsay, were you more focused on trying to make this a love-story than opposed to just two families that were always fighting with each other?
 MATT: Absolutely. I think a lot of the heart and soul of the mini-series lie within the Johnse/Roseanna storyline. They represent the best of us. So that love-story, that narrative thread is what I really buy into as you’re kind of taking the ride through all those years. It shows how black-and-white it is. How ugly those families became. There was something so beautiful and kind of pure in what Johnse and Roseanna had.

As far as working with Lindsay, it seemed like in a couple of your scenes together, the two of you were smirking through the scenes. Like you were having way too much fun portraying the characters.
 MATT: [Laughs] That’s true. We did. We were kind of buddies. We were in Romania in the middle of nowhere and we shot a lot of those scenes early on in the filming. So we all were just discovering who we were and we were so excited to be there. It’s almost like how the movie unravels: in the beginning, it’s all kind of bright and sunny and “peaches and cream,” then by the third month of filming, it’s like dark and cold and characters had died. So it kind of reflected our own journeys.

What can you share about some of the costuming choices? Like there’s the one line where Kevin Costner’s character Devil remarks about Johnse’s “fancy boots.” Did you have any input into the costuming, or were you just wearing whatever they gave you?
 MATT: I did. I had a color scheme for Johnse. So when I talked with the designer we were on the same page. A lot of the other characters had something monochromatic or kind of dull feel, which reflected that time and sort of the climate, if you will. Johnse was different, so we had these lighter colors: blues. Which to me represented the sky and the ocean — something greater that was out West. He always wanted to go find that great blue ocean, so I liked that he had some actual color in his life and his wardrobe. I thought that they did a great job with that. Now I never did get used to the hat that Johnse wore. I think every kid wants to be like Clint Eastwood or John Wayne and have some bad-ass cowboy hat. But they kept telling me that “we’re not making a cowboy movie here.” So I wore my bowler hat, or whatever it’s called. My pan-handler hat.

I think it helped define who Johnse was. It gave a sense that he wasn’t committed to being a hard, tough criminal. He was just kind of playing his part and he was like, “yeah, I’ve got to have a hat, but it doesn’t have to be that tough of a hat.”
 MATT: That’s right. If you noticed, as Johnse evolved, he creates his own kind of enterprise. He makes his own money. He likes things clean and he has fancy boots, but he always has that hat. I found that kind of special.

It seemed like Johnse was hiding in plain sight. He knew he had to live up to this name, that he was part of the Hatfield family, but he had this totally different persona that he kept hidden away from everybody. Did you sense that and play that a little bit?
 MATT: Yeah. He so strongly wanted to be a part of his family. He wants to be accepted like any child does. You want to be loved and there’s no one else in the world. It’s a very lonely place if you’re not surrounded by that support. You’re right, because he was different, he does kind of live in the closet in terms of how he feels. It’s really tragic that he had to live behind a facade for so many years.

Finally, what was it like to do that one scene with Kevin Costner where Devil and Johnse are fishing?
 MATT: Oh, man, that was kind of the culmination — not only for Johnse and his father, but of Matt and Kevin. It was sort of that one scene that as an actor I’ve always dreamed of getting a chance to do with my idol. It was also the scene that made me want to do the movie when I read the script. As an actor, it’s crack. And we spent a whole day actually filming that one scene. It was just one of those magic days where you’re sort of half present in the moment, then I have to admit it’s an out-of-body experience and I was kind of sitting there looking down in awe at how special that moment really was. And I learned so much. I felt like a student in KC’s school. If I could relive one moment, it would be back there on that riverbank fishing with Kevin and talking about how to be an actor.

Tiffany Vogt blogs at The TV Addict.

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'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' will now hit theaters March 29, 2013 rather than next month. (Jaimie Trueblood/Paramount Pictures/AP)

'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' will be released next March, not this summer

By Sandy SchaeferScreen Rant / 05.24.12

Here’s an unexpected twist: Paramount is delaying the release date for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, just over a month before the sequel was originally due to hit theaters around the U.S. Retaliation has now been pushed back an entire nine months to a March 29th, 2013 date – where it will face off against The Host during its opening weekend.

The reason for said abrupt delay? Paramount wants to convert the film to 3D, in order to improve its box office prospects overseas.

Deadline quotes an unnamed Paramount head as saying (about Retaliation):

“We’re going to do a conscientious 3D job because we’ve seen how it can better box office internationally. Jim Cameron did all of ‘Titanic’‘s 3D in post – and look how well that movie turned out.”

The quality of Titanic‘s post-converted 3D has demonstrated that non-native 3D films are not necessarily inferior to those shot in the format – assuming the proper time and effort is invested. Furthermore, there are certain recurring set pieces featured in the Retaliation trailers to date (especially the cliff-side ninja battle) that suggest the sequel could stand to benefit from the added dimension.

Of course, the delay is still disappointing news for everyone who was looking forward to a second G.I. Joe movie – one that appears to be an improvement on its predecessor. Still, considering that Retaliation was originally going to square-off against Amazing Spider-Manjust a few days after its opening here in the States – the move seems to make sense, from a financial perspective.

How does the news about Retaliation being post-converted to 3D make you feel? Sound off in the comments section.

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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Filmmaker Albert Maysles (far right), seen here celebrating the anniversary of the Algonquin Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, spoke about his experience making the documentary 'Salesman,' which follows four door-to-door Bible salesmen. (Casey Rodgers/AP Images for Algonquin Hotel)

Documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles discusses his film 'Salesman'

By Brian GeldinThe Film Panel Notetaker / 05.24.12

I have been very lucky to see Albert Maysles speak at several discussions after viewing his collaborative work with his late brother David, and Tuesday night, I was captivated again upon my first screening of the Maysles Bros. classic, Salesman, by not only Albert and David Maysles, but also Charlotte Zwerin, which follows four door-to-door Bible salesmen: Paul “The Badger” Brennan, Charles “The Gipper” McDevitt, 
James “The Rabbit” Baker, and Raymond “The Bull” Martos. The quartet first start out in Boston, then go to Chicago for a sales conference, and end in Miami, all the while trying to convince people to buy the world’s best selling book. Although their customers are mostly middle, working-class Catholics recommended by the local church, the Bible is a hard sell for them. Though made and released almost 45 years ago, Salesman seems just as relevant now given how unemployment has risen in recent years during the recession, and how certain politicians are salesmen or saleswomen themselves, looking to religious values to push their agendas and influence voters.

Filmmaker Hugo Perez (Neither Memory Nor Magic) moderated Tuesday’s discussion with Albert Maysles, pinch-hitting for Thom Powers who was away at the Cannes Film Festival. Hugo recalled when Albert once told him about screenwriter/playwright David Mamet after seeing Salesman for the first time told Albert that Salesman was what he was trying to do with Glengarry Glen Ross (about real estate salesmen). Albert said he didn’t remember Mamet saying that, but he recalls another time when writer Norman Mailer told him that Salesman was more about America than any other film.

To Albert, a documentary, especially Salesman, offers the subject, the filmmakers, and the viewers to become friends with one another. Albert parlayed into a story about of when he was a kid in Boston, there was a lot of Irish Anti-Semitism. David told him that he couldn’t play with his friend Jamie anymore because Jamie’s mother told him that David was a “Jewboy.” Making Salesman offered Albert and David an opportunity to become playful and friends with each of the salesmen. Albert said he’s still in touch with some of them. He received a call a few days earlier from “The Rabbit,” who sells real estate now, and “The Bull” is driving a cab in Boston.

And how did the brothers decide to make a film about these salesmen, Hugo asked? Albert said they had just finished a film about Truman Capote. They felt Capote had invented a new kind of novel, the “nonfiction novel.” They thought that maybe they could create a “nonfiction feature,” a full documentary that could be shown in theaters. At a lunch with Capote’s editor Joe Fox, David asked what would be a good subject for a feature documentary, and Joe Fox asked, “what about door-to-door salesmen?” Both Albert and David had done some door-to-door selling when they were in high school selling brushes, and then when Albert was in college, he sold encyclopedias. They realized, when you knock on the door, “who knows what could happen?”

Ryan, an aspiring director and filmmaker in the audience who shot some footage about Occupy Wall Street and having difficulty getting some people to be on camera for him, asked Albert how he and his brother got the people in the homes in which the salesmen were trying to sell the Bibles, to agree to be on camera for them. Albert gave an example of when he went to Cuba in the early 1960s looking for Fidel Castro. He found Castro talking to a group of people in an auditorium. He got as close to him as he could. As he was carrying his camera on his shoulder, Castro looked in his direction, and they caught each other’s eyes. He could tell the way Castro was looking at him that he could be trusted. Within a day or two, he was filming 24 –hour days with Castro.

Albert resumed answering Ryan’s question in twofold. One, there’s something in your eyes, or your gaze that people pick up as empathy. You follow this in the whole process of filming. You can film a person’s experience, and that person’s experience becomes one of a multitude of people. And second, you humanize that experience. The guys in Salesman are human beings. They are not narrated. They are just themselves, but they also represent what Norman Mailer said was so much of what is America.

Brian Geldin blogs at The Film Panel Notetaker.

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Actor Michael C. Hall's series 'Dexter' could be entering its penultimate season, though the possibility of a ninth season has been left open. (Katy Winn/AP Images for PEI Entertainment)

'Dexter' may have found its villain for season 7

By Anthony OcasioScreen Rant / 05.23.12

Production on Dexter season 7 is set to begin this week (May 23rd), and the cast is still growing: Showtime has announced that Jason Gedrick will be joining the series for a multiple-episode arc.

Known most recently for his role as Jerry Boyle on HBO’s Luck, Gedrick’s currently unnamed character is described as an “owner of a Miami-area gentlemen’s club that becomes linked to a high-profile murder case.” Perhaps not the best position to be in when there’s a serial killer vigilante out searching for new “victims.” Has Dexter (Michael C. Hall) found his second big bad for season 7?

Rome star Ray Stevenson was previously announced for a reoccurring role, playing the leader of a Russian organized crime syndicate. Considering Stevenson’s high-profile upcoming roles in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Thor 2 (reprising his role from Thor), he will likely play a major part in Dexter season 7. Throw in the phrase “Russian organized crime” and, well, it’s time to prep the plastic-wrap.

With Gedrick now joining the cast, his multiple-episode arc will most likely result in the character serving as a minor nemesis. That being said, Mos Def’s addition to the series last season was originally thought to be a “big bad” – but after Dexter season 6 began, Brother Sam’s true role in the series was revealed.

Brother Sam may not have delivered Dexter unto the Lord, but the Dexter season 6 finale did find our favorite blood splatter analyst saying “Oh God!” as Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) walked in on him killing Travis (Colin Hanks). For the audience, this may have been the second time saying “Oh God!” in the finale: Deb wanting to explore her romantic feelings for her brother was likely the first.

Heading into the seventh season, everyone is waiting to see what’s in store for Dexter and his Dark Passenger; if rumors prove to be true, this will be the penultimate season of the show. With many interesting storylines being established at the end of season 6, it’ll be interesting to see how they’re incorporated into the series going forward. If Dexter really does have only two seasons left, it’s likely that season 7 will be setting up the ultimate showdown.

Then again, with Dexter season 9 still a possibility, the end may not be so close after all. We’ll have to wait and see.

Anthony Ocasio blogs at Screen Rant.

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In this image released by Fox, from left, Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer are shown in a scene from the third season of "House, M.D." (Greg Gayne/Fox/AP)

'House' finale: The fate of the doctor is revealed

By Anthony OcasioScreen Rant / 05.22.12

The final chapter of House has been closed with the series finale, and the fate of Dr. Gregory House revealed. After eight years on the air (177 episodes), do you believe that this was a fitting end for television’s famed diagnostician?

Trapped in a burning building, House’s final battle for survival was played out in front of our eyes. With appearances from some familiar faces, both living and dead, it was left up to the famed diagnostician to save himself.

Reliving his final case in his conscience, House made the decision to save himself. Unfortunately, as Wilson and Foreman approached the building, House was engulfed in the flames – OR SO WE THOUGHT.

Taking a note from Sherlock Holmes, it was eventually revealed that House had actually faked his own death. Escaping from the back of the building, House wanted to spend the last remaining months of Wilson’s life with him.

Certainly an interesting ending, though one I doubt many saw coming. With the House series finale preceding a beautiful series retrospective, hopes were high that the series would be ended appropriately – but has it? While certainly the happiest of endings anyone could have imagined for the series, there will certainly be quite a few fans who were looking for more closure than was actually provided. While House certainly grew as this final season came to a close, it could be said that the character didn’t evolve to such a level that a motorcycle ride would be a fitting ending for what we see of the character.

Though the debate my continue for days, there’s only one question left to ask: Was this a fitting end to House?

Carpe diem!

Anthony Ocasio blogs at Screen Rant.

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