Blu-Ray Spotlight: Jai Courtney Takes The Lead With ‘The Exception’

theexception1With such films as Suicide Squad, Terminator Genisys, and Jack Reacher under his belt, Jai Courtney has delivered high profile supporting role performances. With The Exception Courtney takes the lead, and this World War II set thriller doesn’t disappoint.

Captain Stefan Brandt (Courtney) is a German officer who’s haunted by a past tragedy, and even though he believes he’s mentally unfit for his latest task, he’s still tasked with a highly important mission. Brandt travels to the Netherlands to watch over exiled German monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer) and investigate a spy who may be operating under his nose.

Lily James co-stars is Mieke, a maid who immediately catches Brandt’s eye and their torrid relationship may compromise the officer’s mission. Clocking in at 107 minutes, the feature is briskly paced by director David Leveaux, and the chemistry between Courtney and James is palpable (both also deliver solid performances). Plummer, as always, is believable and magnetic in his role as a man who’s seen his glory days pass him by.

The biggest surprise of The Exception is its sexuality, as the film earns its R-rating with the unclothing of both James and Courtney (it’s rare to see A-list actors go nude these days, and their revealing scenes seamlessly fits into the narrative). Regarding the aforementioned pacing, the film has a race against time element (Brandt is attempting to find the spy as well as keep his lover from harm’s way) that absolutely kept me on the edge of my seat.

With solid work from the ensemble (Janet McTeer is also great as the Kaiser’s longtime companion) and a finely tuned story from Leveaux, The Exception is, pardon the pun, an exceptional drama.

Special features on the Blu-ray included a featurette (“Behind the Scenes of The Exception) and audio commentary from Leveaux.

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

‘The Exception’ With Jai Courtney Hits Blu-ray In August


The Exception, a WWII espionage thriller headlined by Lily James (Baby Driver) and Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad), hits Blu-ray and DVD August 8 via Lionsgate. Set in Nazi-occupied Holland, the story centers on Stefan Brandt (Courtney), a German Officer who is on a mission to investigate exiled German monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II (Christopher Plummer). As Brandt continues to infiltrate the Kaiser’s life, he falls in love with Miekie (James), the Kaiser’s maid.

Courtney has starred in his share of high profile films but as a supporting player (Jack Reacher, Terminator Genisys) and it’s great to see him land a lead role with The Exception. Five time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux directs the film which is based on Alan Judd’s novel The Kaiser’s Last Kiss. Simon Burke, a scribe on the TV series Fortitude, penned the screenplay. Check out the trailer below and tell us what you think!

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

Edgar Wright Forms Music Bond With ‘Baby Driver’ Star Ansel Elgort

Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s latest film Baby Driver was a story that has been swirling in his head since his youth, and it was only three years ago when he decided that it was going to be his next project. Wright, best known for the films Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, had a distinct vision of Baby Driver being a music/car-chase driven experience, and to anchor his film he went with Ansel Elgort as the titular character (the protagonist’s name is Baby!).

Ansel was somebody who immediately came to the forefront,” said Wright. “Not just because he is very charismatic and he’s a great actor . . . he also has a musical background and he makes music. When I first met Ansel, even before he read the script, we just talked about music solidly for an hour.”

Click on the media bar to hear Edgar Wright talk about how the idea of Baby Driver came from listening to “Bellbottoms,” a track from The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Co-starring Lily James and Jamie Foxx, Baby Driver opens June 28.

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

‘Baby Driver’ Crafts An Intoxicating ‘TeKillYah’ With Latest Trailer

Baby Driver

Director and avid cinephile Edgar Wright has had a loyal following thanks to his Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End) and the overlooked Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but it’s Baby Driver which is primed to be Wright’s biggest hit. Early word on the film is great, and as its latest TeKillYah trailer points out, it has a !00% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The story centers on a getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) who wants out of the crime game after falling in love with his presumed soulmate (Lily James). The driver’s boss (Kevin Spacey) isn’t too keen on that idea, and even though Baby seems to be as cool as a cucumber, danger is just around the corner.

Wright is adept at bending genres and pulling off intriguing narratives, and it will be interesting to see how his action/musical/romance mash-up fares when it hits theaters on June 28. Check out”TeKillYah” (the moniker is a clever mix of The Champs classic “Tequila), the latest trailer from Baby Driver and tell us what you think!

Baby Driver co-stars Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

‘War & Peace’ Director Tom Harper Finds “Magic” In Tolstoy’s Epic Tale


Now out on Blu-ray and DVD, War & Peace: The Complete Miniseries is a visually sumptuous and emotionally vibrant adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel. The epic, centering on five aristocratic families whose lives are affected by the French invasion of Russia, features inspired work from Paul Dano as Pierre, a man whose life is turned sideways after inheriting a fortune, and Lily James as Natasha, a  woman whose gaiety and kindheartedness masks an unmatched resolve and spirit.

Hollywood Outbreak interviewed director Tom Harper, and he talked about the intricate research and journey that went into shooting War & Peace:

Had you read War & Peace as a youth and were you fan of Tolstoy’s work?

I hadn’t read the book before I started the project. I had only read the script and I immediately fell in love (with the story). So then the next step was to read the book, which I did. It’s one of those books that you always mean to get around to reading, but it just seems a bit intimidating. I had read Anna Karenina and a couple of his short stories and I had never read War & Peace. It is the most wonderful book. I absolutely loved it and I immersed myself in it for a period of time and re-reading certain sections. There was a lot of research in getting into Tolstoy’s head space and getting to know the characters.

And then the other thing that was important and made a massive difference was spending time in Russia with our co-producers and just . . . the wonderful thing about St. Petersburg is it’s all still there really. This city and these palaces that these characters have occupied are still there – and you can imagine what it would be like.

Paintings, I suppose, is another big thing. In St. Petersburg at the Hermitage there is this 1812 war room where there’s all the paintings of all the generals and the people that actually fought there. There’s something very powerful about going into that (room) and realizing that this actually wasn’t fiction and it was based on real events. These people were living and breathing. It was very powerful to see these wonderful, enormous portraits of these generals. I just tried to immerse myself in the world of literature and the arts of the time.

From your research, how did you and your cinematographer build the visual design for the film?

It started with the story and the characters and it grew from there and obviously we looked at the paintings of the time and the locations and then we tried to approach it – There have obviously been other versions of War & Peace being made over the past decades. They all, with the glory of hindsight, you look back at them and they’re very much a product of their time. And I guess that’s because visual storytelling and cinematic techniques change pretty quickly. Making it at a time after Saving Private Ryan or Fury, for example, – we’ve had a bunch of different war movies. There is a style, pace, and kineticism that people have come to expect.

I suppose if there was one, overarching goal and it was to tell the story in as truthful of a way as possible for a modern audience. There are nuances to that and we are (going out) to an audience in their living rooms in 2016. But again, trying to take that essence of Tolstoy – he really moved around his characters with a kind of God-like perspective and it feels like you’re sitting in on all these different worlds. It is inherently, just by its very title, a dichotomy. We have very rich people, very poor people. There’s war and peace, but also town and country, the difference between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Rich opulence and the splendor of the ballroom in St. Petersburg and the grit and the blood of the battle. We looked at those and observed how they all worked in different ways and how they kind of matched up with each other. That’s a long way in answering your question!!

Can you talk about casting Paul Dano in your film?

When we sat down to cast Pierre, who is one of the greatest characters in literature, he’s quite unusual because he’s quite passive and a lot of it is very internal. He’s a misfit but he’s very much an anchor and sort of our main lead within the book and our series. To find someone that can deal with that level of internal complexity but at the same time is a bit of a misfit and is charismatic enough to be a leading actor – this list is very, very small! Since there is a small group of people who can play that role, we wanted to kind of search the whole world and Paul was at the very top of that list. He’s the first person we went to. I went on a plane to meet him and he responded to the script.

Actually, it was relatively straightforward from the start because it seemed to fit. He was magnificent. There aren’t many people in the world who could have done as good of a job as he did.

In your journey as a filmmaker, what skills have you grown into?

In terms of aspects of my filmmaking that have grown, I think with experience comes confidence. When I started out, there was a degree of nervousness and I would plan everything. Now I’m more open – I still plan as much as I did – but I’m very aware that when you get on set, things change and you have to be open to all the things that are around you. For me, filmmaking is about trying to capture, to not sound pretentious, a little bit of that magic from wherever that comes from. You have to be open and responsive to the moment and you (shouldn’t be too) tied down to your preparation, specific stage directions or your shot plan, whatever it is. You learn to trust yourself as you get more experience.

Tom, thank you so much for your time!

Thanks very much.

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi