Divisive filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli dead at 96

Franco Zeffirelli, the Academy Award-nominated director behind Romeo and Juliet (1968), died peacefully today at his home in Rome after what his son, Luciano, told the Associated Press was a prolonged illness, according to Variety. The filmmaker is known for his literary adaptations, such as The Taming of the Shrew (1967), Hamlet (1990), and Jane Eyre (1996), but his flamboyant opera and theater productions are perhaps his most lasting legacy. Zeffirelli was a controversial figure for becoming a Catholic zealot and Vatican apologist following a near-fatal car accident in 1969, and in 2018, Sparrow (1993) actor Jonathon Schaech accused him of sexual assault.

Lin-Manuel Miranda to star in adaptation of his musical “In the Heights”

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Director Jon M. Chu is also the filmmaker behind Crazy Rich Asians (2018). (Image Credit: Broadway World).

Lin-Manuel Miranda announced this morning that he was cast as Piraguero for Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights (2020), according to Broadway World. Warner Brothers will release the musical adaptation June 26, 2020 (after a bidding war with The Weinstein Company for the rights), with a screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Anthony Bregman, Mara Jacobs, and Scott Sanders as producers. Hudes wrote the book for the play, and Miranda wrote the music and lyrics; in all, the 2008 musical won four Tony Awards out of thirteen nominations as well as a Grammy Award, and it was nominated for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Mike Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” (2019) will follow up Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980)

Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Stephen King’s 2013 novel, Doctor Sleep (2019), will be a direct sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) despite King’s infamous disapproval of the classic horror film, according to Entertainment Weekly. Flanagan says King not only granted him permission to set the movie in the same cinematic universe as Kubrick’s own adaptation (even though he purposefully wrote Doctor Sleep outside of Kubrick’s world), but he also actively encouraged the idea. The Kubrick estate gave their blessing as well, and so Doctor Sleep will include both references to moments from The Shining in addition to actual footage.

Guests and screenings at the American Black Film Festival

The American Black Film Festival will screen Reginald Hudlin’s documentary, The Black Godfather (2019), host a dialogue with Spike Lee and Stefon Bristol, as well as feature the top finalists for the twenty-second HBO Short Film Competition, according to Deadline. In addition, Tim Story’s Shaft (2019), the New Line Cinema reboot of the quintessential blaxploitation hero, will premiere ahead of its June 14 release, and Netflix will have a showing for Chris Robinson’s coming-of-age drama, Beats (2019), set in the hip hop scene on the South Side of Chicago and starring Anthony Anderson. The festival takes place from June 12 through June 16 in Miami.

New Brian De Palma film debuts today

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HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011-2019) alumni Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten co-star as Copenhagen police officers in Brian De Palma’s Domino (2019). (Image Credit: The Globe and Mail).

Brian De Palma’s Domino (2019) was digitally released today, and it brings out all the worst traits in its extravagant auteur, according to The Globe and Mail. Film critic Barry Hertz goes so far as to write that the film is De Palma’s worst ever, dismissing it for its convoluted writing as well as its aestheticization of violence. However, Hertz goes on to celebrate the director’s stylistic signatures as featured in Domino (his profusion of split-screen shots, his long-distance camera dollies, and his slow-burn set-pieces), and cites an interview with De Palma where the filmmaker says studio interference played a prominent part in the final product.

New James Bond scriptwriter promises to modernize franchise for women

The filmmakers behind the twenty-fifth James Bond film have hired Fleabag creator and star (as well as co-creator of Killing Eve) Phoebe Waller-Bridge to edit the screenplay and write the female characters more three-dimensionally, according to BuzzFeed. With the “#MeToo” and “Time’s Up” movements taking the industry by storm, the womanizing MI6 secret agent’s relevance has been called into question, but Waller-Bridge believes 007 can be evolved to reflect the gender politics of today. This outing will be Daniel Craig’s last, and Waller-Bridge says she looks forward to writing his lines because of the “wryness” he brings to Bond.

James Cameron says new “Terminator” will be “direct sequel” to second film

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(Image Credit: ShortList).

Producer James Cameron promises Tim Miller’s Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) will be a followup to his The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), according to ShortList. Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), McG’s Terminator Salvation (2009), and Alan Taylor’s Terminator Genisys (2015) earned sixty-nine percent, thirty-three percent, and twenty-five percent aggregated critical review scores on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively, whereas Cameron’s original sits at a hundred percent. In his interview, Cameron says the tone is what makes Dark Fate something of a third installment in a trilogy after T1 and T2, abandoning the more convoluted elements of the other films and instead focusing on a simpler storyline of one character chasing another.

Women’s rights activists in film oppose Hollywood boycotting Georgia abortion ban

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Protestors at the Georgia State Capitol when Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation outlawing almost all abortions. (Image Credit: The Los Angeles Times).

Female film workers in Georgia fear for their careers after Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed a law banning most abortions at six weeks and liberal celebrities like Alyssa Milano, David Simon, and George Takei called for Hollywood to pull out of the state, according to the Los Angeles Times. Many of these women were already activists who marched on the capitol to protest the bill before it became law, and they say the entertainment industry should instead fund local groups opposed to the legislation, rather than boycott the state altogether. With their tax incentives for filmmaking companies, Georgia is the top filming location in the United States.

Chinese film studios firing Americans, killing projects

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The cast of Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall attend the December premiere in Beijing. (Image Courtesy: Foreign Policy).

As part of the trade war between the United States and China, Chinese studios are terminating American-born actors and cancelling international-themed works, according to Foreign Policy. Sources say there is no official order banning Americans from the Chinese film industry, and these executives are writing their blacklist in case such an order is passed down in the future, since Beijing restricted the importation of South Korean soap stars and pop singers in 2016 after Seoul deployed an American-made missile defense system that July. Because China is one of Hollywood’s most lucrative markets, an outright ban could cost U.S. filmmakers billions.

Criterion Channel off to a strong start, reviewer says

After debuting last month, Criterion Channel offers over a thousand titles from the Criterion Collection as well as distributor Janus Films for eleven dollars a month, according to Fortune; the archive is relatively small, but there are more Golden Age movies than on Netflix, which largely limits itself to the last twenty-five years, and Amazon Prime, which charges members extra to watch older pictures. Reviewer Lance Whitney writes that Criterion includes a diversity of silent, sound, short, feature-length, international, and independent releases from Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, Paramount, MGM, Lionsgate, and IFC Films; while the likes of Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941), Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942), or Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s American classics are not yet part of the selection, the library will grow if more studios sign licensing deals. Overall, Whitney’s review is positive, praising special features such as interviews, documentaries, and collections; however, while the fledgling streaming service is compatible with all browsers, some available texts are only searchable on the website.