Category: Roadside Attractions
Grace Unplugged is an Inspirational movie starring Amanda “AJ” Michalka as 18 year old Christian singer/songwriter, Grace Rose Trey. Beautiful, highly talented and restless, Grace is so far undiscovered outside church. She performs there each Sunday with her gifted father Johnny, the praise music director at Freedom Community Chapel, a small town Alabama church.
A former rock star, Johnny Trey charted a Billboard number one single 20 years before. When the hits stopped coming he crash landed hard, a one hit wonder. Johnny found Christ and a new life for his family, far from the Hollywood Hills. One day without warning, Grace leaves for Los Angeles.
She has landed a record deal with the help of Johnny’s ruthless former manager and producer Frank “Mossy” Mostin. Mossy sees in Grace a potential pop superstar – the next Katie Perry. Cutting off contact with her parents, Grace seems prepared to walk away from her Christian faith and music to achieve her long-suppressed fantasy of Hollywood.
About the Story
Grace Trey has just turned 18 and aspires to do more than sing in her church’s worship band, which is led by her father, Johnny Trey, a one-time pop star who gave up his life in secular music when he became a Christian. Grace longs to escape his shadow and make a name for herself singing songs about something other than God, but Johnny warns her that fame is not as glamorous as it looks and reminds her that serving and worshipping God with the talent she’s been given is a far more worthwhile goal.
When Johnny’s former manager, Frank “Mossy” Mostin, shows up 20 years after the two parted ways to offer him another shot at the big time, Johnny declines the opportunity. But Grace takes it – without telling her parents. She records a cover version of her father’s old Top 10 hit, runs away to Los Angeles and, under Mossy’s guidance, begins to taste the kind of success she’s always dreamed of.
But with each rung of the ladder she climbs, Grace feels pressure to compromise her Christian values and learns not everyone who says they’re on her side really is. The one exception is Quentin, an intern at her record company and a fellow Christian who urges Grace to reassess her choices and put God first again in her life. Will everything she experiences lead her to reject her faith… or rediscover it?
Grace Unplugged is a Christian musical drama film. The film is based on a story by Brandon Rice, written and directed by Brad J. Silverman, and stars AJ Michalka, James Denton, and Kevin Pollak. It is a family-friendly film about an 18 year old girl who rejects her father’s desire for her to be a church singer and goes to Hollywood seeking stardom. The film was released by Roadside Attractions.
Directed by: Brad J. Silverman
Starring: Amanda Michalka, James Denton, Kevin Pollak, Shawnee Smith, Michael Welch
Screenplay by: James Killian, Brandon Rice, Brad J. Silverman
Production Design by: Darian Corley
Cinematography by: Stash Slionski
Film Editing by: Robert Hoffman
Costume Design by: Anna Redmon
Art Direction by: Will E. Drummond
Music by: Jeff Lippencott
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and brief teen drinking.
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: October 4, 2013
Taglines: Never give up.
Deep into a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed man (Robert Redford) wakes to find his 39-foot yacht taking on water after a collision with a shipping container left floating on the high seas. With his navigation equipment and radio disabled, the man sails unknowingly into the path of a violent storm. Despite his success in patching the breached hull, his mariner’s intuition and a strength that belies his age, the man barely survives the tempest.
Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel. But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face.
vAll Is Lost is a survival film written and directed by J. C. Chandor. The film stars Robert Redford as a man lost at sea. Redford is the only cast member, and the film has almost no dialogue. All Is Lost is Chandor’s second feature film, following his 2011 debut Margin Call. It screened out of competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
About the Story
Somewhere in the Indian Ocean (“1700 nautical miles from the Sumatra Straits”), a man (Robert Redford) says, “I’m sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried. I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right, but I wasn’t.” He declares, “All is lost.”
Eight days earlier, as he wakes up, he sees that water has started to flood his boat, the Virginia Jean, a Cal 39 yacht.[B] He goes out onto the deck and sees that his boat has collided with a wayward shipping container which has ripped a hole in the hull. He goes below to get a sea anchor and ties it to the container.[C] After dislodging the container, he goes to work patching up the hole in his boat and uses the manual- or hand-bilge pump hole to remove the water from the cabin.
After the cleanup, he finds that the boat’s navigational and communications systems have been damaged from the collision. He tries to repair the radio and connects it to one of the boat’s batteries but is ultimately unsuccessful. When he climbs the mast to repair an antenna lead, he sees an oncoming tropical storm. He immediately descends to make preparations for it.
The storm quickly reaches his position, and he runs before the wind under bare poles for a while, until he feels this storm tactic becomes too tiresome and dangerous. He intends to bring the boat into a hove-to position, but when crawling to the bow to hoist the storm jib, he is thrown overboard and only just regains the deck after a long struggle. The boat capsizes and turtles, and after a further 180-degree roll, is dismasted, and most of the equipment on board destroyed. With the boat badly holed and sinking, he decides to abandon ship in an inflatable life raft, salvaging whatever he can to survive.
As he learns how to operate a sextant he recovered from the boat, he discovers he is near one of the major shipping lanes and, a day or two later, finds that he is being pulled towards it by ocean currents. During the journey, he survives another storm. But his supplies dwindle, and he learns too late that his drinking water has been contaminated with sea water. He improvises a solar still from his water container and a plastic bag to get fresh water.
All Is Lost
Directed by: J.C. Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford
Screenplay by: J.C. Chandor
Production Design by: John P. Goldsmith
Cinematography by: Frank G. DeMarco, Peter Zuccarini
Film Editing by: Pete Beaudreau
Costume Design by: Van Broughton Ramsey
Set Decoration by: Ramírez Gabriela
Music by: Alex Ebert
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language.
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: October 18, 2013
On the surface Adam (Mark Ruffalo), an over-achieving environmental consultant, Mike (Tim Robbins), a long-married small-business owner, and Neil (Josh Gad), a wisecracking emergency-room doctor, have little in common. But all are in different stages of dealing with addiction.
Confident and successful in his career, Adam is afraid to allow love back into his life, even if that means losing a chance to start over with smart, beautiful and accomplished Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow); Mike’s efforts to control his wife, Katie (Joely Richardson), and son, Danny (Patrick Fugit), as tightly as he does his impulses are tearing the family apart; and Neil is still deeply in denial when befriended by Dede (Alecia Moore), who has just begun to take her own small steps back to health. As they navigate the rocky shores of recovery, Adam, Mike and Neil become a family that encourages, infuriates and applauds each other on the journey toward a new life.
Thanks for Sharing is an American comedy-drama film directed by Stuart Blumberg, from a screenplay written by Blumberg and Matt Winston. The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, and Alecia Moore with supporting roles from Patrick Fugit, Carol Kane, Michaela Watkins, and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.
About the Story
Set in New York City, Thanks for Sharing centers around three people undergoing a 12-step process to recover from their sexual addiction.
Adam (Mark Ruffalo) walks along the streets of New York, tempted by various advertisements and women on his way to work to have sex. Neil (Josh Gad) purposely grinds against a stranger in the train he’s taking to attend a sex addiction meeting. Mike (Tim Robbins) is a married recovering sex addict who is the leader of the addiction group.
He sponsors Adam, who is also a recovering sex addict who hasn’t had sex in five years, Adam sponsors Neil. They are all at the sex addiction meeting, talking about their progress. Adam proclaims he’s been ‘sober’ for five years, and Neil makes jokes and later admits he is only there because the court has forced him to be there. He goes back to masturbating the same night, and lies about his 1 week sober to the addiction group.
Adam meets Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) at a ‘bug party’ and they go out on a date. She reveals straight away that she had breast cancer, and later says she would never date an addict again after her last boyfriend who was an alcoholic, causing Adam to not admit to his sex addiction. They begin a relationship. Dede (Alecia Moore) joins the sex addiction meetings, she is the only woman in the group, and admits to being a sex addict from a very young age.
Neil starts out as a doctor who is addicted to masturbating, but is caught secretly filming under the skirt of his boss, and is fired, and loses the job he has dreamed of since childhood. He then begins to take the meetings more seriously, and admits he has a problem. Meanwhile, Mike’s son Danny (Patrick Fugit), a recovering drug addict, has returned home and is attempting to make amends to Mike and his mother Katie (Joely Richardson).
Phoebe eventually finds out about Adam’s sex addiction when finding an addiction token in his pocket the morning after sleeping with him. She takes some time away from him, but eventually agrees to continue their relationship. Meanwhile, Neil and Dede have become friends and have become attracted to each other after Neil talked her out of having sex with her abusive ex-boyfriend, and go to a ‘free dance’ together and come close to kissing, but don’t.
At the same time, while Mike has been getting on better and better with his son Danny who is now living with his parents again building a pond in the back yard, they get into a fight when Mike assumes Danny stole his mother’s pills. Danny reveals that Mike gave Katie Hepatitis C, and was also abusive to him at a young age (which may be why Danny is a drug addict). Mike slaps Danny, Danny attacks Mike and knocks over Katie, then realizing what he has done, panics and runs out of the house.
Meanwhile, Phoebe, who has told Adam she is a ‘very sexual person’ has become frustrated and concerned being in a relationship with Adam, and breaks it off after they have a fight. Adam goes back to masturbating, and sleeps with a prostitute. Dede comes over to Neil’s place, and helps him clean up his house and burns his porn. She admits she’s never been ‘just friends’ with a guy before. Mike finds his wife Katie’s pills, and realizes Danny never stole them after all. Katie gets upset at Mike, because he “always has to be right”. Mike, also upset, storms out of the house to go find Danny.
While he is out, Katie calls him to tell him Danny is in hospital after a DUI. Mike hugs his son in hospital, who turns out to have been sober for the past 8 months. Adam invites his ex-girlfriend Becky (Emily Meade) over, and as they start out by reenacting her daddy issues, she then wants Adam to slap her. When he refuses, she breaks down, locks herself in the bathroom and attempts to commit suicide. Neil takes the train to get over to Adam’s and breaks down his bathroom door. Adam goes back to being sober, starts again, and goes back to Phoebe, who admits she too is not perfect. Neil confronts his over-sexual mother (Carol Kane), and all the addicts celebrate being and staying sober.
Thanks for Sharing
Directed by: Stuart Blumberg
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Alecia Moore
Screenplay by: Stuart Blumberg, Matt Winston
Production Design by: Beth Mickle
Cinematography by: Yaron Orbach
Film Editing by: Anne McCabe
Costume Design by: Peggy A. Schnitzer
Set Decoration by: Lisa Nilsson
Music by: Christopher Lennertz
MPAA Rating: R for language and some strong sexual content.
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: September 20, 2013
Taglines: Speak up and let your voice be heard.
Sam Soto is the king of voice-overs, he has published and autobiography and is about to receive a lifetime achievement award. His daughter, Carol Solomon, is a struggling vocal coach who has always been overshadowed by her father. Sam kicks Carol out of the house so that he can live with his 30-year-old girlfriend Jamie, and Carol goes to live with her sister Dani.
Upcoming film series The Amazon Games plans to bring back the famous line “In a world…” and the trailer voice-over is highly sought after. Sam bows out so that his friend and heir-apparent, Gustav Warner, can assume the role. Gustav fails to show due to laryngitis, and Louis asks Carol to provide a temp track, which gains the attention of the executive producer, who now wants Carol for the job. Carol also gains several lucrative jobs. Carol neglects to tell her self absorbed father about her new-found success. Gustav and Sam feel entitled and are dismissive of the unknown woman who “stole” the job from them.
Due to her intrusive habit of recording guests for her voice archive Carol is barred from the hotel where Dani works as concierge. Undeterred Carol asks Dani to interview and record, a guest at the hotel for her, a flirtatious Irishman.
Carol joins Sam and Jamie at a party thrown by Gustav in his mansion. Carol wanders around admiring the artwork, Gustav flirts with her and she ends up staying the night. Dani is working late again, although she is supposed to meet her husband Moe for dinner. While waiting around he listens to the intimate recording, where his wife pretends to be single and is shocked. When she arrives home, he is listening to the tape again and again, and quietly walks out.
Rumors spread quickly, about Carol and Gustav. Gustav boasts to Sam of his night with some party-crasher, and when he learns she is the woman in competition for the job, decides to keep pursuing her still not fully realizing who she is.
Sam and Jamie host a meal for his daughters, and it comes out that Carol is the mystery woman in the running for the coveted job. Sam is indignant, furious at Gustav, and dismissive of Carol, causing her to leave angry. Sam vows to compete for the job himself. Dani is distraught about her husband, and Carol secretly records her anguish, sending the message to her husband to help win him back.
Competition for the job heats up, all three must send recordings for the studio to decide. Carol is ready to drop out but Louis champions her cause, and tells her he likes her. Carol admits she likes him too and they work together to produce the audition recording, and party together afterwards, and at the end of the night Louis finally kisses her.
Though still angry at her father, Moe insists that Carol and Dani go the ceremony where he is due to receive his lifetime achievement award. As part of the ceremony the trailer for The Amazon Games is revealed, Carol got the job. Carol is elated, and Sam storms off. Jamie berates him and threatens to leave him if he does not grow up and show support for his daughters.
Sam achieves his award and is magnanimous in victory, dedicating the award to his daughters. While at the bathroom Carol encounters the executive producer, who bluntly tells her she was not the best person for the job, but was chosen for the greater meaning of having a woman in that role. Carol continues her work as a voice coach, helping women to speak less like a “sexy baby” and be taken more seriously.
In a World…
Directed by: Lake Bell
Starring: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Demetri Martin, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Rob Corddry, Nick Offerman
Screenplay by: Lake Bell
Production Design by: Megan Fenton
Cinematography by: Seamus Tierney
Film Editing by: Tom McArdle
Costume Design by: Lindy McMichael
Set Decoration by: Elizabeth Garner
Music by: Ryan Miller
MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual references.
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: August 9, 2013
Taglines: Insanity runs in the family.
Imogene (Kristen Wiig) is a failed New York playwright awkwardly navigating the transition from Next Big Thing to Last Year’s News. After both her career and relationship come to a halt, she’s forced to make the humiliating move back home to New Jersey with her eccentric mother and younger brother.
Adding further insult to injury, there’s a strange man (Darren Criss) sleeping in her old bedroom and an even stranger man sleeping in her mother’s bed (Matt Dillon). Through it all, Imogene eventually realizes that as part of her rebuilding process she must finally come to love and accept both her family and her Jersey roots if she’s ever going to be stable enough to get away from them.
Girl Most Likely is an American comedy film directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Based on a screenplay by Michelle Morgan, the film stars Kristen Wiig as a playwright who stages a suicide in an attempt to win back her ex, only to wind up in the custody of her gambling-addict mother, played by Annette Bening. Matt Dillon, Christopher Fitzgerald, and Darren Criss co-star.
The film was screened under its original title Imogene at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012. The same month, Lionsgate bought the US distribution rights following its Toronto premiere and released it with Roadside Attractions on July 19, 2013.
Upon its festival release, Girl Most Likely garnered generally negative reviews from critics. Christopher Schobert from film blog The Playlist called the film “a big-screen sitcom, elevated by Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening”. He wrote that Wiig’s “likability oozes from every scene in Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s occasionally winning, a touch too sitcom-y, but often very funny look at one woman’s offbeat family and her attempts at discovering just what went wrong on the road to success. It is not, to be sure, Bridesmaids-style humor, and never reaches that blockbuster’s belly laugh count. But the film doesn’t lack for moments of inspired comedy, and I expect it to find an audience.”
Deborah Young, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, also felt that “the film’s great strength is its intuitive casting. The actors interact so well that it’s hard to single out one performance, though it’s perhaps Bening who wins the day for the sexy humanity she gives to the former go-go dancer Zelda. Morgan’s screenplay is full of intelligent dialogue that got real laughs from the audience on its Toronto bow.”
In his review, Justin Chang from Variety felt that “an able cast, led by Kristen Wiig’s prickly lead turn, saves this uneven, excessively quirky but ultimately ingratiating story […] Offering another sly snapshot of the filmmakers’ native New York, a la The Nanny Diaries and The Extra Man this soft-bellied crowdpleaser should post modest numbers in specialty play and DVD / VOD rotation.
Girl Most Likely
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, Christopher Fitzgerald, Darren Criss
Screenplay by: Michelle Morgan
Production Design by: Annie Spitz
Cinematography by: Steve Yedlin
Film Editing by: Robert Pulcini
Costume Design by: Tom Broecker
Set Decoration by: Shannon Finnerty
Music by: Rob Simonsen
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language.
Studio: Lionsgate Films, Roadside Attractions
Release Date: July 19, 2013
Mud is an adventure about two boys, Ellis and his friend Neckbone, who find a man named Mud hiding out on an island in the Mississippi. Mud describes fantastic scenarios-he killed a man in Texas and vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him.
He says he is planning to meet and escape with the love of his life, Juniper, who is waiting for him in town. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone agree to help him. It isn’t long until Mud’s visions come true and their small town is besieged by a beautiful girl with a line of bounty hunters in tow.
About the Story
Jeff Nichols got the spark of an idea that later grew into Mud while doing research in the Arkansas Public Library. He had found a picture of a river diver with fantastical gear in a book. The image struck his imagination. “I began thinking of what kind of character this was, where he lived, and what his life was like.” Add Nichols’s love of Mark Twain, his penchant for sweeping action and big themes, and the story of Mud grew from there.
Nichols had wanted to tell the story of Mud for the last decade. With the critical success of Shotgun Stories (2007) and his Cannes Grand Prize award winning film, Take Shelter (2011), he was finally able to marshal the resources to see his vision come to the screen. In that regard, says Nichols, Mud is the culmination of everything he has been working toward as a writer and filmmaker. Mud, his third film, is also his most ambitious, with the biggest budget of any of his films, and it required more time for writing and producing, with a 39-day shoot spread over eight weeks on location in Southwest Arkansas.
The film’s river setting, its teenage protagonists, and its themes of sacrifice and forgiveness echo themes from the American classic The Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn, (which was required reading for 14 year-old actors Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland on the set). In an interview prior to filming, Nichols described Mud as “kind of like if Sam Peckinpah directed a short story by Mark Twain.”
In creating Mud, Nichols was influenced by writers who bring a strong sense of place to their work, including Raymond Carver, Cormac McCarthy, and Southern authors Larry Brown, Flannery O’Connor, and Harry Crews. “All of these writers made me want to learn how to become a good storyteller,” he says. He also takes inspiration from the films he most admires , a list that includes The Hustler, Badlands, Hud, Tender Mercies, Cool Hand Luke, A Perfect World, Fletch, and Lawrence ofArabia. “All of these films reached an honest place in regard to the human condition while telling really entertaining stories,” Nichols said in an interview with IndieWire.
Whereas Shotgun Stories was, in broad strokes, about revenge, and Take Shelter was about fear, Nichols says Mud is about love. Mud is about two 14-year-old boys who find this man hiding out on this island in the middle of the Mississippi River, and they decide to help him out,” Nichols says. “But what the film is really about is love. And it’s about this boy, Ellis, searching desperately for an example of love that works, whether that is looking to his parents, or looking to his best friend’s uncle, or in this case, looking to the character of Mud. Ellis wants to see love work. He desperately needs to find an example that isn’t broken.”
Sarah Green worked closely with Nichols to produce Mud, following their successful collaboration on Take Shelter. “Mud is a wild river adventure with an unreliable protagonist, a beautiful woman, bounty hunters and a classic quest. These young boys have to solve the obstacles that complicate their quest, and in the process they learn about life and ultimately love. It’s an enormously fun story, which will pull you in, and then leave you thinking about the people in your life that you love.”
Producer Aaron Ryder describes Mud as “not your traditional love story,” but about a young boy’s discovery of what love really is. “He’s searching for love because his parents are splitting up. He’s searching for guidance and he’s searching for identity. I see it as just a beautiful love story,” he says.
About the main character of Ellis, the 14-year-old protagonist, Nichols says, “It’s a little cheesy to say, but Ellis came from a series of high school heartbreaks. I am a big believer that love, when you’re a teenager, is probably more fierce than it ever will be for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean it’s deeper or more sincere, it just means it’s more intense. When you’re in love, it’s this feverish thing, and when your heart is broken, it’s just as painful. And that really, for me, is what I wanted Ellis to be like. If I could express in a film that polarization and that intensity in love out of a young kid, I feel like it’s a story worth telling.”
Nichols won universal respect from the Mud cast and crew, as both a writer and a director. “As I read scripts I don’t like to know who’s involved at first, because I don’t like to be drawn to stories for any reason other than that the script is great,” explains producer Lisa Maria Falcone, head of Everest Entertainment. “ I saw the passion that [Jeff] had. He’s one of those directors that I see is really going to be explosive. He’s explosive today in such a short period of time. I can on ly imagine what he will become.”
“Jeff is one of the more extraordinary talents working today. He’s a very thoughtful writer, and structures his work thoroughly so it plays out in both a surprising and satisfying manner,” says Green. “As the writer he knows the story intimately, as the director he’s lived with the material long enough to have a very clear intention of how to tell that story. I hear from the actors over and over again about how clear and specific he is in his direction.”
To complete Mud in under 40 days, Nichols relied on a dedicated, experienced, tightly coordinated team on the set that included Adam Stone, who has lent his expertise, visual talent, and cool hand as director of photography on all three of Nichols’s films. Cas Donovan, assistant director, and Hope Garrison, assistant director, kept production moving forward through rough terrain, remote locations, shootouts, stunts, snakes and explosions, and the inevitable surprises and adjustments that occur during filmmaking.
Mud was filmed in 35mm using an anamorphic lens in a 2.40 (widescreen) aspect ratio. Nichols wanted to give the film a timeless look so the story of Ellis and Mud would be the focus. Ellis’s perspective is represented in the production of the film through long lenses: “This is the world seen from Ellis’ eyes. So, Ellis is me. Ellis is whoever is sitting in the seat, really,” says Nichols.
Nichols had a vision for how small visual cues would add dimension to his characters. In a script where spoken words are few, he knew these details would provide a path for the audience to connect with the story. Nichols had a clear sense about how things should look and feel, from the fishing gear on Senior’s houseboat to the books on the bookshelves in Tom Blankenship’s house (Sam Shepard had suggested to Nichols that his character was the kind of man who would read Don Quixote. Nichols rushed an original edition to the set in time for filming). He even carried out his long-held image of the oyster diver in Galen’s extraordinary welded underwater gear, inspired by his initial public library research a decade earlier. Working closely with art director Richard Wright and costume designer Kari Perkins, Nichols was able to achieve a small-town, timeless look and feel and enhance the wild river setting for Mud.
Simplicity and authenticity in the set decoration, along with the natural settings on the river and in the towns in Arkansas, were the foundation upon which movement, drama and very intense scenes unfolded. “I knew it was going to be a tricky film to make because all of the stunts and effects are practical,” says Nichols. “Shotgun shootouts, dirt bike scenes, snakes and water and all this craziness.”
Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Sam Shepard
Screenplay by: Jeff Nichols
Production Design by: Richard A. Wright
Cinematography by: Adam Stone
Film Editing by: Julie Monroe
Costume Design by: Kari Perkins
Set Decoration by: Fontaine Beauchamp Hebb
Music by: David Wingo
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexual references, language, thematic elements and smoking.
Studio: Lionsgate Films, Roadside Attractions
Release Date: April 26, 2013
Emperor is an American-Japanese post-World War II film directed by Peter Webber, marking his first film in five years. Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox star in lead roles as General Douglas MacArthur and Brigadier General Bonner Fellers respectively. It is a joint American and Japanese production.
The drama of war has long been prime cinematic territory — but it is often the hidden aftermath of war that raises the most provocative and intriguing human questions. In the shadowy gap between when battle has ended but before peace has broken out, emotions are raw, nerves and hearts are on edge and clashing agendas play out, as enemies vie to cross the vast distance between the instinct for vengeance and the dream of reconciliation.
EMPEROR, the first contemporary Hollywood film set during the U.S.-led occupation of Japan at the close of World War II, unfolds a story of both secret love and international intrigue in a post-war world where trust is in short supply and the stakes for the future could not be higher.
The story is based on the events of 1945, following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when Japan’s sacred leader, Emperor Hirohito, unconditionally surrendered. Faced with leading the Allied Powers’ occupation of the ravaged country, President Harry S. Truman tasked the American hero General Douglas MacArthur with the epic, make-or-break job of restoring order and preparing the way for democratic elections.
Yet even before he arrived in a firebombed Tokyo reduced to rubble on August 30th, MacArthur knew he faced an extraordinary dilemma: what to do about the Emperor? Should the man revered by many as a god and the living embodiment of the Japanese spirit stand trial and likely be hanged to pay for the war’s brutal crimes — or could there be any other way of moving forward while the whole world was watching?
Behind the scenes, one man was given just a few days to investigate if the Emperor’s prosecution should proceed: Bonner Fellers, an American with a deep love of Japanese culture, who would ultimately help MacArthur choose a bold course. Fellers’ story had been largely lost in the vast annals of World War II, known only to hardcore history buffs, until he became the hero of a riveting screenplay by David Klass and Vera Blasi.
Diving deep into the historical records, Klass and Blasi also opened their story up into imagined territory — as Fellers finds himself swept up not only into a dangerous political game, but into a driven search for the Japanese woman who introduced him to the soulful beauty of Japan and has haunted his heart ever since.
The Perilous Journey to Peace
The journey of EMPEROR began with producer Yoko Narahashi (THE LAST SAMURAI) who has long been interested in the fertile territory where East and West. As a child, Narahashi had been riveted by stories from her grandfather, Teizaburo Sekiya, who served in the high palace as a key member of Emperor Hirohito’s Ministry of the Interior — and played a role in bringing MacArthur and the Emperor together for the meeting that would change their fates.
Decades later, the war-scarred Japan that Narahashi’s grandfather described seemed almost unimaginable — and she became fascinated by just how it was that the most dire of enemies had been transformed with blinding speed into the closest of allies as Japan rebuilt from the ashes.
Narahashi knew there were many personal stories about how the occupation integrated the past into a new future for both Japan and the U.S., but one in particular caught her eye. This was the story of Bonner Fellers, who from the outside might seem to be a minor figure among General MacArthur’s newly arrived team in 1945 — but turned out to have made himself into a history-changing human bridge between two ways of life in those days of peril and mistrust.
“I was very intrigued by what I saw as a truly international story, a story about both Japan and the West,” says Narahashi. “I’m always fascinated by unsung heroes and when I learned about Bonner Fellers, I realized that here was someone who no one really knows yet, but he had a great deal to do with the changing of history. That was a very compelling start.”
As Narahashi began to research Fellers and to read some of his writings from the war, she found that he sometimes wrote about visiting an unnamed “friend” in Japan and she wondered if perhaps there was a love story lurking within. There could be no proof, but Narahashi saw an opportunity for a writer’s imagination to take the next step. Thus was born the seed of the fictional character of Aya, the alluring schoolteacher who reveals to Fellers a side of Japan that will forever change his mind about the country — even as the pair is star-crossed by war.
Narahashi’s instincts were affirmed when she told her 101 year-old uncle, Teizaburo Sekiya’s son, about the movie. She recalls: “He gave his blessing to us and when I asked him if he had a message to give us, he said, ‘Make it a burning love story.'”
Narahashi brought the idea of a burning, cross-cultural love story in occupied Japan to the novelist and screenwriter David Klass, known for such thrillers as KISS THE GIRLS and DESPERATE MEASURES, but who also had worked as a schoolteacher in Japan himself. Klass drafted the first screenplay.
In the meantime, a stellar production team came into place including Gary Foster and Russ Krasnoff of Krasnoff/Foster Entertainment, known for a wide range of high-profile films spanning from SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and THE SOLOIST to GHOST RIDER and DAREDEVIL and actor / film producer, Eugene Nomura. Each was drawn by the potential for blending history, intrigue and romance — and by a truth-based tale that has never before been told on the screen.
“I’ve always wanted to do a movie about this period,” says Foster, “and I found the story of how MacArthur and Fellers had to make this profound decision about the Emperor in such a short period of time, under the most extreme pressures, very dramatic. Then, I fell head over heels for the script’s love story.”
Foster was especially captivated by the idea of bringing to light a part of World War II that has so far largely escaped cinematic exploration. “People have seen a lot about life during the war, but the story that hasn’t been told is how after the war ended, the peace was negotiated,” he notes. “This story is something fresh that illuminates a period many people thought they knew in a different way — and I find that very intriguing.”
Producer Eugene Nomura saw the story not only as historical — but also as compellingly relevant to our own times of international conflicts, global uncertainty as well as unprecedented natural disaster in Japan. “This is a story about how Japan was rebuilt after the war, and Japan after the tsunami of 2011 in some ways looks similar to Japan in 1945,” he observes. “So I think it means a lot to tell this story right now about the country trying to rebuild and make it work for the right reasons.”
To further hone the script, Foster brought in screenwriter Vera Blasi, known for her passionate love of history and finesse with psychologically rich characters. Right away, she found the heart of the story. “To me it’s about how justice and truth are juxtaposed with political expedience and what will be the greater good for the world,” she explains. “I just find that fascinating and it continues to be very important in our world.”
Blasi saw the love story between Fellers and Aya as the perfect vehicle to tell the story of two seemingly disparate cultures who must find common ground to co-exist. “The political story and the love story bring in two different views of the world in 1945,” she comments.
Indeed, in the final script, the depth of Bonner Fellers’ yearning to find Aya is both the source of his respect for Japanese culture and his inspiration for trying to uncover if the Emperor might have tried to halt the terrible consequences of the war. Aya’s spirit haunts Fellers’ every move, even if he does not yet know her fate.
“A love story is always universal,” sums up Narahashi, “but the beauty of the love story in EMPEROR is that it leads an American man to make a momentous decision for Japan.”
Directed by: Peter Webber
Starring: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune, Kaori Momoi, Toshiyuki Nishida
Screenplay by: Vera Blasi, David Klass
Production Design by: Grant Major
Cinematography by: Stuart Dryburgh
Film Editing by: Chris Plummer
Costume Design byB Ngila Dickson
Set Decoration by: Daniel Birt
Art Direction by: Jill Cormack
Music by: Alex Heffes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent content, brief strong language and smoking (historical).
STudio: Lionsgate Films, Roadside Attractions
Release Date: March 8, 2013
Taglines: It’s never too late to set things right.
“Stand Up Guys” stars Academy Award winners Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in a tough but touching action comedy as retired gangsters who reunite for one epic last night. Val (Al Pacino) is released from prison after serving twenty-eight years for refusing to give up one of his close criminal associates. His best friend Doc (Christopher Walken) is there to pick him up, and the two soon re-team with another old pal, Hirsch (Alan Arkin).
Their bond is as strong as ever, and the three reflect on freedom lost and gained, loyalties ebbed and flowed, and days of glory gone by. And despite their age, their capacity for mayhem is still very much alive and well – bullets fly as they make a hilariously valiant effort to compensate for the decades of crime, drugs and sex they’ve missed. But one of the friends is keeping a dangerous secret- he’s been put in an impossible quandary by a former mob boss, and his time to find an acceptable alternative is running out. As the sun rises on the guys’ legendary reunion, their position becomes more and more desperate and they finally confront their past once and for all.
Stand Up Guys
Directed by: Fisher Stevens
Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis
Screenplay by: Noah Haidle
Production Design by: Maher Ahmad
Cinematography by: Michael Grady
Film Editing by: Mark Livolsi
Costume Design by: Lindsay McKay
Set Decoration by: Kathy Lucas
Music by: Lyle Workman
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use.
Studio: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: February 1, 20013