Anna Kendrick plays mom vlogger in twisted stylish thriller ‘A Simple Favor’

It’s mom vs. mom in the deliciously twisted love triangle thriller “A Simple Favor” starring Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Trolls), Blake Lively (Gossip Girl, The Shallows) and Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians). The movie puts Kendrick’s character, Stephanie at the center of a gritty showdown of wits as she tries to solve the suspicious disappearance of Emily (Lively).

At the core of “A Simple Favor” is an unlikely film noir protagonist—the sunny and practical suburban mommy vlogger, Stephanie (Kendrick). Stephanie’s perky search for domestic bliss, friendship and killer recipes accidentally leads her into a mad tangle of dirty secrets and fatal lies when she meets ultra-glamorous mom, Emily. When Stephanie is first approached by Emily to come over for a playdate, she is intrigued. Emily is mysterious and alluring with her super-posh lifestyle: a city job in high fashion, a sexy British author husband and an impeccably modern, showcase house. Stephanie is flattered when Emily seems to quickly latch onto her as a confidante and new best friend. She appears to be the ultimate insider, and Stephanie feels like she has cracked into a world of her most extravagant mommy dreams.

When Emily askes for a simple favor, Stephanie eagerly agreed to take Emily’s son, Nicky, home with her after school one day. However, simple becomes complicated when Emily disappears completely, leaving Stephanie with her son and not a single clue. Following her own “moms, do everything yourself” credo, Stephanie takes it upon herself, with the help of her social media followers, to find her missing friend. She has no idea just how convoluted this mystery will become as boundaries of friendship and loyalty are tested and lurid truths are unburied. Stephanie unknowingly enters an inky-black, nerve-wracking journey into deception, duplicity and transgressions, including her own.

Henry Golding as “Sean” and Anna Kendrick as “Stephanie” and Blake Lively as ‘Emily’ in A SIMPLE FAVOR. Photo by Peter Iovino.

Anna Kendrick is already known for her unique range. Even so, the role of Stephanie was something completely different for her. Stephanie might share some qualities with Kendrick, such as her exuberance and her everywoman amiability, but there is much more to the performance as Kendrick brings all at once a flair for mischievous humor, emotional complexity and an unleashed fierceness.

For Kendrick, the pleasure of playing Stephanie was digging into all that is going on beneath her happy-go-lucky, public social media persona. Kendrick notes that much as she plays at being a detective once Emily vanishes, she’s also just a lonely, anxious single mom with a past she desperately wants to keep locked away. “Stephanie is upbeat and always seeing the bright side, so she can be a little insufferable,” Kendrick laughs. “But I think there’s also a real sadness to her because really, she’s so lonely. When it comes to her relationship with Emily, she’s willing to put up with a lot of abuse because it’s preferable to her loneliness. And Stephanie also wants validation from Emily. I think that’s something a lot of women experience to some degree in some friendships.”

“A Simple Favor” will open in cinemas on September 12 from Pioneer Films.

Q&A with Blake Lively for survival horror thriller ‘The Shallows’

Blake Lively (TV’s “Gossip Girl,” “The Age of Adaline”) stars in Columbia Pictures’ taut thriller “The Shallows” as Nancy Adams who is surfing on a secluded beach when she finds herself in the feeding ground of a great white shark. Though she is stranded only two hundred yards from shore, survival proves to be the ultimate test of wills, requiring all of Nancy’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and fortitude. Lively talks about “The Shallows” in the following interview:

Q: What made you say ‘yes’ to “The Shallows?”

Blake Lively: I’ve always been attracted to the idea of doing an isolation film because it’s such an acting challenge and this film in particular is not only emotionally incredibly demanding but also incredibly demanding physically and the idea of challenging myself, both inwardly and outwardly, and having to hold the screen for 99 per cent of the time, for better or for worse, was really exciting and terrifying and I know if I’m scared to do a movie then I have to do it.

Q: What was your reaction when you first read the script?

Lively: The script was such a page-turner. It was incredible how quickly it moved because immediately you put yourself in that scenario and you think ‘what would I do if I was isolated and I was being hunted by a great white shark?’ But also the idea of being only 200 yards from the shore made it that much more exciting and nerve wracking because hope is right there, it’s so, so close and that is so much more exciting to me than having her in the middle of the ocean because it gives you such a strong will to survive when you see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, there’s just no way to get there, and the only thing stopping you get to safety is a great white shark.

The Shallows movie

Q: Let’s talk about filming. You filmed on a real beach and then in the water tank…

Lively: We filmed in a beautiful place called Howe Island for two weeks and no one has ever shot there before and it will be incredible to bring it to the screen because it just looks like heaven on earth. So to get to shoot there was really special and they put a rock out 200 yards from the shore and they were doing helicopter shots and no crew members were allowed to be anywhere near me because they would be in the shot so I was out there in the middle of the ocean by myself. There were a few divers under the rocks but I really felt alone and I got a real sense of what that would be like. And then we spent the rest of the movie in a giant tank – which is basically like a giant swimming pool – at Movie World (on the Gold Coast) so there were rollercoasters all around us and I was in a tank with four foot waves and using my imagination to fill in the blanks of great white sharks and ships and buoys and you name it.

Q: Were you a good swimmer before you started the film?

Lively: I took swimming lessons for a film I did called All I See Is You so I was prepared because of that but it was really about paddling on a surf board and I had some great surf instructors help and teach me. Was I a good swimmer? I was fine. Did I improve? Definitely! I was so much faster and stronger by the end of the movie and it was so much easier. I was swimming though four foot waves in our tank every day and that was a real struggle and there were very long takes where the camera is on a big crane panning me through the water and there were take after take after take and it was really exhausting and I noticed my stamina was up by the end, I had muscles in weird places that I never had before. It was neat to hear our water safety crew go ‘wow, you’ve grown a lot stronger and you’re a much better swimmer.. ’ Also, I was a terrible diver before this film and so I learnt how to dive and that was cool. I always felt safe in the water but I was much more confident the better I got at it.

Nancy (Blake Lively) in Columbia Pictures' THE SHALLOWS.
Nancy (Blake Lively) in Columbia Pictures’ THE SHALLOWS.

Q: Why do we love movies like this? Audiences are thrilled, scared and engrossed by survival thrillers. What does that say about us?

Lively: I think we love movies like this because we immediately put ourselves in that scenario. When there are two apex predators going against each other – human versus shark or human versus nature – it’s very rare that any of us would be in that situation but we all think ‘if I was in that situation, what would I do? Would I survive?’ And I think what is incredible about human beings is that they are resourceful and they pull things out of their hat that they didn’t even know that they knew to stay alive and you put yourself in that scenario and you sort of hope that you would do the same. Even if you are ill equipped and you think you wouldn’t survive you don’t just give up – human beings don’t do that, they fight even if they are not fighters, and I think that’s what’s really cool and exciting and encouraging. And you know, this kind of movie is fun and it’s electric in a great way.

Opening across the Philippines on August 10, 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows

Blake Lively wills to survive against shark in ‘The Shallows’

“This film grabs you on a primal level,” says Blake Lively, who plays a young woman stranded just a short distance from shore when she is attacked by a great white shark, in Columbia Pictures’ suspense thriller “The Shallows.” “It’s about the power to survive, the power of will.”

In the taut thriller, Lively plays Nancy Adams who is surfing on a secluded beach when she finds herself in the feeding ground of a great white shark. Though she is stranded only two hundred yards from shore, survival proves to be the ultimate test of wills, requiring all of Nancy’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and fortitude.

“Blake is not only very likable, she’s very tough, very smart, and very resourceful,” says director Jaume Collet-Serra. “Those are the traits we wanted to come through in Nancy.”

“Nancy is a medical student, which comes in handy when she’s bleeding out on a rock in the middle of the ocean!” says Lively with a laugh. “She’s very practical, she’s type A, she likes things a certain way. Imagine this woman thrown into the most chaotic circumstance you could fathom. Not a great fit. That’s what’s so interesting – her experience tests her character on every front. You see both the strengthening and disassembling of this woman as she fights to survive. It’s a neat examination. As responsible as she is though, she must have a thrill-seeking desire in her heart, or she wouldn’t be such a bad a-double-s surfer!

“I had to train – not only to learn how to surf as best as I could, but there was a lot of endurance training for my body to keep up with the physicality of the role,” explains Lively. “I didn’t even have a stunt double until the last two weeks on the film – I did all the heavy stunts myself leading up to that. Except for the surfing, of course! I was lucky to have the incredible Isabella Nichols, the #1 junior surfer in the world, as my surfing hero. As for the other heavy stunts, I had my share of ‘battle wounds,’ but it made me proud to be able to do that work.”

Making a movie usually means you’re surrounded by many people, but there were times when Lively had to put herself into her character’s shoes. For one, a wide helicopter shot of Lively alone on the rock, it naturally meant that no one else could be around. “I got to our set – our rock and buoy – out in the middle of the ocean, and everybody left me there and went back to the shore. I’m sitting there, three or four hundred yards from shore, waiting, alone, in aggressive, rising tide for the helicopter with the camera to crest over the mountain. After a few minutes of pure solitude, the chopper came in, did the shot, and left me alone again. There was a good thirty minutes total where it was just me, and I really felt the enormity of the situation. It was so beautiful, and also so terrifying. It was a moving experience.”

Collet-Serra says that Blake Lively was much more than an actor for hire. Because she is in nearly every shot of the movie, he says, “She was really a partner in the storytelling. We tailored it for her – everything is filtered through her. We all agreed on the movie we were making, and she was very interested in collaborating with us on that process.”

Part of that is Lively’s view that the shark is not a demon at all, but another being – like Nancy – trying to survive. “Sharks are villainized – people think of them as scary, as cruel, as monsters, but they’re not that at all. The shark is a wild animal in its habitat,” Lively continues. “Nancy has a lot of sympathy for the shark, even as she’s fighting to survive. I think that’s pretty remarkable to find empathy and connection in such painful times. Nancy has this revelation when she sees that mankind has hurt the shark first. He has been hunted. Brutally. And not for means of man’s survival. For pleasure. You then understand the shark’s motive, his determination, his will, his desperation to conquer as his survival also depends on it. So it becomes a test of two wills. Both victims. But only one can live while the other remains. It’s a tragedy. It’s at that point in the story: nature.”

Opening across the Philippines on August 10, 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows

Killer shark film ‘The Shallow’ holds sneak previews Aug 1, 2

IndieWire calls it “the best shark movie since ‘Jaws,’” while the New York Daily News hails it as a “much-needed escapist summer fun.”

They’re talking about Columbia Pictures’ “The Shallows” – the critically acclaimed thriller that took America like a tidal wave, and now, Philippine audiences can catch it in sneak previews on Monday and Tuesday, August 1st and 2nd in selected cinemas everywhere. Admission prices will be at regular rates.

Garnering a fresh 77 percent rating at RottenTomatoes.com, “The Shallows” tells the story of Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) who’s surfing on a secluded beach when she finds herself in the feeding ground of a great white shark. Though she is stranded only two hundred yards from shore, survival proves to be the ultimate test of wills, requiring all of Nancy’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and fortitude.

“If you’re looking for a quick and satisfying summer thrill, then `The Shallows’ should serve you nicely,” endorses respected critic Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times. Another influential reviewer, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, applauds “Blake Lively, director Jaume Collet-Serra and a digital shark show no mercy in hooking us with the B-movie tension. And we bite.”

The critics are also raving about the lead actress’ performance, with Variety’s Peter Debruge writing, “Lively may have been cast primarily for her physique, but she proves a compelling heroine.”

“Lively acquits herself well here,” agrees Glenn Kenny of the New York Times, “especially in the vulnerable-to-shark-attack department.”

“The Shallows” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown,” “Non-Stop”) from a screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski (“Vanishing on 7th Street”).

Opening across the Philippines on August 10, 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows

Creating the lethal shark in ‘The Shallows’

Columbia Pictures’ suspenseful tale “The Shallows” presents the breathtaking story of Nancy (Blake Lively), a surfer who finds herself in the feeding ground of a great white shark.

In creating the shark, director Jaume Collet-Serra wanted to create a worthy adversary that would keep audiences on the edge of their seats. “I wanted the shark to be a presence for half the movie,” Collet-Serra says. “I wanted to reveal it slowly, then have it be a force of nature. My reasoning was that if Nancy doesn’t get a good look at the shark, then the audience shouldn’t get a good look at it, either.”

For all of the obvious reasons, the film’s great white shark would be created digitally. Great whites are a threatened species, and they generally do not survive well in captivity. And that doesn’t even get into the danger of filming a movie near an unpredictable, wild animal.

Collet-Serra teamed with the art department for the design of the shark. “I came to the conclusion that the shark had to be a female,” says the director. “Females are slightly bigger, and most have great scars from mating. Visually, they’re scarier, as they are more protective.

Scott E. Anderson served as the film’s visual effects supervisor. “Both Jaume and Diana Ibanez, our film’s visual effects producer, did a lot of research,” he says. “Through Jaume’s notes and our conversation, Diana and he put together research packages – moments of sharks that Jaume liked, general actions and behaviors of sharks. That really was our basis of library – little moments that Jaume liked.”

In animating the shark, Anderson’s greatest challenge was to create a believable character. “The shark is very consistent in its character,” he says. “Nancy wanders into its area accidentally, and interrupts the shark’s world. And after the shark has wounded her, the shark just thinks of Nancy as food. It’s nothing personal – the shark is just being a shark. Towards the end, when Nancy is fighting for her own survival, the shark fights back. Both of them are just doing what they need to do.”

The sheer size of the shark made a great difference to the animators. “I kept telling the animators to think of the shark as a big diesel truck with lots of power and torque, versus a high-revving, German-engineered car,” Anderson continues. “It’s big and sleek, with a graceful, powerful way of swimming. We use that mass when she’s attacking the buoy or hitting anything else – she’s got a huge, heavy size to her.”

These two intertwined attributes – the shark’s character, much of which comes from its size – gave Anderson the tools that would deliver the thrills that Collet-Serra envisioned. “Jaume had a real sense of what he wanted for the film’s thriller and scare factor – sometimes, it’s sneaking up where you don’t expect it, and other times it’s big, heavy shark coming for you. He was very much playing with that, so getting that real-but-scary balance was very important.”

Opening across the Philippines on August 10, 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows

‘The Shallows’ offers non-stop, pulse-pounding suspense

From Jaume Collet-Serra, director acclaimed thrillers “Unknown” and “Non-Stop,” comes Columbia Pictures’ suspenseful tale “The Shallows” where a female surfer finds herself in the feeding ground of a great white shark.

In “The Shallows,” Nancy (Blake Lively) is seeking solace after the death of her mother. Though she’s been a driven medical student, Nancy has also found peace on a surfboard, and now has located what she’s looking for – the secret beach that was a special place for her mom. Though she knows it’s dangerous to surf alone, she risks it when her travel companion bails – even calling home to let her tight-knit family know that she has found this special place. As she surfs in this beautiful, hidden place, she thinks it will be a chance for her to reflect.

“Unfortunately, she has stumbled into the feeding ground of a great white shark,” explains Matti Leshem, who produces the film with his wife and producing partner, Lynn Harris. “The shark attacks her, but it’s just doing what comes naturally. She is never more than a couple hundred yards from shore – she could swim to it – but the shark is in between her and safety.”

The director orchestrating the combat is Jaume Collet-Serra. “Every movie he’s made has had an extraordinary amount of suspense,” says Lynn Harris. “He gets great performances from his actors, and he understands every scene and every frame from the point of view from the audience – what’s going to be the most satisfying experience for them in that moment.”

Collet-Serra was excited to join the project because, he says, “it had so many elements that put together make a mega-challenge for a director. It has one location. It has water. Animals. And a CG character. Any of these elements separately is a challenge, so to have them all in one movie was really exciting.”

Collet-Serra says that Blake Lively was much more than an actor for hire. Because she is in nearly every shot of the movie, he says, “She was really a partner in the storytelling. We tailored it for her – everything is filtered through her. We all agreed on the movie we were making, and she was very interested in collaborating with us on that process.”

“I love the combination of a character journey in an elevated genre,” adds Harris. “The Shallows is an incredibly suspenseful thriller with a real character at the heart of it – a protagonist who goes through the arc of getting her strength and overcoming her fear.”

“This story is incredibly visceral, but it’s also one we can all relate to – dealing with our worst fears,” concludes Leshem. “What does it take to face the thing you never thought you could face? And, of course, on some level, this is a metaphor for everything that is truly challenging, but is embodied in a great white shark.”

Opening across the Philippines on August 10, 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows

Shark lurks in ‘The Shallows’ main poster

The international main poster art of Columbia Pictures’ new, edge-of-your-seat thriller “The Shallows” starring Blake Lively has been released by the studio, ominously showing the dangers that await star Blake Lively.

In the taut thriller “The Shallows,” Nancy Adams (Lively) is surfing on a secluded beach when she finds herself in the feeding ground of a great white shark. Though she is stranded only two hundred yards from shore, survival proves to be the ultimate test of wills, requiring all of Nancy’s ingenuity, resourcefulness, and fortitude.

The film is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown,” “Non-Stop”) from a screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski (“Vanishing on 7th Street”), and produced by Lynn Harris (“Blade: Trinity”) and Matti Leshem. Executive Producers are Doug Merrifield (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”) and Jaume Collet-Serra.

Opening across the Philippines on August 10, 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows

‘The Shallow’ star Blake Lively takes Cannes filmfest by storm

Blake Lively of Columbia Pictures’ highly-anticipated shark thriller “The Shallows,” has taken the Cannes Film Festival by storm by sheer star power.

“The Shallows” lead star Blake Lively cemented her reputation as the festival’s most stylish celebrity when she showed up for her photocall in a dreamy mini dress.

The actress has been seen in many glamorous looks during her three-day stint at the Croisette. After stunning in a range of formal, red-carpet-ready looks from many of her favorite designers, Blake went with something a little different for a Friday morning photocall on behalf of her new film “The Shallows.”

“I like dressing up. It’s fun,” Lively tells USA Today. “I don’t have a stylist. It’s very personal. It’s a lot of thought. I’m the one who goes online and finds the outfits, I call them in and try them all on. But I love that. That’s why I enjoy old Hollywood. There was beauty in the presentation.”

In “The Shallows,” Lively plays a woman surfing alone on a secluded beach when she is attacked by a great white shark and stranded just a short distance from shore. Though she is only 200 yards from her survival, getting there proves the ultimate contest of wills. It’s Jaws for a new generation.

“The Shallows” is scheduled to open in July 2016.

WATCH: Black Lively is trapped in new trailer for horror film ‘The Shallows’

Columbia Pictures has just unveiled the new trailer for “The Shallows,” the edge-of-your-seat horror film starring Blake Lively (TV’s “Gossip Girl”). Watch it below.

What was once in the deep, is now in “The Shallows.” In this taut thriller, Nancy (Lively) is surfing alone on a secluded beach when she is attacked by a great white shark and stranded just a short distance from shore. Though she is only 200 yards from her survival, getting there proves the ultimate contest of wills. It’s Jaws for a new generation.

The film is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown,” “Non-Stop”) from a screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski (“Vanishing on 7th Street”), and produced by Lynn Harris (“Blade: Trinity”) and Matti Leshem. Executive Producers are Doug Merrifield (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”) and Jaume Collet-Serra.

Opening across the Philippines in July 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows

WATCH: ‘Gossip Girl’s’ Blake Lively tries to survive in ‘The Shallows’

What was once in the deep, is now in “The Shallows” – the new suspense thriller from Columbia Pictures and starring Blake Lively (TV’s “Gossip Girl”). Watch the full trailer below.

In the taut thriller “The Shallows,” Nancy (Lively) is surfing alone on a secluded beach when she is attacked by a great white shark and stranded just a short distance from shore. Though she is only 200 yards from her survival, getting there proves the ultimate contest of wills. It’s Jaws for a new generation.

The film is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown,” “Non-Stop”) from a screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski (“Vanishing on 7th Street”), and produced by Lynn Harris (“Blade: Trinity”) and Matti Leshem. Executive Producers are Doug Merrifield (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”) and Jaume Collet-Serra.

Opening across the Philippines in June 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows