NEWS


EXCLUSIVE: Robert De Niro, Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker and John Malkovich are set to star in Wash Me in the River, a drama that will mark the second directorial outing of Randall Emmett. Emmett, who just restarted production on Midnight in the Switchgrass after halting five days in because of the pandemic last March, has a week left to go. He will begin production on Wash Me in the River November 9 in Georgia and Puerto Rico.

The Wash Me in the River package becomes a hot title in the Toronto Film Festival marketplace. An action-thriller in the vein of No Country for Old Men, the Adam Taylor Barker script focuses on a recovering opioid addict who seeks revenge on the dealers responsible for selling the drugs that resulted  in his fiance’s death. Two cops are hot on his trail.

Music sensation Quavo from Migos is in discussions to join the cast as Coyote with additional casting is underway.

Emmett/Furla’s Emmett, George Furla, and Tim Sullivan will produce. Alex Eckert, Nicholas D’Angelo, and Lydia Hull are the executive producers. Highland Film Group handles international sales and CAA Media Financing is handling domestic.

On landing De Niro, Emmett said, “I couldn’t be more excited to work with Bob again after many collaborations, including The Irishman as a producer. I’m so grateful that he is supporting me as a filmmaker now. Colson was always my first choice to play the lead in the movie and John has been an icon of mine since childhood. Having them both attached with Bob is a dream come true.”

De Niro is repped by CAA, Baker is repped by Paradigm and Ashleigh Veverka, and Malkovich is repped by WME.

Along with completing Midnight in the Switchgrass, Emmett/Furla recently released the Bruce Willis-starrer Hard Kill through Vertical Entertainment. Hair of the Dog starring Gerard Butler is currently in pre-production to shoot at the end of the year.

By Mike Fleming Jr, Deadline

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“The Tiger Rising,” which is repped by Highland Film Group and based on Kate DiCamillo’s New York Times bestselling children’s book, centers on 10-year-old Rob (Christian Convery), who has just lost his mother, and who’s prone to allowing his imagination run wild. One fateful day, he encounters a Bengal tiger being held captive by Beauchamp (Dennis Quaid), a nefarious motel owner. With the help of an enigmatic maid (Queen Latifah) and a new schoolmate (Madalen Mills), Rob decides what to do about his potentially dangerous discovery. Latifah, who executive produced the film, which was directed by former visual effects supervisor Ray Giarratana, spoke with Variety about the project.

What attracted you to “The Tiger Rising”?

I love the relatability of telling a story that expresses how different people deal with grief. And I particularly enjoy seeing that through the lens of children because of their active imagination. Children are very in touch with their emotions and because of that tend to be very honest.

How important is it to have a family-skewing title available for people to see? 

I make sure that at least one film in the pipeline gives to god, or gives to a completely positive aspect, because people need to see films that they can connect to and that will give them a feeling of positivity. The world is tough sometimes, and people need to feel hope, and making films like “The Tiger Rising” give that to people. Everyone has feelings, everyone goes through ups and downs, and I think we could give people a little space to just feel, and not be so judgmental; not be so unempathetic, but to really be considerate. Consider others as you would yourself.

Stories that focus on the imagination of a child are extremely important — how did this one stand out? 

Coming to work every day with Madalen and Christian was pure joy, and it’s so much fun working with children because they’re not jaded by life or cynical. They see things that adults have allowed to fade in their eyes, so kids make things fresh all over again, and they just have such a great energy. The coolest thing about the imagination of a child is how they deal with their emotions, because they’re so close to them. But they don’t have the maturity to deal with certain situations, so their imagination is a way to escape.

What else is coming up?

Next on the horizon is “Hustle,” with Adam Sandler, where I’m playing his wife, which will be a blast. I’m hosting the American Lung Assn. telethon, and we’re going to try and raise a lot of money for people who can use the help. Then we jump into playing Robyn McCall in the “Equalizer” series on CBS — it’s time to deliver some justice, Latifah style! Also, I’ll be voting in the next election – voting locally and nationally. VOTING, VOTING, VOTING! I’ve already completed my census, so now I just have to vote and I’m very excited about that.

By Nick Clement, Variety

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EXCLUSIVE: Highland Film Group is launching The Avenue Entertainment, a new U.S. theatrical distribution arm with industry veteran JJ Caruth as President of Domestic Marketing & Distribution. The Avenue will handle theatrical distribution of six to eight titles per year and has signed an agreement with Paramount Home Entertainment to handle Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, and Digital distribution.

In her new role, Caruth will oversee the overall acquisitions, marketing and distribution strategy for The Avenue. This role links content from filmmakers to distribution throughout the product lifecycle to maximize the commercial success of each release. Highland Film Sales will provide financial support for films with global appeal.

“I am thrilled to be joining The Avenue at a time of great change, evolution and exciting opportunity in our industry,” said Caruth. “Arianne [Fraser] and Delphine [Perrier] have impeccable relationships with filmmakers which creates the perfect springboard for this new distribution venture.”

“For 10 years, Highland Film Group has gained a strong reputation as an independent worldwide sales, production, and film financing company,” said Highland Film Group CEO Arianne Fraser. “Our passion and commitment for this industry are key in guiding our strategic efforts to make Highland Film Group a global entertainment group providing services at every stage of the content’s life cycle. This is the perfect moment for the group to expand its horizons into US distribution. We are thrilled to take this next step in the company’s growth.”

Highland Film Group COO Perrier added, “We are beyond excited to have JJ Caruth join our team at the helm of The Avenue. Her impressive career and deep insider knowledge of US distribution and the industry at large is invaluable to see The Avenue thrive during these evolving times. Our collaboration with market leader Paramount Home Entertainment is also key to the success of our new division and we look forward to working with the amazing team at the studio. Our expansion into domestic distribution has been a key goal for us to take the company to the next level. After all the hard work, this is a great day.”

Films released under The Avenue label will be a combination of selected film titles from Highland Film Group as well as third party acquisitions while funding for distribution banner will be provided by Cygnus Film Group, LLC which has entered into a financing agreement with R.U. Robot Ltd, managed by Petr Jákl and Martin J. Barab.

The first feature film be released under The Avenue will be the sci-fi action movie Jiu Jitsu starring Nicolas Cage and Frank Grillo which is slated for a November 20 release. Jiu Jitsu is directed by Dimitri Logothetis, who co-wrote the script with Jim McGrath, his writing partner on Kickboxer: Retaliation.

The film is a LBE Jiu Jitsu AVC production and is produced by Logothetis, Martin J. Barab and Chris Economides. Fraser, Perrier and Gary Wood serve as Executive Producers and Highland Film Group handles worldwide rights for the film.

Caruth has over 15 years of distribution and marketing experience in the entertainment industry. She has previously worked at MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, and The Walt Disney Studios. Most recently, Caruth was Vice President of Content Strategy and Marketing at Universal Pictures Content Group, responsible for a slate of indie films including Loving Pablo, The Public, An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, and Piercing. Prior to Universal Pictures Content Group, Caruth was the Head of Marketing and Distribution at Focus World, a division of Focus Features and NBC Universal.

By Dino_Ray Ramos, Deadline

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EXCLUSIVE: Saban Films has acquired North American rights to Ambush, the Vietnam War action thriller toplined by Aaron Echkart. Cody ChristianDermot Mulroney and Jason Genao have also joined the cast of the pic, which is co-written and to be directed by Mark Earl Burman (Dog Eat Dog). Principal photography is now set to begin in the fall in Colombia amid compliance with COVID-19 health guidelines.

Highland Film Group negotiated the sale and is handling worldwide rights at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival. Saban’s release plan is in the works.

The pic, which Burman co-wrote with Michael McClung, is based on a true story and follows a group of elite commandos, led by Captain Drummond (Eckhart), tasked with collecting classified information that can change the fate of the war. On the edge of the jungle, the team is attacked by an overwhelming invisible force of the enemy army and must follow it into the complex labyrinth of Cu Chi tunnels, with the enemy and traps at every turn.

The film from Dark Mark Productions is produced by Mark Burman. David Unger of Artist International Group, Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier of Highland Film Group, Scott Powell, Randy Burman, Wayne Willbur, Harsimranjit “Harry” Ahluwalia and Anthony Standberry are executive producers.

“I am so excited to start production on such a stellar story with such a top-notch cast and crew on Ambush and working alongside my friends at Highland Film Group and Saban Films,” Mark Burman said.

Saban Films’ Jonathan Saba and Bill Bromiley negotiated the North American rights deal with Highland Film Group’s Fraser on behalf of the filmmakers.

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Directed by: Daniel Roby (A Breath Away)

Starring: Josh Hartnett (Halloween H20, The Faculty), Antoine Olivier Pilon (Avant qu’on explose), Jim Gaffigan (Away We Go), Stephen McHattie (Come To Daddy) and a small but impressive performance by Cory Lipman that reminded me of Michael Pitt in Funny Games.

The idea of based on a true story ‘Most Wanted’ (Not a remake of the 1997 Keenen Ivory Wayans, Jon Voight film in case you were wondering) is that Victor Malarek (Hartnett) is a veracious reporter who finds out that a young heroin junkie (Antoine Pilon) has been used by the Government to gain credit for a huge drug bust and left for dead in a Thai prison.

What the film does so well is paint a humanistic portrait of both of these men to the point where an seemingly standard story of government fuck ups becomes a tense, kick ass crime film that far exceeded any expectations I could have ever possibly had.

Comb every inch of ‘Most Wanted’ with a fine toothed comb and you won’t come up with a hint this wasn’t a fully backed and budgeted wide release studio film. Had a name like David Fincher or Ben Affleck (Because of the Argo similarities) been in the credits as director this would have been a top tier touted film. Dare I say awards chatter worthy. I haven’t been this surprised by an on the whim watch since ‘The Life of David Gale’ left me shell shocked back in 2003.

From Jim Gaffigan believably playing a bipolar heroin smoking tough guy (think Ray Winstone in The Departed only a bit more wily) to Josh Hartnett’s fiery (kind of kick ass) and unmovable performance, ‘Most Wanted’ might be the surprise film of the year.

Just to keep up with expectations; This is a political thriller with crime genre leanings but we’re not talking ‘Goodfellas’ here. That being said, the noticeably sharp editing, cinematography, score, performances and direction keep the fuse burning until the powder keg explodes. Especially when things could have gone cliche quickly, with the tropes that go along with a reporter on the verge of truth being threatened and an innocent man trapped in an off shores prison. Director Daniel Roby, however is able to provide a Michael Mann like seriousness to his scenes and authentically walks the line between sensationalism and believability. It’s a hell of an easy film to not question but rather fall into as a viewer.

It’s hard for a movie to surprise me these days and while the events that take place in ‘Most Wanted’ aren’t themselves jaw dropping, it’s the top level execution of the story that is. Make sure you keep an eye out for director Daniel Roby.

By Mike Holtz, WWAM Media

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