Screen Media Acquires Rights to Thriller ‘Maggie Moore(s)’

Screen Media, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company, has announced the acquisition of all North American rights to the true-crime-inspired thriller Maggie Moore(s).

Screen Media is planning a theatrical release in June, followed by a digital release later that month.

Directed by John Slattery and written by Paul Bernbaum, the film reunites Slattery with his Emmy-winning “Mad Men” co-star Jon Hamm (Top Gun: Maverick, Confess, Fletch). Maggie Moore(s) also stars Emmy winner Tina Fey (Date Night, “30 Rock”), Emmy nominee Nick Mohammed (“Ted Lasso”), Micah Stock (Kindred), Mary Holland (Happiest Season) and Happy Anderson (“Mindhunter”).

In the film, when two women with the same name are murdered days apart, small-town police chief Jordan Sanders (Hamm) finds himself wading through an unlikely collection of cheating husbands, lonely hearts, nosy neighbors and contract killers in an effort to put the pieces of the case, and his life, together. The film is inspired by actual events.

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“I’m so proud of Maggie Moore(s) and the entire cast and filmmaking team,” director and producer Slattery said in a statement. “After reading this script, I knew we had the potential for a unique story to be told. The result is a film that captures a lot of today’s true-crime, stranger-than-fiction culture, buoyed by excellent performances. I’m excited to bring this to audiences later this year, and to be working with Screen Media to do so.”  

“We’re excited to work with John and all the immense talent involved with the film,” David Fannon, chief acquisitions and distribution officer at Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, said in a statement. “With an incredible ensemble cast led by Jon Hamm and Tina Fey, the film is a wild, true crime-inspired ride that will keep audiences guessing until the end. It’s exactly the type of original content that Screen Media aspires to bring to our audiences.”

Maggie Moore(s) was produced by Slattery, Vincent Newman, Dan Reardon, Santosh Govindaraju, Nancy Leopardi and Ross Kohn. The film was executive produced by Jim Valdez, Kyle Hayes, Jared Underwood, Slava Vladimirov, Boden Anderson, Andrew C. Robinson, David Gendron, Ali Jazayeri and Viviana Zarragoitia of Three Point Capital, David Fannon, Seth Needle, Conor McAdam, David A. Stern, David Nagelberg, Daniel Grodnik, Jonathan Taylor, Clay Floren, Ryan Fine and Bernbaum.

Slattery made his feature film directorial debut in 2014 with God’s Pocket, starring Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emmy winner John Turturro. He can currently be seen in Confess Fletch, also starring Hamm, and TV’s “The Good Fight.”

Hamm, best known for his Emmy-winning role on “Mad Men,” can currently be seen in Confess Fletch, Good Omens and Top Gun: Maverick. He is also currently in pre-production on the animated series “Grimsburg.”

Fey, best known for her Emmy-winning role as Liz Lemon on TV’s “30 Rock,” is currently in pre-production for the feature film adaptation of Mean Girls the Musical.

The deal was negotiated by Seth Needle, EVP of global acquisitions and co-productions, on behalf of Screen Media, with CAA Media Finance, The Gersh Agency and WME Independent, on behalf of the filmmakers.

Screen Media recently acquired Tom DeLonge’s directorial debut Monsters of California, Renny Harlin’s action film The Bricklayer starring Aaron Eckhart and Nina Dobrev from Millennium Films, Devil’s Peak starring Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton and Emmy winner Robin Wright, and the Bella Thorne-led thriller Saint Clare also starring Ryan Phillippe and Rebecca DeMornay. Recent film releases include The Locksmith starring Ryan Phillippe, Kate Bosworth, and Ving Rhames; Poker Face directed by and starring Academy Award winner Russell Crowe; Kevin Lewis’ follow-up to Willy’s Wonderland, The Accursed starring Alexis Knapp and Mena Suvari; The Enforcer starring Antonio Banderas and Kate Bosworth; The Immaculate Room starring Emile Hirsch, Kate Bosworth and Ashley Greene Khoury; Code Name Banshee starring Antonio Banderas, Jaime King and Tommy Flanagan; and the psychological horror film Monstrous starring Christina Ricci.

Top Gun: Maverick

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 11/1/22;
Paramount;
Action;
Box Office $716.58 million;
$25.99 DVD, $31.99 Blu-ray, $37.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of intense action, and some strong language.
Stars Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis, Bashir Salahuddin, Charles Parnell, Jon Hamm, Val Kilmer.

Among the many considerable plaudits earned by Top Gun: Maverick during a historic box office run, one of the most remarkable might be the degree to which it retroactively makes its predecessor a better film.

The long-awaited (and pandemic-delayed) sequel to 1986’s Top Gun finds Pete Mitchell, callsign Maverick, the hotshot fighter pilot played by Tom Cruise, older but not much wiser — still flaunting the rules and refusing to evolve beyond his core identity as a naval aviator.

Tucked away from official duty while serving as a test pilot for a new stealth fighter called the Darkstar, Maverick is summoned back to Top Gun with orders to train a group of elite graduates from the famed dogfighting school for a mission to bomb an illegal nuclear facility in an unnamed rogue nation (which is definitely not Iran, wink wink). The mission is said to be nearly impossible to pull off, with the pilots forced to contend not only with GPS jamming and anti-aircraft missiles, but also the threat of new technologically superior fifth-generation enemy fighters. The key to survival will be how could the pilot in the cockpit truly is.

The film is essentially what it would feel like if the entirety of the first “Star Wars” movie were focused just on the pilots training for and carrying out the attack on the Death Star.

As to Maverick’s own personal growth, one stumbling block may be that he still blames himself for the death of his best friend, Goose, in the original film. The sequel, thus, provides some measure of a pathway to atonement in the form of Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller), who is among the new generation of pilots vying for a spot in the mission, and who resents Maverick for trying to impede his own career.

In his return to San Diego (even though in real life that’s not where Top Gun is located anymore), Maverick even gets a chance to catch up with old flame Penny (Jennifer Connelly), whose character is mentioned in the original film as a prior dalliance for the young pilot.

Thus, the two films, when taken together, tell the grand arc of Maverick learning where he fits in the world — and either adjusting to the new reality or testing its limits until it kills him.

While it also succeeds on its own merits, the sequel is evocative of the original but not a straight retread. There are scenes and characters that echo what came before, but the screenplay uses such nostalgia to enhance the story, rather than rely on it. In turn, circumstances of the original film take on greater meaning now that we know how they pay off.

That’s because Top Gun: Maverick works on so many levels, from an emotionally exhilarating story of an ersatz family coming together, to an eminently watchable, fist-pumping patriotic thrill ride.

Joseph Kosinski proves to be a deft choice for the director’s chair, bringing his reputation for strong visual dynamics to bear in making the film seem like a tribute to the late Tony Scott, whose work helming the original helped redefine the action genre. Fittingly, Top Gun: Maverick is a throwback to the heyday of action films that didn’t try to be more than they needed to be — entertaining crowds with charismatic movie stars, exciting combat, a love story to raise the stakes, and some chart-topping pop tunes (which in the case of this film should give Lady Gaga a chance at another Oscar).

The aerial photography is breathtaking, with the only potential drawback from a visual standpoint being the use of the F-18 Superhornet as the primary hero fighter. The F-18 has been featured in a lot of movies before, but it looks like a generic assembly line fighter jet and just doesn’t have the sexy big-screen presence of the F-14 Tomcat, which was featured in the original film.

Of course, switching from the F-14 to the F-18 was pretty much mandated by the constraints of reality, as the Tomcat was retired from active service in 2006, replaced by the F-18 as the primary naval fighter (with the F-35 set to take on more prominence going forward). The only country today still flying the F-14 in their fleets is Iran (just like the “fictional” enemy in the film, wink wink).

Cinematically, the film takes the original’s catchphrase of “the need for speed” to the next level, putting the actors in real F-18s to pull legit G-forces that you can see on their faces and practically feel through the screen. With the F-18 coming in both single and dual-pilot configurations, the production could stick the actors in the backseat and film them as if they were flying the single-seat version.

The earnestness of the filmmaking and cinematography gives the film an unmatched level of verisimilitude that makes it effortless to enjoy — despite what seems to be a cottage industry of former fighter pilots popping up on YouTube to analyze the technical inaccuracies of the film.

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The key question of the film is, as an aging pilot, where does Maverick belong? To many film fans, the answer to that question isn’t just that he belongs in the air, but in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat, which is perhaps the most iconic fighter plane of all time thanks in no small part to being featured in 1980s films such as Top Gun.

Being well aware of this, it’s a good bet the filmmakers will find a way for Maverick to find his way back to the F-14. And when they do, it’s a pure hit of that sweet sugar we all crave.

The filmmakers know exactly what they’re doing, taking full advantage of basic screenwriting lessons of setup and payoff. This is a screenplay that tells you exactly where it’s going, and it’s a ride you want to take.

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The 4K presentation of Top Gun: Maverick is simply stunning, with reference-quality visuals and sound that should really push the boundaries of what home theaters can do. The HD presentation features a shifting aspect ratio, expanding to fill the screen during the aerial scenes to take advantage of the Imax photography used during production.

The film is offered in standalone 4K, Blu-ray and DVD editions — frustratingly, none of the wide releases are combo packs, aside from a code to access a digital copy being included with the 4K and Blu-ray sets. There is a limited-edition Steelbook with both 4K and Blu-ray included. A gift set of both films on both 4K and Blu-ray is due Dec. 6.

Only the Blu-ray editions include bonus materials, which are also accessible through the digital copy at some retailers.

These include several insightful behind-the-scenes featurettes. The eight-minute “Breaking New Ground” delves into the challenges of finding the techniques to make the film as realistic as possible, including creating new cameras for the cockpits; the nine-minute “Cleared for Take Off” invites viewers into the training the actors received to film the aerial sequences; the five-minute “A Love Letter to Aviation” deals with Cruise’s passion for flying and how he piloted his own World War II-era P-51 Mustang plane in the film; and the seven-and-a-half-minute “Forging the Darkstar” looks at the filming of the fictional plane prototype in the opening sequence, for which the the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works development team was brought in to lend an air of authenticity.

Also included are music videos for the songs “Hold My Hand” by Lady Gaga (the new love theme that in tandem with the original film’s theme serves as the basis for the new film’s musical score), and “I Ain’t Worried” by Onerepublic (the song that accompanies the beach football scene that is this film’s version of the original’s volleyball scene).

Exclusive to the 4K disc (and digitally) is “Masterclass With Tom Cruise,” a terrific 50-minute discussion with Cruise at the Cannes Film Festival about his career.

Among the extras available digitally are a 26-minute promotional video of comedian James Corden going through pilot training with Cruise. There’s also a short video from CinemaCon of Cruise introducing a screening of Top Gun: Maverick while filming an aerial stunt for the upcoming Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, a trailer for which also is included.

Amazon Bows True-Crime Series Podcast ‘American Hostage,’ Starring Jon Hamm

Podcasts are becoming more than platforms for on-demand talking heads.

Amazon Feb. 22 announced that original podcast “American Hostage,” a true-crime series starring Emmy-winning actor Jon Hamm, launches today and is available to binge on Amazon Music and Wondery+, followed by weekly episodic releases on all podcast services starting March 8.

Series cast members include Carla Gugino (WatchmenThe Haunting of Bly Manor), Dylan Baker (Hunters) and Joe Perrino (Power), who join Hamm in the scripted podcast based on a true event. The eight-episode series is directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Shawn Christensen (Curfew, Blackout), written by C.D. Carpenter, and executive produced by Gabriel Mason, Hamm, and Christensen.

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Set in Indianapolis in 1977, “American Hostage” is based on a true story and stars Hamm as Fred Heckman, a local radio reporter who is thrust into the middle of a life-or-death crisis when hostage-taker demands to be interviewed on news program.

Through Heckman’s radio show, the hostage taker gradually becomes a media sensation and unexpected anti-hero during a 63-hour standoff.  With striking similarities to some of today’s national headlines, “American Hostage” puts its listeners in the middle of the action and asks the questions “Who is the real victim?” and “Is the media helping or hurting the problem?”

“Part of what attracted me to this story was the absolute brazenness of the crime itself compounded by the slow burn realization that something was terribly wrong,” Hamm said in a statement. “The parallels to today’s dissatisfaction on all sides with not being heard, not being understood and somehow being taken advantage of by something bigger than us are glaring. We apparently still haven’t learned our lessons about the consequences of dismissing people’s outrage.”

Emily Blunt Romance ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ Available on DVD and Digital Feb. 2

The Emily Blunt romance Wild Mountain Thyme will come out on DVD and digital Feb. 2 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

From John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck), the film follows headstrong farmer Rosemary Muldoon (Blunt), who has her heart set on winning her neighbor Anthony Reilly’s love. The problem is Anthony (Jamie Dornan) seems to have inherited a family curse and remains oblivious to his beautiful admirer.

Stung by his father Tony Reilly’s (Christopher Walken) plans to sell the family farm to his American nephew (Jon Hamm), Anthony is jolted into pursuing his dreams in this comedic romantic tale.

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The Jesus Rolls

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 5/5/20;
Screen Media;
Comedy;
Box Office $0.02 million;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong sexual content, language throughout and brief nudity.
Stars John Turturro, Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, Pete Davidson, Susan Sarandon, J. B. Smoove, Gloria Reuben.

The biggest source of audience interest in The Jesus Rolls will likely center on the return of John Turturro to the role of Jesus Quintana, the trash talking bowler he played in 1998’s The Big Lebowski.

Quintana was one of the more memorable supporting characters of Big Lebowski despite appearing in just two scenes with less than four minutes of total screen time. However, Turturro was interested in revisiting the character, and received special permission from the Coen Brothers to make him the central character of his own movie.

While Quintana’s presence as the focus of this new film might make it a loose spinoff and spiritual sequel to The Big Lebowski, once the curiosity factor wears off what’s left is a rather bland attempt to spread the character’s quirky appeal throughout a feature-length story that comes up just shy of 90 minutes.

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Written and directed by Turturro, The Jesus Rolls is essentially a remake of the 1974 French farce Going Places, which itself was based on the novel Les Valseuses, the title coming from a slang term for male genitals.

Upon being released from prison and told that another arrest will likely get him locked up for life, Quintana proceeds to do little else but commit petty crimes in support of a bohemian lifestyle. Hooking up with his best friend Petey (Bobby Cannavale), the pair steal a vintage sports car belonging to a tough-talking hairdresser (Jon Hamm) and make off with one of his stylists (Audrey Tautou), who confesses that in her promiscuous adventures she has never had an orgasm. In search of someone with more potential appreciation for their skills in the arts of pleasure, Jesus and Petey decide to pick up a random woman (Susan Sarandon) just being released from prison. This sets them down a path of establishing their own unconventional family unit to enable their carefree ways.

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The application of an existing story framework is certainly not out of bounds for a follow-up to Big Lebowski, which itself borrowed the structure of a Raymond Chandler crime novel.

The Jesus Rolls manages to emulate the stream of consciousness tone of Big Lebowski, and the two films are further connected through the heavy use of Gipsy Kings music (stemming from the fact that Quintana was originally introduced while a Gipsy Kings cover of “Hotel California” was playing). Turturro also provides the requisite fan service of reprising a few of Quintana’s notable lines from Big Lebowski, expands on a few details revealed about the character in his first appearance, and even works in one scene of him going bowling.

Otherwise, though, Turturro could be playing anybody, and the film completely stands on its own.

This latter point may explain why Turturro and Cannavale never directly mention The Big Lebowski in their commentary track for the film (the Blu-ray’s only bonus feature). Turturro also never discusses what motivated him to play Quintana in particular in his version of Going Places, though much of the commentary is devoted to his admiration for the French source material, and comparing the elements of them he included. The pair also discuss the process of low-budget indie filmmaking, and enjoy the acting touches provided by their fellow castmates.

They seem more amused by the material than many viewers might be, but the film does manage to find a few honest laughs in its own right.

All in all, some fun performances, fabulous music and Turturro’s commitment to one of his signature characters offer enough of a reason to at least check it out, especially for Big Lebowski fans.

‘The Jesus Rolls’ Spins on Disc May 5

Screen Media will release the comedic crime caper The Jesus Rolls on Blu-ray Disc and DVD May 5. The film is available now through digital retailers and VOD.

The film was written by, directed by and stars John Turturro as Jesus Quintana, the character he originally played in The Big Lebowski, in a new adventure based on the French farce Les Valseuses.

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After being released from prison, Jesus and his best friend Petey (Bobby Cannavale) steal a vintage car for a no-holds-barred joyride, the first of a series of escalating bad decisions that finds them pursued by the car’s gun-toting owner (Jon Hamm) and on the run with free-spirited shampooist Marie (Audrey Tautou).

The cast also includes Christopher Walken, Pete Davidson and Susan Sarandon.

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‘Lucy in the Sky’ Flying to Digital Dec. 17

The astronaut drama Lucy in the Sky will land on digital Dec. 17 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film stars Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm in a story inspired by true events ripped from the headlines. After star astronaut Lucy Cola (Portman) earns a coveted spot on a NASA mission, she’s moved by the transcendence of being in space. But when she returns to Earth, her everyday life feels too small. Soon, she engages in a reckless love triangle that threatens her career and her sanity.

Special features on the digital release includes four deleted scenes and four making-of featurettes.

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Bad Times at the El Royale

While Drew Goddard’s latest directorial effort isn’t as memorable as his horror deconstruction The Cabin in the Woods, the neo-noir thriller Bad Times at the El Royale still offers a solid showcase for its talented cast, a soundtrack fueled by a dynamite selection of period-appropriate songs, and a quirky setting that serves the story well.

 

 

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 1/1/19;
Fox;
Thriller;
Box Office $17.84 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence, language, some drug content and brief nudity.
Stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman, Shea Whigham.

Writer-director Drew Goddard scratches an itch to play in the noir sandbox with Bad Times at the El Royale, a breezy mystery that coasts on some nice directorial touches and the strength of its cast.

Not as engrossing or genre-bending as Goddard’s previous directorial effort, The Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at the El Royale is more of a Tarantino-esque thriller that brings a group of strangers into a remote location and then reveals they aren’t quite who they claim to be.

Bad Times at the El Royale

The caper takes place at the El Royale hotel of the title, a former hotspot straddling the California-Nevada border that lost its popularity after losing its gambling license. The setting is apparently based on the real-life Cal-Neva Lodge, a Lake Tahoe hotspot that has seen its own troubled history. It also brings to mind the hotel managed by Tony Curtis in 40 Pounds of Trouble that was situated close enough to the stateline so he could see the Cali detectives waiting to nab him for missing alimony payments.

In the first scene we bear witness to Nick Offerman tearing up the floorboards in one of the rooms to stash a bag of what is presumably money, then restoring everything to its original condition before he gets shot by a shadowy associate.

Several years later, in 1969, a disparate group of travelers arrive, including a vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm), a priest (Jeff Bridges), a runaway (Dakota Johnson) and a lounge singer (Cynthia Erivo).

Thanks to flashbacks, a non-linear story structure, and a hidden corridor that looks into all the rooms unbeknownst to the guests via a two-way mirror, we soon learn their true identities, and what brought them to the El Royale (including who is after that floorboard cash).

Things heat up a bit with the arrival of a cult leader (Chris Hemsworth) looking for some missing “property” of his own.

In a good 29-minute behind-the-scenes featurette included as the only extra on the Blu-ray, Goddard discusses several reasons why he wanted to make this film. One was to assemble a talented cast and give him an excuse to pitch something to Jeff Bridges.

Another was the chance to explore the music of the genre and experiment with ways to tie the songs into the story. Goddard even refers to the film as a love letter to music and an appreciation for the ways it changed his life.

The featurette also provides some great insights into the production design and look of the film, such as how the filmmakers built the entire hotel on a soundstage in order to accomplish the shots they needed to get. There’s also some fascinating tidbits about the film’s use of (and in some cases, omission of) color — a subtle touch that helps establish the mood for a story that at times can get extremely dark.

We also get to see some of Bridges’ on-set photography, a tradition of his dating back to the production of 1984’s Starman.

Bad Times at the El Royale

‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ Due on Digital Dec. 18, Disc Jan. 1 From Fox

The thriller Bad Times at the El Royale will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) Dec. 18 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 1 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film earned $17.7 million in theaters.

In the film, seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption before everything goes to hell. Stars include Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth.

Bonus features on Blu-ray and DVD include “Making Bad Times at the El Royale” and a photo gallery.

‘Tag’ Is It on Digital Aug. 17, Disc Aug. 28

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the action comedy Tag digitally Aug. 17, and on Blu-ray and DVD Aug. 28.

Based on a true story that was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article, the film stars Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner as five competitive friends who have engaged in a no-holds-barred game of tag for one month every year since the first grade.

The cast also includes Annabelle Wallis, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones and Leslie Bibb. The film was earned $54 million at the domestic box office.

The DVD and Blu-ray include a “Meet the Real Tag Brothers” featurette. The Blu-ray will also include deleted scenes and bloopers.