Ping Pong Summer

Wendi McLendon-Covey’s Life Unravels in First Trailer for Debra Eisenstadt’s ‘Blush’ (Exclusive Video)

In the first trailer for “Blush” (formerly “Imaginary Order”), Wendi McLendon-Covey plays a woman whose seemingly tidy suburban life begins to unravel as she becomes enmeshed with a neighboring family.

The film stars McLendon-Covey as Cathy, a mother and wife who has given up her career to be the perfect stay-at-home mom, but as her daughter begins to push her away and her husband seems to no longer connect with her, she becomes enthralled and involved with the messy lives of a neighboring family, causing the order in her life to collapse.

Written and directed by Debra Eisenstadt, “Imaginary Order” premiered at Sundance in 2019 in the U.S. Drama category of the festival. Eisenstadt drew on her experiences and fears as a mother for the film.

“My takeaway was, the people who have the seemingly tidiest life are all a bunch of freaks, to put it succinctly,” McLendon-Covey told TheWrap’s Trey Williams at Sundance. “Take that Marie Kondo.”

“Blush” will be released on April 10 in select theaters and on demand. Christine Woods, Max Burkholder, Steve Little, Catherine Curtin, Kate Alberts and Graham Sibley also star.

Eisenstadt produced alongside Timur Bekbosunov, Peter Wong and Cosmos Kiindarius.

Watch the trailer here.


‘Go Back to China’: Film Review

Those hungry for more of the East/West culture-clash terrain of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “The Farewell” may savor the slightly downsized pleasures of “Go Back to China,” which offers up some of the first film’s lifestyle glamour plus the second’s more earnest family drama. Emily Ting’s second scripted feature is essentially a freely fictionalized revamp of 2008 documentary “Family Inc.,” in which she charted her own reluctant but ultimately rewarding move from New York City to Hong Kong, where she trained to run her hot-tempered father’s plush toy factory.

Tethering that real-life tale to some rather stock narrative beats, this isn’t a memorable seriocomedy. But it’s a pleasant one that should do well in home-format sales. A year after the film screened in competition at SXSW, Gravitas Ventures is launching it on demand as well as in a handful of U.S. theaters this Friday.

Here, Ting’s alter ego is the more caricatured Sasha Li (YouTube celebrity and comedian Anna Akana, in her first movie lead), a Los Angeles party girl whose main occupation seems to be clubbing with her posse of similarly glam twentysomethings. She graduated from fashion school a year ago, but has failed to find a job — no doubt because, unlike every other design-world aspirant, she hasn’t bothered with the usual dues-paying intern or assistant gigs. In fact, she has no work experience of any kind, having been supported in style her whole life by the Chinese father who left her mother (Kelly Hu) long ago.

They’re more or less estranged, save in financial ties. But that changes when dad Teddy (Richard Ng) abruptly cuts off the cash flow, demanding she work a year at his factory in Shenzhen (a booming city of up to 20 million, not far north of Hong Kong) before receiving any further support. This is unwelcome in many ways, not least because the thoroughly American Sasha barely understands or speaks Chinese. But once her rent check bounces, she has little choice but to comply.

Daddy has been a busy man, not just in the business realm: His imposing manse houses numerous previously unmet half-siblings by other ex-wives, including bratty juvenile twins named Christian (Tiger Ting) and Dior (Aviva Wang), plus his latest, much younger mistress (Kendy Cheung). But the first lady of the household is Sasha’s eldest half-sister Carol (Lynn Chen). She was also raised in the U.S., but has been here for a decade as dad’s factory next-in-command.

That’s a somewhat thankless job, as Sasha soon discovers. Teddy is well-meaning, but also almost childishly temperamental, taking out his frequent frustrations on all underlings. The new arrival’s design expertise comes in handy when foreign buyers reject his latest, all-important Christmas toy line as old-fashioned; Sasha whips off a few trendier ideas that briefly make her daddy’s golden girl. But once her inexperience results in a costly mistake, their tentative reconciliation may be torched for good.

“Go Back to China” is an improvement from Ting’s prior narrative feature “Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong,” a walking-and-talking romance a tad too indebted to the model of “Before Sunrise.” But it still exerts excess caution in hewing to predictable tonal and storytelling rhythms, occasionally throwing in some blunt factoids about international manufacturing and trade. The tired lifestyle satire of the opening reel (echoed in a bland closing-credits rendition of Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl”) lacks teeth, so things look up when Sasha proves resourceful and even somewhat inspired by her dreaded new factory gig. Even there, however, the director’s script leans too heavily on easy, contrived solutions to worker/management conflicts and other real-world issues.

Nonetheless, if there’s not much depth to the family drama or socioeconomic insights here (nor any great hilarity to the comic aspects), “Go Back” remains likable as a familiar fish-out-of-water tale in a novel setting. The capable cast and brisk pacing keep attention held toward a happy ending that pleases even if it is a bit pat, not to mention inevitable.

The production values are professional, although given the toy theme, Ting’s visual collaborators could’ve come up with something a tad more playful and stylish than the film’s competent but routinely bright widescreen look.

Read the full review here.

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‘Lost Transmissions’ Trailer Sees Simon Pegg Searching for Some Peace of Mind with Juno Temple


Gravitas Ventures has released the trailer for Lost Transmissions, a stirring indie drama starring Simon PeggJuno TempleAlexandra DaddarioTao Okamoto, and Robert Schwartzman. The debut feature film from director and writer Katharine O’Brien is about to make its debut in limited release after making the rounds on the festival circuit in recent months.

Lost Transmissions gives an intimate look at how two friends work to navigate an inadequate mental healthcare system as one struggles to get the treatment they need. Things get complicated when a pop star, played by Daddario, arrives on the scene and inadvertently divides the attentions of the friends. O’Brien based Lost Transmissions on her own personal experiences which she then fictionalized into what looks like an affecting, incisive drama with stellar turns from Pegg and Temple.

An official synopsis for the drama reads:


“Hannah (Temple), a shy songwriter, discovers that her friend, respected record producer Theo Ross (Pegg), has lapsed on his medication for schizophrenia. Hannah rallies a group of friends to help commit Theo to a psychiatric facility, chasing him as he outruns his colorful delusions through the glamour and grit of Los Angeles. From the highs of rock ‘n’ roll to rock bottom, it’s a story of the unsung heroes behind the hits and the inadequacies of our mental health system.”

Lost Transmissions will be opening in select cities around the U.S., including: Los Angeles, CA; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Cleveland, OH; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX; Denver, CO; Detroit, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Philadelphia, PA; and Seattle, WA.

Lost Transmissions opens in limited release on March 13.

Read the full article here.

‘I Will Make You Mine’ Trailer: Lynn Chen’s Directorial Debut Bookends Indie Quasi-Trilogy; Romantic Dramedy Lands At Gravitas

EXCLUSIVE: Lynn Chen’s directorial debut I Will Make You Mine has been acquired by Gravitas Ventures ahead of its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in March. And as an added bonus, they have released the first trailer for the romantic dramedy which stars Chen, Goh Nakamura, Yea-Ming Chen, Ayako Fujitani and Ayami Riley Tomine. Gravitas is set to release the film on May 26.

Written by Chen, the film follows three characters: Rachel (Chen), who lives in luxury with her cheating husband; Professor Erika (Fujitani), who is trying her best to juggle her career and raising her daughter Sachiko (Tomine); and struggling musician Yea-Ming (who plays a version of herself). They all may have different lives, but they share one common bond: a flawed romantic history with singer-songwriter Goh (who also plays a version of himself). As seen in the trailer above, when Goh comes back into their lives, the past comes back and makes things a tad bit complicated.

I Will Make You Mine marks the bookend of a quasi-trilogy which started in 2011 with Surrogate Valentine and was followed by Daylight Savings in 2012, both directed by Dave Boyle. All films debuted at SXSW and include the same characters. I Will Make You Mine is a shift for the franchise as it tells a stand-alone story from the female perspective.

Gravitas Acquires ‘Lost Transmissions’

Gravitas Ventures has obtained the North American rights to Katharine O’Brien’s directorial debut film, Lost Transmissions, starring Simon Pegg, Juno Temple, and Alexandra Daddario. Based on a true story, the pic premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and will get a day-and-date release in theaters and on-demand March 13. Written by O’Brien, the plot follows Theo Ross (Pegg), a respected Los Angeles music producer and his friend, Hannah (Temple), a shy, aspiring songwriter, who discovers that he has lapsed on his medication for schizophrenia. In an effort to get Theo the help he needs, Hannah and their group of friends, chase him as he outruns his colorful delusions through the glamour and grit of Los Angeles’ music scene. Producers are Filip Jan Rymsza for Royal Road Entertainment, Tory Lenosky for Pulse Films, Al Di for Underlying Tension, and Royal Road’s Olga Kagan. O’Brien served as an executive producer alongside Pulse Films’ Thomas Benski and Brian Levy, Underlying Tension’s Bo An and Alan Li, and Robert Schwartzman. UTA Independent Film Group negotiated the deal with Gravitas on behalf of O’Brien with Tony Piantedosi from Gravitas. Read the full article here.

‘The Rest of Us’ Trailer: Heather Graham Leads Family In Crisis

The Rest of Us, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019, has a distribution deal with Gravitas and a new trailer.

The dramedy centers on two mother-daughter duos who must contend with their grief and complicated relationships with each other when the man who ties them together dies.

The film stars Heather Graham (Boogie NightsThe Hangover), Sophie Nélisse (Mean Dreams) and Jodi Balfour (The Crown) and Abigail Pniowsky (Arrival).

The Rest of Us is Aisling Chin-Yee’s directorial debut, and the first feature from female-driven production company Babe Nation Creations. Alanna Francis wrote the screenplay.

The film is produced by Katie Bird Nolan, Lindsay Tapscott, Emma Fleury and Will Woods. Executive Producers are Patrice Theroux and Damon D’Oliveira.

The film opens on February 14, Valentines day, in the U.S. Read the full article here.

Watch the trailer here.

Toronto Title ‘The Friend’ Lands At Roadside Attractions And Gravitas Ventures, Will Hit Theaters In Fall

Roadside Attractions and Gravitas Ventures are teaming on the U.S. distribution The Friend, the Gabriela Cowperthwaite-directed drama starring Jason SegelDakota Johnson and Casey Affleck that world premiered at Toronto. The pic is based on Matthew Teague’s autobiographical essay published in Esquire. The companies are now eyeing a fall 2020 theatrical release.

It marks the second tie-up of Roadside and Gravitas Ventures; the two are teaming on The Secret: Dare to Dream, starring Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas, which bows in April. Roadside of course most recently distributed with LD Entertainment the Judy Garland biopic Judy, for which Renee Zellweger is up for an Oscar.

The Friend, adapted by Brad Ingelsby, tells the true story of Nicole (Johnson) and Matthew Teague (Affleck), whose friend Dane (Segel) puts his own life on hold and moves into the Teague family home after Nicole is diagnosed with cancer. Dade’s movie has a greater and more profound impact than anyone could have imagined. Gwendoline Christie, Cherry Jones, Isabella Kai, Violet McGraw and country singer Jake Owen co-star.

The film from Black Bear Pictures and Scott Free Productions is produced by Kevin Walsh, Michael Pruss, Ryan Stowell and Teddy Schwarzman. Ridley Scott, Ben Stillman, Michael Heimler, Ted Deiker, Ingelsby and Teague are executive producers.

“Everyone knows the value of a great friend, yet it’s rare to see friendship dramatized in film,” said
Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff. “To see these three great actors shine the light on what friendship means when the going gets tough adds up to something quite profound.”

Added Gravitas Ventures’ VP Acquisitions Tony Piantedosi: “Gabriela and her outstanding cast have crafted a profoundly moving portrait of the emotional bonds that sustain us. We are thrilled to be partnered with Roadside Attractions in presenting The Friend to U.S. audiences this fall.”

Nolan Gallagher and Tony Piantedosi negotiated the deal with Endeavor Content. STXinternational is handling international sales and releasing in the UK. Read the original article here.

Gravitas Picks Up Sundance Drama ‘Blush’ Starring Wendi McLendon-Covey

Gravitas Ventures has secured the North American distribution rights to Blush, the drama written and directed by Debra Eisenstadt. Formally titled Imaginary Order, the pic, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, will get a day-and-date release on April 10.

Bridesmaids and The Goldbergs standout Wendi McLendon-Covey stars as Cathy, an obsessive-compulsive, middle-aged woman, struggling to maintain control and significance amid fears her husband is having an affair and her thirteen-year-old daughter is becoming estranged. Cathy retreats to her sister’s home where she cat-sits, compulsively cleans and spies on a neighboring family. One by one these neighbors lure Cathy into their lives, inspire her rebellion and threaten to unravel everything, from her precarious marriage to her daughter’s innocence to her own wavering sanity.

Eisenstadt produced the pic with Cosmos Kiindarius, Timur Bekbosunov, and Peter Wong for ACE Pictures. Tony Piantedosi, VP of acquisitions at Gravitas, negotiated the deal with ICM Partners and Cinetic.

'Kings Of Beer' Named one of the 10 Best Business Movies of 2019 by Inc.

If the business films of 2019 are remembered for one thing, it will probably be fraud.

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and Fyre Festival creator Billy McFarland were both the subjects of fascinating documentaries in 2019, which is natural given the scale of their business scams. Filmmakers this year also tackled uplifting business stories, including the true tale of a teenager in Africa who built a wind turbine to help save his village from famine. While not every film on this list has made its way to theaters, all have earned high praise from critics, some of whom had to travel to film festivals to get an early look.

Here are the 10 best business movies of 2019 (listed alphabetically).

American Factory


Produced by Barack and Michelle Obama as the first project in their production deal with Netflix, this documentary goes inside Fuyao Glass, the Chinese auto-glass factory that took over an abandoned General Motors plant in Moraine, Ohio, in 2016. Led by Chinese billionaire Cho Tak Wong, the company provided jobs for around 2,000 unemployed auto workers, but tensions related to Chinese work standards eventually led to new problems for many of the company's U.S. employees.

Where to see it: Netflix

The Biggest Little Farm


A documentary more than eight years in the making, The Biggest Little Farm follows newly minted organic farmers John Chester and his wife Molly as they try to build a sustainable farm outside of Los Angeles. Despite having the backing of a very patient investor, their dream of successfully practicing regenerative agriculture--a type of organic farming that can help reduce climate change--becomes something of a nightmare, thanks to seemingly endless setbacks.

Where to see it: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind


This drama starring and directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor tells the story of William Kamkwamba, a 13-year-old boy in Malawi who learned how to build a wind turbine that could save his village from famine. Based on the book of the same name, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for a film that focuses on science or technology.

Where to see it: Netflix

Framing John DeLorean


Part documentary, part narrative film, this hybrid movie includes Alec Baldwin playing the role of John DeLorean, the General Motors executive who went on to found DeLorean Motor Company. While much of the film comprises archival footage and interviews with DeLorean's friends, family, and colleagues, reenactments by Baldwin help tell the story of how DeLorean's eponymous sportscar nearly revolutionized the automobile industry, before his company went bankrupt.

Where to see it: YouTube, Google Play

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened


A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a music festival that never stood a chance of actually taking place, Fyre captures the shockingly fraudulent efforts of Billy McFarland, who conceived of the Fyre Festival as a way to promote an app for booking celebrity talent. The documentary demonstrates the power of viral social media campaigns, while also  serving as a cautionary tale for how experimental marketing in the wrong hands can lead to disaster.

Where to see it: Netflix

Ford v. Ferrari


After Ford Motor Company's unsuccessful bid to buy luxury sports car manufacturer Ferrari in the 1960s, Henry Ford became determined to beat Ferrari's model at Le Mans, the world famous sports car race. Ford v. Ferrari stars Matt Damon as car designer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles, who work together--when not fighting each other--to help Ford beat Ferrari.

Where to see it: In theaters on November 15, 2019

The Great Hack


A documentary about the data breach that led to Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, The Great Hack focuses on the personal journeys of several individuals at the center of the story, from whistleblower Paul-Olivier Dehay to Cambridge Analytica's former director of business development, Brittany Kaiser. The doc reveals how data can be weaponized to deepen cultural rifts and fight political battles.

Where to see it: Netflix

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley


The Inventor serves as a companion to Wall Street Journal investigative reporter John Carreyrou's best-selling book Bad Blood, which is about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes's blood-testing startup that was built on a lie. The film helps explain how Holmes deceived business leaders around the world into thinking she was on the verge of revolutionizing the U.S. health care industry. Interviews with dozens of insiders and never-before-seen footage make for a fascinating case study of one of the biggest business cons in U.S. history.

Where to see it: HBO

Kings of Beer


A master class in quality control, this documentary goes inside Budweiser's annual  brewmaster competition, which names the best brewmaster from 65 Budweiser breweries around the world based on a rigorous judging process. While the brewers all work for the same company, their competitive instincts and dedication to making the best possible product should strike a chord with any entrepreneur.

Where to see it: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu

Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!


Fifteen years after exposing the ugly truth about fast food in 2004's Super Size Me, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is back for more, this time to document his own attempt at creating a restaurant chain specializing in chicken sandwiches. This documentary sequel exposes its own fair share of shady corporate practices that keep a stranglehold on U.S. chicken farmers, while also skewering the way marketers have convinced consumers that fast food can also be good for you.

Where to see it: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu

Read the full article here.

Emily Ting’s SXSW Comedy ‘Go Back To China’ Acquired By Gravitas Ventures

Gravitas Ventures has acquired worldwide rights to Emily Ting’s second directorial feature Go Back to Chinastarring Anna Akana. The film will have a limited theatrical release and be available on VOD starting March 6, 2020.

The semi-autobiographical film made its world premiere at SXSW earlier this year. The story follows Sasha Li (Akana), a spoiled rich girl who after blowing through most of her trust fund is forced by her father to go back to China and work for the family toy business. What begins simply as a way to regain financial support soon develops into a life-altering journey of self-discovery, as she learns the business from the ground up and reconnects with her estranged family in the process.

Go Back to China serves up a heartfelt story of cultural identity, family relationships, privilege and an honest look at the human cost of things made in China.

“I had an amazing time partnering up with Gravitas on my first film Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, and I am ecstatic to be working with them again to bring this extremely personal film to audiences worldwide,” said Ting.

The film also stars veteran Hong Kong actor Richard NgLynn Chen and Kelly Hu. Ting produced the film alongside Sophia Shek and Frederick Thornton. Lowell Shapiro and Mike Dill serve as executive producers.

The distribution deal for Go Back to China was negotiated by Tony Piantedosi, VP Acquisitions at Gravitas, and Eric Sloss of Cinetic Media on behalf of the filmmakers.

Read the article here.