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Critical Mass: 'Love is Strange' might be the best movie in theaters this Labor Day weekend

With a lackluster collection of films opening wide in multiplexes this holiday weekend, it’s time to herald an indie gem. Love is Strange debuted at Sundance in January, and opened to the top per-screen average in select theaters last weekend. It expands slightly today, and critics seem to be near-unanimous that it’s worth seeking out.

Directed by Ira Sachs, the film tells the story of George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow), a gay New York City couple who officially tie the knot after 39 years together. But once their relationship is made legal, George is fired by the Catholic school where he teaches music. Since Ben is a painter with little income, the couple can no longer afford their apartment, and they’re forced to split up and crash with friends and family while they sort things out. George moves downstairs, where he endures life with two boisterous gay cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez). Ben gets a bunk at his nephew’s house in Brooklyn, where he can’t help but disrupt the lives of his nephew’s wife (Marisa Tomei) and her household.

Though the film is about a gay couple, it’s not a film with a political agenda. “Sachs takes an impeccably balanced approach to the film,” writes EW’s Joe McGovern. “It’s neither an advertisement for same-sex marriage nor a scold against the Catholic Church. In one scene, George reads a letter he had sent to his students’ parents; his voice-over is matched to a graceful montage of daily life within the school as he says, ‘Life has its obstacles, but I’ve learned early on that they will always be lessened if faced with honesty.’ That’s as close to sermonizing as Sachs gets.”

Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below. And be ready for Love is Strange when it comes to your neck of the woods.   READ FULL STORY

'Love Is Strange' trailer: Honeymoon's over for Alfred Molina and John Lithgow

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In Ira Sach’s Love Is Strange, George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow) finally get married after years of being together. Let the blissful honeymoon commence! Well, not quite.

Trouble strikes the newlyweds when George is fired from his teaching post, forcing the pair to stay with friends separately as they sell their home and look for more affordable housing. The situation proves difficult for both the couple and the friends and family they’re bunking with.

As a testament to that, in the trailer, Marisa Tomei’s Kate, a novelist who works at home, lies in bed with her husband, saying, “I didn’t have a very productive day.” The trailer then cuts to Kate and Ben sitting in a room with Ben pestering Kate while she’s trying to write. Later, Ben says, “When you live with people, you know them better than you care to.” Nothing like bad roommates, am I right?

Our hunch? Love—and family, and friendship—will prevail. Decide for yourself here: READ FULL STORY

'Love is Strange' and 'Frank' both get post-Sundance deals

After premiering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, two films have been acquired for theatrical release.

Sony Pictures Classics announced Friday that they have acquired all North American, German, and Scandinavian rights to Ira Sachs’ feature Love Is Strange starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a longtime couple who lose their New York City home shortly after getting married and, as a result, must live apart, relying on friends and family to make ends meet. “Filmmaker Ira Sachs, one of our most acute observers of humanity in modern times, has made his most accomplished film featuring two of the greatest actors in the English speaking world at the peak of their form. It is a privilege to collaborate with them on releasing Love Is Strange,” Sony Pictures Classics said in a statement. The all-star cast also includes Marisa Tomei, Darren Burrows, Charlie Tahan, and Cheyenne Jackson.

The Wagner/Cuban Company’s Magnolia Pictures also announced Friday that they have acquired North American rights to Frank, an offbeat comedy directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Frank stars Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gylenhaal, Scoot McNairy, and Michael Fassbender as the titular character, a brilliant and eccentric musician who wears a giant fake head at all times.

“All of us at Magnolia were completely taken with Frank,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “It reaffirms the considerable talents of Lenny Abrahamson, who has delivered a beautiful, poignant, and hilarious film that speaks on many levels about being an artist. That Michael Fassbender can be so affecting while encased in a papier-mâché head proves that he is one of the greatest actors working today.” Magnolia is eyeing a summer 2014 theatrical release for the film.

Sundance 2014: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon cut each other up once more in 'The Trip to Italy'

Fifty years ago (on Feb. 7, 1964, to be precise), the Beatles came to America with a sound so blissful and spangly and new that it would have seemed — still seems — counterintuitive to think how much that sound was influenced by America. The four magical mop tops seemed to relish our rock & roll even more than we did (though, of course, they gave it their own incandescent spin). Mind you, I’m not comparing Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, the two brilliantly funny quipster cynics who portray themselves going on a culinary road adventure in The Trip to Italy, to the Beatles (though the barbed cheekiness of these two goes right back to the spirit of the banter in A Hard Day’s Night). But if I can at least make an analogy between comedy and music, Coogan and Brydon, who spend a lot of the film doing their slashing impersonations of Al Pacino, Woody Allen, Robert De Niro, Christian Bale, and others, appear to be driven by a heightened fixation on the personalities of Hollywood stars that seems at once peculiar to Britain and, just possibly, even more obsessive than our own. READ FULL STORY

Sundance 2014: John Lithgow and Alfred Molina get married, learn that 'Love is Strange' -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

It’s not unusual for a romance or relationship movie to culminate in a lavish wedding. But in Love is Strange, the plot is set in motion by a wedding — a gay marriage between Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), who are taking advantage of New York’s marriage-equity laws and tying the knot after being together for 39 years. Unfortunately, the Catholic school where George teaches does not approve and they reluctantly fire him, forcing the couple to split up and stay with friends while they sell their apartment and look for cheaper housing. George crashes with two gay police officers, while Ben, who’s a painter, bunks with his nephew’s family in Brooklyn. “These men have flaws and their relationship has flaws,” says Molina, “and the central event of the movie in a way reveals them.”

Directed by Ira Sachs (Keep the Lights On), Love is Strange is obviously about a gay marriage, but it’s really more about marriage, period. “The starring role in this film is a marriage, and that role is played by both people,” says Lithgow, who like Molina, has been married to the same woman for more than 30 years. “It’s not really a relationship about two gay men,” agrees Molina. “This is a movie about a relationship. It’s about what happens in a marriage, and that is a kind of universal theme that I think everybody can relate to.”

If anything, the two actors found the most unique aspect of their movie their characters’ ages. “You don’t see many films about a married couple of this age,” says Lithgow. “Certainly not any films that I can think of about an old gay couple of this age.”

“There is the occasional exception, like Beginners, which is a wonderful example,” says Molina. “But usually, it tends to be about younger people, particularly when it’s about a relationship.”

The two actors have been friends for years and their easy camaraderie instilled their characters with an old-couple familiarity. “At one point, the director had to separate us because we were sort of giggling in the way school boys giggle at a dirty joke, snickering away like idiots,” says Molina. “All of that became incredibly useful.”

Lithgow wasn’t aware of the frequency of such teacher-firings when he first accepted the role, and he was surprised to read headlines about such occurrences.”There were newspaper stories piling in every day of exactly this thing happening,” he says. “It’s no judgement on Catholic doctrine at all, but it does address the reality that even though the law has made great strides and marriage equality is this almost voguish thing right now, there is still a gigantic proportion of the population that is very uncomfortable with the idea.”

But according to the actors, Sachs didn’t set out to make a politically-charged movie. “Ira Sachs’ view of it was very cool,” says Molina. “Not dispassionate, but objective. The film doesn’t have any particular axe to grind. I used to describe it as a sort of bittersweet romance and that description seemed to satisfy until we started making it and I realized actually there’s so much more to it than that: the end of the story is one of great hope and optimism and the power of how love can transcend everything.”

Click below for an exclusive video clip from Love is Strange. READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: Charlie Hunnam aiming to join Emma Stone in 'Crimson Peak.' Plus: Michael Gambon and Alfred Molina to play a couple

Charlie Hunnam is in talks to topline Crimson Peak, director Guillermo del Toro‘s follow-up to his upcoming film with the Sons of Anarchy star, this summer’s Pacific RimEmma Stone is also in talks to star in what’s being described as a haunted house film, though plot details are being kept hush hush. Del Toro and Lucinda Coxon (Wild Target) are re-writing the script Del Toro wrote with Matthew Robbins (MimicDon’t Be Afraid of the Dark). [Variety / Variety]

• Michael Gambon and Alfred Molina will star in Love is Strange, about a longstanding couple who suddenly have to live apart after they get married in New York City. Ira Sachs (Keeps the Lights On) will direct from a script he penned with Mauricio Zacharias (Keep the Lights On). [Deadline]

• Jeremy PivenRay Liotta, and Juno Temple have joined the expanding cast of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which includes returning actors Mickey RourkeJessica Alba, Rosario DawsonJamie King, and Michael Madsen, and newbies Joseph Gordon-LevittJosh Brolin, Dennis Haysbert, and Jamie Chung. As was the case with 2005′s Sin CityRobert Rodriguez and Frank Miller are sharing directing and screenplay duties. [Deadline]

Read more:
Casting Net: James Franco to direct and star in biopic ‘Beautiful People.’ Plus: Liam Neeson lands action pic, Paul Dano to play Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson
Casting Net: Al Pacino and Brian De Palma to tell Penn State coach Joe Paterno’s story. Plus: Patrick Stewart, Carla Gugino, Dylan McDermott
Casting Net: Bradley Cooper attached to WWI thriller ‘Dark Invasion.’ Plus: Anne Hathaway, Jerry Lewis, Billy Campbell

Casting Net: Lenny Kravitz to play Marvin Gaye. Plus: Amy Smart, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz

• Rock musician Lenny Kravitz (The Hunger GamesPrecious) will get it on as celebrated singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye in an untitled biopic about the final years of the musician’s life, when he moved to Europe to overcome his substance abuse and ended up penning one of his most indelible hits, “Sexual Healing.” Julien Temple (The Filth and the Fury) will direct. [Evening Standard/Deadline]

Amy SmartTerry CrewsEddie Cibrian, and Nia Long have all signed up for Tyler Perry’s Single Mom’s Club, Lionsgate announced Monday. Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids) and William Levy (of Dancing With the Stars fame) costar in a comedy about a group of single mothers who create a support group. As the needlessly possessive title suggests, Tyler Perry will direct from his script, and also star. Lionsgate has set the film for a May 9, 2014 release.

• Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga) will star in Tatua, about an assassin with the ability to use weapons tattooed on his skin, necessitating we see a great deal of his skin, which is why Kellan Lutz has a career. Visual effects artist Aaron Sims will make his feature directing debut from a script by Paul Layden. [Deadline]

Minnie DriverAlfred Molina, and Paul Adelstein (ABC’s Private Practice) will star in Return to Zero, an indie drama about a married couple (Driver and Adelstein) who navigate the terrifying consequences of a still born baby. Molina will play their doctor. Kathy Baker (Big Miracle), Andrea Anders (ABC’s Better Off Ted) and Sarah Jones (CBS’ Vegas) costar. Sean Hanish will direct from his script. [THR]

Read more:
Casting Net: Laura Linney, James McAvoy circling Benedict Cumberbatch/WikiLeaks movie. Plus: Marisa Tomei, James Corden
Casting Net: Bryan Cranston joining thriller ‘Eye of Winter.’ Plus: Christopher Meloni, Richard Dreyfuss, Gloria Reuben
Casting Net: Charlize Theron signs on as doc narrator. Plus Liam Neeson, Bruce McGill

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