Forest Whitaker

Saban Films Acquires Whitaker-Bana Starrer “The Forgiven” and Sets March Release Date

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Forest Whitaker plays Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Saban Films’ upcoming film The Forgiven.

Directed by Roland Joffe, the film revolves around Tutu being appointed to head a nationwide investigation, which results in his being summoned to a maximum-security prison by a notorious murderer seeking clemency (Eric Bana). Inside the brutal prison walls, Tutu is drawn into a dangerous, life-changing battle with the cunning criminal.

The film was produced by Joffe, Craig Baumgarten, and Zaheer Goodman-Bhyat with financing by The Fyzz Facility.

Saban Films has set a release date of March 9 in theaters before expanding its theatrical output on March 16 alongside a VOD and Digital HD release.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

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2016, Disney/LucasFilm Ltd.

Director:
Gareth Edwards
Producers:
Simon Emanuel
Allison Shearmur
Writers:
George Lucas (original characters)
John Knoll (story)
Gary Whitta (story)
Chrus Weitz (screenplay)
Tony Gilroy (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Greig Fraser
Editing:
John Gilroy
Colin Goudie
Jabez Olssen

Cast:
Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso)
Diego Luna (Cassian Andor)
Alan Tudyk (K-2SO)
Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe)
Jiang Wen (Baze Malbus)
Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic)
Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook)
Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera)
Mads Mikkelsen (Galen Erso)
Jimmy Smits (Bail Organa)
Alistair Petrie (General Draven)
Genevieve O’Reilly (Mon Mothma)

The first spin-off of the Star Wars saga serves as a bridge between Episodes III and IV, all revolving around the mission to steal the plans to the deadly Death Star.

Fifteen years ago, former Imperial scientist Galen Erso is forced back to complete a deadly weapon known as the Death Star under the orders of Commander Krennic. When Galen’s wife is killed when she tries to resist the motion, Galen’s daughter Jyn goes into hiding until she is saved and raised by old friend Saw Gerrera. However, as an adult, Jyn has been using aliases and has become a survivor even if she finds herself incarcerated.

En route to an Imperial camp, Jyn finds herself rescued by the Rebel Alliance’s Cassian Andor and K-2SO. The Alliance knows her identity and requests that she finds both Saw and her father as they are now aware of the Death Star being completed. At first reluctant, Jyn decides to assist the Alliance in exchange for her freedom. Going to Jedha, they learn Saw has taken a defected Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook, who was sent by Galen to inform them of a weakness in the Death Star. Along with mercenary Baze Malbus and former temple master Chirrut Imwe, Jyn and Cassian decide to infiltrate the Empire to steal the plans for the Death Star. However, this is truly one mission that will not be as easy as expected but the Alliance is ready to do the impossible.

When it was announced that not only would there be three new episodes to the Star Wars universe, but a series of spinoffs, the universe was excited. This first official spinoff, which in some aspect can be described as “Star Wars 3.5”, acts as a bridge between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. This is apparent with the characters of Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, and a certain Princess returning. However, these three particular characters are played by new actors with the latter two having the likenesses of the original actors imposed on the performers while James Earl Jones returns to voice Vader.

The heroes of this film are great with their eclectic personalities. Felicity Jones leads the charge as Jyn Erso, a headstrong warrior raised to survive dire situations even when she has mixed feelings about her father’s loyalty to the Empire. Diego Luna is the pilot Cassian Andor who has a complete sense of loyalty to the Alliance with Alan Tudyk providing some comic relief as Andor’s robot K-2SO. Some welcome additions including Chinese actor and filmmaker Jiang Wen as mercenary Baze and action legend Donnie Yen, who with this role finally gets the Hollywood breakthrough in the role of the blind warrior Chirrut, who believes he is one with the Force. Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker make the most of their roles as Jyn’s father and mentor respectively. Riz Ahmed starts out scared as he defected but shows his mettle in the later portions.

While there isn’t much lightsaber action like the other Star Wars films, there is plenty of shootouts and hand to hand combat. Yen pulls out the stops when he starts wielding his staff and unleashing his martial arts skills, but don’t count out Jones, who in one scene unleashes a barrage of fighting skills against a trio of Stormtroopers in the Jedha scenes, even impressing Cassian. The action is truly up to par with the series even with a bit of a darker tone but is well executed.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a definitely Force-worthy spin-off to the sci-fi saga, with a wonderful and diverse cast, a great story that serves as a bridge and some great action. Definitely worth checking out!

WFG RATING: A

DVD/BLU-RAY

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)

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From the director of Precious and The Paperboy comes a powerful story about a man who served at the White House as the butler throughout the course of seven U.S. Presidents as well as the struggles he faced in his personal life, notably his eldest son.

From his days as a youth, Cecil Gaines has always learned to serve people. From his beginnings as a houseboy for an elderly white woman in the 1930’s to getting a job at a hotel in the 1950’s after he is busted for trying to loot the place, Gaines is given a chance to start his life over. He is recommended by R.D. Warner to take a position as a butler in the White House. There, he would meet his most trusted friends, Carter and James.

Throughout the course of his time at the White House, Cecil learns about and witnesses many events throughout the course of United States history. Meanwhile, his eldest son Louis, goes through a series of trials and tribulations himself, first as a Freedom Rider and then as a Black Panther. While Louis helps the Civil Rights movements, Cecil still believes in the mentality of the past, even with the changing times. However, Cecil still remains faithful to his job and eventually, while it started to take a toll on his marriage, eventually makes the bond between himself and wife Gloria much stronger.

Based on the true story of Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served over 30 years, Lee Daniels directed what can be described as a very powerful film. We learn about historical events through the eyes of the titular butler, played by Forest Whitaker. However, it is more than just learning about his side of things. We learn about his struggles with his personal life, from his addict and sometimes neglected wife Gloria, played by Oprah Winfrey; and his eldest son Louis, played by David Oyelowo.

What’s interesting is that the viewer gets to see Cecil actually converse with U.S. Presidents and when asked by them his view on certain issues, he keeps to himself. Some issues he agrees with, others not so much, but he does have a job to do and sticks with it. Meanwhile, we see Louis have firsthand experience on some of the racial tensions African-Americans faced back in the day. One can only feel sympathy for them in an incident at a Tennessee diner where they are yelled at, then beaten and have things thrown at them and humiliated. However, when Louis joins the Black Panthers, it changes the tone of the film as it goes from a racial tension to a more struggle about respecting family.

The film has a series of cameos, notably those playing U.S. Presidents. While some were casted right, such as the ever great Robin Williams as Eisenhower and Alan Rickman as Reagan, some look a bit miscast such as James Marsden as Kennedy. However, it is okay to suspend the belief here as the film takes a look from the eyes of the butler.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a very powerful and very good film due to some great performances from the core cast.  This is definitely a great look at what builds up some of the most historic events in U.S. history through the eyes of one man and that man’s personal struggles both with the job and his family.

WFG RATING: A+

The Weinstein Company presents a Windy Hill Pictures/Follow Through Productions film in association with  Salamander Pictures and Pam Williams Productions. Director: Lee Daniels. Producers: Pamela Das Williams, Laura Ziskin, Lee Daniels, Buddy Patrick, and Cassian Elwes. Writer: Danny Strong; based on an original article by Will Haygood. Cinematography: Andrew Dunn. Editing: Joe Klotz.

Cast: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Jim Gleason, Clarence Williams III, Terrance Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, David Banner, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Regdrave, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Minka Kelly, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Nelsan Ellis.

TRAILER: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

The Force continues to grow strong with the teaser trailer of the first spin-off of the Star Wars universe, Rogue One.

Set for release in December, an ensemble cast including Felicity JonesDiego LunaMads MikkelsenDonnie Yen, and Forest Whitaker will engage in action as a band of rebels join forces in an attempt to steal plans for the Death Star. Yes folks, the film is set just before Episode IV: A New HopeGodzilla‘s Gareth Edwards directed the film.

Look for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story this December from Disney and LucasFilm.