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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

Sundance 2014: With tons of movies sold, the lack of a mega deal was no big deal

I can testify that when you go to a film festival, and someone inquires about how the movies were that year, the answer you end up giving — “Really terrific!” “Lousy!” “They were okay!” — is often dictated by exactly one movie. If you saw something that totally knocked you out, the sort of film that you think is going to get major play in the real world, and you’re already dusting off a place on your 10 Best list for it, then that one movie can determine your entire perception of the festival. That’s what happened to me last year at Sundance when I saw Fruitvale (they hadn’t added the Station yet). The fact that you’ve witnessed a certified home run makes the festival feel to you, in hindsight, like…well, a baseball game in which your team hit a home run. It’s more than a good movie; it’s why you came — to see an unheralded filmmaker knock one out of the park. A single movie that rocks your world can define, year in and year out, the Sundance experience — the reason that a festival like this one exists. Some of the films I’ve seen at Sundance that have had that effect include Crumb (1995), Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), Buffalo 66 (1998), The Blair Witch Project (1999), Chuck & Buck (2000), Wet Hot American Summer (2001), American Splendor (2003), Capturing the Friedmans (2003), Thirteen (2003), Hustle & Flow (2005), Precious (2009), and Fruitvale (2013). 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: 'Love is Strange' cast at the festival -- VIDEO

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EW’s Anthony Breznican chats with the cast of Love is Strange at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, about the film that follows a gay couple — Alfred Molina and John Lithgow — whose marriage causes Molina’s character George to lose his job. Watch the view below: READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: Benedict Cumberbatch in talks to play explorer Percy Fawcett, plus more

• Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek Into Darkness) is in talks to take the lead role in the adaptation of David Grann‘s best-seller The Lost City of Z about Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who disappeared in the Amazon during a 1925 expedition. If the adaptation sounds distantly familiar, it’s likely because Brad Pitt was attached to star in the project more than two years ago, and it’s been in and out of development limbo since. Pitt’s Plan B is producing with James Gray (We Own the Night) still set to direct. [Deadline]
READ FULL STORY

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