‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Tops Box Office With $24.5M

Jessica Chastain Maggie Smith Marion Cotillard  Meryl Streep Helen Mirren Jennifer Lawrence Naomi Watts

Kathryn Bigelow and Sony Pictures can celebrate a win ahead of Sunday’s Golden Globes, as Zero Dark Thirty grossed more than $24 million on the weekend to take top spot at the box office.

The thriller, released four weeks ago, opened nationwide in nearly 3,000 theaters, bringing its domestic total so far to $29.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

A Haunted House, the comedy horror spoof starring Marlon Wayans, raked in $18.8 million while Ryan Gosling’s Gangster Squad was close behind with $16.7 million.

Django Unchained and Les Miserables rounded out the top five at the box office.

Zero Dark Thirty, one of the most controversial and talked about films this awards season, received five Academy Award nominations earlier this week, including Jessica Chastain for Best Actress.

While Bigelow was snubbed by the Academy in the directing category, the 61-year-old has a chance to take home a Golden Globe on Sunday.

She’s up for best director against a group of males: Ben Affleck for Argo, Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained, Ang Lee for Life of Pi and Steven Spielberg for Lincoln.

The film is also nominated for three other Golden Globes, including Best Picture — Drama.

The 70th Golden Globe Awards, hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, will be handed out live on NBC from the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The pre-show will start at 4PM Pacific.

Have you seen ‘Zero Dark Thirty?’ How do you think it will perform during awards season? Weigh in below.

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DGA Noms Announced — What Does That Mean for Oscar?

With less than a week to go before the Oscar nominations are announced, one of the biggest foreshadows for Oscar gold – the Directors Guild – has revealed their nominees for Best Director.

As expected, Argo‘s director and star Ben Affleck and Lincoln‘s Steven Spielberg lead the pack, followed by a few surprise picks.

Read on for the full list of directors…

Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and Ang Lee (Life of Pi) round out the list of 5 directors. This year marks Affleck’s first DGA nomination, while Best Director Oscar winners Hooper and Bigelow received their second. Spielberg scored is eleventh DGA nomination.

David O. Russell, a favorite for The Silver Linings Playbook, is notably absent. Also missing from the list are Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained and The Master‘s Paul Thomas Anderson.

The DGA is one of the strongest indicators of who will take home Oscar gold. No director has ever won an Academy Award without previously receiving a nod from the DGA.

So based on the DGAs, who are Oscar’s frontrunners? With Golden Globe and DGA nods, Hooper is a safe bet for a Best Director nomination. Ditto Spielberg and Bigelow.

The outlook is still a bit fuzzy on Lee; the Academy could go either way and give it to Russell. And don’t count out Tarantino just yet; the filmmaker is very popular with the Academy and his Golden Globe nomination may be enough to secure a nod. Oscar nominations are announced Thursday, January 10.

Which director do you think will win? Who do you want to go home with the Oscar? Sound off in the comments below.

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‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Star Jessica Chastain Didn’t Want the ‘Hunt for Osama bin Laden’ Movie to ‘Become About Women in the CIA’ (VIDEO)

One of 2012’s most highly-anticipated movies, Zero Dark Thirty has drawn praise and criticism for its portrait of the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden. But regardless of its depiction of the events that led to the terrorist leader’s apprehension and killing, star Jessica Chastain said it was important the film didn’t become another sort of “issue” story: namely, about the real or perceived glass ceiling for women in the military.

“I’m not interested in the movie that becomes like an issue about women in the CIA,” she told Celebuzz. “I’m interested in the film that shows an amazing woman doing an amazing job that doesn’t remind me every five seconds, ‘BUT she’s a woman’.”

Zero Dark Thirty provides little information about Chastain’s character, a woman named Maya who (according to the film) spends more than a decade doing little other than investigating bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Chastain said that she had to do all of the same work as should would exploring any other character, regardless, how little of that knowledge would be revealed on screen.

“I have to be able to answer any questions anyone could possibly have,” she said. “I knew what Maya’s favorite American candy was. I had to define all of that for the character.”

Ultimately, Chastain said that playing Maya was less a matter of creating a performance than challenging herself to connect with a character that seemed dramatically different than herself.

“I’m not playing ‘Jessica Chastain as a CIA agent’,” she said. “It was a very different role; I’m a much more emotional person, and this character was trained to be unemotional, and analytically precise.”

“And when doing something like that, I had to find the humanity, and her journey within those boundaries.”

Zero Dark Thirty is playing in theaters nationwide. Watch Celebuzz’ interview with Chastain’s co-star Jason Clarke, and then le us know what you thought of the film in the comments section below!

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Kathryn Bigelow Says She Was Motivated by ‘Honesty’ When Making ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar, taking home the statuette in 2009 for her Iraqi bomb squad thriller The Hurt Locker. And this season she could do it again with Zero Dark Thirty, the gritty new procedural about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

“I found it very surprising that women were central to this operation,” Bigelow told reporters about her new film starring Jessica Chastain as a CIA operative — recruited out of high school — who spent 10 years tracking the man behind 9/11. “Keeping the honesty of the piece, that’s what motivated me more than anything else.”

When Bigelow reunited with investigative reporter and The Hurt Locker scribe, Mark Boal for Zero Dark, their original idea was to do a movie following a special forces team in the Tora Bora mountain range in southern Afghanistan during the months after 9/11.

But then, May 2nd, 2011 happened, and the writer-director team found themselves with an irrelevant story to tell as Seal Team 6 captured and killed bin Laden. So Bigelow and Boal began again from scratch, basing their story on a CIA agent who ultimately tracked bin Laden through a courier leading to the Al Qaeda leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The film and Chastain are being touted for Oscars on the heels of winning the National Board of Review award for Best Film as well as well as the New York Film Critics Award. Nominated for Best Supporting Actress for The Help, Chastain delivers a finely-tuned, internalized performance as a newbie thrown into a torture interrogation moments after arriving in Afghanistan.

“I was thinking about her like a computer, a woman who’s really good with facts and details and putting a puzzle together, and what happens when that woman is put in a situation that is much bigger than she ever imaged she’d be involved in,” Chastain said. “Just because she’s trained to be unemotional and analytical, precise, doesn’t mean she’s unemotional.”

“It’s a character defined by action,” added Bigelow. “That necessitates a very, very strong actor, an actor who can give you a very strong landscape just defined by action. I think there’s something very brave and exciting and extremely brilliant about those choices. It’s also a testament to the talent of Jessica to find the finely-calibrated nuances of emotion within a character that had to be so precise.”

Trying to excel in a man’s world, Chastain’s character, Maya, bears some resemblance to Bigelow herself who has accelerated as a filmmaker in a field dominated by men. And her work is not confined to frothy rom-coms or weepy chick-flicks. Bigelow excels makes the kind of movies most audiences associate with men, the 1991 surfer bank robber movie Point Break, sci-fi thriller Strange Days, and the submarine suspense saga K-9: The Widowmaker.

Such titles stand out for their testosterone-fueled, white-knuckled thrills as well as their moments of humanity and humor.

“It’s that somebody has tremendous facility to convey humanity, and humanity takes on a lot of different permutations,” said Bigelow about Jason Clarke’s character, Dan, a torturer who grows weary of the beatings, preferring the company of his pet monkeys. “Those moments of levity allow you a minute to decompress before you engage again.”

The movie’s final moments show Chastain’s character boarding a military cargo plane alone, after the killing of bin Laden. Strapping in for the flight home, she breaks down in tears.

“It’s not a victory because finally at the end of the day you’re left with much larger questions such as where does she go from here? Where do we go from here? Now what?” asked Bigelow. “It leaves you with a very interesting question.”

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‘Zero Dark Thirty’s’ Jason Clarke on the Film’s Torture Scenes: ‘I’m Not Here to Question the Ifs, Ands or Buts’ (VIDEO)

While the climax of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty somewhat obviously focuses on the physical hunt for Osama bin Laden, the beginning of the film opens on a decidedly more controversial act: the torture of detainees in order to try and secure information that leads to the terrorist leader.

And while the film’s motive for showing these acts is to simply chronicle the events leading up to bin Laden’s capture, star Jason Clarke says that he was never interested in judging his interrogator character’s behavior, no matter how questionable he might personally find it.

“That’s very straightforward,” he told Celebuzz. “As an actor, I’m not here to question the ifs, ands or buts, or my, Jason’s standpoint. I’m here to portray a real person and real events, and do them justice to the best that I can.”

Clarke observed that it was doubly important to remain objective about the events in the film since they were once actually performed by a real person.

“Because people did this and went through this, and the least I can do is give my all without putting my comment on it,” he said.

Simultaneously, Clarke said that the torture scenes set an unusual tone for the film which indicates right off the bat that it’s not going to be either a newsreel-style retelling nor a heroic dramatization of the hunt for bin Laden.

“It brings the audience straight into this film, and it impacts you in a way that you’re not really expecting,” he said. “And it keeps going, even though we know the beginning and the end, the way it draws you in, this film is constantly telling a narrative in a way we’ve not experienced before.”

Zero Dark Thirty opens nationwide December 19. Watch Celebuzz’ full interview with Clarke, and then the film’s trailer below. What do you think of the controversy surrounding its depiction of torture? Let us know in the comments section.

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‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Star Jessica Chastain Reveals How She Got Through The Worst Week of Filming: ‘We Watched Videos of Animals Being Rescued’ (VIDEO)

As a mysterious CIA operative on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, Jessica Chastain had many dark moments during filming. But with the help of her Oscar-winning director, she created some lighter moments to get through the heavy material.

“The interrogation scenes were very tough to film [for] Kathryn Bigelow and myself. It was probably the worst week of work we had,” Chastain told Celebuzz at the Los Angeles premiere of the film Monday night.

“But the really sweet thing about it was that I would go home, and I’d be super-depressed after those days of work, and we would send each other videos of animals getting rescued.”

Chastain explained that she and Bigelow — who won best director at the 2009 Academy Awards for The Hurt Locker – used the images of the furry friends to mentally escape from the often-intense scenes filmed to tell the story of the decade-long hunt for the Al-Qaeda terrorist leader.

“It was a reminder that, ‘Okay, this isn’t our life right now,’” said the 35-year-old, who herself was nominated for an Oscar for 2011′s The Help. “We’re here making this movie, but there is another life, and there is joy and love.”

 

Meanwhile, Chastain admitted that she’s nothing like her super-guarded character, Maya.

“This is a woman who is trained to be unemotional and analytically precise,” she said. “Almost the majority of my life I’ve been trained to be emotional… so that was the hardest… [to] put it under a lid.

“I just try and have everyone that I know understand my gratitude that they’re here and my love for them, and so any time I have to do a scene where that is not in play, it hurts my heart a little bit.”

Zero Dark Thirty will be in limited release Dec.19 and open nationwide on Jan. 11.

Will you be seeing Zero Dark Thirty? Weigh in below, and watch the full video  above to hear what else Chastain reveals about her role in the film.

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‘Zero Dark Thirty’: What Do Critics Think of the Picture’s Pursuit of Osama Bin Laden?

Director Kathryn Bigelow follows up her award-winning master-class in tension The Hurt Locker with Zero Dark Thirty, an unapologetically factual depiction of the hunt for Osama bin Laden.  Originally conceived as a literal exercise in futility – the film was all but completed when President Obama surprised the world with the news of Bin Laden’s death – Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal reworked and expanded their film into a portrait of dogged determination (if not utter obsession) in the face of ever dwindling odds.

But does Bigelow’s decidedly cold presentation of one woman’s decade-long manhunt succeed in its matter-of-factness or stumble in its refusal to evoke emotion?

Scott Mendelson, Huffington Post

“Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is a refreshing ‘just the facts’ procedural drama that maintains an almost allergic aversion to melodrama.  The film is ice-cold throughout, maintaining an even-keeled approach to the decade-long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, pausing only occasionally to acknowledge the aftermath of violence.”

Peter Debruge, Variety

“The result is neither particularly entertaining nor especially artful, as the filmmakers take a lean, All the President’s Men-style approach to dramatizing an investigation that took nearly a decade to bear fruit…The script’s blood runs thick with observational detail and military jargon, skipping forward years at a time between scenes to focus on one of two types of incident.”

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Kathryn Bigelow’s and Mark Boal’s heavily researched successor to Oscar winner The Hurt Locker will be tough for some viewers to take, not only for its early scenes of torture, including waterboarding, but due to its denial of conventional emotionalism and non-gung ho approach to cathartic revenge-taking. Films touching on 9/11, such as United 93, World Trade Center and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, have proved commercially toxic, and while this one has a ‘happy’ ending, its rigorous, unsparing approach will inspire genuine enthusiasm among the serious, hardcore film crowd more than with the wider public.”

Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Zero Dark Thirty tracks a full range of emotions associated with the proverbial war on terror, from the naivete of its earliest stirrings to the spirit of vengeance that gave its apparent victory such a vital quality in the Western world. At the same time, the movie questions the certitude of the transition from despair to triumph, enabling Zero Dark Thirty to realize the power of its immediacy while giving the proceedings a lasting value.”

Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush

The Hurt Locker was something of a master class in tension exercise, and one of the most well-paced movies ever made. Zero Dark Thirty, while certainly loaded with suspense, doesn’t have the precise and narrow focus needed for this sort of emotional workout. It’s a needle in a haystack picture and, as such, needs to be a little all over the place.”

Drew McWeeny, HitFix

“I can’t tell you for sure that the film has anything to do with the unvarnished truth, but I can tell you that this feels accurate.  It has an integrity to it that is bracing and adult, and it manages to deliver a major visceral experience without ever once bending to Hollywood convention.  This is a film that knows exactly what it’s doing, and does it without compromise.”

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‘Zero Dark Thirty’: Has Hollywood Found This Year’s Best Picture?

The Academy Award-winning team that gave us The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal, screened their latest project, Zero Dark Thirty, over Thanksgiving.

The docu-drama thriller chronicles the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden and, if early reactions are any indications, it looks like the award-winning filmmakers may have more Oscars in their sights.

Thirty, which stars Jessica Chastain (Lawless) as the CIA operative spearheading the search for Bin Laden, went into production before the subject of its manhunt was caught and killed by Seal Team 6. Real-life events forced the filmmakers to re-shape the script, an effort that seems to have paid off.

The film is garnering some of the best reviews of any release this year. The near-unanimous critical praise is a strong portent that Oscar attention and box office success are in Thirty‘s future, as it ramps for limited release on December 19 before going wide on January 11, 2013.

So just how good is the movie? Celebuzz has complied a sampling of critical reactions from a variety of critics below.

Richard CorlissTime

“First and last, Zero Dark Thirty is a movie, and a damned fine one. Like Argo — which, with all due respect to director Ben Affleck and the film’s many admirers, ZDT blows out of the water — it dramatizes a true-life international adventure with CIA agents as the heroes…This is movie journalism that snaps and stings, that purifies a decade’s clamor and clutter into narrative clarity, with a salutary kick.”

James RocchiBox Office.com

“The decade-long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden races by in a 159-minute adrenaline-fueled chase in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, which unfolds with certainty and smart decisions on both sides of the camera.”

Todd McCarthyThe Hollywood Reporter

Zero Dark Thirty matches form and content to pretty terrific ends… Kathryn Bigelow’s and Mark Boal’s heavily researched successor to Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker will be tough for some viewers to take, not only for its early scenes of torture, including waterboarding, but due to its denial of conventional emotionalism and non-gung ho approach to cathartic revenge-taking.”

Drew McWeenyHitFix.com

“[Zero Dark Thirty] has an integrity to it that is bracing and adult, and it manages to deliver a major visceral experience without ever once bending to Hollywood convention.  This is a film that knows exactly what it’s doing, and does it without compromise.”

Peter DebrugeVariety.com

“Far more ambitious than [Bigelow’s] The Hurt Locker, yet nowhere near so tripwire-tense, this procedure-driven, decade-spanning docudrama nevertheless rivets for most of its running time by focusing on how one female CIA agent with a far-out hunch was instrumental in bringing down America’s most wanted fugitive.”

Can’t wait to see Zero Dark Thirty? Sound off below in the comments, and watch the film’s theatrical trailer!

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