by Matt Goldberg Posted: January 24th, 2011
Religion is a tricky topic. It’s incredibly easy to mock it or to preach it. But an honest exploration of faith requires complete commitment and a willingness to let non-believers scoff and the holier-than-thou scorn. Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut Higher Ground manages the impressive task of fully committing to its characters’ faith. Unfortunately, it never transforms that commitment into a more fulfilling experience. Despite an earnest approach to the Christian faith, Farmiga never finds anything interesting to say about it.
Higher Ground follows the life story of Corinne (Farmiga). The movie starts slow and never picks up much speed. We see Corinne’s childhood home-life, her introduction to Christianity, her intellectual curiosity, her marriage at a young age, and finally her “coming-to-God” moment. This is all before we finally get to see Corinne as an adult and her total devotion to Christianity. While everything in the first act isn’t unnecessary, it could have been condensed and more creatively explained.
Once we see Corinne’s life as a devout Christian, the film picks up a little bit of steam, but can’t maintain its pace. Watching Corinne go through the paces of her Christian life is curious, but Farmiga doesn’t seem to know what’s worthwhile in the story and what’s not. She also isn’t able to bring a spark to the proceedings. There are some laughs from the oddities of her Evangelical faith, but almost everything is presented so matter-of-fact that there rarely seems to be much joy in Christianity. When Corinne expresses her desire to speak in tongues so she can be closer to God, it’s a wonderful moment because the film rarely shows the love from these people who love Jesus.
To its great credit, Higher Ground never thumbs it nose at faith and that is incredibly admirable. The film has the potential to be something special because it makes no judgment on the devotion of its characters. It questions their discriminatory practices and close mindedness, but it nurtures their total belief in God and the Devil as physically real entities that can be called upon and fought against in one’s daily struggles.
But Higher Ground never connects the faith of its characters to something grander. There are no deep insights or even much of an emotional connection. It’s not a film that’s about big performances and it’s clear that Farmiga is actively making a choice not to go big (except in brief, bizarre fantasy sequences that feel like a comic crutch) and that’s fine if you’ve got intensity or complexity simmering beneath the surface. Higher Ground could have been divine, but the story and Farmiga’s direction rarely manage to raise the film’s spirit.
by Jason Barr Posted: January 24th, 2011
Back in October, we reported that James Cameron’s Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 were looking at Christmas 2014/2015 release dates respectively. At that time, though, we weren’t sure if the plan was to shoot the films back-to-back or if Cameron/Fox were going to sit back and count the profits from Avatar 2 (which will require a considerable amount of time, I’m sure) before lensing the third. Today, though, Cameron has confirmed that the projects will be shot at the same time. In a recent interview, the writer/director/producer said:
“I am in the process of writing the next two Avatar films now. We are planning to shoot them together and post them together, and we will probably release them not quite back to back, but about a year apart. Christmas ’14 and ’15 is the current plan.”
For more on what Cameron had to say about the returning cast members and potential Avatar charity work, hit the jump.
Talking with EW’s Inside Movies, Cameron assured fans that much of the original cast will return for Avatar 2:
“Basically, if you survived the first film, you get to be in the second film, at least in some form.”
In addition to breaking the sequels’ shooting, editing, and casting plans, Cameron also confirmed that both films would be of a charitable mind:
“One thing’s for sure: some percentage of the presumably-massive Avatar sequel gross will go to charity. Fox has partnered with me to donate a chunk of the profits to environmental causes that are at the heart of the Avatar world. I didn’t want to make more Avatar movies without a grander plan in place.”
In case you were unaware, 2009’s Avatar earned a little over $2.7 billion at box offices worldwide against a production budget thought to be somewhere around $250 million. As such, after catching wind of this generous plan, I wouldn’t be surprised to see “environmental causes” popping up everywhere in the near future. In fact, if anyone knows of any holes in the “environmental causes market,” feel free to send them my way.
by Jason Barr Posted: January 24th, 2011
James Gandolfini is apparently an experienced juggler. From what we can tell, the actor may soon be balancing as many as three new projects in the near future. Gandolfini has been confirmed for the first of the three projects, The Sopranos creator David Chase’s new film Twylight Zones. Per Deadline, that film is set in 1960’s New Jersey and tells the story of an awkward teen (played by John Magaro) who begins to grow into his own as the lead singer of a rock band. According to the report, Gandolfini will play the teen’s disapproving Italian father (sounds about right).
As for his other two potential projects, Gandolfini is currently in final negotiations to join Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock already star) as well as Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of Cogan’s Trade (headed by Brad Pitt). For more on those two projects, hit the jump.