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Desert Radio AZ LIVE!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Movies

It is a well-established jinx in Hollywood that married couples should never work together -- but John Travolta and Kelly Preston defied fate to co-star in "Gotti." And fate won again, as the mob movie pulled in a scant $2.1 million in its first five days, on 503 screens. Travolta and Preston follow in the star-crossed footsteps of Sean Penn and Madonna in "Shanghai Surprise," Geena Davis directed by Renny Harlin in "Cutthroat Island," and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in "By the Sea." Those three marriages ended under a barrage of rotten tomatoes. Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz also defied the curse to make "Loving Pablo," about the love affair between Pablo Escobar and Colombia's most famous journalist, Virginia Vallejo. The movie has yet to be released in the US. (Page Six)

Kobe Bryant just got rejected at the rim by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- which just denied membership to the Mamba ... claiming he doesn't have a good enough body of work. You know what he does have? AN OSCAR!!!! Kobe won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short for "Dear Basketball" -- which was based off a retirement letter he published on The Players' Tribune back in 2015. Kobe is credited as the executive producer and writer of the film. Worth noting, Oscar winners are automatically considered for membership -- but it's not a shoe-in. The board votes on who gets membership based on a specific-criteria. One of the items on the checklist for producers -- "have the equivalent of 2 producer screen credits and perform the majority of the functions of a producer on theatrical feature films of the caliber which in the opinion of the executive committee reflect the high standards of the Academy." For the record, Kobe produced the docu-series 'Muse' -- but it doesn't appear that would qualify under the Academy's standards because it was produced for TV. Still, there are some people who believe the membership denial is due to Kobe's controversial past and the rise of the #MeToo movement. Despite the fact Kobe was cheered on by the Academy when he won at the Oscars, there has been serious blowback. So, is this really about Kobe's resume ... or bad P.R.? (TMZ)

'Mudbound' Producer Cassian Elwes' New Banner Completes Financing for First Movie via Crowdfunding. Movie Collective raised more than $700,000, giving investors a 15.6 percent share of the company, with the Rebecca Hall and Anjelica Huston-starring 'Utopia Road' now set to begin shooting this summer. Movie Collective, the new independent film company set up by prolific producer Cassian Elwes (Mudbound, Dallas Buyers Club, Lee Daniels' The Butler), and filmmaker Marcus Markou (Papadopoulos & Sons), has wrapped a campaign on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, raising 552,330 ($725,795) 110 percent of the target. The result means that the banner has completed financing for the first movie on its slate, Utopia Road, set to star Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family), Garrett Hedlund (Mudbound) and Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3). The film, to be directed by Rosson Crow, begins shooting this summer. In total, 528 people from around the world invested, backing the venture from as little as $15 to six figure sums, for a total share of 15.6 percent of the company. Movie Collective was set up by Elwes and Markou as a vehicle to help get independent films financed and stories told that they say are currently not being seen in a studio-dominated industry. By inviting members of the public to invest in the company, the Movie Collective team hope to build a company on the foundations of a growing, democratic pool of like-minded investors, as an alternative to the traditional avenues of raising finance. The project is also unlike the usual crowdfunding model in film, inviting investment in the company and its slate itself, rather than a single project. Investors will receive a dividend share of profits made by Movie Collective, with remaining profits used to finance other movies on the company's slate. The founders and major shareholders in Movie Collective have agreed to waive their right to first dividend payments until all minority shareholders have received a 50 percent return on their original investment. The second project on Movie Collective's Slate, Crazy Blue, is currently casting. "Our investors are intelligent movie fans that believe in intelligent, character-led stories," said Elwes. "It's an endorsement for Movie Collective and crowdfunding but also for independent film as a whole. It's very exciting." Added Markou: "The idea of recycling investment capital through a slate of movies is radical because it does not provide an immediate financial return that would normally come with a traditional movie investment. However, we want to build a long-term, sustainable business and this has resonated with the crowd." The Crowdcube campaign concluded on 20th June 2018, though further investment opportunities will be offered by Movie Collective as its slate develops. (Hollywood Reporter)

Shanghai: UCFTI Expo Unveils Plans for Expanded Fifth Edition. The growing annual event, which brings together decision makers from the U.S. and Chinese entertainment industries, will have a bigger presence at the American Film Market in Los Angeles this year. The U.S. China Film & TV Industry Expo has revealed its plans for an expanded and enhanced fourth edition to be held in Los Angeles during dual dates in September and November this year. The announcement was made at a press conference held in tandem with the Shanghai International Film Festival. Returning as event partners this year are the Motion Picture Association, China Film Co-Production Company and The Hollywood Reporter. The bulk of the growing industry event, which gathers decision-makers from Hollywood and China to forge business ties and mentor the next generation of filmmakers, will take place in Los Angeles on September 26 and 27. In 2017, the UCFTI Expo, together with the Beijing Bureau of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, as well as Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group, hosted the "China Pavilion" in the American Film Market's flagship venue, Loews Santa Monica, in November. In 2018, the partners will expand China's presence at AFM with a "China Exhibition Hall," expected to attract a record number of top-tier Chinese film and TV companies. The Expo also will again organize a series of panel discussions featuring top Beijing and Hollywood executives addressing the issues driving growth in the world's two largest film and television markets. But this year's panels will be held on-site at AFM to facilitate greater international industry attendance and participation. "The U.S. and China have already established all-round co-operations in areas such as film production and distribution, which have grown rapidly," said Bianca Chen, founder and CEO of UCFTI Expo. "Faster and more services and contents provided by UCFTI Expo are required to promote more in-depth exchanges, co-operations, and integrations of the film and TV industries for both countries in a more efficient manner." UCFTI also said that the third annual Golden Screen Awards, which honors excellence in China-foreign film co-productions, will be held during the later date of November 3 in LA. In response to the rapid growth of video streaming in the both the U.S. and China, UCFTI Expo will add an increased focus on the sector. In advance of the Expo in September, an expert jury will select streaming works produced by emerging Chinese talents be exhibited, and potentially sold for international distribution, at the new China Exhibition Hall during AFM. "Through the establishment of such an exhibition platform, more and more excellent Chinese young talents will have opportunities to shine on the film stage internationally," said Chen. The September Expo also will again bring back its Student Film Competition Awards. Over the first four UCFTI Expos, more than 600 students from the USC School of Cinematic Arts; UCLA School of Theater, Film and TV; NYU Film School; Chapman University; California College of the Arts and American Film Institute have submitted works for expert industry feedback and assessment through the platform. This year, students from the School of the Arts at Columbia University will also join the competition. Joining Chen at the announcement event in Shanghai were luminaries from both the Chinese and U.S. film industries, including Xiaotian Miao, general manager of China Film Co-Production Corporation, and Mike Ellis, president of the Motion Picture Association of America in Asia Pacific. (Hollywood Reporter)

Shanghai: Jackie Chan, John Cena Talk Action Collaboration on 'Project X'. THR joined the martial arts legend and WWE superstar as they met for the first time to discuss their upcoming work together in Scott Waugh's big-budget action adventure set in the Middle East. WWE champion and rising film star John Cena flew into the Shanghai International Film Festival to speak alongside screen legend Jackie Chan about their upcoming action-thriller-comedy Project X. The big budget Hong KongChina co-production led by Chan is entirely Chinese funded, will be filmed all in China using local crews, but with Cena as co-star and Hollywood's Scott Waugh (Act of Valor, Need for Speed) directing from a script by Arash Amel (Grace of Monaco, Erased, The Titan). "The highlight of this movie is really simple: we have one of the greatest legends of action working with a talented newcomer in the action genre," says Waugh. "It's possibly one of greatest pairings... in terms of how the movie is stylized, it will hopefully be another level -- our action will be extremely exciting." Set in the Middle East, the plot follows a retired Chinese military man and now private security contractor (Chan) who is sent to rescue workers from a Chinese-run oil refinery under attack. Cena appears as a former U.S. Marine who ends up helping Chan. Together they fight to defeat the attackers whose real motive -- a massive oil heist -- is soon revealed. "In the film, both characters start off as quite normal guys, both retired military and not superheroes," explains Chan. "At first, I think we're opponents -- I think he's the bad guy and he thinks I'm the bad guy." But then we realize that we're on the same side and go after the real enemy." The Shanghai event served as the first occasion for Cena and Chan to meet in person, and already Chan was jumping to his feet to plot fight choreography during their group sit-down with The Hollywood Reporter. "You see!" laughed Cena as Chan wrangled his arm, "He just never stops... Jackie's presence is undeniable. His energy doesn't stop. His process never stops. It's going to be so special. Not only will we make a good movie, I'm going to learn so much." The recent blockbuster success of modern-day Chinese action films -- such as Wu Jing's Wolf Warrior 2 ($855 million) or Chan's own The Foreigner ($145 million) -- has revealed a hunger for the genre in China. The trend bodes well for Project X, Chan and Cena agreed. "China as a country is bigger and stronger now so we really need heroes," argued Chan. "Look at how many on-screen heroes America has, but China doesn't have its own superheroes, it's own Superman, Spiderman... Monkey King is not really modern. And today's young people want new, contemporary era heroes!" Fans are already expecting the potent action pedigree of the Chan-Cena-Waugh trifecta to serve up world-class stunt work in Project X (a working title, the Chinese film title translates roughly to Fury Sandstorm). With Chan's unparalleled four-decade-deep martial arts pedigree, Cena and Waugh have taken to referring to him as "the master." But as a 16-time WWE world wrestling champion, Cena brings his own brand of physical skills to the fold. And Waugh is also an ex-stuntman, with a deep personal connection to the field: his father was famed stuntman Fred Waugh, co-founder of the elite Hollywood group Stunts Unlimited. The action side of the collaboration, then, is sure to be sophisticated. Chan's JC Stunt Team will be choreographing their characteristically complex fight scenes, whilst Waugh will lend his Need for Speed expertise to a promised sequence of high-level stunt driving. "I'm excited when you get actors who are truly physically talented you can design action to really use this; it's a dream," Waugh said. But the director insists that the film will be more than just fights and explosions; there's a more emotional side to both characters' backstories. Chan's character will fight to rescue his daughter, while Cena's character's motives will be similarly personal. "I always want the audience to go for a full ride in my films," says Waugh, "I want you to laugh, cry, be on the edge of your seat. Audiences are now paying a lot more money to watch films, so we as filmmakers have the obligation to entertain them." One of global cinema's most recognizable stars, Chan has now made over 200 films over nearly 60 years in the industry. For Cena and Waugh, Project X will be their first time working on a Chinese production. Waugh said he has been "extremely focused" on China for some time: "there's so much incredible talent here that has yet to be cultivated; it could turn into something that goes even further than we've gone in Hollywood." Chan is producing Project X with longtime collaborator Joe Tam, as well as Esmond Ren and Hans Canosa. He said that he chose Waugh and Cena because of their talent, skill and also their curiosity for China. "Some Western talent just come in-and-out when they do a China project, but these guys have a commitment to the culture and industry," Chan explained. "Scott has been living here for months to prepare for the film, and John has been learning Mandarin on his own for years, way before we asked him to join our cast." "I've been learning it three to four years," Cena said. "My fascination with China and Chinese culture started about a decade ago and I've dreamed of being in the industry here." Even at WWE, which attracts very little Chinese audience, Cena was pushing to go into the market, making steps including "me trying very hard to learn remedial Mandarin" to break through, he said. Whilst he made his name as a WWE star, Cena's comedic abilities didn't go unnoticed in this casting in Project X, Waugh said. His first film was The Marine (2006), followed by several action flicks, but he's gone on to get noticed in popular comedies, such as Trainwreck, Sisters and Daddy's Home. "I was looking for something exciting. I've often been typecast as a WWE wrestler, so it was often difficult to do action as the typecast kind of prevented that," Cena said of what attracted him to this role. "After having some fun with comedy, I read this story -- the plot was great, the action was great, the twists were amazing and keep getting better. Now there is also some lighthearted fun, which I'm very happy about." Although funding for the production comes entirely from Hong Kong and China, the film's script contains an element of East-meets-West that matches the casting of Chan and Cena. Told in both Mandarin and English, the film is targeted towards a global release and global success, the team said. Still, the China market is of utmost importance. "We cannot refute the fact that China is now the world's no. 1 theatrical market already this year -- it's two years ahead of schedule," Waugh said. But said he hopes that Project X can be a model for successful Hollywood-China collaboration, on both a creative and commercial basis. "Cross-pollination has always been a challenge," he added, "But we want it to entertain audiences everywhere." (Hollywood Reporter)

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