By Benjamin Wright | The Playlist January 20, 2012 at 11:59AM
As we make our way into 2012, studios both big and small are looking for those films that’ll help fill out their slate for the rest of the year. Whether to possibly run as Oscar contenders or perhaps simply to gain some traction at your local art house, here’s a roundup of a few acquisitions making headlines.
First up, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black’s dramedy “Virginia” has been acquired by Entertainment One for North American distribution. Starring Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Roberts, “Virgina” is the story of a mentally ill mother (Connelly) who is protected by her illegitimate son (Harrison Gilbertson), who may just be the offspring of the town’s Mormon sheriff (Harris). When the son starts a relationship with the sheriff’s daughter, many of the small town’s secrets are threatened to be revealed. The film didn’t exactly make waves at TIFF when it debuted in 2010 -- we called it "a wholly ill-conceived and unsalvageable mess" -- but it has apparently undergone some significant edits since. Whether or not it will fix the film's confused satiric tone remains to be seen.
Next up, Strand Releasing is planning a late spring release for the Joachim Trier-directed “Oslo, August 31.” Showcasing at Sundance this weekend, after having previously played Cannes, TIFF, and the AFI film festival, 'Oslo' is a character study of a man who spends a day away from his drug rehabilitation center, revisiting the people and places in his life. Trier’s previous film was the excellent “Reprise,” and he once again shows an excellent directorial hand with this carefully crafted and tender character piece.
One we’re not quite as excited about is Millennium Films' acquisition of the Kate Hudson/Gael Garcia Bernal (?!) rom-com “A Little Bit of Heaven.” The film centers on a relationship-phobic woman, who is also dying from cancer, who falls in love with her doctor. A trailer for the movie dropped a year ago, so where has it been? After the closing of production house Film Department left this one in limbo in early 2010, the film spent some time on the shelves (though it did get a U.K. release). If the trailer is any indication of quality, and with a VOD release on April 3rd followed by a multi-platform theatrical release starting May 4th, we’re guessing this one is getting buried quick.
Finally, Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc. has landed the U.S. rights to “The Eye of the Storm.” Fred Schepisi’s upcoming drama stars Geoffrey Rush, Charlotte Rampling and Judy David in a story that centers on a powerful, ex-socialite matriarch (Rampling) and the array of characters — including her celebrated expatriate actor son (Rush) and her daughter who married into French royalty (Davis) — who convene at her deathbed and find themselves still under her destructive influence. Based on the Nobel Prize-winner by Patrick White, the film has had a solid festival run, taking home prizes at Melbourne International Film Festival, Rome International Film Festival, and has picked up several nominations at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts for acting. Release is set for April 20, 2012, so mark your calendars. [Variety/Variety/THR/ComingSoon]