Disney’s Wonderboy rages

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Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:

A new Raging Bull, Forest Whitaker’s reign, Sundance 2024/A24, and Irish rap.

Let’s go!


DISNEY’S WONDERBOY RAGES

Zac Efron is punching above his weight class in The Iron Claw (2023)

In the film, when Efron takes on wrestling’s toughest fighter, he gets launched over the ring, landing on his backside, the wind knocked out of him.

But there’s only one thought in his mind: disappointing his father.

It’s a moment that articulates the entirety of Efron’s family dynamic in The Iron Claw, where the fierce rule of his father’s iron will, played by the sensational Holt McCallany (Mindhunter, Fight Club), endows Efron with a literal inability to respond emotionally.

What is so beautiful about this film is not the excessive muscles packed on by on-screen brothers Efron and Jeremy Allen White or the stylishly filmed narrative by director Sean Durkin, but the moments of sweetness.

They hold more power than a punch.

From the brothers uniting in a familial hug to a rare moment of disobeying their father to sneak into a music gig, these moments show a wonderfully naive bond.

In The Iron Claw, Zac Efron taps into the live wire of his character’s defining misbelief that an iron-muscled body is a shield against vulnerability.

This exploration of strength and fragility serves as a poignant backdrop to Efron’s own journey in Hollywood.

Efron has been meticulously shedding his Disneyfied image since taking a 99% pay cut to play Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019).

He discussed that role:

“I had a lot of reservations about playing a killer and in this genre of film. I wasn’t interested in glorifying anything, but I was interested in the psychological aspect of whether he was capable of real love.”

And that’s the real draw of The Iron Claw: if we believe Efron’s character is capable of real love.

For More:

The Iron Claw trailer.

Transformation vs. impersonation with Zac Efron and Charlize Theron, who made her own de-beautified transformation to play a killer in Monster. Efron + Theron clip.

The Iron Claw offers many homages to Raging Bull. Watch that Raging Bull‘s most horrific and poetic sequence.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Warner Bros. doubles down on video game films with Minecraft casting Jack Black and now Jennifer Coolidge. Warner Bros. has had two of the top-five highest-grossing video game film adaptations:

Minecraft became the bestselling video game of all time through an unlikely set of circumstances. It was created by a solo developer with zero marketing budget. Yet the strong word of mouth tapped into our need to create and cooperate.

126 M people play it every month.

While many people have fallen in love with recent video game films, for every Illumination’s Mario, we have the Bob Hoskins version, the horrific Doom movie starring the Rock, and most recently, the botched Halo TV show.

Putting video game creators in key creative roles leads to high-caliber projects, as in The Last of Us, where video game creator Neil Druckmann worked hand-in-hand with Craig Mazin, the creator of Chernobyl.

Minecraft will be distributed by Warner Bros. and Legendary and is slated to release on April 4, 2025.

The Motion Picture Association CEO, Charles Rivkin, wins a 3rd term. The MPA does more than rate films; they’re the largest trade organization representing the five major studios and Netflix.

Since Rivkin began at the MPA in 2018, he has:

  • Reduced anti-piracy platforms from 1,400→ 238
  • Increased production incentives both domestically and internationally
  • Helped create the Streaming Innovation Alliance – which cuts through some of the archaic laws governing streaming

Rivkin stated:

“Over the next three years, my team and I will continue to navigate paradigm shifts in technology, advances in distribution models, and changes in consumer tastes and behavior.”

Rivkin has powerful connections in DC that will hopefully allow him to pressure companies like OpenAI for their alleged use of copyrighted films as training data.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

The inspiring vocal transformation of Ben Mendelsohn as Christian Dior. There’s a baritone gravitas in Mendelsohn’s voice in The New Look (trailer). Mendelsohn excels at two polar opposite types: the peasant and the king.

Peasant:

King:

Apple’s synopsis reads:

​The New Look explores the rise of fashion designer Christian Dior as he dethrones Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche) and helps return spirit and life to the world with his iconic imprint of beauty and influence.

The New Look debuts on February 14 on Apple TV+.

Forest Whitaker is measured and brutal in MGM’s Godfather of Harlem until a multi-season character arc breaks him into a driveling gangster. Whitaker, who won the Oscar for The Last King of Scotland (watch his 2006 Oscar speech that brought Leonardo DiCaprio to tears), takes on a new MGM series. In Emperor of Ocean Park, he plays a patriarch.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Follows Talcott Garland, whose tranquil existence is upended by the death of his father. Mariah Tal, a former journalist and ardent conspiracy theorist, questions the manner of his death and thinks he was victim of foul play.

Showrunner Sherman Payne explained:

“I’m incredibly excited for the legendary Forest Whitaker to join Emperor of Ocean Park. Portraying the patriarch of our onscreen family, Forest brings thoughtfulness, leadership, and unimpeachable talent to an already incredible cast. Since the very first draft, Forest has been my dream candidate for this role, and it is truly humbling that we are now working together to bring this story to life.”

Whitaker has been doing strong TV work for years and will be seen next in Francis Ford Coppola’s upcoming Megalopolis.

Nico Parker stars in Sundance-bound Suncoast across Woody Harrelson. Parker’s cheeriness seems bullet-proof against the continual bad hands she’s dealt in:

Here’s the official synopsis of Suncoast:

A teenager (Parker) who, while caring for her brother along with her audacious mother (Laura Linney), strikes up an unlikely friendship with an eccentric activist (Harrelson) who is protesting one of the most landmark medical cases of all time.

Parker’s flawless ability to act across some modern-day on-screen greats is cementing her as an actress to watch.


FESTIVALS

Sundance starts today! Here are the titles to look out for:

Check out all our top pics in The Sundance Edition.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

One of the most intimate pictures of voyeurism to be committed to the screen is The Lives of Others (2006, trailer). The film, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, was directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

His latest film, Vent, follows similar themes.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Follows a young man who suspects that a kidnapping victim is tapping messages to him through his apartment building air vent.

Although von Donnersmarck’s directing was critically ridiculed for his first Hollywood picture, The Tourist (2010), it’s rumored that Adam Driver is attached.

Hopefully, he’ll fare better with Driver, whose recent ability to dazzle European auteurs can be seen in his aggressively oddball performance in Leos Carax’s Annette (2021).

Ethan Hawke has directed five feature films. He has an insatiable passion as an artist that seeps through his cinema.

Here are his films:

Hawke has just sold his latest, Wildcat, to Oscilloscope Labs.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Invites the audience to weave in and out of celebrated Southern Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor’s mind as she ponders the great questions of her writing: Can scandalous art still serve God? Does suffering precede all greatness? Can illness be a blessing?

Hawke discussed directing his daughter Maya in the film:

“Maya has been working hard for years to put this project together, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to introduce a new generation of filmgoers to the genius of Flannery O’Connor.”

The Wildcat world premiere was held at the Telluride Film Festival. It was also shown at TIFF.

No release date has been announced.

Jim Rash is more than Dean Pelton on Community (still). He directed Downhill (the Julia Louis-Dreyfus & Will Ferrel avalanche film inspired by Force Majeure) and also co-wrote Alexander Payne’s The Descendants (2011). His newest film, Miss You, Love You, will star Allison Janney (I Tonya, West Wing).

Rash said:

“If I could direct every single movie with the remarkable Allison Janney starring, I would… As with all of my projects, actors are contractually obligated to be my best friends, which is a huge win-win for them.”

Here’s the official synopsis:

With a funeral to plan and grieving to be done, a widow (Janney) reaches out to her estranged son. He refuses to come home, choosing instead to send his personal assistant to help make the arrangements. The widow is forced to process her grief in the presence of a complete stranger.

Miss You, Love You centers around the grieving process, which Rash so wonderfully examines in all his work.

The film will begin production next month.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Sundance is burning. The first Irish-language film at the festival, Kneecap is a little different. It stars Michael Fassbender, along with a trio of first-time actors played by real-life rappers.

The trio is known for their controversial political views. And they’re not quiet about it.

Rich Peppiatt, the director of Kneecap, said:

“There have been some very gentle discussions about them having to be careful about what they say, discussions which have been met with a resounding middle finger.”

Here’s the trailer. Posted on TikTok…

It’s reminiscent of when the filmmaking team behind American Animals (2018) brought the real-life characters to Sundance after they’d served long prison sentences; it was wild to see them mix at parties after a film that detailed their audacious experience.

Kneecap may prove a little more fiery.

Amazon MGM Studios is opening a production hub at Pinewood Toronto Studios, Canada, marking a significant regional expansion. The exclusive agreement includes five advanced sound stages and supporting facilities spanning 160,000 square feet. This multi-year deal consolidates Amazon MGM’s Canadian presence, following successful projects like The Boys and The Handmaid’s Tale, which shot on various stages across the country.

The announcement follows massive staff cuts at Amazon’s Prime Video and MGM Studios.


ON THIS DAY

1904. Cary Grant was born.


See you Friday.


Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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