‘The Mustang’ and Matthias Schoenaerts Ride Into Indie Box Office

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A slew of new releases hit the indie box office this weekend, with the top per screen average going to Focus Features’ “The Mustang,” which stars Matthias Schoenaerts as a violent prison inmate who undergoes a personal transformation when he is entered into a mustang taming program.

Released on five screens in Los Angeles and New York, the film grossed $94,750 for an average of $18,950. Critics have hailed the performances of Schoenaerts and co-star Bruce Dern, as well as the direction of Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, giving the film a 95 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

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Less impressive was Fox Searchlight’s “The Aftermath,” which also released this weekend on five screens in L.A. and New York and grossed $57,000 for a per screen average of $11,500. Set after the end of World War II, the film stars Keira Knightley and Jason Clarke as a British couple who move into a home in Hamburg that has been recommissioned by the British but is still inhabited by a German widower (Alexander Skarsgard) and his troubled daughter. Circumstances lead to a secret tryst between the woman and the widower, as tensions between Britain and Germany remain high.

Directed by James Kent, the film will expand to 28 theaters next weekend but faces poor critical reviews, as it earned a 27 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

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Among holdovers, A24’s “Gloria Bell” expanded to 39 screens in its second weekend and grossed $378,000 for a total of $568,000, while NEON/CNN Films’ “Apollo 11” expanded to 588 screens and added $1.22 million for a total of $5.5 million after three weekends.

Finally, Magnolia and Shorts.TV’s annual screening of the Oscar short film nominees is reaching the end of its theatrical run, adding $14,500 this weekend to bring its total to $3.5 million, a record for the Oscar screening series.

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‘Pet Sematary’ Film Review: Stephen King Remake Digs Up Fresh New Scares

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

For fans of Mary Lambert’s original 1989 adaptation of the beloved Stephen King book, the new remake of “Pet Sematary” is different enough to offer shock and surprises to even the most ardent of loyalists.

At its premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival, several audience members braced themselves for pivotal moments from the older movie, and then jumped or nervously laughed when their anticipation was met by a clever psych-outs by directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, whose previous film, “Starry Eyes” also played at SXSW.

The movie opens differently than its predecessor. This time, the family car door is open, and there are bloody handprints still fresh on the driver’s side window. A thick trail of blood leads from the house to outside, but there are no characters in the frame or much of a clue at what’s happened. The film then jumps back to the fateful day the Creed family moved from Boston to Ludlow, Maine, teasing the high-speed danger just outside their new home’s driveway. Behind their home is a macabre grave site the local kids have named a “pet sematary” for their deceased animals. Just beyond the borders of the area lies an even scarier plot of land.

Watch Video: The Dead Return in Latest ‘Pet Sematary’ Trailer But ‘They Don’t Come Back the Same’

While many of the favorite characters remain almost intact from King’s book, there are a few tweaks by the actors in their performances to give this version some more twists. Louis (Jason Clarke), a sensitive doctor, seems more attuned to the needs of his family. He’s very playful and connected with his daughter and son, and his softened persona makes him a more tragic figure as the events start to turn dark.

His wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), feels more grounded than her predecessor. Seimetz displays her character’s childhood traumas on the surface, like a woman fighting down her demons from taking over. John Lithgow brings a much more sympathetic approach to older local Jud and his curiosity about the supernatural grounds. But the film’s breakout star is Jeté Laurence (“Sneaky Pete”), whose scary-good performance as the sweet and naturally curious 8-year-old Ellie recasts what could have been a silly part into something that’s genuinely creepy and heartbreaking.

Also Read: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Stephen King’s ‘Pet Sematary’ (Guest Blog)

This “Pet Sematary” is notably different in pacing, starting off with a disturbing image and working quickly to retrace the steps that led to that moment. The movie is relatively on the bloody side of horror, including scenes like the film’s opening shot and the unfortunate family cat that gets a mangy makeover later in the movie. Cinematographer Laurie Rose (“Stan & Ollie”) casts much of the film in a pale blue pall, as though the sun never comes out in this part of Maine.

While the trailer unbelievably spoils one of the remake’s biggest plot twists, there’s still a lot of hidden references for people familiar to the story, like an updated cover version of The Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” over the credits. For those new to what happens, this remake will perhaps act as a gateway to checking out more adaptations of King’s stories or reading his books.

One of the most enduring aspects of the narrative is how it addresses grief, our inability to let go of loved ones when they die, and our fear about discussing mortality. Louis and Rachel fight over how to talk to Ellie about death, revealing an American cultural taboo around the subject. Rachel, traumatized by the early death of her sick sister, wants to shield her daughter from the harsh sting of losing a loved one for as long as she can. Louis disagrees, and there’s a sense that the movie sides with him, although it later shows that while he can talk about loss in the abstract, and try to fight against it as a doctor, he still does not know what it means to grieve for someone and to let them go.

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(When the directors and some members of the cast and crew took the stage after the screening, Widmyer described his “Pet Sematary” as “elevated horror.” There’s not an “elevated” thing about it. It’s not high-concept, paced like a slow-burn arthouse movie, or meant to shatter audiences’ expectations of what defines a horror movie. “Pet Sematary” is just a regular horror movie told with the directors’ style, and it’s not like this genre is short on stylish directors: Sam Raimi, George Romero, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg, to name just a few, scared audiences with their groundbreaking works, yet their movies may never be classified as “elevated horror.” It’s a false label that sneers at the history and conventions of the genre for the sake of filmmakers’ egos and, in a way, it diminishes what Lambert accomplished with her version of “Pet Sematary” in order to “elevate” their vision above hers.)

That Q&A aside, I quite enjoyed the thrills of the new “Pet Sematary,” much like I enjoyed the scares of the old movie. Its terrifying story about death still leaves audiences with much to think about long after the credits roll, and the twists that lead to a new ending are fun to follow. Thirty years after the original movie frightened audiences, its source material has given new life to one of the best Stephen King adaptations in the past decade.



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17 Buzziest Movies Heading to SXSW This Year, From ‘Us’ to ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ (Photos)

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SXSW Film Festival is known for its horror film debuts, and this year, Austin, Texas, will attract big talent and famed filmmakers. Click through the gallery to see TheWrap’s buzziest titles.
“Us”
It was announced in January that Jord…

Haley Bennett, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough Join ‘The Devil All The Time’ At Netflix

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‘The Aftermath’ Film Review: Keira Knightley Stars in a Post-War Romance Lacking in Passion

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

From the wreckage of Allied-bombed Hamburg comes the post-World War II romantic triangle “The Aftermath,” and suddenly the problems of three little people amount to a hill of blah in this handsomely mounted, but hopelessly machine-pressed game of who are sacrificing more to escape the rubble of shattered desire and lingering grief.

Director James Kent’s adaptation of Rhidian Brook’s 2014 novel — about a ghost-like Germany, a broken British marriage, and the healing powers of a passionate thaw — has the unfortunate quality of a hot-blooded soap grafted onto rather than merged with a historical-political drama. The result exhibits little feel for how each genre’s particular needs might interfere with the other’s, or how the film’s trio of capable actors (Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, and Jason Clarke) might be properly utilized.

When one considers the cinematic legacy of post-war Germany sagas alive to the colorful simmer of one-time enemies in close quarters — Billy Wilder’s “A Foreign Affair,” Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “The Marriage of Maria Braun,” Christian Petzold’s “Phoenix” — it makes the dashed potential of “The Aftermath” all the more frustrating.

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Early on, there’s promise in the thick, snowy air of polite discomfort coursing through Brook’s scenario. Arriving in Hamburg five months after the Allied victory, Rachael Morgan (Knightley) is eager to be reunited with husband Lewis (Clarke), a conscientious British colonel overseeing a defeated, devastated city’s reconstruction. With the tragic loss of their son during a London bombing raid still a fresh memory, Rachael finds it disconcerting that in requisitioning a grand estate on the banks of the Elbe for them to live in, the charitably-minded Lewis insists its owner-architect, Stefan Lubert (Skarsgård), a war widower, and his aggrieved teenaged daughter, Freda (Flora Thiemann), remain as tenants, albeit in the attic.

Rachael does her stiff-upper-lip best to play nice around the gracious if glum Stefan, but she’s suspicious, quick to believe the gossip from a fellow military wife (Kate Phillips, “Peaky Blinders”) that any outline of a removed painting in a German house — like the one prominently featured in the Luberts’ — surely must have held a portrait of Hitler.

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But as with conquered cities, dividing a house into foreign zones, no matter how well-intentioned, can turn boundaries into alluring points of trespass. With the intimacy-challenged Lewis routinely called away, almost overeager to play do-gooder for a displaced populace, Rachael is left to find a connection with the sensitive, artistic German upstairs who mourns like her and who looks good chopping wood. (Yes, there’s actually a scene in which she stares at him from a window.) And Stefan, having noticed the chill between his new landlords, is only too happy to address his own loneliness by breaking the growing sexual tension.

Fair enough, as potboilers go. Why, then, does “The Aftermath” always blandly signal its every development, rather than put you in sync with its characters’ percolating feelings? The screenplay, credited to Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse (“Race”), and author Brook, is too bogged down with uninspired dialogue (“What is it you want from me?”) and clichéd set-ups (bandaging a wound, really?). Subsequently, the heart can never truly race for either the adultery or a flabby side story involving a guerrilla insurgency among displaced Nazi youth, a plot element that seems to exist only to make up in contrived endangerment what the main love story lacks in sexual peril.

But even outside the gravitas-challenged drama, director Kent — who tackled matters of heart related to the Great War in the better “Testament of Youth” — can’t find a way to showcase the Lubert estate as a visually evocative representation of the characters’ emotional states beyond Sonja Klaus’s (“Taboo”) tasteful old world-meets-modern production design. When you throw in pacing that offers no surprises, the well-appointed cinematography from Franz Lustig (“How I Live Now”) suffers as a result; no shadow-filled indoor scene or weather-driven outdoor shot feels wrong but put together, they don’t add up to a cinematic vision of any meaningful intensity.

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The cast is ultimately let down, too, by the lack of directorial verve. Knightley and Skarsgård are a serviceable pair of circle-then-pounce lovers, but their opposites-attracting coupling is hardly cathartic. And in the wake of costume-drama queen Knightley’s revelatory turn shaking up a marriage with wit and spice in last year’s “Colette,” the part of Rachael here is something of a cookie-cutter comedown. Clarke, meanwhile, struggles with a typically thankless role and isn’t done any favors with how his feelings breakthrough is handled in the final act — like the ticking of a box for the remaining emotional strands.

World War II remains such a tempting milieu for filmmakers interested in the classic pleasures of a grandly scaled, era-specific entertainment — whether history-driven (“Dunkirk,” “Darkest Hour”) or spectacle-infused (“Allied,” “Hacksaw Ridge”) — that you wonder if soft entries like “The Aftermath” are merely satisfied to be the B team: atmospheric but not immersive, attractively cast but unmessy, and fine with touching on a moment in time instead of dealing with it. In its aim to primarily push the buttons of romance fans, “The Aftermath” comes off, regrettably, like a period widget.



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Dead Return in Latest ‘Pet Sematary’ Trailer But ‘They Don’t Come Back the Same’ (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Children, cats and all kinds of terrifying corpses rise from the grave in the latest trailer for “Pet Sematary,” based on Stephen King’s bestselling 1983 horror novel.

“Pet Sematary” follows Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his family who move next to a pet cemetery in the Main countryside, only to discover that the cemetery brings back anyone or anything buried on its grounds in a malicious, decrepit state.

“They come back but they don’t come back the same,” kookie neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), warns Louis and his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz).

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When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to the ancient burial ground for help and “unleashes an unfathomable evil with horrific consequences.”

Cue a flood of walking corpses, kids in creepy cat masks and Church, the undead feline that still haunts many of us from our childhood.

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The South by Southwest Conference and Festivals has announced earlier this week that Paramount Pictures’ “Pet Sematary” will its closing night film for the 2019 SXSW Festival.

Jeff Buhler wrote the screenplay for the horror reboot, which was directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who previously produced the adaptation of King’s “1408,” produce with Mark Vahradian and Steven Schneider. Mark Moran is executive producing.

The first “Pet Sematary” was released in 1989 and starred Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne and Denise Crosby.

“Pet Sematary” will hit theaters on April 5, 2019. Watch the trailer above.

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‘Serenity’ Film Review: Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway Get Stranded in a Noir That Reeks of Fish Guts

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“There’s some weird stuff going on right now,” and ain’t that the truth in Steven Knight’s “Serenity.” The writer-director of “Locke” returns with a sleazy film noir about attempted murder on an isolated island, but it doesn’t take long before that underwritten, conventional storyline goes in an extremely odd (and extremely questionable) direction.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Baker Dill, a fisherman who’s so obsessed with catching one particular tuna — that tuna’s name is “Justice” — that he pulls a knife on his own customers, just to prevent them from catching it themselves. He doesn’t make a lot of money, that Baker Dill. And no matter how hard he tries, he never catches that danged fish.

Baker Dill meanders around Plymouth Island, a small community of salty fishermen and even saltier, stickier trysts. But although Baker Dill has a sexual arrangement with the well-to-do Constance (Diane Lane), he’s not entirely over his ex-wife, Karen (Anne Hathaway). So it’s awkward, to say the least, when she arrives on Plymouth Island unexpectedly — and asks Baker Dill to kill her new husband.

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To his credit, Baker Dill rejects her offer, but the more he learns about her husband, Frank (Jason Clarke), the more we realize Frank really is an abusive monster, who brutalizes Karen and Baker Dill’s son, Patrick (Rafael Sayegh). Maybe, just maybe, the world would be better off without Frank. And maybe, just maybe, Baker Dill is the man to do it.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s not very interesting. Knight, who’s written excellent crime thrillers like “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Eastern Promises,” doesn’t bring his usual, rich characters and believable dialogue to “Serenity.” For a long time, it plays like a copy of a copy of a copy of “Body Heat.” The nuance is lost, and only the perspiration remains. Every frame is so unbelievably sweaty you’ll pray for the sprinklers in the theater to go off.

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The story is all pressure points and no connective tissue, with big plot turns landing hard and everything in between feeling aimless. McConaughey carries the film as best he can, but his character is stuck halfway between “Mud” and “A Time to Kill” with no off-ramp in sight, and Hathaway has never looked this disinterested before. Some of the supporting cast (even the good ones) deliver their lines like they’re reading GPS directions, and it’s hard to blame them, because the dialogue rangers from perfunctory to absurd. “You fish for only one tuna,” one of the islanders tells Baker Dill. “And that fish is only in your head.”

By the halfway point, it’s getting hard to imagine why McConaughey and Hathaway were interested in this project, or why Knight wrote it. But then something happens that changes the whole direction of the story, and it happens so early that it’s impossible to truly critique the film without addressing it. But it also happens just late enough in the movie that revealing it is a gigantic spoiler. (This phenomenon is known as “The Terminator Genisys Effect.”)

Suffice it to say, before going any further, that “Serenity” looks and sounds like a subpar film noir on purpose, and the reason behind it is remarkably unsatisfying, and makes the film even more awkward and uncomfortable.

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What follows might be considered SPOILERS to some, so proceed with caution:

Without going into too much detail, the world of “Serenity” is not to be trusted, and it’s all part of a grand design. Nobody is who they say they are, and it’s Baker Dill’s responsibility to complete his quest — to catch the fish, or to kill Frank — or else something exceptionally bad will happen to his son.

If it sounds exciting, it’s not. The revelation — provided by Jeremy Strong (“Succession”), who’s essentially playing the running-gag pratfall guy from “Catalina Caper” — answers no questions, raises millions of others, and unveils some truly disgusting subtext that the movie never dares address.

We are expected to believe that Baker Dill is the hero, and that killing Frank might be the most moral out of all his options, because doing so will save Patrick. But in the process we learn things about Patrick that are deeply disturbing. Patrick is keenly interested in watching Frank sexually abuse his mother, for instance, but “Serenity” never confronts that disturbing facet of his character. Patrick is a creepy person in a creepy world ruled by a creepy creep with a creepy fixation on fishing, of all things, and “Serenity” sidelines that whole line of inquiry in favor of Baker Dill’s existential crisis and a ham-fisted insistence on following the “Fisherman Always Rings Twice” subplot to its (illogical) conclusion.

The best twists make you reevaluate everything you’ve seen before, and reveal new layers of the story that make the whole film stronger. The twist in “Serenity” makes you reevaluate everything you’ve seen before, but now it all makes less sense, as though Knight wasn’t particularly interested in the mechanics of his twist and only interested in pulling the rug out from under us. The joke’s on all of us, because the film, the filmmakers, the actors and even audience wind up falling flat on our bottoms. And it hurts.

“Serenity” is a twist in search of a movie, a film noir in search of a purpose, and a great cast in search of better material.



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“They’re still finding bodies — it’s chaos out there.” Such is the scene in 1946 Hamburg, with the Nazis having fallen and a British colonel arriving who’s charged with rebuilding the devastated city. He brings along…

‘Pet Sematary’ Trailer: Creepy Kids in the Woods Prove ‘Sometimes Dead Is Better’ (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The first trailer for “Pet Sematary” is just as creepy as you’d expect with kids in animal masks parading through an overgrown wood to the sound of a toy drum.

Based on one of Stephen King’s hit novels, “Pet Sematary” follows a doctor and his family who move next to a pet cemetery in the countryside, only to discover that the cemetery brings back anyone or anything buried on its grounds in a malicious, decrepit state.

Despite this, the doctor attempts to use it to resurrect his son after he’s killed in a car accident, to horrifying results.

As John Lithgow says in the trailer’s voiceover, “Sometimes dead is better.”

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Lithgow stars with Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence, 3-year-old twins Hugo and Lucas Lavoie. Jeff Buhler wrote the screenplay for the film, which was directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who previously produced the adaptation of King’s “1408,” will produce with Mark Vahradian and Steven Schneider. Mark Moran is executive producing.

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The first “Pet Sematary” was released in 1989 and starred Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne and Denise Crosby.

“Pet Sematary” will hit theaters on April 5, 2019. Watch the trailer above.

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‘First Man’ Film Review: Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle Slip the Surly Bonds of Earth

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Those of us born in the late 1960s and beyond have always taken the Moon landing as a great accomplishment, yes, but also as something of a fait accompli. In his dynamic follow-up to “La La Land,” director Damien Chazelle reminds us that space exploration has always been risky and terrifying, with men closing themselves inside tiny metal machines that were created by other men, held together by rivets, and prone to a million mishaps.

From the heart-in-your-throat cold open, in which pilot Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) takes a craft above the atmosphere but then struggles to bring it back down to Earth, to Armstrong’s eventual “giant leap for mankind,” “First Man” depicts the great accomplishments of NASA as huge gambles; like the best historical dramas, “First Man” creates suspense over events whose outcome we already know. The U.S. government might have been driven by its desire not to let the Soviets win the space race, but the astronauts and the engineers who made these missions happen were far more interested in scientific progress and in their own survival.

Both screenwriter Josh Singer (“Spotlight”), adapting the book by James R. Hansen, and cinematographer Linus Sandgren (“Battle of the Sexes”) know when to tell this story in close-up, and when to pull out for a wider look. For much of the film, it’s an intimate portrait of Armstrong, a civilian engineer and pilot driven to join the Gemini space program even as he’s haunted by the death of his young daughter Karen from cancer. (After Mercury took us into space and before Apollo got us to the moon, Gemini helped perfect maneuvers that made Apollo possible.)

Watch Video: Ryan Gosling Blasts Off as Neil Armstrong in ‘First Man’ Trailer

Getting inside the reticent Armstrong is certainly a challenge — per the film, he never talked about Karen, not even to wife Jan (Claire Foy) — but Gosling gives us glimpses into what drove this pioneer, whether it’s in his love of the math required to figure out thrust in space or in his relaxed moments around Jan and their sons. (It’s Jan who forces him to talk to the boys before he takes off on his moon mission; when they ask him questions, he answers them with the same reluctance he shows in press conferences.)

But “First Man” also acknowledges that the space program unfolded in a larger context: We see Vietnam on the news, talk-show footage of Kurt Vonnegut wondering if NASA’s budget might have been better spent on “a habitable New York,” and a montage set to Gil Scott-Heron’s epic track “Whitey’s on the Moon” (which wasn’t written until after the moon landing, granted, but it still works here).

The notion of how frightening it must have been inside those space capsules has been explored before, most notably in “The Right Stuff,” but Chazelle takes us further; when Armstrong climbs into Gemini 8 and it blasts off into the heavens, we’ve never felt this claustrophobia or listened to the creaking of the metal or felt the thrust of the rockets quite this way before in a movie. And no sooner do Armstrong and co-pilot Dave Scott (Christopher Abbott) feel the satisfaction of finding and docking with the Agena target vehicle than the two of them go hurtling through space, out of control, with Armstrong only just managing to stabilize the capsule before blacking out.

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Gosling is fine here, although Armstrong’s emotional armor mostly leaves the actor playing a variation on his character in “Drive,” and except for one moment in which her British accent comes peeking out, Foy brings emotional power to a woman who has been mostly sidelined by history, keeping a brave face at home for her children while constantly worrying that her husband, like so many of his peers, just won’t come home one day.

(Foy’s Oscar-clip moment is admittedly delectable; she dresses down Kyle Chandler as Deke Slayton, who cuts off Jan’s access to the Gemini 8 radio feed when it looks like they won’t make it back. She tells him that, for all of NASA’s procedures and protocols, they are ultimately just boys making models out of balsa wood.)

“First Man” gives a bevy of talented character actors (including Ciarán Hinds, Pablo Schreiber, Ethan Embry, Jason Clarke, Shea Whigham, Cory Michael Smith and Patrick Fugit) the opportunity to step into the buzz cuts and boxy suits of the era; Corey Stoll’s cynical, mouthy Buzz Aldrin makes for an interesting foil to the hero. (“I’m just saying what you’re thinking,” says Aldrin, to which Armstrong tersely replies, “Maybe you shouldn’t.”) Lukas Haas as Mike Collins, the third astronaut on the Apollo 11 mission, doesn’t get a lot of dialogue, but the actor is enough of an old pro to communicate volumes with just his face.

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Overall, it’s an impressively mounted film, from the seamless visual effects to the score by Justin Hurwitz, which is flexible enough to accentuate both the film’s tension and its earthbound humanity, to the always exquisite editing by Tom Cross (“Whiplash”), which plays a key role in establishing the characters, the stakes and even the passage of time.

Space nerds will swoon for the vintage tech, and for the re-creation of historic moments both large and small. And in the grander sense, “First Man” reminds us — in an era of “truth isn’t truth,” “alternative facts,” and established science being treated like an opinion — that there was a time not all that long ago in which we (the taxpaying public, not just some bored billionaire) were capable of sending people into space and to the moon and back again. And we did it, to quote JFK, “not because it was easy, but because it was hard.” In an era of widespread hopelessness, it’s a lesson worth remembering.

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‘Howards End’ Star Joseph Quinn Set To Join Helen Mirren & Jason Clarke In HBO-Sky Drama ‘Catherine The Great’

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EXCLUSIVE: Howards End star Joseph Quinn is in advanced talks to join Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke in the cast of HBO and Sky’s upcoming mini-series Catherine The Great.
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Jason Clarke To Star Opposite Helen Mirren In ‘Catherine The Great’ Limited Series For HBO & Sky

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Jason Clarke has been tapped to star opposite Helen Mirren in the HBO/Sky limited drama series Catherine the Great.
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Jason Clarke to Star as Helen Mirren’s Lover in HBO’s ‘Catherine the Great’ Limited Series

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Jason Clarke will star opposite Helen Mirren in HBO’s upcoming limited series “Catherine the Great,” the network announced on Thursday.

The four-part historical drama is set against the politically tumultuous and sexually charged court of Russian empress Catherine the Great, who wielded supreme power throughout Russia for nearly half of the 18th century.

The “Chappaquiddick” star will play Grigory Potemkin, a Russian military commander who became lover, favored statesman and life-long friend to the strong-minded, independent, brilliantly intelligent and sexually liberated Russian empress played by Helen Mirren.

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Co-produced by HBO and Sky, the drama is written by Nigel Williams and directed by Philip Martin, whose credits include “The Crown.” Mirren and Martin also serve as executive producers, alongside David M. Thompson of Origin Pictures and Charlie Pattinson of New Pictures.

“I am very excited by the possibility of embodying a woman from history who grabbed and then wielded great power,” Mirren said when the project was first announced. “She rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word Great attached to her name, Catherine the Great.”

The miniseries is the third project from HBO and Sky’s $250 million co-production deal, which was announced last April.

Clarke is represented by WME, Robert Stein Management, Narrative PR and attorney Carlos Goodman.

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Matthew McConaughey Goes Shirtless Again in ‘Serenity’ Thriller Trailer (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Matthew McConaughey returns to his shirtless beach-bum ways in the first trailer for the upcoming thriller “Serenity.”

The Oscar winner stars opposite a blond Anne Hathaway in the tropically set movie, written and directed by Steven Knight (whose last movie was the Tom Hardy solo effort “Locke”).

McConaughey plays Baker Dill, a fishing boat captain leading tours off a tranquil, tropical enclave called Plymouth Island until his ex-wife, Karen (Hathaway), tracks him down with a desperate plea for help.

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She begs Dill to save her — and their young son — from her new, violent husband (Jason Clarke) by taking him out to sea on a fishing excursion, only to throw him to the sharks and leave him for dead.

Karen’s appearance thrusts Dill back into a life he’d tried to forget, and as he struggles between right and wrong, his world is plunged into a new reality that may not be all that it seems.

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The cast also includes Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong and Diane Lane.

Guy Heeley and Greg Shapiro produced.

Aviron Pictures, the new indie distributor that bowed last summer with the Halle Berry thriller “Kidnap,” plans to release the film in theaters on October 19.

Watch the trailer above.

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