The Hunter Trailer: Willem Dafoe’s On the Prowl

The first trailer for The Hunter has premiered and we’ll give it this much: It is a refreshingly original idea for a film. Willem Dafoe plays a mercenary who is the best at what he does. His latest contract has him flying to the jungles of Tasmania in search of a beast that is supposedly extinct. Dafoe’s charge is to bring the animal back alive so the mysterious corporation that hired him can harness its DNA.

The Hunter also stars Alcatraz’s Sam Neill and arrives on VOD March 2 and in theaters April 6.

Man on a Ledge Exclusive: Ed Burns Takes Us Inside Filmmaking

As a screenwriter himself (The Brothers McMullen, She’s the One), Man on a Ledge star Ed Burns was immediately impressed when he first opened the script for the film. “It’s rare that you read a script that is that much of a page-turner. It’s really got great twists and turns, you don’t know where it’s going. And then when we get to the end the other thing that’s very satisfying is those last act reveals worked,” Burns said to us exclusively. “I think the screenwriter was very respectful of his audience.”

Ed Burns in Man on a Ledge
Once the actor arrived on the Man on a Ledge set and began collaborating with his other stars — Elizabeth Banks, Sam Worthington, Ed Harris and Jamie Bell — he noticed something else about the script that was coming to light thanks to the talented group of performers. “They were able to put together such a great ensemble, you have all of these very distinct voices. Within that, the different characters were getting to play within different genres in the various subplots,” Burns said. “Jamie’s whole deal, their subplot deals with a jewel heist and this couple’s comedy. Sam is in the sort of traditional psychological thriller role with action elements. There’s even Kyra Sedgwick’s man on the street stuff.”

Burns’ biggest effort was not to make his Jack Dougherty a caricature, which given his description, could have been easy to slip into. “Alright, so this is that cop. He’s the pain in the ass. He’s going to be pissed off. He’s a wise-ass and he’s going to give this woman (Banks) a very hard time,” he said. “But as the story progresses you see that there’s actually a flip. There’s a little bit of an arc and he gets to turn into a real person that not only protects her but comes to sort of aid her in her case.”

Of all the cast members, Burns had the most scenes with Banks. “First of all, the girl’s such a talented actor. When you think about the really gritty, dramatic work that she can do, but then she’s just like a master comedienne,” Burns said. “We became immediate fast friends and then we do that first scene together and we had chemistry. There’s no explanation for that, we’re just lucky to have it.”

Movie Fanatic wondered if being a screenwriter gave Burns any extra edge in choosing scripts in which he hopes to act. “That’s a hard one because I haven’t been the best at picking the right things to act in, quite honestly,” he said and laughed. “I obviously don’t have a better ability to judge what makes a successful screenplay or film.”

Yet the director side of his brain is continually getting a master class in the craft with each acting role. “Every film you work on, you should use as an opportunity to learn from the filmmakers. I did it for the first time with Steven Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan. I got to do it this summer with Rob Cohen, making I, Alex Cross,” Burns said.

Knowing there are legion of aspiring writers and directors out there, Burns had some exclusive advice for our readers in their efforts to achieve his level of success. “If this is something that you need to do, then you just have to figure out a way to go and do it. You’re always going to meet the naysayers. And the naysayers are going to tell you that you cannot make a movie for $9,000. They’re going to tell you in three years, you can’t make a movie on an iPhone. And I guarantee you I’m going to make a movie on an iPhone in about three years,” Burns said. “They’re going to say, ‘Well, even if you do make a movie, how are you going to get it out there? You’re going to lose your money. You’re gonna do this, you’re gonna do that.’ You can’t listen to any of them. Because what is the alternative? Not doing it.”

Of all the great filmmakers and performers he has had the pleasure of working alongside, Burns tells us his best guidance came from someone a little closer to his heart. “My dad gave me great advice early on in my career. I’d made The Brothers McMullen and the movie was a year old. I had sent it out to every film festival, distribution company, agent, and producer — and all I got back was a stack of rejection letters. Not a single nibble,” Burns remembered.

Man on a Ledge Star Ed Burns
“He took me out for a drink and I was complaining about the business. I said, ‘What the hell? I don’t understand. What’s going on? I thought this was a pretty good movie and I can’t even get an agent.’ He said, ‘Let me ask you a question. When you finished making the movie, you told me that those 12 shooting days were the 12 best days of your life, right?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Now, did you make the movie to go out to Hollywood and become rich and famous and be an (expletive)?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You did it because you told me you needed to do it. The story was inside of you and you needed to get it out. So, this is what we’ll do. Write another script. We’ll figure out a way to get you another $23,000 and you’ll go get another 12 days.’ That’s what I tell people all the time. Just go get those 12 days.”

Act of Valor Featurette: Real SEALs in Action

Relativity Media has released a new behind-the-scenes featurette taking us into the making of Act of Valor. The action film features real life Navy SEALs and through this insightful video vignette, audiences can get quite a feeling into how real American heroes brought this movie to new heights.

Act of Valor opens in theaters everywhere February 24. It follows the SEALs in their effort to rid the world of terrorism and is inspired by true events. The movie brings together authentic battle sequences, coupled with what happens when these super soldiers come home.

One For the Money Movie Review: Stephanie Plum Primed for Success?

Right off the bat in reviewing One for the Money, let’s just say that it is a thankless task bringing a beloved book to the screen. More often than not, a cinematic experience cannot replicate a reader’s imagination of what would visually be in their minds. When the story that is being adapted on film is from Janet Evanovich and involves a certain character named Stephanie Plum, anticipation could not be higher. There is inherently a collective raised eyebrow from the book’s audience to deliver.

Katherine Heigl is Stephanie Plum in One for the Money
Katherine Heigl is Plum in One for the Money. The actress also serves as a producer and as such, the film is as much her vision as anyone else’s. There is much she achieves, but there are also a few potholes along the way.

Plum has just lost her job at the beginning of the film. She has few options except to take a position as a bounty hunter for her cousin’s bail bonds business. Her first mission is to bring in the man who wronged her in high school, Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara). He is a former cop who is on the lam, escaping a murder conviction. The two meet and explosives need to be detonated to replicate those found on the pages of Evanovich. Unfortunately, none exist between the two. The best chemistry in the film is that between Heigl and Sherri Shepherd as Lulu.

Shepherd, a self-professed Evanovich fan, knows every note of her prostitute, who yes… has a heart of gold. If One for the Money scores with fans at the box office, we look forward to future installments of the Plum series as Lulu’s role is ever expanding and the chemistry of Plum and Lulu is one of the best parts of the entire franchise. The moments between Shepherd and Heigl possess such levity and laser sharp dialogue; we wish the entire film held up to that standard.

Director Julie Anne Robinson gets the most out of her cast, especially Debbie Reynolds as Heigl’s grandmother. The hulky Ranger from the book series is played by Daniel Sunjata and the groundwork for a fiery relationship between Plum and Ranger is expertly established in One for the Money. Fans of the series may expect more of a Dwayne Johnson physique from their Ranger, yet Sunjata is that character on so many levels.

One for the Money is an entertaining introduction to the world of Stephanie Plum. It is probably a good sign that after witnessing the film, we actually want more from Heigl’s Plum and the world that author Evanovich created.

The Grey Movie Review: Liam Neeson Astounds

Liam Neeson owns The Grey. He commands every frame in the story of a group of Alaskan oil drillers whose plane crashes on their way home after a stint drilling in the Arctic.

The Grey Stars Liam Neeson
The film begins with Neeson doing his job at the refinery. Immediately, the Irish actor commands our attention. He is clearly a lost soul on the verge of self destruction. Yet, as soon as he awakes in the frozen tundra after the crash, Neeson’s Ottway emerges as a post facto leader. When a pack of wolves encircle the survivors, it is Ottway that grabs a torch and issues instructions that save everyone’s lives… for now.

Man versus nature cinema is littered with failed attempts at pitting the two in a battle to the death. The Grey reverses that trend by giving life to those the wolves want to kill. The film’s cast matches Neeson’s intensity and the end result is a crisp thriller that also possesses a ton of heart and surprisingly, a fair amount of humor.

Nonso Anozie, Frank Grillo, James Badge Dale, Dermot Mulroney and Dallas Roberts deliver in their characterizations that could have been caricatures in an action film. There are layers to each actor’s performance that brings the audience into their plight and pulls for them to make it out alive. Traipsing through the snow swelled landscape, the plane crash survivors have their integral individual moments in the movie’s trajectory. As such, we identify with each and every one of them.

At the end of the day, The Grey is the Liam Neeson show. When the film’s penultimate moment arrives, Neeson is able to bring the entire movie himself to a rallying conclusion, hardly saying a word.

Joe Carnahan, after working with Neeson on The A-Team, has shorthand with the actor and has presented his colleague a screenplay that lives and dies with his participation. Carnahan, for his part, packages the star in a film that plays to his strengths. The director allows his cast to flourish, but still keeps the main voice and visual focus on his lead.

The Grey possesses all sorts of elements that make it a must see. There is the spine tingling suspense. It has immense heart. The landscape is a marvel that simultaneously awes and could showcase death at every corner. Its cast brings their best and what emerges is an audience experience that not only relishes a two hour trip through top-notch thriller land, but also leaves one with a burgeoning fascination with the creatures who share history with those beasts who sit at our feet.