Filed in Big Little Lies Projects
‘Big Little Lies’ Review: Moms Fight Dirty in HBO’s Wicked (Good) Miniseries

The first reviews for Big Little Lies, which premieres next Sunday, 19th, on HBO, are out. Here’s the one from TVLine.com:

It’s tempting to take one look at the multimillion-dollar homes and luxury cars the characters have in Big Little Lies, and ask: “How can these people have any problems?” But as one character says, “You can’t make a perfect world. No matter what, s—t happens.”
S—t most certainly does happen in the star-studded HBO miniseries (debuting Sunday, Feb. 19 at 9/8c), including a grisly homicide that sends shockwaves through the seaside community of Monterey, California. But the great thing about Big Little Lies is: The murder is almost beside the point. The vicious battle for power and status waged between the Monterey moms is gripping enough, and serves as a showcase for some fantastic female performances.

Monterey is a town of big fake smiles and passive-aggressive politeness, and its filthy-rich moms take the term “helicopter parent” to a whole new level. (As one neighbor puts it, they’re more like “f—king kamikazes.”) That includes Madeline (Reese Witherspoon), a hard-charging “super mom” whose parenting isn’t all that super, and Celeste (Nicole Kidman), whose picture-perfect marriage is developing some cracks around the edges. The sense of place here is excellent, immersing us in a pristine yuppie utopia where these alpha moms rule with an iron fist.
The arrival of Jane (Shailene Woodley), an unpolished single mother with a checkered past, sparks a savage rift between the moms — with their kids getting caught in the crossfire. And we know someone ends up dead, with flash-forwards to a crime scene and nosy neighbors eagerly telling cops all the local gossip they’ve overheard. But the four episodes screened for critics not only don’t reveal the killer; they don’t even reveal who died. And it’s actually a brilliant storytelling choice, because you start to look at everyone as a potential suspect and victim.

Top to bottom, the Big Little Lies cast is stacked. We already know how good Witherspoon is at playing the chipper overachiever (see: Election; Legally Blonde), and she absolutely shines here as Madeline. The brittle vulnerability that Kidman brings to Celeste makes it some of her best work in years. And the deep bench of supporting actors includes Laura Dern as Madeline’s bitter rival Renata, Alexander Skarsgard as Celeste’s protective husband Perry and Adam Scott as Madeline’s “Mr. Sensitive” husband Ed. Everywhere you look, there’s an Emmy nomination waiting to happen.

TV veteran David E. Kelley wrote all seven episodes (based on Liane Moriarty’s bestselling novel), and he clearly knows how to write for women, deftly balancing the comedy of the moms’ bitchy verbal sparring with the drama of the very real problems they’re facing. The direction from Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild) is a bit chilly, clinically viewing the Monterey moms from a safe distance. But that fits the subject matter, as does the series’ washed-out color palette. (It acts like a forgiving Instagram filter, hiding every shameful flaw.) Plus, the fact that one writer and one director handled all seven episodes helps the miniseries feel like it’s all of a piece.
If the story sags at all, it’s when Woodley’s Jane is the focus — only because her dark backstory is so far removed from the rest of the moms, it feels like it’s from a different series altogether. Big Little Lies is at its best when it plunges us into the trenches of the Monterey moms’ social warfare, fought on the battlefields of elementary-school functions and kids’ birthday parties… where words can cut almost as deeply as knives do.

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Filed in Ascendant Projects
Final ‘Divergent’ Movie to Skip Theaters for TV Movie and Spinoff Series

Bad news about Ascendant. Shailene has yet to signup for the new made for television movie as her contract (and everyone else in the cast) was for a theatrical release. More news to come.

THE WRAP – Lionsgate is no longer planning to release the final “Divergent” film in theaters, TheWrap has learned.

The finale, “The Divergent Series: Ascendant,” will now come out as a television movie, an individual familiar with the situation said. A spinoff series also in the works.

The deal is in the early talks phase as the studio wants the young-adult book series adaptation to finish on the small screen.

The television movie finale would be followed by a standalone television series, to be produced by the studio’s television group.

Lionsgate has not yet taken the project out to networks, but presumably their new acquisition — Starz — would get first right of refusal.

The film, which is listed as in pre-production on IMDb, has not been shot yet and it’s not yet clear whether previously announced returning cast Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort and more will stay on.

The theatrical release date had been set for June 9, 2017.

The dystopian young-adult genre has slipped significantly in box office heat in recent years. “The Divergent Series: Allegiant,” the third film in Lionsgate’s once-hot “Divergent” franchise, made only $66.2 million domestically. It opened to only $29 million, significantly less than its predecessors, both of which opened in the mid-$50 million range.

Other recent attempts to launch new YA franchises like “The Giver” and “The 5th Wave” have sputtered at the box office, and interest in existing series like “The Maze Runner” and “Divergent” seems to have tapered off.

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Filed in Projects Snowden
‘Snowden’ to Get European Premiere at San Sebastian Festival

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the NSA whistleblower in the biopic, which also stars Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo and Nicolas Cage and will screen in an out-of-competition slot.

Oliver Stone’s biopic Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the NSA whistleblower, will get its European premiere at the 64th edition of the San Sebastian Festival.

The film will screen in the Spanish festival’s official selection in an out-of-competition slot. The cast also includes Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, Divergent), Melissa Leo and Nicolas Cage.

It will be Stone’s seventh visit to the festival, but the first time one of his films has been included in the official selection. In 1986, he brought Salvador to the event for a screening that marked the first at the big Velodrome, where he later also showed Natural Born Killers (1994) and World Trade Center (2006). His films Talk Radio (1989), Looking for Fidel (2004), Alexander: The Ultimate Cut and The Untold History of the United States (2013) were also all screened at the festival. In 2012, Stone received the Donostia Award for lifetime achievement at the festival.

Snowden, shot in Germany, the U.S., China and Russia, is a Sacha Inc./KrautPack Entertainment production. Open Road will release it in the United States on Sept. 16. Wild Bunch is responsible for international distribution.

San Sebastian will unveil more titles for its official selection in the coming weeks. The festival runs Sept. 16-Sept. 24.

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