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'Before I Fall' explores Groundhog Day themes, for teens

"Before I Fall" begins by telling the audience that you're watching the last day of its heroine's life. Yes, 17-year-old Samantha (Zoey Deutch) is about to die. You don't know when, or where, or how it'll happen, but after it does, she wakes up again in her bed, sweaty and disoriented, to find that she has to live that same day over again. And again. And again.

It's no wonder that the film, which debuts Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival in advance of its March 3 theatrical release, is being described as a teenage "Groundhog Day." Director Ry Russo-Young's film, adapted from Lauren Oliver's novel of the same name, is more thriller than existential comedy, but the big themes remain similar. How could they not? Both explore the nature of how we use our time on earth.

"The recurring day construct was really rich and fertile, both emotionally and psychologically and actually philosophically as well," said Russo-Young. "Sam's journey was one I could really use to ask those deeper questions about what it is to be human and how we live our lives. I thought that was really intense and that we should all be asking ourselves those questions no matter what age we are."

In "Before I Fall," Sam is a popular member of a group of beautiful but vicious girls (including Halston Sage, Medalion Rahimi and Cynthy Wu) who mercilessly taunt their frizzy-haired peer, talk endlessly about their own status in the school (as reflected by how many roses they get on "Cupid Day"), and selfie and party and tease as though this moment will never end. In other words, there's a lot of room for growth.

"It reminded me of my own experiences being a teenage girl and my peer relationships — the authenticity of those girl friendships and the intensity of them. Love one day and hate the next," Russo-Young said.

She was excited, too, to be directing a teenage girl movie as a woman, noting how many of the classic teen pics about girls have been directed by men, including "Pretty in Pink" and all the John Hughes fare, "Mean Girls" and "Easy A." Her own personal experiences, and that of the author and the screenwriter and the cast helped add an authenticity to this story of female friendships and life because they've all "lived it in some shape or form."

Open Road Films acquired the distribution rights to the film shortly after they finished the movie, making it one of the rare Sundance features that audiences will definitely be able to see. In the case of "Before I Fall," it's coming up quickly too. Russo-Young says Open Road plans to release it on over 2,000 screens on March 3.

"I hope it finds its audience," she said. "It's the kind of movie I wish had been around when I was a young woman. It's the kind of movie I wanted to see."


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Thelma Schoonmaker on sculpting 'Silence' and editing Powell

Thelma Schoonmaker would still be working on Martin Scorsese's "Silence" if she could.

The legendary editor is sitting in the Midtown Manhattan office where she cut Scorsese's latest, his deeply felt spiritual epic about Jesuit priests in feudal Japan. Schoonmaker sits in between her monitors and those for Scorsese, added about a year ago so he could sit even closer to Schoonmaker while they worked. It makes for a jumble of screens, especially when the one devoted to Turner Classic movies is factored in. "This used to be quite a beautiful room," Schoonmaker says with only mild regret.

The struggle to form and shape "Silence" is still fresh for the 77-year-old three-time Oscar winner, probably the most famous editor in film. (On Jan. 27, the American Cinema Editors will present her with a lifetime achievement honor.) Questions still linger over the thousands of decisions that led to the final cut, one — like most — reluctantly relinquished rather than absolutely completed.

"It's hard to let go of it," says Schoonmaker, whose gentle demeanor tends to mask the passion within. "It's always hard to let go."

"Silence," which opened nationwide Jan. 13, is her 20the Scorsese feature as editor. Since 1980's "Raging Bull," they've been inseparable: one of cinema's great duos. They first met as film students at New York University. Schoonmaker recut Scorsese's 1967's "Who's That Knocking at My Door," though a 12-year gap followed before Schoonmaker managed to get into the editors union. Scorsese taught the initially untrained Schoonmaker before they became mutual collaborators.

"He'd had some experiences where the editor did not want the director in the editing room. And he's a great editor, Marty. It's his favorite part of filmmaking. So that was very hard," says Schoonmaker. "I think he sensed with me that we could collaborate and it wouldn't be an ego fight all the time."

They've had their disagreements, notably including different takes of the final shot of "Raging Bull" in which Robert De Niro's Jake LaMotta looks into the mirror. But, she says, "It's always about what's best for the film."

"If we disagree, we screen it two different ways and ask friends what they think," says Schoonmaker. "It's hard to describe. You'd have to be here for three months with us. It'd be very boring because we make a thousand decisions a day and then go back the next day and change them. It's a very mysterious craft, editing."

Schoonmaker speaks of editing like sculpture: countless massages that subtly shape a film and its actors' performances. Often it means cutting your favorite scene. "The struggle to do right by the film," she calls it.

"Silence" had its fair share of challenges. It's based on Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel, which is largely told through letters, so Scorsese and co-screenwriter Jay Cocks had to invent most of the film's dialogue. Schoonmaker and Scorsese quickly decided to strike most of the original voiceover. "The images were so powerful that we could strip away a lot of it," she says.

"It's a very different film from anything I've ever worked on because it's so meditative. So we had to find the right pace without being boring," Schoonmaker says. "And to give the film the right shape and the right build toward the end was quite a challenge. Normally what we like to do is ramp up toward the end, whereas this was sort of the reverse."

Most naturally link Schoonmaker with Scorsese, but her life has been spliced between two filmmakers. Schoonmaker was married to the British director Michael Powell for six years before Powell's death in 1990 at 84.

They were first introduced through Scorsese, a passionate admirer of Powell's films with Emeric Pressburger ("The Red Shoes," ''Black Narcissus" among them). At the time, Powell's standing had badly dwindled following his controversial, now classic "Peeping Tom." Scorsese helped resuscitate his reputation. Powell, Schoonmaker says, gave them the ending to "After Hours" and encouraged Scorsese to give his once-languishing "Goodfellas" one more try.

"To have lived with one and worked for so long with another — two geniuses, so similar in so many ways but so different," says Schoonmaker. "Without knowing it, Michael taught Marty how to be a filmmaker and then Marty repaid that great gift by bringing him back to the world, which was a beautiful thing to watch. I can't tell you what it was like to watch the two of them together."

Her devotion to Powell remains. When Schoonmaker isn't at work on a Scorsese film, she's plumbing Powell's archives and helping restore his films, the latest of which was "The Tales of Hoffman." She hopes to soon tackle the extraordinary "I Know Where I'm Going!" Schoonmaker previously edited his two-volume memoir and is currently making her way through his journals.

She edits Powell and then she edits Scorsese, who's due to start "The Irishman" in June. It's a comfort, she says, to always have another Scorsese film on tap, unlike most who worked on "Silence."

"When they leave, they go into Marty withdrawal and I have to sort of help them through it like a shrink," she says, laughing. "I'm lucky. I know I always have another one coming."


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A year later, Sundance grapples with 'Birth of a Nation'

What started as a Sundance celebration turned into a cautionary tale.

No one foresaw the ultimate collapse of Nate Parker's "Birth of a Nation" after its stellar reception at the Sundance Film Festival last year, when perfect timing, immense hype and a vigorous bidding war resulted in a record-setting $17.5 million sale. One year later, as Sundance begins again, "Birth of a Nation" isn't exactly top of mind for many — at this point a distant story as its would-be awards run suddenly dried up. But it remains a blemish that could affect how much distributors are willing to spend on a single film.

All agree that the rise and fall of "Birth of a Nation" had such a unique set of circumstances that it would be unimaginable that any film could ever recreate its path. One insider called it an "exception with a caveat."

"It was a film that was received with a once-in-every-10 years kind of reception," recalls Tatiana Siegel, a senior film writer for The Hollywood Reporter. "There was a standing ovation before and after the film."

The enthusiasm, abetted by the fact that it debuted right as Hollywood was grappling with a second year of "OscarsSoWhite," and the ambitious money-spending from new distributors like Amazon and Netflix helped bump the sale price up to a Sundance high of $17.5 million. A very confident Fox Searchlight intended to run an awards campaign for their new film.

But that fall, the focus shifted away from the narrative of "timely passion project" to Nate Parker's past, which included a 17-year-old rape case in which he was acquitted.

Handicapped by Parker's personal life, and new reviews that seemed less enthusiastic than those born in the mountain air of Sundance, by the time the film actually hit theaters in October, its Oscar chances were slim and audience interest seemed even slimmer. At the end of its run, Fox Searchlight's big bet had grossed only $15.9 million.

Siegel thinks there's no way a film this year will sell for as much. Some say that distributors are now performing background checks on new filmmakers before making a deal, while others say they haven't heard this.

That a Sundance film underperformed in the marketplace is nothing new, however. Just a year earlier, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" sold for a then-record $12 million, also to Fox Searchlight, and Indian Paintbrush, and went on to make only $9 million worldwide.

"There's always the film or two that sells for what's perceived to be above market value at the Festival," said Arianna Bocco, the executive vice president of acquisitions and production for IFC Films, and an over two-decade Sundance vet. "You're seeing prices driven up by new distributors like Amazon and Netflix, but that is nothing new. It's very cyclical. In the past any new distributor coming onto the screen will want to make their mark and they know they have to spend money in order to do so."

Bocco still thinks that this year's Sundance will see some films sell for a lot, but whether it's to that level remains to be seen.

Sundance filmmakers, too, are inclined to take the case of "Birth of a Nation" for the anomaly that it is and know that every year, at every film festival, sale prices can fluctuate.

"It's a crap shoot," said "Newness" director Drake Doremus. "I've been on different sides of different kinds of sales over the years."

Doremus said that sometimes movies are sold for the right price, though. He noted "Manchester by the Sea," which Amazon acquired last year for $10 million and has earned $38.4 million to date.

For others, the entire idea that an independent film might sell for that much money is disconcerting.

"I'm just curious about that as a spectator. People should be nervous to buy movies for that kind of money anyway," said "Golden Exits" director Alex Ross Perry. "They could have bought 15 movies for $1 million and put out a movie every three weeks for the entire year. That would have been really interesting. That would have been way more shocking and relevant."


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Premiere of 'A Dog's Purpose' canceled amid treatment issue

This weekend's premiere of "A Dog's Purpose" has been canceled following the release of a video that appears to show a frightened dog being forced into churning water during production of the film.

TMZ published the video Wednesday showing a man struggling to put a dog into a pool of rushing water while the animal fights to stay out.

Producer Amblin Entertainment and distributor Universal Pictures haven't disputed the authenticity of the footage.

They say in a joint statement that Universal decided to cancel the premiere because Amblin's review of the video is ongoing and they don't want "anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans."

"While we are all disheartened by the appearance of an animal in distress, everyone has assured us that Hercules the German Shepherd was not harmed throughout the filmmaking," the statement said.

The companies say the film will be released nationwide as scheduled Jan. 27.

W. Bruce Cameron, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, says the events in the video don't reflect what he saw when he visited the set in person.

"The ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs," Cameron wrote in a Facebook post Friday.

"The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water," he continued. "When he was asked to perform the stunt from the other side of the pool, which was not how he had been doing it all day, he balked. The mistake was trying to dip the dog in the water to show him it was okay."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called the cancellation of the premiere appropriate after earlier calling for a boycott of the film.

How much are marathon bombing films getting in tax credits?

Hollywood films about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings shot on location last year to bring the story to the silver screen, but not all the for-profit productions have been forthcoming about the taxpayer-funded benefits they're seeking or have already received for filming in Massachusetts.

"Patriots Day," the $40 million film starring Mark Wahlberg that opened nationwide Jan. 13, sought state film tax credits, but production officials declined to provide more details when asked by The Associated Press.

"Other locations would have been less expensive for us to film, but everyone involved in our production felt it was important to make 'Patriots Day' in Boston," spokeswoman Mariellen Burns said in an emailed statement. "This was Boston's story."

Representatives for "Stronger," an upcoming film starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a bombing survivor, declined to comment.

And "Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing," a documentary focused on bombing survivors that aired Nov. 21, did not apply for credits because it didn't meet program requirements, said HBO Films spokeswoman Lana Iny.

The Massachusetts Film Office provided the AP with emails and other documents exchanged between the productions and the agency as part of a public records request, but nothing that hinted at how much the films sought or received in credits.

The state Department of Revenue, which administers the tax credits, denied the AP's request, saying it's not obligated to disclose specific information about the productions at this time because they're still considered private taxpayer records.

Roger Randall, a department lawyer, said in a letter that Massachusetts law permits disclosure of this "otherwise confidential information" only through an annual report listing tax credits issued during the previous calendar year.

That means the amount of subsidies awarded to "Patriots Day," ''Stronger" or other productions that filmed in 2016 won't become public until the end of 2017 at the earliest — unless the productions themselves choose to disclose the information sooner.

"In short, you are seeking tax credit information in a form different from or ahead of the time that the legislature has expressly determined it should be disclosed," Randall wrote.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, a Democrat who has proposed ways to curtail the program and improve its transparency, said the films have an obligation to be more forthcoming, even if state law doesn't require it.

"Any film production or company that receives any public subsidy should be discussing that," he said. "It's taxpayer dollars. It's public money."

Massachusetts and other states included confidentiality provisions in their laws at the industry's request, said John Bails, executive vice president at Film Production Capital, a Shreveport, Louisiana-based film tax credit consulting firm.

While Massachusetts and others have become somewhat more transparent by adding annual reporting requirements, some states remain stubbornly opaque, he said. Georgia, for example, does not provide information about what specific productions received, only annual totals for the program.

"All of these states are competing against each other for productions, and productions don't necessarily want people to know sizes of budget or exactly what their stars are getting paid," Bails said.

But the lack of disclosure is starting to give way as policymakers in a number of the 36 states that currently offer some form of film incentive take a harder look at their costs and benefits, he said. Louisiana, which in 1992 became the first state to create such a benefit, now provides a searchable database of productions seeking or receiving credits.

At least one film production touching on the marathon bombings was willing to address its tax credits.

"Boston," an upcoming documentary tracing the marathon's history, received $126,695 in credits in 2015, the latest report from the state, released last month, shows.

Producer Megan Williams said the credits helped offset production expenses, including filming of the April 2014 race — the first running of the marathon following the bombings that killed three people and injured hundreds more.

She declined to speculate on why the other productions were refusing to say how much they sought or received in credits, which are transferable tax discounts worth up to 25 percent of a qualified film's payroll and production expenses in Massachusetts.

"I can't really judge," Williams said. "Ultimately, it will be known information in the public record."


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Paramount inks $1B film co-finance deal with 2 Chinese firms

Paramount Pictures said Friday it has inked a co-financing deal with two Chinese companies for the Hollywood studio's slate of movies over the next three years.

Under the terms of the deal, Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media will also set up an office on Paramount's lot later this year, the studio said in a statement.

The Chinese companies will provide roughly $1 billion to finance at least 25 percent of Paramount's films, according to a person familiar with the deal who was not allowed to speak publicly.

Film industry publications cited the same figures.

Paramount is planning to produce 15 to 17 films in 2017.

It's the latest China-Hollywood tie-up, as both sides aim to beef up their presence in each other's movie industries.

Chinese investors have been expanding into entertainment companies overseas in a bid to boost the country's international cultural influence, also known as "soft power," as well as acquire expertise. Foreign producers, meanwhile, are seeking greater access to China's growing film market.

Last year, Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group teamed up with Sony Pictures to make big-budget films while Steven Spielberg's Amblin Partners partnered with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group's media arm to co-produce films for global audiences.

Paramount Pictures has already cooperated with Huahua on several films including "Transformers: the Age of Extinction" and "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back." Shanghai Film Group was an investor in the latter movie.

Paramount, whose corporate parent Viacom was embroiled last year in a bitter management battle, has been struggling to produce hits.

Streaming giants play hero and villain in Oscar season

When Oscar nominations are announced next week, Amazon is virtually assured of notching the first — but probably not the last — best-picture nomination for a streaming service.

Kenneth Lonergan's "Manchester by the Sea," which Amazon plunked down $10 million for at the Sundance Film Festival last year, is widely expected to be among the leading contenders at the Academy Awards. It will be a triumphant moment for the nascent Amazon Studios, which acquired its first original film (Spike Lee's "Chirac") in 2015 but has, following in Netflix's footsteps, quickly altered the landscape of Hollywood.

Netflix and Amazon are increasingly influencing the movie awards season, playing the role of both hero and villain in an industry where their entry into the movie business is welcomed and feared in equal measures.

Though viewed as disrupters, both have sought that powerful, old-fashioned Hollywood status — Oscar winner — to bolster their prestige. "We want to win an Oscar," Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos earlier pronounced . Netflix, a three-time documentary nominee, is still seeking its first win. Propelled by "Manchester," Amazon is poised to beat its streaming rival to the top Oscar categories.

Starkly different approaches have led them here.

Though Netflix gave its 2015 Oscar horse, Cary Fukunaga's "Beasts of No Nation," a wide theatrical release, it has largely focused on acquiring films to debut on its streaming platform. It prefers a simultaneous streaming and theatrical release, something theaters largely reject. Many filmmakers, too, want their films on the big screen.

Amazon has held off on putting their movies onto its Amazon Prime subscription service until at least a partial traditional theatrical release has been mounted. It partnered with Roadside Attractions for the theatrical rollout for "Manchester by the Sea," which has proven lucrative. It's made $37.2 million domestically in nine weeks, making it one 2016's biggest indie hits.

Lonergan, the veteran New York playwright whose last film, "Margaret," became embroiled in lawsuits and acrimony before Fox Searchlight gave it a minuscule release, called his experience with Amazon "the most fancy treatment I've ever had."

"If they want to get into the movie business, great, because the people who are already in the movie business could use some improvement," said Lonergan.

The bar for eligibility to the Academy Awards isn't high. Feature films generally need a Los Angeles theatrical run of at least seven consecutive days and cannot be broadcast in a non-theatrical format before showing in theaters, though day-and-date releases have been deemed OK.

But that regulation means some Netflix films weren't eligible this year because they premiered only on Netflix. Jonathan Demme's concert film "Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids" went straight to streaming after being picked up around its Toronto Film Festival debut.

Though Netflix, like Amazon, doesn't make viewing statistics available, its films have likely been seen by far more people, around the world, than they would have been in a limited theatrical release — and their makers pocketed bigger checks. But straight-to-streaming films (like Vikram Gandhi's young Obama drama "Barry") can receive muted fanfare upon release and quickly fade into a digital ocean.

For a filmmaker like Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs," ''Philadelphia"), the loss of a theatrical release is painful.

"It seems to me that the streaming movies are skewing people from the movie theaters because the movie theaters are reluctant to show a film if a film is going to be streamed within three months," said Demme. "I worry sometimes that the streamers would be perfectly happy to see movie theaters close up."

In a statement to The Associated Press, Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, defended his service as "pro-film, pro-filmmaker and pro-film lover." He said he would book Netflix films into theaters if major exhibitor chains didn't boycott movies simultaneously released via streaming and theatrically, "putting the status quo ahead of consumer desire and innovation."

"We don't see how it is in the best interest of anyone to hold back a film for 93 million fans around the world to make sure a few hundred or even a few thousand people in New York and LA can see the film in a dark room with strangers," said Sarandos. "Theatrical attendance has been in decline for decades. Most people watch most films at home and we want to bring films to where the audience is."

The competition has been heating up. Amazon, with Amazon Prime's 30.5 million subscribers, last year spent $337 million on original content. It plans to produce 16 movies a year. Now in more than 200 countries, Amazon led a global rollout in December. Netflix, with nearly 94 million subscribers worldwide, dwarfed that spending, laying out $1.2 billion.

Those deep pockets have been a boon to an indie film marketplace that's been squeezed by declining DVD revenue and diminishing box office. Netflix and Amazon now regularly outbid other distributors at film festivals.

"As they buy in and scoop up product, it's making the ecosystem for these more independent distributors and specialized divisions very difficult," said James Schamus, the former head of Focus Features and director of last year's Philip Roth adaptation "Indignation."

Some have recoiled from the streamers' increasing sway. Director Craig Atkinson, whose police militarization documentary "Do Not Resist," spoke out about what he described as Netflix's strong-armed negotiation tactics.

Under motion picture production head Ted Hope, Amazon Studios has gone after well-respected filmmakers and largely art house releases, including films by Jim Jarmusch ("Paterson," ''Gimme Danger"), Woody Allen ("Cafe Society"), Whit Stillman ("Love & Friendship") and Park Chan-wook ("The Handmaiden"). The films, Hope has said, are "essentially advertising" for Amazon's many other sales items.

Hints of a brewing battle have occasionally flared. Sarandos recently knocked Amazon for "not gaining much traction against all that spending."

They may square off in one Oscar category in which Netflix has rapidly become a respected industry leader. Of the 15 documentaries shortlisted, four are from Netflix ("The 13th," ''Amanda Knox," ''The Ivory Game" and "Into the Inferno") and one is from Amazon, ("Gleason").

This year may be only a preview of what's to come. Netflix has its starriest prestige films yet on tap for 2017, including Brad Pitt's "War Machine" and Will Smith's "Bright." And on Wednesday, Amazon began lining its coffers, picking up an anticipated Grateful Dead documentary ahead of its Sundance premiere.


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'An Inconvenient Sequel' kicks off climate-focused Sundance

Ten years after the watershed environmental documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" debuted, climate change is as dire as ever and yet the solutions are right in front of us, say directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, whose film "An Inconvenient Sequel" kicks off the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday.

The film, which follows former Vice President Al Gore on his continued quest to educate and inform the public and world leaders on climate change, is the first in a series of 14 environmentally focused documentaries scheduled to play at the annual film festival in their newly anointed "New Climate" section. The films include looks at coral ("Chasing Coral"), the Mexico City sewer system ("The Diver"), Greenland's ice sheet ("Melting Ice"), and the industry of big-game hunting ("Trophy").

Sundance founder and longtime environmentalist Robert Redford said in a statement that "independent perspectives are adding the depth and dimension needed for us to find common ground and real solutions."

It's fitting then that the festival begins with a sobering look at just what has happened since "An Inconvenient Truth" helped made climate change part of the popular consciousness. That film, directed by Davis Guggenheim, won the Academy Award for best documentary feature (Guggenheim's role in the new film is as executive producer).

"It's more overwhelming and more horrible and bleak than you ever thought, but also you realize that we're closer than ever to a turning point where things can really change. It's really intense," Shenk said recently. "People have gotten used to and almost numb to the climate crisis and this feeling of, 'What can we do?' This film will elucidate both what has happened and what is possible."

That the film is premiering the day before Donald Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a hoax, assumes the presidency is not lost on the filmmakers, who call this moment "a cold shower." And yet they're still hopeful.

"We're at a very different place in terms of the solutions now," Cohen said. "It is kind of an exciting time from Al Gore's perspective, not only to put the dire message out but to offer to people solutions."

Filmmaker Marina Zenovich also notes the poignant and urgent political moment in which these films are debuting. Her film, called "Water and Power: A California Heist," has been described as "'Chinatown' the documentary."

"We didn't time this, but this is how it happened," Zenovich said. "We have this valuable, precious resource that is like gold, it's like a treasure and it's being privatized and commodified and it's kind of like the time has come for us to all come together and pay attention to it."

While urgency looms in the New Climate section and documentaries on subjects like Syria and domestic police practices fill out the schedule, festival interest might rest elsewhere, according to Tatiana Siegel, a senior film writer for The Hollywood Reporter.

"It's interesting because a lot of the docs are very issue oriented," Siegel said. "But when you talk to buyers, the ones that they're most interested in are a little bit more escapist."

Sundance has launched films like "Whiplash," ''Beasts of the Southern Wild," and "Manchester by the Sea" in recent years. Buzzy titles premiering over the two weeks include the Gulf War drama "The Yellow Birds," starring Jennifer Aniston and future Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich; director Dee Rees' WWII-era racial drama "Mudbound" with Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan; and "The Incredible Jessica James" starring comedian Jessica Williams. Also hotly anticipated is the Roxane Shante biopic "Roxanne Roxanne" starring Nia Long and "Moonlight's" Mahershala Ali.

There's also films like "78/52," which dissects the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," the 235-minute long Grateful Dead documentary "Long Strange Trip," which recently sold to Amazon, and "Step," about a group of high school girls in inner-city Baltimore.

"Step" director Amanda Lipitz, also a Broadway producer, had been making shorts about kids from her hometown of Baltimore who were the first in their family to go to college when she stumbled upon stepping, a style of dancing punctuated by hand claps and foot stomps popularized by black fraternities and sororities, through a group of girls she'd been documenting.

"They were doing this handclap thing and I said, 'What are you doing?' and they said, 'We're stepping! You've got to come, you've got to film this step team,'" she said. "I went and brought cameras and walked in to the gym and my heart stopped beating and I thought, 'Oh my God, this is what happens in a great musical! When characters can't speak anymore so they sing to express their hopes and their dreams.' That's what these girls were doing with step."

The Sundance Film Festival runs through January 29.




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Stars of 'Hidden Figures' among SAG Awards presenters

The nominated stars of "Moonlight," ''Hidden Figures," ''Manchester by the Sea" and "Captain Fantastic" will be among the presenters at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Producers announced Thursday that Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris of "Moonlight," Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae of "Hidden Figures," Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges of "Manchester by the Sea" and "Captain Fantastic" star Viggo Mortensen will take on presentation duties at the Jan. 29 ceremony in Los Angeles. All four films are nominated for outstanding cast performance, along with Denzel Washington's "Fences."

Last year's best actress winner, Brie Larson, is also set to present at the show, which will be broadcast live on TBS and TNT.

Producers previously announced that Lily Tomlin will accept the SAG Life Achievement Award from Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton.

Who won big at the 2017 People's Choice Awards? See the winners list

Big names from television, movies and music took the spotlight Wednesday at the 2017 People's Choice Awards in Los Angeles. 

>> PHOTOS: People's Choice Awards red carpet

>> PHOTOS: People's Choice Awards show

>> Read more trending stories

Check out the full list of winners below:


  • Favorite movie: "Finding Dory"
  • Favorite movie actor: Ryan Reynolds
  • Favorite movie actress: Jennifer Lawrence
  • Favorite action movie: "Deadpool"
  • Favorite action movie actor: Robert Downey Jr.
  • Favorite action movie actress: Margot Robbie
  • Favorite animated movie voice: Ellen DeGeneres, "Finding Dory"
  • Favorite comedic movie: "Bad Moms"
  • Favorite comedic movie actor: Kevin Hart
  • Favorite comedic movie actress: Melissa McCarthy
  • Favorite dramatic movie: "Me Before You"
  • Favorite dramatic movie actor: Tom Hanks
  • Favorite dramatic movie actress: Blake Lively
  • Favorite family movie: "Finding Dory"
  • Favorite thriller movie: "The Girl on the Train"
  • Favorite movie icon: Johnny Depp
  • Favorite year-end blockbuster: "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"


  • Favorite TV show: "Outlander"
  • Favorite network TV comedy: "The Big Bang Theory"
  • Favorite comedic TV actor: Jim Parsons
  • Favorite comedic TV actress: Sofia Vergara
  • Favorite network TV drama: "Grey's Anatomy"
  • Favorite dramatic TV actor: Justin Chambers
  • Favorite dramatic TV actress: Priyanka Chopra
  • Favorite cable TV comedy: "Baby Daddy"
  • Favorite cable TV drama: "Bates Motel"
  • Favorite cable TV actor: Freddie Highmore
  • Favorite cable TV actress: Vera Farmiga
  • Favorite TV crime drama: "Criminal Minds"
  • Favorite TV crime drama actor: Mark Harmon
  • Favorite TV crime drama actress: Jennifer Lopez
  • Favorite premium drama series: "Orange Is the New Black"
  • Favorite premium comedy series: "Fuller House"
  • Favorite premium series actor: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
  • Favorite premium series actress: Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Favorite network sci-fi/fantasy TV show: "Supernatural"
  • Favorite cable sci-fi/fantasy TV show: "The Walking Dead"
  • Favorite premium sci-fi/fantasy series: "Outlander"
  • Favorite sci-fi/fantasy TV actor: Sam Heughan
  • Favorite sci-fi fantasy TV actress: Caitriona Balfe
  • Favorite competition TV show: "The Voice"
  • Favorite daytime TV host: Ellen DeGeneres
  • Favorite daytime TV hosting team: "Good Morning America"
  • Favorite late-night talk show host: Jimmy Fallon
  • Favorite animated TV show: "The Simpsons"
  • Favorite actor in a new TV series: Matt LeBlanc
  • Favorite actress in a new TV series: Kristen Bell
  • Favorite new TV comedy: "Man With a Plan"
  • Favorite new TV drama: "This Is Us"


  • Favorite male artist: Justin Timberlake
  • Favorite female artist: Britney Spears
  • Favorite group: Fifth Harmony
  • Favorite breakout artist: Niall Horan
  • Favorite male country artist: Blake Shelton
  • Favorite female country artist: Carrie Underwood
  • Favorite country group: Little Big Town
  • Favorite pop artist: Britney Spears
  • Favorite hip-hop artist: G-Eazy
  • Favorite R&B artist: Rihanna
  • Favorite album: "If I'm Honest," Blake Shelton
  • Favorite song: "Can't Stop the Feeling," Justin Timberlake


  • Favorite social media celebrity: Britney Spears
  • Favorite social media star: Cameron Dallas
  • Favorite YouTube star: Lilly Singh
  • Favorite comedic collaboration: Ellen DeGeneres and Britney Spears' "Mall Mischief"
  • Favorite digital obsession: Mannequin Challenge
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