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Why Pearl Is Releasing Just 6 Months After X

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Mia Goth is returning to star in a prequel for Ti West’s horror flick X – and there is a behind-the-scenes reason Pearl is releasing so soon after it.

Pearl is the prequel to Ti West’s throwback horror flick X, and a recent announcement from A24 implies that it is meant to drop in September just six months after X was released. The raunchy sequel will follow the story of the titular Pearl, played by Mia Goth, who also plays the porn actress Maxine in X. Ti West made a deliberate choice as the director to film these movies back to back and release them close together – and one which has shocked a large portion of moviegoers.

X follows a group of young filmmakers who intend to direct an adult feature in rural Texas. They are harassed and eventually violently pursued by the elderly couple, Pearl and Howard, whose farm they are filming their pornography on. According to Ti West, Pearl is reportedly going to emulate the visuals of a 1930-1940s technicolor film and will take place in 1919. The film’s poster is reminiscent of 1970s horror features, however, and most reflective of the stark colors and vibe of posters for films like Suspiria (which Mia Goth incidentally starred in the remake of). Footage revealed at SXSW shows the return of the haunting farm from X, and Pearl is seen frolicking in the fields there before dumping a man into a lake to be eaten by alligators in the first Pearl trailer.

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The theatrical release for Ti West’s X was on March 18, 2022, and its prequel Pearl is slated for a September 16, 2022 debut. The unveiled content and story of Pearl are purposefully just as mysterious as X’s were before the Texas Chainsaw Massacre homage’s release, so much so that the existence of its prequel has been incredibly shocking and thought-provoking. The biggest mystery surrounding the upcoming film Pearl is the question of why the film is being released so soon after X and how it is possible. The answer is that director Ti West began writing the script for Pearl while X was being filmed, and because Mia Goth agreed to start shooting as soon as production for X wrapped up. It was a secret decision made by West, likely so the shock from a surprise release only six months following could serve as a major selling point for the prequel.


Ti West Secretly Shot X & Pearl Back-To-Back

Ti West had not directed a film for seven years prior to X’s release, but now he will have released two movies in the same year. Pearl is shot on the same set that X used, which would explain why the iconic farm returns in such detail here. X director Ti West has stated that he was inspired to use the set for another film because most workers were still in quarantine and had access to a safe studio, and also because A24 backed his idea, stating: “The miracle of A24 was that they thought this was actually a good idea” (via IndieWire). West went on to tell IndieWire that he also has potential plans for a third installment, which would make X and Pearl part of a gore-filled trilogy. The production of Pearl likely would never have happened had Mia Goth not been willing to jump on board to shoot both films back to back – so she must be given immense kudos in this regard.


The production of Pearl has been shrouded in secrecy, but the upcoming movie is gaining a lot of traction due to its nostalgic horror style. There has been pushback from horror moviegoers who disagree that a prequel to X revolving around the backstory of its killer should exist, though West remains dedicated to his distinct vision. Due to Ti West taking full advantage of his resources, Pearl will be released in September 2022, only six months after X was released.




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Slap or No Slap — ‘Emancipation’ Is an Oscar Contender for Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua

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Will Smith is between a Chris Rock and a hard place.

The speculation surrounding Apple Original Films’ “Emancipation” and Smith, its star and producer, has been the watercooler talk of awards season and the bane of awards prognosticators tracking their charts. Will voters embrace the epic? Can they or should they?

Following his slapping of the comedian at the 94th Oscars, Smith resigned from AMPAS and was banned from attending the ceremony or other Academy-sponsored events for 10 years. However, that doesn’t preclude the “King Richard” best actor winner from being nominated or even winning another statuette during that period. Nor should it prevent Antoine Fuqua’s film from being considered for accolades.

If you removed “the slap” from the equation, this awards season’s directing race narrative would probably have been trending toward Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”) versus Fuqua (and it still can). Indeed, this is Fuqua’s “Schindler’s List” (for which Spielberg won his first Oscar): “Emancipation’s” piercing honesty and careful craftsmanship are the crowning achievement of Fuqua’s long career, which is marked by populist favorites such as “Training Day” (2001), which won Denzel Washington his lead statuette.

Will Smith in “Emancipation”
Apple

The film tells the story of Peter (Smith), a runaway slave who sets out through the swamps of Louisiana on a grueling escape from the plantation owners who nearly killed him. Smith’s performance is not only soulful but commanding. His bearing as he traverses the rigorous terrain is reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-winning work in “The Revenant” (2015). Smith’s performance as Peter is more impressive than his Richard Williams in “King Richard” — and I thought he was fantastic in “King Richard.”

As for Smith’s chances of being nominated, the industry and cultural divide between supporters and naysayers will be far more complicated to navigate this time around. In conversations with members of the actors branch, they have expressed a range of feelings about Smith’s actions at the last ceremony, his punishment, and how he might be perceived in the eyes of industry voters.

I see an eerie parallel between the behavior of Academy voters and the quiet support of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. To be clear, I’m not comparing the two men’s actions or personal traits in the slightest, but rather the way Trump’s supporters, especially independent swing voters, weren’t particularly vocal about their intentions. Nevertheless, when it came time to put the pen to the pad and vote, they checked off his name. That could be the narrative for Smith, although if he does manage a nom, the media and public won’t have the same devastating reaction they had to Trump’s win.

Remember that the actors branch has 1,303 voting members, and a contender needs 217 votes to be nominated. There will undoubtedly be detractors of Smith, which is why I suspect that even if he were to beat the odds and land in the top five of lead actor when the nearly 10,000-strong Academy membership votes, his chances of winning may be slim to none. However, as one member shares with Variety: “Mel Gibson keeps coming back, and we know where he stands on people of color and Jews. Will got his beating. Everybody took swings at him in the media. I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it. But now, we can move on. If he’s good, then he’s good.”

Apple

Smith’s prospects aside, will voters embrace “Emancipation’s” other accomplishments?

Typically, films tackling slavery face an uphill battle with voters who can’t stomach the grotesque depictions of inhumane treatment and the challenging subject matter. However, there might be a morbid curiosity to see “Emancipation,” if only to watch what Smith brings to the role.

As the villainous Fassel, who relentlessly chases Peter, Ben Foster may portray an abhorrent person who is an amalgamation of slave catchers throughout history. Still, the layer of fear he weaves into the character is an awards-caliber performance that calls to mind Oscar-nominated supporting turns such as Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave” and Ralph Fiennes in “Schindler’s List.”

Demonstrating how to make the most of limited screen time, Charmaine Bingwa is unflinching as the film’s emotional pillar, Dodienne, Peter’s wife and mother to his children, to whom he’s desperately trying to return. There are elements that feel similar to Jessica Chastain’s work in Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011), which isn’t overtly “loud” but still incredibly moving. In a wide-open supporting actress race, I hope the Academy won’t overlook such a breakout talent because of misgivings about the film’s star and producer.

The artisan team Fuqua assembled is full of some of cinema’s most gifted and respected. Notable among them is three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson (“JFK,” “The Aviator” and “Hugo”), who very well might have delivered his magnum opus with his framework blends of sepia tones and black-and-white imagery, particularly impressive considering the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida during production — no easy feat even for such a master.

If “Emancipation” is recognized for best picture, the Academy could face a complex public-relations dilemma. Smith is a credited producer and would be among the film nominees, along with Todd Black, Joey McFarland and Jon Mone. To have such an essential movie be nominated and the only Black producer (and possibly only Black actor) not be permitted to attend the ceremony will not sit well in the public square. That’s not to say the Academy should rescind its ban. Still, given the optics of Smith becoming the most nominated Black producer in history (he would tie with Jordan Peele at two each), the organization will have to rehash its verdict on Smith’s past actions and continue to highlight its diversity wins over the past few years. Or, it can pray to the Oscar gods that Smith doesn’t get nominated.

To see the current rankings for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub. The first set of SAG Awards predictions for film has also been revealed.

BEST PICTURE | DIRECTOR | ACTOR | ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE | PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING | SOUND | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | INTERNATIONAL FEATURE 



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Darby & The Dead Review: Downs & Cravalho Carry Tepid But Entertaining Dramedy

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An outcast girl, Darby Harper (Riele Downs) can commune with ghosts after a freak accident as a child. Due to her severe lack of socializing with the living, she retreats from the high school social scene. Enter Capri (Moana’s Auli’i Cravalho), the popular girl who was formally Darby’s best friend and now the queen bee cheerleader. At the cusp of turning 17, the self-centered cheerleader suffers an accident that actually kills her. Now, Capri has to handle her unfinished business before moving on to heaven, and who so happens to be the nearest medium to help her do so? Darby, the teenage ghost whisperer. To help the cheerleader pass on, the outcast must become popular and host the epic Sweet 17 party Capri has been planning for months. A deal is struck between the two, but the cost will be much less trivial than a party.

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If one thinks the summary for Darby and the Dead sounds awfully familiar, that’s because it most certainly is. Darby and the Dead may have different plot beats, but it fits neatly into the living-ghost-bond-over-death dramedy of recent years, most notably the Lana Condor-led Netflix series Boo, Bitch and the Victoria Justice-led Netflix film Afterlife of the Party. Or, if one is of a particular generation, they may recall the 2011 ABC Family (now Freeform) movie Teen Spirit, where a teen cheerleader is tasked with making the unpopular girl prom queen to pass on to heaven. Needless to say, this concept is not new, but what Darby and the Dead illuminates is how easy it is to fall into clichéd traps despite being a charming little romp.

Auli’i Cravalho and Riele Downs in Darby and the Dead

Within the opening segment, it is obvious how Darby and the Dead’s story will go beat for beat. However, Riele Downs is a magnetic lead, and Auli’i Cravalho is just as dynamic. The two have incredible chemistry and make the best of a tepid rehash of familiar tropes and story arcs. There is a desire to see the two actresses play around with wittier dialogue, but beggars can’t be choosers. Becca Greene’s script (from a story by Wenonah Wilms) is not without charm, but the conventions that suppress this fun premise are hard to overlook.

Again, Downs and Cravalho rise above it all and are consistently engaging. Tony Danza and Wayne Knight are fun surprises, with Danza being effortlessly endearing. That man has perfected the art of charm! Nicole Maines, who previously starred as Dreamer in The CW’s Supergirl, is… present, but heavily underutilized; Suffice it to say Maines could have been given more to do. Chosen Jacobs is also underused, but he has the benefit of playing the romantic lead with decent development. His chemistry with Downs is palpable, so his limited screen time is hardly a problem.

darby and the dead Chosen Jacobs Riele Downs
Chosen Jacobs and Riele Downs in Darby and the Dead

With its endlessly predictable nature, Darby and the Dead has the potential to be welcomed and embraced by fans of teen comedies. Silas Howard’s directing is not as flashy as it could be, but good enough for a basic teen dramedy. There is room for innovation and creativity with how the premise if showcased, but luckily there is enough flare, most notably in the production and costume design, to keep viewers engaged. But like so many projects that coming to streaming under the Disney banner, this perfectly fine movie will be buried on Hulu with little fanfare upon its arrival. The flick from 20th Century Studios is also poorly timed, as this is very much a Halloween-type release that is being released during the first week of December. So much of the success of a film relies on factors outside the actual story; a well-polished release strategy can make the mediocre more than it actually is.

What makes Darby and the Dead even more unfortunate is the fact that it is actually entertaining. It can easily capture audiences’ attention if it had a fraction of what it needs in the promotion arena. An abrupt release on Hulu is way less than it deserves. Darby and the Dead is far from a dud. Sure, it could be witter, funnier, darker, and a tad more innovative, but the film is solid overall. Instead of going the route of making an original story, the filmmaking team might have been better off adapting Meg Cabot’s underrated YA series The Mediator. However, with a stellar leading pair who make the most of the screenplay, Darby and the Dead has enough to keep audiences moved and laughing on occasion, though it is unclear whether it can bring viewers back for a rewatch. The only certainty is that Downs and Cravalho are great together and should have the privilege of leading more projects.

Darby and the Dead begins streaming on Hulu Friday, December 2. It is 100 minutes long and rated PG-13 for strong language, suggestive material and some teen partying.

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Amanda Seyfried Reunites With Lindsay Lohan and Asks: ‘Mean Girls 2‘ Is ’Never Going to Happen, Is It?’

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Amanda Seyfried has a question for Lindsay Lohan: Will “Mean Girls 2” ever happen? The two “Mean Girls” stars recently reunited for Interview Magazine, where Emmy winner Seyfried got to ask Lohan some questions as part of the latter’s press tour for her Netflix movie “Falling for Christmas.” It’s been 18 years since “Mean Girls” made its debut, and both actors are eager to return to the world of fetch and plastics.

“I would kill just to do one week, all of us playing our own roles on ‘Mean Girls’ on Broadway,” Seyfried said.

Lohan said “that would be really fun,” to which Seyfried asked: “Because a ‘Mean Girls 2’ is never going to happen, is it?

“I don’t know,” Lohan responded. “I heard something about it being a movie musical and I was like, ‘Oh no.’ We can’t do that. It has to be the same tone…Anyway, Tina [Fey] is busy. She’ll get around to it. Listen, we’re all part of each other’s worlds whether we like it or not, and it is really nice to be in contact as adults…everyone’s still the same. It’s fun to have certain memories that we can’t share with anyone else.

Fey, screenwriter of the original “Mean Girls” movie, adapted the film into a Broadway musical, which opened in April 2018 and earned 10 Tony nominations. As Variety reported last year, Fey is planning a film adaption of the Broadway musical. Arturo Perez Jr. and Samantha Jayne have been tapped to direct the project for Paramount. The original “Mean Girls” cast is not involved in the musical, but that’s not to say they don’t want to come back for a traditional film sequel to the 2004 classic.

“Oh, absolutely! I think it would be so much fun to see where these women are now,” co-star Lacy Chabert said on “The Tonight Show” earlier this month when asked about a “Mean Girls” sequel. “And if their kids are the new mean girls? I would love to know what they’re doing. Let’s do it!”

Seyfried told Lohan that her appreciation for “Mean Girls” has grown over time, adding, “Ten years ago I used to be like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I was Karen in “Mean Girls,” for fuck’s sake.’ Now I’m like, ‘I was Karen in “Mean Girls” and I’m very proud of it!’ You had a lot to do with where it went and what it was. I don’t know if you know that. I’m sure you felt the pressure but it didn’t seem like you did. You were working really young, and you were really good, but you were still a kid.”

Read Seyfried and Lohan’s full conversation on Interview Magazine’s website. Lohan’s “Falling for Christmas” is now streaming on Netflix.



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