Award-winning novel ‘Live by Night’ comes to life in the big screen

Based on Dennis Lehane’s bestselling novel, Warner Bros. Pictures’ Live by Night was a true passion project for Ben Affleck, who says, “As a filmmaker, this was a chance to pay homage to the classic Warner Bros. gangster movies of the 1930s through the `70s. I grew up watching them and they had an epic, sprawling feel that really took you into a different world, a different era.”

Affleck adapted the screenplay from Lehane’s novel of the same name; the two first collaborated when Affleck made his acclaimed directorial debut with his screen adaptation of Lehane’s crime thriller Gone, Baby, Gone. Lehane served as an executive producer on Live by Night.

“Creatively speaking, Ben and I are a unique fit—and it’s not just the Boston thing, though the Boston thing is big,” Lehane smiles. “There’s something special about Ben’s aesthetic. His first time in the director’s chair was with ‘Gone Baby Gone,’ and he did such a beautiful job, I love that film. So when I heard he was going to adapt Live by Night, I was happy to be working with him again. And like before, watching this book transmogrify in Ben’s hands, from the screenplay on, was a special thing.”

As a lifelong film buff, Affleck posits that the story has all the tropes that made him a fan of the gangster genre in particular: beautiful women, dangerous men, cops, the mob, shootouts, car chases…the whole fiery, combustible mix. “As soon as I read Dennis’s book I knew that there was something there for anyone who just really likes to have a great time at the movies.”

Leonardo DiCaprio’s production banner, Appian Way, held the rights to the book, which Affleck read at the suggestion of DiCaprio’s producing partner, Jennifer Davisson. “Our company is constantly looking for stories about great men—which doesn’t necessarily mean good men, just that they have greatness in them in one way or another—and what they sacrifice for that,” she explains. “One of the things Dennis does so well is dissect the male ego in a really complex and interesting way, and that’s something I think Ben does equally well. We had the property, but when Ben was reading the book, it was clear how much he liked it and that it was right for him. When we read Ben’s beautiful script, the same Lehane sensibility jumped off the page.”

Producer Jennifer Todd agrees. “Ben is attracted to Dennis’s stories, and this one in particular really excited him: the time period, the characters, going from Boston to Florida. It all felt like nothing else we had looked at. Add to that the central character Joe, who is not quite a bad guy and not quite a good guy but caught somewhere in between the two, so he makes his choices, but he feels the consequences. Where does he really belong?”

Live by Night tells the story of Joe Coughlin (Affleck), a WWI vet who’s a self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlaw, despite being the son of the Boston Police Deputy Superintendent. Joe’s not all bad, though; in fact, he’s not really bad enough for the life he’s chosen. Unlike the gangsters he refuses to work for, he has a sense of justice and an open heart, and both work against him, leaving him vulnerable time and again—in business and in love. Driven by a need to right the wrongs committed against him and those close to him, Joe heads down a risky path that goes against his upbringing and his own moral code. Leaving the cold Boston winter behind, he and his reckless crew turn up the heat in Tampa. And while revenge may taste sweeter than the molasses that infuses every drop of illegal rum he runs, Joe will learn that it comes at a price.

Starring with Affleck are Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, and Oscar winner Chris Cooper.

Opening across the Philippines on January 18, 2017, “Live By Night” is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

New ‘Transformers 5’ poster suggests to rethink your heroes

Paramount Pictures has rolled out a new poster for Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight bearing the ominous tagline, “Rethink your heroes.”

The fifth film in the Transformers franchise, The Last Knight expands the mythology of the Transformers universe by introducing a medieval-centric backstory, with Mark Wahlberg reprising his lead role from Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Transformers: The Last Knight stars Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Isabela Moner, Stanley Tucci, John Goodman, John Turturro, and Josh Duhamel.

The most recent film in the franchise, 2014’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” grossed $1.1 billion worldwide.

Opening across the Philippines on June 21, 2017, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Donnie Yen is the force in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

Chirrut Îmwe is the scene-stealing blind monk in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But, although without sight, Chirrut is anything but unseeing. He is a skilled and artful warrior who can see into the hearts of all those around. And who better to play the role other than martial arts expert and one of Asia’s most popular actors, Donnie Yen.

“Donnie Yen has so much wisdom, like his character, and he’s got great humor,” says producer Allison Shearmur. “He has a sense of artistry and performance that tells us so much about his character. There’s an elegance, a heroism, a nobility about both Yen and Chirrut.”

In a time when the Force is all but forgotten and the few remaining Jedi are in hiding, Chirrut is a lone voice who still believes. “Chirrut is a true believer in the Force, and he preaches this,” Yen says. “Throughout the whole film, he encourages and motivates his team members to have faith and continue to believe in the Force.”

Martial arts movie icon Donnie Yen exploded onto the Hong Kong cinema scene when he starred in director Yuen Woo-ping’s martial arts comedy Drunken Tai Chi. Yen, the son of legendary Boston-based kung fu instructor Bow Sim-mark, was tailor-made for the jade screen, having trained in martial arts since early childhood.

Born in Canton but raised in Boston, Yen has always been unique among martial arts stars in that his persona balances both the martial virtues of his mother and the scholarly and musical ones of his father. Aside from his training in the various combative systems, Yen is also a gifted pianist, and critics have noted the musical phrasing and tempo of his performances and action set pieces.

With a solid foundation in his mother’s wushu style, Yen’s debut film immediately established him as a viable kung fu movie hero. He went on to star in and choreograph both period kung fu epics and contemporary fight flicks, winning numerous awards and establishing a worldwide fan base. Next, he is bringing his unique screen persona and action style to Hollywood and the world with xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which releases in January 2017.

Lucasfilm presents “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the first in a new series of Star Wars standalone films set in the universe fans know and love, but featuring new characters and storylines.

“Rogue One” tells the story of a group of unlikely heroes, who in a time of conflict band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel.

Academy® and BAFTA Award nominee Felicity Jones heads up the cast and stars opposite Diego Luna. Joining them are Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed and Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker. The film also welcomes two of China’s biggest stars, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen

Now showing across the Philippines, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Michael Sheen plays android bartender in ‘Passengers’

He is known to millions as a vampire in the Twilight saga films and a werewolf in the Underworld franchise. Now, Michael Sheen now stars as Arthur, the android bartender on board the intergalactic spaceship in Columbia Pictures’ exciting new action-thrlller Passengers.

In the film, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) and Jim (Christ Pratt) are two strangers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early. Jim and Aurora are forced to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction as the ship teeters on the brink of collapse, jeopardizing the lives of the passengers on the greatest mass migration in human history.

An android with a remarkably human upper half, Arthur moves with efficiency, grace, and skill, and responds to passengers’ worries and anxieties with a kind word and warm heart – if a little naïveté. “Arthur is an important element to their mental state, because he’s the closest thing to a human that they have besides each other,” says Lawrence.

“He’s programmed to be the greatest bartender ever,” says Michael Sheen. “He’s empathetic, he’s able to listen, and he mixes a fantastic martini. But there’s a limit to how much he’s interacted with people: he’s usually dealt with thousands of people in very short interactions, but he’s in new territory with Jim, interacting with one person for a very long period of time.”

So, because Arthur is not quite human, Sheen and director Morten Tyldum discussed just how to shade the performance subtly. “Bartenders are the ultimate confidants, and when Jim meets me, I am someone he can talk to,” says Sheen. “The challenge was I had to figure out the balance of how robotic and how human should Arthur be?”

That was an incredible challenge, one that Sheen rose to meet with a creative, technically difficult, and utterly believable performance, according to Tyldum. “Michael had to bring humanity to it, and at the same time, you have to understand that beneath the surface is a machine, without making it a cliché,” says the director. “There’s a naïveté and a wisdom to it at the same time. He becomes their friend, the one they talk to, the one who gives them advice. At the same time, there was such precision to the performance. He could never look at his hands while doing things, because a machine wouldn’t have to. He was mixing drinks, very casually and with no effort, and talking with incredible comedic timing. That’s incredibly hard, and he pulled it off so flawlessly.”

Part of Sheen’s performance came through a physical transformation, with the help of the on-set special effects team. The team designed a rig to move him swiftly back and forth behind the bar; with Sheen kneeling on the rig, the filmmakers could control his movement, like an android’s – later painting out Sheen’s legs and the rig with a robotic stand.

“The computer-driven rig had to move really smooth and really fast,” says Special Effects Coordinator Daniel Sudick. “We would record a move in sync and in speed with the camera on the computer, and be able to play it back with precision as many times as it is needed.” It took eight weeks for Sudick’s team to build the Arthur rig, and another three weeks to test it to make sure everything worked well together.

Of course, the role required Sheen to be prepared to move with a rig that would start and stop suddenly, without tensing or bracing his body and without revealing any discomfort in his facial expression. “When I accepted the role, I didn’t know what I was getting into,” says Sheen. “The special effects rig moved really fast, but was a great practical build as it made the performance feel more real.”

After production, the VFX department replaced the rig and Sheen’s lower half with the robotic design that controls the bartender’s movements. The result – Sheen’s performance combined with the effects wizardry – is a character that is fully part of the world of the film, according to Tyldum. “You never one moment stop believing that he actually is an android,” he says. “You are fully immersed in the fact that he’s not a human because Michael plays the nonhuman part so well, but at the same time you fall for him and you care for him so much. It’s such a wonderful performance.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 4, 2017, Passengers is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #Passengers