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Holiday movie preview: Oklahoma-shot ‘August: Osage County’ among most anticipated films of season

by Brandy McDonnell Modified: November 29, 2013 at 8:10 am •  Published: November 29, 2013
"August: Osage County"
"August: Osage County"

A version of this story, written by Matt Price, George Lang and yours truly, appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.

Holiday movie preview
Oklahoma-shot ‘August: Osage County’ among most anticipated films of season

This year, a film that was shot in Oklahoma and written by a Tulsa-born playwright is one of the most hotly anticipated movies of the holiday season.

“August: Osage County,” written for the screen by Tracy Letts and based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis and Abigail Breslin as a Pawhuska-area family tearing itself apart in the wake of its patriarch’s death.

Director John Wells (“E.R.,” “The West Wing,” “The Company Men”) shot the film in late 2012 in the Bartlesville and Pawhuska areas using Oklahoma crew members. Wells said he and his cast enjoyed an uncommonly positive filmmaking experience working in northeastern Oklahoma.

“We are a bit of a traveling circus,” Wells said over coffee at Flint restaurant in the Colcord Hotel, one day after a tandem screening in early November at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and Tulsa’s Circle Cinema. “So you have to be conscious of the fact that you’re intruding upon people’s lives. They’ll initially be excited and interested by the idea that there’s a film shooting, but that wears off pretty quick when you’ve got your driveway jammed up with a big truck.

“So you want to be a good neighbor,” he said. “You want to come in and show consideration for everyone around you and not just act as if you’re a big, important Hollywood production.”

The four-month pre-production period, during which Wells and his team scouted locations and prepared the actors for playing Oklahoma characters, helped cement the relationship with local residents.

“There’s a certain way that you act towards people,” said Wells, who grew up in Colorado. “And we tried to bring that to the whole production, to everything we were doing.”

“August: Osage County” opens on Dec. 25, and is just one of many films competing for attention in the final weeks of 2013. Here is a full list of those movies, and as always, local release dates are subject to change.


Opened Wednesday

Adapted from Langston Hughes’ play by writer-director Kasi Lemmons (“Talk to Me,” “Eve’s Bayou”) “Black Nativity” builds a story about a teenager from Baltimore (Jacob Latimore) reuniting with his estranged grandparents (Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker) in Harlem. Jennifer Hudson, Tyrese Gibson, Mary J. Blige and Vondie Curtis Hall co-star.

Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan play Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr in “Kill Your Darlings,” which looks at the early days of the Beat movement in New York City. Elizabeth Olsen, Michael C. Hall of “Dexter” and Jack Huston of “Boardwalk Empire” also star.

Park Chan-wook’s masterful 2003 thriller “Oldboy” enjoys a massive cult following, so its followers will be curious about Spike Lee’s remake, starring Josh Brolin as an advertising executive who is kidnapped and imprisoned for two decades, then seeks vengeance against his captors. Elizabeth Olsen and Sharlto Copley also appear.

Disney’s non-Pixar computer-animated film “Frozen” offers a rich musical take on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” with voice work from Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell and Josh Gad.

Another adaptation, “The Book Thief,” comes from “Downtown Abbey” director Brian Percival and tells the story of a young orphan who is taken in by foster parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) and helps shelter a young Jewish refugee during World War II. The drama is based on the novel by Markus Zusak.

Sylvester Stallone wrote and produced “Homefront,” in which a DEA agent (Jason Statham) must protect his family from a meth kingpin (James Franco).

Based on a true story about an Irish woman who, as a teenager, was forced by Catholic clergy to give up her infant son for adoption, “Philomena” tracks the efforts of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) to track down the son with help from journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan). The film is directed by Stephen Frears and co-produced by Coogan.


James Cromwell stars as a devoted husband who refuses to let bureaucratic red tape keep him from building a suitable final home for his ailing wife Irene (Geneviטve Bujold) in the fact-based film “Still Mine,” playing Friday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.


The documentary “Inequality for All” follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he tries to raise awareness about the country’s widening economic gap. It screens Thursday through Dec. 8 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

"Out of the Furnace"
"Out of the Furnace"

Dec. 6

“Crazy Heart” director Scott Cooper returns with “Out of the Furnace,” a drama about two brothers (Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) drawn into crime in the economically devastated Rust Belt. Woody Harrelson and Zoe Saldana co-star.

A documentary about the Mexican norteno bands that create narcocorridos, songs that glorify drug cartels and kingpins, “Narco Cultura” explores the musicians who get drawn into making these aggrandizing ballads about violence and blood-stained money.

Alex Gibney, the documentary filmmaker behind “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” helms “The Armstrong Lie,” an in-depth look at cyclist Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace.

The documentary “Blackfish” dives into the captivity of the killer whale Tilikum, who has been involved in the deaths of three people. The Sundance Film Festival favorite is playing Dec. 6-7 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Dec. 12

Starring legendary American graffiti artist, poet and musician Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), the 1981 film “Downtown 81” is both a post-modernist fairy tale and a vivid depiction of the downtown New York art and music scene in the early 1980s. It is playing Dec. 12 and 15 at the OKC Museum of Art.

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"

Dec. 13

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his journey with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and 13 dwarves to reclaim the lost dwarf kingdom in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, the second segment of the trilogy will see the group face a swarm of giant spiders as well as the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) of the title.

“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas” puts the smack-talking grandmother in the middle of a country Christmas in which secrets will be revealed and many horrified gasps will ensue. The cast includes Tika Sumpter, Kathy Najimy, Alicia Witt and former “Facts of Life” star Lisa Whelchel.

The new documentary “Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer” centers on the Brooklyn native who documented New York urban street culture for decades before he was discovered internationally through the 2005 publication of his book “Back in the Days.” It is screening Dec. 13-14 at the OKC Museum of Art.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the 1983 movie “Wild Style” follows the exploits of maverick tagger Zoro (real-life graffiti artist Lee Quinones), whose work attracts the attention of an East Village art fancier (Patti Astor) who commissions him to paint the stage for a giant rapper’s convention. It is showing Dec. 13-14 at the OKC Museum of Art.

"American Hustle"
"American Hustle"

Dec. 18

Director David O. Russell puts together the main cast from his last two films, “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” for “American Hustle,” a gritty portrait of the FBI’s “ABSCAM” investigations that took down multiple corrupt politicians in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The cast is led by Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams, with Louis C.K. and Robert De Niro co-starring.

At long last, Ron Burgundy returns in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” as the San Diego news team (Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate and David Koechner) falls on hard times before being recruited for a new 24-hour news channel in the 1980s. The huge supporting cast includes Harrison Ford, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Wiig and Oklahoma City’s James Marsden, with cameos by Nicole Kidman, Liam Neeson, Tina Fey, Kanye West and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Dec. 19

The rock doc “Muscle Shoals” celebrates the legacy of Rick Hall, the founder of Alabama’s FAME Studios and the signature “Muscle Shoals sound.” The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is playing the documentary Dec. 19-22.

"Saving Mr. Banks"
"Saving Mr. Banks"

Dec. 20

Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers in the fact-based drama “Saving Mr. Banks.” The film follows how Disney acquired the rights to make the classic film, based on Travers’ novel.

New dinosaur models provide an immersive 3-D experience in the prehistoric adventure “Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie.” The film is named after the 1999 documentary series but will feature actors voicing the animated dinosaurs in live-action settings.

An elderly drunk (Bruce Dern) travels with his concerned son (Will Forte) from Montana to “Nebraska” to claim a lottery prize in this comedic drama from director Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”).

Writer-director Randy Moore filmed “Escape From Tomorrow,” his chilling black-and-white psychological horror story about an unemployed father whose sanity begins to unravel while on a theme park vacation, without permission on location at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. It will show Dec. 20-21 at the OKC Museum of Art.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, from Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, from Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures.

Dec. 25

Tulsa-born playwright Tracy Letts wrote the movie adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama
“August: Osage County,” and John Wells (TV’s “E.R.” and “The West Wing,” “The Company Men”) lensed the film in late 2012 in the Bartlesville and Pawhuska areas using Oklahoma crew members. Stars Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, Margo Martindale and Abigail Breslin already have earned robust praise for their work playing the dysfunctional Weston clan, whose members are summoned back to their old Oklahoma home during a time of crisis.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Martin Scorsese’s film about the rise and fall of a Wall Street trader. The film is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort.

Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone again put on their gloves for “Grudge Match,” about a pair of aging boxing rivals who are coaxed out of retirement for one last big matchup, three decades after their last bout.

Director Jon M. Chu believes there’s more to Justin Bieber than the hits and headlines, so he’s following his 2011 music documentary “Never Say Never” with “Justin Bieber’s Believe,” featuring new interviews with, concert footage of and backstage access to the 19-year-old pop superstar.

Ben Stiller directs and plays the starring role in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” James Thurber’s classic tale of a daydreamer who escapes his workaday life in favor of far-flung fantasies. Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine and Sean Penn co-star.

Based on a true story, “47 Ronin” features 47 leaderless samurai aiming to restore their honor in 18th century Japan. Keanu Reeves stars.

Idris Elba (“Prometheus”) portrays Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris (“Skyfall”) plays his wife Winnie in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” based on the South African president’s autobiography of the same name.”

Jan. 3

Christopher Landon (son of Michael) writes and directs “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” a spinoff of the hit found-footage horror franchise.

After charming and seducing his way through Rome’s lavish nightlife for decades, a journalist/novelist (Toni Servillo) takes stock of his life after his 65th birthday coincides with a shock from his past in “The Great Beauty.” Italy’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 86th Academy Awards, it screens Jan. 3-5 at the OKC Museum of Art.

"Hercules: The Legend Begins"
"Hercules: The Legend Begins"

Jan. 10

Set in near-future Los Angeles, “Her” stars Joaquin Phoenix as a heartbroken writer who falls in love with his specially tailored advanced operating system (voice of Scarlett Johansson). Rooney Mara and Amy Adams co-star in the romantic drama/comedy from Spike Jonze (“Adaptation”).

“Hercules: The Legend Begins” is a retelling of the mythic Hercules tale directed by Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2”).

Mark Wahlberg stars as Marcus Luttrell in this film based on the first-person memoir “Lone Survivor.” This Peter Berg-directed motion picture follows four Navy SEALs who are ambushed in Afghanistan while on the trail of an Al Qaida operative. Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster portray the other SEALs.

Also for December/January

These films also are planned for December or January openings, but Oklahoma City release dates have not yet been set:

The Coen Brothers reunite with esteemed music producer T Bone Burnett (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the winding tale of a talented young singer-songwriter (Oscar Isaac) struggling to make his way in the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961. Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund and F. Murray Abraham co-star in the musical drama.

An isolated single mother (Kate Winslet) and her teenage son (Gattlin Griffith) help out a stranger in need (Josh Brolin) only to learn he is an escaped convict in “Labor Day,” a crime drama adapted by writer-director Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”) from the Joyce Maynard novel. The first trailer features the haunting song “Take Us Alive” by Stillwater orchestral-pop outfit Other Lives.


by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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